• True Stories

Social Experiments That Almost Killed The Researcher

Social psychology and the experiments that take place in that nebulous world have been occurring since at least the 19th century, when researchers began trying to create utopian communities in the United States. Obviously that didn’t work. In defense of the failed utopian communities, rather than devolve into bloodshed and mayhem, the communities either drifted apart or transformed into a more sustainable society. The social experiments on this list didn’t exactly end the same way. In fact, most of people on this list who tried to change the way a human being does something either ended up vomiting everywhere, getting accosted by a stranger, or even trapped in a tunnel. What are the odds, right? Whatever you do, don’t try these social experiments gone wrong at home.

Nowadays everyone can be a social scientist. All you really need is an outlet for your “research," be it YouTube, a friendly blog, or if you’re lucky, a national film distribution company. Unfortunately for just about everyone on this list, their social experiment blew up in their face in front of the entire world. Some social scientists, like Morgan Spurlock, managed to spin their failure into positives, but other researchers on this list weren’t so lucky. To see just how poorly something can go when you don’t have a plan, check out this list of the social experiments that almost took out the researcher.

  • Journalist Freaks Out On Weed Lube

    It's hard out there for freelance journalists/social scientists, and sometimes to get eyeballs on your work you've got to go out there and try something weird. Mira Gonzalez hoped that Foria's cannabis lube would change her life for the better, but it might have ruined her life instead. She applied the lube as instructed (by spraying it on her nether regions), but when she didn't get as high as she thought she would, she drank the entire bottle. Oops!

    Gonzalez went to bed and experienced what she calls a "12 hour nightmare" about being unable to find a kid she normally baby-sits. She was inebriated for three days after drinking the lube. Suffice to say, her recommendation for the product included a warning to never ingest it orally. 

  • Stanford Prison Experiment

    The Stanford Prison Experiment is easily the most famous of social experiments. Films have been made about how poorly this research went, and it's even been re-created, with a similar outcome. During the Stanford Prison Experiment, students were split up into two groups - prisoners and guards - and things immediately went off the rails. The "guards" began abusing the "prisoners" and the experiment only ended when one of the researchers' girlfriends began objecting to the conditions to which the students were being subjected.
  • Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Fair use

    Aside from the Stanford Prison experiment, the experiment that Morgan Spurlock embarked upon in his 2004 documentary Super Size Me is one of the most famous social experiments in recent years. Spurlock ate three McDonald's meals every day for 30 days. Five days into the experiment Spurlock became lethargic, and about 20 days into the experiment he began to suffer heart palpitations. When all was said and done, it took Spurlock five months to lose the 25 pounds he had gained in those 30 days.

  • Member Of The Jejune Institute Almost Starves 

    The Jejune Institute was the central agency in a game/social experiment that existed in San Francisco between 2008 and 2011 (it might still be functioning in a higher version of the game, but that's a whole other conversation). During their four years of confirmed operation, they ran a real life massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The game had people, including a man named Kelvin Williams, running all over San Francisco in search of random break dancers, phone calls from another dimension, and something called the "crystal oscillator." After digging through clues, Williams discovered that the oscillator was below a house in a small series of catacombs. So he broke in and used a map to find the oscillator. The only problem was that he couldn't get out. 

    Williams was lost in a tunnel under the house for a few days before the creators of the Jejune Institute actually had to create a component to rescue him. His rescue is detailed in the documentary The Institute, and it will make you think twice about taking part in any social experiment ever.