Day 13 – The Biggest Social Psychological Experiment

Already at 7.20 am I hear the knocking on the door, my second-last breakfast. According to the menu provided by the hotel, they should service a ‘Taiwanese Local Breakfast’. Although I prefer to catch a little bit more sleep, I get out of bed and open the door. I am surprised to see a hamburger style box, a paper bag and a beverage. No, noooo, noooo, this is not a Taiwanese breakfast! I open up the paper bag, and shockingly, I discover French style fries that look like they never had been near the state of crispiness. This is not a good sign for my next product, and open the hamburger style box. Arrrrrghh, it is a hamburger, or more precisely, it is a chicken patty burger. What a big deception.

I feel the pressure on me, the pressure of “Come on, just eat it, don’t complain”. I take the first bite, and the fat from the chicken patty and sauce is leaking into the box. I chew on it, and I understand why people like this product, this engineered product, a combination of sweet, salty and fat. No, I resist, and don’t finish the burger, and did not even touch the French soggy fries. I feel again sorry, for all the effort that all the people have put in this product till the moment that it arrived on my doorstep. I go back to bed set the alarm at 8 o’clock, so I can direct measure and submit my body temperature to the System after I wake up.

As planned, I wake up, and I am happy to read again a good value: 36.1 degrees Celsius. Interestingly, the System has collected already 25 temperatures, and my temperature in general is very stable. Average is 35.8 °C with a standard deviation of just 0.24 °C. Yes, I know, the measurements are not recorded by a qualified procedure, but by the unit (Brand: Geon) provided by the hotel. And I measure in my left armpit which is usually slightly colder then in my mouth or rectum. Nevertheless, I am very happy with these results, and it looks like everything is according to the original plan. Could something possibly go wrong? Could something destroy the plan, so I have to flush it? I convince myself that I don’t need to be worried, and only need to worry on this things that I can control!

More and more countries are following now stricter rules to combat the virus, and started similar procedures like in Taiwan such as the control over the inbound passengers. I am thinking about all the people in world who are in a similar kind of quarantine hotel like me. I don’t know what kind of data the governments are collecting from the people whore are in quarantine, but I am sure the Taiwan government collects my location information by tracking my mobile phone, and they record every day my health condition that I submit by text message. Furthermore, I assume, that my body temperature values logged by my hotel will also be submitted to the government to proof, that they did their job well. By the way, this hotel is part of the National Prevention Team, and has been awarded for their efforts so far!

Let’s go back to the data. So probably, only a very limited amount is collected. On the other hand, imagine all the people that go through a very similar, almost identical, process during the quarantine. It almost like the ideal setting to conduct all kinds of social psychological experiments. Usually, it would probably be very costly to lockup volunteers for 14 days! Who is willing to do that! But in this case in quarantine, people will even pay for the quarantine! So, probably it would be a great laboratory, like the wet dream for a psychology researcher. Of course measuring the temperature is important but what about the following three experiments. What kind of data would they provide?

Experiment 1.
Give the individuals everyday an outstanding quality of lunch and diner, but make the breakfast tasteless, fat and sugary. And occasionally, have a good quality breakfast. What would happen? Would they just eat everything? How will they react on the meals? Will they complain about the breakfast? And if so, how will they complain? A too harsh complaint might end up in the situation that you might shoot yourself in the foot. And a too gentle complaint might not have any effect. How long does it take for they average Joe to complain? After one meal? Or after the third? Does it matter if the individual is from the US, Europe or Asia? And in general, which percentage is eaten? And what are the leftovers? Only rice? Or some specific vegetable? And do individuals also order additional food from delivery platforms such as Uber Eats or Foodpanda? If so, what do they order? Okay, another experiment.

Experiment 2.
Create two subgroups A and B. Body weight before and after the quarantine will be monitored. Only subgroup A will have balance in their room so they can measure their weight whenever they want. What will happen? Which percentage of people will actually use the balance? Will the people with balance be more conscious about their weight? Eat less? Order less snacks? Do more sports exercises? And would their be a difference in relative change of weight between group A and B after the quarantine? So interesting! What about dividing again these groups in two subgroups, one with and one without a smart watch that can track their movement. Owh, man, this would be so interesting! Okay, what about following last experiment.

Experiment 3.
Probably most of the individuals have a video-on-demand subscription such as Netflix. How many minutes per day are they using this services? And what is the trend during those 14 days? Will people binge watch for example for 10 hours the first days, and then later only 1 hour a day? So, my big question would be, what would happen if they switch off all internet data at 8 am, so people cannot use the internet, also not on their phone. The hotel will inform everyone that the internet will be back at 8pm. Despite the complaints they might have. What would people do on that day? They will be really dependent on themselves! How would they cope with situation? And in general, how do people cope with being alone? Will they also feel alone?

I can come up with a ton of more experiments, but it would be much more interesting to discuss this with a person who has the right psychology background, and to discuss what would be really relevant experiments. Of course, it would be an opt-in model, so people can decide to join or not. Would a financial incentive be needed?

It reminds me of the movies Battle Royale (2000) and Das Experiment (2001). In these movies, they also create an environmental which challenges the viewer to think about what they would do it that social psychological experiment. In the German movie, Das Experiment, the main character, participates as a volunteer in an experiment with 19 other people. Eight of them will become guards and the other 12 will be prisoners. They conduct the experiment in a real prison, and everything is video recorded and is constantly monitored by the crew who needs to follow the experiment. I don’t want to give too much spoilers, but this experiment goes completely out of control! So yes, when planning and conducting an experiment, things might go different than initially planned, like the prison experiment. By the way, this movie was inspired and based on the real Stanford prison experiment that was conducted in 1971.

Back to the real situation, here in my hotel, I still believe that they don’t track, not even secretly, additional information about me. Maybe it is a missed opportunity not to track more data, or maybe it is morally questionable to use me as lab rat? But what if I insist to be a volunteer? Yes, the people in the prison experiment were also volunteers, and that experiment didn’t ended very well. So probably, those experiments needs to comply with a lot of rules and restrictions, and approved by a special certified committee.

Regardless of the data that they could gather, for me this quarantine was definitely a very interesting experiment! I set the goal to journal every day at least 15 minutes. I never wrote a blog or created a podcast in my life, and at day zero, felt like, let’s do it, let’s try at least! I absolutely never expected 15 days ago, that I would really would have enough inspiration and energy to complete the 15 days streak of writing! And never thought I would even create a website to share it!

Furthermore, before the quarantine, I felt I could not have a good day without walking, jogging, running, strolling outside. I really need to get outside to breath the fresh air and enjoy sunlight, otherwise I feel like incomplete, like I didn’t take a shower that day. Going outside, gives me that instant satisfaction! Like pressing on a red-doted app on my phone. My happy hormones run immediately trough my veins and body when I am outside, especially when it is sunny. During my confinement here, I have experienced that I also can be satisfied and be saturated with happiness without any second outside. This experience is very valuable for me, not only during the stay here, but also in my life after this quarantine.

I discover, that I didn’t really describe detailed my days in this week, and again, I am satisfied with my schedule, like I optimized it. I am ready to leave, to go out again, and enjoy the world!

Before I go to sleep, I watch the countdown screen that I have created, and I see 0 DAYS 23 HOURS 52 MINUTES 12 SECONDS left. I check my phone and see some missed calls, but I don’t want to respond, I want to sleep I want to enjoy the last day sleeping in this hotel! I switch my phone to flight mode, and try to sleep. I feel I have so much energy, feel like I jump rope for at least half an hour, but I try to focus to sleep, and prepare for the last full day in my room. I take a Japanese eye mask, the ones that become warm when you open them, and put them over my eye lids. I try again to focus, one day, just one day, less than 24 hours.

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