Jack Marshall.


STANLEY: Good morning…you in there. I just wanted to introduce myself before we start. It’s not required, I know, but I thought it would be nicer—more polite. I’m Stanley, and I volunteered for this experiment. Like you did, I guess. Take home a few extra bucks at the end of the day, right?

Ok, now, here’s the instructions. I’ll read and you pay attention. “This is a learning experiment, and I’m going to ask you some questions. If you answer correctly, I’ll say “Good.” But if you make a mistake, I’ll press this button and you’ll get a little shock—just a tiny shock. And I promise not to press too hard. See, uh, it’ll be like this.



STANLEY: You don’t have to be so dramatic. It was just a little shock. A motivator, that’s what it is. But now that I zapped you, you’ll learn real fast because you don’t want any more shocks, right… I think they plan to put machines like this in every school. So everyone will get smarter. Won’t that be something. And you and I will have helped make it all happen.

O.K. Get ready now. Here’s the first question. Actually it’s pretty easy. Two plus two equals…?


STANLEY: What! Were you paying attention? Take your time. I’ll repeat. Two plus two equals…


STANLEY: Seven? What are you saying? Alright, you know the penalty.



STANLEY: Don’t yell like that. It didn’t hurt that much. It’s a motivator. It’s helping you. And now I have to increase the voltage. That’s the rule. I’m no sadist, just following the rule. And if you just think, you won’t get zapped. Work out the problem on paper. You’ve got a pencil and scrap paper. I know that. Well use it.

Alright, here’s the second question. Three plus three equals…?


STANLEY: What! Are you trying to be funny? Nobody can be that stupid. Write it down. It’s easy. Three plus three equals…?


STANLEY: I can’t believe this. You’re not trying. But you know the penalty. I’ve warned you…


LEARNER: Ooouuw!

STANLEY: Maybe that will teach you…but maybe it won’t. Maybe you’re a total idiot, a hopeless moron. That must be it. A normal person would solve those problems fast. The guy must have a learning disorder, mental retardation…

Say! You! Yeah, you in the white coat. Yes, you. You’re the lab assistant, aren’t you? Well, I think we should call off this experiment. This guy’s got a problem. If you want my personal opinion, I think he’s an idiot. Shocking him will do no good at all.

ASSISTANT: I’m sorry sir. But you agreed to assist with the experiment.

STANLEY: Sure. But this isn’t working. We should try with another patient. Talk to your boss. Get a second opinion.

ASSISTANT: I’m sorry sir. But you agreed to assist with the experiment.

STANLEY: Alright. OK. I’ll keep going. But I want you to write down that I object. I don’t agree at all. And if anything happens, it’s not my fault…

Well, Let’s see.

Are you ready for another question? Look I’m going to cheat, give you a really, really easy one. Ready? One plus one equals… Now don’t rush your answer. Use your fingers. One finger plus one finger equals how many fingers?


STANLEY: Three? You are an idiot, aren’t you. Well, I have to give you a shock, but I’ll barely touch the button.


LEARNER: Ooouuw! Ooouuw! Ooouuw!

STANLEY: Stop that hollering! I barely touched it. If you’d put as much effort into problem solving as you do into yelling, you’d have a perfect score. Now you stop all that noise or I’ll give you something to yell about.

What a hopeless idiot. Hey! You in the white coat. This machine won’t work. Not with a dummy like this. He can’t answer any question right.

ASSISTANT: I’m sorry sir. But you agreed to assist with the experiment.

STANLEY: But the fool will just get shocked. He won’t learn any more than a frog.

ASSISTANT: I’m sorry sir…

STANLEY: I know, I know. I agreed to assist with the experiment. But I’m warning you, if something bad happens, don’t blame me. I’m totally irresponsible…

Alright, next question. Let’s see…Oh, no. He’ll never answer this….O.K. pal, I hate doing this to you. I sympathize, I really do. But here’s the question they gave me: 3x÷4 =√36 ÷ 6. Solve for x.


STANLEY: Just guess. Get it over with. I’ll barely touch the button. I promise.

LEARNER: 1 1/3.

STANLEY: One and…that’s right. How could he be right? Must be a fluke. Alright, good. Now try again. Let’s see. Here’s one: x÷6 = 4y÷ 8. Solve for x.

LEARNER: x = 3y.

STANLEY: Right again. I don’t believe it. The shocks must have worked. An idiot becomes a genius…Look, let me try it. Let me in there. See if this machine makes me smarter…Come on, let me have your chair. Switch places with me…There…Now ask me a question.

LEARNER: 3x÷4 =√36 ÷ 6. Solve for x.

STANLEY: That’s the one I asked you. I remember. The answer’s 1 ¼.

LEARNER: Nope. You remembered wrong. You should have paid attention. The answer’s 1 1/3.


STANLEY: Yeeououw!

LEARNER: Heh, heh, heh. He’s not very smart, is he?


The Answer

P: I’m a psychologist. Why? I had to do something. Couldn’t just sit around. And I really like white rats. Cute little critters—scampering in mazes, pressing the bar for food pellets, learning tricks.

But who is hiring rat-trainers? I couldn’t find one rat-trainer job. Psychologist jobs usually require listening to people. What a miserable experience. People whine, complain, whimper—sometimes they shout. They expect to be fixed… I should have been a plumber.

But I had a psychology degree and needed cash. So I rented an office. I set up a web site and a phone listing. But nobody came. So I hired on with an HMO. The head honchos said they expected fast fixes, no lingering neurotics. Get ‘em in, get ‘em out.

So I’m sitting on a folding chair, mulling over the company philosophy, when the first nut case shambles through the door and starts complaining because he can’t lie on a couch.

“You have better posture in a chair,” I says. “Better blood flow.” Was that true? I don’t know, but it sounded good.

“I need to relax,” the nut says. “This chair is not relaxing.”

“So lie on the floor,” I says. “The rug is spotless.”

So the guy lies on the floor and seems happy—but only for five seconds. Then the moaning begins. His wife is ugly, his kids are lazy, his job is boring. “It’s what I deserve,” he says. “I’m a loser, and losers get what they deserve.”

“Well, you got a point there,” I says.

“So I’m here for answers,” the nut says.

“Answers to what?”

“Answers to life.”

“What’s the question?” I ask.

“How can I be happy?”

“What makes you happy,” I ask him.

“Nothing. That’s the problem.”

“That’s the answer,” I says.


“Nothing. That’s the answer. If nothing makes you happy, then you won’t be happy.”

“That’s no answer.”

“Sure it is. You just don’t like it.”

“It’s not the answer I want.”

“Then you need to find something to make you happy. I can’t think for you.”

“Can’t you give me a clue?”

“Stamp collecting.”


“Stamp collecting. Try it. See if it makes you happy.”

“That sounds boring. Do you collect stamps?”

“No. Sounds boring to me too.”

“So why tell ME to do it?”

“You seem like a pretty boring guy—no interests, no ambition.”

“I didn’t come here to get insulted.”

“I’m just stating facts.”

“So what do you do—when you’re not sitting here insulting guys?

“I exercise at the gym. I go camping or canoeing on the weekends.”

“I hate exercise. And camping, I don’t know. Sleeping on the ground with bugs and snakes…”

“So what do you do—when you’re not sitting here complaining?”

“I lie on the couch, sip a brew, watch a game.”

“You’re a fan?”

“I guess you could say that. Not a fanatic fan—low key, that’s me.”

“Are you happy watching games, eating, drinking.”

“Yeah, happier than most other times.”

“There’s your answer.”

“But if I lie on the couch and watch a game, the wife says I’m lazy. I check the scores at the office, the boss says I’m wasting time.”

“Would you be happy if you divorced your wife and quit your job?”

“Who’d cook and clean the house? How’d I get paid?”

“As I see it, the only solution for you is suicide.”

“What do you mean? You telling me to kill myself?”

“You have a better solution?”

“I could go to a sports bar after work. No boss, no wife. Sip a beer and watch.”

“Will that make you happy?”

“It’s better than being dead.”

“So that’s the answer…and I hate to mention this, but your time is up.”

“That’s it, huh?”

“That’s it.”

“This sure ain’t what I expected.”

“It never is. It never is.”

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