Stanley Milgram's experiment: the psychology of the influencer
Between 1960 and 1963, the Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram tested how people reacted to orders. In his experiment, an authority figure ordered participants to deliver what they believed were dangerous electrical shocks to another person in a different room. The first participant could hear the cries of the person being electrocuted. Often wishing to stop the experiment, Milgram urged the participant to continue with injunctions such as "Please continue" or "It is absolutely essential that you continue". In this way, he tested people's submission to authority and their ability to obey outrageous injunctions including those that caused pain to others unnecessarily provided the person issuing the orders was perceived as having authority and influence.
Using Stanley Milgram’s experiment as conceptual and design backdrop backdrop, the students tested Paul Lazarsfeld's Two-Step Flow of Communication. Lazarsfeld propounded the theory that the influence of the media on public opinion is neither short, direct nor immediate but is filtered through an intermediate stage made up of close circles, opinion leaders who have a more direct influence on people’s opinions. The exhibit consisted of a pyramid made up of 3 levels of plastic cups. The glasses were filled with solid candle wax, the topmost layer represented the mass media, the middle influencers and opinion leaders and the bottom layer the mass.
Next, came the game consisting of 3 cardboard boxes placed on a table and students playing the role of presenter and participants. Each box contained an object that was weird to the touch. The game acted as a medium, a channel through which opinion leaders can express themselves and influence the audience. The presenter introduced the game to two players, the guinea pig and the person being questioned. The person answering the questions was given a buzzer.
The presenter explained the possible rewards. For each correct answer, as well as increasing his reward, the person being questioned sees the guinea pig put his hands in the box corresponding to the question asked, then move on to the next one. The questions were deliberately simple so that the respondent felt they could easily improve their reward. Their only argument for stopping the game is the "suffering" of the guinea pig. The presenter's role was to encourage the respondent to continue the game and answer correctly. The presenter of the show was the opinion leader. He was dressed in white to symbolise the reassuring figure of the scientist or the doctor and thus increase the influence exerted. Another important aspect of the presenter’s characters is acting ability. Through his behaviour and words, he conveyed to his hapless “victims” the impression of authority in order to manipulate on them