Sensory deprivation, stress and hallucinations
Type of Spiritual Experience
Dr Jack Vernon undertook a series of controlled experiments in a specially made ‘dark room’. A large soft king sized bed was provided to minimise the sensation of touch. Clearly this was one sense not eliminated, but as this sensation did not change throughout the experiment as most subjects tended to lie fairly still, there was in a sense no stimulus, as generally our nerves measure change of stimulus, rather than the continual monitoring of a uniform stimulus.
The dark room was completely sound proofed and completely dark, however, the research subjects knew that there was a toilet they could go to in the room. Taste sensation was not eliminated as the subjects were provided with a cold box with food [mostly sandwiches and soup]. There was also a ‘panic button’ provided, so that if they felt they could endure no more they could ask to be removed, although the door was not locked and in fact they could walk out at any time. The research subjects were nearly all male and post graduate students at the university [Princeton].
“Our subjects were volunteers who could leave the chamber at will. They underwent no physical hardships, the period of confinement was short and the experience not fear arousing”
In effect, the experiments measured benign partial sensory deprivation.
A description of the experience
Inside the Black Room – Dr Jack Vernon
I suspect that Dr. Freeman may have a good point - restraint causes stress, which may well be related to ease in producing hallucinations. Although the Harvard investigators admit that comparisons of the various studies are "highly tentative," it seems reasonable that their idea o... should be tested in a more direct fashion…………………
It is also known that stress of a different form can produce hallucinations. The person stranded on a life raft may eventually come to hallucinate, people lost in a desert or in the arctic-all have been known to produce very elaborate hallucinations. Of course it must be kept in mind that those are life and death situations, whereas S.D. is not.
I must admit that there have been no more hallucinations among those who requested early release from S.D. than those who did not. Nevertheless I tend to feel that the element of increased stress should be investigated.