You are not using a standards compliant browser. Because of this you may notice minor glitches in the rendering of this page. Please upgrade to a compliant browser for optimal viewing:
Internet Explorer 7
Safari (Mac and PC)
Post Archive
2020 (0)2012 (3)2011 (73)
December (1)

Robot Insects
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
November (6)October (5)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Women's Intuition
Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking with your Fingers
Monday, October 17, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Souls and Confections...?
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
September (7)

On Souls...?
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beware the False Consensus Effect!
Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your Preferences - Preliminary Results
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Popularity Survey - DO IT FOR SCIENCE!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zietsch's Response to PZ, Laden and Scicurious.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Personality of Cities
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Discussion #1 - Walking Speed and City Size
Sunday, September 4, 2011
August (6)

People who Doodle Learn Faster = Bullshit
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good News Everyone!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Got the Time? Part II
Saturday, August 20, 2011

Got the time?
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Can Randomness Predict the Future?
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The House of Psycasm
Sunday, August 7, 2011
July (7)June (6)May (8)

Part 1: Do We Have Freewill?
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Open Letter: A follow-up
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is a lie, she said.
Sunday, May 22, 2011

MSPaint is mightier than the Sword
Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Art of Indecision
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Skeptical Checklist 1.1
Friday, May 13, 2011

The Skeptical Checklist 1.0
Sunday, May 8, 2011

Of Chimps, Children and Post-Grads...
Monday, May 2, 2011
April (5)March (5)February (7)January (10)

Magical Thinking: Voodoo, Prayer, Black Cats, and You
Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Art of Character Creation
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Video Game Morality: Actions inside the box?
Friday, January 21, 2011

Psychobabble goes live!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Trolley Problem: Who cares?
Sunday, January 16, 2011

Podcast delay and misc. Drugs!?
Saturday, January 15, 2011

My very own Natural Disaster
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A window into your Genetics and Mate Preference?
Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh sorry, I totally phased out there...
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Porn: A force of Mutual Benefits
Sunday, January 2, 2011
2010 (35)
December (7)

Statistical Pwnage
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why you should care...
Thursday, December 16, 2010

The paper of Influence
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sharing: Part I - Emotions
Sunday, December 12, 2010

No-one cuts deeper than a Science Blogger.
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Me Meme [Ohh, links now]
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Half Full, or Half Empty? Well, That Depends on the Shape of the Glass.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
November (11)

What Your Voice Says About You
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Babushka Blog: A Meta-Blog on ResearchBlogging.
Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Announcement:
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Willful Self-Deception is Bliss
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dance, Blogger, Dance!
Friday, November 19, 2010

The Science of Marriage
Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Moon and Antarctica
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Available: One Mentee. Good Condition.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Again we are limited by our puny human-ness
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blogging Carnival - What is Psychopathology?: Origins
Friday, November 5, 2010

*sigh* Psi: A Rebuttal
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
October (12)

The Science of Mind-Reading
Thursday, October 28, 2010

How not to think yourself smart...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome to Assassins' League
Sunday, October 24, 2010

TODO LATER. A story of procrastination and forgiveness.
Thursday, October 21, 2010

A man and his words.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Little kids, little minds...
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Smoking (maybemightcould) is Good.
Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to stop the Apocalpyse
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to trick yourself creative
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Siesta - It sounds like Fiesta, but isn't.
Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Dread Pirate Rift
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Being Blonde. Natural or otherwise...
Sunday, October 3, 2010
September (5)
Rate This Post
Total votes: 0
Blogger Profile


Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

Post Tags

Blog RSS Feed
RSS Add to My Yahoo Add to Google
Thursday, November 11, 2010

[Wherein our Hero checks to see if he's the made of the right stuff for a Moon base or an Arctic Mission]

Did you hear? NASA and DARPA have announced the 100-year Starship project. Broadly speaking it aims to attract billionaire investors into a Starship Project, as well as creating a project that will inspire generations.

The thought of interstellar flight alone inspires me. My hand is officially up for crew. Yes, I know I’ll be 125 if it’s completed in exactly 100 years, but I figure we’re only 40 years away from stasis, or maybe even some magic drugs to reverse cell death. Whatever it takes, I’m there. Seriously, I would volunteer to do any such thing, including going to Mars. Even if it wasn’t a return trip - the idea of being a colonist is even more spectacular. More realistically however, I *might* find myself in Antarctica at some point. Maybe, in a future where I’m a rock-star academic and the government gives me a grant that involves ice, cold, or confinement or something…

And so that got me thinking – what’s the psychology behind confinement, behind isolation, behind the extremes of survival.

I would love to do such a thing, but the truth of the situation would be that 'I' would become a 'We' pretty quickly. If you’re in a spaceship, or an Arctic base you are only as good as the people around you. I can imagine the 'I' doesn’t matter after a certain point. Palinkas (2003) has suggested that, after looking at Antarctic missions, that there are four factors which come into play; three of which are:

- Social Coherence is really important

- Variations in mood are seasonal, and

- Estimates of personality pre-mission are not as accurate as estimates of individuals in situ

The first point stands to reason – you need to get alone with the people you’re eating, sleeping, and breathing with. More interesting are the second two points – Variations in mood are seasonal, and nothing brings out the ‘real’ you more than trying circumstance.

Consider seasonal influences: Data collected between ’63 and ’74 support the existence of a winter-over syndrome between early and late winter in the Antarctic. Palinkas (2003) goes on to suggest it’s more than just being cold, being confined, and not being able to engage in outdoor activity; he suggests that there is genuine influences of prolonged daylight (and darkness), time of year, and latitude upon a person’s somatic responses.

Just imagine what it would be like to experience 24 hour of sunlight? Yet, that statement is something of a misnomer, because as soon as a 24 hour day ends, a new one begins, complete with another 24 hours of sunlight. Imagine, literally, months of sunlight. An interstellar space-ship might night have to deal with seasonal influences, but if you’re headed toward Alpha Centauri day and night don’t even exist. What-the-hell influence is that going to have on your mood?

Regarding pre-mission trait predictors; Palinkas (2003) suggests that there are ‘few, if any, traits that serve as useful predictors of performance’ for isolated and confined conditions. That’s worrying. The message: people change. We’re not talking about Reavers, here, however. The data merely suggest that the situation is what influences such behaviour, and it’s unlikely that anyone is a veteran of extreme, confined environments. Then consider interstellar flight – No-one, ever, has done that. Who knows what’s going to happen, and who knows how people are going to react. Yet, that doesn’t mean people who put their hands up are necessarily going to go postal. On the contrary, the people who volunteer/enlist are likely individuals who are motivated, inspired, highly capable, and generally inspired by trying circumstance. We self-select into these kinds of things. Trench-coat types need not apply.

Leon and colleagues (2002) looked at the experience of a 3-couple expedition (plus a 2 ½ year infant) on an ice-locked High Arctic mission. Leon et al (2002) suggests that a high achievement orientation and low anxiety rating are key, but also note that other studies have found that ‘narrow interests and a low need for stimulation’ were key personality traits. Obviously there’s a problem here – a mixed-group of these two ‘types’ will lead to problems. A bunch of Asperger-like individuals mixing with a bunch of highly driven individuals is not a probable mix. But a bunch of over-achievers together is likely a good idea; as is a bunch of super-focused no-maintenance folk. It’s kind of like mixing red wine and vodka. Each excellent unto itself, but terrible together.*

Leon et al (2002) goes on to say that while Arctic/Antarctic missions is the best analogue we’ve got for interstellar flight, it’s not perfect, and the demand characteristics vary. Fortunately, we’re doing the best we can - The Mars500! [If you have a link to a blog/twitter/anything in English, please let me know].

Many years ago I read (in New Scientist, I think) that A(nt)arctic missions usually deteriorated at the half-way mark. People were happy up to that point, but the realization that they needed to go at least as long again kind of gets them grumpy. [… and ever since reading that article I can’t help but think of that fact whenever I go for a jog – I really slump at half-way, due to that knowledge alone.]

And so Paul and colleagues (2009) looked into this exact problem, and they made some really interesting findings. First, they found that individuals (in such isolated/confined situations) had a great need to associate with others, but without a high degree of intimacy. Second, individuals desired others to establish a relationship, but with a low level of interaction. This, in a manner, supports the secondary argument by Palinkas (2003) who suggested (to counter his own point) that narrow interests and low-stimulation were desirable traits. Obviously it’s not a complete overlap, but you can see how the two might be related.

Fortunately for me I see myself conforming to the description of Paul and colleagues (2009). I love the weak-link; I cultivate it as best I can. Good, low-maintenance relationships… who doesn’t want that? Perhaps it’s my own rationalization in failing to make other kinds of relationships, but I seem to be pretty good at it.

So the data is mixed, and it comes down to a mix of Individual, Situation and Group. General statements about the best ‘kind’ of person, or the ‘best’ way to interact are not always going to be valid, but can serve as a useful starting point. The more important point, I think, is the fact that individuals self-select into such roles – folks might be over-achievers, or interest driven, but it doesn’t matter - they choose their own paths. Additionally Implied in that statement (and the research) is that teams probably self-select too; or at the very least successful teams do.

And so despite the characterisation of individuals who thrive under such situations, and despite the fact I’ll probably never be among them, I will still fantasize about such journeys. Space is (probably) beyond my reach, and Antarctica (perhaps) is at my finger-tips, but I can always keep my eyes open for ‘Lighthouse Operator’ in the classifieds.

*warning: Just an opinion.


Palinkas, L. (2003). The psychology of isolated and confined environments: Understanding human behavior in Antarctica. American Psychologist, 58 (5), 353-363 DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.58.5.353

Leon, G., Atlis, M., Ones, D., & Magor, G. (2002). A 1-Year, Three-Couple Expedition as a Crew Analog for a Mars Mission Environment and Behavior, 34 (5), 672-700 DOI: 10.1177/0013916502034005006

Paul, F., Manas Kumar Mandal, ., Ramachandran, K., & Panwar, M. (2009). Interpersonal Behavior in an Isolated and Confined Environment Environment and Behavior, 42 (5), 707-717 DOI: 10.1177/0013916509336889

This post has been viewed: 642 time(s)

Blog Comments
No comments recorded.
Add Comment?
Comments are closed 2 weeks after initial post.