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Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Acali experiment 1973

Mary Gidley, an American mother-of-two, took part in the strange "Acali experiment", devised by eminent anthropologist, Dr Santiago Genoves. Five men and six women of several different nationalities set sail on a raft from the Canary Isles heading for Mexico, as an experiment in social behaviour. It was especially noted that key positions on the raft were given to women (remember, this was the 1970s). Mary Gidley herself was the navigation expert, and the captain was a Swedish woman.

The official description of the experiment follows:
"Eleven adult volunteers - six females and five males - were left on a small raft in the Atlantic in order to study interpersonal relationships affected by family patterns of behavior, attitudes toward sex, race and racism, nationality, verbal and nonverbal communication, personality and character, intelligence, language, religion, leadership roles, and space. We hoped to gain a better understanding of friction and violence phenomena. The Acali experiment grew out of the more limited raft studies of Ra 1 and Ra 2.
Intelligence and personality of the 11 members of the Acali raft expedition of 1973 were assessed by crew members and by shore-based scientists. Predictions concerning the Likely outcome of this long period of unavoidable proximity to 10 other individuals were made by a variety of scientists. Media treatment and views of friends and relatives were also studied. Some of the basic findings of the study were that assessments of both intelligence and personality carried out by these two methods were very different. Practising artists showed better predictive powers concerning the outcome of the voyage than either natural or social scientists. Media treatment influenced the views of the relatives of volunteers. It is suggested that laboratory assessments may not be related to assessed performances under stress, and that further progress in understanding human hostility will depend on a better knowledge of individual interactions."

It is not known how Mary Gidley fared. She would now (2009) be in her 70s, and was evidently one of the more adventurous Gidleys.