Entertaining oneself while doing nothing?
April 29, 2011 2:28 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to get through having to sit 12 hours for ten days doing nothing? Nothing!

I am a media junky and an upcoming study I am participating in requires me to be hooked up to an ecg machine for 12 hours x 10 days without being able to use my computer, read, use phone or do ANYTHING. I am so scared I won't be able to handle this mentally and could use some creative thinking on how to pass the time. So far, I'm thinking keeping a notecard in my pocket of all the presidents and working on memorizing them and the dates. I can't keep anything bulky with me. I may not talk to other participants either. Help!
posted by JJkiss to Health & Fitness (84 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
All of the NOs you list are content-having things. Are you allowed to make something? Drawing, knitting, legos, wire sculpture, etc; there are unlimited crafting possibilities.

12 hours a day is a really long time, though. Are you allowed to sleep?
posted by phunniemee at 2:33 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tell yourself stories! I occasionally have to have long periods where I can't use any devices during a procedure, and I sit and tell myself stories in my head. I make up stories about my friends, or I tell myself silly fairy stories. It passes the time.
posted by strixus at 2:34 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Learn poetry now so you can recite in in your head. Or compose poetry in your head as you lie there.
posted by pracowity at 2:35 PM on April 29, 2011

I don't know, this is not as easy as it sounds. Even Zen practitioners alternate between doing different things during the day, so what you are doing sounds very mentally tough.

If you can bring a notebook and a pen, why not try writing?

If you have no stimulation for 10 days, I would actually consider dropping out the experiment. It sounds crazy. Even practicing Zen in a monastery for 5 days (which sounds much more stimulating that what you are going to do) was tough, and affected me profoundly for a couple of days afterward.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

12 hours straight, ten times? Or 12 hours total over a period of ten days? What explicitly are you not allowed to bring?

If you're allowed to bring things in:

- Bring some balls and learn to juggle
- Bring a deck of cards and play solitaire
- Use the deck of cards to build a house of cards
- Bring an instrument and practice (I guess this is probably not going to be allowed, but just in case it is)

If not:

- Do push ups
- Try a bodyweight exercise routine (depending on how the ECG cables run)
- Mediate
- Memorize a rap verse (or really any kind of verse or passage), and practice delivering it convincingly.
- Sing
posted by ignignokt at 2:39 PM on April 29, 2011

Response by poster: I am not allowed to have any objects they say. Yes, this sounds crazy to me too. I can't imagine others could do this easily. Dropping out is not an option. I cannot physically move around and I cannot sleep.
posted by JJkiss at 2:52 PM on April 29, 2011

Zen Doodles. I do these to pass the time in boring lectures. They can be done on a piece of paper the size of a post-it. They are easier than they look.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

I don't know how much this matters to you, but if they tell you not to bring stuff to do, and you bring stuff to do, you're going to interfere with their experiment.

But I agree. This sounds absolutely nuts.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 2:57 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

How about working on isolating and moving different muscles? When I'm stuck somewhere with nothing to do, I try to work on my muscle control - my ongoing project has been learning to move each toe independently. My earlier project was flaring each nostril independently, and that was a success.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:58 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not even a pen?

Honestly, this sounds very nearly impossible.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:00 PM on April 29, 2011

I'm sorry I don't have suggestions but could you please come back and comment on how your experience was, after? I can't fathom it and would really like to know how it goes. Best of luck!
posted by doorsfan at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


silent prayer

writing a novel in your head

doing long division mentally

Imagining a miniseries where the Metafilter mods are the main characters and wacky hijinks ensue.

Imagining yourself a prisoner of war and coming up with escape scenarios complete with bombs and Bruce Willis cameos

Imagining what it would be like to be famous characters from history.

Hopefully this will give you some jumping off points. This sounds truly hellish and I hope you are getting paid very well to endure it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:07 PM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Have you tried asking the organizers what their participants usually do to pass the time? Or is this secretly an experiment about seeing how people crack up after being forced to sit still for 12 hours?
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [16 favorites]

Have you talked with the research assistants or study coordinator? Someone should have consented you to participate in this study and they would have an idea of what is an acceptable activity or not. They will take anything away from you that you aren't supposed to bring in. I can't imagine how they got this one through human subjects or an IRB panel as it sounds very burdensome to the participant and not practical at all.

I know you said that dropping it out is not an option but remember you have the right to drop out of the study at any time and for any reason. If they tell you otherwise something is shady.
posted by wilky at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [27 favorites]

If you have time, memorize some poems or lists first and use the time to recite to yourself.

Find math algorithms to practice in your head (like those speed math things).

Make up a novel-length story.

Cast your favorite books with current actors, sets, costumes, and music.

Alphabetize lists of common things like states, numbers, colors, etc.

Learn the inflections for some other language and some words that take those inflections, and just practice adding inflections by rote while thinking of the meaning of that specific ending. (Like verb endings for the Romance languages.)

This sounds really hard, and I'd be interested in knowing how it went after you're done.
posted by wending my way at 3:08 PM on April 29, 2011

Oh, and if this is not specifically a study re boredom or isolation perhaps they have some distractions planned for you. One could only hope.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:09 PM on April 29, 2011

I am not allowed to have any objects they say. Yes, this sounds crazy to me too. I can't imagine others could do this easily. Dropping out is not an option. I cannot physically move around and I cannot sleep.

WTF? I was going to suggest maybe staying up later in the days leading up to the test so you'll be super sleepy... but you can't even sleep! Has this test been conducted before? If so, what did the participants do with their time? Could you call up whoever is conducting this study and ask what they suggest?

The only other thing I can think of is to think a lot. Daydream about living out the rest of your life on a fabulous sunny beach community. Figure out ways to trim your budget and plan your grocery list for the next week. Ponder whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Best of luck to you and yes, it would be great if you came back and told us what you did for 10 days.
posted by lovelygirl at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2011

If you drop out after a few days, do you still get paid for those days? (Paranoid thought: the experimenters want people to drop out after a few days so they don't have to pay anyone.)
posted by sninctown at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2011

Drop out. Really. Why are you torturing yourself like this? How on earth can this kind of misery possibly be worth whatever they are offering you?
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:15 PM on April 29, 2011

Response by poster: No. This is not a study about boredom or any kind of mental subject. When I called yesterday, the lady who was rude on the phone said "No, they're not allowed to do anything." So asking how they did spend their time would not have been helpful. They definitely don't want me to drop out and nothing is shady here. I've done a study with them before.
posted by JJkiss at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2011

120 hours of doing nothing? Really?

When I have to just sit someplace, I try to remodel rooms in my head. I work out material lists and try to account for clearances of opening doors and stuff. I remember watching an interview with a POW who said he built an entire hotel in his mind, even designing place settings for the restaurant.

On preview though, drop out. This sounds ridiculous.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. This is probably the craziest thing I've ever heard of.

The Light Fantastic has some good suggestions.

~learn to flare your nostril(s)
~learn to raise your eyebrows one at a time
~learn to to pull your baby toe away from all the others
~see if you can get your tongue up your nose
~sing songs
~write stories in your head. this is one of my favorite past-times when I can't sleep. perhaps arm yourself with a bunch of topics.
~along the same line as writing stories in your head, prepare speeches/talks using different topics (faith, kindness, patience, the importance of brushing your teeth, etc.). try to really think of some great personal anecdotes to go along with your speech/talk (I also do this when I'm sleepless)
~practice crying on demand. I expect at the end of all of this you'll be able to do this at a drop of a hat
~kegels (male kegels, or female)
~fantasize about whomever
~plan a tv show/movie about your life. who would play you? what events in your life would you want highlighted?
~if you could relive one period of your life over again what would it be and what would you differently?
~learn to speak backwards. find objects in the room and practice saying them backwards. "chair" would be "rache." "door" would be "rood."
~try doing some biofeedback, even if you're not hooked up for it. try to raise the temperature in your finger. try to lower your heartbeat.
~pretend that you and the study coordinators or whomever are the only people left on earth, who would you hook up with? or who would you trust the most to ensure your survival?
~if you won 250 million dollars (after taxes) what would you do with that money? go deeper than just buying a new car and house. how would you split it up with a significant other? who would you help out with that money?
~pick out your future children's names
posted by Sassyfras at 3:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

It's not useful telling you how impossible this is. People here aren't trying to be unhelpful, it's just that this is an incredibly difficult task.

However, I would not bring a card or anything else, as it breaks the rules. I would read a book about meditation before going in. Then, arm yourself with lots of mental exercises. It's OK if you forget them, as long as you give yourself lots of tasks beforehand.

- Write an autobiography in your head backwards. Try to remember your life linearly, backwards, starting from that moment, back to that morning, back to last week and be as detailed as you like. Do it to remember details. Don't expect to remember it, just experience it like watching a movie. Try to remember the room from when you were a child in great detail, exploring as if you were an ant.
- Try to remember your favorite movie line by line, scene by scene. MST3K it in your head as well. Then remember another movie scene by scene. Then build a mashup (THE MATRIX meets JOY LUCK CLUB or whatever) and think through scene by scene what it would be like. If a scene doesn't work, try again. Don't try to remember it, just build it as a viewer, rather than the world's most amazing screenwriter.
- Do math. Add 1 + 1. Add 1 + 2. Work your way up to huge numbers.
- Explore your hands as if you were a microscopic being, exploring a huge, weird wasteland, picturing what it would look like if you were that small.

Make a huge list of exercises like this before you go in. Figure out how to make variations of them so you don't lose your mind.

I don't envy you at all. Good luck. Given how evil this sounds, perhaps it's a test of something else and your prep is a veiled thing to see how you react, but who knows. Please let us know how you survived.
posted by Gucky at 3:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

~try doing some biofeedback, even if you're not hooked up for it. try to raise the temperature in your finger. try to lower your heartbeat.

I would ask the people doing the study first. Seems like this might interfere with their results.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 3:36 PM on April 29, 2011

Are you allowed to talk or sing to yourself?
posted by fancyoats at 3:41 PM on April 29, 2011

I'm a little worried about this... will you be alone, isolated in a room? Can you please reassure me that no sensory deprivation will be involved?
posted by likeso at 3:42 PM on April 29, 2011

Isometric exercises? Singing? Can you work on memorizing some classic poems beforehand? Make puppets out of your socks? Perfecting your club dance moves?

[unhelpful bit] Is this a university of some kind? Can we assume this has been approved by the appropriate human subjects committee? [/unhelpful bit]
posted by pantarei70 at 3:55 PM on April 29, 2011

I'm a little worried about this... will you be alone, isolated in a room? Can you please reassure me that no sensory deprivation will be involved?

Agreed that this is raising troubling warning flags.

On the rare occasions when I can't sleep, I spell the lyrics to my favorite songs to pass the time. However, it usually puts me to sleep, so . . .
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:10 PM on April 29, 2011

Read up on some koans ('What did your face look like before your parents were born?') and some philosophical questions ('How do we know what we know?' 'What is reality?') and mull them over to pass the time.
posted by Rora at 4:14 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it ECG or EEG? Sounds a bit extreme for ECG, but for EEG it would be reasonable. [eponysterical]
posted by neuron at 4:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know.....can you maybe try this for a day? Get a sense of the territory, figure out whether or not this is realistic.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:25 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

pantarei70: [unhelpful bit] Is this a university of some kind? Can we assume this has been approved by the appropriate human subjects committee? [/unhelpful bit]

Actually I don't think that's unhelpful or a derail at all. It's very important that the OP not be involved in any study that hasn't passed ethics approval, especially since it is such an extreme experience.

Do you have this info, JJkiss?

At one point you say "dropping out is not an option." If no one can provide you with assurance that this is affiliated with legit researchers and has passed ethics approval, dropping out should be your only option.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:41 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

Sounds to me like you're participating in a study of a detainee's reactions to solitary confinement. So while you can, look into how others have survived this. The movie's dated and IMO unwatchable but in Papilon Henri Charriere describes passing the time in stir by pacing back and forth in his dark cell.
posted by Rash at 5:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drop out of the study. It is utterly insane.
posted by tehloki at 5:10 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

This study is likely to give you post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are absolutely insistent on doing it, then spend most of your time meditating and chanting mantras. Also, ask if you are allowed to masturbate.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:11 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Hey, if you start doing it and drop out almost immediately, do you still get the money? If so, do that. They might be planning to stop the study after a brief period of time anyway: that's the only way I see this getting past an ethics board.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Kabaddi Champion. This can't possibly last for ten days.
posted by trogdole at 5:44 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best advice I can think of is to reflect on one year of your life for each day that you're there. Each hour consists of one month from that year. Let's say you're 20 years old, choose the ages from 10 to 20 as you'll probably remember them better. Take yourself on a voyage through your life and do your darnedest to stick to one month per hour. At first it might be blurry, but after awhile you might get better at remembering what happened when. If you have a particularly good memory, really explore the memory in detail before going to the next date.

Good luck. This study sounds nuts and I value my sanity too much to participate in something like this.
posted by fantasticninety at 6:01 PM on April 29, 2011

I am typing this as I sit in the hospital having a 4 day version of that sort of test. I'm only on day 1.5 and I can do anything I want including have visitors, watch TV, leap around my room as far my wires reach, draw, read, study Hindi, check Metafilter, play with my snowglobe, order in food, etc., and this is for my HEALTH, to solve a serious long-standing seizure issue, and I myself am debating leaving tomorrow afternoon, a full day and a half early. If I felt like I was genuinely forced to stay here, even in these pretty cheerful conditions, I would probably lose it. I think it is still answering the question to say please stay open to the very real option of leaving the study extremely early.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

Why aren't we challenging the veracity of this? A study of "sitting" for 12 hours a day where he/she is not allowed to "do anything," "have any objects," and where "dropping out is not an option?"

I sense some overly-dramatic assumptions here.
posted by kinsey at 6:49 PM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Live hard for the other 12 hours of the day.
Stay up all night. Learn to photograph at night. Go see live bands and stay up late.
Rent a ton of movies and stay up until you have to go there Then sleep for 12 hours??
posted by beccaj at 6:51 PM on April 29, 2011

beccaj—the OP is not even allowed to SLEEP.
posted by kate blank at 6:54 PM on April 29, 2011

Are you on Solitary?

Seriously, can you talk to someone other than the lady who was rude on the phone? You absolutely should be able to, and the people running this study may be the best people to advise you on what you can do.
posted by equivocator at 6:55 PM on April 29, 2011

Thanks Kate -- I QUICKLY reread the post and missed that. OK. Somethings fishy here.
posted by beccaj at 6:56 PM on April 29, 2011

Have to agree that this does not sound like a sensible thing to take part in.

However to add to the philosophical things you might want to turn your brain to - consider "How did I come to be sitting right where I am sitting now?", a trick Robert A. Wilson discussed. You are sitting here because you are involved in this study - why are you involved in this study? Why is this study being done in this city? Why are you in this city? Because you were born here? Why were your parents in this city? See if you make make it back to the first RNA strands forming in the oceans 4 billion years ago.
posted by Jimbob at 7:10 PM on April 29, 2011

Meditate. It's the only damn thing you CAN do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:53 PM on April 29, 2011

"Read" your favorite novels in your head. Try to remember as much of the dialogue as you can, try to picture the scenes, fill in whatever blanks you have to to move the story along. Try to remember as many details as possible. Or go through your favorite movies in the same manner.

Relive your favorite memories. Try to remember where you were, what the setting looked like, what you said, what the other people present said, how the experience felt and sounded and smelled. Again, be detailed... draw it out and savor it.

If you want to screw with them, try making up elaborate sexual fantasies that will get your heart rate up a bit. Make 'em wonder.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:06 PM on April 29, 2011

Also, please follow up to tell us you're OK after this harrowing ordeal.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:13 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

So you know that sensory deprevation is a form of torture right? You signed up for something approaching torture.... 10 days of torture. Of course they don't want you to drop out, it's hard to get people to sign up for some approximating torture....
posted by whoaali at 9:16 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Use the alphabet: think of a song that starts with the letter "A", and sing it to yourself. Next, do the letter "B". When you get through the alphabet, start all over again, using different songs. Next, restrict yourself to one genre-only 80's hair metal songs, or only rap songs. When you tire of that, go through the alphabet with book titles, and try to recall the entire story.

Play musical hot potato: start with a song- for instance, Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis. Now you have to think of a connecting song - it must either be another Elvis song, or use the word heartbreak or hotel in the title. So, Heartbreak Hotel-Elvis; Hotel California-Eagles; California Dreaming-Mamas and Papas; Monday, Monday-Mamas and Papas; Manic Monday-Bangles, etc.,
etc. This could maybe be done with movie titles, also.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:20 PM on April 29, 2011

Why is dropping out not an option?
posted by John Cohen at 9:28 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry - if you do anything physically... you're no longer useful for their experiments (it looks like).

They *need* you - someone who *need* stuff as a subject. You are their *perfect* piece of data.

You can withdraw from the study now if you want; if you withdraw during the study but before it ends, you're fucking them and have wasted their time (and yours).

Your response (like in this thread) is part of what the study in question wants to assess.

Being cognizant of this (very savantish) outside feedback may very well disqualify you for their dataset.
posted by porpoise at 9:34 PM on April 29, 2011

Doing nothing for 12 hours a day won't give you post traumatic stress syndrome and may well help you get a job in public administration. It's certainly better than digging ditches for the same time for the same money. As for passing the time, I recommend increasingly outrageous erotic fantasy about people you met but entirely failed to get off with. This is also good on long walks or tedious business meetings.
posted by joannemullen at 9:44 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Back in my student days, when payments from medical experiments made up a significant part of my income, I heard of studies like this intended to measure the effects of long-term complete inactivity on the heart (which are not good at all). But this one sounds so awful that it could be some kind of Milgram thing and the people you think are the experimenters are actually the test subjects, with extra blinding so even the collaborators don't know what's going on.

Anyway, the things you mentioned (computers, reading, phone) are all very slightly active. Can you do completely passive things, like watch TV or listen to the radio? Find out if you can load an MP3 player with 12 hours of podcasts and language instruction etc and listen to that. Although you said no objects, so maybe that's out too.

Failing anything else, at least try to get a seat or bed near a window so you have something to look at. Are the ten days all in a row? I hope they're paying you a lot of money for this.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:40 PM on April 29, 2011

You'll be fine. It's not torture. Sensory deprivation can be torture but I think it would have to be involuntary to qualify. I don't think they would hold you against your will so that should ease your mind somewhat while you're participating.

You should get reacquainted with the long lost art of staring into space. Pretend you're watching clouds and just drift. You don't have to have a specific mental activity. I'm quite envious of the opportunity you have to test your limits.
posted by Appropriate Username at 11:08 PM on April 29, 2011

A collection of logic puzzles from the XKCD wiki. Memorize one or two every day, and try to solve them.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 11:46 PM on April 29, 2011

You should be able to drop out before, especially if they can't (or won't) answer any questions beforehand. Hell, one can stop an MRI, and those are less than 12 hours.
posted by SillyShepherd at 12:23 AM on April 30, 2011

You know that people deliberately seek to do just this without being hooked up to a machine, yes?
posted by flabdablet at 7:06 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

flabdablet - a meditation retreat is not a good example. There is always kinhin (walking meditation) and chores to be performed. You don't sit still for 12 straight hours. Even so, it's still extremely difficult for most people and near impossible for novice meditators. If the OP was an experienced meditator he would not be asking this question.

OP: I agree with others that this experiment sounds horrible and I would give some serious thought as to the possible psychological repercussions here. I have some experience with (much much more minor) sensory deprivation and it can really affect you. Please think about other ways to make money that aren't as likely to cause PTSD.
posted by desjardins at 7:27 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is off-the-charts sketchy and the "I'm not allowed to drop out" thing makes me wonder who is coercing you. It is 100% your choice whether to participate or not.

I don't see how this can possibly be worth the money.
posted by venividivici at 7:46 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dropping out is not an option.

Says who? The school? Your professor(s)? Your parent(s)? The people running the experiment? The only other reason I can think of is a largish sum of money, which can (a) be obtained through a variety of other methods that are not ethically suspect on the behalf of the offerors, and (b) not nearly as likely to be at least temporarily mentally and physically damaging.

I cannot physically move around and I cannot sleep.

Wait, you can't move?! At this point, the treatment you're being subjected to is approaching sensory deprivation or worse, and is in all likelihood not approved by most countries' ethics code, let alone those of universities. I mean, I could see the whole "solitary confinement" thing, which was still pretty sketchy, but this goes beyond that.

This is not a study about boredom or any kind of mental subject.

How can in not be? There only way it could be a study on a physical subject and not mental, would in fact be a study on how restraint or lack of movement affects your mental state. Assuming you were told this, you're being misled on the study.

Alarm bells are ringing loudly and clearly. Something is extremely suspect about this whole situation. Either we're not getting the real story (in which case haha, very funny, now GTFO) or there's something weird going on. If everything you say is true, and they don't step in after a couple hours and say something about how they were actually testing your anxiety levels about the "real" test, then something's wrong. If this is not the case, and if coercion is used by any researcher to get you to continue, they're doing something unethical and illegal, and need to be reported to the cops, the university, and the applicable ethics board ASAP.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:11 AM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: To Clarify, I meant that "dropping out is not an option" as in that's not a solution I'm looking for. Of course I can drop out of the study at any time if I choose. That is the last resort and exactly the thing I'm trying to avoid.
posted by JJkiss at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2011

Do you get "breaks" (potty breaks, meals) during the 12 hours? If so, really take advantage of those breaks. Do lunges to the bathroom or the log roll or skip, stretch your arms, eat standing up or better yet, walking around. If you do get breaks, then psych yourself up for the next break instead of thinking of it in "12 hour" increments. Instead, think of it as "2 more hours until my break." After your break you should be somewhat re-energized and rejuvenated and able to go another 3 hours until your next break.

Also take serious advantage of those other 12 hours when you can move around and sleep. Keep in mind the ideas here for your stationary 12 hours but also plan for the other 12 hours to maximize that time to be able to do stuff and gear yourself up for the next 12 hour stationary session.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:32 AM on April 30, 2011

Well, I just left my somewhat similar medical exam early, and reflecting on it, I believe 100% that this study is absolutely psychological, and cannot possibly be expected to last 10 full days or even 3 days. It is genuinely laughable.

For the couple of days that this is actually likely to last, I suggest as much physical activity as you can get. It is very physically dangerous to be generally healthy yet totally immobile (according to the many doctors who kept impressing that upon me during my stay.) Do push-ups and sit-ups and yoga poses and running in place, etc., because there is no ethical way on the planet that you would be required to refrain from that.

I actually rarely get bored, and was totally looking forward to my experience, so the fact that I left my study early does not at all bode well for the veracity of these research terms in my opinion.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't envy you at all. Good luck. Given how evil this sounds, perhaps it's a test of something else and your prep is a veiled thing to see how you react, but who knows.

Very much this. If they told you what they were really studying it would skew the results. You'll have some strange "interruption" in the second hour, an argument between the scientists conducting it, a fellow test subject will try to recruit you to cheat with him, there will be a mix up when you all show up and you'll be asked to decide who gets kicked out of the study... who knows.

But they will NOT be making you sit perfectly still doing nothing for 120 hours.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:58 AM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Or to take it to a meta level, the study is actually finding out who would be willing to sign up for this, and what sort of questions / reservations they have going into it.

I vaguely remember a study conducted when I was in university, subjects were to spend 24 hours alone in a room. Some would be in a dark room, some in a bright room. I tried to sign up, left a message on the answering machine volunteering on the proviso I was in the bright room. Never got called back.

"Aha!" I thought to myself, "That was the test!"
posted by Meatbomb at 10:02 AM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's weird, to me this sounds potentially very pleasant. Maybe I have an unrealistic perspective on it, or maybe I just have a freakishly rich inner life, but sitting doing nothing for a long time doesn't really sound that bad to me. Tell yourself stories in your head. You can live whole lives in 12 hours.
posted by troublesome at 1:55 PM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's conceivable that this is intended as actual but poorly planned neuroscience. You might want to compare to an animal (who you just have sit in the cage all day) or a hospitalized patient (who just lays there all day). Of course there's a lot that one is missing with that line of thought. They might also be interested in just checking the stability of their measurement without really thinking hard about the observer effect.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:23 PM on April 30, 2011

Mod note: hey folks this question is now in MetaTalk, please address non-answer there, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:01 PM on May 1, 2011

Many of us here are scientists who might be able to better clarify what would and would not be forbotten with more information about the study. If you give us some combination of the name of the head researcher, the institution, or the study, we can probably help better. Also if there does happen to be something shady going on we can make sure that would get addressed.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:19 PM on May 1, 2011

I'm sorry, did someone say PTSD? This isn't likely to cause PTSD, unless the one activity you're allowed is being beaten and threatened with death, so don't worry about that. Do you meditate or self-hypnotize? Sounds like something you might try, to pass the time. Curious - are there restrictions for the other 12 hours?
posted by namesarehard at 5:39 PM on May 1, 2011

This sounds awful, and sounds tough, but it sounds doable. That said, I'm kind of with EMRJKC'94 that if they say you can't bring anything with you and just have to sit there, you can say that you're spending your time masturbating.

Since that's not an option, here's what I'd suggest, along with everything else suggested here.

Spend the time focused on what you'd like to do at the end of the day. Plan it out to great detail. Get as many friends as you can in on this. Then, see how closely the night can adhere to your plans for it.

Then spend the days planning, while also reflecting on how the previous night went against your plans for it. What does that mean? How does it change the current night's plans?

You've got ten days awaiting you of "last days in prison," essentially. How are you going to celebrate your freedom?

I'd also definitely, DEFINITELY suggest taking notes on the experiment while you're going through it, basically writing your own story f the process to give yourself some control over it.

But I'm very curious to know what the hell this is supposed to be studying and how this possibly passed an ethics board.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:54 PM on May 1, 2011

I think you'll be amazed at the number of activities available to you in that room, ranging from counting the ceiling tiles to disassembling the furniture. Build a fort! See how long you can stand on your head, leaning against the wall! And sing all your favorite albums, beginning to end.

But I agree with the others that there's some sort of meta-study going on, and you won't actually be doing what you expect to.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:22 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like to memorize alphabet songs for other alphabets, list states and state capitals in alphabetical order, and work out irrational numbers (especially square roots) to as many places as I can stand.

You can also whistle or drum your fingers, or translate long pieces of text into ROT13 or morse code. For drumming, I try to come up with a pattern, then figure out what time signature it is (probably less challenging if you're an actual musician).
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 PM on May 1, 2011

Sing badly. They'll come running in with something for you to do.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:58 AM on May 2, 2011

As with many people above, I am skeptical of this; but if you are going to do it, I would say build a memory palace the first day and begin stocking it on subsequent days during your 12 hours off and reinforce the memories during your time in the study.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:56 PM on May 2, 2011

Write out song lyrics to yourself using the sign language alphabet. I do this when I'm stuck as a passenger on long car trips (books and movies make me puke).
posted by phunniemee at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I'm bored, I like to walk through my elementary school in my head, trying to remember really specific things- how many rows of desks were in my grade 7 classroom? (5.) What colour was the carpet in kindergarten? (Mottled red.) What was on the shelf beside my desk in grade 4? (Chalk and white textbooks). What colour tiles were on the floor near the gym? (Orange and white). Other locations: childhood home, childhood cottage, old workplaces, old apartments... really, anywhere you spent a lot of time and have pleasant memories.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:24 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could come out of this with a deeper knowledge of yourself and use the time powerfully with some of the above suggestions. Do something different each day.

The real difficulty is in the concept of the passing of time. Play with that. Instead of feeling every minute is endless and there is too much time, tell yourself you only have 12 hours to design your dream house today and you'd better get to work quickly. Tomorrow you only have twelve hours to remember every one you've ever spoken with. Wednesday only 12 hours to...

Time is short. You are about to get your money's worth out of ten days. That's an adventure.
posted by kturner at 8:40 PM on May 2, 2011

desjardins: "There is always kinhin (walking meditation) and chores to be performed. You don't sit still for 12 straight hours."

Naw, the Vipassana course I did had no walking meditation, no chores, and we were specifically instructed that we weren't allowed to do any yoga, exercise, writing, talking, looking at people in the face, reading, and in order to get from place to place we were supposed to walk slowly (no meditation while walking). Hell on the digestive system, actually. Sitting 11-12 hours a day is really bad for you.

So yeah, I've kind of done this. Vipassana meditation course. Kind of hellish, but actually, after a day or two, whenever I wasn't meditating I was distracted by these entertaining open-eye hallucinations, daydreams, and recollections of past events, tv, songs (I came out being able to sing the whole Buffy Musical, The words kept going round in my head til I pieced all the lyrics together :P).

Anyway, you didn't say that you were being hooked up to a catheter, or couldn't eat, so does that mean little breaks?
This is what I had:

4:00 a.m.---------------------Morning wake-up bell

4:30-6:30 a.m.----------------Meditate in the hall

6:30-8:00 a.m.----------------Breakfast break

8:00-11:00 a.m.---------------Meditate in the hall

11:00-12:00 noon--------------Lunch break

12noon-1:00 p.m.--------------Rest and interviews with the teacher

1:00-5:00 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall

5:00-6:00 p.m.----------------Tea break

6:00-7:00 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall

7:00-8:15 p.m.----------------Teacher's Discourse in the hall

8:15-9:00 p.m.----------------Meditate in the hall

9:00-9:30 p.m.----------------Question time in the hall

9:30 p.m.---------------------Retire to your own room--Lights out

Sitting still on a cushion for all the meditation times, and for 4 blocks of 1 hr, sitting *really* still - no moving at all. Limbs going dead, pain in limbs and back, and @#$$#% itchy nose. Agonising.

Of course, despite trying really hard, following all the precepts and trying not to 'hallucinate' like above, I had a lot of trouble staying focused, and ultimately didn't find it very beneficial. But! I definitely survived, did not get PTSD (seriously folks?) and saw people come out of it with good experiences. Don't underestimate the brain's ability to entertain itself.
Of course, it's favourite way is to convince you to quit the boring thing you're doing, but if you don't do that, it'll get waaay more creative.

Good luck!
posted by Elysum at 3:35 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi Guys! I'm on day 5 and I'm definitely going to stick with it. I was not told the details of not moving for 12 hours but there's some good news. The 12 hours and ten days is NOT back to back. We complete the 12 hours within the 6 a.m. to 4 a.m. time period. Also, the 10 days is not back to back.. it's 3 days on 7 days off... so this makes it MUCH better.

During the "rest" period I am laying in a cot and may not have any reading materials, pens or anything like that. The room is very bright and once about every hour for ten minutes you cannot move, deep breath, laugh or talk. The rest is just kind of laying there not making major movements but of course I can keep myself comfortable.

This is not a psychological study at all and is rather test an anti depressant. The days vary a little bit as well which is nice. Some days we have those not moving extractions over and over and other days are Ecg, extraction, blood draw, and vitals back to back. So, SOMETHING is happening.

I'm about done with my first stretch and get seven days off (still in the facility but only meals and dosing to do). Looking forward to it!
posted by JJkiss at 9:35 AM on May 4, 2011

Response by poster: Also, this study is 29 days total, not just 10 days.
posted by JJkiss at 9:35 AM on May 4, 2011

Ok, so it's very much the not-moving thing?
You'll be fine for the rest of it, but still, I'd ask: Can you have an MP3 player or radio?
No moving like you would with a book.
posted by Elysum at 11:31 PM on May 4, 2011

JJkiss, thanks for the update! This is an interesting study. Would you mind telling us how much they are paying for these 29 days?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:42 PM on May 7, 2011

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