Recently, I’ve discovered this experiment on The Tim Ferriss Show. A podcast where Dr. Phil Zimbardo was invited and, at some point, they mentioned an interesting experiment.
During the podcast, Tim talks about the 7 social processes developed by Dr. Phil Zimbardo in his book, “The Lucifer Effect.”
1: Mindlessly taking the first step
2: Dehumanization of others
3: Deindividuation of self
4: Diffusion of personal responsibility
5: Blind obedience to authority
6: Uncritical conformity to group norms
7: Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference
At the 5th point, Dr. Phil Zimbardo mentions the concept “Deviant for a day” which means being aware of the influence people have on you. (min 42)
Right after that, he proposes this simple experiment.
Draw a square with a marker (not permanent) on your forehead and once you put it on, you look in the mirror, you see where it is, and then you don’t see it anymore.
People around you are going to ask you what that is. They will think it’s something stupid and will put pressure on you to take it off. Simply because you can’t be different and you have to “be part of the community.”
The idea of the experiment is to resist 8 hours to others’ pressure and, as result, you may realize the power of self-confidence. The inner power to be your own person.
So, I tried it myself.
Two days with a square on my forehead
It was this Sunday when my father visited me. After talking to him about random stuff, I reminded myself about this experiment and told him what I was about to do.
He told me that I’m weird and what I’m about to do is a nonsense.
Around 14:00 a clock I decided to draw the square on my forehead and I started to feel weird. At that moment I was excited I was experiencing something new but at the same time I was feeling stupid and tried not to think too much about it.
Around 17:00 a clock I had to leave the house and go to a blog meet, which meant walking for 25-30 mins.
Part one: the first 5 mins after leaving the house
I was feeling really weird and I had the sensation that I should walk faster so people couldn’t see me.
After walking really fast for almost 500 m, I realized that people will see me anyway. So I started smiling for a bit realizing how stupid that was. Then smiling, even more, realizing how stupid I was for drawing the square in the first place.
Part two: realizing what I was really doing
First of all, by simply drawing something on my forehead I’ve manipulated my thoughts into believing I was doing something really weird and strange.
Second, this square is nothing more than a new accessory. People were looking at me like I’ve got a new weird scarf.
The funny thing is that I’ve noticed the same look one year ago when I came back to town (after 4 months of living on the other side of the country) and had my beard and mustache grown.
As well, is the same look I’m getting when I run in the middle of the winter wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
Yes, it’s that look that comes with the thought “what the fuck is this weirdo doing and why he is different than me?”
Part three: meeting the bloggers
I got to the scheduled location earlier so I can be sure that I’m the first one there.
And I was the first one there. The first one of the bloggers.
Unfortunately, there were other people and right after I got there, I spoke with the guy at the bar and asked for a tea. That moment was really weird because he was looking at me like I’ve got no square on my forehead. His look was perfectly normal. Totally opposed to what I was expecting.
As I said, inside that tavern-like place were other people and I was feeling like they were all judging me but maybe it was all in my head.
The funniest thing happened when the second blogger arrived. When she got closer to me and saw the square on my forehead, she started laughing and asked me if I’ve gone crazy.
I’ve found it funny because not one stranger dared to ask me about the square on my forehead.
Can you spot me?
Part four: taking hits all night long
From 18:30 to 23:00 people made fun of me.
At first, they asked a lot about what I was doing. After I finally told them and they weren’t clueless anymore, they started to make fun of me.
Also, it felt like most of the time I was the center of attention, which is a really powerful feeling.
The second day of the experiment
When I got home after the first day, I washed the square and went to sleep.
On the second day, early morning, I saw that the square was still there. It stayed too long on my forehead (over 8 hours) so it impregnated into my skin. Right now, when I’m writing the article, I still can see it on my forehead – it’s the 3rd day and I haven’t been coloring my skin since day one.
Around 14:00 a clock I met a friend that wanted to interview me regarding my writing experience. For sure, the square wasn’t as visible as it was on the first day. But when she took a closer look at my face, she asked if I had a stamp on my forehead.
Conclusions I’ve got from this experiment:
- People will think you’re a weirdo, but won’t know what to think about what you’re really doing;
- If you’ve done something weird before, you won’t feel that much of a pressure;
- Don’t tell others from the first second that you’re doing an experiment – let them guess and play with their minds simply because is fun;
- If this is your first weird thing, then think of the square on your forehead as a stamp, patch or a new accessory.