Weird Science: The Odd World of Psychology

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List details unique results of weird psychology studies

The human mind is a complex test subject and can result in some rather weird science. For centuries, psychologists have investigated the human psyche to try to understand why humans behave the way they do. Jeremy Dean, a researcher at University College London and blogger for PsyBlog, has identified some of the most zany and unconventional psychological studies with some very interesting results. Discover the odd world of psychology below.

A Real Face MelterCouple Laughing

Have you ever looked at an older couple and thought you saw similarities in their facial structure? According to noted Psychologist Robert Zajonc, your eyes weren’t playing tricks on you. Zajonc put the theory to test and showed 110 participants photographs of couples during their first year of marriage and then after 25 years of marriage. He worked to keep the photographs as untelling as possible to maintain credibility.

The results showed participants formed the perception that couples had more facial similarities after a long-term relationship. Researchers postulated various possible explanations for the seeming face-morphing of couples, including diet, environment, predisposition and empathy.

Man Trying to SleepSleep to Dream

Sleep and Dream Researcher Professor J. Allan Hobson suffered a stroke on February 2, 2001 that left him unable to sleep or dream for 10 days. His previous sleep research had been conducted on cats. After his stroke he realized it was located in the same part of the brain he had been studying in cats. Hobson decided to document his experience for the ultimate scientific experiment that gives a very unique perspective to his sleep research.

Hobson documented his time spent in the hospital to record a firsthand account of sleep deprivation in stroke patients.

Tickle MonsterBoy Being Tickled

Professor and psychologist Clarence Leuba set out to determine whether laughter from tickling was a learned response or innate. Leuba began his experiment using his own son in 1933. Leuba wore a mask to hide his facial expressions when he would tickle his son. He controlled the tickling to keep accurate record, and started with a light tickle and then progressed to a more vigorous tickle, and he controlled where he tickled his so; armpit, ribs, chin, neck, knees and feet.

Results showed his son laughed as an innate response to tickling. He repeated the experiment again with his young daughter and came to the same conclusion.

Doggone ScienceDog with Glasses

Are dogs psychic? In 1994, a dog named Jaytee became an overnight sensation when it was suggested that he could psychically sense when his owner was returning home. Video shot simultaneously of Jaytee and the owner showed Jaytee’s response to its approaching owner and gave rise to the theory that dogs, or at least this dog, are psychic. Professor Richard Wiseman set out to prove this theory and suggested that there were alternate explanations to this dog’s ability to sense his owner’s return.

Wiseman set up various experimental controls to test Jaytee’s abilities, such as a random control of the owner’s arrival time and swapping the owner’s car to prevent Jaytee from recognizing the sound of the engine. Once the various controls were in place, Jaytee’s psychic abilities were put to the test. And, with these controls, Jaytee was unable to detect his owner’s return.

Cat TherapyCat on Couch

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a German theologian, musician, philosopher, physician, Nobel Peace Prize winner and certified cat lover, reportedly had a strong kinship with cats and even guessed that cats can be mood enhancers. The team at Anthrozoologists  put his theory to test. Researchers studied 212 couples to compare how their mood was affected by their cat and their partner. Results showed cats were able to alleviate bad moods in their owners; however, they were unlikely to promote good moods. Their partners were a more reliable trigger for good moods.

Dog TalkDog on Computer

Dog owners often claim to have a special bond with their four-legged friend. Many even consider their dog to be akin to their child, so it made sense when Robert Mitchell, a researcher at Eastern Kentucky University, decided to compare the ways people talk to dogs and infants. According to his research, the communication similarities were a high-pitched voice, repetitive use of grammatically acceptable words and present-tense verb usage. Differences in communication found that people who talked to dogs used shorter sentences and gave more orders. Baby talk involved more questions.

When Mars AttacksSpace Ship

Six million people heard the classic War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938. The broadcast was a Halloween prank conducted by Orson Wells and created a prime opportunity to understand panic in the human brain. Professor Howard Cantril of Princeton University, along with his colleagues, set out to investigate differing responses to the broadcast and to explain the reasoning behind them.

Cantril’s team interviewed 135 people in New Jersey to determine their reaction and gauge realistic reasons for this reaction. Cantril grouped respondents in four ways, including:

  • People who immediately rejected the Martian story from internal evidence and ideas.
  • People who checked the story using alternate sources and determined it was false.
  • People who unsuccessfully checked the story.
  • People who made no attempt to check the story.

Cantril’s research found that people who failed to check the story’s validity were the most fearful and panic-stricken.

Psychology allows professionals to stretch creativity and develop a thoughtful understanding of human behavior and thought. While some studies are logical and predictable, abnormal studies often produce the most interesting results.

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