I’m a nice person, I think, hurting somebody, and caught up in what seemed a mad situation . . . and in the interest of science, one goes through with it.

23 November 2005

Okay, third time lucky[1]

I got sent this email today which had a link pointing to a story that made me shake my head at the stupidity of people. Imagine this, you are at work. Someone rings your manager and tells them that you, or someone fitting your description has stolen something. That you are to be held there and wait for the police to arrive. Not only this, but the person on the other end of the line says they are, in fact, a police officer.

Your manager believes them. So do you. Fair enough if waiting around was all that was involved. But in this case the cop had the accused woman striped, in case she was hiding the wallet or whatever. Then this hwoon dahn had the woman, wearing nothing but a McDonalds’ apron, jump up and down, to make the stolen item fall. Not only that but he had her spanked! Forced into a “sexual act”! Pretty much kidnapped and suffering for three hours!

Come on people, hasn’t anyone ever heard of checking ID? Or of using common sense?

Summers says she did as she was told.

“I honestly thought he was a police officer and what I was doing was the right thing,” said Summers. “I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”

Then I took a look at the second link in this email. It pointed to a wikipedia entry on the Milgram experiment.

So why on earth are people so willing do do what someone tells them. 65% of people in the Milgram experiment did what they were told and kept on administering electric shocks up to the final 450-volt mark. That’s almost two-thirds of people!


  1. I know, you have no idea what I’m talking about. See I accidentally clicked the x and closed the tab before posting the first time I wrote this. And the second time the internet exploded and the page wouldn’t load. So this is version 3

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9 Responses

  1. anne says:

    When I was doing teacher training, our (great) psychology teacher told us about the Milgram experiment. Everyone in the lecture hall then went "oh that wouldn't happen nowadays." A friend and me just looked at each other and went "we are so screwed if these are going to be teaching our kids."
    Obedience and fear are powerful agents on people who hence do "what they're supposed to be doing".
    Does that make sense? 'Cause it did, kinda, in my head.
    Sort of off topic, but I comme Icare is a very good French film which shows the way the experiment was conducted.
    Sorry about the length of this.

  2. Fence says:

    You know that film is as old as me :) But it does look interesting.

    Those kids probably thought they'd never do not. I believe I'd never do it. But until you are in that situation you never do.

  3. LiVEwiRe says:

    that is just wrong, entirely. But about the experiment, I think it's the precursor to 'peer pressure', to be honest.

  4. anne says:

    "but it does look interesting?" ;)

    I believe I'd never do it either, but first you're right, I don't know what I'd do once on the spot, and second, you know that when an entire lecture hall goes "that would never happen" like they're starring in "The Sound of Music", someone has a very skewed perception of reality and of their own reactions. Especially as teacher training is as competitive as can get in France, which does bring out some of the worst in people. So I'd tend to lend more faith to the existence of Father Christmas than to that "that would never happen".
    But hey, I hope I'd be proved wrong.

  5. NineMoons says:

    there's also the Stanford prison experiment – studied in in Criminology – where students assigned to the role of guards became sadistic and evil and those assigned to prisoner status went a bit mental.
    Channel 4 had a reality show (of course) based on it but it had to be stopped because things went too far.

  6. Carl V. says:

    I saw the video of this happening on the http://www.comcast.net homepage in the 'Fan Videos' section. It was a fairly long excerpt from a news report about this and it is horrifying to watch. I can't believe the girl actually went through with all the stuff…had it been me I would've started kicking some ass but I can see on some level how a young girl could get freaked out and end up going along with it. I had a talk with my daughter about this afterwords.

  7. NineMoons says:

    Good fathering by Carl. Knowing your rights and the limits to what people can legimately do to you is very important. Excellent!

  8. Fence says:

    Livewire I can understand the whole peer pressure thing a lot more than obeying orders from a random on the phone.

    Carl, I'd agree with NM. You should have a show imparting advice, you know like Dr. Phil, only watchable ;)

    Anne competition is evil, well sometimes. But Sound of Music, another film I've never seen all the way though.

    NM, didn't that reality TV show get axed because the criminals all acted up so much that the guards went totally overboard.

  9. NineMoons says:

    Yeah, that happened in the Stanford thing as well – the prisoners had a rebellion/riot and this had the effect of making the guards feel threatened as a group and they therefore reacted as a group by treating the prisoners even more badly.