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Why Ordinary People Get Involved with Terrorism, Civil Conflict and Torture

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Chapter Summary

This chapter briefly considers the social psychological research demonstrating who becomes a torturer and why, and that both ethnic cleansing and torture can be state sponsored. Huggins argues that four factors are necessary for ordinary people to do evil such as torture: previous moral considerations are overridden; blind obedience is mandated – mindless obedience to authority becomes necessary; victims are dehumanised; and personal and social accountability is neutralised. There are strong social and organisational influences that have been identified in psychological laboratory research that are relevant to the phenomenon of torture. The chapter reviews the psychological research by Bandura, Milgram and Zimbardo, briefly to point a psychology of evil in which ordinary people can harm and degrade totally innocent people.

Keywords: civil conflict; fundamental attribution error; human rights law; psychological research; terrorism; torture

10.1163/ej.9789004154377.i-514.79
/content/books/10.1163/ej.9789004154377.i-514.79
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