Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo to speak at graduation

Psychologist, professor, author and host of the PBS series Discovering Psychology Philip Zimbardo was selected as the commencement speaker for the 2013 graduation ceremony. President Ron Thomas will also confer upon Zimbardo an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Zimbardo is a professor emeritus at Stanford University, and conducted the well known Stanford Prison Study in 1971. He taught previously at Yale, New York University and Columbia University. He continues to work with doctoral students at Palo Alto University.

“Dr. Zimbardo has had a profound influence on our understanding of human behavior and how we might live more effectively and humanely as individuals and as a society,” Thomas said. “Most impressively he has never stopped being a teacher, whether his audience is a single student or a national television audience. He has pursued his discipline with the passion that is at the heart of a liberal arts education and we are privileged to have him share his challenging perspectives on the human condition with the Class of 2013.”

Zimbardo was born amidst the Great Depression in the south Bronx, and attended Brooklyn College, then Yale University, where he earned his Master of Arts and Doctoral degrees in psychology.

To date, Zimbardo has been published over 400 times in professional publications and 50 books. His books include: Psychology and Life, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, and The Time Paradox.

The Lucifer Effect addressed questions of what happens when you put good people in bad places. It follows his famous Prison experiment in which 24 college student volunteers, some of whom played guard roles while others played prisoners. The experiment was cut short after the aggression of the “guards” became too toxic and difficult to control.

More recently, Zimbardo launched the Heroic Imagination Project—an educational program looking to demonstrate that within each of us rests an inner hero whom we can choose to liberate. Zimbardo founded the Group Dynamics and The New Heroism Project as an extension of the Heroic Imagination Project.

“My goal is to democratize and demystify heroism so that mainstream Americans will begin to see heroic action as realistically possible for any one of us, and to invite young people to see their lives as heroes’ journeys,” Zimbardo told Neuronarrative.

Zimbardo was awarded the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 prize in 2005 in recognition of his research on the human condition.

“I have to believe that creating a generation of such ordinary heroes is our best defense against evil, whether on the battlefield, in prisons or corporate headquarters,” he said.