We’ve all heard of some pretty nutty, wildly unethical, and all around awesome-sounding psychological experiments. Most of us are familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment, Little Albert and the infamous Milgram study (if not, click on ’em!) BUT there are other, far more bizarre social experiments that were cooked up before all those pesky ethics got in the way. Here are a few of the oddest…
URINAL PERFORMANCE ANXIETY
All of us hombres have been there- we race into a urinal after a movie, have to stand inches away from two fratty/cowboyish gentlemen, and suddenly can’t get the machinery working. Well, in the name of science, Middlemist, Knowles & Matter (1976) designed an experiment to test how invasions of personal space affected the speed and flow of men’s urination in a public restroom. (Why? Because inquiring minds want to know!)
As if conducting a normal experiment wasn’t enough, the scientists did a pilot study. A college student was positioned at a public restroom mirror for hours, surreptitiously recording the social habits of college guys trying to get their pee on. Joe Universitario would stand by the mirror looking like he belonged there, with a stopwatch, listening for the length of time between zipper pull and urine flow. As we’d all expect, guys took a bit longer operating the hose when they were in the close company of men.
Intrigued by the pilot study, the scientists decided to invest in a periscope and assign a grad student to get all Red October in the men’s room. Grad student numero dos would spend his days standing in adjacent urinals as college guys peed.
The results mimicked the first, the scientists felt elated at the landmark find, and three unfortunate college students’ lives were never the same.
PIGEON-GUIDED SCUD MISSLES
Turns out that everyone’s favorite behavioral shrink, BF Skinner, had some kooky ideas up his sleeve when wartime came. As military tech guys were tinkering with the idea of electronic guidance for missiles, Skinner had a bolder, more lo-fi idea. Rather than spending thousands on this crazy newfangled thing called ‘technology’ why not train some rat-birds to hang out in the front compartment of a missile, navigating by pecking different levers?
I’m not making this up. Skinner actually trained some pigeons by putting them in a man’s sock (WTF?!) and showing them a moving target, which they could also move by tapping on levers designated Up Down Left Right. The pigeons learned to keep the target at the center, and BF was ready to convince the government: in an insane world, pigeons were the only sane choice.
And convince them he did. The government started adapting missiles to house pigeons in the front. They trained a good number of them, and were ready to unleash the unstoppable fury of the rock dove on Germany… when someone must have woken up from the LSD IV Skinner must have had them on, and realized what an idiotic idea this was. Back to the circuitry, boys… let the pigeons go.
So all those conspiracy theories you have about New York City pigeons? Completely valid and justified.
PROZAC: SEMEN EDITION
Six years ago, a trio of scientists decided to conduct a study on something they all expected must be true: their man juice made the ladies happy. Very happy indeed.
So they corralled a bunch of female undergrads and asked them some uncomfortable questions about their sexual habits. Mainly- do you or don’t you demand a jimmy hat from your lover? Those that did became group A, those that didn’t- group B. Then they began doing routine mood and depression tests on these women, and jotting down notes.
Their findings? Women having sex without condoms were less depressed. And the number of suicide attempts was directly proportional to their consistency using condoms.
So if you’re feeling blue, keep in mind who you truly need to blame. It isn’t your dead end job, lousy boyfriend or daddy issues. It’s Papa Trojan. Damn the latex- it’s the true scourge of our modern society!
For more crazy psychological experiments (well, crazy unethical) check these out.
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Vol I: The Fascinating Etymology of the word Iota
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