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These Social Experiments Show the Good and Bad of Humanity

Psychological experiments aren’t really what you’d expect. It’s not like a movie. You’re not being strapped to a chair or being exposed to shocking images with your eyelids taped open. Usually, these experiments are social in nature, and deal with how you handle human interaction or how you conduct yourself in strange situations. These 10 experiments are mostly about the latter, and they teach us something interesting about human nature, for better or worse. Check it out!

Good Clean Fun Vogelius

In Sweden, Volkswagon unleashed The Fun Theory. This initiative saw the company transforming a normal set of stairs into bright piano keys. This was done to see if people would take the escalators less. The plan worked; 66% more people took the musical stairs.

Born To Be Wild


Bikers tend to have a negative stigma surrounding them. Beer company Carlsberg used this as part of a social experiment. They filled a movie theater with tattooed riders with the exception of two seats in the middle. Several couples left when they noticed the gang of bikers. Any couple that decided to take the two remaining seats were offered free Carlsberg beer and a spot in their commercial. In the end, it’s never wise to judge a book by its cover.

Lead Not Follow

A group of researchers asked college students if they would wear a board with the statement “Eat at Joe’s” in public. Regardless of their answer, each student assumed their peers would also answer the same way. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The experiment was done to showcase a phenomenon known as “false consensus.” As people, we’ll sometimes believe that others agree with our choices even if that’s not true.

Danger In Sight

Good Samaritans are everywhere in this world, but Princeton Theological Seminary wanted to see how many people still fit that role. In 1973, they set up a fake job interview station, and on the way, had an actor pretend to be in severe pain. 70% of people took the time to help out the individual.

Mall Madness

The popular “Lost In The Mall” study involves telling stories to an individual about their youth. In a twist, the subject is told that one story is entirely false. The false story always involved being lost in the mall as a kid. Out of a 24-person study, an average of five people believed the mall story was real. In the end, the experiment showcases how easy it is to place false memories in your head.

Social Media Scramble

Social media titan Facebook got in hot water for a 2012 experiment. They decided to randomly display positive and negative items on everyone’s news feed. The company learned that they had the power to give their users happiness or sadness.

Basketball Jones

Harvard University wanted to see if folks actually pay attention to their surroundings. They showed a video of kids playing basketball outside of the school. For nine seconds, a person in a gorilla suit stepped into the shot to strike a pose. Over half of the students who watched the video didn’t notice a gorilla.

A Marshmallow World

Marshmallows are tempting treats to kids. Stanford University ran an experiment to see if they have enough self-control not to eat the confection when an adult leaves the room. Those that resisted the treat for 15 minutes were given two marshmallows as a reward. Out of the 600 kids tested, only a handful ate the marshmallows right away. Kids that passed the test were more likely to have higher SAT scores and a better career path.

Violin Extraordinaire

Seeing musicians playing near the subway station in a big city is common. Joshua Bell, however, is no common musician. The Grammy award-winning violinist played an unannounced set at a Washington D.C. station in 2007. In the end, only six people stayed to watch his 45 minute performance. Most people at the station simply walked by the musician as if he wasn’t there. Days before this experiment, Bell performed in front of 2,600 people inside Boston’s Symphony Hall. The experiment showed that people will pass up an award-winning performer if he’s in a mundane location.

Classroom Separation


After Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, teacher Jane Elliott wanted to demonstrate racism to her third-grade class. Since her students didn’t comprehend racism, she did a test. Students with blue eyes were treated better than those with brown eyes. The next day, she favored brown-eyed students instead. In the end, those with better treatment had better concentration in class. On the opposite side, kids that were treated poorly walked away with low test scores.

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