The Milgram Experiment’s 2012 World Tour reaches Melbourne

… and finds that not much has changed.

Since this is WorkSafe Victoria – which is a much catchier name than the Health & Safety Executive – it goes without saying that the point is that people in positions of authority shouldn’t be asking others to risk their arses doing something that isn’t safe. Normally I’d be among the first to have a go at over zealous elfinsafetee culture, which is just as prevalent in Australia as in Britain, but when 70% of people walking along a Melbourne street are actually prepared to hand over a wire that some clown has told them is ‘a little bit live’ just because he told them to I have to concede that they have a point here. Maybe, as Captain Ranty has said more than once, we’re just not very good at saying ‘no’.

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Posted on April 16, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What kind of utter shit experiment is that? It proves nothing, absolutely zilch. If I were asked to hand over the cable, firstly I’d know that live or not, you don’t handle the spliced end. Secondly I’d expect the guy I’m handing it to, to know the job he is being paid to do. If the cable is live and he wants to grab the end, well, he knows what will happen.

    How about a REAL experiment? Take those same people from the street to the USA, to a jail’s death row, and ask them to throw the switch.

    “the point is that people in positions of authority shouldn’t be asking others to risk their arses doing something that isn’t safe”

    No – it doesn’t matter. Its up to YOU to REFUSE to do anything which you do not deem to be safe, or you know isn’t safe. Its called ‘Common Sense’, though I would conceed that it’s a bit of a rarity nowadays.

    • No – it doesn’t matter. Its up to YOU to REFUSE to do anything which you do not deem to be safe, or you know isn’t safe.

      You’re preaching to the choir here, mate. I was in a hurry and may not have worded it all that well but the don’t ask people to do something you know is dangerous is WorkSafe’s position rather than mine, though it’s not actually one I disagree with entirely. I’m all for encouraging people to take more personal responsibility and I’m even more for encouraging people to think things through and consider whether refusing to do something is the right course of action (or, as the case may be, inaction), but I don’t really have a problem with WorkSafe pointing out that asking someone to do something you would refuse to do yourself on the grounds of the task’s inherent risks just because you think they’re dumb enough to actually do it is, well, a bit shitty.

      Its called ‘Common Sense’, though I would conceed that it’s a bit of a rarity nowadays.

      Perhaps this is the point beneath the point, though again bearing in mind that it was done by WorkSafe probably not. 😉 However, I do think it’s interesting (you’re right that it doesn’t prove anything, though arguably neither the original Milgram experiment or social psychology experiments in general prove anything either) that nearly ¾ of people asked to do so obediently handed over a wire which they were told had exposed live wires. That you and I would turn round and say ‘You fucking what? No way!’ is by the by, and I’d speculate that many of the 70% who handled the wire would say they wouldn’t if asked if, hypothetically, it’s the sort of thing they’d do. Naturally WorkSafe aren’t all that interested in the 30% who’d stick to that in practice and find it much easier to lump them all in with the 70% who’d obey.

      Personally I’d be more interested in why so many otherwise intelligent people are in that group, whether they can be persuaded to change groups and say ‘no’ in future (or at least agree having considered the risk and accepted responsibility first), and if so how. Another example of why it’s a question worth asking: somewhere on this blog is a video clip of an Aussie comedian who got on a Melbourne tram in a fake uniform for a made up bullshit security service and asked everyone to stand up, face left, then face right and then sit down again. Everybody did.

  2. In a previous century (yes, really…) I had a Saturday morning job helping out at the local electricians shop. In those days most domestic appliances were capable of being repaired, and I did the mundane stuff, like replacing worn flex and basic testing and renewing heating elements, etc. There was a section of the bench reserved for electric irons – it had a thick bit of foam stuck to it, to prevent the bases from getting scratched. Not surprisingly it was usually wet from water spilling out of the irons. Unbeknown to me, one lead from the megger insulation tester was slipped underneath this foam, and I got caught out when nonchalantly leaning on said foam. One of the other guys passed me a wire, and asked me to hold it for a moment. At that point the megger was fired up…. I didn’t make the same mistake again!

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