Egged on by a glamorous presenter, cries of "punishment" from a studio audience and dramatic music, the overwhelming majority of the participants obeyed orders to continue delivering the shocks - despite the man's screams of agony and pleas for them to stop.Row over 'torture' on French TV
Eventually he fell silent, presumably because he had died or lost consciousness. The contestants didn't know that the man, strapped in a chair inside a cubicle so they couldn't see him, was really an actor. There were no shocks and it was all an experiment to see how far they would go.
Only 16 of the 80 participants stopped before the ultimate, potentially lethal shock.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.