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."