EXPERIMENTAL STUDIES OF SENSORY DEPRIVATION AND SOCIAL ISOLATION
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV ALEXANDRIA VA HUMAN RESOURCES RESEARCH OFFICE
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To evaluate experimentally some of the psychological effects of sensory deprivation and social isolation, 176 randomly selected volunteers were placed in dark, soundproofed cubicles for four days, while an equal number of other randomly selected volunteers followed a normal routine. Psychological tests and measures were given both Cubicle and Control subjects before, during, and after isolation. Cubicle subjects reported the isolation experience to be unpleasant, boring, and stressful. One-third of them requested early release from the cubicles. In comparison with the Control subjects, Cubicle subjects were better on simple intellectual tasks and on auditory vigilance. They were worse on more complex intellectual tasks, and under some conditions, appeared to be more susceptible to influence. They more often sought meaningful stimulation but also showed some tendency to avoid stimulation. Sensory deprivation and social isolation do have psychological effects, but they are neither simple nor clear-cut.