I recently collected some karma points by being an experimental subject. Every now and then, graduate students get these near desperate emails in their inbox. Some psychology or optometry student wants them to be their experimental subject. Whenever I have time, I try and take part in these kind of experiments. Sometimes, for the students because they are good friends. At others, because I am interested in the experiment.
I find the role of being a "subject" oddly relaxing. :)
For one, you have to be a complete lab-rat. Without unnecessarily opining on what they are trying to do. Apart from that, it gives you an insight into how many factors control a single experiment - something that I myself have trouble monitoring, especially in the scary forests of organic chemistry.
These experiments were carried out using a range of contact lenses. As a "healthy" subject I was required to have no acquaintance with the usage of any kind of contact lenses. I had to go through a routine visual acquity test (I aced it, btw) and then I wore a pair of contacts. The movement of my eyes was filmed in an upward and a downward gaze. We started with soft, silicon lenses and ended with hard, poly (methyl metacrylate) ones. I was not told exactly what she was trying to find out. So during filming, I was asked to count from zero onwards until she asked me to stop. I did exactly what I was told. At the end of each session, my cornea was desensitized using aneasthetic eye drops. The numb cornea was then filmed for the same duration.
The moment she told me to stop, I stopped counting.
After all the tests were over, I rated the lenses according to the level of comfort. Just before I left, she confessed that she was getting inconsistent data.
She told me that she was monitoring the blinking patterns of her subjects. Even after desensitizing the cornea, she was getting inconsistent blinking patterns. Which made me pause for thought. I realized then that I was mechanically counting numbers without trying to control the thoughts in my head. All these years that I have been successfully using my eyes, I have realized that thinking affects blinking. I blink more when I think. To study my physical blinking pattern, I think the experimentor would need to numb my mind more than my cornea. When I told her this, she said,"I asked you to count! So that I keep you in the experiment."
And count I did! With an avalanche of thoughts going on in my mind at the same time. Those ten minutes of filming were like a gold mine of time! I organized so many experiments, wrote so many new posts, planned and scrapped so many dinner menus in those ten minutes!
A little bit of Googling led me to this . I should have probably offered a repeat analysis. I took the easy way out, by not doing so.
Next time, I will think before I blink! =)