It is the study of the mind and human behavior. Also mentioned in that film is that this research was "following in the footsteps of visionaries like B.F. Skinner", who was a psychologist who studied operant conditioning.
Psychology in flashbacks
Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute
In a number of flashbacks several characters including Hurley, Libby, and Emily Annabeth Locke were shown to be patients at the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, a mental health treatment center. Hurley was admitted at SRMI after a deck he was standing on collapsed under him and 23 others causing the death of 2 people, which he thought happened because of his weight. While at Santa Rosa, Hurley's psychiatrist was Dr. Brooks, and he befriended a man by the name of Leonard Simms, who was obsessed with the Numbers (which Hurley picked up from him). Also, while he was there, he had a friend named Dave. Dave would continually encourage Hurley to eat which would ultimately make him more obese and thus more miserable. Dr. Brooks told Hurley that Dave was not real, only a figment of Hurley's imagination.
Emily Annabeth Locke is the mother of John Locke. She was admitted to SRMHI several times, suffering from schizophrenia. At the behest of Anthony Cooper she pretended to believe that John Locke had no father, referring to his conception as "immaculate" (a common misuse of the term "immaculate conception").
Other characters undergoing treatment
Ana Lucia, after being shot and suffering a miscarriage, gained help from an LAPD counselor named Matthew Reed. He judged her fit to return to the force, but she continued to have problems, and eventually killed Jason McCormack, the man who shot her. She quit the LAPD shortly thereafter.
Christian Shephard was treated by Alcoholics Anonymous for his alcohol abuse problem.
Later it is revealed that Locke was getting disability insurance because he was suffering from depression and that he stopped going to therapy, because he said it was "a waste of time." The government worker said that his disability could be temporary and that he must be getting better because Locke stopped going to therapy.
Psychology on the Island
On the Island, Hurley's sanity is still challenged. Despite his use of humor, he struggles with stress; Sawyer calls him "crazy" among other demeaning things, which he resents, and he continues to battle his eating disorder as the food drop tempts him. At one point, Hurley asks Sawyer if he has clonazepam (a benzodiazepine often used as an anxiolytic; brand name Klonopin) in his stash. (2x18) His old friend Dave reappears and torments him. Dave tries to convince Hurley that after they split up, Hurley began dreaming and that everything since then (the island, the Numbers in the lottery, etc.) was all part of a dream; he then jumped off a cliff, and Hurley did not know what to believe.
Although Libby attended the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute as a patient, she claimed to be a clinical psychologist on the Island and actually used a psychological technique (Hypnotism) to help Claire regain her memory.
The Swan station
The DHARMA Initiative studied psychology, among other fields, on the Island. The details of which stations DHARMA used for its studies of psychology are still unknown.
It was originally presumed that the Swan Station was part of a Psychological experiment. In this case, the experiment would involve the task of pushing a button every 108 minutes. The subjects of the experiment would be told, through the Swan Orientation Film that failing to push the button would result in a catastrophic disaster. The experiment would be monitored by people in another DHARMA station, the Pearl. However, it is now clear that failing to push the button does actually result in an Electromagnetic disaster, so it is unknown what role the Swan plays, if any, in true psychological experimentation.
The Pearl station
The subjects of the Pearl are told, through Orientation film that they are to observe subjects in an experiment already in progress and are to record their observations in notebooks. They are not told about the whereabouts or purpose of the Swan experiment, however, and we know little else for certain at this time about how it and the other stations fit into the research project as a whole. It is probable that the inhabitants of the Pearl station are in fact themselves part of the psychological experiment with the pneumatic tube where they send their observation leading to an empty field.
The Hydra station
Another example of Psychology is problem solving. This is shown when Sawyer is captured by the Others and in order to gain food, had to solve a problem of food acquisition once used on bears. (see B.F. Skinner)
The DHARMA Initiative originally used Room 23 as part of their psychological experimentation, but it was later co-opted by the Others after the purge. (Access: Granted) Karl was subjected to brainwashing inside Room 23 by being forced to watch a video, strapped to a chair, while extremely loud drum-and-bass music was played. The video Karl was subjected to contained various quick cuts of images and text. (3x07)
Freud & the "Oceanic Feeling"
In Chapter I of his book, Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud discusses a letter he received from his friend, the French novelist and mystic Romain Rolland. In this letter, Rolland describes what he calls the "Oceanic" feeling - that is, a feeling of eternity, a deep and innate connection with all things, a "oneness" with the world. Rolland, a "man of faith," sees this "Oceanic" feeling as being the primal source of all religion, but itself independent of any particular religion. Freud, an atheist and avowed "man of science" disagrees. While he admits that many people may experience this "Oceanic" feeling, he locates its source not in some mystical feeling of connection, but in an infantile helplessness experienced when confronted with a hostile world and the subsequent longing for the protection and guidance of the father. For Freud, this "Oceanic" feeling is "sustained by fear of the superior power of Fate."
The Lost Experience
- From The Lost Experience, we know that the "H" in DHARMA stands for "heuristics", a field of psychological study which looks into how algorithmic learning develops.
- Lacanian psychoanalysis is a type of Freudian psychology pioneered by Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan.
- The Vik Institute is the flagship psychiatric hospital of the Mental Health Appeal. It is run by Dr. Armand Zander, but instead of treating patients, the Hanso Foundation is secretly exploiting autistic savants in the basement to recalculate variables for the Valenzetti Equation.