Mind Games

The other day*, I got paid to electric-shock Stick!

We agreed to be part of a behavior experiment that wanted couples to play an electric shock game, partly because I heard “game” and “electric shock” and I thought it would be funny, and partly because we wanted to see how we’d do in an experiment I read in a psych class about experiments like the Milgram experiment, I always think that I’d never do anything like that, that I’d be in that tiny percentage who stop the experiment and go home.

Ours wasn’t anything like that, though, but we were told one thing while they were secretly testing for another.

First we had to take a relationship survey, pages of questions rating how much I like Stick, 10, 10, 10, 10, and then write about a recent good experience. We learned later than the answers weren’t important, it was just to get us in a lovey-dovey mood for the real experiment.

Then we were told to hold on the handles to receive an annoying electrical pulse, and whichever of us can hold on longer, wins! They weren’t kidding about the annoying part. We got the impression — although we weren’t actually told this — that it was a battle of the sexes, a test to see which of us could hold on longer.

We made it 24 seconds! Incredibly low compared to other couples, and I only held on that long because I didn’t want to let go right away and ruin the guy’s psych experiment (So maybe I would have fallen for the Milgram trick? Probably not, since I was mildly shocking myself, not someone screaming in pain). The actually test was measuring whether shiny happy kissyfaces or grumpy people can hold on longer, I don’t know the results though.

I’m really glad we happened to be in the happy group and not the angry group, because answering all the questions about the last time Stick was really nice to me put me in a good mood. Also the winning. Winning put me a good mood too! I did mention that I “won”, right?

*Written 10/23 but held until the study was completed and declassified.

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