Home
Mobile version
spiked plus
About spiked
What is spiked?
Support spiked
spiked shop
Contact us
Advertising
Summer school
Top issues
Abortion
Arab uprisings
British politics
Child abuse panic
Economy
Environment
For Europe, Against the EU
Free speech
Jimmy Savile scandal
Nudge
Obesity
Parents and kids
Population
USA
View all issues...
special feature
The Counter-Leveson Inquiry
other sections
 Letters
 Review of Books
 Monthly archive
selected authors
Duleep Allirajah
Daniel Ben-Ami
Tim Black
Jennie Bristow
Sean Collins
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick
Frank Furedi
Helene Guldberg
Patrick Hayes
Mick Hume
Rob Lyons
Brendan O’Neill
Nathalie Rothschild
James Woudhuysen
more authors...
RSS feed
survey

abc def ghi jkl mno pqrs tuv wxyz index
Survey home
First thoughts
Final thoughts
Survey responses
RSS feed
Michael Baum
Gustav Born
K Eric Drexler
Marcus du Sautoy
Harold Kroto
Paul Lauterbur
Leon Lederman
Bernard Lovell
Sophie Petit-Zeman
Ingo Potrykus
Jack Pridham
Simon Singh
Jack Steinberger
Dr Stuart WG Derbyshire
senior lecturer at the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham


I was 10 years old, and our schoolteacher played an excellent trick on us. He sent three of us outside to stand by the headmaster’s office, suggesting that we were in trouble. Moments later, one of the more ill-behaved boys – selected so as to be believable – left the class and came to talk to us. He explained that he was pretending to go to the toilet, and that we should know that Mr Tennant was planning to blindfold us and plunge our hands into boiling water on our return to the classroom.

Mr Tennant appeared next, went into the staff room, and then reappeared with a boiling kettle of water. Shortly after he returned to the classroom, Mr Tennant called the first student back in, and this was followed by loud shouting and screaming from the class. This happened again, and then it was my turn. Just as I had been warned, I was blindfolded on entering the classroom and led to a bucket of water. My hands were thrust into the water, and I screamed.

The water, of course, was merely tepid. After all the screaming and laughter, I couldn’t quite figure out if I had really felt it to be hot, or just anticipated that it would be hot. It was a bold experiment that energised the class for the remainder of the day, as we argued about the relationship between expectation and experience. Some 25 years later, I am still running experiments to try and figure out that relationship.

Stuart Derbyshire is a contributor to Animal Experimentation: Good or Bad? (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.