On failures of freedom & the fear of science

Abstract
Allen Funt was one of the great psychologists of the twentieth century. His informal demonstrations on Candid Camera showed us as much about human psychology and its surprising limitations as the work of any academic psychologist. Here is one of the best (as I recall it many years later): he placed an umbrella stand in a prominent place in a department store and filled it with shiny new golf-cart handles. These were pieces of strong, gleaming stainless steel tubing, about two feet long, with a gentle bend in the middle, threaded at one end (to screw into a threaded socket on your golf cart) and with a handsome spherical plastic knob on the other end. In other words, about as useless a piece of stainless steel tubing as you could imagine, unless you happened to own a golf cart missing its handle. He put up a sign. It didn't identify the contents but simply said: "50% off. Today only! $5.95." Some people purchased them, and, when asked why, they were quite ready to volunteer one confabulated answer or another. They had no idea what the thing was, but it was a handsome thing, and such a bargain! These people were not brain-damaged or drunk; they were normal adults, our neighbors, ourselves.
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