9 most brutal experiments in the history of psychology

9 most brutal experiments in the history of psychology, for people with a strong psyche)

1. Boy raised as a girl (1965-2004)

In 1965, Bruce Reimer, an eight-month-old boy who was born in Winnipeg, Canada, underwent a circumcision on the advice of doctors. However, due to a mistake by the surgeon who performed the operation, the boy's penis was completely damaged. Psychologist John Money from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA), whom the child's parents turned to for advice, advised them to have a "simple" way out of a difficult situation: to change the sex of the child and raise him as a girl until he grew up and began to experience complexes on about his male insolvency.

No sooner said than done: Bruce soon became Brenda. The unhappy parents had no idea that their child was the victim of a cruel experiment: John Money has long been looking for ways to prove that gender is not due to nature, but upbringing, and Bruce became the ideal subject of observation.

The boy's testicles were removed, and then over the course of several years, Mani published reports in scientific journals on the "successful" development of his experimental. “It is quite understandable that the child behaves like an active little girl and her behavior is strikingly different from the male behavior of her twin brother, ” the scientist assured. However, both home and school teachers noted the child's typical boy behavior and biased perceptions.

Worst of all, parents who hid the truth from their son-daughter experienced intense emotional stress. As a result, the mother suffered from suicidal tendencies, the father became an alcoholic, and the twin brother was constantly depressed.

When Bruce-Brenda reached adolescence, he was given estragen to stimulate breast growth, and then Mani began to insist on a new operation, during which Brandy had to form female genitals. But then Bruce-Brenda rebelled. He flatly refused to do the operation and stopped coming to Mani's appointments.

Three suicide attempts followed one after the other. The last of them ended in a coma for him, but he recovered and began to struggle to return to normal existence - as a person. He changed his name to David, cut his hair and began to wear men's clothing. In 1997, he underwent a series of reconstructive surgeries to bring back the physical signs of gender. He also married a woman and adopted her three children. However, the happy end did not work: in May 2004, after breaking up with his wife, David Reimer committed suicide at the age of 38.

2. The Source of Despair (1960)

Harry Harlow conducted his cruel experiments on monkeys. Investigating the issue of social isolation of the individual and methods of protection from it, Harlow took the baby of the monkey from his mother and put it in a cage all alone, and he chose those cubs who had the strongest connection with the mother.

The monkey was kept in a cage for a year, after which it was released. Most individuals showed various mental abnormalities. The scientist made the following conclusions: even a happy childhood is not a defense against depression.

The results, to put it mildly, are not impressive: such a conclusion could have been made without cruel experiments on animals. However, the movement for the protection of animal rights began precisely after the publication of the results of this experiment.

3. Milgram's Experiment (1974)

Stanley Milgram's experiment at Yale University is described by the author in his book Submission to Authority: An Experimental Study.

The experiment involved an experimenter, a subject, and an actor who played the role of another subject. At the beginning of the experiment, the roles of “teacher” and “student” were distributed between the subject and the actor by a “drawing of lots”. In fact, the test subjects were always given the role of the "teacher", and the hired actor was always the "student".

Before the beginning of the experiment, the “teacher” was explained that the purpose of the experiment was supposedly to reveal new methods of memorizing information. However, the experimenter investigated the behavior of a person who receives instructions from an authoritative source that are at variance with his internal behavioral norms.

The "student" was tied to a chair, to which an electric shock was attached. Both the "student" and "teacher" received a "demonstration" electric shock of 45 volts. Then the "teacher" went to another room and had to give the "student" simple memorization tasks by voice communication. Each time the student made a mistake, the subject had to press a button, and the student received an electric shock of 45 volts. In fact, the actor who played the student only pretended to receive electric shocks. Then, after each mistake, the teacher had to increase the voltage by 15 volts.

At some point, the actor began to demand that the experiment be stopped. The “teacher” began to doubt, and the experimenter replied to this: “The experiment requires that you continue. Please continue. " The more the current increased, the more the actor showed discomfort. Then he howled in intense pain and finally broke into a scream.

The experiment continued up to 450 volts. If the "teacher" hesitated, the experimenter assured him that he was taking full responsibility for the experiment and for the safety of the "student" and that the experiment should be continued.

The results were shocking: 65% of the "teachers" gave a 450 volt discharge, knowing that the "student" was in great pain. Contrary to all the preliminary forecasts of the experimenters, most of the experimental subjects obeyed the instructions of the scientist who led the experiment, and punished the "student" with an electric shock, and in a series of experiments of forty experimental subjects, none of them stopped at the 300 volt level, five refused to obey only after this level, and 26 »Out of 40 have reached the end of the scale.

Critics stated that the subjects were hypnotized by the authority of Yale University. In response to this criticism, Milgram repeated the experiment, hiring a meager office in Bridgeport, Connecticut, under the banner of the Bridgeport Research Association. The results did not change qualitatively: 48% of the subjects agreed to reach the end of the scale. In 2002, the combined results of all similar experiments showed that from 61% to 66% of “teachers” reach the end of the scale, regardless of the time and place of the experiment.

The conclusions from the experiment were terrible: the unknown dark side of human nature is inclined not only to mindlessly obey authority and follow unthinkable instructions, but also to justify their own behavior with the received "order." Many participants in the experiment experienced an advantage over the "student" and, pressing the button, were sure that he was getting what he deserved.

In general, the results of the experiment showed that the need to obey authority was so deeply rooted in our consciousness that the subjects continued to follow the instructions, despite mental suffering and strong internal conflict.

4. Acquired helplessness (1966)

In 1966, psychologists Mark Seligman and Steve Meyer conducted a series of experiments on dogs. The animals were placed in cages, preliminarily divided into three groups. The control group was released after some time without causing any harm, the second group of animals was subjected to repeated shocks that could be stopped by pressing the lever from the inside, and the animals of the third group were subjected to sudden shocks that could not be prevented.

As a result, the dogs developed the so-called "acquired helplessness" - a reaction to unpleasant stimuli, based on the conviction of helplessness in front of the outside world. The animals soon began showing signs of clinical depression.

After a while, the dogs from the third group were released from their cages and placed in open enclosures, from which it was easy to escape. The dogs were electrocuted again, but none of them even thought about escaping. Instead, they reacted passively to pain, perceiving it as inevitable. The dogs learned from previous negative experiences that escape was impossible and no longer attempted to jump out of the cage.

Scientists have suggested that the human response to stress is much like a dog's: people become helpless after several failures, one after another. It is not clear only whether such a banal conclusion was worth the suffering of the unfortunate animals.

5. Little Albert (1920)

John Watson, the founder of the behavioral trend in psychology, was engaged in research into the nature of fears and phobias. Studying the emotions of children, Watson, among other things, became interested in the possibility of forming a fear reaction about objects that did not previously provoke it.

The scientist tested the possibility of the formation of an emotional fear reaction of a white rat in a 9-month-old boy Albert, who was not at all afraid of rats and even loved to play with them. During the experiment, for two months, an orphan child from a shelter was shown a tame white rat, a white rabbit, cotton wool, a Santa Claus mask with a beard, etc. Two months later, the child was put on a rug in the middle of the room and allowed to play with a rat. At first, the child was not at all afraid of her and played calmly. After a while, Watson began hitting the metal plate behind the child's back with an iron hammer every time Albert touched the rat. After repeating the blows, Albert began to avoid contact with the rat. A week later, the experiment was repeated - this time the plate was hit five times, simply by launching the rat into the cradle. The child cried when he saw a white rat.

After another five days, Watson decided to test whether the child would be afraid of similar objects. The boy was afraid of a white rabbit, cotton wool, a Santa Claus mask. Since scientists did not make loud sounds when showing objects, Watson concluded that fear reactions were transferred. He suggested that many of the fears, antipathies and anxiety states of adults are formed in early childhood.

Alas, Watson did not manage to deprive Albert of fear for no reason, which was entrenched for life.

6. The Landis Experiments: Spontaneous Facial Expressions and Submission (1924)

In 1924, Karin Landis of the University of Minnesota began studying human facial expressions. The experiment, conceived by the scientist, was intended to reveal the general patterns of the work of groups of facial muscles responsible for the expression of individual emotional states, and to find facial expressions typical of fear, confusion or other emotions (if we consider the typical facial expressions characteristic of most people).

His students became the test subjects. To make their facial expressions more expressive, he drew lines with cork soot on the subjects' faces, after which he showed them something that could cause strong emotions: he made them sniff ammonia, listen to jazz, look at pornographic pictures and stick their hands in buckets with frogs. At the moment of expressing emotions, the students were photographed.

The last test that Landis has prepared for students, angered a wide range of psychologists. Landis asked each subject to cut off the head of a white rat. All participants in the experiment initially refused to do this, many cried and screamed, but later most of them agreed. Worst of all, most of the participants in the experiment in life did not offend the flies and did not at all imagine how to carry out the order of the experimenter. As a result, the animals suffered a lot.

The consequences of the experiment turned out to be much more important than the experiment itself. Scientists have not been able to find any regularity in facial expression, but psychologists have obtained evidence of how easily people are ready to submit to authority and do what they would not do in an ordinary life situation.

7. Research on the effect of drugs on the body (1969)

It should be admitted that some experiments carried out on animals are helping scientists to invent drugs that could later save tens of thousands of human lives. However, some research goes beyond the boundaries of ethics.

An example is an experiment designed to help scientists understand the rate and extent of addiction to drugs. The experiment was carried out on rats and monkeys as on animals physiologically closest to humans. The animals were taught to inject themselves a dose of a certain drug: morphine, cocaine, codeine, amphetamine, etc. As soon as the animals learned to "pound" on their own, the experimenters left them a large number of drugs and began to observe.

The animals were so confused that some of them even tried to escape, and, being under the influence of drugs, they were crippled and did not feel pain. The monkeys who took cocaine began to suffer from convulsions and hallucinations: the unfortunate animals pulled out their phalanges of their fingers. The monkeys that "sat" on amphetamine pulled all their fur off. Drug addicts who preferred a cocktail of cocaine and morphine died within 2 weeks of starting the drug.

Despite the fact that the purpose of the experiment was to understand and assess the degree of drug impact on the human body with the intention of further developing an effective drug addiction treatment, the ways to achieve results can hardly be called humane.

8. Stanford Prison Experiment (1971)

The "fake prison" experiment was not intended to be unethical or harmful to the psyche of the participants, but the results of this study astonished the public.

The famous psychologist Philip Zimbardo decided to study the behavior and social norms of individuals who have fallen into atypical prison conditions and are forced to play the role of prisoners or guards. To this end, an imitation of a prison was equipped in the basement of the Faculty of Psychology, and student volunteers (24 people) were divided into "prisoners" and "guards". It was assumed that the "prisoners" were placed in a situation where they would experience personal disorientation and degradation, up to complete depersonalization. The "overseers" were not given any special instructions regarding their roles.

At first, the students did not really understand how they should play their roles, but on the second day of the experiment everything fell into place: the uprising of the "prisoners" was brutally suppressed by the "guards." From that moment on, the behavior of both sides changed radically. The "guards" have developed a special system of privileges designed to separate the "prisoners" and instill in them mistrust of each other - individually they are not as strong as together, which means they are easier to "guard". The "guards" began to think that the "prisoners" were ready to start a new "rebellion" at any moment, and the control system tightened to the limit: the "prisoners" were not left alone with themselves even in the toilet.

As a result, the "prisoners" began to experience emotional distress, depression, and helplessness. After a while, the “prison priest” came to visit the “prisoners”. When asked what their names were, the "prisoners" most often called their numbers, not their names, and the question of how they were going to get out of prison puzzled them.

It turned out that the "prisoners" absolutely got used to their roles and began to feel like they were in a real prison, and the "guards" felt real sadistic emotions and intentions regarding the "prisoners" who had been their good friends a few days before. Both sides seemed to have completely forgotten that this was all just an experiment.

Although the experiment was scheduled for two weeks, it was terminated early after six days for ethical reasons.

9. Project "Aversia" (1970)

In the South African army, from 1970 to 1989, they carried out a secret program of clearing the military ranks of military personnel of non-traditional sexual orientation. They used all means: from treatment with electric shock to chemical castration.

The exact number of victims is unknown, however, according to army doctors, during the "purges" about 1000 soldiers were subjected to various prohibited experiments on human nature. Army psychiatrists, on behalf of the command, were "eradicating" homosexuals with might and main: those who were not "treated" were sent to shock therapy, forced to take hormonal drugs, and even forced to undergo gender reassignment surgery.