Milgram: Second time as game show?

Scientists can get it past the ethics committees anymore. But TV companies apparently don’t face that obstacle.

A French TV show which invited contestants to give a man increasingly large electric shocks until he apparently died said it was astonished by their willingness to comply.

The Game of Death, which goes out tonight on the state-owned France 2 channel, recruited ordinary people who had no idea they were being set up.

Based on a US psychological experiment in the 1960s, the man apparently being shocked is zapped each time he gets a quiz question wrong.

Each time the show’s hostess urged contestants to turn up the voltage until the man screamed in pain with the audience, who also believed the game was real, shouting “punishment” as encouragement.

Eventually the “victim” appeared to drop dead.

“We were amazed to find that 81 percent of the participants obeyed” the sadistic orders of the television presenter, said programme-maker Christophe Nick.

3 thoughts on “Milgram: Second time as game show?

  1. [I spent several hours today on reviewing a book proposal, and I’m afraid I’m stuck for the day in my judicial professorial voice. Sorrty!]

    I think a whole line of criticism of the original experiments is that the participants did not really believe the whole thing was for real.

    And I have to say, even in Texas, this just is not believable. I can, unfortunately, imagine some police in many states and other countries having a go at torturing someone, but the idea that there’s some sort of open contest that involves killing people must have strained their sense of reality.

    Louis Sass has some nice work about how schizophrenics go in for “double book-keeping,” both believing their illusions and knowing they are not correct. That kind of account might extend to OCD, and perhaps to these sorts of cases.
    Sass discusses double book keeping in The Paradoxes of Delusion: Wittgenstein, Schreber, and the Schizophrenic Mind. Interestingly, the novel The Listener by Shira Nayman draws heavily on Sass’s ideas, I thought.

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