Who: Periods 1, 2, & 3 only

Set-Up: After completing Lord of the Flies and being introduced to the Stanford Prison Experiment in class before midterm exams, we’ve begun to consider ‘human nature’ as being a complex mixture of good/evil.  Clearly the average person will never be  as ‘good’ as Simon or as ‘evil’ as Roger, yet we tend to use such literary extremes to consider human instincts/behavior.

During our Skype video conference with Matt Langdon — the founder of The Hero Workshop — on Tuesday, we’ll be discussing 3 things:

  • His knowledge of Stanford University professor emeritus Phil Zimbardo – the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment — a gentleman that Matt Langdon is now working with on an international ‘hero’-based project.
  • Considering the Simon vs. Roger question:  exploring whether this is the right way to look at human instincts in terms of decisions made in difficult times.
  • How ‘average’ people can do ‘heroic’ things in little ways, day after day.

Challenge: Simply offer a thoughtful, detailed reflection on the Skype conversation.

Please note: Matt will read all of your replies.  Understandably, he’ll be very interested in your ideas and reactions.


38 responses to “W9, #4: SKYPE CHAT REFLECTIONS

  1. This is going to be quick as I’m on by phone, but I wanted to thank everyone for some eye opening comments this morning.

    My first question is how would you go about changing the bystander attitude in 10th graders? How could you produce more heroic acts in your school?

  2. The skype chat that we were able to have in class was very fun and different. It was funny how nobody wanted to sit in the front and as soon as he said something about that I took the initiative and I sat in the front desk surprisingly. It was very cool how we could be in Texas and him in Michigan and we were having a conversation and it wasn’t awkward at all.

    Mr. Langdon offered many ideas and new perspectives that we weren’t used to and that allowed us to look at things from a different point of view. Also I enjoyed using the microphones because I felt important and in-charge for the moment also I felt like my opinion mattered for a quick glorious second.

    Our discussion about the similarities between the Stanford Prison experiment and LOTF allowed us to see new possibilities that existed between the two. We had a first hand experience since Matt Langdon worked with Phil Zimbardo and allowed us to understand how normal people are placed in unusual situations and also how those situations change their way of thinking also how people adapt to their surroundings.

    I also enjoyed the discussion about Wesely Autrey, the guy who risked his life to save another which in Joseph Campbell’s words would be the actions of a hero. This explains how some people out of impulse normally do all the right things while others mainly do all the wrong things which explains how no one person is innately evil they just choose to mainly do the wrong things.

    I look forward to future skype chats .=)


    Mr. LongYou did a great job of summarizing so many of the key points! Thanks. And I’ll do my best to find others to Skype chat with us in the future. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. I don’t think that human instincts should be viewed as good or evil because then we would be describing people in general rather than their decisions. Right and wrong would be more acceptable because they pertain to personal views of the world that affect the decisions of people.

    When put into a decision to step up and be a hero, become an ‘innocent’ bystander, or participate in a villainous act, which one is worse? In my opinion, every option can be the worst option depending on the situation.

    For example, when confronted by a drug dealer should you…
    A. attack the drug dealer and shame him for even attempting to do such a terrible thing as selling drugs
    B. say “No thanks, I kind of like living drug free life of purity and happiness” and walk away
    C. gladly take the drugs and become a drug dealer yourself

    In my opinion choices A and C are the obvious WRONG choices. Normally I would promote either the villainous act or the ‘good’ act. I think that by letting things that in your opinion are bad continue is even worse than doing them yourself. But as a person who is actually in an undesirable situation, you must think about the repercussions of your actions and if you even have a chance at stopping the act. Common sense is going to obviously play an important role in any decision because one must evaluate the risks of every choice.


    Mr. Long: So appreciate how you approached this by offering your own morality question in terms of the choices we can/should make. As you said at the end, “one must evaluate the risks of every choice”. Well said!

  4. The main thing that stuck with me from the discussion today was the dartboard concept. I’m not sure if I totally agree with it but it really got me thinking on what motivates people when decisions need to be made.

    I think that the decision to do good, bad or nothing has a lot to do with outside elements. I don’t really think humans are innately evil or good. To me everything depends on the situation. If we go back and talk about Nazi Germany half those people did those horrible things out of fear. Whether it be for their family or themselves they just wanted to survive. Or they had been brain washed with propaganda since their years at school.

    Now it sounds like I’m supporting those acts and I’m not in any way I’m just trying to see what’s behind them. I think this whole thing just goes in circles. People do bad things for good reasons but does that make acts any better? And then they are justifying them and we go back to the whole ‘as long as its justified its fine’ idea. Then we start denying. When thinking about this it just seems to go in circles because I will get to a decent point and then it’s like WAIT wasn’t I just against what I am now saying? And what about the do nothing thing? By ignoring are you really supporting or are you just afraid again? And will doing small acts of good really help u on the road of goodness?

    Now after I have read this it kind of sounds like a bunch of randomness, but that’s kind of what my thoughts are right now. I think basically I’m tying to say that I’m not sure about the dart board thing. I personally think that humans make their decisions based on survival.


    Mr. Long: Pleased to see that you’re willing to appropriately challenge one of the key ideas Matt shared with us. The dartboard concept was a metaphor to help illuminate a more complex idea, so it’s worth looking at closely. Thanks for doing so in a really graceful manner.

    I’m sure he’ll be intrigued by the final comment re: survival, too.

  5. I would have to say that a lot of the things we covered a very applicable to our lives both in school and out of school. Things that we see, such as seeing someone being beat up by a couple of high school thungs, is a time when our evil, neutral, or heroic tendancies start to show up(if you haven’t guessed yet, this has been entered after tuesday). Things like just standing by and watching while this kid is being stolen from is the path that most of us would take in most examples.

    However, some of us whose sadistic tendencies lie just below the surface would probably take part in the crime. But, an even smaller number of us would try to make a stand for the victim of such an incident. It is true that having good people do nothing is key to having evil be the victor. But, it also true that if one person is to fight for the cause of justice, the hero inside of us all would awaken, and evil would take its final fall.


    Mr. Long: Clearly the ability for any of us to discuss the potential for “sadistic tendencies” in any normal person is a ‘risk’, but it’s also precisely the type of question that will intrigue others. What is more powerful, however, is your thinking about the majority of us who would just stand by, those who choose to “do nothing”.

  6. I think it’s cool that we got to have a Skype conversation with someone that we’d learned about – it’s like studying Napoleon or somebody famous and then suddenly meeting them in person!

    I agree with the idea that humans are collectively a mixture of good and evil. We aren’t born as either one, but the way we are raised up influences which side we’ll take to most often. It’s hard to know, however, if the way we’re raised up is the ONLY thing that influences our good/evil tendencies. Perhaps there’s something within each individual human personality that factors in as well.

    Sometimes the most heroic and most challenging acts are the smallest ones. It may be something as simple as being kind to the weird disgusting kid that nobody likes. This issue is one I struggle with daily. There is a certain kid that I particularly dislike, and some days my evil side wins over and I am sharp to her. Other days I am stronger and more able to be nice, even friendly. I feel ‘heroic’ on those days, partly because I’ve conquered a pressing challenge, and partly because it’s the right thing to do to make the world a kinder place. I can also hope that I’ve inspired other people to conquer the challenge, too.


    Mr. Long: So well said: ” Sometimes the most heroic and most challenging acts are the smallest ones.” And I like your pay-it-forward concept in the end of your reply.

    I think Matt will smile at the idea of being famous (for knowing someone we’ve studied). You may have made a friend for life comparing him to Napoleon on the fame scale.

  7. The conversation with Matt Langdon was a very interesting talk. The question that I had for him was answered and it gave me an insight to what the guards and prisoners went through during the experiment.

    It also gave me a curiosity of the psychiatric practice. I think that it’s interesting to see the nature of other people and how that nature affects the life of said person and the people around him. However, when we started to talk about Roger vs. Simon in terms of good and evil, I got a little lost. I didn’t get why you would pit these two children together. It’s not like they wanted to be left on that island. The things that they did, mainly Roger, was just so that they could survive.

    Then when we started to talk about how people can do little things, that are good, over time to make us a better person, I completely agreed with this statement. Given time and the proper action, things will change for better or for worse.


    Mr. Long: Definitely take a deeper look into studying psychology in the future. No doubt you’ll find some pretty compelling ideas in college and beyond if you choose to. Remind me to tell you about the “shock” experiment, too. An amazing/scary combo with the Stanford example.

    I put Roger and Simon together because each represents an extreme view on human nature. Simon = the spiritual center of mankind while Roger = the instinct to torture, control, and demonstrate power over others with no specific goal in mind. Does that help hint at it?

  8. The Skype chat was very helpful; it gave me a better understanding on how average people can make simple heroic decisions day after day. I believe that Matt presented a good thesis, stating that anyone is capable of making heroic decisions. And it’s not like your born a hero, like how Matt put it in an example, pretend your decisions are based on a dart board (one region being good, one being bad, and one doing nothing). And a person who makes simple heroic decisions would have a bigger region of good. I think as time progresses, if you continually make decisions for the greater good, you will be more inclined to making more heroic risks.


    Mr. Long: You’ve made one English teacher (not naming any names – wink) very proud with your mention of “thesis”, BTW! Nice summary of Matt’s key point, too.

  9. I liked that Matt seemed to care about hearing our personal thoughts on the most ‘typical’ boy on the island. I would have liked to try and get to know some more about how his project plans to increase people’s ability to do ‘heroic’ things, that’s interesting to me. In general I like the chat but it would have been a lot cooler with more time, unforunately there is no chance for that so I’ll gladly accept what we can do in our class time. I also thank Matt for reating us like intelligent people, not schoolkids like most of the world does, and for giving his honest opinion on human nature. Thanks a lot matt.


    Mr. Long: Definitely drop Matt a line (through his blog – you should be able to find his email that way, or just leave a comment on his site). He’d love to tell you about what he’s working on; ask him about the camp, too.

    And like you, I appreciate that he engaged with you as ‘equals’ (of mind), not as ‘kids’ (of age).

  10. Student #8 (responding to Matt's question)

    Sorry I just saw Matt’s question up there so i’ll answer it here.
    Heroic acts for tenth graders would be fairly small things, but that doesn’t take away their importance. I just think the average tenth grader is caught up in their own little world, somewhat understandably I guess, so that limits our ability to do any sort of heroic acts. I do think it is important though to do those things, stopping bullies, talk to someone who looks down or sonely or something, those things can change a persons whole day. I guess the only way I can really think that would encourage me to do more ‘heroic’ acts would be to make it clear what a difference maked someone can be by performing those simple acts. It’d be a challenge to make high school students willing to go out of their way to commint a selfless act, but that’d be pretty sweet if it happened. Sorry i couldn’t provide better answers

  11. I think that the Skype conversation was important because Mr. Langdon seems to know what we were talking about. It seemed to me that when he mentioned bullieing people seemed to kind of pay attention more. Bullying isn’t something that people want to talk about everyday so when they are made to talk about it they pay more attention. It’s true when he said that people could be heroic, just by standing up even if it does cost them a little by way of friendship capital. It’s also true when he said that heroism is infectious. About Zimbargo though, that is kind of scary, how the first prisoner broke in just a day and a half. It makes you wonder where your limits are and how much of that kind of treatment you could take.


    Mr. Long: Agree w/ you re: the bullying aspect. I saw people’s ears perk up, too. Also agree with you re: “infectious” elements.

    And I also wonder where my own limits would be (although having pledged a fraternity, I have a ‘small’ clue of that…although it also makes me wonder how healthy all of that was at the age of 18).

  12. The skype chat was definitely a new experience for me. It was fun and intriguing to talk to someone who was an authority on a subject that will become a major focal point for us this year, The Hero Journey.

    I agree with Mr. Langdon’s view that situation changes how someone would react. Many of those boys on the island would probably have been more apt to do good, had they been in a comfortable setting that they were familiar with. I believe that when someone is thrust into an entirely new, uncomfortable situation, the ‘do nothing’ section of their dartboard hugely increases. In an uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation, most people want to blend into the background and do nothing in order to avoid calling attention to themselves. Once someone is comfortable with where they are, they would be much more apt to either do good or bad. For this reason, I think that it would be almost impossible to train yourself to increase your ‘do good’ section. There will always be a situation that will be uncomfortable and once there, how you react won’t matter on how you have trained yourself, it would be pure instinct.

    I find the Stanford Prison Experiment fascinating. One thing I would like to know is how they determined who a ‘good’ boy was to use in the experiment. Sure, things like criminal record, status in school, and an interview could probably sweep away the horribly bad. However, how did they determine normalcy and ‘goodness’ past that? Many people seem to be perfectly normal on the outside, but it seems like you would really have to know someone before you could be the judge of their character in terms of good and bad. Just like Roger, no one suspects him of evil at the beginning. Only when the rocks start flying is he questioned as being bad.

    Overall, I found the Skype chat very interesting and informative. I would like to do it again, but it would be nice to have a longer period of time, so no time restraints held anything back from the conversation.

    In response to Mr. Langdon’s question, I think that it would be extremely hard to change one’s disposition at this time. Most of us are pretty cynical, which is just how we grew up to be, and I think there are many kids who would do nothing. At our school, I personally haven’t faced very much bullying, so I am unsure as to how I would react in a situation like that. One thing that may change the bystander attitude is if something serious happened as a result of bullying or someone choosing the path of inaction. Actual happenings that affect our lives seem to grab most of our attentions pretty quickly.


    Mr. Long: Really struck by this part of your comment: “I believe that when someone is thrust into an entirely new, uncomfortable situation, the ‘do nothing’ section of their dartboard hugely increases. In an uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation, most people want to blend into the background and do nothing in order to avoid calling attention to themselves. Once someone is comfortable with where they are, they would be much more apt to either do good or bad.”

    Also really glad you enjoyed the experience.

  13. We had a very constructive and cogent discussion in class on Tuesday with Mr. Langdon. I was easily able to relate several of the ideas on human nature to the rationale behind the behavior of Golding’s stranded island characters. Of particular interest was the discussion about who would have acted most typically in the given circumstances and situation.

    Matt was accurate when he mentioned that a big part of the LOTF boys motivation and subsequent behavior was a function of separating into distinct and divergent groups – just like the boys in the Stanford Prison Experiment. When groups are formed, usually one group will yield and one will command more “power”. The more powerful group is then permitted to act condescending and/or cruel to the less powerful group. This explains the imbalance of power as demonstrated in the Stanford Prison Experiment. This is why the prison guards felt entitled to act cruel, bitter, and rancorous towards the “prisoners.” A person’s nature and disposition can be heavily influenced by the way they are raised, their family values and their physical environment. Most likely if a person is raised by parents with high expectations for well-mannered conduct, they will learn to refrain from speaking or acting in malicious and mal-intentioned ways. On the other hand, if a person whose parents never discern between acting kindly and poorly, that person may be find it easier and more natural to release the inner cruelty we all posses. Lastly, we discussed how people can stand up to spiteful people.

    I especially enjoyed the discussion about how commonplace situations can be opportunities for “ordinary” heroism. It makes me hopeful that the next time one of us witness someone being bullied, one of us will not simply stand back as a bystander, but instead, take positive action as an “ordinary” hero.

    Mr. Long and Mr. Langdon – This audio (Clark Howard’s “Angry at e-Bay”) was broadcast on October 30, 2008 and mentioned the use of Skype. Is this an example of how a “heroic” technology” can be manipulated for not so heroic intentions by a not so heroic company and government?


    Mr. Long: Compelling question at the end, my friend. I’ll let Matt take a swing at it.

    Oh, and I love your comment towards the end re: the potential of some of us not choosing to be bystanders next time. Well said.

  14. First off I loved the Skype conversation. I completely agree with Matt Langdon that humans are neither innately evil nor good but act out in an evil or good way based on the situation they are in or the places they have come from. I also agree with the do good/ do nothing / do bad description of the human brain and that everyone can be the one to do the heroic acts in their own story. As far as the Stanford prison experiment I find it rather disturbing how easily humans can fall into roles that they have never possessed before. Before this video chat I never considered psychology as something I would do but now I find it fascinating. The fact that you could have a job that connects human ways with literature is almost as attractive as being an author in my writing obsessed brain. This was absolutely awesome thanks to you both!


    Mr. Long: You’re welcome. Our pleasure.

    And cool comment on your part: “Before this video chat I never considered psychology as something I would do but now I find it fascinating. The fact that you could have a job that connects human ways with literature is almost as attractive as being an author in my writing obsessed brain.” No limit to what you might find ‘out there’ once you take a peek at the realm of psychology. Who knows. Perhaps you’ll combine a love of writing and the human brain one day!

  15. Hey guys. Thanks for all the comments. I’ve actually shown some of the people I was working with in Houston this page so they can get some of your answers on how to reach high schoolers.

    Now for some responses…

    Firstly, I’m taller than Napoleon.

    I think the idea of humans acting based on survival is appropriate in “survival” situations. What governs your behaviour in day to day living? What governed Wesley Autrey’s behaviour when he decided to lie on some train tracks to save a man’s life when he could have jumped up onto the platform with his young daughters? Not easy questions, but that’s where I think the dart board idea has some merit. If you’re trapped on a desert island where you might die – then survival mode kicks in. But I think heroism can kick in there too. Have you seen the movie “Alive”? Interesting things to see in that.

    The idea that heroism is contagious or infectious or as one poster said, can “inspire other people to conquer the challenge” is a core one for me. It kind of gives reason to my work. The more people who think they can be heroic and start acting on it, the more others will be likely to join in. That sentence was a bit weird, but I think you’ll understand.

    The other thesis (going for bonus points) that is central to my work is, as quoted, “if you continually make decisions for the greater good, you will be more inclined to making more heroic risks”. I think I should be having you guys write my marketing materials. By doing the little things every day, you are definitely more likely to take greater risks when they’re presented. And as someone said, you need to make sure you’re evaluating the risks against the good you’re doing.

    As for treating you guys like intelligent people, I do that with everyone unless they show me I shouldn’t 🙂 Seriously though, I’ve always worked with kids (using the word to define anyone in school) with that theory. Kids don’t want to be treated like kids and will generally turn off if they are. That’s why I don’t juggle while presenting at schools.

    I’d love to hear more answers to my question – I realise it hasn’t been visible for long. Look at the top to see it.

    And I would love to be part of more Skype conversations in the future if you guys would have me back. And I second the motion that we need more time 🙂

  16. I’m back…

    I completely agree with “when someone is thrust into an entirely new, uncomfortable situation, the ‘do nothing’ section of their dartboard hugely increases”. There’s a certain paralysis that occurs in those situations. However, I think with practice (ie. exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations more often) you can help reduce that effect.

    I don’t think the Stanford Prison Experiment was able to do too much in regards to ensuring the students were good. They did the basics. Perhaps all that meant was that they didn’t have any obvious “bad” kids there.

    I liked this comment too: “When groups are formed, usually one group will yield and one will command more “power”. The more powerful group is then permitted to act condescending and/or cruel to the less powerful group.” I saw that happen at high school. How about you? I also have seen it at work plenty of times.

    As for eBay allowing the abuse of Skype… I don’t believe technology can qualify as heroic. It’s simply a tool. What we, the people, do with the technology is the key. I saw a Star Wars documentary yesterday and many people were discussing that theme in relation to the movies. You see the Empire using and abusing technology, while the Alliance still uses technology, but keeps their good character intact.

  17. When we first said who was the most typical boy on the island, I thought about it, but as I kept thinking that night, and reflecting on it throughout the beginning of the chat, I realized that I came to a completely different conclusion. In our Skype chat I also found it interesting how we got on the topic of how we choose whether or not to do the right thing. To choose to stand up to what you see is going on, or to let it pass by. I try to stand up for things when I see they are wrong, but I haven’t always been that way. This summer I went through a difficult situation, and I chose to be a bystander. This choice put not only my life, but also the lives of others in danger. This event really made me think of the world differently. I now try to stand up when I see something going on that is wrong. I don’t want to be put in that situation again. When we started talking about how we choose different options, this was the first thing that popped into my mind, and I couldn’t get my mind off of it. I like to think now that I am doing all I can to help others, but I realized that I could be doing even more.

    This Skype chat helped me to work through something that has been on my mind a lot lately, so thanks Mr. Long and Mr. Langdon, for helping me view the world in a slightly different light.

  18. I liked that we could talk to someone who was working with Phil Zimbardo at the time. He told some very interesting things that day. Hopefully we get to do this chat again with other people. I found it interesting that these college students could fit into their role so easily. The guards especially, because they really abused their power with the prisoners. It is interesting how people can act this way when put into the role. I also find the psychology parts of the experiment fascinating. i wouldn’t mind taking that in college.

  19. First of all, I want to thank Mr. Langdon for taking time out of his schedule to sit and chat with us; I thought that was really awesome of him to do.

    The thing that I think is really fascinating and that we talked about is the good and evil that lurks beneath every human soul and how we control it. We talked about how rules can act as a ‘buffer’ between the dark and the light within us. People take the laws of the nation for granted and are breaking them everyday, but does that make them any less important to us? I do think, however, that the decision to be good or evil ultimately rests in the soul of every person.

    To quote my dear friend Sirius Black, “everyone has light and dark inside us, but what matter is the part that we choose to act on.”

    Controlling the darkness inside of us is more difficult then letting the light shine through because the darkness is constantly there, and we have a tendency toward satisfying it. The antagonism and the ‘protagonism’ within us are constantly checking and balancing each other. What separates the great people of the world from the lunatics is not their lack of ‘evil’ in the soul, but rather their ability to control it. The experiences that one undergoes in their life shape their character, and add to their ever-growing pool of wisdom. If heroism is the antidote for evil, then is wisdom also not an ingredient in the cure? Even the average citizens of the world feel the presence of their inner evil, like when they turn to look at gruesome traffic accidents, watch CSI Miami, or take pleasure in watching boxing and the MMA. For most of us, living vicariously through others’ acts of evil is enough to appease for our own, but for others, it is not and they have to create their own evil.

    Regarding Mr. Langdon’s question about us as 10th graders become more ‘heroic’, I think a huge key to it is confidence. If one is confident in themselves then they are willing to do anything, whether it is doing a crazy dance, or taking a stand on something they truly believe in. If they are sure what they are fighting in is the right thing to do and what they want to risk everything on, then they will fight to the bitter end. I think as a person becomes older, they gain more confidence and it becomes easier to take a stand.

  20. I really enjoyed the Skype conversation with Mr. Langdon. The conversations with Mr. Langdon helped us connect similar issues within Lotf and The Zambardo experiment. This comparison helped us on to different views on human nature itself. Mr. Langdon gave us a very good image of making good, bad, and neutral decisions by using a dart board.

    I was wondering, Mr. Langdon, about the bad decisions that are for good causes. Where would these actions go? The discussion on the evil Roger and the good Simon also opened up many views on heroism and evilness. It was also pretty cool to talk to you while you were in Michigan.

  21. I liked the coversstion we had, but we were kind of cut off a little short.

    As for whether people are innately good or bad, I believe that they are innately good. People aren’t driven by instinct as much as they are by sentiment. People are born good. Experiences make people bitter over time, but on the inside they are good people. When people get disillusioned they’ll act ‘bad’. As for Simon vs. Roger no one can be completely evil, but they can be completely good. Even though Roger seems bad, there still is good in him.

  22. The chat with Matt Langdon was very interesting both because I’ve never used skype chat and also because his experience and ideals on mankind are very interesting.

    When his belief that every individual is capable of heroism was discussed I was intrigued because it is usually thought that only special gifted individuals have this hero ability within them. Mr. Langdon said that all individuals have the ability to make heroic actions but that doesn’t mean that they will because people’s choices are controlled by their experiences and habitual actions. If an individual is making small good decisions everyday and their mind is choosing to ‘do good’ then when the time comes the will make a heroic decision. However if someone is making selfish or bad decisions on a regular basis then they will probably choose to ‘do bad’ when the heroic opportunity arrives. Also there are those individuals who choose everyday to ‘do nothing’ when they see something terrible occurring and they will understandably choose to ‘do nothing’ when a heroic opportunity presents itself. This reminds me of my coach always saying you play like you practice and I truly believe that it makes complete sense. If on a daily basis someone is choosing to be a bystander to injustices or to simply walk past those in need, they are not directly hurting others but simple doing nothing. It can only be assumed that this habitual action of doing nothing will hold strong when that individual is put into a much greater situation. This also makes sense because when humans are placed into high pressure situations they usually revert back to habits to what they know and feel comfortable with and if they are not used to doing good things then they definitely wont be able to in that situation. Mr. Langdon further proved this point by using a man who risked his life to save someone else who would have been crushed by a train due to a seizure. It was reported that this hero was a regular man and was a truly good person who lived a normal life and did good things on a regular basis. I really felt like this theory made complete sense until the Nazis were brought up. The Nazis preformed horrific acts to individuals by day and then returned home to wives and children and lived normal good lives, but they did not make heroic decisions. This caused me to think that maybe because the Nazis thought they were performing heroic acts to truly save Germany that their minds believed they were doing good. Mr. Langdon also brought up the point tat the Nazis were bitter because Germany had been humiliated through WWI and now they were attempting to gain power back, and this explains it as well. I still have multiple questions, however concerning mankind and the actions which lead to heroic ones. Can individuals think their intentions are good, but they really aren’t, and so that individual believes they are doing good when they truly are doing bad? Also can an individual be so desperate to do good that they push too many limits and truly do bad things? And lastly what determines if the actions of an individual are truly heroic or if they are just generous good actions, how do we know who’s a hero and who’s just a good person?

  23. I think it was a simply amazing experience. First of all, Skype is a really cool thing. I’m pretty technologically challenged, so the fact that we could talk face to face with someone who was so far away was a feat in itself.

    Second, I found it astounding that someone who was obviously so valuable to the psychological world would take time out of his day to talk to mere high school kids. As we continued the conversation, however, I wasn’t surprised: his ideas about forming heroic tendencies as young as high school made sense. At one of my former schools, we discussed at length throughout the year this question: “Are humans evil, or do they simply do evil acts?” Most of the class decided that human beings are not in themselves evil–that they merely commit evil deeds but are not inherently evil. Talking to Matt Langdon made me realize how true that is, for the most part. Human beings need only to stand by and watch evil pass before their eyes to commit an evil act. Psychology is extraordinarily intriguing to me, and even more so after talking to Matt Langdon.

    To answer Matt: “My first question is how would you go about changing the bystander attitude in 10th graders? How could you produce more heroic acts in your school?”

    I think we all need to reconsider our views of life. Apathetic people are common in high school, and the importance of ‘fitting in’ is unbelievable in its importance. We cannot tell high school kids that ‘fitting in’ is not important, because it just is. We can work with it, however. If everyone changed their attitudes, wouldn’t fitting in be less important, because no one will ridicule you for doing the right thing? If we gathered a group of people together, and simply asked, “What is so wrong with doing the right thing?”, people would think this over. I certainly did, after the discussion. If everyone decided that nothing was wrong with it, we could make a dent upon the apathetic skulls of high school kids.

  24. I think that humans are too complex to label our actions as good or evil. Each situation has different aspects. Like the question i have heard many times: The man who steals for himself and the man who steals for his family, do they deserve the same prosecution?

    I enjoyed Matt Langdon’s idea of the dartboard. Human behavior is very hard to explain and I liked this comparison.

    On the Stanford experiment, I was shocked at how involved the participants became in their roles. I was surprised the ‘guards’ behaved that way knowing that they were only participating in an experiment. I was also surprised how little others objected to the treatment. When I was reading about the experiment it said over fifty people had seen the ‘prison’ and only Zimbardo’s girlfriend objected to the “morality” of the experiment. What surprised me most was how the whole experiment only lasted for six days and how much the participants changed within such a short period of time.

  25. In response to Matt’s question, one way to change your own bystander attitude is, like he said, to do small, good deeds every day in order to increase the “good” section of your brain’s dartboard. Changing the bystander attitude in ALL tenth graders, however, will be a much harder task to accomplish. The only way I can think of is by providing an example for other people with your good deeds, and when you finally have to face the dartboard, you’ll be able to make a heroic decision and inspire those around you to do the same.

    Student #2 made an interesting comment about how common sense obviously plays a role in making “right” and “wrong” decisions, to put in their words, and I’d like to present an argument using Beowulf (because I’m pretty sure everyone’s familiar with it). At the end of the story, Beowulf confronts the dragon that’s destroying his land in order to stop its rampage. Now, common sense would dictate that if you were to stand against a giant, fire breathing dragon wielding only a sword and a shield, odds are you are going to die. But by accepting these risks and fighting the dragon, Beowulf dies, but kills the dragon, saves thousands of people, and is regarded as one of the most legendary heroes that ever existed by his people. The same argument could be made for Wesley Autrey when he chose to try and save the man having a seizure on the subway tracks. I think the more your common sense tells you NOT to be a hero, the more heroic the action is. After all, if heroes listened to their common sense, we wouldn’t have many heroes would we?

    By the way, I am incredibly interested in your theory, Mr. Langdon, about the brain’s dartboard. I find it fascinating that when confronted with an extreme situation, the brain makes a completely random decision based on your particular personality and lifestyle. I have personally started to make an effort to increase the size of my “do good” section, because I fear the day when I choose to do nothing when I see something wrong happening, or worse, actually promote it.

  26. The Skype conversation we had with Matt Langdon was pretty interesting. To be able to talk to someone all the way in Michigan, yet we’re still in Texas while we were talking. I was actually pretty stunned to see a huge head on the screen since that was actually the first time that I’ve ever done a video chat.

    It was also the first time that I felt like I was being inspected by…a “God” perhaps?

    Well I guess it was a little intimidating for everyone but as the class went on I got more and more comfortable and tried to listen to every word that Matt was saying. I like how he gave us the idea of our mind being something like a dart board with some people having larger do good/do bad/do nothing sections. It was a different way to look at how a person made decisions. I also enjoyed when he told us about how Wesley (at least I think that’s his name) saved the guy who fell onto the railroad tracks. It showed me how there are some people in this world who’s willing to risk their life for someone else on a heartbeat.

    I’ll hopefully be looking forward to future video chats.

  27. I enjoyed the Skype chat conversation and I hope to do it again sometime although I would have liked more time. I was also wondering if we do it again, will it be with the famous Mr. Langdon again, someone else, or a group of people like a class from another school like, from what I was told, what you did last year. I would be happy with whoever we have a chat with. Hopefully, we can do it more than one more time and if we have a debate with another class, the time schedule will fit.

    I do not know about the majority but I do not think I have heard of the Stanford prison experiment before it was discussed in class.

    I think the reason that people prefer to do nothing in a situation of bulling is that they do not want to be in the spotlight. However, I also believe that everyone wants to be or feel at least a little bit important. Therefore, I think that the reason why people just do nothing in a situation of bulling is that most people do nothing so one would feel like if they stand up to the bulling no one would support them and would end up be beaten up and feel like they have just made a huge embarrassment in front of everyone rather than feeling like a hero. What happens after the embarrassing incident would also have an effect on the person who is trying to be a hero. If they got responses like “that was a good deed of what you did back there”, then the person might try to do it again although hopefully the person would have a better plan nest time like having people to back him/her up. If he/she got responses like “Why did you do that? That was a stupid move. Why don’t you just stay out of the way next time?”, then he/she would feel discouraged and would probably not do it again.

    To produce more heroic acts, everyone should encourage someone who had just done something heroic. Even if the act did not go so well, people should still encourage it, be truthful and perhaps give advice on how to improve it for next time. You could give opportunities for people to feel like heroes and encourage them to be one but you cannot really make them do heroic acts especially if they are stubborn in their way of thinking. So, changing the question into how you can give more opportunities to try to produce more heroic acts in our school, I have thought of maybe encouraging giving donations to Mission Arlington or to countries that had just been hit by a tsunami or to Third World Countries like Africa. We can feel heroic by doing this because we can feel like we just saved someone’s life from this donation. We can also feel heroic by teaching another student on how to do tonight’s homework (I do not mean just giving the other person answers) and/or explain something that is not clear to them.

  28. I really enjoyed the Skype video conversation that we had with Mr. Langdon. I thought the Stanford Prison Experiment was very interesting the first day we discussed it in class. The psychology and human nature of good and evil in the experiment really intrigued me, and I was glad that we were able to talk a little bit about it. I am very interested in the psychology of human nature now.

    When we talked about bullying and everyday heroic acts, I really started to pay attention more. I liked what he had to say about heroism being contagious. When one person does something courageous, it gives other people the confidence to stand up themselves for something they believe is right. I also thought it was interesting when Mr. Langdon mentioned that there are decisions that are either good or bad, or doing nothing. When you do something good that may seem like no big deal, it helps you prepare to fight a bigger battle in the future.

    I would definitely like to have another Skype chat some time. I would hope that we would have a little bit more time though. It was great to talk to Mr. Langdon and get some perspective on the Stanford Prison experiment and everyday heroic deeds.

  29. During the conversation with Mr. Matt Langdon, I was very intrigued with his study of human behavior. What I found especially interesting was how his study is specifically targeted at what makes a person good or bad. Good and evil is not random, and one could, and should, make a conscious effort to be good and to do good on a daily basis. Even on what seems little things, one must see the opportunity to chose good. It’s a great part of our education.

    I might add that I saw on a recent Newsweek an article about the treatment of prisoners on Guantanamo Bay. It said that some American psychologists helped the Army interrogators devise effective torture methods, including water boarding. Now there is a movement by other psychologists, including Mr. Zimbardo, to prohibit such involvement by psychologists who are members of American Psychiatric Association. Before I learned about the Stanford experiment, I would not even have noticed such an article. I am glad that now I can understand the article and the dilemma the doctors face—“Help the war on terror” vs. “Physician, do no harm.”

  30. The skype chat that we had the privilege of experiencing with Mr. Langdon was so interesting. I learned so much and it really helped me open my eyes, not only for Lord of the Flies, but also for my view on heroism was altered. It was so interesting what Mr. Langdon had to say about the courage necessary to be a true hero.. A hero is not only a person who is strong and has muscles like said in fairy tales. A hero is a person who is not necessarily physically strong, but instead very strong emotionally.

    Mr. Langdon made it so crystal clear about what a person would have to do in order to be classified as a hero. It truly motivated me to be a better person.

    “There are two types of evil: people who do evil and people who see evil being done and do nothing
    about it.”

    A great quote, none-the-less from Mean Girls, but irreguardless it is so true.

  31. I really liked the discussion we had with Mr. Langdon. His knowledge over the understanding of good vs. evil was a real eye-openner. He is a very smart person and I agreed with him 100% of the way. To hear from someone who is working with a very well known person can only bring out good intentions. Mr. Langdon was very right when he said that people are not evil or heroes at random, and that people should make a very large effort to become good and do good things. His knowledge of Mr. Zimbardo and the Standford Prison Experiment was also very educational. I hope we are able to talk about this and other things again with Mr. Langdon

  32. First off, I would like to say how awesome technology is these days. How cool is it that this generation can see and talk to someone in a different state?

    I thought it was really interesting to hear a first hand view on the Stanford Prison expirament. It must be really interesting working with Mr. Zimbardo. I think that the Stanford Prison expirament was a success because it really showed exactly what we learned in Lord of the Flies which is thrown in the right circumstances Humans do what they must to survive, even if it means siding with someone ‘evil.’ I personally believe that humans are innately good. Its harder to say nowadays with all the random killings and violence but humans are innately good. I think thrown in situations humans are still good, but they choose to be evil. Not everyone does, some just decide to stick it on the sidelines because they are too afraid of what might happen if they stand up for what they believe in. Although they are scared, none the less because they did not stick their neck out, they are just as evil as they ones who decided to no longer be good.

    Average people can do heroic things in little ways sure, but does it really make them a hero? I don’t think so. I think it makes them a good person but those little things go ultimetly (unfortunnetly) unnoticed which poses no risk for the one doing the good. With the fact that there are no risks in mind, a person can do all the good little heroic things they want but it will not make a universal diffrence.

    In regards to Matt’s questions ” how would you go about changing the bystander attitude in 10th graders? How could you produce more heroic acts in your school?” There really is no way. No one can make someone else be a hero, or even change their attitudes toward it, a person has to be a hero on their own terms.If they push them, they are not really heroic. No one can push someone to be more heroic, instead of pushing someone else to be a hero, why not just go be a hero yourself?

  33. I thought that all of the points that were made were quite interesting. I really liked discussing the normality of the boys. I thought the idea of the heroic thoughts being acted upon by very few people was very interesting. It made me think back on past events in my life and made me compare what I did with what i should have done. I found that I didn’t do the right thing in most instances which was surprisingly disturbing. Whenever i thought of how few times I did the right thing it made me think of all the other people around me. It made me think that this world is not that great after all things are considered.

  34. The skype chat with Matt Langdon showed me the similarities with Lord of the Flies and the Stanford Prison experiment. In Lord of the Flies, the boys were put in an unknown environment and had to coupe with the difficulties of the situation. In the Stanford Prison experiment, the male students were also put in an unfamiliar environment and had to face the difficulties of that particular situation. What I thought was intriguing about the skype chat was that Matt Langdon explained that from the results of the Stanford Prison experiment, situations can make normal good people do crazy things. He also explained that anyone can choose to be a hero in certain situations, but most people choose not to be.

    I look forward to future chats and hope that it was be as helpful as the last : )

  35. I’ve got some more comments on your comments. I am really impressed by the thought involved and the sheer number of responses.

    “If heroism is the antidote for evil, then is wisdom also not an ingredient in the cure?”
    Absolutely. Wisdom is one of the eleven attributes of heroism that I talk about in the Hero Workshop.

    “I was wondering about the bad decisions that are for good causes.” & “Can individuals think their intentions are good, but they really aren’t, and so that individual believes they are doing good when they truly are doing bad?”
    These two questions were linked I think. I’m curious to hear some examples of bad decisions for good causes. I guess ultimately they’re just poor choices and hopefully they don’t derail the good cause. As for doing bad while thinking you’re doing good – there’s a proud history of propaganda that relies on that. Someone mentioned Nazi Germany in the comments and that’s a fine example of this type of behaviour.

    “This reminds me of my coach always saying you play like you practice and I truly believe that it makes complete sense.”
    I love this example. When you watch the NCAA March Madness you know that those players have been practicing all year so that when it counts, they know they’ll be more likely to respond. It’s the same for heroes.

    “What determines if the actions of an individual are truly heroic or if they are just generous good actions, how do we know who’s a hero and who’s just a good person?”
    That’s a great question. It’s actually the basis of the first research project I’m working with Zimbardo on. We’re trying to show a difference between altruism (doing good, selfless things) and heroism. Basically it comes down to accepting a sacrifice or risk. Is there a risk in helping someone across the road? No, so that’s not heroism. Is there a risk involved in jumping in front of a car to get someone off the road? Yes, so that’s heroism.

    “If we gathered a group of people together, and simply asked, “What is so wrong with doing the right thing?”, people would think this over.”
    I have been talking to some people about providing the framework for some sort of “Heroes Club” to be run in schools by anyone who wanted to – teachers, parents, students. I think gathering people together to talk about heroism and promote it is a great way to get others to subscribe to the ideas.

    “The only way I can think of is by providing an example for other people with your good deeds, and when you finally have to face the dartboard, you’ll be able to make a heroic decision and inspire those around you to do the same.”
    Fantastic comment. You absolutely understand the way to spread heroism.

    “I was actually pretty stunned to see a huge head on the screen”
    Thanks, now I have a bigger “big head” complex 🙂

  36. I agree with student 8 when Matt asked us personally our thoughts i liked that he took time to care what we had to say. It was fascinating to hear about the Stanford Prison Experiment and how it affected the lives of so many. I also liked that at the same time we could refer it back to “Lord of the Flies.” When we first starting talking about it i thought that it was called that just for what they were doing no because it would end up being a life changing event to the kids involved. When we were told about it and then we were going to get to talk about it with someone i was so excited because again phycology is something that is very interesting me. I think that the experiment was an awesome idea before it got shot down for the worse. I liked being able to talk to someone who had actually spoke in person with the man and actually got a chance to work with him. It amazing to think that something so harmless could become so harmful. I think that Matt was fun to talk to because he listened to us but at the same time told us information that was really interesting. I think that those video conversations are really interesting and look forward to more, if we can, this year.

  37. I found this discussion to be highly interesting. I liked having an expert on the Stanford Prison experiment like Matt talk to us about our reactions to it. I felt like he actually listened to what we had to say. I also like how we made connections to the Lord of the Flies. I feel as though I can make an ever-lasting list of connections between the Lord of the Flies and the Stanford Prison experiment.

  38. The innocent bystander isn’t really so innocent.They know that wrong things are being done, while the people who are doing the things wrong can’t usually tell that it is wrong unless they are naturally sadistic. The bystander has a conscience, leading them to know right from wrong, bu thtey still choose not to stop the wrongful acts from being committed. The Stanford Prison Experiment gathered an average group of people, just like in the Lord of the Flies. Among those people, there were a few heroes and a few villains. The worst part of this is that the majority of people can see evil being done, but don’t have the courage of the hero to do anything about it. The task isn’t to educate people on what the right thing is, but having the guts to act on those morals.

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