Category:
Psychology

The Initials Effect

Found by psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld. The effect is that if the initials of your name spell out something positive (such as J.O.Y. or G.O.D.) you'll likely live longer than someone whose initials spell out something negative (B.A.D. or A.S.S.).

From his article in the Journal of Psychomatic Research (Sep 1999):

One's attitude about oneself, and the treatment one receives from others, might be affected, in some small but measurable way, by stigmatic or salutary labeling due to one's name. If names affect attitudes and attitudes affect longevity, then individuals with “positive” initials (e.g., A.C.E., V.I.P.) might live longer than those with “negative” initials (e.g., P.I.G., D.I.E.). Using California death certificates, 1969–1995, we isolated 2287 male decedents with “negative” initials and 1200 with “positive” initials. Males with positive initials live 4.48 years longer (p<0.0001), whereas males with negative initials die 2.80 years younger (p<0.0001) than matched controls. The longevity effects are smaller for females, with an increase of 3.36 years for the positive group (p<0.0001) and no decrease for the negative. Positive initials are associated with shifts away from causes of death with obvious psychological components (such as suicides and accidents), whereas negative initials are associated with shifts toward these causes. However, nearly all disease categories display an increase in longevity for the positive group and a decrease for the negative group. These findings cannot be explained by the effects of death cohort artifacts, gender, race, year of death, socioeconomic status, or parental neglect.


San Francisco Examiner - Mar 28, 1998

Posted By: Alex - Wed Sep 05, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Odd Names, Science, Psychology

Dentists smell fear

Recent research reveals that dentists can not only smell fear, but that when they do their job performance significantly declines. From New Scientist:

The researchers asked 24 student volunteers to each donate a T-shirt they had worn during a stressful exam, and another worn at a calm lecture. The team doused the T-shirts with a chemical that masks body odour, so that no one could consciously smell it. A separate group of 24 dental students said they couldn’t detect any difference between the two sets of shirts.
Next, examiners graded the dental students as they carried out treatments on mannequins dressed in the donated T-shirts. The students scored significantly worse when the mannequins were wearing T-shirts from stressful contexts. Mistakes included being more likely to damage teeth next to the ones they were working on.

So, if your fear causes your dentist to start making more mistakes, I assume that will only increase your fear, causing your dentist to make even more mistakes, leading to a downward-spiraling cycle of terror.

The academic study is here.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jun 05, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Experiments, Psychology, Teeth

Wedding with lie detector

A lie detector used at the 1932 wedding of Harriet Berger and Vaclav Rund determined that their love was true.

Vaclav and Harriet were still together in 1940, according to the census. So, score one for the lie detector. I haven't been able to trace their marriage any later than that. Though a V.R. Rund of the correct location and birth year died in 1989.

(Some media sources listed the bridegroom's name as Vaclaw Hund, but I think 'Rund' was his correct name, given the census data.)

Albuquerque Journal - June 14, 1932



Sioux Falls Argus-Leader - June 1, 1932

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jun 04, 2018 - Comments (0)
Category: Psychology, 1930s, Weddings

Cheerleader Effect

image source: dwilliss/flickr


Pro-tip for non-photogenic people: You'll look better in a group photo than on your own. This is known as the Cheerleader Effect, and it's been scientifically verified. From medicalxpress.com:

In 2003, scientific evidence of the cheerleader effect was published in a paper where across five studies, both males and females were rated more attractive when presented as part of a group photo compared to a solo photo. The authors, Drew Walker and Edward Vul, presented 130 participants with group photographs containing three female faces or three male faces. Each face was then cropped from the photograph and presented individually.

Participants rated the attractiveness of faces presented in a group and individually. Regardless of gender, attractiveness ratings were higher when people were presented in a group compared to presented individually.

However, this does not mean the bigger the group—the more attractive you are. The authors found that group size, whether 4, 9, or 16 individuals, had no effect on attractiveness ratings. Basically, a handful of friends is all you need to take advantage of this effect.

Importantly, studies have shown the cheerleader effect to be reliable. Additional studies published in 2015 and one just this month continue to find a groups' attractiveness is significantly higher than the attractiveness of an individual group member.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Mar 04, 2018 - Comments (2)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Psychology

Hypnotizing the voters

Nick Belluso, while running for governor of Georgia in 1978, came up with the idea of hypnotizing the voters to vote for him. So he hired a hypnotist and created a TV ad which went as follows:

Candidate: This is Nick Belluso. In the next ten seconds you will be hit with a tremendously hypnotic force. You may wish to turn away. Without further ado let me introduce to you the hypnogenecist of mass hypnosis, the Reverend James G. Masters. Take us away, James.

Hypnotist: Do not be afraid. I am placing the name of Nick Belluso in your subconscious mind. You will remember this. You will vote on Election Day. You will vote Nick Belluso for governor. You will remember this. You will vote on Election Day. You will vote Nick Belluso for governor.

However, Belluso's scheme was foiled when every TV station but one refused to run the ad, fearing the hypnosis might actually work, which would open them up to potential legal liabilities.

So Belluso lost the election. Though he subsequently became a perennial candidate running for many offices, including President of the United States in 1980.

You can see most of the ad in the clip below.

Also worth noting: Belluso claimed he had been endorsed by "The Force."



The Nashville Tennessean - Aug 11, 1978



Posted By: Alex - Thu Jan 25, 2018 - Comments (2)
Category: Politics, Psychology, 1970s

Dr. Blatz’s Trick Chair of Terror

This article comes from my weird science site, which I haven't updated in years. My project for the new year is to import all the content from there into WU, so I can shut that site down and stop paying the hosting fees.


While he was a grad student at the University of Chicago in the early 1920s, William Blatz was sitting in class one day, leaning back in his chair, when suddenly the chair collapsed beneath him, sending him sprawling backwards, crying out in fright. The experience was unsettling, but it gave him an idea for an unusual psychology experiment.

He designed a trick chair that would collapse backwards without warning when he flipped an electric switch. The chair was padded, so its occupant wouldn't get hurt. But Blatz figured that the sensation of abruptly, unexpectedly falling backwards would provoke a strong, measurable reaction in subjects. This would allow him to study the physiology of fear under controlled, repeatable conditions. He performed his experiment on a series of unsuspecting victims.

Diagram of Blatz's trick chair.
When the hook (A) at the top was released, the chair plunged backwards.



More in extended >>

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 26, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Experiments, Psychology, 1920s

Personal body space

As the population increases, we will all have to learn to accept strangers on the street standing very close to us.

One of the students would speak to a stranger on the street and begin asking him questions pertaining to the local police department. While talking the interviewer slowly moved closer and violated the stranger's personal body space. The person's reaction was then filmed.

According to recently collected facts, there were three basic reactions: (1) He-she slowly backed away as the interviewer got closer, (2) He-she struck a defensive pose such as folding arms, looking down, or even turning to one side, and (3) No reaction, though most people do have some kind of reaction...

According to Mark, most people have this "wall" about 18 inches around them that excludes all people from entering. What the interviewers were doing when they moved closer to the person was violating personal body space, causing them to react.

Steve says, "It's a shame this happens because as our world gets more and more crowded, we'll have to get closer together. Let's all start getting closer together and break down that wall."


Terre Haute Tribune - Mar 31, 1974

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 18, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Experiments, Psychology, 1970s

Service for smiles

Given an equal choice, will a store clerk first serve a smiling or a frowning customer?

Science provides the answer. Clerks go toward the smiler.

Maybe this is why it's so hard to ever get help in Home Depot. I need to be grinning more.

Elmira Star Gazette - Dec 11, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 30, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Science, Psychology, Shopping

Bikini Experiment

So why was Simone Harris standing on a Sydney street in a bikini? Was this a publicity stunt? Was she a psychologist conducting research? A performance artist being weird? I haven't been able to find answers anywhere.

Racine Journal Times - June 17, 1970

Posted By: Alex - Wed Nov 15, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Experiments, Psychology, 1970s

Air Raid Noise Experiment

These pictures in the Google Arts picture archive don't come with any explanatory text, except that they're from an "Air Raid Noise Experiment" conducted in Nuneaton in 1941. But I suspect that the experiment was part of a series of psychological experiments conducted in the UK in 1941 that attempted to "harden Britons to bomb shock." The idea was to expose people to the sounds of air raid sirens and battle sounds so that they would lose their fear of them. As described in the news clipping below:

The suggestion was advanced that whole populations be put through the experiment to make them 'immune, through familiarity, to fear caused by air raid noises.'










The Greenfield Daily Reporter - Nov 28 1941



I've been aware of these experiments for a while. I previously posted something about them back in 2009. But I just came across these photos and realized they must be from one of these experiments.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 02, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Noises and Other Public Disturbances of the Peace, War, Experiments, Psychology, 1940s

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

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