Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Power of Cameras

If you were a contestant on a television show and required to 'zap' another contestant with ever increasing voltage what would you do? I think most people would play along in the begging knowing that everyone who signed up knew what they were in for; but when the other person starts begging you to stop as you approached lethal voltage, I would hope people would stop. That was not the case for a majority of people who thought they were on a French game show.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it is because it is similar to the Milgram experiment carried out in the 1960's. That experiment was a test of if people would listen to authorities and found that 60% would apply the lethal volt; a smaller percentage then a half century later with cameras replacing the authority.

"In Paris, documentary makers invented a game show called "Zone Xtreme." Recruiters found 80 contestants to participate in this game show. Each of them sat across from a man whose job was to answer a series of questions while strapped into an electrifiable chair. In a game of word associations, the man was told that any wrong answers would merit punishment in the form of electric shocks of 20 to 460 volts, zapped by a console operated by the contestant.

As the actor gave incorrect answers, the show's star, a well-known TV weatherwoman on France 2, exhorted contestants to keep administering the electric shocks and not to bend to the actor's screams of protest. (He would say things like "Get me out of here, please! I don't want to play anymore!") The studio audience also cheered on the torture, yelling for "punishment." The actor would finally stop answering, dying or going unconscious from the shocks.

What the contestants were not told was that this was all fake -- the man was an actor, and there were no electric shocks being administered.

The filmmakers then produced a TV documentary called "The Game of Death" to expose how more than 80 percent of their contestants were goaded to the grisly end of the electrocution exercise. Only 16 people walked away from the game.

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