Sunday, August 31, 2008

Full Mental Jacket #3: Foundations of Experimental Research

In Robert Plutchik's seminal work, "Foundations of Experimental Research," he discusses several important case studies that influenced the course of experimental research in the 1980s. One of the most important was a case in which a test subject was placed in a completely dark labyrinth with no food or water, but was told that he could find food (cherries, strawberries, bananas, pretzels) in the four corners of the maze. While he sought out these food items, four lab assistants in photoluminescent cloaks -- nicknamed "ghosts" -- were released into the labyrinth with orders to chase the subject down, thereby triggering both panic and alarm in the subject. However, the "ghosts" were ordered to back off whenever the subject ate anything. The ultimate point of the test was to prove that by triggering a "panic/alarm combination," the researchers could cause the test subject to eat more pretzels, and therefore gain weight. The "PAC-Man" tests never proved anything, but later versions of the test performed with female test subjects yielded much more tangible results.

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