Written by Ellora Israni.
Three decades after his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment proved that “terrifyingly normal” individuals can commit alarming atrocities, Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus in psychology, has set out to communicate the opposite: that in all situations, these same people can speak out against evil and become heroes.
Zimbardo has substantiated this notion through the inception of the Heroic Imagination Project. The project, which currently includes a comprehensive website as well as education programs for high schools students, seeks to publicize the term “heroic imagination,” referring to the idea that anyone can become a hero by utilizing his or her imagination.
He intends to “democratize the concept of heroism” and erase the notion that heroes are “extraordinary people.” He explains them instead as “ordinary people who in a particular situation do an extraordinary thing.”
Although the project was originally a collaboration between a number of unpaid individuals, funding has recently come from a number of individuals and foundations. This money has been used to set up a small office in San Francisco’s Presidio district and expand the website to include a comprehensive explanation of the “heroic imagination.”
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