Derren Brown's gameshow experiment -

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    This is a pretty long post, most of it's description of a Derren Brown show, shown recently, however the main emphasis is on what people think may have happened next and the psychology behind what happened/ could happen.

    I finally caught with Derren Brown's new series 'the experiments' and one experiment in particular really got my attention. In it Derren Brown presented a fake gameshow in which an audience were given control over certain events in a stranger's life by a majority vote over possible events. They were given masks in order to protect their identity so they could make decisions anonymously and genuinely believed it was a gameshow. However the real experiment was how far the audience would go. Skip the next 3 paragraphs if you saw the show.

    Derren Brown was testing a phenomena called deindividuation, a process where people within a mob lose personal identity and, due to their anonymity in the crowd, also lose normal social norms, for example looting in the recent London riots. I did an essay on this recently for psychology so I had an understanding of it before but seeing it in action really hit a nerve with me.

    The show started off innocently enough, the audience were told a little about their 'target', including that he had previously been unfaithful to his girlfriend. They were then asked to decide if a girl next to him in the bar should hit on him or if a different girl should accuse him of touching her up and set her boyfriend on him (this and all following events were in real time). Given the info the audience had just been given it wasn't surprising that over 80% chose option 2. In fairness to him he handled the situation excellently, without losing his temper or rising to the accusations made. The next choice was either the boyfriend would come up and apologise and buy him a drink or they would be overcharged by the barman, again the audience chose option 2, following this they cheered for a pitcher of vodka to be spilt on him. Maybe a little cruel but not awful things to do. However the 'target' then left the bar to go to a local store where he would either be the 5000th customer and receive a cash prize or would be falsely accused of shoplifting, yet again the majority of the audience chose option 2. The police then arrived and they were given the choice of either his name being cleared or him being formally arrested, again they chose option 2. By this point I was sitting their with my mouth open, shocked at the recent decisions. Following this, while in the back of the police van he received a fake phone call from a co-worker who would either say she won a television but didn't want it and would give it to him or would tell him he would be fired on Monday. 2 guesses what they chose. I was astonished, he was in a police van, being arrested for something he didn't do, and the audience decided he should also be told he would be fired next week.

    In between the decisions the audience had made they had seen the 'target's' house via an assistant who was there. Now the experiment was meant to be testing what the audience would do to the 'target' however at this point they actively encouraged embarrasing tasks for this assistant as well. Following this there was a lot of cheering where the audience encouraged the assistant to 'trash his room', leading to him smashing the 'target's' tv and xbox 360 with a baseball bat. The cheering here was incredibly vigorous, possibly moreso than at any other point in the show. Following this was the final decision the audience made, they were told the police van was going to drop the 'target' off at his house with a caution because of an emergency where either he would be greeted with a £10k prize and the game would end or he would be kidnapped by thugs and taken to an abandoned warehouse and they would keep control of him. It genuinely amazed me but they chose for him to be kidnapped, they even laughed when he was attacked by the thugs, the whole thing felt like some kind of horrible spoof except these people had genuinely made these decisions. At this point Derren ended the 'gameshow' in a very shocking way which I won't describe in case anyone is yet to watch the show.

    However the enthusiasm of the audience for the 'target' to be kidnapped made me wonder just how much further they would have gone. The audience appeared very ready to continue with the game, even with the decisions being as dramatic and awful as they were. It made me wonder whether, had the next decision been "the warehouse actually contains a surprise party where the game would be revealed or the 'target' will be chained to the ceiling with a bag over his head", if the decisions would have continued being negative. For that example I think the audience would actually have voted for option 2 again. In fact, as long as the increase in seriousness of the decisions remained constant I think it's totally possible that the audience may have chosen to kill the 'target' as the pattern (based on the occasional statistics we were given) seemed to be highest % of audience voting for option 2 in earliest/ least serious choices followed by a curve down as decisions got more serious but then after a chain of 'option 2s' the % appeared to begin rising again. The thing that really amazed me was the audience reactions, every cut to the audience seemed to show them smiling and laughing at this stranger's horrible misfortune, it was extreme schadenfreude. And at the end when what they had done was made clear as far as I could see their expressions were blank, there was no guilt or regret in their faces at their choices, just a sort of vacantness.

    SO, what do people think? What would have happened if the experiment had gone on? Do you think you'd have acted the same? After all statistically it is likely you would have done the same in their situation, but would anyone want to admit this to themselves? Any theories people think are particularly relevant? e.g. I would say there is an element of agentic theory here as Derren did not discourage them and was in fact the one mkaing this things happen at their request. All research methodology and pracrical issues aside I think this experiment was as shocking to watch as Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment or Milgram's obedience experiment. Obvioulsy Derren Brown is not technically a psychologist however this experiment was still an excellent and innovative piece of work in my opinion, even sacrficing the raw entertainment Derren Brown often goes for in exchange for an in depth example of individuation.

    Sorry for the long post, I just found this really interesting and thought provoking and wanted to express that.
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    Oh, and sorry if there's already a big thread on this as it is over a week old now, I didn't think to look before I started typing :P
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    '...because none of us are as cruel as all of us'.
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    I missed this episode. I'm gonna catch up online now.
    But wow, this sounds really strange. I can't ever imagine myself choosing the negative options put forward here, i guess i'll have to watch it to get a little more of an explanation as to why the audience acted in this way.
    Obviously though, they did think it was a gameshow, so would they not of known that he wasn't actually going to be hurt and that his things would probably be replaced?
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    (Original post by Repressor)
    '...because none of us are as cruel as all of us'.
    I like that, who said it? Although I'd argue that's not always the case, in some cases individuals freely and knowingly make much more damaging decisions. And because they are more aware rather than following a crowd I would say that makes it even worse.

    "A person is smart, people are dumb, panickly, dangerous animals..." (K from Men in Black)
    That quote blew my mind when I first heard it because it's so true, we act like any other herd of animals when we're in agroup but on our own we have the capacity to think for ourselves and yet we still make these awful decisions. That idea is terrifyng when you think about it.
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    (Original post by Battenberg)
    I like that, who said it?
    Anonymous propaganda...

    lol.
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    (Original post by Repressor)
    Anonymous propaganda...

    lol.
    Anonymous as in the 4chan jerks? I'm liking it less and less...
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    (Original post by Cll_ws)
    I missed this episode. I'm gonna catch up online now.
    But wow, this sounds really strange. I can't ever imagine myself choosing the negative options put forward here, i guess i'll have to watch it to get a little more of an explanation as to why the audience acted in this way.
    Obviously though, they did think it was a gameshow, so would they not of known that he wasn't actually going to be hurt and that his things would probably be replaced?
    Yeah, that's one possible reason but they couldn't have known for sure, in fact the element of uncertainty at the end shocks them out of this behavoiur almost instantaneously. And even if they suspected it why take the risk? They didn't actually gain anything from their choices.
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    Well the guy's an illusionist and hypnotist so what he shows may not necessarily be what he says it is... But it does seem believable in terms of what we know about mob behaviour.
 
 
 
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