Model of the year

I'm sure some psychologist must have conducted a study to see how much pain people would suffer in order to avoid embarrassment. If not, the case of Marcy Kwapil, chosen as "1975 model of the year" in Racine, Wisconsin, would offer an example. Rather than risk the embarrassment of disrupting a parade to get off the burning hot hood of a car, she suffered through to the end, incurring third-degree burns.

Roanoke Times - Aug 19, 1975

Below is the only picture I could find of Marcy Kwapil. She's the second from the right.

Racine Journal Times - Oct 25, 1973

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 03, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Psychology, 1970s

The influence of odors on creative thinking

There have been a variety of studies examining how psychoactive drugs affect behavior and creative output. But could smells also have a psychoactive effect? That was the question posed in a 1958 experiment conducted by scientist Leo H. Narodny — published in an obscure trade journal, The Perfumery & Essential Oil Record. Narodny wrote: "It may be possible, by inhaling certain odours, to influence creative imagination without endangering the whole brain by an excessive dosage of drugs."

He used a textile designer as his test subject. Every day, for two weeks, he had her draw a design while breathing unscented air. Then, after breathing in air saturated with an odorous essential oil (such as bergamot, vanilla, peppermint, or cedarwood), she drew a second design. Some of the results are below.

It was hard to draw conclusions based on such a small sample size, but Narodny felt that the designer tended to draw more abstract patterns when exposed to the essential oils.

Nadia Berenstein offers more details about the experiment on her "Flavor Added" blog.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Mar 25, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Art, Experiments, Psychology, Smells and Odors

The taste of food in dark isolation

Beatrice Finkelstein, a nutrition researcher at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, conducted a series of "dark-isolation studies" during the 1950s. Subjects were placed for periods of 6 to 72 hours in a totally dark, sound proof chamber furnished with a bed, chair, refrigerator, and chemical toilet.

The purpose of this was to find out how astronauts might react to being confined in a small, dark space for a prolonged period of time. And in particular how their responses to food might change.

Some of her results:

Food has had varying degrees of significance. Some subjects have spent excessive amounts of time eating, nibbling, or counting food; others have become very angry with the food or very fond of it. Here again, evidence is strong that food in a situation of stress may be used as a tool to obtain personal satisfactions.

But the stranger result was how the lack of visual input completely changed the flavor of the food:

Palatability and acceptability of food in many instances are contrary to that on the ground or in the air; e.g., brownies have enjoyed only a fair degree of acceptability whereas ordinarily they are highly acceptable; canned orange juice usually rates low in acceptability; in isolation it has moderate to high acceptability. Data also indicate that the ability to discriminate one food from another within the same food group is impaired. All meats taste alike. Subjects are unable to distinguish one canned fruit from another. White, whole wheat, and rye breads used in sandwiches are similar in taste. Thus it is quite apparent that removal of the visual cues ordinarily associated with eating interferes with the taste and enjoyment of food and therefore the acceptability of food.

More info: "Feeding crews in air vehicles of the future"

Beatrice Finkelstein (source)

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 30, 2023 - Comments (4)
Category: Food, Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy, Experiments, Psychology


Read it here.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jan 20, 2023 - Comments ()
Category: Body, Science, Psychology, Self-help Schemes, 1950s


In a 1985 report published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. G.D. Shukla brought a new condition to the attention of the medical community — the inability to sneeze. He named this 'Asneezia'. The sufferers were 'Asneezics'. His original article is behind a paywall, but a summary from Brain/Mind Bulletin is below:

Brain/Mind Bulletin - July 1990

Later correspondents to the British Journal of Psychiatry were skeptical. One questioned whether Shukla's patients really suffered from this condition, or if they were simply delusional. Another proposed verifying the reality of Asneezia by exposing patients to "the most noxious inhalant allergen."

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 21, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Health, Psychology

Hi-Fi Addiction

Back in 1957, Dr. H. Angus Bowes argued that many Hi-Fi enthusiasts were, in fact, addicted to their music systems in an unhealthy way. I'm sure there are still people today who exhibit similar symptoms.

The addict gets a great feeling of control when, with a flick of the wrist, he can attenuate his treble, emphasize his bass, turn the volume down to a whisper or blast his neighborhood with a "Niagara" of sound.

One addict said he would not be satisfied until he could hear the drip of saliva from the French horns as they were emptied after a powerful brass passage, Dr. Bowes reported.

El Paso Herald-Post - Apr 15, 1957

Posted By: Alex - Wed Oct 19, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Music, Psychology, 1950s

Another Miss Psy War

I looked through an online newspaper archive to see if I could find out anything about those "Miss Psywar" photos Paul posted two days ago. I didn't. But I did come across another Miss Psywar.

Bonnie Halpin was chosen as "Miss Psy War of 1962" by the 349th Psychological Warfare Company.

Arlington Heights Herald - July 12, 1962

Halpin, it turns out, is a minor celebrity. She had the distinction of being the very first Playboy bunny ever. She also appeared on the cover of the Oct 1962 issue of Playboy magazine. Unfortunately she died in 2004 at the relatively young age of 65.

More info about Halpin:

Hackensack Record - Apr 30, 2004

Posted By: Alex - Thu Aug 25, 2022 - Comments ()
Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests, Psychology, 1960s, Armed Forces

Does college turn young women into communists?

Back in the 1930s families were concerned about whether they should send their young daughters off to college, fearing they might come home infected with communism. So in 1934, psychologist Stephen M. Corey set out to determine whether such fears were justified.

Corey administered the Thurstone Attitude Scale to 234 female freshmen at the University of Wisconsin, examining their attitudes with respect to six topics: Reality of God, War, Patriotism, Communism, Evolution, and Church. A year later he retested 100 of these students when they were sophomores.

Godless communists?

When he presented his findings at the Midwestern Psychological Association convention in May 1940, he assured everyone that it was safe to send young women to college, saying, "There was no great difference in the girls' attitudes. The average co-ed apparently would rather mix with stag lines than picket lines."

He also emphasized that the young women lost none of their feminine habits at college. A United Press reporter paraphrased his words:

He found that in general college did little to upset or change a co-ed's home training but that she might learn to apply her makeup better, dress better and talk better. "But she won't talk about Communism — college offers too many other diversions."

However, if you look at his 1940 article in the Journal of Social Psychology*, in which he published the results of his study, you find somewhat different information. There he revealed that after a year at college the attitudes of the young women did change slightly, but consistently, in the direction of liberalism — which is to say that they showed less sympathy for god, war, patriotism, and the church, and more sympathy for communism and evolution.

Corey wrote in that article, "The opinions of the students appeared to have undergone at least a degree of liberalization during their one year of attendance at a University."

I guess he wasn't actually lying to the folks at the Midwestern Psychological Association. It's all how you choose to spin the data.

San Bernardino County Sun - May 5, 1940

* Corey, S.M. (1940). "Changes in the opinions of female students after one year at university." The Journal of Social Psychology, 11: 341-351.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 17, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Psychology, 1930s, Women, Universities, Colleges, Private Schools and Academia

The Sauna Bath Nymphomaniac

The case of the cable car nymphomaniac is a classic weird news story. Less well known, but along similar lines, is the case of the sauna bath nymphomaniac.

Maria Parson claimed that the trauma of being accidentally locked in a sauna for half-an-hour due to a faulty door handle caused her to develop a split personality. She came to have three personalities: "sex-hungry Maria" who prowled bars picking up men, "remorseful Betty" who bitterly resented Maria's escapades, and her submerged real self.

She sued the health spa for $1 million, but lost — even though she was represented by the same lawyer who had secured a win for the cable car nymphomaniac.

Orange Coast Pilot - Dec 20, 1973

Bellingham Herald - Jan 10, 1974

Eureka Times Standard - Mar 6, 1974

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 20, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Lawsuits, Psychology, 1970s, Sex

Care Bear Abuse

Feb 1987: Wanting to do something special for her son, Jeania Denny wore a Care Bear costume to his school on Valentine's Day. However, she soon found herself being violently attacked by a crowd of sixth-graders. Said Denny, "I kept yelling at them to stop, that they were hurting me, but the more I yelled the more they attacked."

I've heard reports of children (and adults) at Disney theme parks hitting the costumed characters, which seems similar to what happened to Jeania Denny. In the minds of the children, the costume must dehumanize the wearer, which then makes it seem okay to hit them.

Tampa Bay Times - Feb 17, 1987

I'm guessing this was the type of costume that Denny was wearing:

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 30, 2022 - Comments (6)
Category: Violence, Psychology, 1980s

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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