Did you live in Seattle, Washington, in 1976? If you were there on Halloween of that year, and a lady invited you into her house, you may have been the subject of an experiment. Over 300 children were experimented on, and they may never know!

When these children came up to one of 18 houses, they were invited inside by a nice lady. She had a bowl of candy for them in the front room, and she instructed them to take one piece — then she hastily went into another room to check on something. The children were left alone with the candy, the instructions, and sometimes, with a mirror.


Oh, except they weren't alone. Through a peephole in the wall, a researcher watched to see if the kids would take more than one piece of candy. The experiment was meant to determine if the children disobeyed the instructions by taking more than one piece of candy, and whether the mirror, and awareness of their crime as other people might see it, would change the kids' behavior. The nefarious behavior of the experimenters went unexcused. (Did they have to face a mirror while conducting their illicit surveillance? We'll never know.)

It turned out that children were more likely to be good when facing a mirror. But then, there were a lot of factors that made a difference when it came to candy-stealing. Older children were more likely to steal. Children who arrived in groups were about twice as likely to steal as children who arrived alone. To the surprise of the researchers, who thought girls were more socially impressionable, girls were less likely to steal than boys, and less likely to let a mirror affect their behavior. Children who came inside with their parents (what a different time that was) were disregarded entirely.

So the question is, were you one of those kids? I do hope we find someone among the io9ers who has just, during this article, realized they were experimented on as children. Spread the word!

[Via Self-Awareness and Transgression in Children]


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