Pupils or Primates?

Most studying done by Harvard students is limited to the textbook variety -- but students in some classes study unsuspecting fellow undergraduates.

For final projects in Anthropology 105, "Food and Culture," Anthropology 106, "Primate Social Behavior," Historical Study A-33, "Women, Feminism, and History" and Sociology 10, "Introduction to Sociology" students observed the behaviors of people in and around Harvard for research projects on such varied topics as urinal behavior and altruistic chivalry.

Andrew J. Marshall '96, an Anthropology 106 teaching fellow, said his class was assigned projects comparing humans--or Harvard students--to other primates.

"We are basically using a perspective of natural selection and looking at how various behaviors affect adaptations," Marshall says. "We are looking at how social dynamics can be affected by natural selection."

Pack Mentality

Men take note: It does not matter if you hit on a woman alone or when you are with a group.

At least that is what Hubert B. Nguyen '99 found out when researching his Anthropology 106 project.

Nguyen went to People's Republik, a bar on Mass Ave. near Central Square, to study whether men were more successful in picking up women when they were in groups or when they were alone.

"My hypothesis was that men in groups would be more successful," Nguyen says. "In chimpanzees and other primates, male alliances are a very important part of their social structure, so females might view males based on having [friendships with other males]."

"In some solitary species like orangutans, there is a higher instance of rape and other coercive behavior, and women might be afraid of that," he adds.

Sitting in a corner and trying to focus on his work (drinking, he says, would have skewed the observations), Nguyen looked for signs of success, including smiling, laughing, close-talking, touching and the length of conversations--signs of interaction between the genders.

The results were not what he expected.

"It was my impression that single men were more successful than groups at the time I was collecting the data," Nguyen says. "But looking at the results, there weren't any significant differences. My hypothesis wasn't justified."

Nguyen noted that he looked at a small sample size of 27 single males and 12 groups of males, which contributed to his inconclusive results.

But while Nguyen was studying others, he almost became a statistic himself.

"A woman tried to pick me up," Nguyen says. "[She] bought me a pizza. She was old and scary."

"I mean she was really scary," he adds. "Physically, I'm not that big. I was really scared."

Although Nguyen himself was the victim of a random pick-up, he did not include his own experience in his data. But he did have a hypothesis for why she approached him.

"I think she picked me up because I looked pretty non-threatening," Nguyen says, noting that he had heard before that women are more likely to approach men who are doing crossword puzzles or exhibiting other passive behaviors.

Urinary Tracks

Dave Barry may be known as a kidder, but this time he might be reporting the truth.

When Kristofer M. Helgen '01 and David M. Kallin '01 were forwarded a quiz via e-mail about urinal behavior--complete with stick figures for illustration--taken from Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, they set out to the Lamont men's restroom to see if he was right.

For their Anthropology 106 project, the two decided to study men's urinal behavior.

"What we were studying was proximity avoidance by males in the bathroom," Helgen says.

The pair's hypothesis was that men would choose the urinal the farthest from the one another man occupied when given a choice. They based this on the fact that male primates are prone to violence when confronted with another male and thus keep their distance.

"In the bathroom, it's a sensitive time because you will be alone with males who will be strangers to you," Helgen says. "Males are going to avoid each other."

The place where the pair chose to study the "urination events" (UEs), as they called them, was the men's bathroom on the fifth floor of Lamont Library. The bathroom was a particularly prime spot because there are five identical urinals, all equally spaced, with no dividers. They numbered them one through five, with one being closest to the door.

Helgen and Kallin would set-up at a desk by the bathroom door and follow people into the bathroom.

"First we looked at primary choice, when there was no one standing at the urinals," Helgen says. "While there appeared to be a preference for the outer urinals, one and five, it was more or less random."

To help with their study of secondary, tertiary and other choices, Helgen enlisted the services of some of his friends from the Harvard Glee Club.

The group would plant one or more people at the urinals to see where unsuspecting users would choose to do their business.

"We had one of our own guys stand at a urinal," Helgen says. "That worked pretty well. It's hard to keep that up for a long time, but I don't think it was noticed.

"We tried different setups," Helgen says. "We put two and even three guys at urinals. If you put guys at spaces three and five, universally, the guy would go to one. If you put them at two and four, they would go to a stall."

The stall option added a wrinkle for Helgen and Kallin to deal with.

"Primary choice, only 5 percent will go to the stall for urination," Helgen says. "The percentage is more like 65 or 70 when there is a secondary choice or more."

But it is the overall results that people should pay attention to, Helgen says.

"The bottom line is that, out of 162 urination events," Helgen says, "not a single guy stood next to another guy when there was an option."

The pair got creative for their "grand finale," Helgen said. During one period of observation, there was a party in Lamont that supplied the props.

"At the end of the party, they had these big casks of ice," Helgen says. "Someone came and dumped the ice into the sink."

Seizing the moment, they did what any rational urinary experimenters would do.

"Being that the ice was there, what we did was fill urinals one and two high with ice to create any kind of barrier for comfortable urination," Helgen said. "I stood at position four and [the other guys] occupied the stalls."

Being that it was a slow night in Lamont, the guys had to wait a little while for a victim.

"Finally we had a guy walk in and without even thinking he went to [urinal] one," Helgen said. "Then it struck him and he thought, 'Wow. This is filled with ice."'

The victim took stock of the situation. He surveyed his surroundings and noticed that the only open and empty urinals were on either side of Helgen.

"He took a good 10, 15 seconds," Helgen said. "He was thinking about it, but I wasn't about to give him any help."

In the end, the man did what most rational men would do.

"He just took ahold of himself and went to [urinal] one," Helgen said. "He braved the arctic cold, so to speak. I think every guy understands that there are these rules to adhere to in the men's room."

Java the Hunt

In the '90s, coffee-house culture is hard to avoid. Whether watching "Friends" at their favorite hangout or visiting the Square's various Starbucks branches, Harvard students have all taken part in what seems a harmless trend.

Janson Wu '00, a history of science and women's studies concentrator, in researching a project for Anthropology 105, interviewed student Starbucks patrons and a Starbucks employee to find out the truth behind the trend. What do consumers really buy with the dollars they spend on Starbucks coffee? Wu, who took the class as an elective, says he became interested in this topic while reading an article for his junior tutorial.

"Starbucks markets coffee in a specific way. They associate it with yuppies and elitists," Wu says. "But they also say that anyone can afford it. So it's democratic in that way."

Wu didn't interview random patrons for fear of annoying store management, but he asked around to find those students who are Starbucks regulars.

From these interviews, he found that consumers drink Starbucks coffee "for a huge variety of reasons."

He says that some people drink Starbucks because it's "much better than Dunkin' Donuts," which some say is watered down.

Wu says that "Starbucks is into teaching people to consume good coffee," so there are those who have learned to appreciate Starbucks' "bitter" taste.

Others, he says, will pour out half of the coffee and fill the rest of the cup with milk. According to Wu, consumers become the "second producers of coffee."

Wu also went into three Starbucks stores in the Square--the one on Church Street, the one in the Garage, and the one next to Broadway Market as well as to one in Boston to observe Starbucks consumption first-hand.

"People are not just consuming coffee, they're consuming space and time. More people get coffee-to-go or stay and do work there...It's not part of the elite lifestyle and it's not a social hangout," he says.

Wu says that Harvard students say they buy Starbucks because they need caffeine or because they're grabbing a cup on the way to class. Even though they're going out of their way, students tell Wu that they head to Starbucks because of the name recognition and because they know the menu.

As for Starbucks efforts to appeal to a broad base of consumers, Wu says that ultimately, he found, "It's an upper-to-middle class joint. People just can't afford $2 for coffee."

Men Behaving Badly

Some might imagine that Harvard students eating in the fancy Annenberg Hall would be the picture of proper diners. But David S. Fisher '02, an anthropology concentrator in Greenough Hall knows the truth.

Fisher observed the table manners of students dining in Annenberg for his Anthropology 106 project, focusing on Harvard men in their ancestral hall.

"I watched people in Annenberg and watched all-male group versus female-male group table manners," Fisher says.

He hypothesized that men would improve their manners when in the presence of women, reasoning that males would invest in practicing proper manners to make themselves more attractive to females, who generally have mate choice.

"I looked at 25 tables--16 mixed and nine all-male--for five minutes each. While there is a trend that males improve their manners in mixed company, it's not statistically significant. People are slobs for the most part," Fisher says.

Bad table manners were defined as chewing with an open mouth, putting elbows on the table, reaching across the table, belching, and talking with food in mouth. Fisher also looked for an increase in good table manners, which he defined as passing food or napkins and keeping hands in lap.

Fisher found that the number of occurrences of men chewing with their mouths open decreased from an average of 4.333 to 3.250 when women were present. Good behavior, such as keeping hands in lap increased in the presence of females, from an average of 0.333 to 1.188 occurrences in five minutes.

In other words, Harvard men stop salivating at the dining table over Harvard women, who they want to impress.

Sexy Skivvies

For Lindiwe Dovey '01, an English and visual and environmental science concentrator in Currier House exploring women's thoughts on lingerie is something that has interested since before she took Historical Study A-33.

"I'm from Australia and I tried to join a radical women's group and quickly withdrew when I saw what they were about. They would take spray paint and spray paint all the lingerie billboards around Sydney," Dovey says.

The women did so to combat the image of women the ads presented.

Her research project gave her the chance to explore the issue. She posted a survey on the World Wide Web that women from around the world have filled out.

She says she wanted to evaluate whether women had positive or negative attitudes toward lingerie. Did the image of lingerie make them feel liberated or oppressed?

Dovey says her initial analysis shows that women feel more liberated. Of those who wear lingerie, Dovey says many started "because their friends wore it. It was female-induced. They did it for themselves, not to please a man."

In her survey, Dovey also asked when women thought lingerie had been invented. She says, the results show that "no one had any idea."

Dovey also noticed a difference in lingerie perception along class lines.

"People in lower classes think lingerie is a luxury and to people in the upper classes it's an indulgence which they enjoy," she says.

Dovey believes this has some historical basis because, in the past, "working-class women had to spend long hours doing [hard] work making the stuff for the upper-class women to wear."

Dovey discovered that even though women think lingerie is uncomfortable, they still wear it--for special occasions, that is.

"They believe something is beautiful, but it's probably been put there by men's thinking over time," she says. In fact, most see lingerie as only special occasion dress

I Want It All

Much has been said about the tepid Harvard dating scene. Michelle A. Guerette '02 went for the data.

For her Sociology 10 project, Guerette looked at the role that dating plays in Harvard students' lives as compared to students at Boston University (BU).

Guerette expected her data--surveys of 50 Harvard and 50 BU students--would show that Harvard students focus on their career goals and let relationships fall by the wayside.

What she found contradicted this hypothesis.

"As expectations for future earnings and future formal education went up, dating was more important. It seems like Harvard students just want the best of everything. It's in their perfectionist nature," Guerette says.

The BU results showed the opposite. As expectations for future earnings and education increased, the amount of dating decreased.

When examining commitment in relationships, Guerette saysm "Harvard students tend to have long-term relationships more than random dating because it's less to worry about. You don't have to worry about whether or not you're going out that weekend."

One subject told Guerette that at Harvard there are long-term relationships and there are random hook-ups, but not as much formal dating as in other schools. The student compared it to Duke University where formal dating is common because of the many organized social functions.

Guerette said her interviews reveal that there isn't as much pressure to date at Harvard as at other schools.

"It's more acceptable to say you're too busy," Guerette says. "At BU, one girl said it was part of your image to have a significant other."

Hold That Door

Who says the age of chivalry is dead? Well, Christine M. Heske '01 and Daniel W. Barnes '01 might have proven it.

The two studied kindness by observing a simple act--walking into a building--and noting whether people held the door open for each other.

"We looked at holding the door for someone as an altruistic behavior," Heske says.

Perched in front of William James Hall, the two watched 592 people enter the building.

"We predicted that there would be a hierarchy based on evolutionary biases," Barnes says. "We predicted that men would hold the door for men the most. Then men for women, women for men, and finally, women for women."

But the results did not completely follow their hypothesis. The highest frequency of altruism occurred when a member of a sex held the door for a member of the same sex.

"Females only hold the door for males 33 percent of the time while they hold it for other females 66 percent of the time," Barnes says.

"The thing that stands out the most is that females hold the door for men much less than any other group," he says.

But perhaps the most interesting result is the overall level of student altruism.

Only 42 percent of people held the door for the person behind them at all, according to Heske and Barnes' findings.

"I'm personally pretty sad about that," Heske says. "A lot of times someone would hold the door for someone and the person would take another door [so as to avoid the situation]."

Show Me the Money

Have you ever had that feeling late at night when you go to the ATM? You know, that feeling that someone is watching you?

Well, it could have been Parag Y. Shah and Greg A. Hudson, both Class of 2002, who were watching you.

For eight hours this spring, the two watched as people went to the ATM at Cambridge Trust in Holyoke Center and took money out of their accounts.

But the two did not have sinister intentions. Rather, they were trying to prove that people would act like chimpanzees when they went to an ATM.

"I watched people at ATMs to see how much they scanned their surroundings and related it back to how chimps scanned for predators," Shah says.

Sitting comfortably at tables outside Au Bon Pain, the two split up the duties of collecting data on about 250 people with Shah checking for scanners and Hudson focusing on whether people went inside or outside. Both considered the size of the group in collecting data.

"I found that lone individuals went inside more than groups," Hudson says. "They were willing to open the door for the extra safety."

Shah's results showed that lone people scanned their surroundings about twice as often as those with groups.

On one particular night there was an outside factor that led to an increase in scanning, Shah says.

"There was one crazy hippie guy singing [Edwin Starr's] 'War' while banging on a mailbox," Shah says. "People were looking around at him."CrimsonSeth H. PerlmanDATA POINTS: Students in Anthropology 106 observed humans (a representative primate species) for their final projects. Results showed that people are unlikely to hold the door for each other, top, and prefer using inside ATMs when alone.