I confess, I can’t watch it here (if anyone does have a youtube link or the like, please let me know); the BBC have it shared on the net, but you have to be in the UK to view it. However, I’ve read enough of the experiment to make a few conclusions, I think.
The report, apparently, is presented by trauma expert, Prof Ian Robbins, who is well versed in the study of the effects of torture. That’d be my first red flag if I was on the ethics board looking at this.
The study design appears to be simple enough. Take six normal people. Test them for various psychological parameters, including visual awareness, suggestibility, memory, etc. Sensory deprive them for 48 hours. Test them again. Watch the ratings for BBC1 skyrocket.
I’d be asking at this point: “Has this been done before?” Actually, yes. During the 50’s apparently, the US and Canadian military funded a big study by a bloke named Donald Hebb into this whole sensory deprivation thing. They decided it was too controversial, so they dropped it after a year or so. The US military considered this to be too cruel. I’m certain that someone would have raised a red flag at that point too.
So what happens? Apparently, within a relatively short time, the victims… err, sorry… subjects start to become anxious and experience hallucinations. There is evidence that their brains are worse for wear as well… they become more suggestible, and their ability to process information drops significantly. Animal studies have shown that there are significant neurological effects to boot – the brain’s sensory synapses all start falling apart.
Apparently, this is all reversible, but, to be fair, there are some interesting points to make from it. There are plenty of people around the world who are held in prisons under what is effectively sensory deprivation for significantly longer periods than 48 hours. The US are known to use sensory deprivation on people in Guantanamo Bay. Surely if they are suggestible, that makes anything they say after this treatment defunct.
Anyway, everyone made it, and I assume they are none the worse for the experiment. Still, I can’t help but wonder if it was really necessary for a simple TV show.