[December 3, 2023] A 1985 social science experiment by Drs. Robert Kleck and Christopher Strenta have been getting their deserved recognition (article link here) lately in media circles. I bring this up mostly to credit these scientists for telling us something most people already know. Their study is called the Scar Experiment. Here is the conclusion in the authors’ own words:
“This line of argument raises the interesting possibility that if we expect others to react negatively to some aspect of our physical appearance, there is probably little those others can do to prevent us from confirming our expectation.” – Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol 3, No. 3, 1985, Kleck and Strenta, p. 266
In the “Scar Experiment,” Kleck and Strenta gathered participants and told them that the experiment was meant to observe if people behaved differently towards those with facial scars. Participants were placed in rooms with no mirrors. Make-up artists proceeded to draw a scar on their faces. After the scar was drawn, participants were given a short glimpse of it with a pocket mirror.
Participants were then invited to leave the room and interact with folks in the building. Before they left the room, the make-up artists told the participants that the scar needed some final touch-up. But what the make-up artists actually did next was wipe off the make-up scar.
The result was that the participants overwhelmingly reported that people stared at their scars and were mean and rude to them.
First, I will note that this experiment is classic science and highly creative. I’m not too surprised it was done before the year 2000, as I doubt social scientists would get permission to do this today. Second, the experiment changed the field of the psychology of perception, and that was a good thing. However, we are seeing a pushback on this kind of science and the knowledge it can generate.
I found the article very interesting because it crushes the Wokeism arguments that select groups of us that we are perpetual victims and there is nothing we can do about it. And it also runs counter to the idea we are defined by our group association rather than by our own efforts.
Great study. If you get a chance, read it. It’s very short.
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