Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind. Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we choose to believe the things that we believe? Scientists have been searching for the answers to these questions for as long as there have been scientists. Throughout history we’ve seen talented researchers set up interesting scenarios in order to try and learn something about the human mind. Some of these experiments turned out to be disastrous while others helped us find out new information about the human experience. We decided to pull together 13 different psychology experiments that dared to plunge the depth of human behavior. Listed below are all 13 experiments and we guarantee that they will change the way that you think!
Josh Bell’s Violin Display.
When you see someone who could legitimately be considered the best in the world at what they do you probably would stop for a moment to take it all in. If you saw Kobe Bryant taking jump shots at the park or Stephen King writing stories at the coffee shop your eyes might instantly go their way. Scientists decided to test how well humans observe their surroundings by having one of the worlds greatest violinists, Josh Bell, play his instrument in a crowded metro station in Washington D.C. Bell was dressed up as a homeless person despite the fact that he was playing a $3 million violin. Bell earned a total of $32 in change over an entire day playing on the streets. A seat at the back of the room for one of his real shows would cost you over $100.
The Car Crash Experiment.
Don’t worry, you won’t need to find a discount auto insurance quote to read about this experiment. Back in 1974 two scientists decided to see if they could influence a person’s memory by altering the wording of questions that they asked. Loftus and Palmer, the two scientists, showed a series of pictures to patients in the experiment. These pictures showcased various car accidents. Then the test subjects were given multiple tests with different questions in them. The scientists found that by using certain verbs they could influence what the test subjects actually remembered. Now you can get back to the internet and find your car insurance online. If you ever get into an accident it might be worth working on the verbs that you use, or else you might need an expensive car insurance quote according to Loftus and Palmer.
Juan Mann’s Free Hug Campaign.
When you find yourself walking down a bustling city sidewalk you probably stop realizing that the people around you are, well, people. Juan Mann, a code name no doubt, decided to see if he could remind people that they were within arms reach of one another. Mann walked down to a busy part of Sydney, in Australia, and he held a sign that read ‘FREE HUGS’ in big and blocky letters. Before long strangers were stopping one after another to exchange hugs and a smile with Mann. This experiment was eventually banned by the police but an online petition garnered thousands of signatures to get the practice back and allowed. Mann showed that we all could use a hug and a reminder that we are surrounded by people.
We’ve all heard of the concept of the Pavlovian Response, right? This name comes from the experiment done by a scientist, Pavlov, when he tested how much saliva came out of a dogs mouth when food was in front of them. He noticed that the dogs would salivate anytime they saw food so he decided to ring a bell when feeding them. Eventually he was able to ring the ball and conjure up a response from the dogs without putting any actual food out, thus conditioning them.
The Fun Theory – Piano Stairs.
All it takes for people to change how they behave is the addition of a little bit of fun, at least that’s what Volkswagen believes. Volkswagen decided to test out an experiment called The Fun Theory by turning a heavily trafficked stairwell into a real life, giant piano. Each stair would play a note when stepped on and the notes changed like a real piano. The stairs were set up next to an escalator that is normally jam packed with people. With the stairs decked out and making fun sounds more than 66% of people opted to skip the escalator and walk up the piano-stairs. This experiment showcased the basic fact that fun can change behavior. If Volkswagen had merely asked people to take the stairs, the healthier option, they would not have seen even close to that big of a change.
The Robbers Cave Experiment.
This experiment is a twist off of the old Lord of the Flies novel and it is a study in prejudice and group bonding. Two separate groups of 11 children were randomly selected and sent to a summer camp at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. For the first week of the camp the two groups didn’t know that the other existed. The kids in each group grew to like each other and get along. After a week the groups were introduced to one another and immediately showcased signs of hostility. Researchers created competitive events to see if that hostility could be further harbored, and it could. Eventually the researchers did teambuilding exercises where all 22 kids worked together and then their prejudices were eventually overcome.
Carlsberg Biker Experiment.
This experiment is as funny as it is judgmental. The Carlsberg Social Experiment involved seating 148 bikers in a 150 seat movie theater — leaving the last two seats open for unsuspecting couples who had no idea the experiment was going on. The majority of couples walked into the room, saw all of the bikers, and immediately decided to leave. Those that decided to sit down anyway were greeted with roaring applause and a cold beer. How judgmental would you be?
The Milgram Experiment.
How far would you be willing to go if you were just ‘following orders’? That’s the question that Stanley Milgram wanted to get answered. This experiment was conducted in 1961 at Yale University and it split subjects into two categories: teacher and learner. One person was sent into another room and the other was placed in front of a button that sent electric shocks to the ‘learner’. Milgram would actually play a recording of someone yelping in pain every time that the ‘teacher’ pressed the shock button. Milgram wanted to see how long people would push the button knowing full well that they were ‘hurting’ someone despite the fact that the other room was actually empty. As it turns out, people are willing to do almost anything if an authority figure tells them to.
The Missing Child Test.
This experiment is also pretty scary if you stop to really think about it. For this study scientists put a MISSING CHILD poster on the door of an active and busy store. The poster had a clear picture of the missing kid. The majority of folks barely glanced at the poster and some didn’t even do that. None of them realized that the missing child in the picture was actually standing right beside the flier. We are pretty oblivious when we are in a hurry, aren’t we?
The Little Albert Experiment.
In 1920 a scientist by the name of John B Watson decided to see if he could condition a child into having an unconditional fear. Yes, the experiment was completely unethical and would result in abuse charges nowadays. Watson would put a friendly white rat in front of the child and when he would do so a loud and scary sound would play. After awhile Watson could put the rat in front of the child and have the child immediately recoil in fear despite no sound being made. He proved quickly that humans could be conditioned to fear anything.
The 1939 Monster Study
Wendell Johnson was a researcher at the University of Iowa back in 1939. For this experiment he wanted to see if he could cure a stuttering problem in orphan children while simultaneously exacerbating the issue in a second group. For 11 orphans Johnson would give encouraging, loving feedback as they worked through their stutter. The other half of the children he would belittle, mock, and in general be mean to. The first half saw very real improvement in their stuttering problem while the second half all retained their issue, with many kids seeing their stutter worsen severely. The University of Iowa made a public apology for the study back in 2001.
The Stanford Prison Experiment.
This experiment is considered to be one of the most morally bankrupt and unethical experiments done by psychologist of all time. In this experiment, done back in 1971, a fake prison was created in the basement of a building at Stanford University. In this experiment 24 male test subjects were divided at random into roles of prisoners and guards for two weeks. The prison guard test subjects adjusted so quick and aggressively to their role that the experiment had to be canceled after six days due to abuse from the prison guards. This experiment showed that people will change their behavior in extreme circumstances of power.
The Bystander Effect
When something goes wrong you probably want to be near plenty of people so that you can get some help, right? Well, that actually might not be the case if the Bystander Effect holds true. Scientists did studies based around the psychological phenomenon known as the Bystander Effect. The Bystander Effect showcases the reality that people are more likely to help someone in need if they are the only ones around. When there are large crowds of people near someone in distress the same people assume that someone else will ‘deal with it’. There were also subsets of this study that showed how much social status played an impact on who received help and who was ignored during the studies.