4 Psychological Experiments That Will Make You Smarter Than Everyone Else

With these experiments and their lessons, you can drastically change your life.

woman's head in the cloud thinking psychologically Max4e Photo / Shutterstock

They shattered my perceptions about how the mind works. Shattered.

I used to think I know my mind. I believed that I truly understand how it works. But when I read about these experiments in the book Thinking, Fast, and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I was blown away.

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The results of these experiments were hard to believe at first because they were truly incredible, but when I internalized them, I had a series of epiphanies. In this article, I want to talk about these experiments, along with the lessons I derived from them.


Please note that the results of the experiments mentioned in this article are truly hard to believe. It’s very likely that your mind will reject them. But these experiments were conducted with a lot of care by some of the greatest psychologists in the world, and they are conclusive. Read them with an open mind, and you’ll learn a lot.

Here are 4 psychological experiments that will make you smarter than anyone else.

1. Money On Your Mind

In a series of experiments, the idea of money was exposed to participants’ subconscious in various ways.

  • They were shown phrases that had a money theme. Example: “A high-paying salary”
  • Keeping money-related objects in the background. Example: a stack of monopoly money on the table or a screensaver of dollar bills floating in the water.

The results were very interesting.

Money-primed people are more selfish: they were much less willing to spend time helping another student who pretended to be confused about an experimental task. When an experimenter clumsily dropped a bunch of pencils on the floor, the participants with money (unconsciously) on their minds picked up fewer pencils.

In another experiment in the series, participants were told that they would shortly have a get-acquainted conversation with another person and were asked to set up two chairs while the experimenter left to retrieve that person. Participants primed by money chose the next stay much farther apart than their nonprimed peers (118 vs. 80 centimeters). Money-primed undergraduates also showed a greater preference for being alone.

The general theme here is that money primes individualism. And while individualism might be good in small doses, it’s not ideal when it dominates our culture.


The takeaway here is that while money isn’t evil, constantly having money on your mind can stop you from improving as a person. This is why I recommend that you try to build a life where you have to think about money as little as possible.

  • When you’re poor, you have to think about money a lot.
  • When you’re trying to be the richest person ever, you have to think about money a lot.

Avoid both these scenarios like vampires avoid garlic.

My suggestion is this. Initially, think about how you can earn enough money that in the future, you have to think about it as little as possible. Of course, this is much trickier than it sounds because once you start thinking about money, it’s really difficult to stop thinking about it. But of course, when you understand why, it can be done.

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2. The Florida Effect

In an experiment, psychologists gave groups of people lists of words and asked them to form sentences from those words. For one group, the words on the list were associated with the elderly: Florida, forgetful, bald, gray, or wrinkle. After exposing them to the list, the participants of all groups were asked to go to another room to do another task.

That walk down the hall was actually what the experiment was about. Although, the participants didn’t know this.

The results were staggering., The group of people exposed to the words associated with the elderly walked significantly slower than other participants.

This is called the ideomotor effect of priming: ‘Ideas’ associated with the elderly affected primed people’s ‘motor’ activities to mimic the elderly.


Think about that for a second: mere words in an experiment affected people’s energy. Now imagine how significantly your environment will affect what you do in life.

This is why choosing good friends is so f***ing important in life. They say that you’re the average of the five people you hang out with, and this experiment shows you just how true it is. Everything that happens in your life primes you. Choose your influences wisely.

3. The Associative Machine

Look at these two words: BANANAS, VOMIT.

When you read these words, something happens to you. Unpleasant memories might come to mind. Your face might show an expression of disgust. And even though you can’t perceive these things, your heart rate must have risen a little, your sweat glands activated and the hair on your arms rose a little.


All of this happened without conscious effort. It was beyond your control.

An explanation comes to mind: you read the two words, and formed a narrative inside your head — “Someone ate a banana, and then they vomited immediately.” And if someone were to offer you a banana right now, you’ll be more likely to reject it because subconsciously, you deduced that the bananas caused the vomiting.

Note that it was not mentioned that the bananas caused the vomiting. The narrative was not a given; instead, it was constructed by you.

This tells us that our minds have a need and desire for coherence. It wants to make sense of things. That is why it creates stories so that everything connects and nothing feels out of place. This is why psychologists have referred to our brains as associative machines; because it associates ideas to form coherent stories.


The lesson here is that life doesn’t actually make as much sense as you think it does. Your mind just forms stories to fool you into believing that it makes sense. In fact, due to this burning desire of making sense of things, when people are unable to do so, they are restless. When they don’t understand why something has happened to them, they lose their cool.

That is why, in Buddhism, trying to make sense of everything in life is a vice to overcome. It says that life just is, and you should just live it. That is why, when life doesn’t make sense, remind yourself that it’s not supposed to. Learn to enjoy the non-sensical nature of life, and you’ll have greater peace.

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4. The Honesty Box

In an office, people paid for tea or coffee using the system of “Honesty box.” People helped themselves with the beverage and then put money in the box of their own accord. A list of suggested prices was posted on the wall.


One day, a banner was posted right above the list of suggested prices. Every week for a period of 10 weeks, a new image was posted on the banner; either of flowers or of eyes that looked directly at the person in front. This experiment was conducted without any warning or explanation.

The results were staggering. The users of the kitchen contributed almost three times in “Eye weeks” as they did in “Flower weeks.” A symbolic reminder to their subconscious of ‘being looked at’ made a significant improvement in their behavior. You might think that this is ridiculous, but the study was pretty conclusive.

This is not to say that humans are so stupid that they might be fooled by mere pictures of eyes. Instead, this study shows that our mind makes a lot of decisions without our conscious awareness, and it can be influenced in some ways.

The lesson here is that accountability leads to improved behavior. If you can get someone to monitor your actions, you can actually get a lot of work done. There are two ways you can create accountability:

  • Have an accountability partner: tell each other what you aim to do on any given day, and at the end of the day, follow up with each other.
  • Have accountability with your future self: list down what you intend to do on any given day, and at the end of the day, journal and write down whether you completed your tasks or not. If not, write down why.

Experiments in psychology reveal extraordinary things about how our mind works. Here are 4 lessons we talked about in this article:

  • Build a life where you have to think about money as little as possible.
  • Everything around you primes you towards either greatness or mediocrity. Choose your influences wisely.
  • Life doesn’t actually make as much sense as you think it does. Learn to be at peace with the non-sensical nature of life and you’ll be happier.
  • Accountability leads to improved behavior.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.