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The dark side of human nature
THE VIOLENCE SEASON Horizon – How Violent Are You?
Program Info BBC Week 19 Violence Season – Horizon How Violent Are You Michael Portillo investigates what makes ordinary people commit extreme acts of violence, in the final Horizon of the series, and explores the fine line between control and aggression. Michael looks at the environmental and psychological factors that can cause an individual to snap and to lose their self-control. He explores a much darker side of people's nature and asks if anyone can be driven to deliberately kill. In a thought-provoking and sometimes uncomfortable journey, Michael discovers that each of us could be inherently more violent than we think. Michael learns what it's like to inflict pain as he takes part in the Tinku, an annual violence ritual in the Bolivian Andes. To find out if violence is addictive he meets an ex-football hooligan, who lived for his Saturday fights, and a former child soldier from war-torn Sudan, who tells a harrowing story of brainwashing, torture and regret.
In a personal challenge, Michael is pushed to his limits in an extreme sleep-deprivation test that pits him against two crying babies. After 36 hours without sleep, he spends a pressurised day working in a professional kitchen as Professor Jane Ireland tries to find out i Michael's passive personality can be broken down to unearth a violent core. Most surprisingly of all, he meets with Professor Peter Smith to observe one of the most violent groups in society, a group biologically incapable of controlling their aggressive instincts – ordinary three-year-olds. Michael learns how socialisation and learned experiences change the make-up of the brain and help us to control our behaviour as we age. But what does it take for ordinary people to inflict pain in everyday situations? In a fascinating psychological study, Michael watches a replication of one of the most controversial studies in history, the Milgram study. Will participants be willing to administer a seemingly lethal electric shock to someone they think is an innocent bystander. In 1961, shortly after the start of the trial of war criminal Adolf Eichmann, scientist Stanley Milgram set up a controversial study to test an argument prevalent at the time – that the Nazis responsible for the holocaust were uniquely evil and that such an event couldn't happen elsewhere. Horizon recreates that experiment, in which ordinary people are asked to harm another human being in pursuit of what they think is a worthwhile idea. Most participants are shown accepting the authority of a (fake) scientist to administer potentially lethal electric shocks to another volunteer (also a fake). "They do this in pursuit of an ideology – they believe that they are helping science," Michael explains. "Milgram's experiment was deeply shocking because it showed that people would obey orders to commit an act of violence. What is extraordinary is that they don't do so after years of conditioning or political propaganda, they do it 10 minutes after they were walking down the street."
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BBC Horizon - How Violent Are You? - Milgram Experiment (15 min film clip) Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhTo3QmB_Yw Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISHeON3AsY0&feature=related TRANSCRIPT Part 1 - What do you think would be necessary to make a peaceful person be able to kill? - Pressure. If you put them under serious pressure. You kill someone related to them. Or you just come and give them an idea... and brainwash them. Emanuel’s experience was extreme. And I could see how the horror of war persuaded him into a destructive ideology. But does it take that level of personal trauma... losing your mother, your village... to kill for an idea? Could I or any other person who’s not been in such a savage situation, ever believe an idea was worth killing for? To find out, Michael is about to observe the replication of one of the most controversial experiments in history. In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram devised a test to see if ordinary law-abiding people would give a stranger a lethal electric shock in the name of science. Twelve members of the public arrive for what they think is a memory test. They are introduced to another person who they believe is a volunteer. He’s really an actor. - I’m Professor Lawrence. As is the professor who is running the test. - Do you know what we’re doing? - Not specifically. The volunteers are also unaware that they’re being filmed. Social psychologist Dr Clifford Stock (?) will be monitoring their responses. - We’re conducting an experiment into learning and behaviour. The actor who is acting as the professor comes in and talks to the two participants to try to convince them that what is actually happening is this scientific study of memory, rather than actually what is it, which is a scientific study of obedience to authority. The professor reveals that the experiment will involve a form of punishment. - The punishment we’ve chosen to use is electric shock. - Lovely. Each participant is given a specific role in the experiment. - I’m asking one of you to be a teacher and one of you to be a learner. The learner receives the shocks. The teacher applies them. Now how do they decide who is the teacher and who is the learner? Now that’s done through a lottery. They draw lots. How does that work out? Of course it’s fixed so the actual participant always ends up being the teacher.
- You must be the teacher. - OOkay! The subject observes the Learner being strapped into the electric shock device. - The teacher, as he’s called, gets to see all this. He gets to see that the man is restrained... can’t move in the chair. - I think this is where the procedure starts to get really interesting, because it’s now that the teacher begins to realize the potential consequences of what’s going on.
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- Now how will I know how much pain he is feeling? ... sorry Nick. - Well you won’t. That’s not really the point of the exercise. [That’s not germane!] The point of the exercise is to see how he learns. ... So this is the shock generator. The teacher is then taken next door, and shown the generator... - You can sit down now and just make yourself comfortable. ... which goes from 15 all the up to 450 volts. That’s almost twice the mains voltage in the UK.. - So you’ll read those things. The teachers are given a list of word pairs, which the learner is expected to memorize. Each time the learner gets a multiple choice question wrong, the teacher is told to increase the voltage of the shocks. - Now just do that. I’m going to give you a little shock so you know what it feels like. To reinforce the subject’s belief that the generator is real, they are given a 45 volt shock. - I’m scared! - Don’t be scared, alright. Here we go. - Oh, ok, yep. -Significant? - Yeah fairly. Not enough to kill me just yet, so that’s okay. When the procedure continues, there is an awareness clearly in the mind of the teacher that there is a potential for the victim to be experiencing quite high levels of pain. - Yellow, flower - Strong, coffee The point of the Milgram experiment is to see if the teachers will call a stop to the test, or obey the professor and inflict extremely painful shocks in the belief that they’re advancing science. - That was correct. ... Fast... Is it a) train, b) car, c) aero plane, d) journey? [buzz] - Sorry. It’s 195 [volts]. - Oh! - If that’s him shouting, I can’t go on. Sorry. - Well, the thing is, the shocks do involve pain, but the experiment requires that you continue. So please go on. There is no permanent tissue damage. Sorry? There is no permanent tissue damage. I know, but I do... I do... I really don’t want to give pain like this. Please just continue.
- Okay Nick. If you’re happy to continue, we’ll carry on. - No... I’m… I’m... I’m not. I can’t go on. I can’t go on. Sorry, I’m going to have to give it up. Cause I’m not going to do this. - I fully understand, but the experiment requires that you go on. - Sorry Nick. That was wrong. Hmm. It’s 225 volts. I’m going to press it quickly. If you don’t want to go on you don’t have to press the next button. - Let me out. The shock’s starting to bother me here. - Right, okay... That’s it. I can hear him. I can’t go on. - Are you terminating the experiment? - Yes.
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What the subjects don’t know, is that the learner hasn’t been receiving any shocks at all. - Let me out. Let me out of here. LET ME OUT! His responses are being played on a pre-recorded cd. - Stop! Let me out of here. Let me out of here. LET ME OUT! - Humm... When I get to “intense shock”, and then “extreme intensity shock”, and then “in danger of severe shock”... I need to stop then don’t I? - Well, the experiment requires you continue. - What about “in danger of severe shock”... and then for ”XXX”? - Well... please continue. Just continue the experiment thank you. -Okay. The participant here is deferring to the professor. And that deferring to the professor carries with it the diffusion of responsibility. The responsibility for this is not entirely hers, so much as it is with the authority figure that resides with her in the room. -We’re on danger now. - Yeah. - But you say it won’t be really dangerous to him/ - There’s no lasting tissue damage. - Okay. - And he signed his form and everything, didn’t he? ...He signed his form and everything, didn’t he, to say he was okay with this? - Yes. - Okay. Paper: a) cup, b) warm Part 2 - It was “scary ghost”. That was incorrect. 225 volts. - Stop! Let me out of here. Let me out of here. LET ME OUT! - Number 3... I mean it’s a classic example of what Milgram shows. Someone who, on face value, poses no threat to anybody, can in these kinds of circumstances proceed to the point of inflicting severe levels of pain. - Is it a) cup, b) wall, c) aero plane or d) lampshade? [Silence] - You have to treat the absence of response as a wrong answer... and just continue the procedure. - Okay… Okay, no response is wrong answer. 390 volts. [buzz] - No sound - So now he’s gone silent. So after the protest from the learner in the other room, the idea is no that the learner goes silent. So potentially there is the idea that these shocks have actually either rendered the learner unconscious or possibly even killed him. ...c) chain, or d) bicycle? We killed him. He’s not responding, so it, that counts as a wrong answer. Okay. ahah. So that’s 3 then. 405 volts.
[buzz] - Incorrect. 225. - Stop! Let me out of here. Let me out of here. LET ME OUT!
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- I’m really not sure if I’m happy to continue... doing this. Cause he really sounds as if he is in a lot of pain. - Well, the experiment requires that you go on. - No, I know. But I don’t really take any pleasure in putting that through a human being’s arm. - No. But this is an experiment. It’s essential that you continue. - Where did I get to? Number 3. - Ah interesting. - Very interesting. He was all for chucking it in... - ...But the prompts drove him back to the task. I think it’ was interesting that that second prompt talks about how “essential it is for him to continue”. It’s essential that you continue. I think that draws on that sense of obligation to the wider scientific project. - Because the scientist doesn’t have any coercive power. He can’t force you to do anything. - Well I think the interesting thing about how this paradigm works and why this paradigm works is that the influences are ideological. It’s about what they believe science to be. That science is a positive product. It produces beneficial findings and knowledge for society that are helpful to society. So that sense of science is providing some kind of system for good. But is the power of authority and the belief that the scientific experiment is being conducted for the greater good enough to persuade the participants to go all the way to the end? And deliver the fatal 450 volt shock? - Do you want me to carry on? - Yes please. - Do we have to do this? - The experiment requires that you continue. - Yeah huh, I’m going to have to treat that as an incorrect answer and it’s 450 volts. - Thank you. - The answer incorrect. 450 volts. - That is incorrect. I have to give you 450 volts. - ...450 volts. - ...450 volts. Nine out of the 12 participants went all the way to the end. - ...450 volts. [buzz] In Milgram’s original experiment, the majority, over 65% of people, went to 450 volts. That’s it. You’ve gone to the end of the experiment. Thank you very much. - Now at this point I should tell you that you have not been producing any shocks. You haven’t been administering any shocks. Oh haven’t I? No. But where’s he gone? He’s coming around here now. I’m alright. Nothing wrong with me at all.
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- I realized when you sent silent you were either dead or you weren’t actually plugged into it anymore. - I’m Michael Portillo. - Hello - Do you mind if we ask you some questions? - No of course not. - You looked as if you were under some stress. - Oh you could see me? - I could see you. - Where were you? - There’s a camera in there. - Ah, ha ha... okay. - You looked as if you were under some stress. - I found it stressful. Yeah... I did. - But you went on. - I did... yeah. Because the man behind me said it wasn’t going to damage him long term... so... - So if by chance you had hurt Nick, whose responsibility would that have been? - Well, under the law it would have been my fault. And morally it would have been my fault. I could have argued that I was following procedures laid out for an experiment, hmm, ...perhaps I could blame science. But the reality would have been me pressing buttons. - And even with the burden of the knowledge that morally you might have been responsible for a death you went on. - Hmm. Not entirely pleased about that but I did. - How did you interpret Nick’s silence after about 370 volts. - I don’t know. I probably actually... it didn’t... I didn’t actually think about it. Maybe I probably should have. But I didn’t think about it that much. So my job was to read the list. So... Philippe was one of the three to refuse to complete the test. - But you were involved in an important scientific experiment. And the professor was telling you to go on. Why did you disobey? - It sounds a little bit like the Nazis and huh Second World War Germany. It wasn’t me coughin(??) up. I was told to do it. - The majority of people go all the way... - That’s scary! - ...to 450 volts. - I find that scary.
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