Have you ever walked into a crowed room to later discover that your zipper is unzipped, or realized after a conversation that you have had food in your teeth the entire time? These are the type of accidents that happen to people everyday, and for the most part cannot be avoided. No, toilet paper stuck to your shoe is not the end of the world, but it is certainly something we would like to be informed of if possible. All a person can really do is rely on the kindness of others to point these flaws out to us before they cause too much embarrassment. But how likely are people to point embarrassing flaws out to others, especially to people that they do not know? This question, and the hour I spent with a large $1.00 price tag on my back, got me thinking, should we rely on strangers to point flaws out to us? More over, are there specific characteristics that would make one person more likely than another to point flaws out? To answer these questions I decided to use unobtrusive measures to find out for myself who I could trust if an embarrassing situation were to arise.
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I began my research by searching for any other literature that may have already been written, or experiments already conducted about my problem. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful. This forced me to narrow my topic to watch for a specific characteristic. I now posed the question, who is more likely to point out a personal flaw, a man or a women? After much more research, this time looking closely at gender, that perhaps my question had already been answered. According to Margaret Andrews, author of the article "Mother’s Assistant", " Centuries of research have show that women naturally tend to act in a "mothering" manner in any situation.Therefore, women can be counted on to take anyone under their wing to be nurtured and protected". Over and over again I found information explaining the tendencies of women to be more nurturing and protective nature. This idea does go against the modern woman’s liberation, but no the less, it has been proven undoubtedly to be accurate. So, has my question been answered? Was it as simple as the fact that women are more nurturing so naturally they would be more likely then men to point out a flaw? To be sure, I would have to experiment for myself.
Based on my research I formed the hypothesis that women would be more likely to point out a flaw to a stranger then men. To prove this I used a research method know as unobtrusive measures. This simply meant that I observed the behavior of people who did not realize they were being observed. The restaurant I work in served as an excellent location for my research and guaranteed a random sampling of the population. To test the sample population I marked my face with a very noticeable pen mark before customers entered the restaurant. I timed how long on average it took the customer to point out the mark to me and recorded the time and gender of the customer who pointed it out to me. The observations were made during the time it took for the customer to enter the restaurant, be greeted by me and shown to their table. After 100 customers were observed I found that women were more likely to point the flaw out to me as I had hypothesized. What surprised me though was the length of time it took for customers, regardless of gender, to point the flaw out to me. I assumed that if someone were going to point it out to me they would do it immediately upon encountering me at the entrance of the restaurant. I found in most cases though that it took until I had already gotten them to their table and they were seated for anyone to speak up. This process normally took at least a minute, much longer than I had anticipated. I also observed that people were more likely to point the flaw out to me if I had casual conversation with them as I took them to their seat. These were to factor lead me to a conclusion that I had not considered before I began my research. Perhaps what people were more inclined to point the flaw out to me after they had become more familiar with me? When the customer entered the restaurant I was a complete stranger to them, but after asking them their seating preferences and in some cases having short conversations with them, I became more familiar to them. I also wondered if perhaps women weren’t more likely to point the flaw out to me because I am a woman. To answer these questions I conducted my research a second time, this time changing some key elements.
During my second night of observations the first change I made was to replace myself with another employee and simply observe the experiment. My new recruit was a man this time around my age, but under instruction to keep conversation to an absolute minimum and try not to reach a personal level with the customers. Now this is something hard to do in my line of work, but my fellow employee did an excellent job. I found once again in this experiment that women were more likely then men to point out the flaw, but other aspects had changed with the other adjustments. Although average times remained much the same, on the whole less customers, male of female, pointed out the flaw to him. This answered most of my questions, but still had me wondering if the change in numbers related to how many people over all responded to the flaw we based on the gender of my co-worker or his attempts to remain unfamiliar to the customer. Although these questions still tugged at me I decided not to ask my already lenient boss for yet another night of experiments. I wonder if the reliability and validity of this experiment may not be what I hoped they would. Still my hypothesis had been proven and women were shown to act according to nature and point out a potentially embarrassing flaw to someone.
While reviewing my data, I noticed other factors that may have played an important role in the reactions of the customers I observed. For example, the age of the customers also seemed to be a factor in my results. Customers that appeared to be college age or older very rarely pointed the flaw out to me. Adults closer to the age of my parents, on the other hand, were much more likely to respond to the flaw. One overwhelming trait among the customers was that every mother that came into the restaurant with their child quickly (average within 20 seconds) pointed out the flaw to me, and many of them offered or tissue or something close to that to me to clean it off with. This undoubtedly linked my experiment to the research that described women’s tendencies as mothering and nurturing.
After conducting my experiment and my research I was still at the same conclusion I had been at before beginning. Helping others to resolve problems before they become just that is simply in the nature of women. Perhaps women act this way because they hope that in a different situation another women may point out a flaw to them before others notice it. This is meant by no means puts down the other sex, but merely points out what seems obvious to many already. It is really hard to know for sure, although others factors, as I have gone into previously, did have effect on the outcome of my observations; I feel that my questions have been reliably answered. My results showed that an average of 59% of all people pointed out the flaws to both my self and my co-worker. As for how to avoid a situation like this from happening to you in the future, there is no real way to guarantee that is won’t happen. My best advice, if you have to rely on the kindness of strangers, you shouldn’t be to bad off.
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