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10 Psychological Experiments That Went Horribly Wrong
Transcript of 10 Psychological Experiments That Went Horribly Wrong
In 1963, in the wake of the atrocities of the Holocaust, Stanley Milgram set out to test the hypothesis that there was something essential about the German people that had allowed them to participate in genocide. Under the pretense of an experiment into human learning, Milgram asked normal members of the public to raise questions to a man attached to an electric-shock generator and shock him in expanding measure when he addressed incorrectly. The man was an actor, the shocks fake; but the participants didn’t know this. The terrifying part? People overwhelmingly obeyed the commands of the experimenter, even when the man screamed in apparent agony and begged for mercy. A little evil in all of us, perhaps?
Running along a similar theme similar to the Milgram experiment, The Third Wave, carried out in 1967, was an experiment that set out to explore the ways in which even democratic societies can become infiltrated by the appeal of fascism. Using a class of high school students, the experimenter created a system whereby some students were considered members of a prestigious order. The students showed rised motivation to learn, yet, more worryingly, became eager to get on board with malevolent practices, such as excluding and banishing non-members from the class. Even more scarily, this behavior was gleefully continued outside of the classroom. After just four days, the experiment was considered to be slipping out of control and was finished.
The Third Wave
In this study, conducted in 1939, 22 orphaned children, 10 with stutters, were separated equally into two groups: one with a speech therapist who conducted "positive" therapy by praising the children’s progress and fluency of speech; the other with a speech therapist who openly chastised the children for the slightest mistake. The results showed that the children who had received negative responses were badly affected in terms of their psychological health. Yet more bad news was to come as it was later revealed that some of the children who had previously been unaffected developed speech problems following the experiment. In 2007, six of the orphan children were awarded $925,000 in compensation for emotional damage that the six-month-study had left them with.
The Monster Study
In 1971, social psychologist Philip Zimbardo set out to examine the ways in which people conform to social roles, using a group of male college students to take part in a two-week-long experiment in which they would live as prisoners and guards in a mock prison. However, having selected his test subjects, Zimbardo assigned them their roles without their knowledge, unexpectedly arresting the "prisoners" outside their own homes. The results were disturbing. Ordinary college students turned into mercilessly sadistic guards or spineless (with jumping distraught) prisoners, becoming deeply enmeshed within the roles they were playing. After just six days, the distressing reality of this "prison" forced Zimbardo to prematurely end the experiment.
Stanford Prison Experiment
In 1966, when David Reimer was 8 months old, his circumcision was botched and he lost his penis to burns. Psychologist John Money suggested that baby David be given a Sex change. The parents agreed, but what they didn’t know was that Money secretly wanted to use David as part of an experiment to prove his views that gender identity was not inborn, but rather determined by nature and upbringing. David was renamed Brenda, surgically altered to have a vagina, and given hormonal supplements — but tragically the experiment backfired. "Brenda" acted like a stereotypical boy throughout childhood, and the Reimer family began to fall apart. At 14, Brenda was told the truth, and decided to go back to being David. He committed suicide at the age of 38.
1. David Reimer
2. Milgram Experiment
3. The Third Wave
4. The Monster Study
5. Stanford Prison Experiment
5 Psychological Experiments That Went Horribly Wrong