Reality TV and the Milgram Experiments

BBC News reports that the Milgram obedience to authority experiments have been reimagined by a French reality TV show, The Game of Death. Participants on the show were instructed to administer electric shocks of near lethal voltage to other contestants, unaware that in fact these shocks were not being administered and that their rival contestants were actors. Of the show’s contestants, 82% agreed to administer the shocks.

The original obedience to authority studies were conducted by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. Milgram assigned participants in his studies the role of “teacher” and required them to administer shocks of increasing voltage to what were presented as other participants, but were in fact confederates of the researcher (and thus not actually shocked). The confederate, labeled the “learner”, was required to recall a series of word pairs and when they failed to do so the “teacher” was instructed to administer a shock. The experimenter then proded the “teacher” to continue administering shocks despite the objections of the “learner.” Remarkably, two-thirds of participants administered the highest level of shock.

Full details on The Game of Death, as well as video of the BBC News item on the story can be found here. Previous AHP posts on the Milgram experiments can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.