Seemingly genial figures, television gameshow hosts, are extremely influential that contestants will go any distance to their bidding even if it means torturing each other to death, researchers say.
Psychologists from the University of Paris simulated the recording of a new programme in a real TV studio with an audience and well-known weather girl Tania Young as the host, the Daily Mail reported.
AdvertisementRecruiters found 80 contestants participating in what they thought was a show called Zone Xtreme.
They were introduced to another contestant called 'Jean Paul', played by an actor, who was sent to a different part of the studio where he could be heard but not seen.
Every contestants was asked by the host to ask 'Jean Paul' a series of 27 questions and apply what they thought was an electric shock of increasing strength for each wrong answer.
Over eight in ten - 64 contestants - administered the maximum 460 volts, which could lead to death, despite hearing 'Jean Paul' cry out, scream and beg to stop the game.
If they wavered, Young interrupted with lines such as 'Don't let yourself get upset' and 'Go on, we are taking all the responsibility for this'.
Only 16 of the 80 contestants refrained from continuing with the programme.
The experiment was aired as part of a documentary entitled 'Game of Death' for French network France 2 in 2010.
"It has long been known that television and television hosts had influence on viewers," researchers said.
"We suspected they could also have prescriptive powers to [influence] people's behaviour, including cruel and immoral behaviours. Until now this had never been shown," they concluded.
The study has been published in the European Review of Applied Psychology.