Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So ... How Evil Are You?


On the eve of Halloween last year, I caught a highly fascinating show on Discovery Channel called How Evil Are You?, an hour long episode from their series Curiosity. Hosted by Eli Roth, the special aimed to examine the evil that lurks inside the average American citizen. To do so, Roth and a team of psychologists recreated controversial experiments psychologist Stanley Milgram carried out in the 1960's. Remember that scene from Ghostbusters where Venkman delivers an electric shock to a test subject whenever he gets a question wrong? Well that was the basic idea with the Milgram Experiments, only Milgram had participants delivering shocks of increasing intensity to what they were told were test subjects in another room with heart conditions, who were actually actors who were purposely giving wrong answers and who weren't really even getting shocked. Without anyone actually getting hurt, the experiments determined how much pain a given subject would inflict upon their fellow man, simply because an authority figure was instructing them to do so.

Milgram's findings were astounding and can be perhaps best summed up by this bone chilling statement he delivered after conducting the experiments ...

"I would say, on the basis of having observed a thousand people in the experiment, and having my own intuition shaped and informed by these experiments, that if a system of death camps were set up in the United States of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany, one would be able to find sufficient personnel for those camps in any medium sized American town."

So, is the average American as evil now as he was back in the 60's? Hit the play button below to begin this recreation of Milgram's experiments and find out!

Had been wanting to blog about this for months now but didn't want to do so until I had the video to embed. So big thanks to YouTube user farbus5 for uploading this!

1 comment:

ZombieBodhi said...

I loved the commentary in Ghostbusters where they talk about that scene, and Ramis basically explains that he wanted to see how far the audience would go with being on the side of the Venkman character.

I also just heard a great RadioLab show on being evil, on NPR a few weeks ago that is very similar to this documentary. Though they brought up a lot of interesting points, one being that most people only pay attention to the initial study but not the tons of other variations which help to draw other conclusions - the main one being that when people were told that they had to do something, they refused, but where more than willing to move forward with the experiment on there own when they weren't prodded by the authority figure.

Man, people are messed up...