Hello readers, today I’m just going to do a short blog on five findings/experiments that are either interesting due to their morally questionable methods, or their really weird and interesting findings. So here goes:
- Hiding under college student’s beds.
In 1938 researchers set out to discover the speech habits of students, in order to understand what students spend the most time talking about. This study would be relatively easy to conduct through recording equipment or bugs, however, at the time researchers had to resort to spying on students, and even hiding under their beds.
“Investigators took special precautions to keep the subjects ignorant of the fact that their remarks were being recorded. To this end they concealed themselves under beds in students’ rooms where tea parties were being held, eavesdropped in dormitory smoking-rooms and dormitory wash-rooms, and listened to telephone conversations.”
It was found that college students spend most of their time talking about themselves. Hiding under beds would now be considered morally inappropriate for psychological experiments, due to lack of informed consent and would be considered a breach of privacy. Though you have to admit, at the time, those researchers were resourceful, and sneaky!
- Monkey prostitutes
A study was conducted to understand whether capuchin monkeys could understand
currency. Researchers taught the monkeys that they could exchange coin shaped disks with human experimenters for food rewards.
Researchers observed that the monkeys could budget, for example, researchers changed the ‘market’ and put Jell-O at a lower price. The monkeys responded by buying fewer grapes and more Jell-O. Interestingly, when the monkeys were taught to gamble, they made the same irrational decisions as a human gambler.
The monkeys even understood that you can exchange currency for goods or services (not just food). During the study one of the monkeys exchanged currency to another for sex. Immediately afterwards the monkey used the currency to buy a grape.
- Dogs automatically read our emotions
Over the last twenty years, studies have shown that dogs can understand human’s pointing, gazing and nodding in the direction of a target. Dogs can follow human eye/head direction to find hidden food. It is even thought that dogs may have an internal representation of their owner’s face.
Recently studies have focused on dog’s sensitivity to human emotions. Studies have showed that dogs react differently to a range of facial expressions (eg. anger, fear) compared to neutral facial expressions.
Twenty-two healthy adult pet dogs successfully completed the study. The dogs were presented with 12 pictures of dog faces, 12 pictures of human faces and 4 pictures of objects. In the dog and human face pictures, there were four pictures displaying negative (threatening) faces, four pictures displaying neutral faces, and four pictures displaying positive/friendly faces.
When analysing the dogs ‘total look’ at human faces, a significant left bias was observed towards both negative and neutral expressions. However, no significant bias was found for human faces displaying positive expressions. There was no significant variation from chance level when the dogs were observing object pictures.
This suggests that when dogs look at humans displaying negative expressions, they look to the right side of our faces (their eyes wander to the left – left gaze bias). Recent studies show that humans often express emotions more accurately and intensely on the right side of their face. If true, then it makes sense for dogs and humans alike to inspect this side of a face first. The researchers suggest that dogs may show this left gaze bias towards negative/threatening facial expressions as it provides a clear advantage in terms of harm avoidance.
Clearly dogs are really man’s best friend.
- Jennifer Aniston cell
Recent research suggests that we do possess single neurons that relate to individual concepts. For example, if you are obsessed with ‘Friends’, then you probably have at least one ‘Jennifer Aniston cell’. This theory of hyper-specific neurons, coined ‘grandmother cells’ was quickly rejected after Jerry Lettvin suggested it in the 1960’s.
A research team investigated this theory by recruiting eight epilepsy patients currently undergoing treatment. Each patient had around 100 electrodes implanted in their brain, mostly around the hippocampus (eg. the memory centre of the brain). The patients were shown between 71-114 images of famous people, places, food items. For each subject, the researchers measured the electrical activity or “firing” of the neurons connected to the electrodes. Of the 993 neurons sampled, 132 fired to at least one image.
The researchers then began the testing phase – this time showing three to seven different pictures that caused some initial electrical activity (from the original 132 photo subjects that caused neurons to ‘fire’). For example, one participant was shown seven pictures of Jennifer Aniston among 80 other photos of animals, buildings and additional famous people. The neuron ignored all other photos, but ‘fired’ each time Aniston appeared on screen.
Further results were found with another woman who had a neuron that ‘fired’ for Halle Berry. The neuron even fired for a drawing of her face and for an image of her name written down.
I love this piece of research, just shows how amazing the brain is, and how many tiny neurons and connections we have inside our brain.
- Rape fantasies
This is perhaps the one of the controversial findings that relate to sex and psychology, nevertheless it does not make it any less true. Current research suggests that between 31% and 57% of women have fantasies in which they are forced to have sex against their will.
For 9-17% of women these fantasies are a frequent or their preferred fantasy experience. Actual prevalence of rape fantasies may be higher than this, as women may not feel comfortable admitting to having these fantasies.
Bivona and Critelli found that rape fantasies existed on an erotic-aversive continuum, with 9% of rape fantasies being completely aversive (‘I’m being forced and I hate it’), 45% completely erotic (‘I’m being forced and I love it’), and 46% both erotic and aversive.
The majority of erotic rape fantasies included feigned non-consent (eg. the fantasizer did not really want the sexual interaction to end). In about ¾ of erotic rape fantasies, the self-character’s level of consent changed from being initially resistant to willing. As with the other rape fantasies, the self-character was physically restrained by the assailant in most of these fantasies.
I will to not lie to you, I still haven’t read enough research on this topic to give you a theory behind what causes rape fantasies or why women may be aroused by something that in real life would be traumatic and an horrific event. However, if you do have these fantasies, then you do not seem to be alone, do not think yourself perverse, weird or un-feminist. Fantasies are fantasies, and having a rape-fantasy does not mean you want to be raped or are asking to be raped, after-all in a rape fantasy, the ‘victim’ has control.
So this blog was just a bit of fun, but I would love to hear your comments on any of the research I’ve talked of. Especially if you want to hear more about one topic, then I will try do a whole blog post on the topic in the near future.
Love Em x (The Little Blogger)
Hiding under college students beds
Currency and monkeys
Left gaze bias in dogs
Jennifer Aniston cell