When Good People Do Bad Things, Part 2: Dr. Phillip Zimbardo

Obedience to Authority
See an experiment in the U.K. involving a man in uniform asking passersby to do strange things!


"Are we that vulnerable to a uniform?" Dr. Phil asks Dr. Zimbardo.

"Absolutely," he says. "The problem is you think you're doing the right thing, because you switch off your critical thinking."

"I worry about this with predators," Dr. Phil says. "We tell our children that you respect adults, that you obey adults, and if somebody presents themselves to your child as an authority figure, saying, ‘I'm a friend of your mother's, I'm a teacher here, I work at this store or at this mall' " God forbid if they showed up with some kind of uniform on. We've taught our children to follow authority and not question that, so are we not setting them up to be prey if a predator gets them isolated and takes an authoritarian role to get them to do something?"

[AD]"The problem is we have to train our children to be discriminative," he says. "So, teach kids how to discriminate between just authorities whom you respect and unjust authorities whom you have to revolt against."

Dr. Phil explains he and his wife taught their sons that if something doesn't feel right, you speak up, say no, run and get help, and if they're wrong, they wouldn't get in trouble.

Dr. Zimbardo says reasonable authorities should provide identification and answer your questions. If they don't, then maybe that's a warning sign.

Like his taser experiment with Dr. Phil audience members, Dr. Zimbardo saw similar results in the U.K. A stranger who resembles a police officer asks people to guard a hoodlum and use a weapon if the criminal tries to run.

See the taser experiment unfold in the U.K.!


"Five out of ten were willing to put 40,000 volts into a stranger, because a guy with a hat said to!" Dr. Phil exclaims.

"Most people are good most of the time," Dr. Zimbardo says, "but we are subject to all these pressures all around us."

[AD]"A concern for me is parents who say, ‘I'm afraid my kid's going to get with a bad crowd, and that bad crowd is going to influence them,' and you're saying they need to be concerned about that," Dr. Phil says.

"Yeah, because there are good crowds who do bad things," he says.