Mentalist Derren Brown is back to Netflix with another social experiment, Sacrifice. After shocking experiment with the Push (see here) where he convinced some participants to push a man from the terrace to save their own skin and cover up for their mistake, this time Brown is trying to convince a man to risk his life for an undocumented immigrant.
The participant was carefully selected. Phil is a maintenance worker from Florida who dislikes undocumented immigrants and says he would send them all back. He insists he is not a racist, but admits he has always held certain views about certain immigrants. In this experiment, Brown wants him to change these views by staging a life-threatening situation for an undocumented immigrant. Nevertheless, ancestry search has been done for Phil and the official results revealed that Phil has a diverse background, which includes ancestors from Russia but also Mexico…
This is a very relevant experiment, showing many of us came from somewhere and while some people perceive themselves as entitled for allegedly being indigenous citizens, this is rarely true. I wish these tests were mandatory. It would surely slash racism and hatred when people would know they are imagining their roots in an entirely wrong way. Naturally, I am fully aware that nobody should think they are better than someone else just because of the accidental birth in this country and not the other, but sadly many do. This is why this experiment has an immense value.
Both times I watched Brown and his remarkable experiments I wondered what would happen if I would want to do something similar. With academic ethics policies the way they are, the ceiling would probably fall in if I said I want to cause stress to participants (as Brown did to Phil in this episode) and put them in a staged life-threatening situation, and thus potentially cause trauma. In addition, deceiving participants and not telling them what the research is about would also be unethical unless there is a control group. Finally, and not least relevant, if I even managed to pass category 3 of the research ethics, I would have to offer the right to withdraw to my participants and thus risk that they accept that and for the project to get destroyed. While there is nothing wrong with these policies because academic institutions should not conduct research that damages participants like now infamous Stanford Prison Experiment or Milgram Experiment, I still feel a sense of regret that it came up to performance artists to do valuable social research and not academics.
Again, I don’t like forcing people to participate and distressing them in any way, but then again, if Brown did not do it Phil would never learn about himself and he would never get a chance to change. We would also never get a chance to learn about this valuable project either. Therefore, all five for this valuable knowledge Brown created and all star to Netflix for always promoting and broadcasting programme that cherishes human rights and promotes anti-discrimination policies.
Thank you for reading.