A French TV documentary features people in a spoof game show administering what they are told are near lethal electric shocks to rival contestants.
Those taking part are told to pull levers to inflict shocks - increasing in voltage - upon their opponents.
Although unaware that the contestants were actors and there was no electrical current, 82% of participants in the Game of Death agreed to pull the lever.
Programme makers say they wanted to expose the dangers of reality TV shows.
They say the documentary shows how many participants in the setting of a TV show will agree to act against their own principles or moral codes when ordered to do something extreme.
The Game of Death has all the trappings of a traditional TV quiz show, with a roaring crowd chanting "punishment" and a glamorous hostess urging the players on.
Christophe Nick, the maker of the documentary, said they were "amazed" that so many participants obeyed the sadistic orders of the game show presenter.
"They are not equipped to disobey," he told AFP.
"They don't want to do it, they try to convince the authority figure that they should stop, but they don't manage to."
The results reflect those of a similar experiment carried out almost 50 years ago at Yale University by social psychologist Stanley Milgram.
Participants took the role of a teacher, delivering what they believed were shocks to an actor every time they answered a question incorrectly.
Mr Nick says that his experiment shows that the TV element further increases people's willingness to obey.
"With Milgram, 62% of people obeyed despicable orders. In the setting of television, it's 80%," he told Reuters.
The documentary was broadcast on the state-owned France 2 channel on Wednesday evening.