Derren Brown - UK Objective Entertainer

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I don't think the TV entertainer, Derren Brown, is very well known outside of the UK, which is a pity because he uses psychological illusion/magic/hypnosis to put across an objective message - getting people to question their irrational beliefs about commonly-held points of view.

Here's a link to part of an episode from last year:

This is one of my favourites because he uses a 'voodoo' doll to make a woman who is heavily into New Age therapies, invest in the belief that he can control her by giving the voodoo doll a part of her soul. I shan't say anymore, as I don't want to spoil it. [The picture quality isn't too great which is a shame, but the sound is good.]

Here's a link to Derren's explanation of what he did:

His most recent TV programme was called "The Heist". For this he drew on Stanley Milgrim's classic study where people would do something that they knew to be wrong (in this case cause severe/fatal electric shock), simply because an authority figure had told them to do so.

He advertised for a dozen middle-management-type people (with no criminal/mental health problems) to take part in what they thought was a seminar where they would learn powers of persuasion that would help them in business. Out of the thousands of applicants he chose the 12 who were the most suggestible.

What he actually did in the 'seminar' was to set-up a series of indirect suggestions about how it was okay to go do something regardless of the ethical considerations. He told them to try on this idea by stealing candy from the local store - they all went out and stole some candy from this store - even though they KNEW it was wrong! [The store owner was in the know, but the store assistants weren't.]

To determine the 4 most suggestible candidates, he repeated Milgrim's study with them and shockingly had similar results to Migrim i.e. more than 65% of people inflicted what would have been a fatal electric shock (450 volts), had it been for real.

After their week long seminar, Derren arranged to meet each person in London, but it was set up so that the taxi dropped them off at the end of a deserted street, meaning they had to walk down this street, past the Bank of England, to get to their agreed meeting place. They had been given a toy gun to play with during the week (to reinforce the message of acting like an irresponsible child) and they'd been told to bring this with them.

Whilst walking down this street, Derren used music and adverts that they'd subconsciously associate with the feeling of "I can do anything" - resulting in 3 of the 4 candidates deciding that it would be a good idea to HOLD-UP AND ROB A SECURITY GUARD FROM THE BANK OF ENGLAND!

[it was all a set-up of course, but the candidates all thought that it was for real at the time].

Derren's point about the Heist was that had these people been autonomous and self-responsible, they wouldn't have done it simply because an influential figure had made it seem like a good idea.

The one candidate who chose to walk past the security guard rather than rob him, said that stealing candy from a store was one thing, stealing from the Bank of England was something else.

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