Museum of Hoaxes
"Very well-researched and delivered in an engaging, breezy, wink-wink tone similar to that of Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg's Why Do Men Have Nipples?, this will likely be enjoyed equally by science buffs and casual aficionados of the curious. One of the finest science/history bathroom books of all time."
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Web Hoax Museum


#14: “My Fingernails Taste Terribly Bitter”
In the summer of 1942 Professor Lawrence Leshan stood in the darkness of a cabin in an upstate New York camp where a row of young boys lay sleeping. He spoke aloud, repeating a single phrase over and over, "My fingernails taste terribly bitter. My fingernails taste terribly bitter."

Nowadays that kind of behavior could get one locked away, but Leshan wasn't mad. He was conducting a sleep-learning experiment. All the boys had been diagnosed as chronic nail-biters, and Leshan wanted to find out if nocturnal exposure to a negative suggestion about nail biting would cure them of their bad habit.

Leshan initially used a phonograph to play the message. It faithfully repeated the phrase 300 times a night as the boys lay sleeping. But five weeks into the experiment, the phonograph broke. Leshan improvised by standing in the darkness and speaking the message himself.

At the end of the summer, Leshan examined the boys' nails and concluded that 40% of them had kicked the habit. The sleep-learning effect seemed to be real. However, other researchers later disputed this conclusion. In a 1956 experiment at Santa Monica College, William Emmons and Charles Simon used an electroencephalograph to make sure subjects were fully asleep before playing a message. Under these conditions, the sleep-learning effect disappeared.

Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
I love the science here. Mr Professor maybe it was the thousands of fun experiances at the camp, not your sleep patterning?
Posted by Mark  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  10:34 AM
I can just picture 40% of the kids waking up, popping open one eye in the dark, and thinking, "OK already, I get the point."
Posted by John S  in  Berkeley, CA  on  Sat Sep 22, 2007  at  03:28 AM

That's a great idea!
I'm going to get a tape that says,
"My husband's sperm is delicious, my husband's sperm is delicious, my..."

That ought to make life more interesting...
Posted by William Jefferson Clinton  in  Washington, DC  on  Tue Oct 16, 2007  at  01:47 PM
What hell hole camp is that where you can't even enjoy a good night's sleep without someone lunatic repeating crap to you.

WOuldn't a better line have worked such as "I won't bite my fingernails" or "Fingernails make me sick".

I think electroencephalograph was the Scripps winning spelling bee question once....
Posted by Justin  in  St. Louis, Missouri  on  Tue Nov 20, 2007  at  03:33 PM
Was there no control group?
How do we know 40% of the boys wouldn't have stopped biting their nails in that time anyway?
Posted by Big Gary  in  Palo Duro, Texas  on  Tue Dec 18, 2007  at  02:10 PM
This is the habit which comes from the childhood.The mother of the child is the good teacher who can correct this in the beginning itself.
Posted by lakshmi prabha  on  Sat Aug 30, 2008  at  08:36 AM
Is it reallt true...does sleep-learning effect really works?I have read about this the very first time.Quite interesting...i must say.
Posted by Internship  in  Florida  on  Tue Nov 04, 2008  at  03:17 AM
Really good to learn about this 'never heard' sleep-learning effect before.Very interesting to know that anything like this could actually work.If so, drug addicts should be treated this way.

Posted by Sam  in  Florida  on  Tue Nov 04, 2008  at  03:20 AM
Really its a interesting post, I always reading such posts which provides wonderful information.
Posted by stevens jhonson syndrome  in  Longview,Texas  on  Thu Jan 08, 2009  at  12:31 AM

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