Our View: Netflix special ‘The Push’ examines compliance


In his hourlong Netflix special, “The Push,” Derren Brown takes viewers on a journey showing how a person’s willingness to fit in could lead them to committing murder when asked.

How? Well, it all has to do with compliance. Brown set up a scenario where an unsuspecting participant was asked to do small favors, eventually increasing the stakes until the moment someone asked a man to kill someone.

The shocking part was three of the four participants shown ended up pushing a man off a balcony.

It’s not like they were zombies and did it without awareness. All the participants were on the verge of tears, seemingly going against their moral code, but did it anyway.

As college students who may be trying to find ourselves, this is important to keep in the back of our minds.

On the scientific side, a study published by Santa Clara University in California looked at the results of a group of studies and found when participants agreed to do a task, and then the task was made harder, they were 21.1 percent more likely to do it compared to a control group who was asked to do the harder task up front.

The exact psychological reason wasn’t clear, although one explanation given was that people are scared of seeming lazy or insincere.

While most people in our lives aren’t as devious as Brown, it’s possible for anyone to slip into compliance, especially in large groups of strangers.

As people, it’s intimidating when you notice your opinions or your personality doesn’t match the norm. Also, there are people who may unknowingly take advantage of someone because of their compliance.

Take, for example, a romantic relationship. At first, everything is all rosy, and in each other’s eyes, the couple could do no wrong. If one person in the relationship starts to make small demands, and they snowball into bigger demands that go against the other person’s moral code or personal beliefs, then it could turn into compliance which is unhealthy.

Compliance is part of why people may stay in abusive relationships, or stop talking to friends and family when they swore they wouldn’t. And this could all be because a new significant other asked them to.

Whether it’s relationships, academics or habits people have formed, it’s important to be aware of what we want. This isn’t to say we should ignore suggestions made by others: Those suggestions could lead to something new, exciting or better.

However, an awareness of when we feel forced to do things just because someone asked might make it easier to say no.