If you have 10 fingers and 10 toes, you’ve probably found yourself in a conversation at a hipstery party or snooty dinner that was completely over your head at some point in your life. (For those with a different amount of digits, I apologize for my ableist digit privilege.) The guests are name dropping like mad, using syllables you didn’t even know existed in the phonemic index of your language. Case in point: you probably had to think about the phrase “phonemic index” for a moment. I’ll wait for you to come back from your Google search.
Never fear, however, that’s why you’re here. You need these people to like you and to commend you for your confidence and flaming intelligence. To hell with convention and personal growth; we’re going to fake it ’til we make it. I’m going to show you a shortcut to gain the upper hand in these awkward and stressful social situations. You don’t need to go into horrendous student loan debt nor do you need to actually understand anything. Just memorize these 3 famous and pivotal science experiments you must name drop at your next social gathering.
1. The Milgram Experiment
In the 1960s, before there were many – or really any – regulations regarding ethics in research, professor Stanley Milgram subjected hundreds of people to the psychological shock of their lives – literally. (Spoilers: Actually, it’s not so literal.) In this experiment, test subjects were placed in front of a contraption connected to a person in another room. Beside the subject was a “doctor” (read: paid actor). The participants were told by this “doctor” to use the panel before them to shock the person in the other room. While mostly hesitant, most people were willing to shock the unfortunate soul into excruciating pain. (Spoilers: The panel wasn’t really connected to anything and the shock-ees were also actors).
People are willing to act beyond their normal moral comfort zone when instructed to do so by an authority figure. Use this to provide Hobbesian-sounding commentary on the sheepish and/or brutish nature of man. Mention the Nazis for good measure.
2. The Stanford Prison Experiment
A decade after Milgram’s house of electrifying horrors, researchers at Stanford University recruited several dozen students to play cops and robbers. Some students were assigned the role of jail guards. The majority were assigned the role of prisoner. The participants were told to roleplay for a while. This resulted in the “guards” physically and emotionally abusing their “prisoners” for just over 6 days until one of the researchers thought that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
Again, people are sadistic and get easily power crazy. Drop a super saccharine cherry onto your intellectual cheesecake with the term “power of suggestion” to emphasize that you really understand the underlying social constructs revealed by this experiment.
3. The Watching Eyes
More recently, researchers at Newcastle University conducted an experiment in the lobby of their very own psychology department. They had a coffee station that people could pay for via the honor system. As you may imagine, not everyone paid. Over the course of several weeks, the researchers pasted different images above the coffee station. The images were mundane out of context. In context, however, the results were very telling. When the researchers periodically posted pictures of a pair of eyes above the coffee stand, the money jar was drastically more full.
People are dishonest until they feel like they’ll get caught. It’s a subconscious thing having to do with the id, ego, supergo, and something called focaccia. Exotic words add much-needed flavor and pizzaz to that burgeoning intellect of yours.
What You Should Actually Take Away
Forget all of this. I’m serious. Don’t name drop any of these, please. While this isn’t to say you shouldn’t actively seek ways to learn and to achieve your best self, you also need to realize when the people around you are toxic. Go ahead and learn more about these experiments of your own volition, but don’t do yourself the disservice of resorting to shallow social tricks. If you need to learn anything from these experiments it’s that the human psyche, while impressively robust, isn’t infinitely stretchable. For the sake of your emotional well-being, stop going to social functions that make you feel inferior. Chances are, while those people might be experts at shallow “high brow” game, their depth and long-term worth are just that – shallow.
Seek out like minds and hearts. You’ll be a lot happier there.