The Hero Interviews – Dr. Philip Zimbardo

aphilphotos23.jpg From the bio on his Lucifer Effect website: Philip Zimbardo is internationally recognized as a leading “voice and face of contemporary psychology” through his widely seen PBS-TV series, Discovering Psychology, his media appearances, best-selling trade books on shyness, and his classic research, The Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo has been a Stanford University professor since 1968 (now an Emeritus Professor), having taught previously at Yale, NYU, and Columbia University.  Recently, he was awarded the Havel Foundation Prize for his lifetime of research on the human condition. Among his more than 300 professional publications and 50 books is the oldest current textbook in psychology, Psychology and Life, now in its 18th Edition, and Core Concepts in Psychology in its 5th Edition.

Phil is an unofficial partner of the Hero Workshop, or perhaps vice versa.  His current work on heroism continues to inspire me.  And anyone who knows me will know how painful it is to put up this photo of him wearing an Italian shirt after the 2006 World Cup.  However, I hope it shows my ability to forgive.

Who was your hero as a child and why?

My childhood hero was baseball player, Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, in the 1940’s and 50’s because he was unconventional, never wore a tie, did not cater to the media, focused fully on his craft at which he excelled, also he left baseball twice to serve in the military at the height of his career, it was a noble sacrifice. Also he was skinny when he started major league ball, as was I, and I was also a good hitter, but primarily softball.

Who is your hero now and why?

Christina Maslach is my Now hero. First she caused me to stop the Stanford Prison Experiment by being the only one of many visitors who forced me to acknowledge that terrible things were happening to the boys playing the role of prisoners as well as the corruption of those acting as guards, and that it was all my responsibility. She did that knowing it might cause a disruption in the early phases of our romantic relationship.

Since that heroic decisive moment, she has always called me out when I make a passing negative judgment on someone not based on evidence but some bias. She also shares a remarkable trait with my mother of working hard to help others and never calling attention to herself or ever complaining. She models goodness not only to our children but to all with whom she comes into contact. Now she is an administrator at U.C. Berkeley, Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies, and also acting Dean of Letters and Sciences.

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