Thursday, February 14, 2013

Spit: this post really is about that.

Today in my teenage angst, I've never had to work so hard to spit, in my entire life.

The university I attend has an Psychology honors program as well as a several graduate level psych degree programs. This is lucky for me, as a psych undergrad, because with all the research being done, everyone is in dire need of research participants. Which is lucky for them, because for as little as a 1% bonus mark (up to a 3% increase per class), I will participate in their research.

It's called the Participant Pool. A Ph.D. candidate runs this thing and I can't even deal with how complicated it is. You sign in online and look at the list of studies being offered. You select the ones that look interesting to you - which for me, is all of them. Oh but not because I actually think it's interesting, but because I'm in four psych classes, which together allow me to participate in twelve studies. Everything I can sign up for, I have signed up for. One current study is looking at the affects of smoking on anxiety. You need to be a heavy smoker. I may have momentarily considered taking up smoking. I refrained. I really need these bonus marks.

One study I signed up for, had an annoyingly long list of requirements. In order to participate (or so I thought, turned out it didn't really matter), I could not have had alcohol in the last 24 hours, caffeine in the last 2 hours, food or drink in the last hour, no physical exertion in the last two hours and as a female, I had to have been within the first 14 days of my menstrual cycle. A little specific, I thought. But I needed the credit, so I complied.

The study was measuring the affect of hormones on performance in mental rotation tasks. So that's fair, I guess. I didn't know that we did studies with physiological components, but later that day I participated in another study that took my pulse and temperature; twice. At the end of the whole mental rotation task deal, I needed to produce two fluid ounces of spit. Not phlegm; spit.

This was so stupid hard. Earlier in the study they had made me rinse out my mouth, for unknown reasons, and I don't think I salivated from that point on. So going into my attempts to produce a spit sample, it was like I had prepared for this by stuffing my mouth with cotton balls.

The room, in which I was meant to produce my sample, had walls covered with magazine photos of food accompanied by words like tasty, delicious and, savory. I guess these were meant to help me salivate, which gave me a clearer insight into the related pressures for men who have to visit reproductive clinics. I don't think I've ever concentrated so hard on something that is supposedly involuntary.

Eventually I got my two fluid ounces and I was given my extra-credit. I walked down the stairs from the lab and thought about how strange it was that my life had led to a point of requiring a production of saliva.


Crystal Kimber said...

If you get a friend to participate, do you get extra credit? Because I think it sounds like fun to be a participant...strange, but fun. And if it got you extra credit, even better :) Too bad I live 6 hours away.

Lauren Sherritt said...

For a minutes there I thought you were doing it at home and imagined you taking your two ounces of saliva to the post office to send it, it could have made a great conversation and/or a very uncomfortable post office worker!

I once did an psych research project that paid me twenty dollars to have a cap with little brain monitory nodes put on my head (with gooey gel that messed up my hair something chronic) and watch a computer screen, hitting a certain button every time a special combination of numbers came up. I am super competitive, though, and tried really hard to get all the numbers right and my data ended up being invalid...because I was just too good.

Congratulations on getting your two ounces and your extra marks!