In the article "What makes good people do bad things?" by Melissa Dittmann, choose three factors you feel are most influential in steering people from good to bad, and explain why you feel they have the greatest impact.

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Three influential factors Melissa Dittmann mentions that help steer people from good to bad behavior are dehumanizing others, anonymity, and the impression of controlling a situation. The factors have great impact because they tend to remove the sense of responsibility.

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Melissa Ditman’s article summarizes an address given by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, former president of the American Psychological Association and an emeritus professor at Stanford University. Zimbardo argues that anyone can be swayed into doing bad things. Three prominent influences are dehumanizing and labeling others through language, developing a sense of anonymity, and having the impression that one is in control of a situation.

Language is important because it can be used to distance the speaker from the subject of their negative speech. Terms that dehumanize others, such as by calling them animals, create that kind of distance. Similarly, applying derogatory labels, such as slurs, can influence the speaker’s subsequent actions.

Creating an impression of anonymity also encourages negative actions. People are encouraged to feel anonymous by wearing a uniform or a mask, especially one that is identical or similar to that worn by others. Zimbardo emphasized that anonymity can “minimize social responsibility” by making the participant believe they “are not individually liable.”

The third factor shapes behavior by offering people the illusion of being in control. Anonymity may be induced through placing people “in an anonymity-conferring environment,” according to Zimbardo. The psychologist noted that this type of environment may increase the pleasure people gain from destructive behavior which offers them a sense of power. In such situations, peer pressure usually supports negative actions, especially among people who do not typically consider themselves as controlling others.

In all three types of behavior, people are distanced from the negative consequences of their actions, which tends to absolve them of feeling personally responsible for their actions.

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Using the article "Why Good People Do Bad Things" by Melissa Dittman, choose three factors that you feel are most influential in steering people from good toward evil and explain why you chose them.

Melissa Dittman reports on the work of Philip G. Zimbardo for the American Psychological Association in 2004. Zimbardo shows that it is surprisingly easy to get good people to do bad things, especially if they are doing worse things by degrees. The situation that people are put in can be very powerful. Other factors can lead good people to do bad things as well: anonymity and masking can cause people to do things they never would have done without without a mask, hood, or war paint. Next, people often do worse things to their fellow subjects when the subjects have been dehumanized, such as being labeled animals; and lastly, people act brutishly when they believe they are acting under totalitarian leadership.

Zimbardo's own work bears out the truth that the situation may cause people to cross the line between good and evil very quickly:

Zimbardo noticed that in his own simulated jail experiment in 1971—the Stanford Prison Experiment—in which college students played the roles of prisoners or guards, and the guards became brutal and abusive toward prisoners after just six days, leading Zimbardo to prematurely end the experiment. The experiment showed that institutional forces and peer pressure led normal student volunteer guards to disregard the potential harm of their actions on the other student prisoners.

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