40 Interesting and Unusual Experiments

1Rosenhan experiment

The Rosenhan experiment was an experiment in which a Stanford psychologist (David Rosenhan) and his associates faked hallucinations in order to be admitted to psychiatric hospitals. They then acted normally. All were forced to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take antipsychotic drugs in order to be released.

2. Identical twin boys were raised as a brother-sister pair (botched circumcision). The truth came when the one being raised as a girl insisted he (David Reimer [1965-2004]) was a boy; the parents admitted he was the subject of an experiment trying to prove gender identity was nurture, not nature. He later committed suicide.

3. An experiment called ‘The Three Christs of Ypsilanti’ was conducted, where 3 schizophrenics claiming to be Jesus were brought together and their reactions documented. In the end, each came to the conclusion that the other two must have mental issues.

4. In 1927, an experiment (Pitch drop) was begun to show that solid pitch was actually a liquid. 89 years later the pitch has produced 9 drips.

5. In 1958, as an experiment, Bank of America mailed 60,000 residents of Fresno, California a small plastic card with a $500 credit line. Bank of America figured if it failed, there'd be no media coverage because it was in Fresno. The experiment was hugely successful and the program became Visa.


A 2011 Johns Hopkins study gave healthy adults a few sessions of Psilocybin (magic mushrooms). A year later, 94% of the individuals said the experiment was in their top 5 most meaningful experiences of their lives and 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience of their lives.

7. The Monster Study was an experiment designed to induce stuttering in otherwise normal-speaking orphan children. Some of the children were praised for their speech, while others ridiculed and belittled. These children later developed speech problems that lasted their entire life.

8. In 1746, Jean-Antoine Nollet (French physicist) conducted an experiment in which 200 monks formed a circle (1.6 km in circumference) and were linked by iron wire. He then had electricity pass through them which shocked all the monks simultaneously. He concluded that the speed of electricity was very high.

9. In 1967, a history teacher named Ron Jones performed an experiment with his class to find out why people allowed the Nazis to commit terrible acts. He brainwashed them using Nazi ideals and at the end of the week had several hundred teenage followers under his complete control before he revealed the truth.

10. The "fact" that you eat 8 spiders a year was a social experiment to show how fast false information spreads on the internet.

11Robotic fish

Through a series of experiments in the Polytechnic Institute of New York, a robotic fish ended up becoming the leader of a school of live fish.

12. The children's movie "The Secret of NIMH" was inspired by a real rat utopia experiment that ended in societal collapse.

13. In a housing experiment that moved families from poor neighborhoods to wealthier ones, boys experienced PTSD rates comparable to those of combat soldiers, while psychological well-being improved for girls.

14. The smoke-filled room experiment is an experiment which shows that even if there's smoke filling a room, people will stay for as long as 20 minutes if no one else is reacting to it. Otherwise, they'd leave quickly.

15. Only one of the guards of the Standford Prison Experiment (Robert Eshelman) was particularly brutal, and the more brutal he became, the more prominently he faked a southern accent.

16Trails planes

Scientists took advantage of the three-day flight ban over the US after 9/11 to conduct experiments on the effect on the atmosphere of jet planes. They found the days were a little warmer and the nights cooler, suggesting that the exhaust trails planes leave in the sky act like clouds.

17. There was an experiment where 2 groups (Rattlers and Eagles) of 11-12 year old boys who were given separate camps in a state park. When the groups became aware of each other, they began raiding each other’s camps, which led to physical combat. The investigators ended the experiment fearing someone would seriously get hurt.

18. When Michael Crichton (American author) was in college, he conducted an experiment to expose an English professor who he believed was giving him abnormally low marks. Crichton submitted an essay by George Orwell under his own name. The paper was returned by his unwitting professor with a mark of "B−".

19. Ken Kesey (Author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") volunteered for MKUltra experiments involving LSD and other psychedelic drugs as a student. This inspired him to promote the drug outside of the experiments, which influenced the early development of hippie culture.

20. Wi-Fi was developed by using technology from a failed experiment attempting to detect mini black holes.

21Donald Ewen Cameron

Scottish psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron in the 50s ran experiments on humans which involved giving several electric shocks a week, taping blacked out football helmets to their heads and playing repetitive messages in their ears for months at a time. Some patients apparently forgot who they were and how to talk.

22. In the 60's US Army did an experiment, where two people Dave Dobson and Bob Selden without nuclear training had to design a nuke with only access to publicly available documents. They succeeded.

23. Nikola Tesla planned to secretly experiment on children, lining the walls of schoolrooms with high-voltage lines, believing that exposing them to the energy would make them healthier and smarter, and he believed every home in the future would soon do likewise.

24. A NASA scientist Mark Rober conducted a tongue-in-cheek experiment to see what animals drivers are more likely to hit. He placed rubber fakes on the side of the road and found that 6% of drivers intentionally swerve to hit them, tarantulas being hit the most.

25. An experiment was conducted on the New York subway where seated passengers were asked: "Excuse me, may I please have your seat?" 56% of them moved.



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