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A real shock to the system

category international | arts and media | opinion/analysis author Monday March 22, 2010 11:37author by TaraL Report this post to the editors

Ever wondered if a situation arose in which you could inflict a great deal of pain on another human being for no apparant reason, would you take it?

50 years ago an experiment was conducted by Stanley Milgram, measuring the willingness of participants to obey an authoritative figure dressed in white coat that instructed them to illicit shocks on another human being, called the learner.

Basically, the participant was told to shock a man if he failed to answer a series of questions correctly, with the shocks getting severer with each incorrect answer. Now, what must be pointed out is that the learner was in on the game and was in reality not privy to the shocks. Still, the experiment found 65% of people involved were willing to administer the 450- volt shock despite exclamations, shrieks and a real belief that the learner was suffering.

When I first read of the experiment I remember feeling surprised; however, I must admit I thought the experiment was a product of the time. I’ve always believed the experiment was only successful because it was undertaken in the ‘60s when society was largely more submissive than today.

This week, that theory has been proven irrevocably wrong.

On Wednesday night, a French television programme was aired featuring a similar type social experiment. In “The Game of Death” participants believed they were contestants on a pilot game show. The game involved zapping a fellow contestant if he/she got questions posed wrong.

In a radical turn of events and a personal blow to my ego, 80% of contestants administered 460- volt shocks after being spurred on by the game- show host.

This would suggest that today’s society has a far greater chance of being influenced by outside factors than the 1960’s. Further, Milgram’s experiment was conducted by a stern lab -technician, whereas the ring- leader on Wednesday night was a giddy glamorous game- show host. Before you protest on the grounds that the selection of contestants may have been bogus consider that audience members, also believing the game to be real, spurred on the contestant to administer shocks, exclaiming: “Punishment”.

I guess today’s society could be influenced by television to a far greater extent than one is comfortable admitting.

Related Link: http://ledamythsatara.blogspot.com/2010/03/real-shock-to-system.html
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