Not many can bring themselves to believe that there are many unethical and absurd psychological experiments tried on human subjects, in the name of scientific research. Even a developed country like USA has received government funding for psychological experiments to develop more effective torture and interrogation techniques for their military and intelligence agencies. Psychology is fairly a new science, which came into limelight just a century ago. In their enthusiasm and excitement of studying human mind and behavior, scientists have gone overboard in few studies. ‘The pit of despair’, ‘Learned Helplessness’ and ‘The Monkey drug trials of 1969’ saw cruel treatment of helpless animals in name of scientific study. They did not spare people either. Here is the list of 6 most absurd psychological experiments ever tried on humans, which threw principles, ethics, and humanity into thin air.
6. Project ARTICHOKE
Project ARTICHOKE came from none other than the CIA, and is known to be funded by the government of USA. Human subjects were exposed to hypnosis, forceful morphine addiction and withdrawals, chemical experiments to make them vulnerable and helpless. The highly controversial experiment aimed at offensive mind control techniques and attempts to induce amnesia, where the mind would be under total control to the bidding of the authority, even against their own will.
5. The Monster Study
Not until 2001 when the Iowa University apologized for the study referred to as Monster study did people realize the horror behind the experiment conducted on 22 helpless orphan children. In 1939, Wendell Johnson from University of Iowa, Davenport, allowed Mary Tudor, a graduate student to conduct experiment on the children using positive and negative speech therapy. The orphans who received negative speech therapy in form of ridicule, belittling and calling them stutterers, suffered permanent psychological impairment which could not be reversed. With no parental support, you can imagine the plight of these children who suffered the consequences of unethical psychological experiment.
4. Little Albert
In 1920, the world renowned psychologist used an 11 month old infant, to prove that fear was a learned behavior in humans. The infant who was an underling’s son later became popular as Little Albert. The child who did not show any aversion to furry animals, started showing fear after a loud noise was made by banging a claw hammer against a piece of metal right behind his head every time he played with the furry animal. The playful child started crying at the sight of furry animals after some time and hiding under the table. At present no one knows what happened to Little Albert after the experiment.
3. The Stanford Prison Experiment
A mock prison was created in 1971, in the basement of Stanford psychology building, to find out the cause of abusive behavior in prisons. What began as a simple experiment went out of hand within a short period of 5 days. As chaos broke out in the mock prison,the experiment had to be abruptly stopped on the 6th day. Philip Zimbardo and his team were funded by the US office of Naval Research to aid in understanding the causes of conflicts between military guards and prisoners. The participants got so engrossed in their roles that prisoners were subjected to psychological torture by authoritarian guards and in turn the prisoners passively accepted the abuse. Zimbardo himself was assimilated by the role of superintendent and allowed the abuse to continue until two prisoner students quit bringing the wrong doings to light.
2. David Reimer Case
When the argument was going on among the psychologists whether gender was inborn or was it is all about nurture, John Money found a perfect victim to try his experiment on. David Reimer was an unfortunate sufferer of medical blotch up. When the doctor burnt up his entire penis, David’s parents were advised by John Money to have his sex reassigned and change him into a girl named Brenda. After the sex change surgery, he was given hormonal and psychological therapies to adjust into the new role. Unfortunately, David did not adapt to the role of girl and started to live as a male after the age of 15 years. He went public with his story to discourage such practices. At the age of 38, after a lot of emotional suffering, David committed suicide in the parking lot by shooting himself in the head.
1. The Milgram Experiment
Stanley Milgram, a psychologist was interested in finding out what led the entire German nation to take part in the Genocide during WWII. A hired actor was tied to a chair, who was allowed to be questioned by subjects. For each wrong answer the man tied to the chair would receive fake electrical shocks but the subjects were made to believe that the shocks were real. To the horror it was found that all the people who participated in the experiment obeyed the commands of the experimenter and continued to electrocute their victim even as the man screamed in apparent agony begging for mercy. The experiment exposed the dark side of humans which is present in every one of us.