Friday, August 17, 2012


I don't think I'll be seeing this movie...But not because I believe it to be false.

"Halfway through a special screening of 'Compliance,' the deeply unsettling new film from writer/director Craig Zobel, a woman stood up, yelled out, 'Give me a f*cking break,' and walked out of the theater. As the film progressed, other women joined her...'Compliance,' shown on Tuesday night at a special screening and panel put together by Psychology Today, is not a Holocaust drama or a gory war film or a Lars Von Trier genital mutilation-fest. It is a psychological thriller grounded in an almost documentary level of reality and will probably hold up as one of the most well-paced, brilliantly acted films of the year. It was also, without a doubt, the most uncomfortable film experience of my life...Further compounding the psychologically disturbing nature of 'Compliance' is the fact that it is based almost entirely on true events...In Zobel's version, Dreama Walker stars as Becky, a blond, teenage employee of 'Chickwich,' a fictional fast-food restaurant in Ohio, and Ann Dowd stars -- in an epically nuanced, Oscar-worthy performance -- as her well-meaning manager, Sandra. Early in the film, Sandra receives a call from a man claiming to be a local police officer named 'Officer Daniels,' who explains that Becky has been accused of stealing from a customer. Officer Daniels then instructs Sandra to remove Becky's clothes, her belongings, to help him 'find the money,' and then -- well, it just gets worse from there...At the panel following the screening, psychologist Stanton Peele suggested anyone might do the same thing in a similar situation. Though when the audience was pressed -- 'How many people in this room think they would have gone along with this scenario if they were present?' Peele asked -- no one raised their hands...Another man suggested it was a matter of 'IQ,' and that anyone with a 'high IQ' wouldn't fall for it." [Lucas Kavner, Huffington Post]

"High IQ"?  That guy is an idiot, whatever his IQ is. The Milgram experiments showed IQ has basically nothing to do with it.

The YouTube trailer...

I tell my students that if I had been born the son of a wealthy white slave-owner in the south in 1840, I'm sure I would have supported slavery.  I hate the fact that that is true, but it almost certainly IS true.  And my students would have done the same thing.

If you think you are immune from this need to comply with orders from authorities, you are just wrong.  Some people resist, but not very many.

Nod to Kevin Lewis...


Jim Oliver said...

There is some hope for us in that the scam was tried many times it got that far only once.

Also some people raised in slave societies by slave holders did object to slavery.

Never the less we are weaker, less rational, less nice than we think. Some like to point out immigration laws in this regard. IMO another egregious thing going on today is the war on drugs.

Also related I think that in lower trust societies like Greece, southern Italy and Africa people are more likely to question authority rather than comply. Interestingly those societies do less well economically.

Still all in all sadly we all have feet of clay. We are selfish and stupid lot.

I do not want to see it ether the face in the mirror is to ugly.

JD Cross said...

I'm not at all convinced the Milgram experiment showed anything. It's an experiment. It was advertised as such. What one would do in reality versus an experiment is likely vastly different. I think that for the results to be meaningful (scientific) one would need to the control experiment: the same experiment but for which the participants did not know it was an experiment.

Mungowitz said...

Well, JD, there was Nazi Germany

JD Cross said...

Yes, I'm not disputing that people generally comply. I'm just airing my belief that the Milgram experiment is not conclusive of much.

JD Cross said...

Oh, maybe I'm missing your point. I think you might be saying that you believe that Nazi Germany IS the control experiment. Maybe. I'm doubtful, but I'll think about it more. I think what makes Nazi Germany not a valid control is that there are many other factors at play there than in the actual Milgram experiment. There are lots of factors that could cause or support compliance in "the real world" that might not be present in the (Milgram) experiment. I think this converse is also true. For example, if I know that I'm doing an experiment and the proctor of the experiment tells me that I'm not going to actually do any damage to the other person (a person that I am likely to be doubtful even exists) if I push the button, then I'm guessing that I push the button. I really have nothing to lose by doing so (unless the person is lying to me or I have otherwise been lied to about the experiment). This is different than shooting somebody when told to do so.

I'm thinking that the results of the experiment are probably just a coincidence. But again, I'll think about it more.

Vince said...

Lol Mungo and there is the TSA.

Simon Spero said...

Based on the relevant part of Millgram's Experiments, we would only expect a compliance rate of ~20%.

The key point is that in the film, the "authority" is communicating with the "teacher" over the telephone.
(2nd experiment) which gave compliance rates of ~21%

Also, the "teacher" is physically manipulating the "learner". (3rd experiment), which had compliance rates of ~30%).

(Would still have a roughly 50% chance of finding a patsy after calling three restaurants, but given that some participants lied about performing the experiment when the "authority" was remote, this is unreliable without eyes on target.

I don't have the book in front of me (and ran out of google book preview pages), so I'm relying on wikipedia for the percentages and experiment ids, so do not scale.

devin jack said...

I don't have the book in front of me (and ran out of google book preview pages), so I'm relying on wikipedia

compliance signs