Derren Brown: The Experiments – When “We” goes too far

by Michael Drew on June 28, 2013

Michael Drew · Popular Culture · June 28, 2013

derren brown

Recently Derren Brown returned with a new TV show called “The Experiments” on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

Brown is a British illusionist with a background in psychology, he has famously predicted the winning lottery numbers, but he openly denounces the possibility that humans possess psychic abilities.

Brown claims it is all down to “suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”, and that there is nothing remotely paranormal involved.

“The Experiments” explores the darker side of what makes us tick as human beings and the particular episode I am going to include in this post is about deindividuation, or to put it another way – a “We” Cycle going too far. Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology when people enter into groups and lose their self-awareness, meaning the nicest people can become horrible Internet bullies, rioters or hooligans.

crowdBrown creates this effect by taking a studio audience and making them wear masks to give them a sense of anonymity. The audience does not know that they are subjects in a social experiment, being asked to make nice or nasty decisions affecting the life of one man being filmed.

Each decision is a 50/50 choice and as the fake game show continues the decisions escalate in nastiness. The result is we get to see the genuine responses from the oblivious audience members, and the decisions they make consistently lean towards the negative, with the audience reveling in the man’s misery.

There is a wonderful twist at the end that instantly shocks the audience out of their crowd state and makes them question all the decisions they have been making over the evening. This highlights the importance of remaining self-aware as it can have severe consequences if you don’t.

It is something I predict will happen on an increasing scale as the end of the “We” Cycle approaches and is something we should aim to avoid at all costs, so please try to remain vigilant.

Check out the episode below and let me know what you think!



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