Final Qualitative Analysis Report

 

Are College Students Bound to the Same Social Contracts Inside and Outside School?

 

INTRODUCTION

 

In any public place, there are obvious but invisible, unwritten social cues that anyone in said spot should be made aware of. Public conductivity is definitely one of the many subconscious guidelines that help a person to navigate the place they are in. Because of this, it is interesting to study experiments that have shown results in displaying certain forms of public misconduct. After collecting and thoroughly analyzing all the data composed of the experiment, it was clear that while John Jay claims to be a community, the “community” is not a family. While someone that is a family member or even a close friend may not mind a familiar person sitting very closely to them, there is a six-inch implied “buffer” that shields every New Yorker from the rest of the world around them – from sitting in a public place and talking with friends, or crammed in on the tightest of subway cars. Regardless of the place, New Yorkers require a certain amount of space. In the late 1900’s and early 2000’s, there were a few different studies done that have helped to prove this understood rule.

A study conducted by Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist, showed that New Yorkers have “unfriendly countenances” that are nearly impossible to change. Milgram had freshman graduate students venture into the New York City subway to partake in an experiment, where they would ask people that were already sitting on the subway to get up from their seats, so the students could sit down instead. Milgram, fresh from writing the “Experience of Living in Cities”, Milgram theorized that people would not help each other in times of need, and that they would much rather “stand on the side” (Milgram) and “view the situation” (Milgram) than become involved in the confrontation. This was an acceptance to the stereotype of the unfriendly New Yorker, where Milgram explained that there must be a “willingness to trust and assist strangers” (Milgram). He believed that New York was not designed to be a place to break social norms, if it meant that a person in question would be helped. “The frequency of demands in the city gives rise to norms of noninvolvement,” (Milgram), Milgram explained, because there are “too many inputs for the system to cope with” (Milgram). New Yorkers aren’t supposed to violate certain social norms, because the city just doesn’t allow for that.

This is different from what Whyte had believed, in his paper called “Rediscovering The Center”. He talked about the warmth and friendliness of the city, the optimism that is seen in New York. “Urban friendships and associations are not primarily formed on the basis of physical proximity”, Whyte wrote, explaining the positive movement of New York. Connected to each other, New Yorkers would gravitate in and out of the flow of Manhattan easily. “The people who stopped to talk did not move out of the main pedestrian flow; and if they had been out of it, they moved into it” (Whyte). Those who would “move out of the pedestrian flow to have a conversation” (Whyte) would “gravitate to the…building walls” (Whyte). Unlike Milgram, who had his own “speculative notions” (Milgram) on how people would interact in the city, Whyte truly believed that “what attracts people most, in sum, is other people” (Whyte).

Still, modern experiments reverberate on what Milgram’s study had proved in the 1970’s, while Whyte’s work was written in 1988. Conducted in 2004, Michael Luo wrote about the study of asking New Yorkers to get up from their seats on the subway once again, but this time, they had asked pregnant women and elderly women for their seat” (Luo). Amazingly, “68 percent got up willingly” (Luo), which violated the previous notion of the “web of unwritten rules that govern behavior underground” (Luo). Because of this, Luo insists that he has “convincing proof that New Yorkers have mellowed with time” (Luo).

Even with the new standards of New York, with this new, gentler city, Luo was careful to explain that New York is not completely sympathetic. When one of the students spoke about his time in the experiment, he told Luo that the experiment gave him pause, showing him how “potentially explosive the cramped confines can be” (Luo). Still, which New York is the correct New York, the one that gives people their seats, or the one that tells the students to stay away from them? My group sets out to discover if sitting too closely to people leads to the average New York student being angry, or accepting of the breaking of the “six-inch buffer” social norm. Our group’s hypothesis is that if we sit close enough to be touching with an equal number of male and female college students, then both the male and female students will react in a predictable, negative way. This study is important because it will help to further the theory that people are bound to social contracts no matter the environment, as well as bring new variables to the table. While Milgram had conducted his study on a tiny, cramped subway car, we will be completing our experiment in an open, friendly hallway.

 

METHODS

 

On March 10, 2014, four researchers were given a set of specific instructions to execute an experiment inside John Jay College’s newest building’s first floor, with random and varied students existent in it the procedure. The entire study took seventeen minutes exactly. The six students were found on the large steps on the 1/2 floor between the floor level and first level of John Jay, as well as the couches lined up against the wall, and finally, on the square couches in the center of the 1/2 floor.

The four researchers entered the John Jay atrium, where they acted as if they didn’t know each other. The first researcher proceeded to sit with two students, close enough that arms and legs were touching against the student that they did not know, as the other three researchers nonchalantly sat with the other researchers, carefully watching to see the reactions of the participants. The second researcher proceeded to sit in a spot that was similar to that of the first researcher, this time with two participants sitting closely together, talking. The third researcher sat with the fifth and sixth participants while the second researcher sat with the third and fourth participant. Finally, while these small groups of study were being conducted, our fourth researcher recorded data on a scale of zero to five, in regard to the reactions of the students that had their personal space suddenly invaded. Researchers were told to keep inaudible and un-reactive, which was then lost as the second researcher entered a hostile environment with the participants.

 

This was the scale used to measure reactions of students:

ACTION : SCALE

Do Nothing : 0

Dirty Look Or Similar Behavior : 1

Moving Over A Few Inches : 2

Light Confrontation/Conversation : 3

Moving Away From Seat : 4

Heavy Confrontation/Yelling : 5

 

PARTICIPANTS

 

My group and I took on six different people, six times. The first was PARTICIPANT ONE, a boy sitting by himself texting, looking up every once in a while as if he was going to meet someone. I sat next to him and he looked a little confused at first, but when I leaned in to touch PARTICIPANT ONE so our arms were touching, he moved away a little. When I got up, PARTICIPANT ONE waited for a minute and proceeded to get up as well. This was common throughout the experiment. Then I sat with PARTICIPANT TWO, another boy that was sitting by himself on one of the circular couches. This was more awkward, because there was a space between us. When I asked PARTICIPANT TWO if I could sit closer, he told me yes and then I moved closer. When I got even closer, PARTICIPANT TWO went into confrontation, asking me if there was a reason that I was moving closer. I was unspecific with the reason for coming closer, and by the time my group and I were ready to leave the John Jay couches, PARTICIPANT TWO had also gotten up and left. My partner sat with PARTICIPANT THREE and PARTICIPANT FOUR, two girls that were in the middle of a conversation. While my confrontations were nonexistent and low-key, her confrontation was very intense. PARTICIPANT THREE proceeded to heavily verbally accost my partner, with PARTICIPANT FOUR following suit. PARTICIPANT THREE and PARTICIPANT FOUR became very aggressive and hostile, with my partner reacting in a similar fashion. This succeeded in ending my time with PARTICIPANT TWO as I got up to be with my partner, while the rest of my group tried to explain to PARTICIPANT THREE and PARTICIPANT FOUR that there was no intentional conflict, that this was merely a social experiment, PARTICIPANT THREE, PARTICIPANT FOUR, and my partners became belligerent. This ended in argument and leaving the picked location for this experiment. My third partner sat with PARTICIPANT FIVE and later PARTICIPANT SIX. While PARTICIPANT FIVE had no reaction to the close seating arrangement, it is important to understand that PARTICIPANT FIVE had the distraction of his cell phone, which meant that there was no eye contact between the researcher and participant, and no confrontation of any means because there was no acknowledgement of the researcher sitting there. PARTICIPANT SIX was similar in that she was reading a book, which led to a similar reaction that PARTICIPANT FIVE had, and provided another opportunity for us to introduce a variable – if social activities were more likely to result in a confrontation, while solitary activities were likely to result in little to no reaction.

 

DATA/RESULTS

 

Our research group collected data from six random students who were sitting somewhere on the first floor of the John Jay New Building. Together, we calculated the average to be 3.6 on the scale of 1-5, for all of the random students we encountered. This reveals that of the six students, the majority of them were extremely frustrated with the fact that researchers one and two had been sitting too closely to them. The first was participant one, a boy sitting by himself texting, looking up every once in a while as if he was going to meet someone. I sat next to him and he looked a little confused at first, but when I leaned in to touch participant one so our arms were touching, he moved away a little. When I got up, participant one waited for a minute and proceeded to get up as well. This was common throughout the experiment. Participant two was another boy that sat by himself on one of the circular couches. This was more awkward, because there was a space between us. Participant two proceeded to move on the scale to confrontation, asking me if there was a reason that I was moving closer. Participant two had also gotten up and left.

My partner sat with participant three and participant four, two girls that were in the middle of a conversation. The third participant proceeded to heavily verbally accost my partner, with participant four following suit. Participant three and participant four became very aggressive and hostile, with my partner reacting in a similar fashion. This succeeded in ending my time with participant two as I got up to be with my partner, while the rest of my group tried to explain to participant three and participant four that there was no intentional conflict, that this was merely a social experiment, participant three, participant four, and my partners became belligerent. This ended in argument and leaving the picked location for this experiment. Participants five and six had no reaction – a boy and a girl, continuing to read and text as they had been doing before.

 

A-0-F

 

B-3-M

 

C-0-M

 

D-5-F

 

E-5-F

 

F-4-M

 

The bar graph gives a clearer picture of how the data played out. The male and female participants with “zeroes” were given a very small bar to show that they are male and female. The pink represents the female participants, while the blue represents the males.

 

The pink represents the female participants, while the blue represents the males

The pink represents the female participants, while the blue represents the males

 

 

DISCUSSION

 

Each student who was sat next to reacted in some way, even if the way was unexpected. While we had accounted for a violent reaction in our predicted data scale, we did not truly anticipate that there would be a situation where we would need to record this. Our study’s hypothesis was correct in that the college students were mostly uncomfortable, to the point of having a mild to heavy confrontation. Correlation does not mean causation, but it is safe to assume that most people would feel uncomfortable when presented with a situation that takes them out of the established social norms. However, a few unprecedented variables altered the outcomes of the data. We had two students that literally did not have any reaction, and two students that had incredibly volatile reactions. Therefore the research group inferred that the silent reactions were due to the preoccupation of the students in a solitary activity, because it was easy to block out the rest of the world – they had already done so by participating in this single-person action. In relation to the two females who had reacted so intensely, our group decided that they were much more likely to have done so because they were together (which would make solidarity easier), and they were already engaged in a social activity.

Unlike others, unable to express their frustrations as easily, the girls had a group of acquainted individuals to discuss their frustrations. To further this experiment, I would recommend repeating the procedure at different times, with different groups of students. It would be interesting to see if adults would react more strongly if another adult sat next to them – for the most part, it was a teenager sitting next to young adults, not teenagers with teenagers or adults with adults. I would also wonder if children would have the same volatile reactions (though I completely understand that it is unethical to include children in studies like this, because the “participants” were unwilling, uninformed students). These recommendations and changes would be incredible to understand how social behavior is regulated in the public New York City. One flaw to this experiment was a lack of time to perpetuate the study into various methods, as well as a lack of diversity among the students. I would love to see a study like this take place in a stereotypically friendlier place, somewhere where politeness is expected and taken pride in.

 

CITED SOURCES

 

Berkowitz Lawrence, Birkman Leonard, Milgram Stanley (1969). “Note On The Drawing Power of Crowds Of Different Size”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 13, No. 2, 79-82.

Luo, Michael (2004). “ ‘Excuse Me. May I Have Your Seat?’ ; Revisiting a Social Experiment, And the Fear That Goes With It”. The New York Times.

Milgram, Stanley (1970). “The Experience of Living in Cities”. Science Volume 167, March 17th 1970.

Whyte, William H (1980). “The Social Life of the Street”.

 

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. furuci
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 17:03:54

    What a wonderful experiment! I’m really sorry that your partner had to face such a horrible confrontation from those two participants, but such is the life of experimenters in a city like New York. Anyways, your summaries of Luo, Milgram, and Whyte were structured very well and remained relevant to the confines of your specific study throughout. As for the study itself, I thought it was conducted in a very straight forward manner and the manner in which you assigned points was very clever. I have to admit though that the way you presented your data (not in the graph) confused me at first before I realized that the first letter stood for the name of the person doing the experiment, the number stood for the grading assigned to the reaction of the participant, and the F or M stood for male or female. The insight you provided as for why the two girls that were together were more vocal towards your partner than someone who was alone sounds spot on. I too would like to see an experiment like this conducted on a grander scale and in inventive ways. Another example of a close-ness based experiment that could be conducted is seeing people’s reactions to you when you get very close to someone in a more public place and in a place where the concentration of people is very very small. No doubt the reactions would be priceless, but safety precautions will still need to be taken. Great job on this one Anna. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Peer Response – Quantitative Data Analysis Project | the blogger speaks
  3. mirellar
    May 05, 2014 @ 03:49:42

    I really enjoyed reading this piece because I was not only amazed by the analysis but also the way you presented your data. Great job on summarizing the readings and making a connection to your own experiment. Your methods were detailed enough to follow that anyone can perform the same experiment. Everything in this piece was beyond amazing, it is clear that you understood the goal of the assignment. I like how you explained what factors contributed to the reactions of the participants and then you compared reactions. I was surprised to find out that participants became so violent, I would never think it would happened but every person has a different reaction. This reaction was good evidence to prove your point that people in New York are not so friendly. Overall, you did such an amazing job. One last note, I was intrigue by your last statements to have a place which politeness is expected but in New York we can expect the unexpected.

    Reply

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