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?

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  1. Luke O says:

    This is a stupid question. I most important experiment is often only given such a distinction in hindsight. Before the fact many of the most important experiments we have done were ignored and/or considered unimportant. This question reeks of historicism and is worth asking only for entertainment value.

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  2. Luke O says:

    This is a stupid question. I most important experiment is often only given such a distinction in hindsight. Before the fact many of the most important experiments we have done were ignored and/or considered unimportant. This question reeks of historicism and is worth asking only for entertainment value.

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  3. Rebecca says:

    James, #11: I’m not sure this is exactly what you meant, but there have been some studies examining earnings and self-reported happiness.

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/2006/08/01/8382225/index.htm

    It would appear that the “buyable range” of happiness is $50k-$90k in annual income. Less and you don’t have enough to both pay for everything and relax, more and the money starts to take over your life.

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  4. Rebecca says:

    James, #11: I’m not sure this is exactly what you meant, but there have been some studies examining earnings and self-reported happiness.

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/2006/08/01/8382225/index.htm

    It would appear that the “buyable range” of happiness is $50k-$90k in annual income. Less and you don’t have enough to both pay for everything and relax, more and the money starts to take over your life.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Name withheld says:

    I think the most important experiment that’s never been done would be to subject the people who do unethical experimentation to a dose of their own medicine. If it’s an experiment on stress, humiliation, trauma and behavior modification, the exposure and prosecution of those experimenters would lead them to experience some of the things that they put victims through. I wonder what their reaction and their responses would be and if their assessments of having the “authority” or the arrogance to carry out the experiments would somehow be modified.

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  6. Name withheld says:

    I think the most important experiment that’s never been done would be to subject the people who do unethical experimentation to a dose of their own medicine. If it’s an experiment on stress, humiliation, trauma and behavior modification, the exposure and prosecution of those experimenters would lead them to experience some of the things that they put victims through. I wonder what their reaction and their responses would be and if their assessments of having the “authority” or the arrogance to carry out the experiments would somehow be modified.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0