What the title says- is it as it is often portrayed in cartoons?

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    Purely anecdotal, but the highlight of my day is when my 2-year-old goes down a plastic slide and all his hair stands up on end when he does it, just like in Science class at highschool. – Mark Henderson Jul 16 '12 at 3:15
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    @MarkHenderson that's just standard static electricity, he means when the body is part of a circuit (I vote no) – ratchet freak Jul 16 '12 at 13:09
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    @ratchetfreak They're the same thing in terms of physics. Your body has capacitance, which means it can store a net positive number of electrons above its normal baseline when "charged" in some way. The answer to OP's question depends on whether we can momentarily store enough electrons to cause an electromagnetic repulsion effect strong enough to move hair. I'd lean towards yes, since we can certainly do it with a Van-de-Graaff generator, but I'd imagine the process would kill you. – Polynomial Jul 16 '12 at 22:12
  • @Polynomial - The purpose of the electric chair is for executions... so that the process kills you is more the objective than having hair stand on end. Usually the head is shaved and covered in a conducting helmet so its hard to say if this happens. – Chad Jul 17 '12 at 16:24
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    The spiky hair effect is caused by a buildup of a static electricity charge. All the individual strands of hair build up a charge of the same type and as like charges repel the hair strands all repel each other. An electric chair forces alternating current through the body so a static charge can't build up – GordonM Sep 24 '18 at 9:28

The Death Penalty Information Centre describes the process (which is no longer used in the United States):

For execution by the electric chair, the person is usually shaved and strapped to a chair with belts that cross his chest, groin, legs, and arms. A metal skullcap-shaped electrode is attached to the scalp and forehead over a sponge moistened with saline. The sponge must not be too wet or the saline short-circuits the electric current, and not too dry, as it would then have a very high resistance.

Given the head is shaved, and wet and covered with an electrode, the person's hair is not able to stand on end as shown in the cartoon. Cartoons intended for children do not offer a realistic portrayal of execution by electrocution:

...the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and rest on [his] cheeks. The prisoner often defecates, urinates, and vomits blood and drool. The body turns bright red as its temperature rises, and the prisoner's flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches fire....Witnesses hear a loud and sustained sound like bacon frying


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