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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 28-Feb-16


Sunday 28-February-16

Pushed to the Edge: Would you kill someone?

I recently watched a show by mentalist/psychology personality Derren Brown, called 'Pushed to the Edge' in which he gets ordinary people to kill other people, by pushing them off a building. Of course nobody gets hurt, but the person doing the pushing thinks they are committing murder and that this is the only way out of being sent to prison. How did he get them to such a point? One small step at a time. Make urgency more important than 'minor' legality.

It is very similar to ?The Heist? that he did a few years ago, in which he replicated Milgram?s experiment (where the target was persuaded to electrocute people) and got people to engage in an armed robbery. The bottom line is that we are more compliant than we think we are, especially when we feel we are in a corner and are being commanded by someone in authority.

In the real world, people often get into crime through social pressure, and may even end up killing others. A key step that criminals take is that they justify such actions to themselves and are ready to do it again, often with the approval and encouragement of others. This is the critical process of criminalization, through which a person becomes comfortable with being a criminal. A typical justification includes self-talk such as 'I had no other choice' or 'He deserved it' as the criminals convince themselves they are good and right, and that their victims and the police are the real bad guys.

Of course there?s a moral question to such shows, including what negative effects it might have on the participants and even viewers. Against that is the presented purpose, to warn viewers that they can be manipulated beyond where they would think they could be pushed.

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