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Category Archives: Humor
Psychologists are wonderful people. They’ve given us psychoanalysis, Celebrity Rehab, and Ritalin. Psychologists are also generally ethical, kind people out to do good and improve our understanding of human behavior.
However, sometimes people do some ethically dubious things in the name of science. For example…
6. Little Albert
Remember Ivan Pavlov, the guy who’s famous for making dogs droll in response to a bell?
Pavlov is famous for demonstrating classical conditioning. Classical conditioning works like this: Humans are pretty dumb, so we try to make everything easier on ourselves. We put things together that don’t really go together. For example, if your local bartender slaps you in the face every time you order a vodka-cranberry, you’ll start cowering in terror every time you smell vodka or cranberries.
Conditioning is responsible for those heart-flutters you feel every time you smell your ex-girlfriend’s perfume. It’s also why a junkie can’t visit his former crack-house without going into a self-destructive, needle-poking rampage.
In 1920, John Watson and Rosalie Rayner wanted to top Pavlov’s work and see if classical conditioning could work on a human baby. They chose a normal, eight-month-old baby who they dubbed “Little Albert.”
They started by showing Little Albert a white rat, then slamming a hammer onto a metal rod. Little Albert wasn’t initially afraid of the rat, but the crazy hammering sound was terrifying, so he soon learned to associate the rat with fear and misery.
After Little Albert was satisfactorily terrified by the white rat, Watson and Rayner used the same process to make him afraid of other white/fluffy things: a rabbit, cotton, Santa Claus, and a white seal fur coat (because, you know, this was the 1920’s).
I wasn’t there, but I assume their thinking went something like this: “Wow, those drooling dogs were adorable! How much more exciting would this experiment be if we used an infant instead of a dog? But instead of letting the baby smell delicious steaks all day, we’ll make sure every time he sees something white and fluffy, it will scare the bejeezus out of him! What could possibly go wrong?”
Where it went wrong:
Unfortunately, Watson and Rayner chose the color white. There are a lot of white things in the world, and we can only assume that all of them terrified eight-month-old Little Albert after his encounter with science.
Even worse, Little Albert left the lab before the experimenter was able to get rid of his fear of everything white (probably because Little Albert refused to see the mean, evil scientists at this point). So, essentially, Watson and Rayner gave an infant an enduring terror of all things fluffy and white and then never fixed the problem.
5. Oklahoma Sonic Boom Tests
Also known as “Operation Bongo” (yes, really), the Oklahoma Sonic Boom Tests were carried out in Oklahoma City across six months in 1964 by the Federal Aviation Administration to parse out the sociological and economic factors in sonic boom flights over rural areas. The FAA wanted to figure out if the US could use supersonic transcontinental air travel.
Where it went wrong:
Except that a sonic boom is sound. A lot of it. Just for some perspective, a sonic boom can reach 200 decibels at ground level. That’s one million times the sound of a cricket. Or 3.5 thousand times the sound of the average fart.
Although residents of Oklahoma city were initially receptive to the experiment, they got tired of the sonic booms pretty quickly. The force of the booms broke 147 windows and led to a class action law suit by the residents of Oklahoma city against the federal government. The FAA concluded that sonic booms were “tolerated” and hundreds of thousands of people in Oklahoma concluded that the federal government is composed entirely of assholes.
4. Facial Expressions Experiment
In 1924, Carney Landis, a psychologist from the University of Minnesota wanted to do an experiment to figure out whether people make universal facial expressions unique to different emotions.
The study had many awesome implications for teaching autistic children about emotions and teaching men how to approach the gentler sex.
Where it went wrong:
As part of the experiment, to induce a ‘disgust’ facial expression, participants were asked to behead a live rat. They had no instructions and no training to perform the procedure in an ethical manner. So, this was pretty freaking terrifying for all of them.
Although the idea was admirable, the experiment actually produced no positive results. Turns out we really are beautiful and unique snowflakes when we look at really gross stuff.
The 1960’s were a glorious time in American history. Love was free, racism was falling out of vogue, and your parents were drying weed in their ovens to go to Woodstock.
MK-ULTRA was the code name for a series of experiments conducted by the CIA during the 1960’s. The CIA? Well there must be nothing to worry about; they’re totally trustworthy! Right?
Wrong. Although the original stated goal was “mind control,” what they actually did was test LSD on unsuspecting civilians.
The CIA even included a separate project called Operation Midnight Climax (seriously) in which they used prostitutes to lure unwitting subjects and then test tons of illegal substances–including LSD–on them, all while monitoring them behind one-way glass. I know this is a regular Saturday night for some of you, but these are innocent civilians we’re talking about.
Where it went wrong:
Senator Ted Kennedy’s comments on MK-ULTRA really sum things up well. In an apology to Americans and non-drug-users everywhere, Kennedy admitted that the CIA conducted “drug tests on unwitting citizens,” the “agents doing the monitoring were not qualified scientific observers,” and that “at least one death” occurred. At least…
And, best of all: “Other experiments were equally offensive. For example, heroin addicts were enticed into participating in LSD experiments in order to get a reward — heroin.”
What actually happened is not known, since almost all documents related to the experiment were destroyed in 1973. What we do know is that the CIA took advantage of the best decade of the 1900’s to get innocent people addicted to drugs. Awesome.
2. Harlow Monkey Experiment
Harry Harlow is famous for his experiments in pair-bonding with monkeys. Harlow taught us that monkeys prefer a surrogate mother who gives them warmth to one that gives them food.
In 1960, Harry Harlow changed the direction of his research. He took happy, well-adjusted monkeys who had bonded with their mothers and placed them in isolation chambers.
Fascinating! This guy has already proved he’s a genius! Everything seems fine!
Where it went wrong:
Humans aren’t the only creatures that can be emotionally affected by experimentation, you dirty speciesist! The monkeys were placed in isolation, which caused many of them to eventually go super bat-shit bananas, and not in a good way.
Harlow actually called the isolation cages “Wells of Despair.” Plus, numerous comments by Harlow indicate that he was a serious monkey-hater. Harlow’s creepy later experiments, explored the depths of depression in animals by ‘breaking their hearts.’
1. The Monster Study
The Monster Study was a stuttering experiment conducted on 22 orphan children in Iowa in 1939 (uh-oh, they used orphans; we can already tell this isn’t going anywhere good…).
Researchers wanted to figure out if parents played a part in whether or not children develop stutters.
Where it went wrong:
Did I mention that the experimenters got the children to stutter by screaming in their faces and telling them they were worthless? And that they got the orphans to participate by telling them the experimenter might be their new mom?
Of the six ‘normal’ children in the experiment, five developed a stutter after “negative therapy.” The experimenters tried to reverse the damage, but couldn’t. Worst of all, the experimenters didn’t even tell the orphans they were part of an experiment until 60 years later.
When the study was made public in 2001, experimenters were forced to admit that many of the participants were psychologically scarred by participating in The Monster Study, and that “the negative therapy group showed a loss of self-esteem,” which probably led to years of this:
The University of Iowa made a public apology after the study came to light.
That’s all, folks! Thanks for reading!
‘The Secret of NIMH,’ also known as ‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,’ is a beloved children’s movie about friendship and perseverance. Originally released in 1982, ‘The Secret of NIMH’ received much critical acclaim, because it was both beautifully-animated and not a Disney production.
The secret behind “The Secret of NIMH” is that it is an 82-minute piece of thinly-veiled animal rights propaganda against the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the most famous and productive mental health research facilities in the world.
Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the film contains many scenes that look like a terrifying PCP-induced hallucination gone wrong, the images the film shows of the “laboratories” in NIMH look more like pictures of a violent animal hoarder’s house than an actual laboratory.
The lead scientist is made out to be some sort of Dr. Mengele, but what the scientist in the movie actually does is inject the rats with a drug that gives them super-rat intelligence. The rats are able to read and even understand mechanics (I am a human and I can’t even understand mechanics).
After a multitude of terrifying scenes describing the origin of NIMH and the protaganist rat’s journey into NIMH (keep in mind this is a children’s movie), the mouse talks to a rambling, psychotic crow and then meets a scary owl, who mercifully decides not to eat her.
As a child, I didn’t draw the connection between the movie NIMH and the place where my mom worked (the actual NIMH). I just liked the movie because it was the most edgy, scary thing I was allowed to watch.
But let’s get serious about the implications here.
Many of us are alive today thanks to animal research. If you are against animal research and are going for moral consistency, I hope you don’t take insulin to treat your diabetes, antibiotics to treat infection, or really any FDA-sanctioned medication to treat what ails you.
Animals in laboratories are treated with care and respect, a far cry from the treatment animals in the factory farming industry receive. Working with laboratory animals is not fun or sadistic. It is often allergy-inducing, and depressing. But what people have done with animal research is truly incredible and life-changing.
I support this NIMH, not the cartoon rat one.
Let’s take a moment to honor the anxious people in our lives.
When we consider the entire species, all traits (even the obnoxious ones) can be seen as adaptive for the species in some way. Anxious people are sensitive, perceptive, and generally realistic about the world. Yes, we are difficult to deal with, but we are valuable members of society, too.
I am a highly-functioning anxious person.
I AM the 18.1%!
Zombies shuffled back into my life this year with the new television series Walking Dead. Although zombies date back to Haitian and African legends, they have experiencing an exciting revival in recent years. Zombies have infiltrated films, television, novels, and our hearts.
So, why do humans love zombies?
The zombie market fits neatly into our endless enchantment with the human mind. We are fascinated by humans deprived of their faculties for reason. We also have a morbid fascination with human failing. Zombies bring up important philosophical questions: What makes us more than meat? What is it about the mind that makes us human?
But what makes a zombie most interesting is, ultimately, not the zombie. We don’t care how the zombie apocalypse started. In fact, the origin of infection part is conveniently left out of most movies and television shows. We are more curious about how we are going to react to the zombies.
Duking it out in a survival situation—and winning—is a scenario that appeals to many of us. Secretly, a lot of us think we would be the last one standing in a fight-to-the death situation, and at least want the chance to see how long we would last.
Life in the post-zombie-apocalyptic world means living out a collective, and largely secret, fantasy that many men share: surviving in the wild. Men get to be men, shooting zombies in the face and roughing it on an even playing field. Protecting the tribe in the zombie apocalypse also means men attain the respect that they deserve, respect they are often sadly denied in the modern world.
A post-zombie-apocalyptic world holds a special charm for romantics, as well. The post-zombie-apocalyptic world represents a return to how things used to be. The threat of deprivation is why Beethoven’s love letters to his Immortal Beloved are so poignant. When our spouse leaves the house every day and we are unsure he or she will ever come back, we experience a profound appreciation for his return. Just as we have been deprived of the special joy in eating the first strawberry of spring by factory farming, we have largely forgotten the purity that accompanies a true reunion.
Plus, zombies play into our innate fear of dead, gross things.
That zombiehood is transmissible by biting gets at our fear of dirty things. Exterminating zombies taps into a deep, human desire to expunge the defective from the human race (People of Walmart, anyone?). We like to see zombies killed. It is like a modern-day eugenics movement within a world of black-and-white moral decisions (It’s a zombie? Kill it!). Zombies have no morality. They want our brains, and our brains are what make us uniquely human.
What are your thoughts on zombies? Do you agree that the Christian bible is the first real zombie story?
Fun, zombie-related links:
2. What would you look like as a zombie? Find out here.
4. Incredible zombie makeup tutorial.
I have been excited by rompers ever since I saw my first one in the window of Urban Outfitters. If Urban had to describe their brand aesthetic, I’m pretty sure it would be something like: clothing for those who enjoy romping in meadows in the 70’s and/or 80’s. So it makes sense that they have a wide selection of rompers.
I have always wanted to try this trend. The romper is adorable: I can look cute in my floral romper while window-shopping for more rompers. The romper is convenient, like shorts: I can sit on the ground with my legs splayed open like a homely buffoon without exposing my underpants. Perfect!
Being frugal, I decided to drop by Plato’s Closet to justify the purchase of more, unneeded, clothing. Plato’s Closet is where shopaholics sell their clothes so that they can afford rent at the end of each month. They back gently-used, trendy clothes and sells them at awesomely-discounted rates. This is where I come in.
I found an adorable (floral!) romper for six dollars. Yes! I remembered that I was taking a road trip the next day. I was so proud of myself at this point: I am so responsible and prepared, I even have clothes picked out for this adventure! A romper will be comfortable and breathable. The perfect outfit for a long drive. WRONG.
I was an hour into my six-hour road-trip to Canada when I realized that I had to pee. I happily pulled into a Starbucks and proceeded to the restroom where I discovered my terrible error.
For those of you who have never worn a romper before, let it be known that if you make the ill-fated decision to wear one, you will have to get completely naked every time you use the restroom. If you are someone who has anxiety about being walked in on in restrooms, this is not a particularly exciting prospect.
I’m not sure who was more uncomfortable: me (naked in a Starbucks far from home) or the lady waiting outside (who had to listen to someone cackle nervously/maniacally in the ladies’ restroom). I got to re-create this scenario 2 more times during my road-trip.
Lesson: rompers + fluids + strange bathrooms –> awkward