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Films like Death Race and The Hunger Games are built on essentially the same premise of a futuristic world where people literally fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses.
The sheer idea of people in gladiatorial environments, killing each other for viewers' enjoyment, is pretty outrageous and it's hard to imagine it ever actually happening.
Oh wait, we already kind of have a TV show just like that.
Introducing The Push, which is hosted by mentalist and magician Derren Brown.
The premise is simple: can social pressure influence people's moral compass enough to make them commit unspeakable acts, including murder.
Sounds pretty outrageous, huh?
Contestants are put into situations, much the same way as Punk'd, where there are dozens of actors following a specific script. The ultimate goal is to see whether the focal person can be convinced to kill someone.
While the Netflix show, which was previously on Channel 4, hopes to spark debate about human culpability and pack mentality, there's a growing gang of people who are genuinely shocked by the programme's content.
Shook at the end of the derren brown Netflix thing. Social compliance is the reason I'm so interested in psychology. How do you live with yourself knowing that you would've killed someone because a stranger told you to?? Oh my god
- gem (@snortingfire) February 28, 2018
It was very interesting to watch. I'm shocked that 3 out of 4 went for it. I'm more shocked by the fact that they still allowed him to use footage of them doing so. They're essentially murderers. Weird.
- Omar Kamel (@OmarKamel) March 1, 2018
But the criticism has developed such a pace on social media that some are even calling for contestants to be arrested.
When are those 3 people going to be charged by the police for attempted murder? Whether or not they killed him, it was still (attempted) premeditated murder. Whoever they are, they have to live with that self-knowledge.
- helen Kennedy (@nilbymouth) March 1, 2018
Just watched a Derren Brown show where several people pushed a living human being off a roof to their death (they thought) to save their own skin. Literally prepared to murder someone to avoid their own punishment. And this is entertainment.
- Vanessa Bailey (@vbaileyactor) March 1, 2018
One viewer wrote: "I love Derren Brown's work, but watching The Push is just too much. It's gone from psychological studies investigating the human mind, to something which could easily cause PTSD.
"The fact they ran the experiment FOUR times on FOUR different people too. It's just awful."
While people might be shocked at the 'social experiment'; it's nothing new in terms of research psychology - well the only 'new' element is it's been televised.
People may or may not be aware of the Milgram Experiment, a study done in the early 1960s that was built on this exact premise but stopped short of all-out murder. Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram launched a set of social psychology experiments to see how people behave in the presence of an authority figure.
In the study, they had three roles: A 'teacher', an 'experimenter' and a 'learner'.
The experimenter was in charge of the operation, the learner was an actor who knew what was going to go down and the teacher was the unassuming volunteer, who thought they were just helping out.
The learner would be strapped into a fake electric chair and the teacher would get an actual small electric shock to show them it was working.
The two would be separated by a wall, before engaging in a memory learning test. Anytime the learner got an answer wrong, the teacher would have to administer an electric shock. The intensity of the shock would rise by 15 volts every time, with the maximum being 450 volts.
Of course, the learner wasn't actually getting shocked, but they would shout and yell and writhe around enough to convince the teacher they were in pain. If at any point the teacher wanted to stop the operation, because, you know, they were torturing someone, the experimenter would have a set of phrases to encourage them to keep going.
They were, in order, 'Please continue', 'The experiment requires that you continue', I't is absolutely essential that you continue' and the final command was 'You have no other choice, you must go on'.
The learner would also beg, plead for mercy and even claim they had a heart condition to get the teacher to stop the operation. This was meant to test a person's ability to say no despite being in the presence of an authority figure.
In Milgram's 1974 article, The Perils of Obedience, he wrote: "Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process."
When Milgram proposed the experiment to his university colleagues, they thought only one or two contestants out of 100 would go to the maximum voltage. Well, well, well, how wrong they were.
When the psychologist was finished, 65 out of 100 delivered what they thought was a 450 volt shock to someone, and 100 percent of the teachers went to at least 300 volts.
That's pretty...shocking isn't it.
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