Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Psychology Experiment

I got a call from my friend J today, he wanted me to help out this female friend of his, S, with her experiment. S is a psychology graduate student, and she is looking for some volunteers to help answer some questions. Atleast that's what J told me. Having nothing planned after work, I agreed his request. I called up S and fixed up a time with her. Around 5 pm, after negotiating through the maze that is Univ. of Toronto's Sydney Smith building's basement, I came across the 'Psychology Lab'.

The world 'LAB' on the door should have been my first clue.

I knocked and entered. S was there. She was pretty young for someone studying for a doctorate. S pointed me to a computer, gave me a set of headphones and explained to me what I had to do.

"Basically, the program on the computer is going to show you a few images," She said, "After around 4 or 5 images, it will ask you a multiple-choice question. You answer the question with the answer you think is most correct. If it's wrong, a buzzer will beep on your headphone and you will get the chance to do it again until you get it right. When you get it right, the program will display on the screen that you are right, and we will repeat the process again, with different pictures and questions, for around 20 minutes."

It seemed simple enough. See pictures. Answer questions. Repeat. So I put on the headphones, S started the program, gave me a thumbs up, and went back to her cubicle. I turned and focused my attention on the screen in front of me.

Four images (a flower, a bird, a sunny sky and a meadow) came on the screen, one at a time, each staying for no longer than a couple of seconds. Then came the question.

"If A is to B today what Gold is to Silver tomorrow, what is K equal to?"

Alright. WTF? There were four choices. None of which made any sense. It took me three tries before I saw the word 'correct' on the screen. Then the program moved on to another set of images. These were a bit darker. The weather in the landscape was gloomy. Rain. Wait, was that.. a ... girl? In a bikini? Another weird question. I answered.

The pictures followed. It was definitely a girl. Negligible amount clothes on. For a moment I thought the program launched the dirty screensaver of the lab supervisor whose computer it was, but I turned to S, she just smiled and beckoned me to continue. This was definitely weird. Then came another set of pictures. The girl was gone. Ew, it was the scene of an accident. Blood. Gore. Stupid silly question.

I began to curse J as I randomly pressed buttons to finish the answers as quick as possible. And so it continued. The pictures alternated between sunny landscapes, bomb explosion scenes, Maxim girl pictures and pictures that can only be found in the computer of a Trekkie living in his parents' basement at 40 years of age. Mind you, this is taxpayer funded university research project I was helping out S with. That's what I kept telling myself as the eyes continued to do zina. It's for science.

After it was over, I got up, caught my breath, mumbled something at S's profuse thanks for the help, and turned to leave. S asked me if I wanted to know what the experiment was about. My curiosity perked, I answered in the affirmative.

"Well, we have a theory in psychology about implicit learning," S replied, "when you feel you learn how to answer questions without understanding it. And our theory is when a person is mentally stimulated, or aroused if you will, their implicit learning works better. So we show pictures of corpses or girls if the subject is male to stimulate..."

"I'm sorry, I gotta go." I cut her off. "Very ... Interesting ... Theory."

Boy was I glad to get out. This was a girl who can talk about arousal and dead bodies and girls in the same sentence. She can be a psychologist alright. Honestly what sort of weird, messed up theories are concocted by psychologists nowadays? You have a problem, wait, let me arouse you. Mentally.

When I called up J later, he replied, "Ya, about that experiment ..."

I think I needed therapy after that.



Anonymous said...

mez, hahaha.. boy this was funny. Didnt u get paid for taking this experiment. Most of the Psych experiments pay you $10 instantly. But yea...these experiments are so weird that you begin to question what on earth are our tax money being used for? They absolutely make no sense whatsoever. Glad you got out from there ASAP.


Hafsa said...

I've learnt a lesson. Will ask more questions b4 i agree for any such research ;)

Humairah said...

How gross!
I've learnt the same lesson, Hafsa!

Owen said...

I think you were being abused. You should ask the academic authorities to consider whether the way this experiment was conducted was in violation of professional or academic ethics.

mezba said...

@Behbood: No it was a friend so volunteered.

@Hafsa, Humairah: You've been warned! :-)

@Owen: It's a friend so while I don't think it was a question of abuse, I thought it was some seriously stupid experiment.