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Understanding human behavior is an interested held by so many people. They want to know why people act the way they do and they hope to unravel the secrets of the human condition.
But even if the aim is good, the experiments themselves can be unethical. Here are just several of these psychological experiments that became infamous because of their nature and eventual contribution to society.
In 1920, the psychologist John Watson let a baby named Albert play with a rat. Whenever Albert touched the rat, a terrifying sound would be made by the experimenters. Thus, Albert eventually became afraid of touching rats. Worse, the baby never grew out of this fear and had also become afraid of dogs, rabbits, and anything fluffy.
Psychologist Wendell Johnson gathered 22 child orphans together for his experiment. 11 of these orphans were told that their speeches were excellent while the other 11 were heavily criticized for their mistakes. Because of the negativity, these 11 children soon had problems in speech. However, the study was never published.
The United States army and the US State Department hoped to understand malaria better, so they used prisoners to test their antimalarial drugs. Despite the benefits of the study, it was unethical because prisoners could not give proper consent.
While the Nazis did many terrifying experiments on humans, one of the worst is the experiment regarding hypothermia. Humans were put into very cold waters and then were forced to take incredibly hot baths. More than 100 test subjects perished because of such experiments. No valuable scientific or medical discovery was found.
Stanley Milgram was a professor from Yale University. In 1961, he made subjects believe that they were electrocuting a person whenever the individual answered incorrectly. The experiment showed that people are willing to hurt people if they were doing it because an authoritative or seemingly reliable person told them to.
Mr. Seligman hurt dogs by giving them electric shocks. Once they were put into cages, the dogs who received the shocks were too afraid to leave the cages even if nothing would hurt them.
Basically, Mr. Harlow raised several monkeys in isolation. Some of these baby monkeys had "mothers" made out of cloth while other monkeys had "mothers" made out of wire. Those who had "wire mothers" developed negative characteristics. The study revealed that feeding the babies was not enough to ensure their proper growth. They needed comfort too.
Jane Elliott was not a psychologist, she was a teacher. She divided her third-grade class into two groups: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. The blue-eyed group received praise while the brown-eyed group were sent to the back and were deemed less smart. It was a stunning study that helped to show the effects of racism and discrimination.
Philip Zimbardo from Stanford University asked for volunteers to either be guards or prisoners.
After only six days, his experiment had to be stopped because guards were becoming abusive while the prisoners were becoming mentally, physically, emotionally weak. It was a study that showed how an environment can make people bad in a short amount of time.