A Social Experiment

For the statistics class I am attending, we were divided into teams and directed to come up with a theory, create an experiment to test the theory with our hypothesis and a null hypothesis, and then show the statistical results either proving or disproving our theory.

OUR THEORY:  Without physical barrier, students will be more likely to disregard the closure signs with males disregarding the signs more than the females.

HYPOTHESIS:  When faced with only signs and no physical barriers, the greater the danger inferred, the more people will abide by the signs; but males will be more likely to disregard the signs than females.

NULL HYPOTHESIS:  No matter what the varying degree of danger, warning signs will have no effect on people without physical barriers.

SCENARIO:  Using the same stairwell during the same class break, we would get our baseline on the first day; put a ‘Closed’ sign on the second; put a ‘Closed – Wet Paint’ on the third; and a ‘Closed for Structural Repair’ on the fourth.  We would count the number of male and female students using the stairwell each time, both going up and coming down, and the number of male and female students deterred by the signs.

BASELINE:  19 Males and 33 Females came down the stairwell and 21 Males and 30 Females went up the stairs.

CLOSED:  20 Males and 27 Females came down the stairwell with no one deterred and 31 Males and 34 Females with 7 Males and 12 Females deterred.  At the bottom of the stairwell, one unwitting male and two females discussed the effectiveness of putting up signs without physical barriers.  Their critique was that if the university didn’t want people to use the stairwell, the signs should have been larger and the stairwell roped off.

CLOSED WET PAINT:  11 Males and 7 Females came down the stairwell with 2 Males and 4 Females deterred and 13 Males and 17 Females went up the stairwell with 7 Males and 11 Females deterred.

CLOSED STRUCTURAL REPAIR:  6 Males and 13 Females came down the stairwell with 1 Male and 1 Female deterred and 9 Males and 7 Females went up the stairwell with 7 Males and 16 Females deterred.


1.  When students saw other students disregarding the closure signs they were more apt to disregard the signs and use the stairwells too.  I call this the ‘Lemming Effect’ where if one is doing it, others will follow suit.  This seems to answer that age old question parents are known to ask their children “If Johnny jumps off a bridge, are you going to jump off too?”

2.  When faced with the possibility of structural failure while using the stairs, students all walked up the stairs alongside the handrails as if that would keep them safer.  None of the students walked up or down the middle of the stairs.  One student started down the stairwell one or two steps and then went back up the stairs.  Whether fear or social mores guided her reconsideration is not known.

3.  There were other students in the statistics class that knew what we were doing and disregarded the signs thereby possibly skewing the results towards the null hypothesis direction, but the initial results still lean towards our original hypothesis.

4.  I find it somewhat bothersome that people seem to need physical restraint to abide by official notification.  Does this mean that if a store has a sign up that says closed it is permissible to go in if the door is unlocked?  This leads to the question “If a sign says someplace is closed, why would you try the door?”

CONCLUSION:  Other members of the team are doing the statistical analysis of the numbers but I will go out on a limb without the results of the statistical formulas and suggest that our hypothesis is correct.



About The Rural Iowegian

I am the Rural Iowegian of www.ruraliowegian.wordpress.com a published author and an award winning photographer. I use this space to speak my mind. God Bless.
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