Why are we rebellious? Game of Death

25th January 2011
Louise Ridley

We all like a good game show. Deal or No Deal, Countdown, Blankety Blank... but what about the game show that electrocutes people to death using 450v electric shocks?

Last year, a French TV show called Le Jeux de la Mort (The Game of Death) might have caught your attention.

Believing they were in a pilot for a real game show, over 80 per cent of contestants followed instructions from the presenter to administer increasing electric shocks to a man hooked up to electrodes, even as he screamed out in pain and appeared to die.

In fact, it was an experiment, and the shocks and the man's pain faked. But the contestants weren't to know this. It's chilling that so many people would follow orders to hurt another person, as outrage over the experiment rightfully expressed.

But what about the 20% of people who refused to obey? This significant minority stood up and rebelled against the presenter, the audience and the pressure of the cameras.

In the February issue of Focus, I look into the science of rebellion. 

It's a fascinating area of research that's still developing, but there are factors that seem to determine whether a certain person is likely to rebel in a given situation. It's an important question to ask in a time of 'Twitter revolutions' and protests against government cuts.

To find out what I uncovered, read the Born to Rebel feature on p46 of February's issue of Focus




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