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Kendra Cherry

6 Famous Psychology Experiments

By July 20, 2010

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The history of psychology is rich with fascinating studies and experiments that have helped changed the way we think about the human mind and behavior. Some of the most famous psychology experiments include Pavlov's research with dogs, Milgram's studies of obedience and Harlow's work with rhesus monkeys. Explore some of these famous psychology experiments to learn more about some of the best-known research in psychology history.

famous psychology experiments
Learn more about some of psychology's most famous experiments.
Photo courtesy Rich Legg/iStockPhoto
  • Pavlov's Dogs: How Ivan Pavlov Discovered Classical Conditioning: Classical conditioning is one of the major topics studied by students in every introductory psychology class. You may be surprised to learn that it was actually a physiologist who made this important psychological discovery.

  • The Little Albert Experiment: The Little Albert experiment was a famous psychology experiment conducted by behaviorist John B. Watson and graduate student Rosalie Raynor. Learn more about the Little Albert experiment and discover what happened to the boy in the study.

  • The Asch Conformity Experiments: Researchers have long been interested in the degree to which people follow or rebel against social norms. During the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments designed to demonstrate the powers of conformity in groups.

  • Harry Harlow's Rhesus Monkey Experiments: In a series of controversial experiments conducted in 1960s, psychologist Harry Harlow demonstrated the powerful effects of love on normal development. By showing the devastating effects of deprivation on young rhesus monkeys, Harlow revealed the importance of love for healthy childhood development. His experiments were often unethical and shockingly cruel, yet they uncovered fundamental truths that have heavily influenced our understanding of child development.

  • The Milgram Obedience Experiment: In Milgram's experiment, participants were asked to deliver electrical shocks to a "learner" whenever an incorrect answer was given. In reality, the learner was actually a confederate in the experiment who pretended to be shocked. The purpose of the experiment was to determine how far people were willing to go in order to obey the commands of an authority figure. Milgram found that 65% of participants were willing to deliver the maximum level of shocks despite the fact that the learner seemed to be in serious distress or even unconscious.

  • The Stanford Prison Experiment: Philip Zimbardo's famous experiment cast regular students in the roles of prisoners and prison guards. While the study was originally slated to last two weeks, it had to be halted after just six days because the guards became abusive and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety.

Comments

October 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm
(1) Chris says:

The Milgram and Stanford prison experiments were not really psychology experiments, they were sociological experiments.

November 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm
(2) Ryan says:

Well technically they were social psychological experiments. Zimbardo was a psychologist and Milgram and social psychologist. Along with Asch’s experiment and Sherif’s experiment with studying the autokinetic effect they form the main experiments studying conformity in social psychology.

January 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm
(3) Cooper says:

Thé study done to the rhesus monkeys is horrific and disgraceful. It makes me sick.

January 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm
(4) Sean says:

dude your being rediculous. some times we have to do thing we dont entirely enjoy to learn and understand things to make the world a better place. for example, i believe it was da Vinci (may be wrong) that cut open live people to study their bodies and much of what we know today about anatomy comes from his experiments. besides, the monkeys grew up normally reguardless of their feeding methods.
PS: please forgive my spelling and grammar. im still young

January 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm
(5) Jack says:

Cooper: Think about this; because some monkeys were taken away from their mothers for a while, think about all the human children that got their mothers attention. Before that experiment, mothers were told not to love their children. You read the article.

January 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm
(6) Arden says:

It’s all about how much you value our species. Almost everyone in the world has taken a specisist’s viewpoint and said, “The welfare of any human is more important than any amount of animals. Not to be taking any side here, but think of it this way. More humans are saved than animals tested because the human species is overrunning Earth, it’s population multiplying faster than any other. The more accurate point would be to say that for each human saved, hundreds of animals non-consensually also died. By the way, Sean, it was Da Vinci who snuck into morgues and stole bodies to cut them up. It was the Nazis who most contributed to science by vivisection, (NOT an enthusiast) and it is hardly ‘right’ to vouch for THEM. BT dubs, your grammar sucks, get an education.

February 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm
(7) Zach says:

Actually the Obedience experiment is not a experiment, due to a lack of variables, its really more of a demonstration of obedience.

September 16, 2013 at 9:59 am
(8) Alex says:

If you actually read the information about Milgram’s Obedience Experiment, there could be an infinite number of Extraneous variables, that just haven’t been mentioned in the summary as shown on this site. The whole point to this experiment was to find out if the Nazis in the concentration camps during WWII, did what they did because of the authority figure regardless of if they opposed the decision or not, or if they were simply ruthless killers. In the information on this site, you are shown a dependent variable (whether the candidates obeyed or not), an independent variable (which button to press to give the fake electric shock) and a conclusion to support or disprove the hypothesis. All these factors make this an obedience experiment rather than just an observation of obedience.

February 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm
(9) Jennifer says:

Sean and Jack, Harlow’s experiment is considered heinous today. If fact, there is a reason experiements like those are no longer done. It was controversial in its day, but now, no one would ethically repeat it.

I dispute the value of it. I don’t know why you think that for 2.5 million years, mothers were told not to love their children — or why you think they would follow this advice, or even why you think mothers had no agency of their own. But rethink those ideas. This study did nothing to change how children are reared. Yes we did learn something about human contact and the value of parental investment, but I don’t think the negative hypothesis was ever seriously considered plausible. I think Harlow just provided evidence for something we already knew to be true. We have plenty of evidence for it already, albeit in a less controled environment – the world.

If you had ever seen the photographs from this experiment, you would be horrified. The common sense knowledge we gained should not have come at that cost.

March 19, 2014 at 10:33 am
(10) Dottie says:

no they were not sociological. one was psychological and the other was social psychological

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