Derren Brown never fails to amaze us all with his unique ability to seemingly predict the behaviour and thought processes of many human beings. The word ‘interesting’ doesn’t do his documentaries justice, and they always give us a great insight into the human mind, particularly regarding how easily we can be influenced. His most recent documentary, Derren Brown: Pushed to the Edge, aired on Channel 4 on 12th January. In this programme, he investigates the power of social compliance, particularly when influenced by a figure of high social standing, in order to determine whether a member of public can be manipulated so much so that they end up pushing someone to their death. Surely this can’t be possible, can it?

The programme begins with Derren instructing an actor to ring up a local cafe, posing as a policeman. He then goes on to inform the cafe worker that one of his customers is a known child abductor, and asks him to take the child out of the shop  and continue down the street to take it to its safety. Although the man on the receiving end of the phone has some concerns about this at first, he follows each and every instruction that he is given, despite having no proof that he is actually talking to a member of the police force. This in itself was quite shocking, and in reality could turn into something much more serious, but wouldn’t we all respond in this way if given the instruction?

This truly is an eye-opening experiment, as we are first presented with a very simple social compliance test. Derren hires in three actors to pretend to be auditionees, who are made to stand every time they hear a bell ring. As the real auditionees arrive, despite being completely unaware of this rule, some comply out of social pressure – those who do are taken through to the next round, and the others dismissed. We then follow one man, 29 year-old Chris Kingston, on his journey of social compliance. You will be on the edge of your seat throughout, up until the absolutely shocking moment when he is left shaking on a roof with the decision of whether or not to push someone to their death – simply to prevent himself and a group of strangers from going to prison.

For some, it may seem as though Derren is taking a step too far this time, potentially leaving an individual traumatised over the experience. However, we must remember that those involved in the making of the programme did volunteer previously, and were simply unaware that this was part of their experience.

If you haven’t watched it already, you really are missing out. You can catch up here.

What do you think?