Saturday, April 10, 2010

ThoUgHt eXPeRiMenTs

I remember having wacky conversations with some of my friends. We would usually lounge around and chat a little after lunch before going back to work. Being infinitely curious as we always are, we wanted to come up with some predictive measure of reading people’s psyche. So we constructed some thought experiments. I am not sure we had any form of theory to posit or results to quantify, but the thought experiments were interesting, if not enlightening in some way.

We started with the basic question of whether you would rather starve to death or eat yourself to death (courtesy of my father – but that’s another story in itself). Our opinions differed, of course. Most of us were concerned about the physical aspect of it – weighing the suffering that comes with being hungry vs. being too full. Some of us wanted to starve to death for vanity reasons – unwilling to succumb to being fat even unto death. I actually think this is reminiscent of the “live to eat” or “eat to live” debate, and your choice probably reflects a little of your personality.

We had a variation of the starving/ stuffing question, and that was whether you would rather die from heat or from the cold. I haven’t figured out the psychological relevance of this question, but I’ll get there eventually.

The other great big thought experiment we had was to try to place a value on your personal beliefs and habits. I am actually very proud that we came up with this one. The idea is for you to think of something you normally would not do, and I will start by offering you a certain amount of money to try to change your mind. I will keep bidding higher and higher, until I reach a point when you will relent. It is a great way to discover the importance of the different beliefs you hold relative to one another.

An example. For me to eat mushrooms, I probably wouldn’t mind doing that if you gave me, say, $100. But if you want me to drink my own urine, I wouldn’t do that even if you give me, say, $10,000. So although I hate mushrooms with a vengeance, I actually place more value on maintaining my human dignity.

If I really had to choose, I would die a skinny Ice Queen.

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