Unique—Like Everybody Else

Personality, intelligence, and the differences that matter

Challenging the "Banality" of Evil and of Heroism Part 2

Situationism implies that evil-doers are victims of circumstances beyond their control, yet argues that heroes are those who can rise above their circumstances to do what is right. An ideology of victimisation is incompatible with heroism. Personal responsibility for one's actions cuts both ways. Read More

Why heroes are banal

Your critique is valid and I think that Zimbardo was a little sloppy putting forward the "banality of good." It seems like he's getting at the idea that heroism is not inborn or transferred to us by angels, but is something that comes out in the right situation... but which situations are right for pulling out our heroism depends on our preparedness and training. Heroes may be otherwise boring people!

Good points

I think you are spot on about preparedness and training. Being a hero requires skills that match the situation.
P.S. I had a quick look at your blog, I found the Lord of the Rings metaphors for different systems of government rather amusing :-)

Strong social influence is a premise of social psychology

An interesting point that Roy Baumeister makes in "The Cultural Animal" is that psychology as a discipline assumes human behavior is significantly determined by the environment, since this has to be true in order for it to be possible to make the sorts of predictions we expect from science. Yet when you look at the actual (replicable) effect sizes, they are usually small. Any influence that isn't a suitable hypothesis is "noise".

I do believe that social influences are tremendously powerful in aggregate, much more so than that American individualist myth suggests, but the effects are also complex and difficult to pick apart in a typical experimental setting.


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Scott McGreal is a psychology researcher with a particular interest in individual differences, especially in personality and intelligence.


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