Dr. Philip Zimbardo is most famous for his involvement in the “Stanford Prison Experiment” in which several people were split into 2 groups, prisoners and guards. The study found that given conditions of absolute authority and absolute submission all while given the opportunity to leave at any time, the prisoners found themselves willing performing acts of human degradation and the guards found themselves excercizing absolute authority. These findings were even further confirmed during the scandals at the Abu Ghraib prison facility.
One other take away from this is that any one can be susceptible to these oppressive behaviors given the right conditions. Cults are another example of Zimbardo’s results in play. While people enter into the world of the cult, they do so under false understandings. People do aim to join a cult.