Most Controversial Psychology Experiments

Overestimating the ability to multitask effectively in the selective attention test: In the experiment, a man wearing a gorilla costume walked onto a busy basketball court. He stood in the middle before going off-screen. Based on the results, the subjects hardly saw the gorilla.

Let’s give it up for the violinist in the Metro Station: A 2007 study conducted found that people won’t stop to take time to appreciate beauty. It was what happened when Josh Bell, a world famous violinist, played in the DC metro station. People hardly stopped to listen to his beautiful performance. Josh only made $32 that particular day despite being a sold out concert performer.

Would you take these piano stairs? This is “the Fun Theory”, a Volkswagen initiative. 66 percent more people chose the stairs instead of the escalator, proving behavior can change by making ordinary activities more fun.

Would you perform acts that conflict with your morals? “The Milgram Experiment”. This famous experiment proved that people will go against their conscience if they’re told by authoritative sources.

“The Marshmallow Test” to determine one’s future success. The examiner told participant children that they’d get another marshmallow if the first mallow stayed on the table for 15 minutes without being eaten. Cutting a long story short,  600 children ate their mallows quickly, and only one-third deferred the gratification to get their second Marshmallow. According to the experiment, those who deferred are more competent than their peers who ate their first mallow immediately.

Being in a busy crowded place does not guarantee help. That’s what the “Bystander Effect” showed.  It was done on a busy street in London and found that people would still continue without stopping to help the needy. The phenomenon states that bystanders are more likely to help someone who needs it if there are no other witnesses or there are only a very few people around. If more people are in the street, most people will assume that someone else is going to stop and help.

The “Asch Experiment” to determine the temptation to conform during a group situation: a subject was put in a room of actors, who purposely chose the incorrect line to find out if the subject would answer honestly or go along with the answer of the group. The experiment proved that people would conform in group situations.

One of the most unethical psychological experiments of all time – the “Stanford Prison Experiment”: the psychology experiment proved that situations had the ability to provoke a specific or certain behaviors, in spite of someone’s natural tendencies.

The “Bobo Doll Experiment” proved that human behavior stemmed from his or her social imitation, not from genetic factors. It found that children who were exposed to the aggressive model had the tendency to exhibit an aggressive behavior towards the dolls. On the other hand, the other groups exhibited little of the imitative aggressive behavior.


To determine salivation rate among dogs when food is in front of them – “Pavlov’s Dogs”: this experiment proved the widespread concept of conditioned reflex.

An experiment to develop irrational fears – “Little Albert”:  this experiment is the human version of the Pavlov’s dogs experiment. It proved that classical conditioning could work on humans.

Don’t judge based on appearances – that’s the “Carlsberg Social Experiment”: here, unsuspecting couples walked inside a theater, which was filled with 148 bikers.  Some couples choose to exit while others stayed. Those who did the latter were rewarded with beers – and crowd cheering.

People tend to overlook many things around them in the “Missing Child Experiment”:  this experiment proved that many people failed to notice their surroundings.

People shouldn’t judge based on outward appearances in “A Class Divided”:  at the end of this psychology experiment, the child subjects were happy that they embraced one another. They also agreed never to judge people based on appearances.

Healthy childhood development from mother’s love in the “Harlow’s Monkeys”: the experiment proved that affection can play a much greater role than sustenance in terms of childhood development.

“Robbers Cave Experiment”:  The controversial experiment proved that a conflict could be handled and resolved as well as prejudice if there is cooperation.

Effects of positive and negative speech therapy on children – “the Monster Study”: in the experiment, children who had negative speech therapy  suffered from psychological effects and retained speech disorders throughout their lives. The study proved the significance of using positive reinforcement regarding education.

Yawning is contagious. Dogs can catch it too: University of London researchers found that dogs were also capable of catching yawns. In the study, 72% of them yawned after watching a yawning person.

One trait about a person can form our overall impression of that person.  “The Halo Effect”:  discovered that tone is important when it comes to the perception of attractiveness and modelling the Halo effect.


A cute experiment with the “Identical Twins”:  the experiment concluded that upbringing, shared genes and experiences may lead to similar thought processes between twins.

Distorting event memories in the “Car Crash Experiment”: The experiment discovered that using different verbs could affect memories of participants and it can distort memory fast.

We’ve all suffered from disappointment but in the end realized we weren’t really disappointed. “Cognitive Dissonance”:  The controversial experiment proved that people always try convincing themselves that they’re making the right decision.

10,000 people signed a petition to continue the social experiment – “Free Hugs Campaign” conveying a message that humanity is still present in the age of technology and media.

The inability to detect subtle changes in scenes or objects that would be very obvious upon a closer inspection – “Change Blindness”: this experiment showed that visual distractions can cause change blindness.

Conforming to the behavior of the group even if you’ve got no idea what’s really happening – “Candid Camera Elevator Experiment”: was a collective behavior experiment proving that people will keep trying to fit in no matter their understanding of the group’s behavior.

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