5 Psych Experiments That Sounded Fun (Until They Started)
So you see an ad in the paper from a lab looking for test subjects. They say they want to study the effects of getting high, or eating too much, or having sex. Oh, and they'll pay you to do all of those things.
Preposterous, right? Got to be a setup for some kind of elaborate prank. But, these experiments were very real, and all of them proved with science that it's horrifyingly possible to have too much of a good thing.
The Have Sex For Money Experiment
Wanted: a healthy, sexually functional male to have sex with a woman. You will be paid. We get to watch.
Yes, that happened, and yes, it was legal. Back in the 1950s and 60s, sex researcher William Masters was determined to find out everything there was to know about boning. Up to that point, research had been carried out via surveys, which were contaminated by the fact that people lied their asses off (which might explain why at the time the average penis length was thought to be around 13 inches long).
No, he needed to study the humping first hand. He hired Virginia Johnson, an attractive female assistant 10 years his junior, and started paying people to have sex with strangers.
For the subjects, it offered all of the benefits of prostitution without the constant threat of genital sores and being locked in a rape dungeon that normally goes along with it. There could not possibly be a downside to this, right?
The Harsh Reality
First, you found out that these people would be watching you the whole time:
That's Masters and Johnson. Of course, watching wasn't enough. This is science! So you also had sensors hooked to you and your partner that would measure sexual response, monitoring your mojo the same way a polygraph test detects when you're lying. Only instead of measuring your lies, it's measuring how bad of a job you're doing at arousing a total stranger.
Putting the "strange" in "sex with a total stranger," partners were matched randomly (if you still think that sounds awesome, the next time you're in line at Burger King, imagine getting randomly matched up for sex with any one of the people around you). Oh, by the way, the subjects ranged in age from 18 to 89.
We'll let that sink in for a moment.
We're not knocking the work Masters and Johnson did--it was absolutely revolutionary and totally changed the way the modern world thinks about sex. We're just saying it wasn't the erotic carnival of flesh the subjects probably had in mind upon entering a sex laboratory. And in case it's not obvious enough that this was a worse deal for the women involved, they had the added bonus of having their orgasms studied via a prosthetic penis with a video camera in it.
The NASA Bed Rest Study
If you could design your perfect job, what would it be? If you said, "Staying in bed all day, surfing the web and playing video games on a laptop," well, you're most people in our target demographic. You're also a couple of years too late.
In 2008, NASA was recruiting regular people using radio and TV ads for a 90-day study that involved earning $17,000 for doing little more than being confined to a bed (yes, you could play WoW if you wanted to). Shit, that's more than your mom makes, and she ain't just lying there, if you know what we mean (we mean she's a whore).
The only hitch was that you had to stay in their testing facility and you were pulled from bed occasionally for simple tests. Easiest 17 grand ever, right?
We get pulled away from our sleeping areas all the time.
The Harsh Reality
Unless you're planning to buy shit on the Internet, it could be awhile before you can actually go out and spend any of that $17,000. See, the purpose of the study was to determine the effects of prolonged exposure to zero gravity environments on the body. More specifically, they wanted to know how much of a Johnny Noodle Legs an astronaut would be after completing a six month flight to Mars. Scientists know that from what we've seen of guys who spend a lot of time in space, the results aren't pretty.
They have trouble adjusting.
After a very short time in low/no gravity (replicated in the study by the beds being slightly lower at your head than at your feet) your muscles begin to atrophy.
Even worse, your bone mass plummets and can take years to return to normal, even in regular gravity, thereby rendering you approximately half as durable as a lactose intolerant octogenarian. Your blood pressure also gets completely fouled up to the point that it's higher in your feet than your head.
This won't help.
The study included a 14-day period after the test where you would have to do rehab to become strong enough just to do everyday tasks again.
Also, the description of the study seems to steadfastly avoid mentioning whether or not you have to poop in the bed.
The Eat As Much As You Can Experiment
We hope nobody takes this the wrong way but, let's face it: Americans are fat as hell. We're in a cycle now where society is giving us more and more crap about this daily, and somehow this just makes us fatter.
But what if you could get fat for science? And even better, what if the scientists promised to get you out of prison early to boot? This would be a good time to mention that, for the purposes of this scenario, you're in prison. Probably for a sex crime of some nature. But we digress.
Back in the 1970s, researchers combined two cornerstones of American society, obesity and overcrowded prisons, into one fat-tastic study. A select group of prison inmates, hopefully the non-rapey kind, were offered early release on the grounds that they agreed to gain 25 percent of their body weight.
It doesn't get much better than that! Pack on a few extra pounds and before you know it you'll be home just in time to catch your best friend raising your kids and nailing your girlfriend!
The Harsh Reality
Have you ever tried to eat 10,000 calories in one day? Of course not. Those are Michael Phelps numbers, and he only does it because he works out all day and smokes weed all night. But that's what these prisoners were doing every single day, and the side effects almost make prison sound like the more pleasant option.
"Let's just get this over with..."
For one thing, they had to gain the weight eating prison food, which is kind of like that shitty school cafeteria food we all grew up on except back then we didn't have to worry about getting the slice of meatloaf with the shank baked into it (unless you went to public school, obviously).
Aside from that unpleasantness, there was also the vomiting, depression, bowel movement difficulties and a multitude of other health problems that come with eating that many calories per day. There is also a high that comes with that much food intake which can lead to addiction and eventually, withdrawal symptoms. Shit, that's probably what landed you in prison in the first place. Oh, and you'd also be a total lard ass.
Even worse is what happened to 33 percent of the participants. What the scientists were really studying was if there were genes that keep some people from getting fat. Turns out, there are. For three out of nine prisoners, they literally could not eat enough food to gain enough weight for early release. As if being in prison doesn't make you feel like enough of a failure, now you find out you can't even get fat when your very freedom is counting on it. No wonder your girlfriend is cheating on you.
The Say "Yes" to Drugs Experiment
Back in the day, drugs like LSD were new and exciting and seemingly full of potential. The U.S. and British armies thought that these new drugs could have use in warfare (presumably on the bad guys, since a man's accuracy with a machine gun tends to actually drop several notches when he's tripping balls).
So, they recruited their own soldiers to indulge in huge amounts of acid and weed in order to monitor the effects.
"Her interest in Bob Marley appears to have doubled since last week."
The Harsh Reality
A word of advice, if anyone ever walks up to you and says, "Hey, mind if I test this on you to see if it would make a good weapon?" fucking run.
It doesn't matter if they're gripping a handful of marshmallows. Kick rocks, immediately, because something horrible is about to happen. In this case, one of the theories the military wanted to test was that you could feed your own recruits enough drugs to drive them to suicide. And they weren't giving them the recreational stuff; we're talking military weapons grade hallucinogens.
The military insists nobody suffered long-term harm from the experiment, though their files indicate one guy talked with imaginary friends for days at a time and another played with invisible kittens for hours. If that second one doesn't sound so bad, imagine how he felt when he sobered up and realized that he had no kittens. The main thing the military wanted to know was if soldiers could still fight under the influence of LSD, and determined that, yes, tripping soldiers were still capable of violence. We're thinking there was probably no pleasant way to find that out.
Just a bad trip.
Also, some soldiers sued the military years later, claiming the government-issue LSD caused them memory loss, hallucinations and "homicidal urges." The courts ruled against them, on the basis that if some dudes ask you to drop a ton of acid so they can see what happens to you, and you say yes, you deserve what you get.
The Sudden Wealth Experiment
What if some guys handed you $100,000, on the condition that they get to film what happens to you next? And what if you were living under a bridge at the time?
The crew of the documentary Reversal of Fortune planted a suitcase filled with 100 grand for homeless man Ted Rodrigue to find, and followed him around with a camera to document the results. Initially, Ted did exactly what the rest of us would do if someone gave us $100,000. He bought a new bicycle, picked up Mike from down at the local recycling plant and hit the fucking amusement park.
This may also have involved corn dogs.
Oh, he also found a place to live, got back in touch with his family and landed a girlfriend. We'd probably do that stuff too, but after the amusement park.
The Harsh Reality
As we have previously mentioned, people who have been poor for years get pretty good at it. You make minimum wage, you live like you make minimum wage. If you're homeless, you adjust to life on the street.
But give a homeless guy a shit ton of money, and he doesn't continue to live like a homeless guy. But he doesn't live like a guy with $100,000, either. He tries to live like a millionaire, because he has no idea what living on 100 grand looks like.
Maybe consider other investments.
People who are used to having that much money don't go buying cars for their friends and new girlfriends nor do they spend all of their free time getting shitfaced at local bars. But that's exactly what Ted did. And they tend to hold down jobs, which Ted steadfastly refused to do despite being advised to find one by friends, family, a homeless advocate and a financial planner. In Ted's words, he was "set for life."
After buying himself a $35,000 truck, buying additional cars for his new girlfriend and Mike from the recycling plant (you probably thought we made that guy up) and spending close to $10,000 per week at the bar, Ted had less than $5,000 left after just six months.
Of course that was just one homeless guy. You'd obviously handle that opportunity more responsibly, right? Nope, probably not. It turns out even well adjusted, middle class lotto winners go through the exact same stuff before ultimately losing everything and winding up worse off than before.
Still, they got a great documentary out of it. And we assume Ted got to keep that sweet bicycle. The rest of us however learned the valuable lesson that giving us a sudden chunk of wealth is a bit like giving a dog a helicopter. It's awesome for a few minutes, then everything goes to hell.
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To learn about more scientists maliciously fucking with other people, check out 5 Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed and The 10 Craziest Scientific Experiments Ever Conducted.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 4.5.10) our resident psychiatrist, Seanbaby, at work.