The Situationist

Dr. Z. on Dr. Phil

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 7, 2010

Heroic Imagination in Action, December 9, 2010.

Situationist Contributor, Phil Zimbardo will co-host the DR. PHIL TV show, on: Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 (for local airing times, see

This program continues an earlier show (Oct. 25, 2010) that focused on The Lucifer Effect, understanding how good people can turn evil, and centered on the issue of obedience to authority.

The new show builds upon that theme by adding demonstrations of bullying by girls in groups, and the power of group dynamics and social trust as revealed in the recent “Bling Ring” Hollywood thefts. Millions of dollars worth of celebrity jewelry and clothing were stolen by a group of young girls, as described by one guest.

The final component shifts focus to understand how “bad kids” can turn good and even act heroically. A former member of a criminal gang in Los Angeles describes his motives for joining the gang, its illegal activities, being shot at, arrested, and his final transformation. He describes going beyond just quitting the gang to work at preventing others from joining destructive gangs, and helping them escape from gang life. In a dramatic highlight, this young man says,  “I am putting my life in danger just being here (on this public show).” His actions, like those of others like him, are heroic because of the high personal costs/risks entailed in engaging in such socially-focused service.

Dr. Phil ends the show with laudatory comments about how such actions are part of what is being investigated and encouraged by the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP), encouraging his audience to visit the web site (here).

* * *

The HIP research team is now investigating the nature of such transformations of the psychology of enmity and violence into the psychology of compassion and heroic action through detailed interviews with dozens of  “heroic, former gang members.”

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Situationist Phil Zimbardo Takes Over the Dr. Phil Show,” “The Devil You Know . . .,” and “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part II.”

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