Have you ever wondered why people act the way they do? It’s likely crossed your mind. While psychologists have pondered this question for a long time, much of what we know about the human mind has come from psychology experiments conducted within the last century. These experiments have been important to improving people’s lives. Unfortunately, some were not exactly ethical. From Asch’s Conformity Experiment to Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, the psychologists on this list have helped gather new information and provided insight into the otherwise chaotic trends in human thought and behavior. Here are 25 Mind Blowing Psychology Experiments!
The Bystander Effect
In case of an emergency, most people would probably want to be in a busy area so they have a higher chance of receiving help. Contrary to popular belief, being surrounded by people doesn’t guarantee anything. A psychological phenomenon called the Bystander Effect states that people are more likely to help someone in distress if there are few or no other witnesses. If there are more people around, one usually thinks someone else will stop to help. Scientists call this the diffusion of responsibility. The Bystander Effect was recently tested out on a busy London street and it turns out perceived social status plays a role in whether a person will receive help, but most people still continue on their way without stopping.
The Asch Conformity Experiment
The Asch Experiment is another famous example of the temptation to conform during group situations. This series of experiments conducted in the 1950’s placed one subject in a room full of actors. The person conducting the experiment held up an image with three numbered lines and asked each person in the room to identify the longest line. The actors purposely chose the incorrect line in order to determine whether the subject would answer honestly or simply go along with the group answer. The results once again showed that people tend to conform in group situations.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Considered to be one of the most unethical psychological experiments of all time, the Stanford Prison experiment studied the psychological effects a prison setting could have on behavior. In 1971, a mock prison was constructed in the basement of the psychology building of Stanford University and 24 male students were randomly selected to play the role of either a prisoner or prison guard for two weeks. The students adapted to their roles a little too well, becoming aggressive to the point of inflicting psychological torture. Even psychology professor Philip Zimbardo, who acted as superintendent of the experiment, proved susceptible to its effects by allowing the abuse to continue. The study was called off after only six days due to its intensity, but it proved that situations could provoke certain behaviors in spite of an individual’s natural tendencies.
The Bobo Doll Experiment
During the 1960’s, much debate arose about how genetics, environmental factors, or social learning shaped children’s development. Albert Bandura conducted the Bobo Doll Experiment in 1961 to prove that human behavior stemmed from social imitation rather than inherited genetic factors. He set up three groups: one was exposed to adults showing aggressive behavior towards a Bobo doll, another was exposed to a passive adult playing with the Bobo doll, and the third formed a control group. The results showed that children exposed to the aggressive model were more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior towards the doll themselves, while the other groups showed little imitative aggressive behavior.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? If not, you’ve probably been living under a rock. This famous experiment made the concept of the conditioned reflex widespread. Pavlov examined the rate of salivation among dogs when presented with food. He noticed the dogs would salivate upon seeing their food, so he began ringing a bell every time the food was presented to the dogs. Over time, the dogs began to associate the ringing of the bell with food and would salivate upon hearing the bell, demonstrating that reflexes can be learned.