Tag Archives: Psychology of Evil

Reflecting on teaching the ‘Psychology of Evil’

14 Feb

I’ve just finished two weeks of teaching ‘The Psychology of Evil’, and I thought a few reflections might be in order:

1) The students (250+ of them) seemed to really engaged with some quite hard-hitting material i.e. holocaust, children killing children, Rwandan genocide US School shootings etc

2) I was extremely pleased that the material seemed to shift students thinking. At the beginning of the first lecture students clearer saw the soldiers in the notorious Abu Ghraib pictures as being ‘Evil’,  but by the end of the second lecture their views had clearly changed to seeing the ‘system’ as being the ‘Evil’ component. There is an excellent HBO documentary, ‘The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib’ that seemed to be the turning point.

3) Having taught the material for the first time, and reflected on it subsequently it’s really interesting that the ‘take home message’ was ‘don’t trust single explanations of complex human behaviour’.  It led me to thing that actually if students take that one point away from the lectures it would have been quite successful, and any resultant learning of bit of social psychology or mental health material is an added bonus.

All in all a really rewarding teaching session that makes me think that teaching really ‘big ideas’ and then attaching the research to it subsequently is a much more productive approach than the usual theory-driven model.

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