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(Mental Floss)   10 famous psychological experiments that could never take place today   (mentalfloss.com) divider line 97
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15108 clicks; posted to Main » on 23 Sep 2013 at 9:37 AM (48 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-09-23 08:41:18 AM
A long long time ago I read about an experiment, and now I'm not sure if it's something real, or if I am remembering something, or everything, wrong.

There was a king, perhaps a Holy Roman Emperor, perhaps maybe just an eastern grand-duke or some-such. He wondered "what would a child say if it was never exposed to communications or language". Seeking to find the basic human language that would occur naturally in a person raised with no other form of communication he locked a baby up in a dungeon. It died.

I would like to know what would happen. Anyone got a new born infant they don't need?
 
2013-09-23 08:41:43 AM
Pretty sure the Asch experiments could be done today, provided you debriefed the subjects afterwards.  You can use deception in experiments, you just need to justify it to the IRB and have them on board.  And generally, the less harm done by the deception, the more likely it is to be acceptable.

/social psych grad student
 
2013-09-23 08:43:21 AM
I remeber learning about the Harlow and Milgram ones in college. Farked up.
 
2013-09-23 09:12:51 AM

vernonFL: I remeber learning about the Harlow and Milgram ones in college. Farked up.


And the Stanford experiment.  FTFA:  Despite the unethical experiment, Zimbardo still a working psychologist today.

Unethical?!?  Holy hell, the Stanford experiment is played out on a daily basis by LEOs all over the world!  We wouldn't even begin to understand this dynamic without the "unethical" Stanford experiment.
 
2013-09-23 09:42:45 AM
The Stanford Prison Experiment couldn't be done today not so much because of what it was but because it was a bad science.
 
2013-09-23 09:44:30 AM
Aren't most of those completely possible today, seems it's juts a matter of paperwork.
 
2013-09-23 09:49:38 AM

RodneyToady: Pretty sure the Asch experiments could be done today, provided you debriefed the subjects afterwards.  You can use deception in experiments, you just need to justify it to the IRB and have them on board.  And generally, the less harm done by the deception, the more likely it is to be acceptable.

/social psych grad student


I wondered, because sometimes it doesn't seem possible to have a decent psychological experiment in some cases if the participants are fully aware of what is being studied. I'd think true informed consent could potentially skew the results. That would be why the IRB would want to crawl up the ass of the researcher to make sure somebody is thinking things all the way through.

If the participants know what behaviors are being tested then it is potentially possible for them to skew the results, and there's no longer any point to the experiment if that is happening.
 
2013-09-23 09:50:41 AM
I fail to understand what was unethical about the prison experiment. There was no deception and a clear understanding that the 'guards' were not to be violent with the 'prisoners'.  They all knew it was a test.  Just because it was hard to on them doesn't mean it was wrong.
 
2013-09-23 09:59:23 AM

Egoy3k: I fail to understand what was unethical about the prison experiment. There was no deception and a clear understanding that the 'guards' were not to be violent with the 'prisoners'.  They all knew it was a test.  Just because it was hard to on them doesn't mean it was wrong.


Thing is almost everyone gets it wrong.
 
2013-09-23 09:59:30 AM
The Milgram experiment has been done loads in recent TV - Derren Brown did it for one of his shows... just search YouTube. So not really sure what the article is on about.
 
2013-09-23 10:00:07 AM
David Reimer.

Poor bastard.
 
2013-09-23 10:00:43 AM
i1.ytimg.com

"It's just really not your day!"
Bzzzzzzzz
"Aaaargh!!!"

/chortle
 
2013-09-23 10:03:52 AM
"Candid Camera" would appear to have more negative impacts on the test subjects than most of the experiments in this list.
 
2013-09-23 10:04:28 AM
In other news, psychologists are dicks.
 
2013-09-23 10:08:49 AM
Slaxl:
I would like to know what would happen. Anyone got a new born infant they don't need?

simpsons did it:

Monroe: It's a special isolation chamber. The subject pulls levers to receive food and water. The floor can become electrified, and showers of icy water randomly fall on the subject. I call it... The Monroe Box!
Grampa: Uh huh. Sounds interesting. How much will it cost to build?
Monroe: Oh, that's the beauty part! It's already built! I need the money to buy a baby to raise in the box until the age of thirty.
Grampa: What are you trying to prove?
Monroe: Well, my theory is that the subject will be socially maladjusted and will harbor a deep resentment towards me.

images.wikia.com
 
2013-09-23 10:09:46 AM
They missed one, and I wish I could remember the name. Two randomly selected elementary school classes. One was told that they had been selected for the advanced class because they were highly intelligent. The work would be very challenging, but they were up to the task and would be expected to perform well. The other class was told that they were placed in the class for slow learners, and because of that, would find the work very difficult. The curriculum for the classes was exactly the same.

Not only did the "advanced" class outperform the "slow" class that year, but the differences followed the children into adulthood. For the rest of their academic careers, the "smart" kids performed at the top of their classes, but the "dumb" kids underperformed. The slow class reported self esteem issues into adulthood, were less likely to go to college, settled for lower paying jobs, etc.
 
2013-09-23 10:22:10 AM
I remember learning about Milgram in Psych (my first ever college course).  Then I went with a friend one day to his JC Psych class and guess which experiment they were covering...  I got so many odd looks when I knew what the end result would be of "nearly everyone did what they were told".  The younglings looked at me like I was some kind of psychopath for thinking that.
 
2013-09-23 10:25:39 AM

RodneyToady: Pretty sure the Asch experiments could be done today, provided you debriefed the subjects afterwards.  You can use deception in experiments, you just need to justify it to the IRB and have them on board.  And generally, the less harm done by the deception, the more likely it is to be acceptable.

/social psych grad student


Yeah, when I read that description, I was "Well, you *HAVE* to deceive the subjects to accurately test their reactions in this case", and it didn't seem like there would be any significant harm in the deception.  Seems to me, like you said, if you debrief the subjects afterwards as to the true nature of the experiment, no harm done.
 
2013-09-23 10:27:26 AM
Wasn't learned helplessness well known at the time?  Circuses used to use heavy chains around the legs of juvenile elephants then eventually switched to rope when the elephants got older.  The elephants could have easily broken free but didn't even try since they still thought it was unbreakable.
 
2013-09-23 10:32:40 AM

bonno: The Milgram experiment has been done loads in recent TV - Derren Brown did it for one of his shows... just search YouTube. So not really sure what the article is on about.


TV illusionists don't exactly require ethics board clearance, nor peer review.
 
2013-09-23 10:33:02 AM
I'm a social psychologist, so I'm really getting a kick... sorry, conditioned reflex. I also wrote my college's research ethics policy and am currently Chair of our IRB.

I agree with RodneyToady. The Asch study could still be done after some jumping through IRB hoops. It could depend on how anal the IRB members are. Part of the problem is that too many IRBs give disproportionate power to lawyers (ideally there should be at least one on the board), resulting in an excessive CYA factor. Instead of asking "is this ethically acceptable?", they ask "is there the slightest chance that someone might even think about suing us?". This caused me considerable trouble back when I was a lowly grad student (RodneyToady might like this one: I actually had to deal with an IRB member who was convinced that the terror management theory mortality salience manipulation was going to make a participant commit suicide. Even showing him a review of over 200 TMT studies, AND an email from one of the creators of TMT, wasn't enough, because "what if we're the first"). Pretty sure most of the bystander effect stuff could still pass muster as well, with certain safeguards and debriefing in place.

Seligman's learned helplessness research also could still be done, even though Seligman himself discontinued that line of research because he felt personally uncomfortable with it. The use of aversive stimuli on animals is ethically acceptable, but only if you can demonstrate that the potential benefits to society outweigh the subjects' discomfort. In this case, Seligman's research led to the creation of a powerful and widely-used cognitive treatment for depression, which further led to his work on resiliency and learned optimism, which was a major foundation stone of the positive psychology movement.

And the author's jabs about how, "despite" the studies listed, some of these people are honored and/or still employed, are utter BS. Zimbardo, for example, had no way of knowing that things were going to get that out of control (he predicted that he'd get a very mild effect at best), and he stopped his prison study precisely because he realized part-way through that he was doing harm. Further, he's dedicated his career after that to undoing the effects he observed by studying how people can stand up for their principles in the face of social pressure, advocating for prison reform, and testifying against the "just a few bad apples" argument in the Abu Ghraib scandal. That's a good thing, not a bad thing.

I'll stop now before this wall of text gets any more wallier.
 
2013-09-23 10:33:17 AM

Precision Boobery: Wasn't learned helplessness well known at the time?  Circuses used to use heavy chains around the legs of juvenile elephants then eventually switched to rope when the elephants got older.  The elephants could have easily broken free but didn't even try since they still thought it was unbreakable.


I do the same thing with my kids.
 
2013-09-23 10:36:13 AM

dittybopper: RodneyToady: Pretty sure the Asch experiments could be done today, provided you debriefed the subjects afterwards.  You can use deception in experiments, you just need to justify it to the IRB and have them on board.  And generally, the less harm done by the deception, the more likely it is to be acceptable.

/social psych grad student

Yeah, when I read that description, I was "Well, you *HAVE* to deceive the subjects to accurately test their reactions in this case", and it didn't seem like there would be any significant harm in the deception.  Seems to me, like you said, if you debrief the subjects afterwards as to the true nature of the experiment, no harm done.


Can't you make up some explanation about testing for visual judgement during repetitive activities or some crap like that? I remember volunteering (and making $5 at a time) for psychology experiments in college. They always used deception in order to test for something. It's not immoral deception. Just that if you know the purpose of the experiment then you probably will adjust your behavior. Asch's experiment could easily be done today.
 
2013-09-23 10:36:58 AM
Oh sure, Little Albert gets all the publicity. What about the Little Tyrone experiment?
 
2013-09-23 10:39:08 AM

namegoeshere: They missed one, and I wish I could remember the name. Two randomly selected elementary school classes. One was told that they had been selected for the advanced class because they were highly intelligent. The work would be very challenging, but they were up to the task and would be expected to perform well. The other class was told that they were placed in the class for slow learners, and because of that, would find the work very difficult. The curriculum for the classes was exactly the same.

Not only did the "advanced" class outperform the "slow" class that year, but the differences followed the children into adulthood. For the rest of their academic careers, the "smart" kids performed at the top of their classes, but the "dumb" kids underperformed. The slow class reported self esteem issues into adulthood, were less likely to go to college, settled for lower paying jobs, etc.


...and that little boy grew up to be George W Bush.

And now you know... The REST of the story.

Good DAY
 
2013-09-23 10:39:39 AM
FTA Asch used deception in his experiment without getting informed consent from his participants, so his study could not be replicated today.

BS of course you could. I used deception without consent in my thesis on anxiety and it was approved by the ethics board.
 
2013-09-23 10:42:29 AM

Slaxl: A long long time ago I read about an experiment, and now I'm not sure if it's something real, or if I am remembering something, or everything, wrong.

There was a king, perhaps a Holy Roman Emperor, perhaps maybe just an eastern grand-duke or some-such. He wondered "what would a child say if it was never exposed to communications or language". Seeking to find the basic human language that would occur naturally in a person raised with no other form of communication he locked a baby up in a dungeon. It died.

I would like to know what would happen. Anyone got a new born infant they don't need?


His first word will be "ba," indicating Chaldean is the first language.
 
2013-09-23 10:44:06 AM

Precision Boobery: Wasn't learned helplessness well known at the time?  Circuses used to use heavy chains around the legs of juvenile elephants then eventually switched to rope when the elephants got older.  The elephants could have easily broken free but didn't even try since they still thought it was unbreakable.


Learned helplessness was revolutionary because, at the time, mainstream psychology was firmly in the grip of behaviorism, which denied that mental phenomena are important. According to this school of thought, you don't learn concepts, you learn behavior patterns, so Seligman had been told to his face that it's unscientific crap to try and show that a dog can learn that it is helpless, because helplessness is a concept. It was researchers like Seligman and Al Bandura (social learning theory guy), who used the behaviorists' methods, terminology, and designs, to show demonstrable mental phenomena, that led to the crumbling of the behaviourist edifice and the rise of cognitive psychology.
 
2013-09-23 10:44:15 AM
10 famous psychological experiments that could never take place today

This is why we all need to vote Republican and get rid of these burdensome regulations.
 
2013-09-23 10:46:38 AM
"The child died of an unrelated illness ..."
Or so they would have us believe.
 
2013-09-23 10:48:26 AM
Try to remake 'Blazing Saddles' today
Peoples' skins just a liiiittle too thin....
 
2013-09-23 10:51:38 AM

sbchamp: Try to remake 'Blazing Saddles' today
Peoples' skins just a liiiittle too thin....


It will happen in Fark Slideshows, available April 1, 2014.
 
2013-09-23 10:55:27 AM

Son of Thunder: Precision Boobery: Wasn't learned helplessness well known at the time?  Circuses used to use heavy chains around the legs of juvenile elephants then eventually switched to rope when the elephants got older.  The elephants could have easily broken free but didn't even try since they still thought it was unbreakable.

Learned helplessness was revolutionary because, at the time, mainstream psychology was firmly in the grip of behaviorism, which denied that mental phenomena are important. According to this school of thought, you don't learn concepts, you learn behavior patterns, so Seligman had been told to his face that it's unscientific crap to try and show that a dog can learn that it is helpless, because helplessness is a concept. It was researchers like Seligman and Al Bandura (social learning theory guy), who used the behaviorists' methods, terminology, and designs, to show demonstrable mental phenomena, that led to the crumbling of the behaviourist edifice and the rise of cognitive psychology.


That and Miller-Mowrer two factor theory of fear conditioning. When it became apparent you couldn't explain the behaviors without positing an internal mental state.

I kind of felt a bit sorry for Skinner because his stuff was pretty smart and pretty important; however he also lived long enough to discover that his entire academic life he had been irredeemably wrong.
 
2013-09-23 10:59:06 AM
"Let's see what happens when we take away the puppy"
 
2013-09-23 10:59:08 AM
 intrigued by the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman whose murder was witnessed by many, but still not prevented.

Oh, FFS, that's been debunked.
 
2013-09-23 10:59:48 AM

Slaxl: A long long time ago I read about an experiment, and now I'm not sure if it's something real, or if I am remembering something, or everything, wrong.

There was a king, perhaps a Holy Roman Emperor, perhaps maybe just an eastern grand-duke or some-such. He wondered "what would a child say if it was never exposed to communications or language". Seeking to find the basic human language that would occur naturally in a person raised with no other form of communication he locked a baby up in a dungeon. It died.

I would like to know what would happen. Anyone got a new born infant they don't need?


IIRC, they found out what happened at one point.  Not intentionally though.

Basically, there is a critical period in early childhood where verbal communication MUST be learned.  If children don't learn at least rudimentary verbal communication by an indefinite point in childhood, the never really will be able to.  Basically the concept of spoken language must be acquired by the brain in a certain phase of development or it will be extremely hard or outright impossible to pick up later at all.  I think they found it out through experiences with children who were born deaf but got hearing later in life (cochlear implants), so they could never hear verbal language until adulthood.

Wish I could find the source for it right offhand, but I figure if I spent a while crawling through teh googles this thread would be mostly over by the time I could find it.
 
2013-09-23 11:03:46 AM

Son of Thunder: "The use of aversive stimuli on animals is ethically acceptable, but only if you can demonstrate that the potential benefits to society outweigh the subjects' discomfort. In this case, Seligman's research led to the creation of a powerful and widely-used cognitive treatment for depression, which further led to his work on resiliency and learned optimism, which was a major foundation stone of the positive psychology movement."



You don't see the logic flaw here? Under today's rules, how the hell could he "demonstrate" that the benefits to society outweigh the subjects' discomfort when those benefits don't become manifest until years after his study is performed, and in ways he couldn't have possibly predicted (or even if he could, certainly not with convincing certainty)?
 
2013-09-23 11:05:02 AM

dj_bigbird: intrigued by the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman whose murder was witnessed by many, but still not prevented.

Oh, FFS, that's been debunked.


She's alive?
 
2013-09-23 11:10:40 AM

Silverstaff: Slaxl: A long long time ago I read about an experiment, and now I'm not sure if it's something real, or if I am remembering something, or everything, wrong.

There was a king, perhaps a Holy Roman Emperor, perhaps maybe just an eastern grand-duke or some-such. He wondered "what would a child say if it was never exposed to communications or language". Seeking to find the basic human language that would occur naturally in a person raised with no other form of communication he locked a baby up in a dungeon. It died.

I would like to know what would happen. Anyone got a new born infant they don't need?

IIRC, they found out what happened at one point.  Not intentionally though.

Basically, there is a critical period in early childhood where verbal communication MUST be learned.  If children don't learn at least rudimentary verbal communication by an indefinite point in childhood, the never really will be able to.  Basically the concept of spoken language must be acquired by the brain in a certain phase of development or it will be extremely hard or outright impossible to pick up later at all.  I think they found it out through experiences with children who were born deaf but got hearing later in life (cochlear implants), so they could never hear verbal language until adulthood.

Wish I could find the source for it right offhand, but I figure if I spent a while crawling through teh googles this thread would be mostly over by the time I could find it.


The experiment I heard about in college was Russian. However, I found the Snopes conversation on some of that info and it was probably the Romanian research instead.
 
2013-09-23 11:12:24 AM
i128.photobucket.com
 
2013-09-23 11:13:03 AM
I don't think that the prison experiment was unethical, it was just that the results were so shocking. As for the summer camp experiment didn't the researchers have the parent's permission? Why would you need the kids' permission?
 
2013-09-23 11:13:27 AM
Silverstaff:
Basically, there is a critical period in early childhood where verbal communication MUST be learned.  If children don't learn at least rudimentary verbal communication by an indefinite point in childhood, the never really will be able to.  Basically the concept of spoken language must be acquired by the brain in a certain phase of development or it will be extremely hard or outright impossible to pick up later at all.  I think they found it out through experiences with children who were born deaf but got hearing later in life (cochlear implants), so they could never hear verbal language until adulthood.

There have also been a few severe child abuse/neglect cases over the years that have demonstrated the outcome, iirc.  As I recall they never really develop much past the point-and-grunt, basic signs and signals level, no matter how much you work with them.
 
2013-09-23 11:14:11 AM

Slaxl: A long long time ago I read about an experiment, and now I'm not sure if it's something real, or if I am remembering something, or everything, wrong.

There was a king, perhaps a Holy Roman Emperor, perhaps maybe just an eastern grand-duke or some-such. He wondered "what would a child say if it was never exposed to communications or language". Seeking to find the basic human language that would occur naturally in a person raised with no other form of communication he locked a baby up in a dungeon. It died.


That story was told by Herodotus (the same fellow who brought you the story of the 300 Spartans).  It was an Egyptian Pharaoh who did the experiment; the child was not locked in a dungeon but was kept isolated in a hut, and the first word the kid uttered sounded like a Phyrgian word, and the kid didn't die, he was presented to the Pharaoh.

Read all about it.
 
2013-09-23 11:20:19 AM

spmkk: Son of Thunder: "The use of aversive stimuli on animals is ethically acceptable, but only if you can demonstrate that the potential benefits to society outweigh the subjects' discomfort. In this case, Seligman's research led to the creation of a powerful and widely-used cognitive treatment for depression, which further led to his work on resiliency and learned optimism, which was a major foundation stone of the positive psychology movement."


You don't see the logic flaw here? Under today's rules, how the hell could he "demonstrate" that the benefits to society outweigh the subjects' discomfort when those benefits don't become manifest until years after his study is performed, and in ways he couldn't have possibly predicted (or even if he could, certainly not with convincing certainty)?


That's why I said "potential benefits". Of course we don't know the future. Maybe I should have said "convincingly argue that the potential benefits..." instead of "demonstrate". I've been dealing with a crying 4-month-old while posting, so my use of language is not as precise as it could be.
 
2013-09-23 11:22:15 AM

Tigger: dj_bigbird: intrigued by the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman whose murder was witnessed by many, but still not prevented.

Oh, FFS, that's been debunked.

She's alive?


The degree of bystander nonintervention was exaggerated by reporters.
 
2013-09-23 11:22:24 AM
10 famous psychological experiments that could never take place today are often quoted anecdotaly as proof of wilder claims, which are projected to populations they don't represent and which have all been brought into question by modern research.

FTFY
 
2013-09-23 11:28:32 AM

Tigger: dj_bigbird: intrigued by the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman whose murder was witnessed by many, but still not prevented.

Oh, FFS, that's been debunked.

She's alive?


No, the "witnessed by many, but still not prevented" BS.
 
2013-09-23 11:28:49 AM

Son of Thunder: Tigger: dj_bigbird: intrigued by the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman whose murder was witnessed by many, but still not prevented.

Oh, FFS, that's been debunked.

She's alive?

The degree of bystander nonintervention was exaggerated by reporters.


Wait, you're telling me that the media misreports things?

I'm *SHOCKED*.
 
2013-09-23 11:31:32 AM
Hey, Psych majors, is there a clinical terminology for trolling?
Maybe the article writer is afflicted.
 
2013-09-23 11:34:47 AM
In some ways, life is one huge psychological experiment, done mostly outside the world of academia. Hard to argue that the Mount Washington McDonald's incident wasn't a really farked up psychological experiment, even if the instigator didn't think of it that way. Or the way your SO presses your buttons to get you to do something and make you think it was your idea.
 
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