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AP Psychology Case Studies: Exploring the Human Mind

AP Psychology Case Studies: Exploring the Human Mind

Are you interested in learning about the fascinating world of psychology? Do you want to delve deeper into the workings of the human mind and understand what makes people tick? If so, then you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the most interesting AP Psychology case studies that have helped us gain a better understanding of human behavior. From famous experiments like the Milgram obedience study to lesser-known cases like the Phineas Gage incident, we’ll cover a wide range of topics to give you a comprehensive overview of psychology.

The Milgram Obedience Study

One of the most well-known AP Psychology case studies is the Milgram obedience study, which was conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s. The study was designed to investigate the extent to which people would obey authority figures, even when it meant harming another human being.

Participants in the study were instructed to administer electric shocks to a "learner" when they answered questions incorrectly, with the voltage increasing each time. Although the shocks were not actually real, the learner (who was in on the experiment) pretended to be in pain and begged the participant to stop.

Despite the harmful nature of the experiment, many participants continued to administer the shocks all the way up to the maximum voltage of 450 volts, simply because they were told to do so by the authority figure conducting the study.

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The Milgram study is still a hotly-debated topic in psychology today, and raises important questions about obedience to authority, the ethics of conducting research on human subjects, and the power dynamics between researchers and participants.

The Phineas Gage Incident

Another fascinating AP Psychology case study involves an event that occurred in 1848, when a man named Phineas Gage had a metal rod driven through his skull in a work accident. Remarkably, Gage survived the accident and even managed to walk and talk immediately afterward.

However, Gage’s personality underwent a dramatic change after the accident, leading his friends and family to describe him as "no longer Gage." Whereas he had previously been a responsible and reliable man, he became impulsive, aggressive, and unable to hold down a job.

The Phineas Gage incident is often cited as evidence of the connection between the brain and behavior, and has helped psychologists understand how damage to certain areas of the brain can lead to specific changes in personality and behavior.

The Little Albert Experiment

Perhaps one of the most controversial AP Psychology case studies is the Little Albert experiment, which was conducted by psychologist John Watson in 1920. The study involved conditioning a young child (known only as "Little Albert") to fear a white rat by associating its appearance with a loud, frightening noise.

Although the experiment was seen as groundbreaking at the time, it has since been criticized for its unethical treatment of a young child, as well as for its questionable scientific validity. Nevertheless, the Little Albert experiment remains a notable example of classical conditioning and the potential for humans to be conditioned to respond to environmental stimuli in certain ways.

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The Stanford Prison Experiment

Finally, we come to the Stanford Prison Experiment, which was conducted by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in 1971. The study aimed to investigate the effects of power and authority on human behavior by setting up a mock prison and assigning participants to either the role of guard or prisoner.

Over the course of just six days, the study had to be terminated due to the abusive behavior exhibited by the guards towards the prisoners. Participants took on their assigned roles so thoroughly that they began to lose sight of reality, leading to psychological harm for some of the prisoners.

The Stanford Prison Experiment highlights the dangers of social influence and power on human behavior, and remains one of the most famous and controversial AP Psychology case studies to this day.


In conclusion, these AP Psychology case studies are just a small sample of the vast array of research that has been conducted on the human mind and behavior. From the Milgram obedience study to the Stanford Prison Experiment, each study has helped us gain a deeper understanding of how we interact with the world around us and the psychological forces that shape our behavior.

Whether you’re a student of psychology or simply someone who’s fascinated by the workings of the human mind, these case studies offer a wealth of insight and knowledge to explore. So delve in and discover the fascinating world of psychology today!