The good, the bad and the downright evil: the psychology behind the best and worst of human nature

Tue, Oct 13, 2015

Metro Vancouver, B.C. – What does it take for someone to become a perpetrator of genocide? Why would someone risk their own life to save that of a complete stranger?

From the best of human nature to the absolute worst, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani is weaving together insights from contemporary psychology to explain what’s behind some of the world's most unforgettable events.

“When we describe an action as ‘evil’ or a perpetrator as a ‘monster’ we relieve ourselves of the need to understand or explain that action or person. But what distinguishes perpetrators of ‘extraordinary evil’ from those of ‘ordinary evil’? What are the thought processes that underlie the acts of deliberate harm and unethical conduct that we witness every day? On the other hand, what leads others to perform acts of incredible courage and kindness? Contemporary psychology possesses all of these answers,” explains Dr. Jhangiani.

Set against the backdrop of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the cultural genocide of Canada’s First Nations peoples, Dr. Jhangiani’s talk will leave guests with insights that can be applied to some of the world’s current conflicts and cultural struggles.

The Psychology of Good and Evil is the fourth installment in the collaborative KPU-Science World speaker series, which aims to engage, entertain and educate guests with fascinating insights into the world of science. Past events include Dr. David Burns on citizen science; Dr. Kent Mullinix on building sustainable food systems for the 21st century, and; the Borealis String Quartet on the sound of science.

Dr. Jhangiani teaches psychology at KPU where he conducts research in political psychology, open education and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is an associate editor of both Psychology Learning & Teaching and NOBA; a faculty fellow with the BC Open Textbook Project, an OER research fellow with the open education group, and; director of research, resources and special initiatives with the Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

For a glimpse into the minds and behaviours of history’s villains and heroes, register for Dr. Jhangiani’s talk at the TELUS World of Science on Nov. 2 by visiting

WHEN: Monday, November 2 at 7 p.m. Doors at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: TELUS World of Science, 1455 Quebec St. Vancouver
INFO: The event is free and open to the public. Guests must register in advance at

Science World British Columbia is a charitable organization that engages British Columbians in science and inspires future science and technology leadership throughout the province.

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Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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