Top 20 most bizarre experiments of all-time

Museum of Hoaxes has a run-down of 20 cruel and/or unusual experiments performed on both man and beast. They're from a new book, Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments, by Alex Boese.
#18: “Would You Go To Bed With Me Tonight?”

If you were a man walking across the campus of Florida State University in 1978, an attractive young woman might have approached you and said these exact words: "I have been noticing you around campus. I find you to be attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?"

If you were that man, you probably would have thought that you had just gotten incredibly lucky. But not really. You were actually an unwitting subject in an experiment designed by the psychologist Russell Clark.

Clark had persuaded the students of his social psychology class to help him find out which gender, in a real-life situation, would be more receptive to a sexual offer from a stranger. The only way to find out, he figured, was to actually get out there and see what would happen. So young men and women from his class fanned out across campus and began propositioning strangers.

The results weren't very surprising. Seventy-five percent of guys were happy to oblige an attractive female stranger (and those who said no typically offered an excuse such as, "I'm married"). But not a single woman accepted the identical offer of an attractive male. In fact, most of them demanded the guy leave her alone.

At first the psychological community dismissed Clark's experiment as a trivial stunt, but gradually his experiment gained first acceptance, and then praise for how dramatically it revealed the differing sexual attitudes of men and women. Today it's considered a classic. But why men and women display such different attitudes remains as hotly debated as ever.

Link (Via TDG)


  1. Two male friends of mine, in their college years, conducted a similar experiment with the sudden sexual proposition. They’re techniques were doubtless unprofessional (and certainly not at arms length – if they could help it!); however, they found that usually one girl in ten would accept their offer.

    The cold approach was successful enough for them to spend winter weekends in Halifax (freezing cold at the best of times) and not spend a dime for the trip.

    It is an ‘experiment’ that left me impressed and disgusted at the same time.

  2. Maybe because the women have a chance of becoming pregnant, which makes it a more serious issue, regardless of immediate enjoyment. How exactly is the reason hotly contested?

  3. Sexual reproduction is a newcomer on the scene evolutionarily speaking but represents a huge advancement over asexual reproductions. Even though the biological resources required to make it possible are far greater than for asexual reproduction, the payoff is enormous. There are at least two reasons for this:

    1)Each offspring or set of offspring is unique. This gives the gene set of the species a great deal of flexibility when dealing with changing environmental conditions as compared to asexual reproduction.

    2)There is a highly selective agent of discrimmination whose job it is to evaluate and grade the quality of the spermatazoa of the opposite sex. Basically what this means is that sexual reproduction has a highly effective, built-in means of quality control which is somewhat external to environmental factors.

    Women obviously don’t have a microscope with which they can use to go around examining sperm, so they have to be very good at inferring the quality of sperm by being extrememly sensitive to behavioral, social, and physical clues.

    In analyzing the experiment, it is rather easy to understand why the men were rejected. In an environment where social norms are being upheld, i.e., on a college campus where men don’t just go up to women and ask for sex, (during the day time, anyway) a female would likely interpret behavior which represnts a departure from this norm as an indicator of poor mental health. Behavior is encoded in genes, and genes are transmitted through sex. Therefore, sex in such an instance will be denied virtually every time.

    The idea of a selector agent allowing such behavior potential expression in the gene pool would represent a profound and catastrophic breakdown of the whole system. The very act of asking for sex in this manner must necessarily foreclose any possibility that it would happen. Otherwise the whole point of sexual reproduction is defeated.

    One could imagine, however, slight variations of the experiment which might yield different results. Women understand that a man’s status in the world is a kind of shorthand for the quality of his sperm. A sufficiently strong signal of high status could, in some instances compensate for a gross breech of social etiquite. If such a solicitation were made by a man who was able to somehow project sufficiently high status, there is a much higher chance that the asking of such a question would be interpreted as a supremem act of confidence rather than a pathetic act of desperation. In such a scenario, I can imagine that it might work some of the time if done the right way.

    Another variation of the experiment which might change results is if the man asking the question were a certain variety of stranger like a star athlete known generally on campus but not personally at all by any of the targets. Here the quality of sperm would already be vouched for, so there would probably be a different outcome.

    Lastly, men are also capable of discrimination. The higher the status of the male, the more he can afford to be selective. Therefore, if the experiment involved unattractive or even average looking women approaching affluent members of the winning sports team and asking them for sex, you might find their targets significantly more indifferent than the usual run of men. If you had very unattractive and or very old women approach average looking, average men on campus, again there would be a great deal of indifference.

  4. As a side note, the pickup line they used was later used as the only words in the 2003 pop hit “Would You…?” by Touch and Go.

    (I’m assuming the author means it when he writes “exact words” and is not glibly pulling them from the song.)

  5. Yikes, didn’t Ted Bundy murder a handful of women at FSU in 1978? I expect the novelty of approaching strange men on campus and asking them if they wanted to sleep with you wore off after he was caught. I hope so anyway.

    It’s curious to see how research ethics have changed over the years, because there’s no way that an experiment like that would pass the ethics review these days.

  6. This is merely an excerpt from the study. It actually invovled a variety of questions ranging from “would you go on a date with me” to “would you come over to my place”, etc before the big question that was mentioned above.

    Much thanks to Pyros for that great writeup. I’ve seen this study cited numerous times, but really enjoyed your take on it.


  7. Actually this same experiment was conducted more recently, although perhaps not by a university. I saw it on a scientific TV show and I recall that the percentage of men saying yes was 50 percent in this case, down from the original experiments (post-AIDS, perhaps, or less attractive researcher?) and the percentage of women was still zero!

  8. It’s the obvious precursor to “wanna cyber?” except that in the latter case the genders involved are just about anyone’s guess!

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