Marco Evaristti, an artist in Denmark, conducted the infamous “goldfish experiment” in the year 2000 at the Trapholt Museum, Denmark. The experiment was presented to people as a regular piece of art- with two goldfish swimming inside a blender. Evaristti called this “Helena & El Pascador” and asked anyone who would pass by to switch on the blender to kill the fish.
The experiment was intended to test the power of destructive obedience (the tendency of people to follow orders, even when they result in violence) versus the power of their own moral conscience. As BBC reported, it was so people would “do battle with their conscience.”
Interestingly, in the experiment, the cables of the blenders were actually plugged into the wall socket, meaning that participants knew that turning the plug on would kill the fish.
While most people walked away from the offer, one person did press the button and killed the fish. Before they could test this with more people, though, the experiment got reported to the police, who then fined Meyer 2 000 kroner (present day’s $205). Although, later, he was able to avoid the fine as well by arguing that the fish died instantly- and therefore didn’t suffer at all.
Meyer refused to pay the fine and took the matter to court, where he lost the case and got convicted of animal cruelty. While incomplete, this experiment did reveal a dark part of human nature that many other experiments have shown before – our ability to obey orders without thought, even if they result in harm to others. In other words, our ability to perform destructive obedience.
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