“The Rehearsal” Is a Brilliant Look at Behavior Manipulation

“The Rehearsal” Is a Sensible Have a look at Conduct Manipulation


Marathon runners practice for months to arrange for his or her races. Why not deal with unusual life the identical means?

Courtesy of HBO.

Nathan Fielder in “The Rehearsal”.

Supply: Courtesy of HBO.

That’s basically the premise of The Rehearsal, a tremendous new sequence that begins streaming on HBO Max on Friday, July 15. Within the present, creator Nathan Fielder and his manufacturing staff go to absurdly elaborate lengths to simulate tough conditions, like an uncomfortable dialog, that actual folks wish to put together for.

The target? Rehearse each doable permutation of the state of affairs, so they’re as ready for the true factor as an athlete is for a marathon.

The present is finally a comedy, and it’s regularly very humorous. A lot of the comedy stems from Fielder’s obsessive and dead-serious dedication to the present’s inherently ludicrous premise–one episode opens with a tense scene wherein a staff of manufacturing assistants led by Fielder race towards the clock (Why? We don’t know) to swap a child with an identically dressed alternative out of a nursery window for causes which can be solely defined later.

If The Rehearsal had been only a bunch of absurdly elaborate schemes like these, it might nonetheless be a powerful achievement somewhat than breaking new floor. It could really feel like Fielder had merely taken his earlier present, Nathan for You, which aired on Comedy Central for 4 seasons between 2013 and 2017, and cranked it as much as 11.

Nathan for You, a superb and criminally under-watched present that featured Nathan serving to small companies with (often horrible) new concepts, additionally had an affinity for executing absurdly sophisticated options to easy issues. In some methods, The Rehearsal is simply Nathan for You on steroids, and followers of Nathan for You will love this new present. Nevertheless it provides extra.

There are fewer laughs and extra moments of real poignancy. In a single episode, a person rehearses a tough dialog with a pal dozens of occasions. But, when the true factor occurs, it doesn’t go as anticipated, in a great way. There are even moments when the present will get unusually reflective and meta, blurring the strains of what’s actual and what’s a simulation and questioning the worth of the complete venture.

It is moments like this the place The Rehearsal actually shines, and it feels prefer it has one thing extra profound to say, a few of it about human psychology.

The Rehearsal and the Limits of Behavioral Intervention

It was clear throughout Nathan for You that Fielder was concerned with psychology. In a current profile of Fielder for Vulture, Lila Shapiro wrote, “‘There’s an actual Milgram high quality to Nathan,’” stated the actor and comic H. Jon Benjamin, referring to Stanley Milgram, the eccentric and visionary psychologist identified for a infamous research of obedience…“’It all the time appeared like he was from one other planet studying how one can do human customs.’”

In Nathan for You, he confirmed how simply folks may very well be manipulated into agreeing to issues attributable to their inherent need to not be unpleasant, particularly within the presence of a TV crew.

In The Rehearsal, I consider he’s displaying us the boundaries of this sort of intervention on human conduct. Regardless of creating almost good simulacra of the true world, like somebody’s home or a bar, populating them with look-alike actors, and rehearsing a single occasion repeatedly, it’s immediately apparent, whereas watching, that just about nothing helpful will probably be discovered throughout the train.

This by the way serves as a pointed critique of a lot of the lab-based research which have dominated the sphere of psychology for many of its existence. Researchers regularly attempt to perceive human conduct with synthetic lab research, which are actually typically performed on-line. How assured ought to we be that these outcomes will generalize to on a regular basis conditions?

In 2020, a distinguished group of psychologists led by Hans IJzerman argued that the majority psychology analysis continues to be too preliminary to base coverage suggestions on, stating, “Even… after assessing proof high quality of main research, we now have little means of realizing how a lot constructive, or unintended unfavorable, penalties an intervention may need when utilized to a brand new state of affairs.”

After watching The Rehearsal, we may revise that conclusion. Even after rehearsing a dialog dozens of occasions, we now have little means of realizing what constructive or unintended unfavorable penalties it may need when having it with a non-actor for actual.


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