What’s the Most Important Psychological Experiment That’s Never Been Done?

That is the very good question posed on the British Psychological Society’s research blog. The answers, provided by leading psychologists, are even better. In many cases, it’s not that the experiments haven’t been done, but that they can’t be, often for ethical or practical reasons. But even if the proposed experiments are only thought experiments, they are well worth reading. Some of my favorites:

Switching the parents around,” by Judith Rich Harris (about whom we wrote a bit in Freakonomics, and whom Malcolm Gladwell wrote about at length here).

The ‘Truman Show’ experiment,” by Jeremy Dean.

Challenging the conclusions drawn from Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment,” by Alex Haslam.

Is it worth asking: what’s the most important economics experiment that’s never been done?

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 62

View All Comments »
  1. Victoria says:

    Measuring people’s price elasticity of demand for lots of things without a proxy, like children, or human life in general.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. Victoria says:

    Measuring people’s price elasticity of demand for lots of things without a proxy, like children, or human life in general.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Nile says:

    Sadly, all too many of the most impractical and unethical economics experiments I can imagine have been practiced in the open laboratory of a real economy.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Nile says:

    Sadly, all too many of the most impractical and unethical economics experiments I can imagine have been practiced in the open laboratory of a real economy.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Carol says:

    Have two groups, one which practices unchecked capitalism, the other which practices unchecked communism (NOT Stalinism.) I suspect each group would have to comprise people dedicated to making the relevant system work. The current world is the control.

    Is one better than the other? Does either lead to success? Do both degenerate? What?

    I leave the structure of the experiment to you social scientists. (I’m an English major!)

    Follow on: slowly move from one extreme to the other, see where the “perfect” balance exists, if at all.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Carol says:

    Have two groups, one which practices unchecked capitalism, the other which practices unchecked communism (NOT Stalinism.) I suspect each group would have to comprise people dedicated to making the relevant system work. The current world is the control.

    Is one better than the other? Does either lead to success? Do both degenerate? What?

    I leave the structure of the experiment to you social scientists. (I’m an English major!)

    Follow on: slowly move from one extreme to the other, see where the “perfect” balance exists, if at all.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Pcutt says:

    1) Actually implementing the conjecture that if you redistributed all the wealth evenly, then in n amount of time, the previously rich would be rich again and the previously poor would be poor again. How close to “exactly the same” would the results be?

    2) Seeing if the reasoning of historian Carroll Quigley (History of Civilizations, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carroll_Quigley) that it is the imbalances between people’s wealth which causes progress.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Pcutt says:

    1) Actually implementing the conjecture that if you redistributed all the wealth evenly, then in n amount of time, the previously rich would be rich again and the previously poor would be poor again. How close to “exactly the same” would the results be?

    2) Seeing if the reasoning of historian Carroll Quigley (History of Civilizations, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carroll_Quigley) that it is the imbalances between people’s wealth which causes progress.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0