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7 Famous Psychology Experiments.

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  • Wednesday, 04 Jan, 2023
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7 Famous Psychology Experiments

We owe much of what we know about human psychology to a number of well-known experiments that have been conducted on humans. The importance of their results, even though some of the experiments themselves could not be reproduced today because they crossed ethical lines, remains unabated. Greater understanding of depression and its symptoms, the role of associative learning in the acquisition of new behaviours, and the tendency of individuals to adhere to the norms of their peers are just a few of the significant discoveries that have resulted from these studies.

Seven landmark experiments in the area of psychology and our knowledge of human nature are discussed here.

The Little Albert Experiment, 1920

Dr. John B. Watson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and his graduate student intended to conduct an experiment on the learning method known as classical conditioning. Dr. Watson believed classical conditioning to be the foundation of human psychology since it allows for the acquisition of habits and routines without conscious effort.

Dr. Watson and Rosalia Rayner conducted an experiment with a nine-month-old baby they named "Albert B." Initially, Albert showed signs of happiness and love as he interacted with white fluffy things. While time progressed, Dr. Watson would hide loud noises behind the boy's head as he played with the items to scare him. Albert's fear of white fuzzy items was conditioned over many repetitions.

Many psychologists think that irrational phobias may have their origins in early life experiences, and this research provides evidence that individuals may be conditioned to appreciate or fear something.

Stanford Prison Experiment, 1971

Philip Zimbardo, a professor at Stanford, was interested in people's propensities to fit stereotypes. For instance, he pondered what factored more into the difficult interaction between prison guards and inmates: the individuals involved or the institutional setting.

Twenty-four male college students participated in Zimbardo's EXPERIMENT, with each participant randomly allocated to one of two roles: prisoner or guard. The inmates were housed in what amounted to a makeshift jail in the basement of Stanford University's Psychology Department. The routine booking procedure was meant to make each passenger feel like a number. The guards worked eight-hour shifts and were instructed to treat the inmates as they would any other citizens.

Zimbardo concluded that after just six days, the experiment proved too risky to continue since both the guards and the convicts had thoroughly acclimated to their roles. Although trained as a psychologist, Zimbardo said he started to see himself more as a police superintendent. The results of the research showed that individuals do act in accordance with the social roles they are supposed to perform, even when those roles are unduly stereotypical, like that of prison guards.

“We discovered how regular individuals may be effortlessly converted from the nice Dr. Jekyll to the villainous Mr. Hyde,” Zimbardo wrote.

The Asch Conformity Study, 1951

Polish-American social scientist Solomon Asch was intent on testing the hypothesis that individuals would go along with a group's choice even if they knew it was wrong. The American Psychological Association defines conformity as "the process through which an individual modifies his or her beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviours to conform more closely to the beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviours that are often associated with a certain social group or environment."

Specifically, Asch chose 50 male college students to take a "vision test" as part of his EXPERIMENT. One would have to examine two cards and choose the one with the longest line. The participants in the experiment, however, were unaware that their fellow test-takers were actors reading from scripts, and thus they sometimes chose the incorrect answer on purpose. Over the course of 12 trials, Asch observed that approximately one-third of the naïve individuals conformed with the erroneous majority and only 25% never conformed with the false majority. Less than one percent of people in the control group, which consisted just of participants and no actors, ever picked the incorrect answer.

Individuals will comply to the group's norms (normative influence) if they think their peers are more knowledgeable than they are, as shown by Asch's experiment. This explains why some individuals, even if it goes against their previous conduct or views, change when they join a new group or social situation.

The Bobo Doll Experiment, 1961, 1963

SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY was something that Stanford University professor Albert Bandura aspired to put into practise. "Through direct experience or by witnessing the conduct of others," SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY states, "people may learn new behaviours." Bandura and his colleagues investigated whether or not toddlers would mimic aggressive behaviour they saw using a BOBO DOLL, an inflatable toy in the form of a life-size bowling pin.

Bandura and his coworkers chose three groups of 24 children, each including 12 boys and 12 girls, from the nursery at Stanford University. One section saw grownups treat a Bobo doll with hostility. Adult participants were seen in some instances smashing the doll with a hammer or tossing it into the air. A third group saw an adult interacting gently with the Bobo doll, while a fourth group saw nothing but the doll itself.

Children were observed in a toy area after each session to determine whether their play habits changed. Bandura and his colleagues found that toddlers who witnessed violent people were more likely to repeat the aggressive reactions themselves when placed in a room containing aggressive toys (a mallet, dart guns, and a Bobo doll) and non-aggressive toys (a tea set, crayons, and plastic farm animals).

Bandura observed, rather surprisingly, that female children responded more aggressively physically after viewing a male subject and more aggressively verbally after watching a female subject. The study's findings shed insight on how kids pick up social norms from their peers.

The Learned Helplessness Experiment, 1965

Dr. John B. Watson's work on classical conditioning piqued Martin Seligman's interest, but he wanted to look at it from a different perspective. Seligman made a KEY OBSERVATION in his research on conditioning with dogs: individuals who had been conditioned to anticipate a mild electric shock if they heard a bell often gave up after experiencing a second negative result, rather than continuing to look for the good one.

Animals, under normal conditions, will always endeavour to avoid undesirable results. Seligman found that even unconditioned animals actively sought for the best possible result in his experiment. Conversely, the conditioned dogs expected another negative reaction even when presented with a novel setting.

The conditioned dogs' actions inspired a new concept, "learned helplessness," which describes the reluctance of some people to make an effort to change a bad circumstance because they have been conditioned to feel they can't. The results provide new information on the causes and manifestations of depression in people.

The Milgram Experiment, 1963

After seeing the Nazis' horrors during World War II, Stanley Milgram wanted to see how far people would submit to power. The lecturer from Yale was interested in seeing whether students would follow orders that directly went against their morals.

Forty men between the ages of 20 and 50 took part in the abridged STUDY, and they were evenly divided into two groups: students and instructors. Even though it seemed to be at random, actors were always cast as the students, and the unknowing participants were always cast as the instructors. While the experimenter äó another actor äó and the instructor walked into another room, the student was strapped onto a chair with electrodes.

The instructor and student reviewed a list of word pairings that the student was to commit to memory. As soon as the student got a pair of words wrong, the instructor would give them a jolt. According to the educator, the shocks' intensity varied widely, from moderate to deadly. The student, who was making deliberate errors, was not, in fact, experiencing any kind of electric shock.

Some educators bowed out of the trial when the shocks' voltage grew and the instructors reported feeling discomfort from them. After the researcher prodded them again, 65% started back up again. Based on the results, Milgram proposed the AGENCY THEORY, which states that individuals let authority figures to lead their behaviour because they trust that the authority figure is competent and would take responsibility for the results. To understand why individuals may take part in atrocities like war and genocide while having moral qualms about it, we should look to the results of Milgram's experiments.

The Halo Effect Experiment, 1977

RICHARD NISBETT and TIMOTHY WILSON, two academics at the University of Michigan, were curious in revisiting a research from 50 years before on the idea of the HALO EFFECT. For his dissertation in the 1920s, American psychologist EDWARD THORNDIKE studied a case of cognitive bias in the United States armed forces. This is a flaw in our thinking that has real-world consequences for how we interpret others and act upon those interpretations.

Nisbett and Wilson studied the halo effect on a group of 118 college students in 1977. (62 males, 56 females). Students were split in half and asked to rate their instructor, a male Belgian who spoke English with a thick accent. Students saw one of two recorded interviews with the educator on a TV screen. The first interview demonstrated the teacher's kind demeanour toward the pupils, whereas the second demonstrated the opposite. The students were then given an eight-point scale on which to judge the instructor based on factors such as his or her physical appearance, demeanour in class, and accent.

Seventy percent of students regarded the instructor attractive when he was courteous and unpleasant when he was chilly, according to research by Nisbett and Wilson. Eighty percent of the students found the teacher's accent bothersome when he was nasty, but only around half did when he was kind.

Evidence from a more recent research of the halo effect demonstrates that cognitive bias occurs outside of the military as well. Whether it's a job interview or selecting whether or not to purchase a product supported by a celebrity we look up to, cognitive bias may cloud our judgement and prevent us from making the best choice.


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