Tuesday, March 23, 2010

21st Century Milgram

Remakes are popular in Hollywood nowadays. God help you if you have an original idea and can't find a way to tie it to a board game, comic book, or movie everyone like, remembers and agrees shouldn't be remade. Well it seems that science is in a similar mood, but this time the abject creative bankruptcy has a useful point. And footage of it is going to be more watchable than most films released this year.

French researchers have reenacted the famous Stanley Milgram's social psychology experiments at Yale. The ones that let people think they were administering lethal shocks to an unseen person at the behest of a teacher and measured societal obedience to authority. The test was conducted in relation to the then recent capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann and was intended to look at whether or not something like the holocaust happened because all the people perpetrating it shared the same goals or were people just following orders no matter how much those orders violated their moral beliefs.

This time the experiment is attempting to measure what people would be willing to do for the promise of money and fame on a TV game show.
A French TV documentary features people in a spoof game show administering what they are told are near lethal electric shocks to rival contestants.
They say the documentary shows how many participants in the setting of a TV show will agree to act against their own principles or moral codes when ordered to do something extreme.

The Game of Death has all the trappings of a traditional TV quiz show, with a roaring crowd chanting "punishment" and a glamorous hostess urging the players on.
And you want to know the chilling part? In Milgram's experiments only 62% of the people would end up administering lethal shocks. In the game show experiment, with people thinking they were on TV and winning money? 80% doled out lethal shocks.

Stay classy, society. On the BBC website they have footage of the 'gameshow'. It's essentially Who Wants to Be A Millionaire with a torture chamber. Which is to say it's a less painful version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.

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