10 Of The Strangest Social Psychology Facts That Show Just How Bizarre Humans Are.

If you put good apples into a bad situation, youll get bad apples.

Philip G. Zimbardo

1/10. People will often do horrible things if they are told to.

Stanley Milgram conducted a study in the aftermath of 2nd world war to understand how is it that people followed such inhumane orders in Nazi Germany.

He wanted to see if ordinary people would harm someone if an authority told them to, and was shocked to find that since participants felt a need to comply with authority, they were, indeed, willing to harm another person.

Milgram developed a fake shock generator with labels beginning at 15 volts (Slight Shock) to 450 volts... which is huge. Participants took on the role of teacher and were informed they would be participating in a learning and memory test. In doing so, they had to teach the student (a confederate in a separate room) a list of words.

The teacher was instructed to increase the voltage by 15 and shock the student each time he answered incorrectly. When a subject began to grow uneasy about shocking the confederate (due to voltage level, noises, ethics, etc.) the experimenter would encourage the participant to continue by proclaiming he would assume full responsibility for any harm done to the student and by saying phrases such as It is absolutely essential that you continue.

To rule out sadistic tendencies, all 40 teachers were male and were screened for competence and intelligence before beginning the experiment

The shocking results?

100% of male participants delivered up to 300 volts (Intense) to their assigned student. 62% of participants administered 375 volts (Strong Shock) and 63% participants shocked their student at the maximum level (450 volts).

When these alterations to the original experiment were made, the rate of compliance was not reduced:

-The victim claimed to have a heart condition

-Subjects were told the experiment was being conducted for marketing purposes

-Before the experiment began, the student extracted an explicit agreement from the teacher to stop on demand

Submitted by Tejasvita Apte

2/10. People often go to surprising lengths to conform to the majority opinion.

Solomon Asch designed an experiment where people were shown the reference line on the left, and then asked which of the 3 lines on the right was the same length.

Pretty easy task, right? The catch is that participants had to state their answers after 5-7 other people had answered the same question -- people who were actually Asch's confederates. This was repeated 18 times, and 2/3 of the time the confederates gave the wrong answer (e.g. every person said the answer was A even though it was clearly C). About 1/3 of the study participants agreed with the incorrect group consensus at least once, and 30% of participants conformed on a majority of the trials. Peer pressure FTW.

Submitted by Leo Polovets

More on the next page!

3/10. This is more behavioral/consumer focused but has social implications...and it is mind-blowing.

The chart above (from a study by Eric Johnson and Daniel Goldstein titled "Do defaults save lives?") shows the percentage of people in each country who consent to donate their organs.

What is interesting is that many of the countries in yellow on the left (Denmark, UK, etc.) are similar to many of the country in blue on the right (Belgium, Sweden, France, etc.) in terms of economics, development, etc. So why the staggering difference in consent to donate organs?

It turns out the difference is based on the framing of the options (opt-in versus opt-out) on the government form. Here is essentially how it plays out:

Yellow Countries (Opt-In Form)

"Please check the box if you want to donate your organs."

Nobody checks the box. Nobody donates.

Blue Countries (Opt-Out Form)

"Please check the box if you do not want to donate your organs."

Again, nobody checks the box...but (because of the form) everybody donates.


This study is a powerful example of how important the default option is in decision making. Making a decision is difficult so often times people resort to the default option. Thus, the manner in which the decision in framed has huge implications for the resulting behavior.

Do Defaults Save Lives?

Submitted by Christopher Lee

4/10. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.

This combined with the Bandwagon effect will lead to a greater fan following for the leader. According to Wikipedia, "The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others." In other words, this video...

Submitted by Sayed Atif Ali

Continue to the next page for more weird social psychology phenomenons.

5/10. Aoccdrnig to reserach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, the oredr of lteetrs in a wrod is nto vrey iprmoetnt. Waht mttaers is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The ohter letetrs can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed wthuot mcuh probelm. Tihs is bcauseae yuor brian deos not raed ervey lteter, but raeds wrods and gruops of wrods.

Submitted by Samridh Gupta

6/10. The Chameleon Effect. Although it had long been suspected that copying other people's body language increases liking, the effect wasn't tested rigorously until Chartrand and Bargh (1999) carried out a series of experiments.

According to Chartrand and Bargh, the chameleon effect is the natural tendency to imitate another persons speech inflections and physical expressions. You can notice that people who get along well behave almost the same way, as they unintentionally mimic each others body posture, hand gestures, speaking accents, and other. The body is actually autonomously making the interaction smoother and increasing the level of likeability when in rapport.

So the 'chameleon effect', far from being the preserve of cold-blooded reptiles, is actually a warm response facilitating social interactions. Individuals usually do it so instinctively that they're not aware of it, and in most cases, doing such really does increase their likeability. Empathic individuals, people who are more willing to share others' perspective, were also concluded to mirror the actions of others more often. "Those who pay more attention mimic more," says Chartrand, and make more friends in the process.

Submitted by Noor Alansari

Continue to the next page for more :)

7/10. Norms which are perceived to be accepted by majority but in reality is accepted only by plurality. Thus, in turn is accepted by everyone in the group. In other terms, "when no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes."

Suppose 10 friends go for a movie, and 3 of them like it, while rest don't. Now, when you come out of theater, if 3 people who like it say it first, you begin to assume that everyone seems to like it. So in order to avoid being looked like an bystander, you tell them that you liked it, so does everyone else.

An illustrative example...

With this effect in mind, studies show that people in alone are more likely to help a needy, than in public, in order to avoid being looked like a bystander.

8/10. Do you know why firefighters, when responding to the possibility of an active suicide jumper, push onlookers away from the scene? It is because people will gather and taunt the suicide jumper. Take the 2008 suicide of teenager Shaun Dykes, who jumped to his death after 3 hours of failed police negotiations when bored onlookers began to shout for him to jump. Does this shock you? This sort of behavior is actually common enough that it has its own term "Suicide-Baiting."

Ordinary people can turn EVIL in the right circumstances. Deindividuation is a theory to explain the tendency of violence to emerge in large crowds of people. It refers the process of losing hold of our own identity, which can occur with the anonymity and diffusion of responsibility offered to us when in large groups.

So what's happening here? How can ordinary people behave in such an atrocious manner? Deindividuation is affected by 3 factors:

  1. Anonymity (such as when browsing the internet, or hidden in group)
  2. Diffusion of Responsibility (the feeling that responsibility for what occurs is spread out among your group, and thus you are absolved)
  3. Group Size (a very large group contributes both to anonymity and diffusion, and you effectively vanish as an individual)

Take this classic study on the night of Halloween in 1976. Researchers Ed Diener and colleagues set out a large bowl of candy for trick-or-treaters, and controlled the independent variables of anonymity (some kids were asked their names), group size (recorded whether kids were alone or in group), and responsibility (some children were "placed in charge" or the group and told they would individually be held responsible if group took extra candy). Finally, all groups were instructed to take only 1 piece of candy- the researcher then closed the door so that the kids were alone.

What the study found was that alone and identified children stole candy only 8% of the time, whereas anonymous children in a group stole candy nearly 60% of the time. Furthermore, when the anonymous group had been left in the symbolic hands of one child (not shown on graph) the group stole candy 80% of the time! This because the group felt less responsible for their actions when they knew there was a "leader" who would take the blame for them.

Submitted by Dylan James

Two final social psychology phenomenons on the next page!

9/10. Substitution (Schema, Social Cognition)

When prompted to answer a difficult question, people usually substitute it with a simple question and answer it!

- This was expounded by George Plya in his book, How to solve it.

"If you cant solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it.

This is the crux of mental substitution we very often make without realizing it.

Consider this -

"How happy is your life?" is a difficult question to answer. The usual substitution is - "How is your mood right now?". The latter is what people choose to answer.

"What more can you do to save endangered species?". The usual substitution is "What do I feel about the dying black buck or fish?"

"What measures should be taken for protection of children from the underworld?". The usual substitution is "How much anger do I feel against the exploitation of children".

This is not to say that such substitution happens all the time, but it is fairly common!

Submitted by Tejasvita Apte

10/10. Actor - observer asymmetry

There is a clear difference in perspectives between the actor and the observers! This is mainly with reference to attribution. The actor tends to attribute the success or failure to his situation and the observers to the nature or overall personality of the actor.

Consider this...

While preparing for an exam, if you succeed, you are more likely to attribute that to the easy question paper than your own genius. While others are more likely to claim - "Oh, she passed? Well she is brilliant anyway!"

Similarly, if you make a mistake, you are more likely to look at it in that situation and judge yourself, while others are more likely to attribute it to your innate nature.

Point being that the Actors attribute it to situations while the observers to the innate nature of the Actor.

Submitted by Tejasvita Apte

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