Philip G. Zimbardo was born March 23, 1933, New York City. He has been a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University since 1968, after having taught previously at Yale, New York and Columbia Universities. Zimbardo was proud to have made the jump from untenured Assistant Professor at NYU to Full Professor with tenure at Stanford, the number one rated psychology program in the USA. He was educated at Brooklyn College (BA, 1954), and Yale University ( MS and PhD, 1959), the latter in its golden days of Social Psychology.
Zimbardo went to the 'Ivory League', as his Sicilian mother used to call it, from his home in the South Bronx ghetto of New York, where he was born and reared for most of his childhood and adolescence, becoming the first member of his family to attend college.
So far, Zimbardo has authored more than 200 professional articles, chapters, popular articles, and dozens of books, some of which have had an influence on many generations of colleagues, students, and the general public. Zimbardo's popular introductory psychology text, Psychology and Life, which he began writing in its 8th edition, with Floyd Ruch, is now in its 16th edition with Richard Gerrig as his co-author and heir. It is the oldest continuously selling textbook in the US, and recently has won the McGuffey Award from the Textbook Authors Association for its excellence and longevity. Zimbardo's book, Shyness, has been a best seller in the U.S. through 10 printings, recently reissued and going strong in its translations into many languages for use throughout the world.
Zimbardo's passion for psychology comes through in part in the PBS-TV series Discovering Psychology (26 programs) that he designed, co-wrote, and hosted, and which is still seen regularly on educational TV channels, and widely used in colleges, high schools, and now in at least ten countries worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of students ('distant learners') have so far received college credits in introductory psychology for completing a Telecourse based on standardized examinations of Zimbardo's series and a text, but without a teacher. The series was updated in Autumn 2001 with new programs on Cultural Psychology, Cognitive Neuropsychology and Applying Psychology.
In addition to this 'outreach teaching', Zimbardo loves to teach in-house at Stanford University, where he teaches primarily undergraduate courses, with a sprinkling of graduate courses on the side. Zimbardo claims to have taught more Stanford students, in a wider variety of courses, for more total course credits, than any other Stanford University professor in history Zimbardo has been honoured for his dedication and excellence in teaching at Stanford by his colleagues and the administration with a number of awards, among them, the Gores Senior Faculty award, the Bing Teaching Fellowship, and Phoenix Award, as well as similar awards by the American Psychological Foundation, Western Psychological Foundation and NYU. Zimbardo also enjoys helping to develop new generations of scholars, who take teaching both seriously and have fun doing it, through intensive participation in teaching practicums and teaching workshops at many different educational levels and in other schools and countries. Many of Zimbardo's former students have gone on to become distinguished teachers at their schools. Some of his writing, research, and media productions have also been recognised with various national awards.
Zimbardo's love for teaching is balanced by two other deep concerns, for generating knowledge through original research, and for 'giving psychology away to the public', by doing research that is readily translatable and appreciated by the general public, by trying to communicate directly with non-academic audiences through mass media, and by establishing a community Shyness Clinic and Shyness Institute, co-directed with Dr Lynne Henderson. Zimbardo continues to have an active research program in the broad area of social psychology/personality/abnormal psychology. His research has been centred around the themes of how good people can do evil deeds, smart people do dumb things, ordinary people do unexpected things, and how the power of the social situation can overwhelm and distort the values, personalities and behaviour of Every Man and Every Woman. Zimbardo has also been interested in how to liberate people from self-imposed prisons that constrain their spontaneity and joy in living. His research has blended rigorous laboratory experiments, simulations, role-playing, field studies, and studies that demonstrate interesting psychological phenomena. The content of this research has been quite broad: aggression/ violence/ vandalism/torture/cults/evil; the psychology of time perspective; the dynamics of shyness in adults and children; the cognitive and social origins of 'madness' in normal people, and earlier, research on dissonance theory, affiliation, anxiety, deindividuation, persuasion and attitude change. Perhaps Zimbardo will be most noted by his experiment in 1971 (with Craig Haney and Curtis Banks) on the dramatic consequences of putting normal, healthy students in a mock prison. It has become the classic demonstration of the power of social situations. The Stanford Prison Experiment (www.prisonexp.org) has been singled out as an exemplar of the kind of research that should be 'given away to the public' by former APA president, George Miller, along with Stanley Milgram's obedience research. (Incidentally, Milgram and Zimbardo were classmates at James Monroe High School in the Bronx in 1949/50).
Because of the dramatic nature of his research, broad interests in psychology, and popular trade books, Zimbardo has made many media appearances on national TV and radio, among them the Phil Donahue Show, the Today Show, Good Morning America, 20/20, Nightline, That's Incredible, NPR, and others. Zimbardo has also been the Psychological Consultant on two recent British TV programs: Five Steps to Tyranny (BBC, 2000) and The Human Zoo (LWT, 2001). Another cross-over from academe into the 'real world' is the name of a rock and roll band from LA, 'Stanford Prison Experiment', who mix 'noise with fusion' to make music – sort—of!
Written by: Philip Zimbardo.