Tag Archives: Sociopath

Pushing for Personal Integrity with Derren Brown

Last week I watched Derren Brown, a mentalist and illusionist on a YouTube video Pushed to the Edge.  Brown’s pseudo-experiment was taken to the extreme; his goal was to take people to the very limit — to find out if they would kill.  His production spared little expense.

According to Brown the crucial point of his show was to demonstrate “how readily we hand over authorship over our lives every day and the dangers of losing that control . . . how someone can be easily influenced, and also how a person can influence others.”

That’s what this writing is about.

During the show there were three separate incidents where a participant was talked into pushing an innocent man off the edge of a high-rise building.  Only one out of the four participants refused to push the elderly gentleman off the edge.  One of the shocking results of this experiment is that it only took about an hour for each participant to be persuaded to kill (fortunately, it was an actor being pushed off the building with ropes and not a real person).

The Push Darren Brwon copy

How does this happen?

As I watched this YouTube video, I thought about all the male leaders in my life, dead and alive, who led me into danger, and didn’t give a shit about whether they hurt me or not because their end justified the means.

Similar to Derren Brown’s instigator in the show (it could have been a real psychopath and/or sociopath), these individuals find susceptible victims and determine how best to manipulate them.

What every human has in common, the function of behavior, is to either get something or escape something.  It is that simple.  A sociopath studies the unsuspecting victim and what she wants, or what she wants to avoid.  (I was an easy target who had never been taught the warning signs of a predator.  I wanted love, acceptance, and family.  I also wanted to avoid hurting others, lessen conflict, avoid damnation, etc.).

During my days as a Mormon, and in my intimate relationship with my husband as a plural-wife, I never knew about religious abuse, or heard the phrase “personality disorder”.  In church we never discussed subjects such as group-think, conformity, patriarchal cultures, domestic abuse, sexual assault in a marriage, or the importance of boundaries and critical thinking skills.  If that had occurred, no one would have attended Sunday School.

Here’s my Monday School blogpost:

First of all, since sociopaths don’t change, and most often their followers are content dangling by a string (until it snaps), this blogpost is not for them.


Education can only help those people who want to be helped; it is also best served before the manipulation process begins. That right there is the key. It is extremely difficult to regain power once it is given away (or stolen), and it takes years to heal from the trauma.

victim mindset


How compliance works from “Pushed to the Edge”:

My visual aide this morning is “Pushed to the Edge” (it is worth watching, even if you cringe wondering about ethics and if the participants were fully compensated for their part).  

Derren Brown held a compliance test to find out who was the most impressionable; he explained that “the more socially compliant person the more they will look to others for a sign to behave.” (Sociopaths look for a person they can manipulate and control).

  • Once Derren Brown had his “follower”—someone he knew was easily influenced, he created a situation where the “leader” asked the follower to do something uncomfortable and each task became increasingly more challenging. (A sociopath creates situations to reel his victim in and his requests become greater until he has achieved what he wants).
  • The follower (or pusher) was in a lower status position, and this alone influenced the victim’s decision-making. (A socio-path puts himself in a position of authority because it gives him more influence).
  • Each time the follower was involved in something unethical; it created a stronger bond between him and his leader, and among the group. (A socio-path cements his relationship by holding something over someone. This is also true of a community of followers; they love to find favor with the leader even if it means tattling on each other).

There were also other examples of manipulating and compliance in Brown’s show—the instigator/leader brought in influential people, such as celebrities, for validation. (Sociopaths always use other people to help influence). Subliminal words and messages were used like “it needs a push,” “push into action” – which ultimately helped solidify pushing someone off the edge of a building.  One of the participants had the same surname as someone in the group (fictitious or non-fictitious commonalities such as a name, ethnicity, religious background, birthplace, family members and friends etc. help bond the victim to her perpetrator).

Derren Brown’s message: “This experiment wasn’t about who pushed, and who didn’t.  This was designed to make the participants act in a way that went away from their decent values, morals and personalities.  The point is we are all profoundly susceptible to this kind of influence whether it is driven by our peer group or an ideology.  It is like we are handed other people’s scripts of how to live our life to achieve their ambitions and beliefs.  But by understanding it, by understanding how we can be manipulated, we can become stronger.  We can say ‘No’.  We can push back.”

Even if humans were raised the same, had the same personalities, same IQ level, same experiences, no two people are the same.  Besides that, it’s illogical playing the blame game, because it doesn’t help.  The only change people can make is by taking accountability for their own actions.

One of Derren Brown’s four followers, who was compliant throughout the entire experiment until the very end, and who did not push the elderly man off the building explained, “You can’t always live your life on guard because then you live your life constantly on edge, which is not a good way to be.  But when certain situations present themselves think about it before you act on it and ask yourself what am I doing? ”

Stanley Milgram, a grandfather of social psychology, who created a somewhat similar experiment said, “The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.”

Derren Brown’s experiment, and what individuals did on his show, went far beyond what I ever experienced.  I am fortunate to be alive and well.  In case you want to know (this is me bearing my testimony):  Although I avoid religion, and people who do all the thinking for me, I am not cynical. I now pick the right friends and associates. heart