7 Unethical Scientific Experiments in History

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Triplets separated for scientific purposes

One of the things that really fascinated scientists understood the concept of “nature versus nurture”. And twins are the perfect example of research, as they have the same genetic makeup. However, it’s extremely difficult to understand exactly how triplets could be separated at birth, without their parents knowing, only for the sole goal of having them analyzed by a psychoanalyst with dubious ethics.

This is exactly what happened to Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman, three brothers that were the main subject of the 1960s study, conducted by Dr. Peter Neubauer. Three brothers met by accident at a university 19 years later. Unfortunately, Eddy Galland committed suicide. The story of this experiment is recalled in the documentary “Three Identical Strangers”.

The Milgram Experiment

At the beginning of the 1960s, the American psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a study where he told a couple of volunteer participants to give electric shocks to what were believed to be students but were actually actors.

The volunteers were made to believe that they were testing new methods. But in reality, they were interested in testing the volunteers’ degree of willingness to follow orders that are opposite to their morality.

They were told to memorize a list of words, then recite them, and the students received electric shocks every time they made an error, with the magnitude of intensity increasing every time there was a wrong answer. If a volunteer hesitated to shock a student, the experimenter would force them to continue. The results were shocking: 62.% of the volunteers completed the experiment.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971, the American psychologist Philip Zimbardo decided to demonstrate that some social situations might induce behaviors that would go against someone’s personal values, especially in a prison. Eighteen subjects were then selected and randomly separated into two main categories: prisoners and guards.

The subjects in the study managed to adapt pretty quickly, as the guards fastly developed authoritarian behaviors, even if nothing justified their position of authority. The prisoners, however, accepted the horrific and cruel treatment even if they were allowed to leave the study anytime they wanted.

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