Friday, August 18, 2006


This is NOT about crazy physicists. ;-)

I'm in a kind of frisky, giddy mood today. I'm not sure why exactly, but why question it if it feels good? LOL Well, actually, I ask myself 'why' so I can know how to reproduce this feeling later or maybe it's to know whether or not I have any control over it. Ack. I'm getting away from myself.

I was a psychophysicist and didn't even know it. (click for the wikipedia article about Psychophysics) For my senior thesis I did this terribly hokey experiment that was meant to measure autonomic (physical) responses related to specific emotions in response to four different colors. It was supposed to be about affective ('scientific' word for "emotional") perception of color and trying to match that to changes in galvanic skin response (one of the measurements also used in lie-detecting tests). Because of the confluence of many outside factors I was totally not into it and did the very minimum required to say that I did an experiment. Add to that the fact that my college was a tiny, four-year (some took the five year option) liberal arts college without the resources to do a lot of real research. I did not get any statistically significant results (except maybe one tiny thing, but I'd have to dig that thing out and read it since it's been so long ago) which I'm pretty sure had more to do with the badly designed experiment than with a bad idea. ;-)

If I had ever heard the word 'psychophysics' back then I surely did forget it, though one of my favorite classes studied perception more deeply and was probably responsible for my continued interest in it. I think we used the term 'psychometrics' for that stuff instead of 'psychophysics'. Maybe that is because we discussed the measuring more than the measurements. Or maybe I should say that differently. We didn't get very far into how to interpret the measurements.

One of the issues we covered in that class (and many others, actually, it was drilled into us) was how the use of humans in experiments is restricted to things that don't harm them permanently and all that. And these limits in what could be done therefore limited what kind of ideas we could actually test. And I always thought that kind of sucked. ;-) Back in my reckless youth I was much more inclined to say if someone wanted to donate his living brain to science then let him. (I was very naive. I didn't consider the 'dark' side of things so much.) I felt that putting such limits on what we could do would eventually lead to the demise of this line of theoretical psychology and that there would be questions we could never answer. But from a quick search it looks as if it is still an active area of research. (I'm not current enough to know immediately if it is good research or useless.) But maybe new technologies have greatly expanded the types of acceptable experiments that can be done which in turn has possibly even led to some previously unrecognized questions and ideas. It is an evolution of ideas.

That goofy color-emotion "study" wasn't what I really wanted to do. I had become very interested in psychobiology and had developed some ideas that I wanted to explore. Probably the main one was that I wanted to see if there was any kind of relationship between a woman's testosterone levels and certain traits, behaviors, etc. I hypothesized that women with higher testosterone levels had more male-like personalities, aptitudes, etc. Women do produce some testosterone, just as men produce some female hormones too. I guess similar studies could be done regarding their influence on men, if any, but I was more interested in understanding myself and other women in those days. One of the objections to my idea was that this small amount of hormone couldn't possibly have that much effect on development and behavior (from a Cognitive professor). Another question was about what use that information might be (from a First Generation Feminist and Behaviorist professor). At that time there were only two psychology professors at my school. A third (Psychophysiologist) was hired after my stupid thesis was already under way.

Well, shit. I had to leave this for several hours and now I've lost my point. And my good mood seemed to fade and escape any clear classification. Oh, well, just another frustration to have to cogitate away.

No comments:

Post a Comment