Feb 162014
 

Freakonomics: Fear Thy Nature is a rebroadcast of a show about human nature and circumstance.

What do you do when you experience something — an immersive, interactive theatrical performance, say — and it scrambles your brain completely?
Make a podcast, of course.

 

Transcript:

Stephen DUBNER: Sometimes you see a piece of theater and it completely scrambles your brain:

Philip ZIMBARDO: I remember I was at one of the first performances of “Hair”…

DUBNER: That’s Philip Zimbardo, the renowned psychologist. Seeing Hair scrambled his brain because…

ZIMBARDO: …the performers start walking on the seats over your head and walking down the aisles. And that, I had never experienced that before. It was really troubling, exhilarating, confusing, because, again “Hair” was going to confuse you. They’re going to sing songs about masturbation, and black girls having sex with white guys, black guys having sex with…You know, so essentially, before the play began what they did is set up to say this is going to shock you, this is going to be off your usual radar. So don’t come expecting, you know, traditional theater. This is something new. I still remember, that was like forty-years ago.

DUBNER: Again, that was Philip Zimbardo. Does that name ring a bell? If you ever took Psychology 101 in college, think back to that … you remember reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment? That was Zimbardo’s experiment, back in 1971, in which some student volunteers played the role of prisoners and others acted as guards. Things got ugly, fast:

[ARCHIVAL AUDIO FROM STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT]

DUBNER: To this day, Philip Zimbardo likes to mess with people:

ZIMBARDO: In many settings I’m in, I tweak my environment to see what would happen, what would happen if, you know, you go into a restaurant and the waiter gives you a thing and you say I’d like to start with dessert. And he says, what? I’d like to start with dessert. You’ve got a really good dessert menu. And sometimes they so no you can’t, you have to start with the appetizer. You say no I’d like to start with the dessert and I’ll work backwards. What difference does it make? By putting people in totally new situations that’s really how we discover something about ourselves.

 

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