Psychologists are skilled at inventing unusual tests of human thought and behaviour, but some research is pretty weird. Over the past few months I’ve been examining some of the weirdest studies around. There’s research into psychic dogs, invasions from Mars, the antidepressant properties of semen, pigeon-guided missiles and men’s urination.
Have a read and then vote below for the study to be crowned PsyBlog’s official ‘weirdest’ study.
Here’s a weird study that sometimes gets a mention in ethical discussions about psychology, and it’s not hard to see why. Middlemist, Knowles and Matter (1976) designed an experiment to test how the speed and flow of men’s urination in a public lavatory was affected by invasions of personal space.
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» Read on about the urinal periscope -»
Would you believe that people who live with each other for 25 years actually develop similar facial features? I don’t just mean that people tend to choose partners who resemble them, rather that over time together couple’s features actually converge. It’s weird, but there’s evidence for it from a singular study carried out by the noted psychologist Robert Zajonc and colleagues.
» Read on about facial similarity between couples -»
On February 2, 2001 distinguished sleep and dream researcher Professor J. Allan Hobson had a stroke in his brain stem. For 10 days Hobson could neither sleep nor dream. Then he realised the stroke was localised to the exact part of the brain he had been studying experimentally in his sleep research with cats. Call it poetic justice, or just sheer bad luck, either way Hobson approached the experience like a scientist and decided to document it, just as he had with the cats, but this time from the inside.
» Read on about the neuroscientist studying his own stroke -»
During WWII, in the days before cheap computing, guiding a bomb to its target was a more miss than hit affair. While the military were working on their first crude electronic guidance systems, one famous psychologist, B.F. Skinner, had an unusual idea.
» Read on about pigeon-guided missiles -»
Back in 1994 a television company claimed a dog called ‘Jaytee’ could psychically sense when its owner returned home. And they had some evidence to back up their claim. One TV crew was sent out with Jaytee’s owner while she walked around her home town and the other stayed at home with Jaytee. The cameras showed that just as the dog’s owner turned to go home, Jaytee got up and went to the porch and remained there until she returned.
» Read on about the psychic dog -»
Do we learn to laugh when tickled or is it an innate response? That is the question psychologist Professor Clarence Leuba set himself to examine using his own children, no less, as experimental subjects.
» Read on about whether we are programmed to laugh when tickled -»
On October 28, 1938 many Americans believed they were being invaded by Martians. This was the result of a Halloween stunt orchestrated by Orson Wells in which he adapted H. G. Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’ to the radio and broadcast the play as though it was actually happening. For Professor Howard Cantril of Princeton University and colleagues, this provided the perfect opportunity to investigate the anatomy of panic.
» Read on about the anatomy of panic -»
If there was ever research guaranteed to make women suspicious of male researcher’s motivations it’s this one. This study tests the idea that prostaglandins, a component of semen, may actually be useful in treating depression.
» Read on about whether semen has antidepressant properties -»
Here are a couple of studies you can replicate yourself – if you’ve got the nerve. In the first you could be risking bodily harm from enraged motorists, while the second has a twist in the tail. They both show the power of staring at other people and they’re both fantastically simple social psychology experiments.
» Read on about these staring experiments -»
Cat or dog? If I have to choose, I choose dog. It seems, if pushed, most academic research psychologists choose dog as well. I say that because there are quite a few studies about how we interact with dogs but hardly any (none?) about cats. So, here’s my five favourite studies on the psychology of human-dog interaction. (I know it’s cheating a bit to include 5 studies here, but…what the hell!)
» Read on about human-dog psychology -»