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Kendra Cherry

A Closer Look at a Few Classic Psychology Experiments

By October 9, 2013

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Psychology's history is filled with fascinating studies and experiments that helped changed the way we think about ourselves and human behavior. Some of the most famous examples include Milgram's obedience experiment and Zimbardo's prison experiment. Explore some of these classic psychology experiments to learn more about some of the best-known research in psychology history.

  1. Pavlov's Classical Conditioning Experiments: The concept of classical conditioning is studied by every entry-level psychology student, so it may be surprising to learn that the man who first noted this phenomenon was not a psychologist at all. Learn more about classical conditioning, Ivan Pavlov and his well-known experiments with dogs.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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