Victoria Martin, a junior at Chestatee High School, squealed and jumped when the “control” in the experiment flexed her wrist and Victoria felt the electric current in her forearm.
She participated in the “human-to-human interface” experiment Friday as part of Brenau University’s “intense look into psychology.” In the experiment, one person is the “controller” and sends electric current into the second person’s arm by flexing his or her arm.
Brooklyn Baker, a sophomore at Chestatee High, was the controller when she participated. Brooklyn said it was strange to think “my thoughts could control (another student’s) action.”
The event drew about 325 students from seven schools, including Chestatee and West Hall high schools and Riverside Military Academy from Hall County.
Nearly 600 had been expected, but one school with more than 200 students coming canceled, Perry Daughtry, one of the organizers, said.
The students saw a movie about the “Stanford Prison Experiment” and rotated through a series of classes about various psychological themes.
Carey Whitlow, AP psychology teacher at Chestatee High School, brought about 35 students and said the day would provide fodder for “some nice (class) discussion, which I didn’t plan on.”
He said the movie and classes are “exactly what we study in our advance psych class.”
The movie made a big impression on the students. It focuses on an experiment about prison life and its effects on prisoners and guards. The experiment was called off because of the inhumane actions demonstrated quickly.
Daughtry said the experiment led to psychologists “completely” rewriting their ethics codes because “things got out of control real badly.”
Whitlow noted the students “didn’t realize it was that bad” until they saw the movie.
Daughtry added that Phillip Zimbardo, who devised the experiment, changed the focus of his research from the effects of evil on people to seeking to find the heroic in individuals.
Brya Colomb, a freshman at Brenau, and Shakiera Jackson, a junior, helped with classes. Brya said she played “devil’s advocate” try to get students to see the “entire picture” of psychological reactions in a variety of situations.
The club planned 21 classes. Topics included the “human-to-human interface,” inkblots and their meaning, the “rubber hand,” simulation of aging, hearing voices, nature vs. nurture, how the body deals with stress and ethical dilemmas from the prison experiment.
Amy Jacques told participants in the “inkblot” session their impressions of the cards help reveal “how you revolve in your own unique orbits.”
Daughtry said the event came about because of discussions by members of the Brenau Behavioral Analysis Club. He said the club was only about six weeks old when members began talking about a showing of the movie, and inviting other students, last fall.
“It just kept growing and growing,” he said.
The event had some logistical problems, he noted, but “I think it was a pretty good day.” Daughtry said the college would learn from the first event and make plans to hold it again.