sensory deprivation May 1, 2011 3:50 PM   Subscribe

This question is kind of worrisome. If it's not a stunt post and the poster has not been severely misinformed, they might be walking in a situation which is genuinely dangerous to their mental health.

I have absolutely no idea what we can do, other than continue encouraging the poster to seek more information and advise them to drop out early if the study turns out to be exactly what it has been described as, but I feel like maybe just leaving this be isn't a good idea.
posted by tehloki to MetaFilter-Related at 3:50 PM (43 comments total)

Dozens of people have told the OP it's not a good idea. What do you hope to accomplish in this MeTa?
posted by desjardins at 3:51 PM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's way too much drama in that thread. If he doesn't want to do it he (or she) can leave...
posted by tomswift at 3:56 PM on May 1, 2011


I get the feeling the poster has created a particular framing of that question which has been getting untangled as people have been commenting. We've been talking about it on the back end but people can basically ask about what they want, however ill-advised it might be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:01 PM on May 1, 2011


The OP seems alright:

To Clarify, I meant that "dropping out is not an option" as in that's not a solution I'm looking for. Of course I can drop out of the study at any time if I choose. That is the last resort and exactly the thing I'm trying to avoid.
posted by JJkiss at 10:25 AM on April 30 [+] [!]

posted by marimeko at 4:02 PM on May 1, 2011


It's hard for me to imagine a medical research study that exists on a large-scale without having gone through a human subjects board. I suspect what has been described by the OP isn't actually how it's going to all play out.

Let's not all freak out.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:09 PM on May 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Also might there be a tv?)
posted by bluedaisy at 4:10 PM on May 1, 2011


Maybe the post is actually a test of MetaFilter users' relative empathy levels. *smile*
posted by facetious at 4:18 PM on May 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had this job once. I took tickets for various events. Often once the initial tickets were taken you had nothing to do until the people left. At best you got an occasional glimpse of a hand stamp or something. During the Catholic basketball tournaments the days were often at least 12 hours. No reading, no music, just you and a little ticket box all day.

Or when I was in the military: Foxhole dug and a heat index black or red or whatever they called it. You and and sometimes another guy in a hole with nothing to do for days.

Or my idea of a vacation: Some monastery and a little cell without TV of phone or internet or people. Me, my journal, and maybe a book on poker or history. I pay money to do this.

Whenever I read those SF stories about the crew that goes crazy on their way to Mars I always think, "Well, that's because they brought along other people." That's right. Shoot me into space!

I've always enjoyed being unplugged and isolated. I watch "Altered States" and I think, "I want to be a monkeyman and kill and eat a goat. I want to se God." I'm not ashamed to admit I've seen that movie a few dozen times (HBO played it and "Excalibur" all the time when I was a kid and both had sex scenes, so of course I'd watch it!) I even looked into renting time in an isolation tank, but I couldn't find a place to do it.

I'd sign up for that askme study in a heartbeat. I know I'd end up being pissed when it was revealed they were really studying my reaction to the honey replacement they were putting into my tea and its interaction with the color yellow.

I was going to post this as an answer, but I figured the weekend mod would delete it. (I Kid!)
posted by cjorgensen at 4:34 PM on May 1, 2011 [20 favorites]


Bradley Manning has it worse, buck up and take it like
the old East Texas redneck who eventually wins the
Nissan pickup truck in Hands on a Hard Body. He just stands there smoking for three days while his competitors fall one by one.

You can smoke, right?

Seriously that question is 31 flavors of bullshit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:38 PM on May 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


How on earth did this get past an ethics committee?
posted by melissam at 4:43 PM on May 1, 2011


The degree to which people are freaking out about this in-thread seems utterly bizarre to me. Maybe it's just because I've done multi-day medical research studies before where I basically sat around in bed the whole time (sometimes occasionally having phials of my blood taken from me!), but it really doesn't sound all that bad.

He doesn't say he's not allowed to sleep AT ALL - he's just not allowed to sleep during the 12 hours he's in the lab each day. Presumably he'll be going home after every 12 hours shift and sleeping (and possibly doing other things, as the study permits) there. He might even get breaks during the lab days themselves.

He should make sure the study's been IRB approved, as people have suggested - but it really doesn't sound that terrible. On the extreme end of that kind of job, for sure - but one of the nice things about volunteering for medical/psychological studies is that you get to pick and choose and weigh whether the compensation being offered is worth the cost of participation. (And you get to drop out whenever you please!)

Seriously, saying "oh my goodness, you're about to go be tortured by evil scientists who will hold you prisoner!" in reply to this question is like saying "it's aliens" in reply to a question about a funny light someone saw in the sky.
posted by bubukaba at 5:02 PM on May 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I went through the doing-psych-studies-for-cash phase briefly in college. My favorite one required that you bring a BFF. They took us into separate rooms, had us each watch a 5 minute cartoon, rejoin, and tell each other the plot of the cartoons we watched. (They were different cartoons.) I have no idea what they were studying, but I got paid to hang out with my buddy and watch cartoons.

My least favorite one was listening for patterns in recorded bird chirps for an hour. CHIRPITY CHIRPITY CHIRP. CHIRPITY CHIRP. CHIRP CHIRP CHIRPITY. For an hour. (But hey, forty bucks!)
posted by phunniemee at 5:07 PM on May 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


That thread drove me batty. The study does indeed sound crazy. However, I trust that the OP did in fact make an informed decision to enter the study, knowing that it would be difficult, and then wanted to pick our brains for some ideas to keep himself busy.

There were some good suggestions in there but the comments that did not answer his question made me want to scream, especially when the comments almost came off as condescending and as if the OP had no clue what he was getting himself into. Maybe he doesn't. But, who's to say that he's not fully capable and willing to take on this study? He's not a child. Do we really need to worry so much about it? Can't we believe that he's done his due diligence in researching this study and pondering the situation?

But I guess it comes down to this: answer the question.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The degree to which people are freaking out about this in-thread seems utterly bizarre to me

Yeah. I don't get how sitting around with nothing to do for 12 hours a day could be seen as a problem, let alone a PTSD-inducing ethics violation. You'd just have a bit of a think about stuff.

I've had a few stints in hospital where I did just that, only for nigh-on 24 hours a day.
posted by jack_mo at 6:43 PM on May 1, 2011


It's not a worrisome post at all. He's getting paid to sit around without an IPad all day, not being cast into a pit of sulphuric acid with a pack of rabid wolverines. Not everyone gets post traumatic stress disorder when there's nothing on TV.
posted by joannemullen at 7:52 PM on May 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


Now I'm starting to think that the askme post itself is the study and our answers are the data.
posted by tehloki at 8:48 PM on May 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the AskMe question is bogus.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:40 PM on May 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Agreed, obviously bogus.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:29 AM on May 2, 2011


I'm voting for "bogus", myself. I mean, it's possible that the study is legit; as numerous posts on the blue have said, solitary confinement is increasingly used as torture and control in prison and national security institutions, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that this study is being done without anything like an IRB in the process. It's also possible that the compelling reason for his participation (even though he's obviously apprehensive about it) is that he really, really needs the money, not improbable in this economy.

But. You've got someone whose entire MeFi history consists of five questions on AskMe, all on different (and somewhat chatty) subjects, and three comments on this latest question, none of which address some of the better suggestions in the thread, but merely reiterate the draconian conditions of this study. And he's gotten seventy-seven favorites out of it so far.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 AM on May 2, 2011


I had a job a lot like this for about a year. I don't even know why they hired me, they certainly didn't want me to work or anything. There were guys who had been sitting in a cubicle with no computer or music or work to do for literally years.
posted by sanka at 8:24 AM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


they might be walking in a situation which is genuinely dangerous to their mental health

They also might be walking into a room filled with carnival workers wearing beards made of angry bees. Of course, there's nothing in the question that supports either of these things happening. Sitting for 12 hours in a row doing nothing (followed by 12 hours of doing whatever you want) for 10 days is not going to do anything traumatic to anyone.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:50 AM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


But it's so BOOORINGG! I'm BORED, BORED, BORED, BORED, BORED. So bored. Oh, I'm bored. Bored bored bored.

Mom, I wanna cookie.
posted by flabdablet at 9:02 AM on May 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The OP seems alright:

To Clarify, I meant that "dropping out is not an option" as in that's not a solution I'm looking for. Of course I can drop out of the study at any time if I choose. That is the last resort and exactly the thing I'm trying to avoid.


I actually don't think that's much of a clarification.
posted by John Cohen at 10:19 AM on May 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the relative freakout responses in that thread may have something to do with the parsing of the question. Without knowing the poster's linguistic styling, it's easy to read the OP's mental state regarding this as:

"I am so scared I won't be able to handle this mentally..."

well, maybe because that is exactly what is stated in the question.

I have been through a great deal of mind-numbingly uncomfortable, and extremely boring situations: Hospital stays with broken TVs, punishments by parents which cross the line into abuse (e.g. standing in a corner facing a wall for 3-4 hours not allowed to move) and I can honestly say that I was never "so scared" of those situations.

Methinks the OP is younger, and over dramatizing this if anything.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2011


I don't think it was mainly about the OP's choice of the word "scared." People were clearly responding to the objective situation. There are many other questions where someone says they're "scared" or "afraid" of something, and the commenters say it's nothing to worry about. It's fine to disagree with many of the commenters in the thread, but let's at least respect the fact that they were giving their honest appraisal of the situation and not just riffing on the OP's word choice.
posted by John Cohen at 10:54 AM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


In college a friend of mine had this job where if an alarm went of he pushed the big red button. He then had people he was supposed to call.

He worked that job for 3 or 4 years and not once did the alarm go off. That was the sum total of his job. He wasn't allowed to bring in any outside work or use the computers for stupidity.

This wasn't 12 hour days, and it was only 20-25 hours a week, but this went on for years.

Again, I was jealous.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:43 PM on May 2, 2011


I'm sure it would get old, but being stuck in a room and forbidden to use the internet or read or DO anything sounds like it might be sort of awesome before the thrill wore off. I should do more memory palace stuff one of these days.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on May 2, 2011


I could do something like that standing on my head. They should call me.
posted by winna at 3:47 PM on May 2, 2011


I believe a mental test like this in Vietnam is how John McCain came to be the person he is today.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:04 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a tremendously shitty, redundant, wasteful and pointless study.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:54 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it fascinating that a thread full of people think that being without a TV or a book or an iPad all day will give you PTSD.

Is everyone so used to being entertained externally all the time that they can't just quietly sit by themselves without thinking that they'll go mad?

Do you think our ancestors watched TV all day?
posted by MythMaker at 2:40 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you think our ancestors watched TV all day?

No, they slept, gathered plants, cooked things, hunted things, had sex, danced, talked...they certainly didn't just sit there staring at the cave wall for hours.
posted by melissam at 4:23 AM on May 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


You'd swear that no one in the world was an introvert, sometimes.
posted by Scattercat at 4:47 AM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a psychological experiment for MeFi. Are people more likely to favorite a comment that already has a few favorites? I'd like the MeFi ethics board to grant me a few favorites to see if the general MeFite population will favorite this comment over the control comment, with no seed favorites.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:18 AM on May 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is a control comment, with no seed favorites.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:18 AM on May 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


sanka: "I had a job a lot like this for about a year. I don't even know why they hired me, they certainly didn't want me to work or anything. There were guys who had been sitting in a cubicle with no computer or music or work to do for literally years"

So, Aperture Labs, right?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2011


>I find it fascinating that a thread full of people think that being without a TV or a book or an iPad all day will give you PTSD.

I find it fascinating that your description of what the AskMe's OP described is so completely inaccurate. From the AskMe:
an upcoming study I am participating in requires me to be hooked up to an ecg machine for 12 hours x 10 days without being able to use my computer, read, use phone or do ANYTHING.… I am not allowed to have any objects they say.… I cannot physically move around and I cannot sleep.
If that's an accurate description it sounds effectively like sensory deprivation. Twelve hours a day of that for ten days sounds like an extremely difficult experience that, yes, could have lasting effects. And I'm speaking as someone who's highly introverted and has had a Zen practice for five years. Big difference between "being without a TV or a book or an iPad all day" and what this sounds like.
posted by Lexica at 9:43 AM on May 3, 2011


You'd swear that no one in the world was an introvert, sometimes.

There is a big difference between "having no interaction with other people for 12 hours a day for 10 days" and "sitting stock-still doing absolutely nothing for 12 hours a day for 10 days." As an introvert, I can assure you that I would only enjoy one of those options.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:39 PM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Big difference between "being without a TV or a book or an iPad all day" and what this sounds like.

There's an even bigger difference between "Can't sleep, can't move" and "sensory deprivation". I mean, he's not going to be in a soundproof booth with a blindfold on. He's going to be in a room, where he has to remain seated and can't do anything. What senses are being deprived?
posted by 23skidoo at 4:44 PM on May 3, 2011


FYI, the OP has followed up and it seems like they may have been confused themselves at what the study entailed. Seems okay at this point.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Jessamyn.

(Also: I knew it! I knew it!)
posted by bluedaisy at 1:35 PM on May 4, 2011


Ah. Inadvertent psychological study conducted on metafilter via poster on behalf of angry phone lady.
posted by tehloki at 5:51 PM on May 4, 2011


I am the OP and the question is not bogus at all. I'm sitting at the facility now and I've updated all the info on the thread as to the details. I was very surprised to see how strongly people reacted to this question. It seems those that have experienced clinical trials themselves know that it goes with the trade. I'm not sure where "sensory deprivation" came into the mix but requiring somebody to be still and sensory deprivation for the purposes of torture are very different. The study has proven very worth it so far!
posted by JJkiss at 9:10 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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