The following story is satire. All events and characters are fictional.
Research Methods I in the psychology department is making its 2020 debut this winter. In this class, students are required to form groups to further their goals in the class. In these groups, students devise a research question, then a hypothesis and finally an experiment that tests their hypothesis. Traditionally, the students come up with each of these steps, but rumor is that the professors have had their eye on a specific topic this year that they may gift to a struggling research methods group.
An anonymous tipper revealed to us that there is an experiment that the psychology department wants to explore through the research conducted by Lawrence University students on Lawrence University students. They first asked if there was a class where students conducted with research, then launched into an explanation of the experiment. It will be conducted on Andrew Commons interactions, specifically with seat choice.
Any student who has dined in the Commons is all too familiar with the look-around students do when they go to pick up utensils. In that moment, students have a moment of panic. If they are at the Commons alone, this panicked look can be attributed to looking for friends to sit with. Another factor of this panic is finding a good spot to sit. Finally, if they are already there with a friend, trying to figure out where that friend sat is another difficulty that can contribute to this split-second panicked look.
What the psychology faculty are interested in investigating is what happens if a confederate — a name for an informed actor in a psychology experiment who furthers the experiment’s goal — goes up to the panicked onlooker, takes their plate from them and places it at a secluded table. Will relief ensue? Pure panic? Who knows!
When we questioned our anonymous tipper about the conditions of the experiment, they clammed up. They said, “What, do you think I’m a psychology major or something? Dream on.” As they left, our reporter attempted to ask about controls and experimental conditions. However, our anonymous tipper was not available for future questioning.
Of course, because this article has now been written, any student who reads it will know they are being studied, therefore compromising the integrity of the study. It is also very possible that this experiment is made up, as our anonymous tipper was definitely not a student. It is possible that it was a Bon Appetit employee who wants to trick students into conducting research for them to further their cryptic goals.
So, if someone in the Commons comes up to you and takes your hard-earned plate from you, just let it happen. It is for science’s sake. We do not know if there is any real data to collect or if this is even an actual experiment. But if someone tries to take your plate, either way, we advise you just let it happen.