Essay: Observation to Experimentation in a Gym

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  • Observation to Experimentation in a Gym
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Zavontae Holmes
October 11, 2016
Observation to Experimentation

PAPER I
[Setting]

Upstairs in the gym, right below the weight room there is an office. A few feet away from the door to the office is a make-shift bench. Black in color, back-less, and cushioned. This is the seat of the observer. In the area being observed there are 2 walls with mirrors about 10 feet in height, all attached the wall at about 2 feet from the ground. There is another wall composed of supported glass windows that allow you to view or walk into the balcony above a swimming pool. There is no fourth wall, only a hallway that leads to the other gym facilities. On Wednesday, October 5, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm the night is young and the area is perfect for observation. The target population of this experiment was chosen to be young adult males lifting weights and/or using machines in the area. A vast majority of the young adult male presence was observed to be Caucasian, however this may be attributed to the demographic of the college campus. What qualifies a young male to be a participant in this study is that he must lift, push, or pull a weight at least once.

[Pattern]
The pattern observed in this scenario is that for participants, eye contact with one’s self via a mirror during weight lighting is almost instinctive and consistent throughout all participants. It was observed that participants for a majority of the duration of the exercise participants looked into the mirror into their own eyes. After eye-contact, participants would then look either directly at the muscle being worked (if they were able to) or otherwise look at the targeted muscle group using the mirror for a few moments before moving back to eye contact. The cycle seemed to be systematic, for every 10 seconds of eye contact there was about 5 seconds of muscle observation for the duration of the exercise. The most interesting caveat to this system however, is how the ratios transform when a female enters the visual range of the participants. When a female of any age, size, or appearance entered the visual range of the participants they all seemed to abandon the 10:5 eye contact to muscle observation ratio and adopted a new 1:10 ratio. It was interesting because it seemed that participants almost completely abandoned the idea of eye contact in order to monitor their muscle movement. What is even more interesting is that when the woman left the visual range of participants, the initial 10:5 ratios was almost immediately recovered and displayed.

[Interpretation]
Upon entering the gym participants seem to enter to into a mental state before lifting weights. It was observed that participants spend time first looking at themselves for varying amounts of time before actually lifting weights. I believe that this occurrence is actually the participants’ consciously or subconsciously altering their state of mind in order to prepare for their workout. This alteration seems to cause a temporary desire to reaffirm one’s progress and focus by looking into their muscles being worked and making eye contact. This action appears to be habitual, unwarranted, and uncontrollable. It seems that the participants obtain a certain degree of satisfaction when they are able to observe themselves exercising from an “outside” perspective, which the mirror allows them to see from. From this we can possibly suggest that there are some mental phenomena that causes them to be extremely focused on body image, the improvement of said body image, and the satisfaction of seeing the improvement in progress. We can also propose this occurrence is a result of the mind/body problem. It could be that because the body gets exhausted it wants to rest but the mind forces it to keep going, and that this causes them to identify one another as competition or enemies. Eye contact in this instance could be a point of contact for the mind, while the body embodies the mind so no further contact is necessary for it.

PAPER II

[Intro]

Young males that lift weights in the gym typically look at themselves in the mirror for the entire duration of the exercise. A majority of this time is spent making eye contact with themselves, while some time is spent looking at the muscle being used primarily in the workout. I believe that this is due to the natural human compulsion to not only compete and acquire dominance, but also to be able to observe and understand. With these ideas, I propose that the mind/body problem will support my theory.

[Psychological Theory]

One possibility in this case would be a temporary development or expression of a dormant and mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This disorder causes irresistible urges or obsessions that must be satisfied in order for an individual to function normally. (Gazzaniga, M., Heatherton, T., & Halpern, D., 2016). OCD is an excellent candidate for describing the participants’ behavior because it conveys the idea that the actions that an individual may perform is not always easy to control.

It is quite possible to have a form of OCD in which either obsessions or compulsions occur within one’s mind. Although this is the case, more often than not, those who have OCD are plagued with both obsessions and compulsions (Abramowitz et al., 2000). The belief among psychologists is that any actions or thoughts that work to dull an individual’s emotions, especially negative emotions, could possibly lead to an individual developing a compulsion to do those things (Aguayo, Melero, and Lazaro, 2014).
Using this mindset, we can propose that when participants lift weights they are in a more relaxed and calmed state of mind. The effort required to lift the weights combined with eye-contact and the observation of the targeted and flexing muscle group allows participants to focus on a specific part of the body as they work to change is physical properties. In many cases within the practices of yoga, hypnotism, and relaxation activities an individual is required to focus on a single body part at a time. This focus and the shifting of this focus can allow an individual to become more serene both mentally and physically.

[Theory and Application]

The theory behind the observations in this paper is that intense eye-contact and muscle observation calms the mind of the individual that is lifting weights. OCD explains this pattern because it ties together compulsion, obsession, and the alleviation of both. When a person begins lifting weights it seems that a temporary obsession with one’s progress and the desire to see that process arises. This obsession paves the way for compulsion. In order for a person to lift properly and obtain optimal results, focus is required. This idea compels individuals to make eye contact with themselves in order to remain as focused as possible. The obsession with wanting to see progress in the targeted muscle group gives rise to the compulsion that urges participants to observe the targeted muscle group. Mentally it seems that participants are only concerned with successfully completing a circuit, and viewing the muscle group as the circuit is completed. When these two factors are completed and satisfied it seems that a specific level of euphoria and satisfaction is obtained which alleviates the symptoms of OCD.

It could also be proposed that eye contact and muscle observation is too variable and/or too complex to be labeled as a symptom of OCD because of the fact that there are many muscle groups that can be worked and some muscle groups may or may not be able to be seen with or without a mirror when they are targeted. It’s also possible in some cases that an individual cannot make eye-contact with themselves during a work-out.

Valero Aguayo, L., & Hurtado Melero, F. (2014). An experimental analysis of obsessive-compulsive checking as avoidance behaviour. Psicothema, (26.1), 10–16. https://doi.org/10.7334/psicothema2013.11

Abramowitz, J. S., Franklin, M. E., Street, G. P., Kozak, M. J., & Foa, E. B. (2000). Effects of comorbid depression on response to treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Behavior Therapy, 31(3), 517–528. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7894(00)80028-3

Gazzaniga, M., Heatherton, T., & Halpern, D. (2016). Psychological Science (5th ed.). 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Pallanti, S., Hollander, E., Bienstock, C., Koran, L., Leckman, J., Marazziti, D., … International Treatment Refractory OCD Consortium. (2002). Treatment non-response in OCD: methodological issues and operational definitions. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1017/S1461145702002900

PAPER III

[Intro]

It was observed in the previous paper that some forms of exercise can trigger OCD symptoms such as an obsessive desire to see progress of one’s body during exercise, and the compulsion to observe the targeted muscle group during exercise. However, there are some individuals who have OCD that would rather their symptoms be reduced or eliminated if possible, instead of expressed. This experiment will seek to answer the question of whether or not exercise can be a form of treatment for OCD. It is commonly understood that some individuals that exercise, professional and non-professional, seem to take great joy and satisfaction in their ability exercise. The attainment and/or display of a body toned via exercise has been associated with a decrease in depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions including OCD.

It was found in multiple studies that cardio-based workouts specifically are able to significantly reduce symptoms of not only OCD, but a wide range of other mental disorders as well.

Abrantes, A. M., Strong, D. R., Cohn, A., Cameron, A. Y., Greenberg, B. D., Mancebo, M. C., & Brown, R. A. (2009). Acute changes in obsessions and compulsions following moderate-intensity aerobic exercise among patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23(7), 923–927. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.06.008

Valero Aguayo, L., & Hurtado Melero, F. (2014). An experimental analysis of obsessive-compulsive checking as avoidance behaviour. Psicothema, (26.1), 10–16. https://doi.org/10.7334/psicothema2013.11

Abramowitz, J. S., Franklin, M. E., Street, G. P., Kozak, M. J., & Foa, E. B. (2000). Effects of comorbid depression on response to treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Behavior Therapy, 31(3), 517–528. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7894(00)80028-3

Gazzaniga, M., Heatherton, T., & Halpern, D. (2016). Psychological Science (5th ed.). 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Pallanti, S., Hollander, E., Bienstock, C., Koran, L., Leckman, J., Marazziti, D., … International Treatment Refractory OCD Consortium. (2002). Treatment non-response in OCD: methodological issues and operational definitions. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1017/S1461145702002900

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