Friday 10 August 2018

5 Minute STEM Activity 11: Mind Control

Human beings think we have free-will to do whatever we want, but nature has other ideas. We are bound by instinct and our bodies' will in just the same way as fish returning to their spawning grounds and birds flying South for Winter. Most of it is necessary to keep us alive and protect us from harm, or at least used to be necessary, and we often take our cues from people around us...

Mind Control
Control your family

Another person
We react to what other people do and even copy their actions - it is built into us and has protected humans from potential danger and made us 'part of the pack' for thousands of years. There is safety in numbers, not only because our mates can help us fight off bears, but they can help us spot potential dangers too.

There are absolutely loads of things you can make other people do without discussing it. Not everyone will fall for every trick, and a few people won't be completely caught out by any - but you should get some degree of success with anyone. Here are a few to try. If you want to prove your powers, write down what you are going to make them do, and show them afterwards.

1. Look over their shoulder
Glance over someone's shoulder as you talk to them. Spend time looking at their face, but then look over their shoulder. They will really want to look too (even if they guess what you are doing). This works much better if there is some space behind them, rather than a wall or high sofa.

2. Scratch their head
Just scratch your head. It's contagious.

3. Yawn. 
Yawning is also contagious and scientists aren't exactly sure why. It can mean there is less oxygen in the air, so maybe it's all about being competitive and securing the oxygen for ourselves?

4. Sit up or lean back.
Sit at a table with someone else and chat to them. If they are leaning forward or back, copy their behaviour. After a couple of minutes, look them in the eye and do the opposite, so if you were leaning back relaxed, sit up straight, and vice versa. The other person copies, or mirrors, instinctively, being 'ready for action' or 'relaxed' depending on how those around them are feeling. When we mirror someone else, it strengthens the bond between us and is really important for good empathy and understanding of each other.

5. Give 'Yolk' as the wrong answer to a question.
It is our instinct to look for patterns, you can use this to make someone say what you want.
Find a suitable victim and ask the following questions:
What's it called when you jab someone in the ribs with your pointy finger, it beings with a 'P'?
What is it called when you tell someone something funny? It begins with a 'J'?
What is the white bit of an egg called? 
Most people will answer with Poke, Joke, Yolk. The yellow of an egg is a yolk. The white is called albumen.

6. See a face where there isn't one. 
It is our instinct to look for faces. This is really important when we are brand new babies, as we need to start to bond with humans immediately to survive. People see faces everywhere. Pick a random patch of patterned carpet or wallpaper, a cloud, hedge or even a messy mark or puddle, and point in that general direction. Claim that you see a face. They will usually spot one too...

7. Watch the sky.
Our protective instincts can sometimes be thought of as nosiness, but they're often purely to look after us. Without saying anything, look up at the sky and stare. You can use your hand to shield your eyes for extra effect. The other person will look too. This can be really impressive in a space where there are lots of people. Bonus points for each extra person who looks up.

8. Touch their index fingers together.
Get the other person to put their hands together and interlock their fingers. Then straighten and separate just the index fingers. This one is different because at this point we can choose to tell the person we will make them touch their fingers together.

Without touching the other person at all - pretend to wrap a piece of string round and round the fingers and tell them it's getting tighter. Their fingers will close up together and they'll find it very hard to keep them apart. You can even pretend to yank the imaginary string, and sometimes they'll jerk and their fingers will clap together.

Suggesting movement will happen, either by our actions or words, and then having it happen involuntarily is called the Ideomotor Phenomenon and this is pretty much the only sensible example.

You can find the first 10 of the 5 Minute STEM Activities by visiting the 10th activity - 
Blowing out a candle with gas 
(There's a list with all the links at the bottom).

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