Friday, February 5, 2010

Watching the Super Bowl with Stanley Milgram

As you all cuddle up to your favourite television set, eager to inhale the vacuous advertising goo (‘cause let’s face it we really are not that interested in the actual game being played), perhaps these three short videos will provide a cunning foil to the event’s delicious advertising candy.

Stanley Milgram preformed some experiments back in the early 60’s where he tested participants willingness to obey objectives even at the risk of delivering deadly shocks to other people.

It should not be lost on us that Milgram’s parents were Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camps. While this study has since received substantial criticism for its ethical standards it is nonetheless a phenomenal study of human capacity for obedience.

Given the right set of conditions people, it seems will obey the authorities in their lives. It might be surprising that this is a common feature of human nature. It certainly raises significant issues of about the way we construct morality and how free will functions practically in the realm of everyday functions.

But perhaps the most stunning revelation that this experiment illuminates is the underlying tendency for us to obey. It seems if we can somehow defer responsibility away from ourselves we are can rationalize some pretty horrific actions.

So when those commercial dance and sparkle in front of us – will we allow their authority activate our obedience? Will we defer our responsibility for our participation in the evils of consumerism to some other higher authority or will we take our own finger off the switch that decapitates our world?

1 comment:

jc said...

Wow, that's something I have never seen before... Nazi death camps equated with super bowl ads.