Seven fascinating experiments that prove how little we really know about yourselves

We often assume that we know everything about our behaviour and can predict our reaction to anything that might ever happen to us. On the contrary, the following experiments reveal that psychology is way more complicated than we think.

We here at LikeAble put together this list of seven experiments that prove that our nature often overpowers what we’ve learned. People hide more within themselves than you might think.

1. We can force ourselves to do anything

In 2000, Marco Evaristti conducted a social experiment which involved setting up ten blenders with goldfish swimming in them. Every participant who saw them had the chance to press a button that would kill the goldfish inside the blender. One of the participants killed a fish an hour after the experiment began. It seems our nature sometimes makes us act in cruel ways for no apparent reason.

2. We adjust reality to our expectations of ourselves

In 1993, a group of scientists from Ohio applied make-up on the faces of several women to make it look like they had scars. After looking at themselves in a mirror, the women were asked to meet some strangers. Then, the scientists said that they had applied cream to the women’s faces in order to protect their skin. In fact, the scientists merely took off the make-up scars without notifying the participants.

After meeting new people, many of the women said that they were subjected to various forms of discrimination. They were even able to name words and actions which were used to insult them.

Although none of the participants had any visible flaws on their faces (the scars were already removed), the women felt discriminated against because they thought that they had scars on their faces.

3. We notice very little of what is actually going on

In another experiment, an actor came up to random pedestrians to ask for directions. While a pedestrian was explaining the directions, the conversation was interrupted for a few seconds by two other actors, pretending to be workers, who carried a door between the actor and the pedestrian. While the workers were passing by, the actor was replaced by another person. The two actors had different heights, clothes, hairstyles and voices. Most of the people tested didn’t even notice that a different person was now standing before them.

This ’’blindness to change’’ shows how selective our perception is. Can you believe that? Test yourself. Here are two photos which have only one difference. Try to find it. You will not be able to ’’unsee’’ it as soon as you find it.


4. Willpower has a direct impact on our success

The Marshmallow test was first conducted 40 years ago. It later emerged that preschoolers who were able to wait longer were much less likely to have behaviour problems or experience drug addiction and obesity in high school, compared to the children who could not wait for a minute.

The scientists later continued this study with a group of adults who were over 40. They were shown an image on a computer screen and asked to perform certain tasks at the same time. Those, who demonstrated a lack of willpower as a child coped with the task worse and were distracted by the pictures more as an adult.

Scientists emphasize that a lack of willpower does not equal deficiencies in cognitive development. In some cases, denial of pleasure may become a wrong choice. ’’After all, people who follow their emotional impulses, are often great travellers or businessmen,’’ writes Maya Salavits, the author of this article.

5.There is more cruelty in us than we think

In one famous experiment, the basement of Stanford University was fitted out as a prison. A group of male student volunteers were invited to participate in this experiment. They were divided into two groups of 12 people, with one group becoming ’’guards’’ and the other ’’prisoners’’. Before the experiment, all the participants were tested for mental stability and health.

The participants of both groups received the same salary. The experiment was meant to last for four weeks.

The ’’prisoners’’ were given prison clothes and assigned numbers which deprived them of their names. The ’’guards’’ were dressed in a prison guard’s uniform and were given batons and sunglasses that hid their eyes. They had to monitor the ’’prisoners’’ without applying force.

On the second day of the experiment, the ’’prisoners’’ rebelled. The ’’guards’’ used fire extinguishers to calm down the unrest. Soon, the ’’guards’’ made their ’’prisoners’’ sleep naked on the concrete, and an opportunity to use the shower or even the toilet became a privilege.

One out of every three of the ’’guards’’ displayed sadism and cruelty by openly mocking the ’’prisoners’’. One participant went on hunger strike, for which he was placed in a tiny closet.

Other ’’prisoners’’ were forced to either give up their blankets for the night, or be left in solitary confinement. Only one person agreed to do so.

The experiment lasted a week, instead of the planned four weeks. Many of the ’’guards’’ were upset about the early end of the experiment.

6. Authority for us is above moral norms

How much are regular people willing to impose suffering on others, if it’s a part of their job?

In one Yale University experiment, a ’’student’’ had to perform tasks, and a ’’teacher’’ had to check and punish ’’students’’ with a shock from an electric current for every mistake they made. The ’’students’’, however, were just actors and only pretended to receive a shock.

A ’’teacher’’ went into another room that contained a generator with levers, on which the voltage was written. The ’’teacher’’ was thus aware of the danger in the test he was conducting. Starting with 15 V, the ’’teacher’’ was meant to increase the voltage with every new mistake all the way up to 450 V. When applying the strongest punishment, the organisers of the experiment demanded that the ’’teacher’’ continued to use the last lever.

If the ’’teacher’’ seemed to have doubts, the organisers would ask him to continue by saying that the punishment was necessary for the experiment. In addition, the ’’teacher’’ was assured that the ’’student’’ did not receive serious injuries.

The results showed that a majority of the ’’teachers’’ (26 out of 40) proceeded to use the maximum voltage (450 V) until the organisers ordered an end to the experiment.

The experiment appear to show that completely normal adults are ready to harm others if ordered to by those in authority.

7.Our beliefs prevent us from objectively perceiving reality

Arthur Ellison, a professor of electrical engineering who likes to joke around, once decided to finish his lecture with a game. He asked a group of volunteers (some of them were his fellow professors) to focus their attention on an iron vase. They had to make the vase levitate by looking at it…And they succeeded. The vase really did seem to float above the table. Allison was not surprised because he helped the vase to ’’levitate’’ with the help of an electromagnet.

The students had no idea about the electromagnet, and their opinions varied. One participant said that he saw some gray substance that helped the vase levitate. Another participant argued that nothing had happened and the vase did not move from its original location.

Both students ’’adjusted’’ what they saw to what they believed.