The main purpose of this work is to analyse the role and function of social psychology as a tool to strengthen contemporary democracies. For this, I will adopt a double perspective through which I will try to describe the psychological mechanisms that force to obedience. I think that a reflection on this point represents an important topic of discussion on the state of the art of contemporary political institutions and on strategies for building a reasonable political consensus, which is the former characteristic of a truly functioning democracy. The first perspective is historical; the second one is a political philosophical point of view. Since Stanley Milgram (1974) and Solomon Asch (1952) have focused their research on pressure towards conformity, social psychology has taken on a crucial role in understanding society and defining the main aspects of human nature. What kind of influence is able to exercise authority over our moral, economic and social choices? How does power control us? The answers to these questions are not obvious at all. Philip Zimbardo (2007), in his famous “Stanford prison experiment”, has elaborated an original description of the true face of human nature. The consequence of that dramatic experiment was that the illusion of natural goodness of human beings turned out to be just an illusion. The comfortable explanation about a rigid and dualistic distinction between good and evil has crashed on the cruel circumstances of real life. As Zimbardo has suggested, systemic and situational power have a strong influence on the way we decide to act in all our social interactions, and on the way we decide to play our social role. All these researches cast a dark shadow on our beliefs and on the real weight of our self-determination power.

Why is social psychology important for democracy ? From Obedience to authority to Lucifer effect [Modern Age and competencies of psychologists]

Maimone Vincenzo
2019

Abstract

The main purpose of this work is to analyse the role and function of social psychology as a tool to strengthen contemporary democracies. For this, I will adopt a double perspective through which I will try to describe the psychological mechanisms that force to obedience. I think that a reflection on this point represents an important topic of discussion on the state of the art of contemporary political institutions and on strategies for building a reasonable political consensus, which is the former characteristic of a truly functioning democracy. The first perspective is historical; the second one is a political philosophical point of view. Since Stanley Milgram (1974) and Solomon Asch (1952) have focused their research on pressure towards conformity, social psychology has taken on a crucial role in understanding society and defining the main aspects of human nature. What kind of influence is able to exercise authority over our moral, economic and social choices? How does power control us? The answers to these questions are not obvious at all. Philip Zimbardo (2007), in his famous “Stanford prison experiment”, has elaborated an original description of the true face of human nature. The consequence of that dramatic experiment was that the illusion of natural goodness of human beings turned out to be just an illusion. The comfortable explanation about a rigid and dualistic distinction between good and evil has crashed on the cruel circumstances of real life. As Zimbardo has suggested, systemic and situational power have a strong influence on the way we decide to act in all our social interactions, and on the way we decide to play our social role. All these researches cast a dark shadow on our beliefs and on the real weight of our self-determination power.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/370302
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