Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Study, Part II

My first task is to select the left or right button to be awarded money. Not real money, unfortunately, because this study is not very realistic. I'm not a gambler. It makes me uncomfortable to leave things to chance. So I mindlessly alternate between the left and right button regardless of the amount that appears to reward me.

I finish the task with a bonus of $0.07. The researcher enters, adjusts my electrodes, and leaves to start the second task.

The second task gets to me engage. It is so frustrating that I exclaim out loud several times. I am shown an image and must select the left or right button. I am then notified if I am correct or incorrect. The point is, then, to memorize which images go with which buttons. I am fairly good at memorization, so I am optimistic at first. UNTIL THEY REVERSE EVERYTHING RANDOMLY.

"Ahhhhh! What in the world?" I cry, as "Incorrect" after "Incorrect" flashes on the monitor. As I explain this to the DNB afterward, he notes that since I am never wrong, this must have been especially difficult for me.

There's a pattern, I know there's a pattern. But the images are flashing too quickly, and I don't have time to figure it out. I have less than one second to press either button after the image appears. I don't know the methodology behind the study, but I do know that losing money and being wrong are not at all the same thing to me. Losing money is reason to STOP, IMMEDIATELY. Being wrong is reason to KEEP GOING UNTIL I CONVINCE YOU I AM RIGHT.

My seven cent bonus is completely wiped out by the time I finish the second task. I am exhausted and exasperated.

My final task begins. I am shown a group of 5 very small letters - made up of S's, H's, and X's. I am to focus on the middle letter. If it is an H, I must press the left button, and if an S, the right. For X's, I am to press neither. Firm instructions, and no changing things up randomly to be jackasses - this task I can handle. I calm down and squint at the monitor.

Twenty minutes later, it is over. I have scored perfectly on the third task, and have won a bonus of $2.50! The researcher returns to unhook me from the mind-control machine.

As I leave, I hand my parking garage ticket to her for validation.

"Oh, we don't validate," she says cheerfully.

On the way home, I do the math. I have paid $7.00 in parking fees to earn $2.50 in task bonuses. It shouldn't surprise me. The house always wins.

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