Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson
If you’ve ever asked yourself why do people act the way they do you just hit jackpot! To follow a list of 10 experiments that have helped decode part of our behaviour. Put it to good use!
1. Turning a ruined Penis into a lifelong experiment – Nature trumps Nurture!
We’ve all pondered at one point or another: Is our behaviour the product of nature or nurture?
In 1965 Dr. Money encountered the perfect opportunity to answer this question and made no adamant not to profit from it. To his clinic arrived David Reimer an eight month twin who had his penis burned off in a circumcision procedure. David’s parents worried about the possible psychological effects of growing up without a penis asked Dr Money for advice. What do you think went through the mind of Dr Money? Dr Money motivated by his own self interest advised the parents to perform a sex change operation, pump oestrogen and raise David as Brenda. What unraveled? Brenda grew up at odds with her identity and displaying clear signs of a preference for cars over dolls. In the mean time, Dr Money published glowing articles in scientific journals documenting his experiments on David Reimer. This came to an end when Brenda’s parents told Brenda about her story and Brenda decided to become David again. David committed suicide in 2004.
Take Home: in gender identity the forceful experiment imposed on David Reimer suggests that nature expresses itself more saliently than nurture.
2. Bystander Effect:
Do you think walking in a busy street will increase your odds of being helped in the case of an emergency?
Social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latane pondered this question in 1964 following the horrific attack on Kitty Genovese on 13 March 1964. Kitty Genovese was murdered in front of her house. Her assassination prolonged for over an hour and included an initial round of stabbings, a fleeing of the perpetrator, a come back ten minutes later, a subsequent sexual assault theft and a final round of stabbings. Despite evidence suggesting that over 38 people watch it happen, nobody made a move to help Kitty.
So why did nobody help Kitty? Part of the answer is in the video below and explained by the two renown social Psychologists and pioneers John Darley and Bibb Latane themselves.
Take home: People are less likely to help when there is more people present. Why? Two reasons explain the bystander effect. One, when in a group people tend to diffuse responsibility. Two, when in a group people tend to enter a mindset of pluralistic ignorance. Since nobody is reacting my personal help is not needed and the situation is not that bad.
3. Hawthorne Effect
Do you think there is a relation between level of light and productivity?
In 1955 Henry A. Landsberger performed a study and analysis of data from experiments performed by Elton Mayo in 1920’s and 30’s at the Hawthorne Works near Chicago. Mayo analysed whether light changes affected productivity. He concluded that despite what changes occurred in lighting, productivity increased. Why? Henry A. Landsberger found out that the mere fact of being singled out and observed triggered higher productivity amongst the workforce. This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne Effect and is an “unavoidable” bias comparable to the observer effect in science or panopticism in philosophy.
Take Home: generally people are motivated by novelty and by being singled out. Use this knowledge to trigger growth or to ensure ceteris paribus in your future researches.
Did you ever pondered why would Nazi Germany embrace the killing of millions during the holocaust? Did they have a conscience? Given certain circumstances would you and I act the same way?
If you ever pondered this question you are much like world renown social psychologists Stanley Milgram. In 1963 he set up the experiment of the experiments in order to mount data on how long will someone continue to administer electric shocks despite perceiving that his actions were hurting the receiver of the electric shocks.
In order to prove this, Stanley recruited 40 individuals who were “trivially” assigned a teacher or learner role. All learners were made to be the confederates of the experimenters. After briefly introducing one another, the teacher saw how they strapped the learner to a chair and attached him with electrodes. Thereon, the story is simple, the teacher asked questions to the learner and for every mistake the teacher would press a button that would administer a fake electric shock to the learner with audible consequences. If the teachers hesitated, an individual who identified himself as a doctor would tell them to proceed.
The results were jaw-dropping. Out of the 40, 25 continued to administer electric shocks up to the deadly maximum level despite being begged by the learner to stop. All 40 obeyed up to 300 volts, an intensity that triggered considerable complain from the learner.
Check the video for a visual understanding of the experiment!
Take home: why did people administer the fatal shocks? When accompanied by an individual who we perceive to be an authority, we tend to diffuse responsibility and comply with his orders. This somehow explains why during the holocaust the Germans crossed their morale threshold.
5. Halo Effect
Do you think George Clooney is smart, charismatic and a good friend?
Whilst our perception of who George Clooney has probably already been shaped by media, leading expert in psychology Edward Thorndyke suggests that most probably you will associate good attributes with him. Why? Edward Thorndike in “A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings” found out that when building out perception of an individual we tend to take certain cognitive shortcuts. One of them is called the Halo Effect and simply means assuming for ease that because one person has a positive attribute he will probably have other positive attributes.
How did psychology leader Thorndike arrive to this conclusion? In a nutshell check the video. Do you think a taller man is likely to be more successful?
Take home: try to be the best you so that people will generalise excellence with yourself. Once you achieve this, you are one step closer to anywhere you want. Why? People tend to help those people they like more!
Did you ever ponder if a kid will spend more time with a mother that offers “affection” but no food or a mother that gives food but no “affection”?
If you did you are just like psychology expert Harry Harlow. In the 1960’s psychologist Harlow conducted an experiment trying to expand on this question. How did he do this? Harlow separated rhesus monkeys from their mothers a few hours after birth and left them to be raised by two “surrogate mothers”. One of the mothers was made of wire with an attached bottle for food whilst the other mother was made of soft terrycloth but lacked food. Harlow thereafter timed how much time did the rhesus monkeys spend with each mother. Harlow found that rhesus monkeys spend more time with the mother that offer affection thus showing that affection tramps sustenance when it comes to child development.
Take Home: if you want to create a positive relation with someone make sure you cater both human needs sustenance and affection.
7. The Bodo Doll Experiment
Since already in the child development arena, how do you think children personality and morale standards are formed? Is it predefined by nature? Arises from social interaction? Is it mirrored from role models?
This questions were the ones that intrigued Stanford Psychology Professor Albert Bandura in the 1960’s and that guided his research on development and growth of a child’s personality and morality.
How did Albert Bandura sate his curious mind. He conducted several experiments known as the Bodo Doll experiment. In these experiments 3 – 6 year old boys and girls were divided into 3 groups. In the first groups children would be exposed to adults showing aggressive behaviour to the bodo doll. In the second group children would be exposed to a passive adult playing with the bodo doll and the third formed a control group. What do you think happened after the children were left in a room with the bodo doll? The results show that children who were exposed to an adult showing aggressive behaviour were much more likely to show an aggressive attitude towards the bodo doll when left alone with it.
Take home – surround yourself with people who will enlighten you because research on child development suggests that we tend to imitate what we see. Topping, be an excellent role model around children!
8. The Grammy-winning violinist who played in the Metro and no one paid attention to!
Do you stop and embrace the beauty around you?
This is what the experiment by the Washington post endeavored to answer in 2007. Joshua Bell a grammy-winning violinist was placed as a street performer playing for change in the metro. Despite having just sold out a concert in Boston where ticket prices average $100, only 27 people paused that day to listen to what could arguably be classified as the best symphony they’ll ever hear. Check the video for an actual preview of the experiment.
Take Home: if you want to be noticed make sure the audience and yourself are on the same wave length. Otherwise you will only be noticed as much as a grammy-winning violinist playing in the metro.
9. Selective Attention:
This visual experiment by psychologists Simon and Chabris from Cornell University shows how our visual attention is limited. You might focus so much on a particular task that you will miss on certain unexpected things. Check these two videos of experiments about selective attention.
10. Robert Cave Experiment
This experiment epitomizes the need for cooperation as a means of overcoming prejudice and resolving conflict. In his study professor Muzafer Sherif showed how segregation and competition can lead to hostilities whilst cooperative activities are likely to put aside these hostilities.
Take home: when engaged in conflict your best option is to engage in cooperative activities. As Muzafer Sherif’s experiments suggests, choosing cooperation leads to bonding which helps overcome prejudice.