Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


Psychology Experiments

Scott Adam’s blog is very, very funny. He is often thought provoking and usually hilarious on subjects ranging from the frivolous – such as the ethics of walking naked from the shower (and is it OK to twirl?) – to the serious – like the question of whether Iran is trying to build nukes.

A lot of the fun comes from reading the comments. He even has funny readers and Scott has a particular talent for riling them up by taking non-stands on issues where clearly, according to his readers, he should taking a stand.

Scott recently formulated an Adamesque set of rules for debating. The highlight was a rule that says, if someone asks a question and the respondent tries to change the question before answering, the questioner wins by a knockout. That was pretty funny until Scott started asking some questions of the form :

Hypothetical parody of a serious contemporary issue with only two possible responses

  • First answer is immoral
  • Second answer is illogical

The knockout rules preclude changing the question and so Scott provided a valuable service to psychology (and dictators) by demonstrating that most people would rather be seen as immoral than illogical. A few killjoys (including me, I am ashamed to say) missed the point and thought it was an exercise in debating or politics or philosophy or science.

A follow-up experiment to see whether people are willing to justify their immorality precisely because the only alternative is illogical would be interesting.

Since reading Opening Skinner’s Box, Jeff and I have often fantasized about a school science experiment that is ostensibly about one thing but is actually about another. A favorite idea would be a project that tests my theory that if an object is about to fall from a table, men are more likely to try to catch it and women are more likely to put their hands in the air and say “eek!” A few isolated experiments seem to confirm the theory but we need more data to be sure.

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one response to Psychology Experiments

Julio Santos May 12, 2006

> A favorite idea would be a project that tests my theory that if an object is about to fall from a table

I remember an 8th grade teacher of mine, saying that if something is about to fall from a table on your lap, men are more likely to close their legs whereas women are more likely to open them up. something about pants vs. skirts. im not sure why doesn’t everyone just close their legs in that situation, but there you go.

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