We had all of 5 trick-or-treaters show up for Halloween this year; dismal turn-out, I know. But it made for lots of leftover candy. Depending on how you look at it, that is either really bad – more candy to eat – or really good – more candy to eat. I’m going with really good. Especially because it led to this Halloween candy bread pudding. Everyone puts leftover candy in bark and cookies and blondies so I figured I would try something different. Watch, now you are all going to jump on the Halloween candy bread pudding bandwagon, I just know it.
That wasn’t the only great idea I had. I got thinking about Halloween candy and trick-or-treating, which naturally brought me to psychology. A logical progression, obviously. I started wondering if any studies had been done related to the topic. I mean, a lot of really weird experiments have been run in the field of psychology so some crazy back in the 60’s or 70’s must have looked at Halloween. And what do you know, back in 1976 there was a study published titled “Effects of Deindividuation Variables on Stealing Among Halloween Trick-or-Treaters”. Don’t worry, it’s a lot simpler than it sounds.
Essentially what they did was stage an experiment in 27 homes in Seattle on Halloween night. Here is a lowdown of the set-up:
– a female experimenter greeted the kids when they came to the door (keep in mind these kids just thought it was any old house and all they wanted was their candy).
– in the entrance there was a table with both Halloween candy and money. The kids were told that they were only allowed to take 1 piece of candy. The money was not mentioned by the experimenter.
– she then left the room and they had another researcher hiding in the back, recording what the kids did.
Are you still with me? Good.
Here’s where things got interesting. They varied the conditions so that some kids remained anonymous and others did not. What does this mean? Well the experimenter asked the non-anonymous kids what their names were and where they lived. Obviously not creepy or pedaphilic in the slightest. They found that the kids who remained anonymous were more likely to take extra candy and more likely to steal the money. Rates of stealing were even higher when the kids were in a group vs. trick-or-treating alone. This suggested that the kids were modelling their behaviour after that of their peers. In the anonymous condition, if the first child in the group transgressed and took extra, there was a 83.3% chance that at least one other child would as well. But if the first child only took one piece of candy, 88.6% of their peers did as well. I know this was done back in 1976 but I think it’s safe to say that peer influence in kids is pretty huge.
What else has this study taught us? Well first of all, if you don’t want kids stealing from you, be sure to ask for their full name and address. The parents might call the cops but at least you will still have all of your possessions. More importantly though, to all you kids out there, don’t give into peer pressure. Sure it’s only Halloween candy now but who knows what that could escalate to? On the bright side, all it takes is one good role model to set the tone. One good role model and a complete stranger who wants to know every detail of your life. Awesome.
I love the experiments they were allowed to run back before ethics were ever considered. Imagine replicating this study today. You would be labelled as a sex offender before you even had the chance to explain yourself. Really, you might as well park a white van on the driveway while you are at it. It does make for interesting reading though!
Halloween Candy Bread Pudding
Makes 9 portions
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
6 hot dog buns, cubed (or 5-6 cups of cubed, dry bread)
1 – 1 1/2 cups leftover Halloween candy (I used Smarties and chopped up Aero bars)
1. Heat your oven to 325F. Line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add in the milk and whisk to incorporate.
3. Mix the dry bread cubes into the custard. Allow it to stand for at least 5 minutes to soak up some of the liquid.
4. Once the custard has been absorbed by the bread, stir in the Halloween candy, reserving a handful or so to sprinkle over the top.
5. Pour the bread pudding into the pan and level out the top. Sprinkle it with the reserved candy and bake, covered (with tin foil), at 325F for about 45 minutes. After 40 minutes, you can remove the foil and allow the top to brown for the remaining 5 minutes.
6. Cool slightly, slice and serve. Bread pudding can be made in advance and then reheated either in the oven or in a pan (in which case I coat each portion with sugar to develop a nice crust on the outside). Refrigerate any leftovers for later.
Diener, E., Beaman, A., Fraser, S. & Kelem, R. (1976). Effects of deindividuation variables on stealing among Halloween trick-or-treaters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(2), 178-183.