• Question: What is the weirdest psychological study or theory you have come across?

    Asked by EvieH on 22 Nov 2023.
    • Photo: LESLIE HALLAM

      LESLIE HALLAM answered on 22 Nov 2023:

      The Milgram experiments were pretty strange, getting a subject to (seemingly) deliver increasingly severe electric shocks to another person (actually a confederate of the experimenters; they did not receive any shocks, but acted as though they did in terms of vocalisations). While the ethics (and some of the results) are now in question, it did indicate something powerful about inducing compliance to authority. I replicated one element of another of Milgram’s experiments for my third-year project as an undergrad, asking people to let me have their seats on a crowded bus in Bradford. Dressed as a student, compliance rates were very low (though abuse was quite high!); dressed in a uniform, carrying a clipboard, about 70% of people stood up and gave me their seat without even asking why – even when that meant they would have to stand up on the journey!

      Obviously, I now carry a clipboard everywhere I go,,,

    • Photo: Ed Morrison

      Ed Morrison answered on 22 Nov 2023:

      The weirdest are probably most of the ideas Sigmund Freud had: that young boys are sexually attracted to their mothers; going to the toilet is erotic; dreams have secret meanings; repressed desires cause all sorts of psychological problems etc. He made up most of this ideas with no scientific basis, and was wrong in the vast majority of them.

    • Photo: Berengere Digard

      Berengere Digard answered on 22 Nov 2023:

      In terms of weird, any theory by Freud or anything on phrenology and physiognomy (based on… absolutely nothing but stereotypes and racism) obviously get first place. They are wrong on so many levels.

      In my field of research (autism) there are loads of older theories that I simply cannot understand how people ever thought these were good ideas. For example, the theory that children could somehow become autistic because their mum didn’t love them enough… It is utterly ridiculous and extremely hurtful. It was extremely false and caused a lot of pain to many people for decades (and still today)

    • Photo: removed scientist

      removed scientist answered on 23 Nov 2023:

      I think the theories of Freud are pretty out there.

    • Photo: Emma Sullivan

      Emma Sullivan answered on 11 Dec 2023:

      I agree with Ed, I think some of Sigmund Freud’s theories were pretty odd and were not based on any empirical research.