Milgram on T.V.

At least Milgram Wasn't Doing It For Profit

From the hyper-civilized French comes a new game show:

Game show contestants turn torturers in a new psychological experiment for French television, zapping a man with electricity until he cries for mercy — then zapping him again until he seems to drop dead.

“The Game of Death” has all the trappings of a traditional television quiz show, with a roaring crowd and a glamorous and well-known hostess urging the players on under gaudy studio lights.

But the contestants did not know they were taking part in an experiment to find out whether television could push them to outrageous lengths, and which has prompted comparisons with the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

The better analogy is Stanley Milgram’s Yale experiments, which were the direct inspiration for this show.  Though the article blames television’s “absolutely terrifying power” to compel obedience here, I think the result can be explained much more simply as depending on the power of authority itself.

Maybe we need an IRB for reality show producers.

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1 Response

  1. Miriam A. Cherry says:

    Dave, this looked alarming – but going back and reading the article, it seems like this is not a game show,
    but instead is a documentary based on the outcome
    of the experiment.
    I agree – there seems to be a lot of psych damage inflicted
    by reality TV – but the contestants voluntarily agree
    to be there. I suppose they can use their prizes to
    pay for the PTSD?