The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others

The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others

The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others

The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others

Synopsis

This book explores the roots of goodness and evil by gathering together the knowledge gained in a lifelong study of harmful or altruistic behavior. Ervin Staub has studied what leads children and adults to help others in need and how caring, helping, and altruism develop in children; bullying and youth violence and their prevention; the roots of genocide, mass killing, and other harmful behavior between groups of people; the prevention of violence; healing victimized groups and reconciliation between groups. He presents a broad panorama of the roots of violence and caring and how we create societies and a world that is caring, peaceful, and harmonious.

Excerpt

I received my Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford in 1965, started my work life as a professor at Harvard, and almost immediately began to focus on the topics of this book: goodness and evil. For many years, I have conducted research on, extensively written about, and more and more applied to the real world the understanding that is presented in this book on a variety of interrelated questions: What leads children and adults to be generous and helpful, and what leads them to respond to someone's urgent need in an emergency rather than remain passive bystanders? Why do children and adolescents bully, harass, and intimidate each other, and what can we do about it? What influences lead people, especially young people, to become aggressive and violent, and what socialization and experience in the home and school lead children and youth to become caring and helpful? What leads groups of people to engage in violent actions, especially in extreme forms of violence such as genocide and mass killing? How can groups (and individuals) heal from the trauma created by past victimization? How can members of perpetrator and victim groups, or members of groups that have mutually harmed each other, reconcile? What is the role of passive bystanders in allowing violence to unfold, and how can we use the great potential power of “active bystanders” for preventing violence or generating helping? And how can violence and other harm-doing by individuals and groups be prevented and caring, helping, and peace be promoted, and how can cultures that generate these be created? Since September 11, 2001, I have also applied my prior work to the understanding of the roots of terrorism and its prevention.

As I engaged with these issues over the years, I increasingly entered the “real world.” I lectured and conducted workshops for parents and teachers on practices in the home and school that would help them raise caring and nonviolent children. In this book I write about positive (as well as negative) socialization in the home and about the practices of “caring schools.” It is possible to provide all children, I believe, with experiences xi . . .

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