The Little Albert experiment is like the human equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs. Probably one of the most unethical psychological studies of all time, this experiment conducted in 1920 by John B. Watson and his partner Rosalie Rayner at Johns Hopkins University conditioned a nine-month-old boy to develop irrational fears. Watson began by placing a white rat in front of the infant, who showed no fear at first. He then produced a loud sound by striking a steel bar with a hammer every time little Albert touched the rat. After a while, the boy began to cry and exhibit signs of fear every time the rat appeared in the room. Watson also created similar conditioned reflexes with other common animals and objects until Albert feared them all, proving that classical conditioning works on humans.
Carlsberg Social Experiment
Carlsberg Social ExperimentIn this hilarious advertisement turned social experiment, unsuspecting couples walked into a 150-seat movie theater filled with 148 badass bikers and discovered that the only two empty seats were smack-dab in the middle. Some of the couples exited the theater to avoid having to shuffle past the bikers, but those who stayed were rewarded with Carlsberg beers and a whole lot of cheering. What would you do in that situation? Would you leave knowing your life would still be intact or trek your way to the middle of the theater and risk offending one of those intimidating guys? Just another reason why people shouldn’t judge based on appearances.
“Missing Child” Experiment
People often fail to notice their surroundings, an idea that was put to the test during a missing child experiment. A flier with information and a picture about a “missing child” was posted on the doors of a busy store. Some people stopped to study the flier while others merely glanced at it or didn’t look at all. What all of these people had in common that they were completely oblivious of the fact that the boy on the flier was standing right in front of the store. This experiment demonstrates that humans tend to overlook a lot of the things around them.
A Class Divided
Inspired by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., third grade teacher Jane Elliott created an exercise in 1968 to help her white students understand the effects of racism. Elliott divided her class into two groups: blue-eyed students and brown-eyed students. On the first day, she designated the blue-eyed children as the superior group and gave them extra privileges, while the brown-eyed children represented the minority group. She discouraged the two groups from interacting and singled out students to emphasize the negative aspects of those in the minority group. She noticed immediate changes in the behavior of the children. Blue-eyed students performed better academically and some began bullying their brown-eyed classmates, while brown-eyed students experienced lower self-confidence and worse academic performance. The next day, she reversed the roles of the two groups and the blue-eyed students became the minority group. At the end of the exercise, the children were so happy they embraced one another and agreed that people shouldn’t be judged based on outward appearances.
You can thank Harry Harlow for the amount of affection you received as a child. In a series of controversial experiments during the 1960s, he revealed the importance of a mother’s love for healthy childhood development. Harlow separated rhesus monkeys from their mothers a few hours after birth and left them to be “raised” by two surrogate mothers. One mother was made of wire with an attached bottle for food; the other was made of soft terrycloth but lacked food. Interestingly, the baby monkeys spent much more time with the cloth mother than the wire mother, thus proving that affection plays a greater role than sustenance when it comes to childhood development.