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Psychology experiments that explain your mind

Psychology experiments that explain your mind

It is known, the human mind, still today, is an unknown factor. Whenever some novelty is discovered, there are many that are completely unknown. We must surrender to the fact that we will never fully know it. But basically this is something that is part of its charm.

The behaviors created in some circumstances are the result of the complex mechanisms of our mind. Each person in his or her uniqueness has its own way of responding to facts or events , yet there are certain traits of human behavior more or less common to all.

In the history of psychology, there have been many experiments that have made it possible to understand the reason for some human behavior. The results are always surprising and fascinating, as is the exceptional nature of the human mind. Let’s see together some curiosities that emerged from the most important experiments in the history of psychology.

1 – Never trust your memory!

“I am sure, I remember it perfectly, as if it were now!”. Who knows how many times you have happened to say it or hear it say, yet, however much you may feel convinced of your memory, it may actually be wrong. In this case we speak of ” false memory “.

In 1974 Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer conducted a rather interesting experiment in order to verify how language and words could “manipulate” a memory .

Participants were shown a video depicting a car accident that actually happened. The same were then divided into two groups. The participants of a group were asked the question: ” What was the speed of the car at the moment of the impact? “The others were asked for the same estimate, but using different words within the sentence, namely:” What was the speed of the car at the time of the crash? “. Questions like these were then asked using other terms such as bump, blow, destruction, etc. Surprisingly, the estimate of speed decreased or increased based on the words used by the experimenters within the question.

This shows that memories are actually vulnerable and subject to external interference . Words have immense power over memories, they can distort them, or even create them. This process deserves to be taken into consideration especially in the case of testimonies, which can be easily conditioned by any external information that can easily integrate the real memory or even create it totally.

2 – We are all possible criminals!

I know, it’s a pretty strong statement and I realize that one can easily be upset, but Philip Zimbardo, following his experiment in Stanford prison confirms this. It is perhaps one of the most famous experiments and certainly, one of the most criticized because it was considered contrary to every ethical rule.

We are in 1971 when a fake prison was set up inside the Stanford faculty of psychology. 24 volunteer students were assigned to two groups: on one side the “prisoners” and on the other the “guards”. Preliminary interviews were carried out and all were considered psychologically healthy and therefore, the assignment to one group or to the other was completely random.
The task of the experimenters was to observe, for 24 hours a day, the dynamics that came to life inside the “prison”.

There were no windows, but there were, in addition to the cameras, countless microphones in order to be able to listen to the speeches between the prisoners and the guards. The experiment was supposed to last for 15 days, but after only 6, it was stopped because it became dangerous due to the violent behavior of the “guards”, who tended to dehumanize and mortify the “prisoners”.

This experiment showed how even the so-called “good people” in some circumstances and to fulfill certain roles, can turn into aggressive and violent. Human behavior can therefore be strongly influenced by context and external situations.

3 – If you need help, it is better that there is only one person nearby!

This statement may seem somewhat bizarre, considering also that the presence of people reassures, and, the greater the number, the greater the security of receiving help if needed. The case of Kitty Genovese confirms the opposite.

We cannot speak of a real experiment, but this story was the subject of reflections and inspiration for subsequent studies. It is 1964 when an article in the New York Times denounces a decidedly inconceivable fact. At least 40 people witnessed the murder of Kitty Genovese, without providing help, not even calling the police.

Some time later Bibb LatanĂ© and John Darley, inspired by the story, conducted some experiments that led them to define this behavior as a ” spectator effect “.
In emergency situations, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that someone will intervene to offer help .

This would happen because of a phenomenon called the spread of responsibility, that is, the feeling of not feeling the responsibility of giving assistance when other people are present who can do it. It goes without saying, that if everyone present in the situation applies the same consideration – “there are other people who can help, why should I do it?” – no one will feel obliged to intervene. Also, let’s not forget that we are naturally led to social influence, that is, to imitate others. So in seeing other people doing nothing, there is almost certainty that they will do the same.

That’s why, if you find yourself in difficulty and need help, you should hope that there aren’t too many people around. It may seem rather far-fetched, but on the other hand human behavior is bizarre and at times unpredictable.

4 – Every situation must have a justification and a sense

It will have happened to everyone at least once in their life, after an unpleasant event, to seek an explanation at all costs, a sense that could make it less painful. It represents the need to “bring order”, a search for coherence that is inherent in human nature. And it is for this reason that we tend to create routines, habits, thought patterns and beliefs .

This behavior was defined by Leon Festinger as “cognitive dissonance”, which occurs whenever malaise arises due to an inconsistency of thought. It would therefore lead to formulate new principles and beliefs capable of alleviating the contradiction.

In order to confirm this theory, in 1957 Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith, developed an experiment where participants were asked to carry out a rather tedious task, at the end of which, they were remunerated with 1 or 20 dollars, in order to convince the participants of the next round, that the task was actually fun and interesting.

Once the experiment was over, the results confirmed the theory and revealed that: those who received $ 20 in return, said they found the task tedious, but considered the reward sufficient to justify the “waste of time”, the others, who instead had a single dollar in return, they claimed almost self – convincing themselves, that the task was really fun, this was undoubtedly an attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance and therefore the discrepancy between behavior and beliefs.