The Top 40 Most Fascinating Psychological Phenomena | 22 Words

Not everybody has time for a full-on psychology class, but we can always read up on the craziest facts! A group of Redditors got together (well, sort of) and listed out the most fascinating psychological phenomena they could think of. The results won't disappoint you!

We don't always think about the way our minds works, but it's truly fascinating! And there's a lot we're missing when we go without considering it. Why do people do certain things? Why don't we do other things? Some of the answers lay in the fascinating psychological phenomena that few people know about. So educate yourself and see which of these sound familiar...and which of them blow your mind!

Proof that people are just weird:

If you're talking to someone intently and you hand them something, more often than not they'll take it.

Doesn't matter if it's a book, a pen or an orange.

No idea what the phenomenon is called or if it's even psychological, but it's made for some great pranks.


What do you remember of your childhood?

Childhood amnesia. The fact that up until a certain point you don't remember things. My first memory isn't until I was 6. My wife's is when she was 2. Hers seem to be emotionally based. So they're sparse and fleeting. Mine are like I just suddenly had a switch flipped, and there I was. -ThisIsaRantAccount

How much control do you have?

Locus of Control (LOC). LOC basically is how you view control over your own life. People either have an internal LOC where they believe they have the power to control their own lives, or an external LOC where you believe everything in life comes from a source other than yourself (I got fired because my boss hates me, I was late because of traffic...etc.). Now, what's interesting is that studies have shown people with an internal LOC find greater satisfaction and success in almost every aspect of life...except one...being in a nursing home. Drives internal LOC people CRAZY while external LOC people thrive. -IMian91

It's all in your head.

Psychosomatic symptoms! How you can have all these physical complaints or symptoms, but physiologically there’s nothing causing it. How things can literally be all in your head! Super interesting! -phoral

The stakes are high...

Prospect Theory, the idea that people perceive gain and loss unequally, where a loss has about twice as much impact on a person as a gain of the same amount.

People will take unnecessary risks to avoid loss.


This sounds bone-chilling!

Cotard delusion, aka walking corpse syndrome, where the sufferer genuinely believes that they are dead, don’t exist, or have no internal organs. absolutely crazy. I can’t imagine what it feels like walking around feeling actually, genuinely dead. -anonymous Redditor

Here's a firsthand account:

I experienced this for a period of time after my dad passed away when I was younger. It was terrifying and traumatic. I felt as if I was hollow inside - with no organs or vessels, just empty muscle - and was a ghost that everyone else could see. Thankfully those delusions don’t plague my life anymore, but it was so dark and awful. -ameliaaa59

This seems like an extension of "treat others the way you want to be treated."

If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you. It doesn't always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen next time. Time and again this has always worked fine for me. -Being_grateful

Belief is a powerful tool.

The placebo effect. The idea that belief in something can actually have a positive impact on the body just seems so crazy to me. Also helped me realize inversely why stress and anxiety can take such a toll on you. -Col_Walter_Tits

And it works even when you know it's happening!

Funny enough, placebo also works, when you know it's placebo...somehow, deep down, there is something in you that wants to believe despite all reasonable arguments against it.


Ever heard of the opposite effect?

Also, nocebo is a thing...when you expect something to harm you, it will. It makes a lot of treatments complicated - on one hand, you want the patient aware of the side effects, on the other, you don't want them to "generate" them by the nocebo effect... -Why_So_Slow

Heights inspire strange emotions.

I'm probably late to this thread, but I find the "The Call of the Void" an interesting phenomenon. It's that feeling you get when you stand on a high place and subconsciously think "I could totally jump off right now," but you don't really want to and you don't actually jump. I experienced this multiple times on my most recent trip to Europe. -Lordarain

This one is a "classic."

Deja vu. To have such a strong feeling that an instance has happened before is you experienced it in the past, or dreamed of it. -shabs12

And then there's this...

Déjà rêvé, on the other hand, means "already dreamed." It's a scene or a memory or even just a feeling that you've experienced in a dream. -AndromedaNyxi

It's all about positivity.

That you're more likely to like someone if you think that person likes you. -glarpppy

Dreams can be wild!

How I can have a surprise in my dream. Like something will happen and I'll be confused about it, then someone will explain it by giving new information, and then it makes sense. But ALL of this is created by my own brain while I'm dreaming. How can I reveal new information to myself to explain something? -WhatWasThatLike

Denial is also powerful.

Denial. The many answers to evade the truth are very creative. -erik829

How does one get rid of denial?

Denial is rooted in the perception of threat, if you manage to convey the same words in a way that doesn't make it as a threat, you'll shave off most of it. -CharlisonX

This would be so interesting to experience:


This happens when you experience one sensory stimulus and it triggers another. For example, you hear a splash and think of the color blue.

I get this quite vividly with tastes. If I see a plastic fork, I always taste ketchup for some reason.


The connection is lost.

Dissociative disorders.

A dissociative disorder is a mental disorder that involves experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity. People with dissociative disorders escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems with functioning in everyday life.


They always say laughter is the best medicine...

How laughter affects people. Laughter is basically the ying to stress's yang, which inspires me to make people laugh when I can, as I don't know what they're going through. Laughter increases things like dopamine, and can even help soothe physical pain sometimes. -mothwingisaghost

This sounds crazy when you say it so plainly:

How people who hate themselves also hate people who like them. -5r3m


Capgras syndrome. It’s a psychiatric disorder where you believe the people around you are ‘imposters’ despite recognizing that they look/act/sound the same. It can come from a disconnect of the emotional brain regions and visual regions. I believe there are cases where a patient will overcome the imposter sensation by speaking on the phone with someone (so having no visual information). I’ve also seen it in people who suffer from schizophrenia. I suggest a read into it if you like abnormal psyc! -putrid_tugboat

The subconscious is way more expansive than the conscious.

For me, it is the unconscious mind and the fact that it accounts for the majority of our cognitive activity. I think it's interesting how we can simultaneously both know and not know things. It is also interesting (and perhaps even frightening) that we are not running the show to the extent that we think we are--at least not consciously. -ChanceGuest


I'm amazed at the number of people who freeze in a disastrous situation like a sinking ship. People who survive tragedies like that always report that there's not nearly the amount of panic and confusion that you'd expect. A lot of people freeze in place and simply can't move, even as the water is rising around them. Families have been split up in situations like this, where two of them can move, but the other three can't. -Scrappy_Larue

It's the less-mentioned third option of "fight or flight."

Yep, the freeze reaction doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and it’s something that’s actually really important for us to understand. Freezing is part of the same process that triggers the fight/flight response and usually occurs when people can’t do anything to actively exit or combat what’s causing them stress. Freezing is a really old response evolutionally speaking and is something of a last-ditch way the body tries to save itself.

As a result, people tend to go into fight/flight first, and then eventually freeze if they still can’t control the stress they’re experiencing.


Ever heard of this?

The Monkeysphere:

Simply your brain has evolved to have an upper limit on the number of people you can conceptualize as people. After which they just become "people". And are then clumped into groups. The perception of which can be warped drastically by hearsay, the media, your own bias, etc.

Which goes a very long way to explain why many things in human society are the way they are.


Know any big gamblers?

Gambler's Fallacy - specifically, how the same series of events can lead to two different conclusions. Assume you have a perfectly fair coin; you toss it five times and get five heads. You then ask two people what they think the sixth toss will be.

Person A thinks that heads are obviously on a roll, so he bets on heads.

Person B thinks that heads have happened too many times, which means that tails have to come up, so he bets on tails.

They're both wrong: the odds of the sixth throw remain the same, regardless of what happened in the past.


Does your mind ever "play tricks" on you?

The Troxler effect.

A psychological phenomenon where if one is put into a dimly lit room, then look at their self in the mirror for an extended period of time, they will see things in the mirror, but only the mirror.

It is caused by the human brain being able to only experience so little at a time. There are things you aren't paying attention to and therefore don't experience. For instance: your blinking pattern or how the air feels, your brain deems it irrelevant so it just cuts them off to process other stuff.


Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody...

When in the dimly lit room looking at the mirror, your brain deems stuff in the mirror irrelevant and just simply removes it from your eyesight. But it still has to put something there, but because it's irrelevant and doesn't know what to put there, it tries its best to fill in that void and in doing so, makes something weird happen.

I'm pretty sure there was an instance where someone tried this, and their mouth stretched out across their cheeks.

The brain didn't know what to put on the cheeks because it was deemed irrelevant so it tried to fill the gap and failed.

One of the most popular cases of this would be Bloody Mary.


Heck, you don't need a mirror!

This could also happen without a mirror.

Ever just be in your room and out of the corner of your eye you see something looking at you, peeking around the door, but when you focus on it, nothing was there? That would be the Troxler effect.


The madness of two:

Folie a deux. That two people can have the same shared psychosis or better yet HALLUCINATIONS is just insane. The transference a psych major this one gets me. -2faingz

Phantom limb syndrome:

Phantom limb syndrome, the ability to feel sensations and even pain in a limb or limbs that no longer exist. Phantom limb syndrome is characterized by both nonpainful and painful sensations. Nonpainful sensations can be divided into the perception of movement and the perception of external sensations (exteroception), including touch, temperature, pressure, vibration, and itch. Pain sensations range from burning and shooting pains to feelings of tingling “pins and needles." While phantom limb syndrome occurs only in amputees, phantom sensations may be perceived in people who have survived strokes but lost function of certain body parts or who have spinal cord injury or peripheral nerve injury. -CarlSpencer

"It's so cute, I wanna die!"

Cute aggression. I always thought the link between cuteness and violent urges was ironic. Every time you see something extremely cute something in your brain says “I have to squeeze its little head off." -homemade-chopstick

It's like looking in a mirror.

We tend to hate people that have the same flaws and make the same mistakes as we do. -earlson

Is something really unique?

The Baader-Meinhoff effect, or frequency delusion. Like something because it seems unique...well, now you will notice that everyone else has it too. You're welcome. -r0ck13r4c00n

When you're off in your own little world...

False memories. How you can implant false memories in someone over time. And they believe they are real and their reactions are based on their own reality.


Ever found yourself being a bystander?

The bystander effect. Everyone thinks they would help if something happens, but the effect says that the more people there are, the less someone is going to help. -widebueseli

This is actually a really important part of depression to know about:

I’m going to psych nerd out a bit since I did research on this phenomenon, but facial information processing errors associated with depression are super interesting. Folks with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) are actually way more likely than their peers to misidentify and selectively focus on emotional responses from other people. They have a much higher risk of misperceiving neutral faces as negative, and for missing facial cues that indicate positive information.

At the same time, folks with MDD are also much better at noticing negative facial emotion indicators. Similarly, people with anxiety disorders tend to be much more likely to see neutral faces as angry.

I find it really interesting because it shows how a “mood" disorder like depression is way more complex than we sometimes give it credit for. Information processing problems can be triggered by, and in turn, reinforce someone’s depression. If we focus just on mood as our metric for what constitutes recovery, we miss some really interesting and potentially useful ways to provide treatment. -ColdNotion

Beware the cold!

Pibloktoq or Arctic Hysteria which exists mostly among Inuit living in the arctic region. Sufferers often become agitated, shouting and tearing off their clothes before running naked in the freezing temperatures. This continues for hours until they collapse and sleep. They have recovered by the time they wake up and may not remember the event.

Interestingly this illness also affects Sled Dogs and non-Inuit people.

-Iseeasong Share this fascinating information with other friends who love psychology!