The 10 most disturbing psychological experiences in history

Today, national and international psychology associations have a code of ethical conduct that regulates the practices of psychological research.

Experimenters must adhere to various rules regarding confidentiality, informed consent, or charity. Review committees are responsible for the application of these rules.

The 10 Scariest Psychological Experiences

But these codes of conduct were not always so strict, and many experiments in the past could not have been carried out today to violate any of the fundamental principles. The following list compiles ten of the most famous and cruel behavioral science experiments.

10. Little Albert’s experience

At Johns Hopkins University in 1920, John B. Watson conducted a study on the classic packaging, A phenomenon that is associated with a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus until they produce the same result. In this type of conditioning, a response from a person or animal to an object or sound that was previously neutral can be created. Classic conditioning is usually associated with Ivan Pavlov, who would ring a bell whenever he fed his dog until the mere sound of the bell made his dog salivate.

Watson he tested the classic conditioning on a 9 month old baby he named Albert. Little Albert began to fly over the animals in the experiment, in particular a white rat. Watson began to match the rat’s presence with the loud sound of a metal hitting the hammer. Little Albert began to develop a fear of the white rat, as well as most furry animals and objects. The experience is today considered particularly immoral because Albert was never sensitive to the phobias that Watson produced in him. The child died of an unrelated illness when he was 6 years old, so doctors were unable to determine if his phobias would have persisted into adulthood.

9. Asch compliance experiences

Solomon Asch experimenting with conformity at Swarthmore University in 1951, placing a participant in a group of people, the task was to match the lengths of a series of lines. Each individual was to announce which of the three lines was closest to a reference line. The participant was placed in a group of actors who were told to give the correct answer twice and then switch to saying the incorrect answers. Asch wanted to see if the participant would comply and give the wrong answers knowing that if not, he would be the only one in the group giving the different answers.

Thirty-seven of the 50 participants agreed with the incorrect answers despite physical evidence other. Asch did not seek informed consent from participants, so today this experiment could not have been performed.

8. The spectator effect

Some psychological experiments designed to test the spectator effect are considered unethical by current standards. In 1968, John Darley and Bibb Latané they developed an interest in witnesses who did not react to the crimes. They were particularly intrigued by the murder of Kitty Genoves, a young woman many of whom witnessed the murder, but none prevented it.

The couple conducted a study at Columbia University in which they presented a survey to a participant and left him alone in a room for him to complete. Harmless smoke began to seep into the room after a short period of time. The study showed that the participant who was alone was much faster to report the smoke than the participants who had the same experience but were in a group.

In another study by Darley and Latane, subjects were left alone in a room and said they could communicate with other subjects through an intercom. In fact, they were just listening to a radio recording and had been told that his microphone would be turned off until it was his turn to speak. During the recording, one of the subjects suddenly pretends to have a seizure. The study showed that the time needed to inform the researcher varied inversely in terms of the number of subjects. In some cases, the researcher was never notified.

7. Milgram’s experience of obedience

Yale University psychologist Stanley milgram he wanted to better understand why so many people participated in such cruel acts that took place during the Nazi Holocaust. He theorized that people generally obey authority figures, which raised questions: “Could it be that Eichmann and his millions of Holocaust accomplices are only obeying orders? Or, could it be? we consider them as accomplices? ” In 1961, experiments in obedience began.

The participants thought they were part of a memory study. Each trial included a pair of individuals divided into “teacher and student”. One of the two was an actor, so there was only one real participant. The research has been manipulated so that the subject is always the “master”. The two were placed in separate rooms and the “master” received instructions (orders). He or she presses a button to penalize the student with an electric shock whenever he or she gives an incorrect answer. The power of these downloads would increase each time the subject made a mistake. The actor started to complain more and more as the study progressed to the point of screaming for the alleged pain. Milgram find that most of the participants complied with the orders by continuing to apply discharges despite the obvious suffering of the “learner”.

If the alleged shocks had existed, most of the subjects would have killed “the student”. Revealing this fact to participants after the study ends is a clear example of psychological harm. It cannot currently be carried out for this ethical reason.

  • Check out this experience in this article: “The Milgram Experiment: Crimes of Obedience to Authority”

6. Experiments with Harlow primates

In the 1950s, Harlow harlow, From the University of Wisconsin, researches children’s addiction with rhesus monkeys instead of human babies. He took the frog away from its real mother, who was replaced by two “mothers”, a cloth and a wire. The cloth “mother” served no more than her feeling of comfort, while the thread “mother” passed the frog into a bottle. The monkey spent most of its time on the cloth mother tape and only about an hour per day with the cable mother despite the association between the yarn pattern and the food.

Harlow also used bullying to prove that the monkey found the “mother” tissue as a major reference. He scared the monkey pups and watched the monkey run towards the fabric pattern. Harlow also conducted experiments where he isolated monkeys from other apes in order to show that those who did not learn to be part of the group at a young age, were unable to assimilate and mate when they grew up. Harlow’s experiments ceased in 1985 due to the APA’s rules against animal abuse as well as humans.

However, the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health recently began similar experiments involving the isolation of baby monkeys by exposing them to frightening stimuli. They hope to uncover data on human anxiety, but find resistance from animal welfare organizations and the general public.

5. Learned helplessness, by Seligman

The ethics of experiments Martin seligman on learned helplessness would also be called into question today for his animal abuse. In 1965, Seligman and his team used dogs as subjects to test how control could be perceived. The group placed a dog on one side of a box that has been divided in half by a low barrier. They then administered a shock that was preventable if the dog jumped over the fence to the other half. Dogs quickly learned to avoid electric shocks.

Seligman’s group had grabbed a group of dogs and handled them downloads that could not be avoided. Then placing them in the box and reapplying downloads to them, the dogs didn’t try to jump the barrier, they just cried. This experiment demonstrates learned helplessness, as well as other framed experiments in social psychology in humans.

4. The Sheriff’s Cave Experience, by Sherif

Sheriff Muzafer conducted the Thieves’ Cave experiment in the summer of 1954, achieving group dynamics in the heat of conflict. A group of pre-teen children were taken to a summer camp, but were unaware that the monitors were in fact the researchers. The children were divided into two groups, which were separated. Groups only came into contact when they were participating in sporting events or other activities.

The experimenters orchestrated the increase of tension between the two groups, In particular maintain the conflict. Sherif created problems such as water scarcity, which would require cooperation between the two teams, and forced them to work together to achieve a goal. In the end, the groups were no longer separated and the attitude between them was friendly.

While the psychological experiment seems simple and possibly harmless, today it would be considered unethical because Sherif used deception because the boys didn’t know they were participating in a psychological experiment. Sherif also ignored the informed consent of participants.

3. The study of the monster

At the University of Iowa in 1939, Wendell johnson and his team hoped to uncover the cause of the stuttering by trying to turn orphans into stutterers. There were 22 young subjects, 12 of whom were not stutterers. Half of the group experienced positive teaching, while the other group was treated with negative reinforcement. The teachers continually told the last group that they were stutterers. No one in any of the groups stuttered at the end of the experiment, however those who received negative treatment developed many self-esteem issues that stutterers usually show.

Johnson’s interest in this phenomenon may be related to his own stutter as a childBut this study would never pass the evaluation of a review panel.

2. Blue-eyed students and brown-eyed students

Jane elliot she was not a psychologist, but developed one of the most controversial exercises in 1968 by dividing the students into a group of blue eyes and a group of brown eyes. Elliott was an elementary school teacher in Iowa and tried to give her students a hands-on experience of discrimination the next day. Martin Luther King jr.. was murdered. This exercise is still important to current psychology and has transformed Elliott’s career into one focused on diversity training.

After dividing the class into groups, Elliott would quote that scientific research has shown that one group is superior to the other. Throughout the day, the group would be treated as such. Elliott realized that a single day would be enough for the “upper” group to become more cruel and the “lower” group more uncertain. The groups then changed so that all students suffered the same injuries.

Elliott’s experiment (which he repeated in 1969 and 1970) received a lot of criticism given the negative consequences for students’ self-esteem, and why it could not be redone today. The main ethical concerns are said to be deception and informed consent, although some of the original participants still see the experience as a change in their lives.

1. The Stanford Prison Experience

In 1971, Philippe Zimbardo, From Stanford University, conducted his famous prison experiment, which aimed to examine group behavior and the importance of roles. Zimbardo and his team chose a group of 24 male students, considered “in good health”, both physically and psychologically. The men had signed up to participate in a “psychological study of prison life”, so they were paid $ 15 per day. Half were randomly assigned prisoners and the other half were prison guards. The experiment was conducted in the basement of Stanford’s psychology department, where Zimbardo’s team had set up a makeshift prison. The experimenters worked hard to create a realistic experience for the prisoners, including bogus arrests at the participants’ homes.

The inmates were given a fairly standard introduction to prison life, rather than a compromised uniform. The guards were given vague instructions that they should never be violent with the prisoners, but they should remain in control. The first day passed without incident, but the prisoners rebelled on the second day with barricades in their cells and ignoring the guards. This behavior surprised the guards and supposedly leads to psychological violence that erupted in the days that followed. The guards began to separate the “good” and the “bad” prisoners and inflicted punishments that included push-ups, isolation and public humiliation on the rebel prisoners.

Zimbardo explained, “Within days the guards became sadistic and the inmates became depressed and showed signs of acute stress.” Two prisoners abandoned the experiment; one eventually became a psychologist and consultant in prison. The experiment, which was originally scheduled to last two weeks, ended prematurely when Zimbardo’s future wife, psychologist Christina Maslach, visited the experiment on the fifth day and said, “I think it is. terrible what you do to these guys. “

Despite the unethical experience, Zimbardo is still a working psychologist today. He was even honored by the American Psychological Association with a gold medal in 2012 for his career in the science of psychology.

  • Read more about Zimbardo’s investigation in: “The Stanford Prison Experience”

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