Psychology's Most Controversial Studies

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Originally posted on October 14, 2014.

What would you consider psychology’s ten most provocative and controversial studies?  Christian Jarrett, a great communicator of psychological science via the British Psychological Society’s free Research Digest, offers his top ten list here.  A quick recap:

1. The Stanford Prison Experiment (aka the Stanford Prison Simulation)

2. The Milgram "Shock Experiments"

3. The "Elderly-related Words Provoke Slow Walking" Experiment (and other social priming research)

4. The Conditioning of Little Albert

5.  Loftus' "Lost in The Mall" Study

6. The Daryl Bem Pre-cognition Study

7.  The Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience study

8. The Kirsch Anti-Depressant Placebo Effect Study

9. Judith Rich Harris and the "Nurture Assumption"

10. Libet's Challenge to Free Will

This is, methinks, a great list.  All ten have captured my attention and reporting (although I would reframe #5 to indicate Beth Loftus’s larger body of research on false memories and the misinformation effect).  Are there other studies that would make your top ten list?

In the cover story of the October APS Observer, Carol Tavris reflects on “Teaching Contentious Classics,” which include the Milgram experiments, and also Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment and Harlow’s baby monkey experiments, the latter of which surely also merits inclusion on any list of psychology’s most controversial studies.

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see