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Fake News

Famously Unethical Psychological Experiments Re-envisioned for Millennials


The Aversion Project

Original: Dr. Aubrey Levin attempted to cure gay men of their homosexuality by showing them pictures of naked men, asking the subjects to fantasize, and then administering severe electric shocks. Yes, it really was as barbaric as it sounds, but don’t worry, it happened, like, a really long time ago (1971-1989) and there’s no way anything like it could ever happen again (as long as Mike Pence doesn’t become president).

Millennial Variation: Show millennials pictures of houses and get them to fantasize about one day owning one themselves. Just as they start to smile, show them a picture of their student loan statement. When they cry, show them an episode of The Simpsons to cheer them up. And then, just as they start to feel better, explain that when The Simpsons first aired, they were considered to be a lower-middle-class family. In the early nineties, a lower-middle-class family could still own a home with a spacious backyard, have two cars, three kids, and a stay-at-home mom. Sorry about your luck, but you missed a shot at financial security by mere decades. But at least you can watch Rick and Morty whenever you want. That’s worth it, right?


The Stanford Prison Experiment

Original: Participants were randomly assigned the role of guard or prisoner. After a few days, they fell into their (entirely fake) roles and the guards started to abuse the prisoners.

Millennial Variation: Take a group of college-educated millennials and separate them into two groups: baristas and bartenders. They are then tasked with making drinks for the researchers. The group that makes the best drinks gets to keep their jobs. Note to researchers: this experiment is known to turn violent, so please remember to bring your goggles and leave your white lab coats at home (when combined, it’s surprisingly difficult to get blood, booze, and latte stains out of white cotton).


Milgram Experiment

Original: Participants were asked by the researcher to administer an electric shock to another participant (an actor who wasn’t really being shocked at all), if that participant answered a question incorrectly. The actor would scream, the voltage would increase (but not really), and the test would continue. Participants proved more than willing to follow the authority of the researcher even though it sounded like they were killing the person in the other room.

Millennial Variation: Participants must give their phone (unlocked of course) to a different participant. The newly phoneless participant will then be quizzed about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If they get an answer wrong, the other participant (who will have been drinking Jägerbombs) will be instructed to send a romantic, drunk text to the ex of the participant who doesn’t know enough about the denizens of Sunnydale. The messages and whatever responses the ex sends back will be shown to the quiz taker. Researchers aren’t quite sure what this experiment is supposed to show, but they are sure that millennials who haven’t watched Buffy kind of deserve it.


The Pit of Despair

Original: Harry Harlow wanted to learn about clinical depression, so he separated baby monkeys from their mothers and placed them (the monkey babies, not the mothers) in small, lonely chambers. Unsurprisingly, the baby monkeys became depressed. Two of them even committed suicide by refusing to eat.

Millennial Variation: In an effort to understand political frustration and depression, researchers propose taking a millennial from the safe, intellectual environment of a university city and isolating them in the small town they grew up in. The millennial will be forced to watch Fox News with their extended family and then discuss the events of the day with people who don’t accept facts, and wouldn’t recognize a fallacious argument if it started chewing on their diabetes-damaged toes. This experiment can be repeated every Thanksgiving until the millennial figures out that they don’t have to return home and a Thanksgiving dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches and cheap beer can also be rewarding when it is shared with people who aren’t insane.


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