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on the nature of experiments

in college i didn’t take psychology or sociology classes because i was, quite frankly, uninterested. and i was in a hurry. in retrospect, i wish i did have some formal instruction in both areas. i love studying how people act, react and interact and positing reasons for their behavior. i’m sure my explanations are far-fetched, but that’s not important.

along that line, i’ve developed a habit of conducting “experiments” to see how, given a certain set of circumstances or perimeters, people will act.

i have a weakness for drama, as much as i hate to admit  it, so i announce the launch of the latest experiment with great aplomb and signals of foreboding … and refuse to explain to any of my curious friends what the experiment entails, because, of course, “that would ruin it.”

of course. to defend myself, i think i’m only on my second such experiment, and telling really would skew or influence the results. to be fair, however, i see how this could be mildly annoying for the long-suffering people who hear all about the experiments without hearing anything about them. i think i might discontinue this sort of experimentation, because i’ve come to see it’s kind of silly.

i started the first experiment because i was angry. i’d been told for some time that the behavior of a certain group of people toward me would alter were i to modify a certain aspect of myself (i am being purposefully vague about this, yes, but not to be coy or anything like that). after hearing this several times over the course of a few years, i thought “okay, i’ll do it — i’ll change that thing, and it won’t make a whit of difference. prove me wrong.” so i started the change and started the experiment. the time limit was open-ended because i didn’t know how long the change might take. i had such a bad attitude internally about all this, though, that i was quite unfoundedly mad for several months. and then i gave up, partially because the change was driving me crazy, and partially because i realized my attitude was wrong. so there went experiment no. 1.

experiment no. 2 is vaguely related to jane austen’s novel emma. everyone who’s read emma knows what scrapes she gets into through meddling in the affairs of others. i wouldn’t do what emma did because it’s not nice (even though she meant well), and i don’t think i would want anyone meaning well toward me in that particular direction. however, that doesn’t mean i can’t merely observe people. my hypothesis was something like “given this, that could happen.” it’s very vague, and very broad, and probably doesn’t count as a real experiment because it involves the “scientist” (me) doing nothing but observing at a distance. i’ve already concluded this particular experiment is ridiculous, but we’ll see what happens.

so, there you have it. perhaps i’d be happier with the results if i stopped at observation only and didn’t venture into experimentation. : )

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