The lost child experiment

The lost child experiment

There are few psychological experiments that have been repeated for a few years by the scientific community. One of the most popular and disturbing is undoubtedly the lost or lost child experiment.


  • 1 What is the experiment of the lost child or lost child?
  • 2 Other similar experiments
  • 3 What can we learn from this type of psychological experiments?

What is the experiment of the lost child or lost child?

Actually, this experiment is extremely simple. So much so, that it has been repeated several times by different people, in different places and even giving rise to a few variants. But, in essence, they all start from the same.

First of all, it is about distributing within a specific area several posters with the photo of a child who is supposedly lost. Next, it is interesting to observe how many people usually approach the cartel.

Our human nature makes us curious, and even more so when it comes to the loss of a small child or, ultimately, a defenseless being. Thus, it is not surprising that many people are interested in the appearance of the child, just in case they could help to find him.

But the experiment has only just begun, and the most interesting of all comes now. Shortly after, and once we have made sure that enough people have been interested in the poster and the photo of the child, that supposedly abandoned child appears In the same place.

For a few minutes, he has to stay there, doing what every young child tends to do: play. The next thing we could expect is that all the people who have seen his photo a few minutes before now go to him to try to recover it, isn't it?

Well, the truth is that no, since all experiments of this type that have been carried out for years at the end have the same result: people have failed to pay attention or recognize the child. And that, previously, had placed all his attention on his image.

But, for more inri, shortly after an interviewer appears around the area to ask the same passers-by if they would be able to recognize the child they have seen in the photo. Can you guess his answer? They all claim yes. However, experience shows that it is the opposite.

How is this possible? The truth is that, contrary to what many people think, we don't pay as much attention around us as we think. The truth is that we cannot focus and remember everything that happens around us.

This has a name, and it is called attention bias, and explains the fact that we are only able to perceive only what we consider most relevant, although then it really isn't.

But the most disturbing thing is, without a doubt, the fact that we do believe that we are doing it. This has a name: blind spot bias, and it comes to mean that we are much more skewed than we really think.

Other similar experiments

Some researchers and psychologists have wanted to go further, proposing variants of this same experiment. Thus, they give rise to other equally curious results that give much to think about our way of perceiving.

In 2016, one of these experiments was carried out in Washington Square Park, located in Manhattan, New York. In this same place, four subjects were abandoned in a controlled and monitored manner by hidden cameras, all at once.

The first of them was a six-year-old boy. Another girl of the same age was also left to her fate. To complete the experiment and observe all possible variables, a dog and a cat were also left in the same place. Now we had to observe if they were rescued and in what order.

The results could not be more surprising. The six-year-old girl was the first to be rescued, followed by the dog and finally the cat. During the 45 minutes of the experiment, absolutely no one went to rescue the child, even if he was only six years old.

Other similar experiments have shown that only well-dressed and race children who denote good social status are helped. If the appearance of the little ones seems to indicate that it is someone of poor resources, the thing changes.

What can we learn from this type of psychological experiments?

The conclusion seems to be very clear: although we believe that we look closely at the things that happen around us, the truth is that it is not so. I have even we tend to overestimate our attention span.

The other consideration is the prejudices that encourage us or prevent us from helping other human beings, however small and helpless they may be. In the New York experiment, the girl and the animals were identified as unprotected beings, but the same did not happen with the boy, being also small.

Are we facing a case of sexist prejudices (more specifically sexists for believing that only the girl needs protection)? If the girl had been dressed in rags and with a more scruffy appearance, would she have been rescued so quickly?

In any case, these psychological experiments not only serve to demonstrate certain theories. They must also serve to make us reconsider and we wonder how we ourselves and the general society is evolving.