Week Six: Revisiting Evil

What a journey this has been! I’ve been taking a look back through my notes on the readings and class discussions – we have covered so much material that is extremely thought provoking and more controversial then any other class I have taken. Looking back at the first couple weeks of class, these are the components of evil that we came up with:



So, what’s changed? In terms of the components listed here, I wouldn’t take any of them away. However, I do see them in a different light. I seem to have a lens now where, when I look at this list, I categorize them: I see some as being absolutely necessary for evil, and others that are contributing forces for evil but aren’t necessary in all situations. And some components I would group together. Since we are all “seasoned evil-thinkers” and are educated on the meanings behind all of these components, I’m going to put my focus into the changes and/ or what is relevant to this post instead of what are these components actually are. Feel free to visit my blog from Week 2 if you want a recap!

Evil Necessities
This group of components I would consider to be the “black and white” of evil. They are the factors that I would say exist within every evil act:

Victim & Perpetrator
For an evil act to occur, you need both a victim and a perpetrator. Regardless of what the act is, or who is viewing it, if someone is describing an evil act, you can guarantee that there is a victim and a perpetrator.

Intention/ Action/ Motivation
When someone commits an evil act, regardless of whether they see it as evil, they have the intention to commit the act, the motivation to do it, and the follow through of the action. Without intention, it would be an accident and without motivation or action, then the act simply wouldn’t exist.

I think that for an act to be evil, harm of some sort is involved. Without harm, we wouldn’t have victim-perpetrator scenarios. What’s not so “black and white”, however, is the degree of harm that has to occur for an act to be considered evil.

Magnitude Gap
This concept of the magnitude gap is one of the many concepts that gave me one of those “AH-HA!” moments. It just makes so much sense. There’s always a gap between what the victim is loosing and what the perpetrator is gaining. Depending on the situation, this gap would vary, but I would say that it is a constant in terms of existing in all evil acts.

Forces to Permeate the Barrier
This category I would place just about every other component of evil in. These are all components that aren’t seen across every act of evil per se, but are driving forces of evil. It seems as though when evil exists, we see some of these forces making an appearance one way or another:

Empathy erosion, Objectifying, Other-ing                                            Power

 Self-esteem/ egotism                                                                                   Psychopathology

Hate                                                                                                                      Self-Control

Coming into the course and initially thinking about evil, situational forces isn’t something that popped into my head. I guess you could say that I was underestimating the abilities of “situation” to influence individuals to commit evil doings. Then Zimbardo happened. Clearly the dynamics of a group can have a great effect on individuals. This is something that I struggled with throughout the course as I have mentioned in previous blogs. I would still really like to think that I wouldn’t be influenced into doing evil, regardless of the type of situational forces were at play, but according to Zimbardo, there seems to be very little hope for anyone versus the situation. That being said,  I really do believe that being educated around these types of topics and being aware does give us a degree of an “innoculation” to evil as we talked about at the beginning of the course.


And that concludes my working model of Evil! As I continue through life, and reflect back to this course, I am sure that my views will change. Looking back just within the last 6 weeks, I have learned so much and feel I have a much stronger understanding on what evil is. But…maybe I’m just looking at the tail!



It’s been a great experience taking this course. I really feel that I have grown immensely throughout the past 6 weeks both educationally and personally. Thank you to all of my classmates for making the class such a comfortable environment and to Professor Navara for running such a wonderful course!










Week 5

We are officially finished Zimbardo! Although it was an insanely interesting read, I have to say that I am looking forward to some happier summer reads. It is a lot of [dark] content in a short amount of time. But wow, I have learned so much! I usually have some difficulty trying to formulate what I am going to write for our weekly blogs. There is always so much to discuss between the readings, our discussions, and even the presentations (which were all amazing!). I found a lot of parallels between this week and our previous Baumeister (1997) readings. Here are some of my ‘takeaways’ from this week:

Evil Can Exist Anywhere

And in anyone. Anytime. In any varying degree. From the “Ted Bundy’s” of the world, to the nurse that is taking care of our elderly, to the military members committing – evil is capable of manifesting anywhere. Although it is not pleasing thought, I think that coming to terms with this has a lot of benefit. Looking back, Baumeister (1997) introduced the “Myth of Pure Evil”. I won’t go into all the details (old news for us almost-completed-psych-of-evil students) but, for just a quick snapshot, it is basically all the aspects that surrounds how people usually see or define evil: sadistic, victim is innocent/ evil is the ‘other’, etc. Clearly, as we have learned from the course, this is not always or even usually the case. I think that keeping this mindset of the evil is dangerous. It allows for people to become blind to evil doings, and therefore allows for  these evil doings to happen, or to magnify in some cases. I think that it also leads to inaction which Zimbardo discusses as being a major contributing factor to evil, particularly for it to continue to happen.

I want to take a look at the case of Kitty Genovese.  Though this case happened in the 60’s, I think that a lot of the aspects are relevant to my point. First, Kitty’s murderer was a seemingly normal man in society. He was a home owner, was married, had two children – the guy that lives next door to me is all of these things. He isn’t the typical ‘evil’ that people like to believe. Evil doesn’t always occur from individual’s that are distinctively different. Secondly, the dangerous of inaction – or from what is widely known as the bystander effect. A documented 37 people heard the screams of Kitty the night that she was murdered, and had a span of around 30 minutes to take action that could have saved her life. It seems that the more people who are present, the less that each person feels personally responsible – the diffusion of responsibility. Fast forwarding quickly to 2016, we see this type of effect on a smaller scale as well in today’s society with cyberbullying. This article discusses factors such as number of bystanders, anonymity, and relationships in terms of how they effect the likliness for bystanders to intervene.

The More People the Merrier

We also see diffusion of responsibility and the dangers of inaction throughout Zimbardo (2008) book as well. In one of the account’s from a Sergeant from Abu Ghraib, he states that the reason he didn’t inform anyone about the abuses taking place was because he “assumed that if they were doing things out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone would have said something” (Zimbardo 2008).  Here we see again that since other people were involved, the Sergeant assumed that someone else would take action. Could there be a more dangerous assumption?

So, say several people are involved, in some way, shape or form, in the manifestation and magnification of evil, who is to blame?

Are the people who chose not to contact police the night of Kitty’s murder partly responsible for her death? What about the individuals that just witnessed the abuses taking place, but didn’t put a stop to it – are they evil? It’s difficult to determine where you draw the line of who is responsible and who isn’t. There’s just so many factors needing to be taken into consideration.



There seems to be a few underlying factors in the reasonings behind inaction: fear, ambiguity, and faulty assumptions. When someone challenges a system, the result might not be something positive or seemingly “heroic” – at least not immediately. This may come with repercussions. The people involved at Abu Gharib may have been living in fear of what may happen to them if they were to challenge what was taking place. The people that didn’t take action the night of Kitty’s murder stated that they didn’t out of fear. In both cases, they were both unsure about what to do, what was happening, and assumed someone else would take action. Or maybe this is just their way of justifying their [evil] actions. What I’ve really come to understand, is that people can really lose their sense of self when they become a part of a group. They begin to think like the “group” almost regardless of what their inner values are.

What do you think are ways that we can avoid destructive groups/ systems? Can we change systems that are already created?


There are several reasons for why I was interested in taking this course. One of them was due to the fact that this man lived no more than 20 minutes from my home, and murdered someone from our community. For those of you who are interested:

Talk about contradicting the myth of evil in terms of who a perpetrator is…



See you all next week for our final class together!



Baumeister, R. (1997). Evil: Inside human cruelty and violence. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Brody, N., & Vangelisti, A. L. (2016). Bystander intervention in cyberbullying. Communication Monographs, 83(1), 94-119. doi:10.1080/03637751.2015.1044256

Gansberg, M. (1964). 37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1964/03/27/37-who-saw-murder-didnt-call-the-police.html

Zimbardo, P. (2008). The Lucifer effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks.




Week Four

This week’s readings focused solely on Zimbardo (2008). While I was reading, it brought me back to a discussion that we had in one of our first seminars. We were discussing this idea that we called an “inoculation to evil”. Since we have been educated and exposed to how or why people do evil things that we would know better and not give into these forces to commit evil acts. Our education and exposure through a class, in particular, like the Psychology of Evil, has almost given us the anti-bodies against evil. Zimbardo really challenges this in his book and it’s something that’s been challenging me. Could situational forces really influence me that much? I really want to say no, and in our initial discussion I did. But reading more into Zimbardo’s Experiment, seeing all the participants transform, including Zimbardo, and learning about the study’s findings has really challenged me to think otherwise.

“We all want to believe in our inner power, our sense of personal agency, to resist external situational forces of the kinds operating in…” (Zimbardo, 2008)

“…maintaining that illusion only serves to make one more vulnerable to manipulation by falling to be sufficiently vigilant against attempts of undesired influence subtly practiced on them” (Zimbardo, 2008)

“…most of us can undergo significant transformations when we are caught up in the crucible of social forces” (Zimbardo, 2008)


It’s not the greatest feeling when you’re basically told that you are more vulnerable to manipulation when you believe in your inner strength to be influenced; this part of the reading made me feel mad, sad and “well..maybe he is right”. SO. MANY. EMOTIONS.

glass case

I came across a journal article that focuses on whether the law can prevent good people from going bad, and it discusses cognitive dissonance and persuasion into wrongdoing. This further demonstrated to me how permeable this line of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is. Something interesting that Crump (2008) explains is the “small steps” technique; it is “much easier to induce individuals to shift attitudes if they already have taken steps in the desired direction”. This can be seen in some of the guards in Zimbardo’s experiment. Some of them did not seem as comfortable with the others to participant in humiliating and abusing the prisoners. However, as time went on and they were exposed to the behaviour, they were able to change their cognitions in order to rationalize their behaviour.

It’s just a scary thought, too. I mean, that means that there are so many more people then I would like to think that are capable of being influenced into ‘evil’, including myself. Regardless of what Zimbardo (2008) says or how well Crump (2008) explains how there are logical ways of why/ how good people turn evil, I am just going to stay in my little naïve bubble and continue to believe in my abilities to resist evil – it’s a happier bubble. But hey, maybe our education in psychology, particularly this course, does give us some “evil anti-bodies”. I’d like to think so.

Do you think you think that you are more equipped to dealing with the influences of evil in the world after being educated in Psychology courses, particularly this one?


Throughout the readings something else I kept thinking about was, “where the heck are these guys now?”. I wonder about the effects, both negative and positive that this experiment may have had on their lives. Clearly this took an emotional toll on everyone, some more then others, so surely it wasn’t something that was just easily pushed into their past. I did some searching on the internet and most of the information said that Zimbardo had made comments that the participants had shown no negative lasting effects. (Hmm..or maybe this was his comment because it would make him look even worse if he had put individuals through such an emotional traumatizing experiment that it affected them long into their lives). Anyways, I did find a webpage where they discuss some of the participants and “where they are now”. Some of them went on to pursure careers in law which I found interesting. At least they got something out of it (?). Also, there is this site that I came across. Some of the individual’s part of the experiement talk about what they think about it 40 years later – it’s a pretty interesting read of first-hand accounts!

Do you think that some of the individuals may have experienced some lasting effects?

That’s all from me for this week! Hope you enjoyed! See you soon for another week of class..and my presentation (EEK!)



Kylie Robinson




Crump, D. (2008). The Social Psychology of Evil: Can the Law Prevent Groups from Making Good People Go Bad. BYU Law Review, 2008(5).

O’Toole, K. The Stanford Prison Experiment: Still powerful after all these years. Retrieved from https://news.stanford.edu/pr/97/970108prisonexp.html

Ratnesar, R. (2011). Cover Story: The Menace Within. Retrieved from https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=40741

Zimbardo, P. (2008). The Lucifer effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks.



Week Three

I can’t believe we are already half way done the course! Within the past three weeks we have covered so much content, had numerous great discussions and are now well underway with our class presentations. Go us! This week our readings were finishing all but the final chapter of Baumeister (1997) and getting further into “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo (2008).

Part 3 of Baumeister’s book is dedicated to the notion of “how they do it” and covers topics such as how evil starts, how it grows, guilt, and ambivalence. There were a few statements and ideas that Baumeister (1997) writes about that really stuck with me – some I agree with and others, not so much. In the chapter regarding how evil starts, Baumeister (2001) explains his take on culture and it’s relation to the beginnings of violence. He believes that cultures place values and develop constructs that do not necessarily approve of violence, but accept beliefs such as the human ability to loose control. Baumeister introduces this notion of “irresistible impulses” which he states perpetrators in our culture have become increasingly drawn to. Our culture has constructed this idea and it’s demonstrated even through our legal system, which is considered to be a “heat of passion” crime. People who these “heat of passion” crimes usually receive lighter sentences. For instance, take this example I’ve found in the news of a man who shot and killed his wife. He found out the previous day that she was filing for separation. If he is found guilty of first-degree murder, he will face 20 years to life in person as oppose to the maximum 10 he would receive for manslaughter (had it been a crime of passion). If the legal system is willing to give this man a lesser sentence, is this not implying to our society that we are more understanding of violence if it is used these circumstances? I agree with Baumeister (1997) when he states that true irresistible impulses should be viewed at as biological necessities; things that you would do even if your life were at stake for doing them. Allowing this idea of “irresistible impulses” might not be encouraging violent behaviour per se, although it is weakening the restraints on the violent tendencies that people already have.

Something that didn’t really settle well with me in Baumeister’s (1997) reading is his view on the “essence of a survivor”. He states, “You adapt to the world and proceed on its terms, instead of going down with a lost cause” (Baumeister, 1997). He also previously explains that survivors tend to be individuals that accept the reality of their new terms and went on with their lives. I really think that this description gives a poor light to individuals who I would consider to have the status of a survivor. My impression of a survivor is someone that has overcome adversity, usually when the odds are against them. In my personal opinion, I don’t think that Baumeister’s view encompasses the full essence of what a survivor is. Although it may be true that some individuals adapt in order to survive situations, I think others also fight.

Moving onto Zimbardo’s reading…

Before beginning this course, I wasn’t aware of the Stanford Prison Experiment so learning more about it has been…interesting. I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this study was conducted, and it really wasn’t that long ago. Diving into another few chapters this week, Zimbardo (2008) acts as the narrator as he walks us through how this study came to be and the beginning few days. I don’t know how many times I said to myself “You can’t do that to people!” and “How was this allowed?”; I found I said those things more and more as the chapters progressed. There are, obviously, aspects of the study thus far that I feel are morally and ethically wrong. However, pushing those feelings aside, there are a number of interesting things to note.


One of the guards giving orders to the prisoners

I didn’t anticipate how quickly everything was going to escalate. I assumed that since it was a two-week study that the first day or two were going to be fairly uneventful but that definitely wasn’t the case. Just about all the guards had really begun to embrace their new role to what feels like an extreme and by the second day one of the prisoners notes that he already feels depressed and dreads another day of “all the same shit again, and maybe even worse” (Zimbardo, 2008). Before this began, the guards had an orientation and Zimbardo explains what they can and cannot do; “physically abuse or torture them” is pretty much the only thing they are not allowed to do. Where does Zimbardo draw the line of what is considered to be physical abuse? Already by Monday morning one of the guards has gotten into a physical altercation with one the prisoners and multiple guards use force to put him into solitary confinement. Clearly things are escalating, probably beyond what was initially deemed as appropriate, but the study continues.

One last thing that I’ll note that has been bothering me is Zimbardo’s involvement. Initially I thought that he was strictly the study’s creator and he was going to be in a passive position while it played out. However, while he was giving the guard’s their orientation he states “Will the prisoners essentially work against us to regain some of what they now…”; the use of the word “us” when he is talking to the guards demonstrates to me that he is associating himself as being one of them (Zimbardo, 2008). He is considering himself actually part of the study. This is demonstrated again when he really begins to embrace the role as the prisons superintendent. In my opinion, I am getting the feeling that he is beginning to associate himself more with the role of the prison superintendent who needs to keep order rather then the creator of a study who needs to ensure the safety of everyone.

Those are my thoughts for this week, folks! I hope you enjoyed!




Baumeister, R. (1997). Evil: Inside human cruelty and violence. New York, NY: W. H. Freemand and  Company.

Forde Attorneys to Argue Heat of Passion Defense in Murder Case. (2016, May 24). LoudounNow. Retrieved from http://loudounnow.com/2016/05/24/forde-attorneys-to-argue-heat-of-passion-defense-in-murder-case/

Zimbardo, P. (2008). The Lucifer effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks.


Week 2

This week we finished reading “The Science of Evil” book written by Baron-Cohen. As a whole, I really did enjoy the book and I thought he did a great job of explaining the theory of empathy and how he relates it to evil. Baron-Cohen describes what he has developed as the Empathy Bell-Curve which he states that everyone is on. Ranging from 0-6 each level represents a different stage of empathy one might have. At one extreme end, an individual might have Zero-Negative (psychopaths, narcissism, and borderline personality disorder) or Zero-Positive (autism spectrum disorder).
It made complete sense to me that he included both environmental and genetic factors when discussing how an individual ends up at this extreme end of the Empathy Scale. He spoke of this term of “internal pot of gold” which is parental affection, love and everything important that a child should never be deprived of in the beginning stages of life. I really love this term! I think it demonstrates how important parental love and affection is to development. Baron-Cohen also touches on the “genes of empathy”. Although he does state that there are not “actual” genes for empathy, there is evidence that there are genes that influence our empathy. It definitely makes sense to me that people have predispositions for a lack of empathy; this explains the situations of individuals who have grown up in seemingly loving, supportive households, but still become psychopaths.

We have spoken in class several times now about how people who commit evil acts “objectify” the person that they are harming in order to have a lack of empathy. It was also mentioned that if the individual begins to talk about their family, there is a better chance to lessen the harm. I came across this news article in the Vancouver Sun about a man who ran into a woman’s vehicle purposely, kidnapped her, and brutally raped and beat her. He told her that he intended to kill her, but he didn’t follow through. The woman began talking about the life that she had that included her children and family. She humanized herself to the perpetrator and therefore he started to empathize for her – he was no longer able to cause her harm. You can read the news clip here.

In “The Science of Evil”, having empathy is seen to be a good thing. It’s a trait that seems to be a desirable and keeps people from doing violent or evil things – which was demonstrated in the news article above. Switching over to Baumeister’s book, however, he gives us a different view on empathy that I honestly wasn’t expecting. Empathy can also be used to increase cruelty. Baumeister explains this by using an example of the sadist. He states, “a true sadist is not lacking in empathy – on the contrary, empathy helps the sadist to derive maximum pleasure and inflict the greatest pain” (Baumeister,1997). This changes my view slightly – an individual having empathy doesn’t necessarily mean the elimination of the chances of violence. An individual that has empathy seems to be a more dangerous recipe since they are capable of understanding what the person they are harming is feeling and maximize pain.

Moving forward with this week’s readings from Baumeister (1997), something that really stuck with me was when he talks about self-esteem. He actually states in his book that low self-esteem does not cause violence, it is the threat to one’s high self-esteem or ego that causes someone to be violent. This was difficult to wrap my head around. I always thought that people with low self-esteem would be the ones more prone to violence. What comes to mind is bullies. Someone bullies another individual because they have low self-esteem and that is their way of feeling better about themselves. Although I don’t disagree with what Baumeister is saying, I just have an issue with completely refuting the notion that people with low-self esteem don’t lash out in violence. I even asked three different family members today what they thought, and all three immediately thought it would be individuals with low self-esteem. So, I figured it’d be helpful to do a bit of research. Have people done studies that have produced results on both sides of the fence?

I came across an article that discusses the different findings on either side of the debate in numerous studies that have been conducted (and also some that yielded contradictory results). It’s called “Are violent people more likely to have low self-esteem or high self-esteem? (Ostrowsky, 2010) – seemed fitting! Interestingly, Baumeister is actually involved in one of the studies that is included. According to this study, self-esteem and violence do not yet have a clear relationship. If you are interested in reading the article, Ostrowsky (2009) goes into the possible reasons for this such as the fact that there are different dimensions of self-esteem and the problems that arise from attempting to measure self-esteem. As I said before, I don’t necessarily disagree with Baumeister (1997). I do really agree with the notion that violence can stem from a threatened ego. However, especially after reading Ostrowsky’s (2010) article, I think that low self-esteem should still be considered to be a factor. More research needs to be conducted in order to get a more clear relation between these two entities. I would be interested to see the results of further research with studies that took these issues of measurement and self-esteem dimensions into consideration.

That’s all for this weeks blog! I hope you enjoyed!




Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The science of evil: On empathy and the origins of cruelty. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Baumeister, R. (1997). Evil: Inside human cruelty and violence. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Ostrowsky, Michael K. “Are violent people more likely to have low self-esteem or high self-esteem?.” Aggression and violent behavior 15.1 (2010):69.

Vancouver Sun. (2016). Perpetrator of violent sex assaults near Prince George granted day parole. Retrieved from http://vancouversun.com/news/crime/perpetrator-of-violent-sex-assault-near-prince-george-granted-day-parole.

Week 1: What are the components of Evil?

What a loaded question! Although I’m a bit more knowledgable after this first week of class, I think I might be even more confused. Defining evil isn’t an easy task, I do know that. The only certainty I have come to the conclusion of thus far is that evil consists of a variety of different components. Let me outline the components that my classmates and myself were able to conjure up in Wednesday’s class and explain them (to the best of my current knowledge).

Victim & Perpetrator
In order for an evil act to occur, it could be said that both a victim and a perpetrator need to be involved. Although it may seem basic, it is something that I think is important to note. We could choose to look at this component a bit deeper – What constitutes as a victim? In the most obvious sense the main scene that comes to mind is two human beings that create the victim/ perpetrator relationship. However, does the victim have to be human for a harmful act to be considered evil? Could the victim be a dog, rat, or a forest full of trees?  I think most people would agree that the people that let their two dogs starve to death in a locked shed in Peterborough would be considered an evil act. What about the psychological experiments that are done on rats, monkeys, or rabbits in which mental and physical suffering are inflicted. Are they victims to evil acts conducted by perpetrators? Considering the environment, the forests that burned due to an individual intentionally setting them on fire – does it take the role as victim? Or would the victim be the animals that lost their habitat or the individuals that lost their homes? Is that even an evil act?
What I believe at this point in time is that in some way, shape or form there must be a victim and perpetrator for evil to exist – “evil exists in the eye of the beholder” (Baumeister, 1997)

Empathy (Erosion), Objectivity & Otherness

This idea of ’empathy erosion’ that Baron-Cohen writes about in his book “The Science of Evil” really resonated with me. Although there are more components to evil then just empathy (erosion), I think this concept allows us to have a better grasp on evil in the sense of understanding how “people are capable of causing extreme harm to one another” (Baron-Cohen, 2011). Corrosive emotions, personal beliefs, fear (particularly of power) are all areas that the ability to cause empathy erosion. The ability to turn another individual into an object is another dangerous recipe for empathy erosion. We look at people as objects when our empathy is switched off, or nonexistent which gives us the ability to completely disregard their emotions (Baron-Cohen, 2011). This also relates to the idea of “otherness”. We spoke in class about this being a “what came first, the chicken or the egg” scenario. If we are objectifying someone, we are then making them the “other” and vice versa. When an individual is able to view someone as an object/ ‘other’ then they then loose empathy towards them.

For example, when a man at a supermarket in Kenya cut off a woman’s finger while she was waiting in line – he wanted her wedding ring. He was able to completely objectify the woman and viewed the ring being on her finger as an inconvenience with a fairly easy fix (Baron-Cohen, 2011). This leads into my next point – motivation.


The majority of examples that I have read of things I would consider to be evil include the perpetrator having a motive. These motives  obviously vary greatly, but it seems as though there is almost always something that is motivating the perpetrator. I would consider fear a motivating force that I have come across in a few examples in the readings. For example, a women cut off her partner’s sex organ in fear that he was going to continue to rape her. Although both acts are terrible, it could be said that she was motivated out of fear.

Intention and Action to Inflict Harm

For evil to occur in most cases, the perpetrator is completing the task with intent to harm the victim. For example, bumping into someone accidentally causing them to fall to the ground is unintentional. Approaching someone and shoving them down demonstrates the perpetrator having the intention to hurt victim. That being said, having intention and suggests that the individual has an understanding of their actions. What if the said perpetrator isn’t mentally capable of understanding the full impact of their actions? Does that mean that the action isn’t evil, that that individual isn’t evil, or both?


Power & Egotism 

Evil seems to also exist when the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim demonstrates the perpetrator being in the position of power. I think that this position of power takes several different forms from such as physical, economic or government hierarchy to name a few. This also contributes to egotism (the negative, conceited/ arrogant type). Having power in a situation allows an individual to think highly of themselves. Baumeister (1997) explains that violence is often committed by those that think highly of themselves and feel that this view of themselves is being threatened. A highly inflated self-esteem = vulnerable ego = amplified possibility for violence.

Loss of Self-Control

A loss of self-control is what Baumeister (1997) states as the immediate cause for violence. Regardless of what the root causes or reasons are for people to be violent, they lash out when their inner restraints, or self-control, are weakened. There are countless reasons why an individual may loose their self-control but they aren’t relevant. All that matters within this component is that people are vulnerable to committing an evil act when they loose their self-control.


Where draw the line of what is evil and what isn’t? In terms of victims, I think it would really depend on the person that you are talking to. Different people, depending on a variety of different variables, would draw different lines of who or what would be considered a victim in an act where harm is inflicted. Human? Dog? Snake? Fish? Also, where is the line drawn for the magnitude of harm – when is it considered evil? Does a certain amount of pain or discomfort need to be present for the act to be evil? Then there is also this concept of the “magnitude gap” that Baumeister introduces to us. For the same event, the victim an the perpetrator usually have different ideas on “how bad” the situation was. This difference is considered the magnitude gap (Baumeister, 1997). I came across an article “Victim-perpetrator differences in reports of hurtful events” that relates to this component. It was discovered through this study that there were several differences in how each role reported a ‘hurtful’ event ( For instance, it was found that victims rated incidents as more intentionally hurtful and rated the perpetrator as being less remorseful compared to the ratings from the perpetrator.




Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The science of evil: On empathy and the origins of cruelty. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Baumeister, R. (1997). Evil: Inside human cruelty and violence. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Jail for trio who let dogs starve to death. (2014, December 15). Retrieved from http://www.torontosun.com/2014/12/15/jail-for-trio-who-let-dogs-starve-to-death

Fenney, J., & Hill, A. (2006). Victim-perpetrator differences in reports of hurtful events. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(4), 587-608. doi:10.1177/0265407506065985






Welcome! Hello! This blog has been developed for a Psychology class through Trent University that I am super excited about – Psychology of Evil.Throughout the next 6 weeks, this blog will contain weekly posts that will explore the darker side of humanity as I continuously learn more about it. I will be summarizing material from class as well as relating current issues and discussing peer-reviewed journals surrounding the appropriate topic. What is evil? How do we define it? Why do humans intentionally harm one another? Continue to tune in as I dive into questions such as these.

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