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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Psychology
The Virtual Milgram Obedience Experiment — Back in the early 1960s Stanley Milgram conducted a famous experiment at Yale University. Volunteers were told that it was designed to test the effect of punishment on learning. Would a person learn a list of word pairs better if they were punished every time they got an answer wrong? The volunteer was instructed to deliver an electric shock to the learner every time one of his answers was wrong. The shocks increased in intensity for every wrong answer. Of course, the experiment wasn't…
Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2006.   Comments (28)

Quick Links: Gnomes and Gropers — Yet Another Traveling Gnome Back in the Spring Allen Snyder's gnome disappeared from his garden. Now he's learned that it's been attending Pittsburgh Steelers' games. Next stop an airplane to somewhere far away. Submitted by Big Gary who notes: "Predicatable, but I thought you'd want to keep your gnome section up-to-date." Pretends to be mentally ill to get a grope This is pathetic. William Mucklow has been accused of pretending to be mentally ill so that he can hire nurses to take…
Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2006.   Comments (5)

Jesus in an Ultrasound — Following hot on the heels of the chocolate Virgin Mary (which, as many people pointed out, looked more like the Maltese Falcon) comes: Jesus as seen on an ultrasound picture. Seven months through her pregnancy, Laura Turner went for a routine ultrasound. She already knew that her son had a cleft lip, and she and her partner had been told there was a possibility of the child having Down's Syndrome. She says that she didn't notice anything particularly odd about the scan until a friend…
Posted: Thu Aug 24, 2006.   Comments (12)

Is Fake-Nice A Good Thing? — Status: Etiquette advice Miss Manners recently tackled the question of whether it's better to be honest (and unpleasant) or to be fake-nice. A correspondent asked her: How can one deal (correct word?) with nice people, saying "all the right things," without meaning any of it? It's just been driving me crazy as it seems to be occurring more and more. Miss Manners responded that it would be a disaster if people were always brutally honest: This is not an affliction, Miss Manners assures…
Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2006.   Comments (23)


Pickle Phobia — Status: Undetermined Some of the things I post about aren't the most intelligence-enhancing things in the world. I know that. But what follows is really scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. It's a woman who appeared on the Maury Povich Show who claims to be Pickle-Phobic. The mere sight of pickles sends her into a state of screaming panic. Her fear of pickles is ruining her life. Here's what she has to say: "My name is Mariah, and I hate pickles. I hate everything about...…
Posted: Sun Jul 09, 2006.   Comments (47)

Watching Eyes Make Us Honest — Status: Strange experiment An experiment described in a recent issue of the journal Biology Letters reveals a simple way to make people behave more honestly: display a picture of watching eyes. Melissa Bateson, a biologist at Newcastle University, conducted the experiment on her colleagues, without their knowledge, using the communal coffee pot in the departmental lounge as the set-up. She found that when she placed a picture of a pair of beady eyes above the coffee pot, contributions…
Posted: Wed Jun 28, 2006.   Comments (6)

Stock Performance Tied To Ease Of Pronouncing Company’s Name — Status: Unusual Research There's nothing hoaxy about this story. It's just another example of how non-rational people can be... especially investors in the stock market. Two Princeton researchers, Adam Alter and Danny Oppenheimer, have discovered that the ease with which a company's name and its ticker symbol can be pronounced has a strong short-term effect on the performance of its stock. In other words, "a stock with the symbol BAL should outperform one with the symbol BDL in the…
Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2006.   Comments (4)

IQ Challenge — Status: Practical joke I evidently don't spend enough time on LiveJournal, because if I did I would have known about the IQ Challenge sooner. (It was evidently quite popular on LiveJournal.) As it is, I completely missed out on it, and now it's over. What it was (or claimed to be) was an IQ test offered by IQ-Challenge.com. Once you completed the test, it produced a small graphic showing your score that you could post on your site. The joke was that the test gave everyone a high score.…
Posted: Wed May 10, 2006.   Comments (36)

Feng Shui For Cars — Status: Pseudoscience Aon Private Clients, a British insurance broker, has commissioned the first ever study of how to improve the feng shui of cars. They note that implementing these recommendations "could improve the flow of energy in vehicles and help drivers alleviate the negative feelings which lead to road rage." Suggestions offered by the study include: A driver should park his or her car facing away from the driver’s home. According to feng shui, cars are ‘predatory tigers’. If…
Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006.   Comments (11)

Brain Gym — Status: Highly dubious Based on the description on the Brain Gym website, Brain Gym sounds like a pretty good idea. It's "a program of physical movements that enhance learning and performance in ALL areas." The program, which consists of 26 different exercises, is now being used in a lot of schools to help kids learn. Exercise can definitely improve mental acuity, so having kids do something like this would seem to make sense. But as Ben Goldacre revealed in a recent Bad Science column,…
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2006.   Comments (18)

Twenty Phobias — Status: Bogus fears The BBC invited its readers to tell them what their greatest fears were, and has posted a selection of 20 of the responses. Some of them are hard to take seriously. Especially this one: The letter Y: "M phobia is all about the letter . Ever time I tr to press it on the ke board, it makes me want to cr . I know it seems sill to ever one else, but it all started when I was a bab , and I swallowed a magnetic letter. At least that's what My mumm and dadd told me an wa…
Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2006.   Comments (21)

Fake Smiles May Cause Depression — Status: Medical study New research by Dr. Dieter Zapf of Frankfurt University suggests that workers who constantly have to pretend to be friendly to customers suffer from higher rates of depression and illness. The Advertiser reports: Flight attendants, sales personnel and call centre operators are most at risk, say psychologists at Frankfurt University. People in these jobs are more likely to suffer from depression, according to the study released yesterday ahead of publication in…
Posted: Fri Mar 17, 2006.   Comments (23)

Fredding — Status: Undetermined (is it a joke or meant seriously?) David Mocknick has written a self-help book that describes a novel new form of stress therapy: Fredding. This involves saying the phrase "Fred! Who's Fred? Ha!" It's not clear to me whether he's serious about this, or if it's all an elaborate joke (in which getting people to think he's serious is part of the joke). An article about his book explains: Fredding (which can be done in solitaire but works best in a group setting)…
Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2006.   Comments (17)

Indigo Children See The Future — Status: New Age Mumbo Jumbo Indigo Children is a new-age term for children whose aura is indigo colored. These are the kids whom medical science would diagnose as being hyperactive or having ADD (and many lay people might diagnose as spoiled brats). But according to the indigo-child theory, these are actually children with very special powers. Nancy Ann Tappe, the psychic who first described the concept, says that Indigo Children are "souls with an evolved consciousness who have come…
Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005.   Comments (141)

Sexsomnia — Status: Real (though difficult to accept as an excuse for criminal behavior) I first reported about the phenomenon of sleep sex over a year ago. It's a rare disorder that causes people to engage in sexual behavior while asleep. It's also potentially one of the greatest excuses for sexual impropriety ever devised. Now there's a case in Canada in which a guy successfully defended himself against charges of sexual assault by arguing that he's a sexsomniac: Jan Luedecke, 33, met his victim…
Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2005.   Comments (34)

Fake Smile Test — Status: Psychology test I've linked to a fake smile test before, but this one hosted by the BBC (and designed by Professor Paul Ekman, from the University of California) is more elaborate since it allows you to see actual video clips of people smiling. I did quite badly at differentiating the real from the fake, scoring only 9 out of 20. The blurb at the conclusion of the test notes that "Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles. One possible explanation for this is…
Posted: Wed Nov 16, 2005.   Comments (37)

By-Accident.com — Status: Hoax Website By-Accident.com claims to be a company that will "deliver customized accidents such as rape, assault and past traumatic experiences. All personally tailored to suit your special needs." The idea is that you can fake a traumatic experience in your past, and thereby get all kinds of attention as a victim. The company will even provide (optional) Aesthetic Scar Surgery to make your past "accident" more believable: "You can have any physical damage you want, our…
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2005.   Comments (3)

Gene Guess — Status: Hoax (supposedly a magic trick, but it doesn't work) I received this polite request this morning: Dear web master , Please review this website that is able to determine a persons sex just by four visual questions. Name : Gene Guess .com Link : http://www.geneguess.com Thank you , Pras Til So here goes: it worked for me, correctly guessing my gender. I suppose it was an interesting ten-second time waster. I don't know why it worked. Obviously it has a 50/50 chance of getting…
Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2005.   Comments (37)

Mindbending Software — Status: Art Project Mindbending Software claims to offer programs that will insert subliminal messages into the favorite computer games of your kids, thereby reprogramming them, as they play the games, to do as you wish. Their website states: Mindbending Software Inc. is a company specialized on psychological conditioning software packages for children. With the newest technologies our products infiltrate the computer games of your kids and mingle various subconscious or conscious…
Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2005.   Comments (6)

HETRACIL Anti-Effeminate Medication — Status: Hoax According to the HETRACIL website, "HETRACIL is the most widely prescribed anti-effeminate medication in the United States, helping 16 million Americans who suffer from Behavioral Effeminism and Male Homosexuality Disorder." In other words, it's supposedly a drug to treat homosexuality. The look and feel of the site is pretty convincing, perfectly imitating the bland soothing nature of other pharmaceutical sites. And it's plausible that some drug company could try to…
Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2005.   Comments (25)

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