The Posture Experiment


Like every writer, I spend a lot of time at my desk. That means hours of slumped shoulders, strained neck, and bent back. Hazards of the trade.

Today, for example. I’m deep into reading about famously unethical psychology experiments. I lean forward, I peer at my screen, I read and I read.

History of Nutrition
Minnesota Starvation Experiment

First, it’s the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (1944-45), which researched the effects of starvation conditions on a group of volunteers who were conscientious objectors in World War II.

Guess what? Effects negative. Most of the subjects ended up experiencing severe emotional and psychological stress. Also, social withdrawal and isolation, preoccupation with food, physiological distress, and decline in concentration and judgment capabilities–as anyone with a serious eating disorder can tell you.

I’m interrupted in my reading about the starvation experiment by the arrival of my new posture device in the mail (Go USPS!). Upright Go. Quite an inspirational name. It’s supposedly this cool little medallion you stick to your back and it vibrates when you slouch, reminding you to improve your posture. Operative conditioning at its finest.

I set it up, stick it on, and go back to work.

Electric Schlock: Did Stanley Milgram's Famous Obedience Experiments Prove  Anything? - Pacific Standard
Milgram Experiment

Next, I’m reading about the Milgram Experiment. Milgram wanted to understand how so many people came to participate in the cruel acts of the Holocaust. His theory was that people obeyed authority figures. He was right. He discovered that people were willing to deliver increasingly more painful electric shocks to other participants in the experiment when ordered to do so. Not a good look.

The device is calibrated to track my posture. I just got a gentle vibrating reminder to sit up straighter.

Then there’s the Stanford Prison Experiment. The Bobo Doll Experiment. Neither one shining a positive light on human behavior. Turns out we like to treat others cruelly when we have power over them, and little kids can learn violence through imitation.

New Stanford Prison Experiment revelations question findings
Stanford Prison Experiment

Oh, what we won’t subject ourselves and others to–all in the name of learning and discovery and improving as humans.

Oops. There’s another reminder from my device. Can’t pay attention to everything. Another, this one more like a warning. More of an electric shock than a vibration. Ouch! There’s another. That really hurt. Okay, okay, I’ll sit up. Just stop hurting me.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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