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.