Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Little Psychology Experiment for Normal People

Opposing Viewpoints
BY Patricia Lefave, Labelled, D.D. (P)

originally posted in 2007

This is especially good for students and psychiatric hospital staff but would also be a good exercise for all other mental illness professionals, as well as friends and family of the psychiatrized.

It will make the abstract ideas you are so eagerly embracing as reality more real to you if you can concretize them and experience them for yourself. Nothing teaches like experience, at least in my own insane opinion.

So what do you say we try to look at this old worn out and ludicrous idea from a new perspective? You aren’t afraid to look are you? Don’t worry, this is going to be so easy even psychiatrists will be able to figure it out.

Here is the experiment:
Repeat it by switching roles as much and as often as you need to do so to allow yourselves as individuals, and as a group, to gain the new insights which will allow you to re-examine your current belief system.
I will keep it as simple and clear as possible.

1. Find a large room. (like a cafeteria or a dance hall) and fill it with enough chairs to accommodate the whole group.
2. Line up all the chairs, except one, along the length of one wall, facing outward into the centre of the room and facing the opposite wall.
3. Take the one chair and position it across from the group on the other side of the room, also facing outward into the centre of the room, and facing the wall with the whole line of chairs.
4. Draw numbers out of a hat to determine who will go first and the order to follow.
5. Whoever draws number 1 should now cross the room to the other side and sit in the chair on the side of the room with the lone chair.

The person in the lone chair is not allowed to speak or make any gestures. (except one).

The rest of the group on the other side should now sit in the chairs facing the person and observe him or her. Look for as many flaws as you can find. Don’t be shy about it. Tell yourself the person you are observing cannot see you or hear you anyway so it is all OK, no matter what you think. Speak right up and don’t be shy. There are no restrictions on that. There is nothing you cannot assess from clothing to facial expressions to speculating about the person’ sexuality or identity, motives, emotions, or character etc. (you get the idea)

If you are in the group, you may also discuss it with anyone else in the group on YOUR side of the room but you should try to be careful not to let the individual you are assessing hear you. You may lean in, as you consult with others, and put heads together but do not shout. If you have to get up to talk to another member of the group about his or her assessment, you have to do so without allowing the person opposite you who is being assessed to hear you. Should the person make any kind of emotional expression, assess what you think may be the most likely reasons for that. You can talk it over with others as much as you want BUT you may not ask the person being assessed ANY direct questions nor tell him, or her, directly what your opinion may be. In other words, make sure there is NO two way communication of any kind. You may smile and wave at him or her but that is all.

Other Side of the Room:
As the person being observed BY the group, you may also smile and wave but that is all. Otherwise, you are just to sit there and wait until the group is finished.

When you have all done this for 45 minutes, the group members should write down all of their observations about the individual being observed, and then, the individual being observed should write down all his or her observations about the group members doing the observing. Everyone take fifteen minutes minutes to do this.
When you have finished, take the person from the group with next number, and repeat the experiment. The person who had number one now crosses back to the side with the group and takes the last position on the end. This person will now join in observing the person who is across the room on the side with the individual chair. If the individual who was being observed asks you, after returning to the group, what your assessment of he/she was, don't tell.
Instead, tell him or her not to worry about it and to just get on with his/her life. You may smile condescendingly if you wish but do not engage in a two way conversation or debate at any time. He or she must be kept guessing and without any concrete answers to questions. Two way communication is not ''allowed.'

If the individual should get upset, whip out an invalidating platitude, e.g. 'no need to take it so personally' or 'you're just making a mountain out of a molehill' etc. and then make note of the 'inappropriate affects' to be added to your assessment list.
Repeat the same procedure following exactly the same plan.

Repeat until finished making sure you write up your notes on each person as you go, and that each person writes up the notes on the group as well. All of you record your feelings as you do this from all positions.

If you have a group of twenty, it will take at least twenty hours to complete.

When completed, each person writes up all his/her own notes and then assesses the experiment overall, from his or her own point of view. The notes should be read aloud when all are completed and the participants should all then compare and contrast their findings.

What do you see and hear now?


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