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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $43.50

Paperback 408 pp.
7" x 10"



Publication date:
March 2016

Imprint: OUP US

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The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil

Inclusive Caring, Moral Courage, Altruism Born of Suffering, Active Bystandership, and Heroism

Ervin Staub

In The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil, Ervin Staub draws on his extensive experiences in scholarship and intervention to illuminate the socializing experiences, education, and trainings that lead children and adults to become helpers/active bystanders and rescuers, acting to prevent violence and create peaceful and harmonious societies. The book collects Staub's most important and influential articles and essays in the field, compiling a variety of examples of helping behaviors as well as discussions of why we should help and not harm others. He addresses a wide range of such behaviors, from helping people in everyday physical or psychological distress, to active bystandership in response to harmful actions by youth toward their peers (bullying), to endangering one's life to save someone in immediate danger, or rescuing intended victims of genocide.

Staub engages with ways to promote active bystandership in the service of preventing violence, helping people to heal from violence, and building caring societies. He explores the range of experiences that lead to active bystandership, including socialization by parents, teachers (and peers) in childhood, education, experiential learning, and public education through media. He examines what personal characteristics or dispositions result from such experiences, which in turn lead to caring and helping. Staub also considers how circumstances influence people - both individuals and whole groups - and how they join with personal dispositions to determine whether people remain passive in the face of others' need or instead help others and behave in morally courageous or even heroic ways. He considers how moral and caring values can be subverted by circumstances, and outlines ways to resist that possiblity. He also considers how past victimization and the resulting psychological woundedness, which can lead to "defensive violence" or hostility toward people and the world, may be transformed by other experiences, leading to "altruism born of suffering."

The book draws on research and theory as well as work in applied settings. Ultimately this book will help readers explore how we can turn ourselves into active, helpful people and what we need to do to create peaceful and caring societies.

Readership : Psychologists, and those interested in sociology, political science, and anthropology.


  • "In The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil, Ervin Staub helps us understand how each of us can tap into our own compassion and moral courage. Drawing on many years of comprehensive research and work in real-world settings, and inspired by his own experience as a childhood survivor of the Holocaust, Staub has written a book with the unique power to illuminate the best of humanity in individuals and societies."

    --Arianna Huffington, chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post and author of Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

  • "In this excellent book, Ervin Staub writes from a lifetime of knowledge and experience, both personal and professional. He has never been a bystander. You will cherish his insight, and perhaps even more the goodness of his heart."

    --Richard Rhodes, historian and author of Why They Kill and The Making of the Atomic Bomb, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award

  • "This book is a compilation of the insights of a devoted scholar who has studied good and evil for approximately 45 years. Staub deals with some of the most important issues of our time: violence against outgroup members; altruism, moral courage, and reconciliation; and how and why a person is a perpetrator versus a helper. This book is an important resource for anyone interested in fostering compassion, helping behavior, and caring societies."

    --Nancy Eisenberg, President of the Association for Psychological Science; Regents' Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University; and author of The Caring Child

  • "Dr. Ervin Staub has delivered another gift of a book, this one on human goodness and the capacity to resist evil. A highly humanistic and hopeful book, it offers a counterbalance to human suffering and shows the capacity for caring and sustenance in the face of all forms of victimization. Dr. Staub has lived this experience personally as a child rescued from the Holocaust and as an adult in his research and field work around the globe. Highly recommended reading for professional and lay audiences alike."

    --Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP, Psychologist, Independent Practice, Washington, DC National Clinical Trauma Consultant, Elements Behavioral Health/Promises, Malibu and Brightwater Landing, Wrightsville, PA, Author, Healing the Incest Wound; Recollections of Sexual Abuse; Treatment of Complex Trauma; Spiritually-Oriented Treatment of Trauma

  • "Ervin Staub combines his own remarkable life experience with the highest academic standards in diagnosing the root causes of evil, and reverse engineering that analysis to reveal the conditions that allow the flourishing of a compassionate and harmonious society. The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil should be required reading in the social sciences -- and for anyone who cares about a civil society."

    --Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

  • "This fine book is a victory lap of sorts for a distinguished career, but is also forward looking because it includes not only the author's major and recent articles but also newly written material dealing with ways to prevent violence and promote peace. Those interested in learning a programmatic approach to addressing matters of moral courage and compassion will be drawn to this book, as will those who want to apply psychological insights to advancing reconciliation and creating caring societies."

    --D. S. Dunn, Moravian College

Preface. Why Have I Been Studying Goodness (and Evil and its Prevention)?
1. Introduction, Examples, and Overview of the Book
2. Why We Should Help and Not Harm Others
3. Inclusive Caring, Moral Courage, Altruism Born of Suffering, and Active Bystandership: Their Roots in Socialization and Experience
4. Basic Psychological Needs, Caring and Violence, and Optimal Human Functioning
5. Learning by Doing: The Evolution of Helping and Caring (and of Violence) through One's Own Actions
6. Passivity: Bystanders to Genocide
7. The Psychology of Rescue: Perpetrators, Bystanders, and Heroic Helpers
8. Psychology and Morality in Genocide and Violent Conflict: Perpetrators, Passive Bystanders, and Rescuers
9. Helping Psychologically Wounded Children Heal
10. Altruism Born of Suffering: The Roots of Caring and Helping after Victimization and Other Trauma
11. The Heroism of Survivors: Survivors Saving Themselves and the Impact on Their Lives
12. Heroes and Other Committed Individuals
13. How Can We Become Good Bystanders in Response to Needs around Us and in the World?
14. Understanding Police Violence and Active Bystandership in Preventing It
15. Many Children are Happy in School, Others are Bullied, Some Excluded; Active Bystandership Helps
16. Training Active Bystanders in Schools and Other Settings
17. Educational Experiences (Trainings) as Routes to Helping, Non-aggression, Active Bystandership, and Heroism
18. Advancing Healing and Reconciliation
19. Public Education to Promote Active Bystandership for Resisting Violence, for Reconciliation, and for Peace: Musekeweya, an Educational Radio Drama in Rwanda, and Its Extensions
20. Preventing Violence and Terrorism and Promoting Positive Relations between Dutch and Muslim Communities in Amsterdam
21. The Impact of the Staub Model on Policy Making in Amsterdam Regarding Polarization and Radicalization
22. The Roots of Helping, Heroic Rescue, and Resistance to and the Prevention of Mass Violence: Active Bystandership in Extreme Times and in Building Peaceful Societies
23. Moral Courage and Heroism Revisited
24. Nonviolence as a Way to Address Injustice and Group Conflict
25. An Unassuming Hero
26. Bystandership: One Can Make a Difference; An Interview with Ervin Staub (2012)
27. Summary Tables on the Origins of Active Bystandership, Heroism, and Moral Courage
28. Creating Caring Societies: Values, Culture, Institutions

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Ervin Staub is Professor Emeritus and the founding director of the doctoral program in the psychology of peace and violence at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He previously taught at Harvard University. He has studied the roots of caring, helping, and altruism and their development in children and adults, as well as the roots of genocide and other violence between groups, their prevention, and reconciliation. He is the past president of two societies, editor or co-editor of four books, and the author of six books and many articles and book chapters. He has worked in a variety of real-world settings, in schools to develop caring classrooms and active bystandership by students, and in Rwanda to promote reconciliation.

Altruism in Humans - C. Daniel Batson
The Altruistic Brain - Donald W. Pfaff

Special Features

  • Describes work that shows that (in addition to socialization) training can contribute to helpful behavior and active bystandership in the service of goodness.
  • Gives guidance on how society can reduce youth aggression, prevent general aggression, and promote reconciliation and harmonious relations between and within groups.
  • Discusses research findings that suggests people's belief in or feelings of responsibility to help others is the most significant motivator of helping.
  • Demonstrates how circumstances can subvert moral values and caring, and how this subversion can be resisted.