The Coolidge Effect.


I am reading a fascinating book “The Tell-Tale Brain – Unlocking The Mystery Of Human Nature” by V.S. Ramachandran.

Here is an extract from it, which is too good not to be shared with my readers.

“There’s a well-known psychological phenomenon called the Coolidge effect, named after President Calvin Coolidge. It’s based on a little-known experiment performed by rat psychologists’ decades ago. Start with a sex-deprived male rat in a cage. Put a female rat in the cage. The male mounts the female, consummating the relationship several times until he collapses from sheer sexual exhaustion. Or so it would seem. The fun begins if you now introduce a new female into the cage. He gets going again and performs several times until he is once again thoroughly exhausted. Now introduce a third female rat, and our apparently exhausted male rat starts all over again. This voyeuristic experiment is a striking demonstration of the potent effect of novelty on sexual attraction and performance. I have often wondered whether the effect is also true for female rats courting males. But to my knowledge that hasn’t been tried – probably because, for many years most psychologists were men.

“The story is told that President Coolidge and his wife were on a state visit to Oklahoma, and they were invited to a chicken coop – apparently one of their major tourist attractions. The President had to first give a speech, but since Mrs. Coolidge had already heard the speech many times she decided to go to the coop an hour earlier. She was being shown around by the farmer. She was surprised to see that the coop had dozens of hens but only one majestic rooster. When she asked the guide about this, he replied, “Well he is a fine rooster. He goes on and on all night and day servicing the hens.”

“All night?” said Mrs. Coolidge. “Will you do me a big favor? When the president gets here, tell him in exactly the same words- what you just told me.”

“An hour later when the president showed up, the farmer repeated the story.

“The president asked, “Tell me something: Does the rooster go on all night with the same hen or different hens?”

“Why, different hens of course,” replied the farmer.

“Well, do me a favor,” said the president. “Tell the First Lady what you just told me.”

“This story may be apocryphal, but it does raise a fascinating question. Would a patient with Capgrass syndrome never get bored with his wife? Would she remain perpetually novel and attractive? If the syndrome could somehow be evoked temporarily with transcranial magnetic stimulation….one could make a fortune.”

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