“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not”*…
Controversy is essential to scientific progress. As Richard Feynman said, “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Nothing is taken on faith, all assumptions are open to further scrutiny. It’s a healthy sign therefore that psychology studies continue to generate great controversy. Often the heat is created by arguments about the logic or ethics of the methods, other times it’s because of disagreements about the implications of the findings to our understanding of human nature. Here we digest ten of the most controversial studies in psychology’s history…
From “the Stanford Prison Experiment” and “the Milgram ‘Shock Experiments'” to “Voodoo correlations in social neuroscience” and “Libet’s Challenge to Free Will”– The British Psychological Society‘s “The 10 most controversial psychology studies ever published.”
(Lest one wonder whether all of this has any purchase in the real world, this review of Hooked…)
* Carl Jung
As we brace ourselves on our lab benches, we might spare a thought for Gustav Theodor Fechner; he died on this date in 1887. A philosopher and physicist with a keen interest in human behavior, Fechner is recognized (with Wilhelm Wundt and Hermann von Helmholtz) as the founder of experimental psychology. He formulated the rule known as Fechner’s law–that, within limits, the intensity of a sensation increases as the logarithm of the stimulus– a result indicative of his approach to studying the relationships between physical stimuli and the sensations and perceptions they cause. His approach, which came to be known as Psychophysics, has been influential ever since.