Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Nothing new about it

In December 2008 the BBC reported on a repeat of the famous Milgram tests at Yale University, the results of which were published in 1968, in which volunteers were told to deliver electrical shocks to another volunteer played by an actor. Even after faked screams of pain, 70% were prepared to increase the voltage, the American Psychologist study found.

It is shameful that no-one concerned with a BBC news item put out today which excitably described a French TV game show in which exactly the same thing was done had taken the trouble to establish that the results of these tests were very old news indeed. Other researchers later got exactly the same results as Milgram, showing that apparently ordinary people can commit atrocities when instructed to do so by an authoritative figure. Clearly this applies whether those tested believe that they are helping with serious research or merely hoping to win a prize.

It was typical of the carelessness and frivolity of BBC News that they presented their piece about French show as if it had been a significant and newsworthy item, not even bothering to look up their own 2008 report.

1 comment:

Froog said...

Well, I would hope the point of the story is not the well-known and completely unsurprising phenomenon of social psychology, but the fact that it is being exploited by a French rather than a Japanese game show.