The Psychology of Evil


  • Kaj Björkqvist Åbo Akademi University, Finland


Psychology of evil, moral disengagement, dehumanization, deindividuation, obedience, diffusion of resonsibility, social pressure, conformity, groupthink, Holocaust


The current article provides an overview of the psychology of evil, from a historical, experimental, and theoretical point of view. The psychology of evil, as a specific field of research, was commenced after WWII. The term “Psychology of Evil” was coined by Zimbardo in 1995. Several psychological mechanisms, and experiments which provide evidence for their accuracy, are described; they give an understanding of how ordinary people can be made to carry out atrocities. Among these mechanisms are moral disengagement, dehumanization, deindividuation, obedience to authorities, diffusion of responsibility, social pressure, conformity, and groupthink. The conclusion is that, if not all of us, then at least a large extent of humans can be made to carry out atrocities towards others. The findings have relevance for peace work and policy makers.




How to Cite

The Psychology of Evil. (2023). European Journal of Social Science Education and Research, 10(2), 53-67.