This weekend, I’ve again been thinking about one of the most stupid things I have ever done. This one action could have completely changed my life, maybe even made me famous, and I threw it all away.
Back in the 1970’s, when I was a senior in college, majoring in psychology, I had to take a course entitled “Research Participation”, nicknamed “rat-running” by generations of psychology students. We had to design and carry out an experiment, using rats in a maze, with an “experimental” group and a “control” group of lab rats. Now, at this stage in my life, I wanted to be a therapist, not a researcher, so I wasn’t too keen on research in the first place. But I designed a rather clever experiment to test the effect of noise on the rats’ behavior. I went to the college computer lab, and recorded an endless loop of really awful, screechy guitar music–guaranteed to make anyone cover their ears and run from the room. The test group of rats had this noise played for them for two hours, every night for a week. The control group of rats heard no noise. Then, later, my research partner and I tested all the rats in a maze, and recorded how long it took them to get to the rat chow in the center of the maze. We also recorded their behavior, making notes of everything they did in and around the maze. It turned out that the test rats were very skittish and jumpy, and some could not complete the maze at all, even for the food at the end. The control rats found the food just fine.
Well, I wrote up this experiment, using the guidelines set out by our psychology instructor, and submitted our paper. We had a one-on-one meeting with the teacher to go over our results, and we got an A+. In fact, the teacher was extremely impressed with our paper and our results, and he suggested that I should go over it with a graduate student, and try to get it published! Unfortunately, I was just not ready to listen to that, and I said, nope, I want to be a counselor, and I’m not interested in research. So I put the paper away, and totally forgot about it.
I did go to graduate school, and got a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, which I never used. I was really bad at being a counselor, and I never had a paying job. And some time over the years, and many moves, I simply threw out all my old college papers.
BIG mistake! It seems that, way back in the 1970’s, I had actually done the seminal research into the effects of noise on animal behavior, and what I had done back then was never published until some time in the 1990’s! I remember reading about this group of psychology researchers who determined the effects of unpleasant noise on human behavior, and their findings pretty much agreed with mine! So maybe I could have been famous, if I had only listened to my undergraduate psychology instructor. Instead, I threw it all away, for basically nothing.
You live and learn.