Impossible experiments

Psychology Today have asked a group of leading thinkers to discuss their ‘impossible experiment’, if the impractical, unethical or unattainable was not an obstacle to the ultimate mind and brain study.

Presumably riffing on the BPS Research Digests’ search for the ‘most important psychology experiment that’s never been done’, they’ve gathered proposals that involve everything from brain swapping to behavioural mega-economics.

My favourite is from psychologist Bella DePaulo who has come up with a cunning way of studying the psychological effects of marriage:

I’d like to take couples who are living together and randomly assign half of them to marry and the others to stay unmarried. Then we could really know something about the implications of co-habitation vs. marriage. More outrageously, take people who are not in a serious romantic relationship, and assign half of them, at random, to marry. Single people are randomly assigned to a spouse who is chosen at random, or to a spouse who fits their description of their perfect partner, or to stay single. Who do you think would end up the happiest a decade later? Same for divorce. If married parents are already at each other’s throats, is it better for the children if they divorce, or stay together? Randomly assign half of them to divorce, and half to stay together; then we’ll see. Now take married couples who say they are happy and are not considering divorce. Randomly assign half of them to divorce! Now who will be happier ten years hence?

There’s plenty more blue sky thinking, and a curious video involving a mannequin.

Link to ‘Impossible Experiments’.

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