Subject: Experimental Psychology

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Online Exhibits

Before Belmont: Ethics in Experimental Psychology

In 1979, following a series of high-profile controversies, the Belmont Report provided ethical guidance for the study of human subjects in the United States. View these key ethical principles through the 20th century medical and psychological experiments that tested and redefined their boundaries.

Open Exhibit | Access on Smithsonian Learning Lab

Student Activities | Teacher's Guide

Five Minute History Lessons

James V. McConnell

James V. McConnell was an experimental psychologist who spent his career at the University of Michigan. He is best known for his work in comparative psychology and his memory transfer research flat worms. But did you know he was also a target of the Unabomber?

Scavenger Hunt Activity | Teacher's Guide

Edmund Delabarre

Edmund Delabarre was appointed as the first professor of psychology at Brown University in 1891 and shortly thereafter established Brown’s psychological laboratory. Delabarre painstakingly studied “substance-induced consciousness” using only himself as his subject. Delabarre ingested cannabis in liquid form and detailed his visual and sensory experiences and responses to early laboratory equipment in meticulous detail. His control? His own normal state.

Scavenger Hunt Activity | Teacher's Guide

Lectures and Panels

Psychology Film Club: The Stanford Prison Experiment

Discussion of the 2015 film The Stanford Prison Experiment, depicting the notorious prison life study conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup).

Length: 59 minutes

Originally recorded: October 29, 2020

Psychology Film Club: Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram Story

Discussion of the 2015 Experimenter: The Stanley Milgram Story, depicting the life of Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) and the events surrounding his famous obedience experiments.

Length: 61 minutes

Originally recorded: April 30, 2020

Dr. Ryan Tweney: Instrumentation in Early American Psychology

Historian of psychology, Dr. Ryan D. Tweney, discusses the rise of instruments and apparatus in the early history of American psychology, focusing on the importance of instruments during this period and the ways in which they changed the field.

Length: 6 minutes

Originally recorded: 2008

Archival Films & Recordings

Stanford Prison Experiment debriefing audio

Audio excerpt from a debriefing session conducted between researchers and participants of the Stanford Prison Experiment. A member of the research team talks the group through the ethical dilemma at the heart of this—and many other—social psychology experiments.

Length: 4 minutes

Originally recorded: ca. 1970s

Conditioned Emotional Reactions (Little Albert)

Film footage of John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner's classical conditioning experiment, in which a baby, dubbed “Little Albert,” was conditioned to fear particular animals and objects.

Length: 4 minutes

Originally recorded: ca. 1920s.