Dr. Ervin Staub

Dr. Ervin Staub

Psychology Professor

Dr. Ervin Staub is Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Founding Director of its Ph.D. concentration in the Psychology of Peace and Violence. He is the former President of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence (APA Division 48) and of the International Society for Political Psychology.

Born in Hungary, as a young child he lived through Nazism, and then communism. He escaped from Hungary at age 18 after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was defeated, lived in Vienna for two years, and then came to the U.S. He finished his undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota and received a Ph.D. at Stanford. He has taught at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Hawaii, and the London School of Economic and Political Science.

Dr. Staub has studied the influences that lead to caring, altruistic behavior and moral courage in children and adults. Having studied “active bystandership” and passivity in the face of people in need, he turned to a focus on perpetration. He studied the social conditions, culture, psychology, and social processes that lead to mass violence, genocide, terrorism, and torture. He studied how such violence progressively evolves, and the role of passive bystanders in allowing violence to unfold. Increasingly, he focused on understanding how to prevent violence between groups and how hostile groups can reconcile.

In addition to a lifetime of scholarship, Dr. Staub has worked on varied projects in field settings based on his research. After the Rodney King incident, he developed a training program for the State of California to reduce the use of unnecessary force by police, by training police officers to be active bystanders who prevent or stop unnecessary harmful behavior by fellow officers. Since 2015 he led an effort to create a successful version of this program by the New Orleans Police Department. Other projects included teacher training to create classrooms that help children become caring and non-violent; a project in Amsterdam to improve Dutch-Muslim relations after significant violence there; a project in New Orleans to promote healing and reconciliation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; and a project in Western Massachusetts to train students in active bystandership in the face of harmful behavior by their peers.

Starting in 1999, Dr. Staub, Dr. Laurie Pearlman, and their assistants have conducted workshops/trainings in Rwanda for organizations that work in the community, national leaders, and the media.  In collaboration with Radio LaBenevolencija of Amsterdam, they created informational and dramatic educational radio programs that were broadcast in the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda to promote healing, reconciliation, and peace. In 2007 the Rwandan radio projects won the Human Rights & Accountability Award that was launched by the UN for the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. Dr. Staub’s many books and publications include Positive Social Behavior and Morality, The Psychology of Good and Evil, Overcoming Evil, Patriotism in the Lives of Individuals and Nations, and the Roots of Goodness, and The Roots of Evil, which inspired a three-part television series by the same name.

(Note: Dr. Staub’s awards and publications are voluminous. For a complete list, his CV is available at https://people.umass.edu/estaub.)