Sensory Deprivation And Its Horrific Effects

The first studies of sensory deprivation were conducted in the 1950s. However, it is possible that covert experiments were carried out before this. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, were the first to conduct such an experiment using volunteers.
Sensory deprivation and its horrific effects

Sensory deprivation, especially when it has lasted more than 48 hours, can significantly affect perception, cognition, and emotions. Experts have proven that social deprivation has similar effects.

Sensory deprivation is the partial or complete restriction of stimuli applied to one or more senses. It means blocking sight, hearing, touch, etc. People have used such exercises for therapeutic purposes, in research, and also in torture.

Unfortunately, people became interested in sensory deprivation due to this last example. After World War II, prisoners who had confessed without violence were reported. The kind of torture in which the perception of the stimuli of the prisoners around them was deprived already made great changes in the willpower of the prisoners.

A desperate person

Experimental conditions

The experimenters mainly applied only three different experimental conditions for sensory deprivation. This was done, at least in the studies we knew.

The first study was conducted by Bexton, Heton, and Scott in 1954. The next study is from 1958 and was conducted by Wexler, Mendelson, Liederman, and Solomon. The third study is Shurley’s 1960 study.

  • The first situation. Sensory deprivation is not absolute. The volunteer is lying on a bed in an isolated but lit room. The volunteer is wearing dark sunglasses and gloves and has some kind of cardboard capsules in his hands. The volunteer will stay in this room for two to six days.
  • Another situation. The volunteer lies on a mattress inside the enclosure, which restricts his movements. This enclosure is in a room with bare walls and little light. The person is in this situation for 36 hours.
  • The third situation. The researchers immersed the completely naked volunteer in a water tank. The volunteer has a mask that allows breathing, but he cannot see or hear anything. He also does not touch the bottom of the tank. The volunteer stays in this situation for as long as he can.

Sensory deprivation and the perceptual process

The researchers first assessed whether these conditions changed perceptual processes. They came to the conclusion that they moved. The isolating experience included, above all, strong visual disturbances. Volunteers saw static objects moving and changing shape or size.

They saw different things like the walls moving and the tables walking. Their visual sensitivity intensified. After several days, they detected these stimuli more slowly. Some subjects saw the straight lines become S-shaped. They also experienced other hallucinations.

At the same time, there were also general distortions in touch, as well as in the perception of time and space. In one of these experiments, the researchers showed how the effects of social isolation are similar to the effects of sensory deprivation.

Cognitive effects

Many subjects said they wanted to use this time to participate in the experiment to think about personal problems for which they did not otherwise have time. At first, they were able to do so, but within hours it became more and more difficult for them to focus on their own thoughts. After a certain period of time, they could not count to even thirty.

The researchers found that the subjects’ ability to remember and retain information developed after the experiments. At the same time, abstraction, generalization, and mathematical reasoning weakened.

Amazingly, the learning capacity improved in those people who experienced this sensory deprivation. However, their motor skills were significantly impaired, especially in those deprived of stimuli for 48 hours or more.

Sensory deprivation causes hallucinations.

Interesting conclusions about sensory deprivation

In simple terms, all of these experiments showed that induction of pseudopsychotic conditions is possible with sensory deprivation. This is about temporary psychosis. We added the prefix “pseudo” because when the exam is over and when the participant returns to normal life, all his normal abilities will also be restored.

One of the most interesting results was that the so-called. “Normal” people experienced hallucinations during sensory deprivation. However, in people diagnosed with schizophrenia, these hallucinations disappeared.

Similarly, the researchers found that the personality of each individual played a role in how they experienced sensory deprivation. All volunteers tried to adapt to these conditions, but many of them tended to focus on the past and sink into depression. Almost all of them became more sensitive. This makes the effects of psychological torture in this state even more profound, as do the effects of psychological therapy.

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