Tuesday, February 10, 2015

And the train, it won't stop going. No way to slow down

Some things we have learned from our experiments on infants and children at the Riddled Research Laboratory:

1. Some children insist on just the right ratio of vodka in a screwdriver before they cooperate in a test.

2. Transient electrical scalp stimulation with a perfectly harmless voltage does not stimulate the growth of hair. Still, it was worth a try.

3. The parents' reactions are entertaining when you dress up the infants as bananas and apologise for "the temporary side-effect" when you give them back at the end of the session. How we laughed!

The late 1960s and early 1970s were the golden age of secretive DoD experiments into traumatising babies with visual barriers and model train sets. Experience teaches that unethical research with non-consenting human subjects are more successful when there is a cover story, and Bower recruited his subjects under the guise of studying 'object permanence'.

The real goal of Project RECKLESS SLEEPER was that the extremity of train-induced terror would awaken the infants' latent powers and cause them to defend themselves with laser-beam eyes [right]. In an unintended side-effect, a generation of policy-makers and urban planners grew up with an irrational, abiding phobia about tracked transport, and found every excuse to obstruct and underfund that mode of mass transit, which is why Americans can't have nice things Amtrak. Meanwhile a generation of moral philosophers grew up torturing themselves and their students with 'trolley dilemmas'.

Anyway, Piaget's child psychology teaches us that young infants still remember their prior existence in a universe of flux and evanescence, and lack the concept of 'object permanence', so that when an object disappears from view into a tunnel they assume that it no longer exists.
The corollary follows that when infants travel into a tunnel they assume that it's themselves who cease to exist. This explains some of their behaviour.

I was too old to be a subject when I fall into the care of a Piagetian psychologist in 1970 or thereabouts. I know his academic alignment because of the perspective-taking and constructivist tests he applied, and also because when I stroll back through the corridors of memory and look at the bookshelves in his office I can see the distinctive spine of Piaget and Inhelder (so the date must have been after 1969, when the first English edition came out).

Universe of flux and evanescence


rhwombat said...

Old Charlie stole the Handel, and won't give it Bach. I too was subjected to Piaget as an undergrad. I still object to permanence.

M. Bouffant said...

Family lore has it the three- or four-yr. old moi was being extra rambunctious one day & mater decided a shot of whiskey in my O.J. might have a calmative effect, but apparently I would have none of it. (I later more than compensated for that rare example of poor decision making.)

perfectly harmless voltage
Redundant: Voltage is harmless; it's the amps that kill you.

I've objected to a few permanents I've seen.

Smut Clyde said...

I too was subjected to Piaget as an undergrad. I still object to permanence.

For a while child psychology became my own academic speciality. Sometimes it was useful to stroll down the memory corridors back to 1970 and ask the guy questions like 'What did Vygotsky really mean by the Zone of Proximal Development'.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Make sure your spawn get enough moral fiber in their diets!