Even though psychology is a rather young science compared to its counterparts, its contribution to understanding human nature and the mind in relationship with the world cannot be contested. Most of experiments conducted by various psychologists over the years have provided useful insights regarding our motivation, thinking process and the roots of our behaviors.
In a way, the outcomes of such results have led many people to accept man as he is, in spite of the fact that some truths are hard to swallow. However, not all experiments and testing prove to be an illuminating or useful achievement and some of them have actually spiraled out of control. Let’s elaborate further.
1. The Milgram experiment
Following WWII, psychologist Stanley Milgram decided to figure out what determined the entire German nation to take part in the atrocities of the Genocide. The experiment was rather simplistic, as members of an audience were asked to query the man (hired actor) sitting in a chair connected to an electric-shock generator. Each time the man tied in the chair answered incorrectly, he would get electrocuted by the person in charge of the query. The results revealed that deep down inside every person is evil, because the subjects continued to electrocute their victim in spite of him pretending to be in agonizing pain.
2. Homosexual aversion therapy
This experiment took place in a period when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder and everyone was looking for a proficient treatment. Among the most controversial approaches was the aversion therapy, where the images of homosexuals were paired with painful stimuli that induced vomiting. Instead of curing the so-called mental condition, the only thing the therapy managed to achieve was to cause irreparable psychological damages to the subjects.
3. The David Reimer case
The experiment is by far the most unethical one in the field of psychology. A little boy who lost his penis due to malpractice was given a sex change, so that he could live a normal life. The psychologists who were supervising David Reimer provided him with hormonal supplement treatments and ensured he was surrounded by girlish stimuli. However, when David acted exactly as a stereotypical boy his age, his parents were forced to tell him the truth. Although he decided to undergo a reverse sex operation, he committed suicide in his mid adulthood.
4. Harlow’s “Pit Of Despair”
In all honesty, the motivation behind this failed experiment is not fully understood yet. Due to his obsession of explaining the concept behind love, David Harlow devised an empty chamber with no stimulus whatsoever. There he would place several non-human subjects (monkeys) in order to observe and try to understand the effects of total isolation better. The results were catastrophic to say the least, as a great percent of his subjects went insane, while a few monkeys refused food in an attempt to starve themselves to death.
5. The Monster study
The only way to describe this experiment is pure sadism: 22 orphans were separated into two groups, one of which would receive solely positive reinforcements for their school progress, while the other was constantly being criticized, even for the slightest mistake. The outcomes were devastating for both groups, as members from the positively reinforced group developed speech problems later on in life, while the other experienced severe psychological issues.