Everyone loves a practical joke, right? We’ve all seen the ridiculous TV shows where the cast pranks unsuspecting members of the public – filming their debatably hilarious reactions.
Candid Camera, the practical joke show aired an episode in 1962 they called “Face the Rear.” The crass name is a good source of silly comedy and so was the prank – but it was also a source of understanding human psychology.
Face the Rear
Easy question – which way do you stand in an lift? The commonly sensical way, obviously.
In “Face the Rear” the pranksters stood in a public elevator facing the wrong way. Varying ages and clothes styles, the cast were dressed up to seem unfamiliar with one another appearing as random members of the public to anyone else who used the lift.
Interestingly, unsuspecting citizens observed the people facing the opposite way to normal – but as that was the construct of the social apparatus of the lift – they conformed to doing it too, even though they had no idea why.
Amongst the canned laughter of the show and the funny, confused and reluctant public’s reaction there is an interesting experiment of human psychology at play.
The Candid Camera prank illuminated peoples’ tendency to lean towards the “social norm”, the common behaviour of the majority.
In psychology, this type of research can be used to understand human nature a little better. Observing how we conform is key to understanding why we conform, and what role it has in our society. Understanding human nature can help a great deal in society as understanding mentality can lead to treating mental health issues, improving relationships and improving the structure of society.
What does it mean for the future?
Many experiments exist replicating this one, and so do more extreme ones giving insight to how bullying, hooliganism and even genocide can happen. Understanding is a huge stepping stone to prevention in the future.
So that’s how lifts have helped your day-to-day life in more ways than the straightforward! Can you think of any other uses for lifts other than transportation?