Weird News, Ghosts and the Paranormal.

Seattle Kids Part of Halloween Experiment in 1976


Halloween is a time for some creepy urban legends, most of which are more fiction then fact.

Recently, I wrote about my own Halloween related childhood urban legend for the Dolphin Talk newspaper out of Seadrift, Texas. It involved a reported ‘Witch’ who pulled kids inside her house when they went Trick or Treating.

This of course, was all hogwash, rubbish and fantasy.

It has been said however that truth can be stranger then fiction.

A recent post by the excellent website IO9 brought to light a psychological experiment conducted by researchers on Trick or Treaters in Seattle, Washington in the Fall of 1976.

The experiment involved around seven-hundred Seattle area children who went Trick or Treating at one of 18 different houses in that year.

Instructed by a woman to enter the house and told to only take one piece of candy from a bowl in the room, the children were left alone and watched via a peephole to observe their actions.

The object, of course, was to see if the unwatched child or group of children would only take one piece of candy as instructed or if they would take multiple pieces.

Some children had a mirror placed in front of them to see if the children viewing their own reflection would change their actions when it came to the number of candies they took.

Children who arrived with parents or other adult supervision were excluded from the experiment.

The results, according to the IO9 article, included the following:

  • Children faced with he mirror image of themselves appeared less likely to take more then one piece of candy.
  • Girls seem less likely to take more then one piece then boys and were less effected by the mirror being present.
  • Children arriving in groups were more likely to take multiple pieces then those who came alone.
  • Older children seemed more inclined to take an extra piece of candy then the younger children.

psycnet halloween seattle study 1976 halloween nfsw dbp trick or treat 1976 experiment

The findings are available at this PsycNET link for $11.99, and the description for the report is as follows:

Two field studies explored the relationship between self-awareness and transgressive behavior. 363 Halloween trick-or-treaters (children) were instructed to take only 1 candy.

Self-awareness induced by the presence of a mirror placed behind the candy bowl decreased transgression rates for Ss who had been individuated by asking them their name and address but did not affect the behavior of Ss left anonymous.

Self-awareness influenced older but not younger Ss. Naturally occurring standards instituted by the behavior of the 1st child to approach the candy bowl in each group were shown to interact with the experimenter’s verbally stated standard.

The behavior of 349 children in the 2nd study replicated the findings of the 1st study. Additionally, when no standard was stated by the experimenter, Ss took more candy when not self-aware than when self-aware.


IO9 called out in their article to see if any of it’s readership remembers being part of this experiment and I will do the same here, as it’s a great story.

If you recall anything about this event, please let us know in the comments below!

Thomas Spychalski

ANI3DarrowPurple2CDiscuss This News Item At Death By Posting

(Via IO9/PsycNET)


2 responses

  1. I just ran into this somewhere else. Interesting, isn’t it? Seems harmless enough to me, but I suppose these things are a slippery slope.

    February 1, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    • One of the things I find interesting that the IO9 article points out is that this kind of experiment would not be possible today with all of the child safety laws and how we are more aware of child predators and other social dangers.

      Something I also touched on in the linked newspaper article as well.

      That said it is deffo creepy and interesting to my weird brain, even reminds me ever so slightly of Halloween 3 lol.

      Thankfully the candy given out was not part of a trippy mind control plot.

      February 3, 2014 at 3:37 PM

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