Money makes the world go round: A blog about the business and culture of all things entertaining in the world of theater, television, film, music, art, gadgets, gizmos and other life necessities (and probably other things, knowing myself)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A predictably rational experiment to prove a predictably irrational concept

Dan’s Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” book discusses psychological mind-boggling insights on how everyday decisions we make aren’t as rational as we think they are, whether the decisions are socially or economically-related.  

For my very own predictably irrational experiment, I was inspired by events that occurred when it recently rained for 4-5 days consecutively in New York City.  My roommate, typically an early morning riser, struggled under the change in weather. Suddenly, she felt sick during the early morning hours and couldn’t get her body to cooperate with her normal schedule. She had aching headaches and cold chills. Ultimately, after a couple of hours passed and the rain died down, my roommate felt her “sickness” disappear and continued ahead with her daily tasks. Rainy day after another, the outcome remained the same.

I was intrigued by the events and wondered if your body could trick your brain into thinking the immune system was failing.  Or perhaps your brain is the one tricking
your body into thinking something is different. Could our brains believe that we are sick – when we’re not - and could that assumption change our behaviors or reactions during the period?

For example, if you were told by “experts” you’ve been in the premises of a deadly disease; then they kindly list the symptoms that accompany a person carrying the virus, could your brain’s paranoia trick your body into thinking the symptoms are legitimately occurring to you, even is it’s something as specific as an itch on the forearm?

The Experiment:
I gathered six people and placed them in a dimly lit room and they were offered cheese and wine for their participation; the cheese and wine made available was to relax the participants and have them in a familiar, friendly environment so they would forget they are a part of an experiment. 

Sitting in a small, intimate circle, everyone was provided writing materials to answer a series of questions. I then proceeded to turn on a fan for the “chill” effect and rain and thunderstorm noises from a youtube video clip.

The questions required participants to imagine waking up in the early morning hours with dampness in the air and a weather report confirming rain is in the forecast. The questions then ask the participants if the rain would change their daily errands or make them feel sick in any way.  

The Results:
Most of the participants claimed that the weather would not affect their health but then they would contradict their initial statements and say the weather would make them feel groggy and give them headaches – symptoms of catching the “cold weather bug.” All of them admitted that the weather does change their typical daily activities. My conclusion is simple: human brains do react to sight or sound and it does affect the way our body feels, or at least what our brain perceives that it feels.

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