Psychology Morning: Psychologist Philip Zimbardo Addresses the UN

A large group of students and faculty gathered to hear the first major address at the UN by Philip Zimbardo, Stanford University.

By Harold Takooshian, PhD, and Florence L. Denmark

Philip ZimbardoOn March 4, 2010, 60 students and faculty from as far as Emporia, Kansas, visited Psychology Morning at the United Nations, to hear the first major address at the UN by Philip Zimbardo, Stanford University. In the intimate, one-hour session, Dr. Zimbardo offered an inspiring message on “A psychology of liberation.”

The research-based address focused on the ancient Biblical theme of Lucifer’s fall, and how psychology could help us to, as Zimbardo put it, “overcome evil with good.” The UN address also launched Zimbardo’s bold new project, described at Heroic Imagination project. The entire text of Dr. Zimbardo’s address will appear in the next of International Psychology Bulletin, published by the APA Division of International Psychology (Division 52).

Zimbardo’s talk at the UN was over 12 months in the making, since February 2009, when he kindly agreed to speak at the United Nations the same day he was to give the keynote address for the international program of the 2010 Eastern Psychological Association meetings in Brooklyn, NY. It turned out to be a major challenge to secure a firm room for this event, for two reasons: (a) the UN building has begun a major reconstruction for a projected period of eight years, 2009-2017. (b) By UN protocol for room reservations, an NGO that reserved a room for many months could be pre-empted even the last day if any UN diplomats need that room. Indeed, this same challenge faced the third annual Psychology Day at the United Nations one month earlier, on February 4, 2010. Fortunately, people in several institutions (noted below) cooperated to arrange travel and a firm room that made this remarkable Psychology Morning a reality.

Following his address, Dr. Zimbardo was given a personal tour of the UN building by Ambassador Anthony DeLuca, the only licensed psychologist holding Ambassador status at the UN. All of the 60 APA and other psychology representatives at the UN have a badge to enter the UN building, but some sensitive areas (such as the Security Council chamber) are accessible only with a diplomat’s badge.

Several colleagues collaborated with APA to make Psychology Morning possible. These included EPA officers Arnold Glass, Sherry Serdikoff, Kurt Salzinger, CoNGO (Conference of NGOs) staff Vivian Penders and Anita Thomas, Velda Dhanoolal of the UN Church Center, and a dozen individuals who kindly helped with the day’s logistics.

Later the evening after Psychology Day, 800 students and professionals filled the Grand Ballroom of the Brooklyn NY Marriott to hear Dr. Zimbardo’s riveting two-hour EPA keynote address expanding on his UN message, to start the three days of EPA meetings.