Posted by lemonjelly on:
This summer, I hosted a small crew from overseas that was filming a documentary. The topics included morals and empathy and it generated some good conversation over the dinner table about about human behavior, our perception of what's truth or fiction, right or wrong.
One theory was this: the ability to have morals is based on our ability to have empathy, and it's our understanding of pain and suffering that keeps us from causing it to others. Likewise, the lack of empathy...you know how that goes.
This morning the filmmaker contacted me with a video link he'd promised to send, about a recent game show in France, called "Zone Extreme!" It was a ficticious game show, but the contestants and audience thought it was real, meanwhile being observed by psychologists. It is a modern version of the 1961 Milgram experiment, where subjects were tested on their obedience to authority.
The subjects are placed in a room supervised by someone in authority and told to administer electircal shocks in a learning experiment to another supposed participant, who they cannot see, but can hear. The purpose of the test is to see how far a person of authority can push a subject before their morals and empathy compel them to disobey and stop harming the other person. But in this case, the authority is a television "game" show.
Unfortunately, I cannot embed the video, so if you're morbidly curious, you can click the link.
This version is in French, there is a translation of the text below the video, by clicking the icon for "interactive transcript."
It's hella creepy, no?
In the original experiement, 62.5% of participants obeyed.
In this television show, over 80% of paricipants obeyed, and without any financial incentive. This surprised even the psychologists. Food for thought about not only the influence of media, but also our current state of empathy.
To this I say: switch off your RSS feed or facebook, get out of your house, and interact with new people face to face, often. Because if this data is credible, our ability to stay fair and balanced is diminished by isolation from a diverse community. Plus, it's the weekend, so enjoy yourself!