Until a few decades ago, psychology was not a field in which generally accepted scientific methods were accepted. In the dark ages of history, the vast majority of patients with mental disorders were not seen as people in need of treatment, but as “beings” in need of isolation and exposure to various forms of torture. However, scientific advances in the last century have enabled great advances in the field of psychology as well as in all areas of medicine. Nevertheless, psychology has remained a field that has been at the center of many scientific and ethical debates for many years. Because it has never been so easy to understand “what is” in the dark halls of the human mind … Fortunately, today’s psychology also uses the possibilities of modern science to the fullest and contributes to the healthy life of people. However, history is full of controversial psychological experiments that remind us that science can also have a “dark side” from time to time! Here are the 6 most controversial psychological experiments in history.
American psychologist d. Philip Zimbardo devised a very interesting psychological experiment in 1971. Zimbardo sought an answer to the question, “How do good people respond to changing social roles under difficult psychological situations?” This is how the Stanford Prison Experiment came about…
Doctor. In 1971, Zimbardo divided his sample of 24 students into two parts: the guards and the prisoners. A mock prison was set up in the basement of Stanford University, with prisoners dressed as convicts and guards in uniform. Everything was ready for what would soon turn into one of the most controversial psychological experiments in history…
The people on the ‘guards’ side of the group in question, even though they were usually known as ‘good guys’, began insulting, physically abusing and mistreating the ‘prisoners’! It was observed during the experiment that some inmates suffer from psychological breakdowns as a result of the psychological and physical abuse. The experiment, which was normally planned to last for two weeks, was called off on the sixth day, as the guards’ physical and psychological violence over the prisoners reached an unstoppable level! The Stanford Prison Experiment is still cited as one of the most controversial psychological experiments in history. Many experts state that the guards were given too much power and responsibility, wrongly and unnecessarily. However, many experts point out that the controversial experiment is of great importance in order to understand “the influence of power on human behavior.”
2. Experience the social setting
In 1998, a social psychologist named John Bargh devised an unusual experiment. The experiment, which aimed to measure the effect of subliminal messages on human behavior, was later called the social readiness experiment.
Within the scope of the experiment, Bargh first had two different experimental groups exposed to words related to “aging.” Thus, it became possible to place these words into the subconscious of the respective group. People in the second group were exposed to neutral words unrelated to aging. Then the people in both groups were asked to walk down a corridor, and how long it took for the people in each group to reach the end of the corridor was measured.
The results of the experiment were very surprising. People in the first group who were exposed to words about aging walked much slower than those in the second group! The experiment sparked an important debate about the extent to which people control their behavior. In the days when the results of the experiment were published, the fact that human behavior could be manipulated to such an extent caused great concern in the scientific world. However, the experiment conducted by Bargh in the following years turned out to be “flawed” and “biased”. Because similar studies had different results. Today, however, debates continue, about the concept of social setting and about the experience John Bargh envisioned.
3. Milgram experiment
Another of the most controversial psychological experiments in history was conducted in 1961, again in the United States. American social psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to see “how far people would go in obeying an authority figure.” This is why the controversial psychological experiment called the Milgram experiment was carried out…
The experience was as interesting as it was controversial! The group in question was told that they were taking part in a scientific study of “memory”. Accordingly, the first group of subjects answers the questions posed to them at the end of the memory test, while the second group checks the accuracy of the answers. The people in the second group would give an “electric shock” to the person in front of them after each wrong answer to those in the first group! Moreover, after every wrong answer, the electric shock level will increase. So those who will answer the memory questions are the actors hired by the scientists who actually conducted the study! In other words, those who intentionally give the wrong answer to the questions asked will not actually suffer, but will act as if they were suffering.
The participants, who were not aware of the true content of the experiment, started giving electric shocks to the people in front of them in the face of the wrong answers they had received. But as the experiment progressed, the research team asked the participants to increase the level of electric shocks. Actors pretending to be in severe pain due to electric shocks, begging those in front of them for mercy, saying that they are heart patients! This is where the experiment part about “power” came into play. Participants who wanted to end the experiment were instructed to “Please continue,” “The experiment requires you to continue,” “You should definitely continue,” and “You have no choice, you must continue.”
65 percent of the participants continued to administer electric shocks to the person in front of them up to 450 volts. 450 was the highest level of electric shock determined in the experiment! In other words, 65 percent of the people who participated in the experiment saw no harm in inflicting incredible pain on the person in front of them because of instructions from authority! The Milgram experiment is one of the most controversial psychological experiments in history, due to its results and the methods used in the experiment.
4. Little Albert’s experiment
The Little Albert experiment, conducted by John Watson and Rosalie Rayner in 1920, is considered one of the most unethical experiments in history. Because it contains a nine-month-old baby and many wild animals!
In the experiment, by John Watson and Rosalie Rayner, a baby rabbit named Albert was left alone with several different animals, including dogs and rats. Albert was not afraid of any of the animals, he even wanted to love them. But every time he touched the animals, he was exposed to a sound that made him terrified. Later in the experiment, the child was shown toys made of fur that looked like animals. Every time Albert saw the toys he was terrified and started crying! Little Albert’s experiment was an important one that revealed that “fear in children can be conditioned rather than innate.” However, it was controversial for obvious reasons.
5. Try Facebook Emotion
The most controversial psychological experiment in recent times was conducted by a team of Cornell University researchers in 2014, moreover, via Facebook. Wanting to find out how social media affects people’s moods, the scientists fiddled with the news feeds of more than 700,000 Facebook users. While some users experienced “positive” content on their Facebook accounts, others were exposed to negative content.
As a result of the experiment, it was revealed that users who encounter positive content are more likely to post positive content than those who encounter negative content. Users who have been exposed to negative content tend to post negatively. The study, which revealed that social media can be effective in people’s moods, sparked a huge controversy because it manipulated people’s news channels.
6. Study the Beast
An experiment conducted in the United States in 1939 caused trauma for life for the children who participated in the experiment! Scientists named Wendall Johnson and Mary Tudor wanted to get some data on the processes and outcomes of “positive reinforcement.” Theodore in particular believed that stuttering could be cured through positive reinforcement. Of course, the opposite is also possible! To prove Theodore’s claim, scientists carried out the experiment known as the “Monster Study”…
22 orphans, ages 6 to 9, who had had no speech problems in the past, were selected for the monster study. The children were divided into two groups. Children in the first group were given feedback that they spoke perfectly and fluently, no matter how they spoke. However, those in the second group were not as lucky as their friends in the first group. No matter how they spoke, they would get negative feedback or even be punished!
In fact, the monster’s experience has made the lives of the second group children a nightmare. So much so that one of the children participating in the experiment found the solution to escape from the orphanage where the experiment was conducted! It is not difficult to conclude that the monster experiment is one of the most controversial and even brutal in history, considering that it disturbs the psyche of children who are not even 10 years old.
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