Sunday, August 30, 2009

You can be a scientist too!

Published August 30, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

It’s back to school time, and for me, that means back to research. Psychology may be a “soft science,” but it’s science, nonetheless. I’m currently gathering information as I try to decide what research I’d like to conduct in the next couple of years. Here are a few study subjects I’m considering.

Question: What purpose does it serve to place impulse buy items in the “10 Items or Less” checkout lane at the grocery store? I mean, if you have ten items and grab another, you’re no longer eligible to be in that lane.

Hypothesis: Grocery stores put impulse buy items in the “10 Items or Less” lane specifically to cause people to exceed the ten item limit, prompting them to leave the lane and reason, “Well, if I can’t get out of here quickly, and I have no limit on the number of items in my cart, I might as well fill my cart completely.”

Method: I will observe the behavior of shoppers in the Express Lane as they glance impulsively at gum and “As Seen on TV” appliances. I will glare at those who add these items to their carts and exceed the limit. If glaring doesn’t work, I will sigh in exasperation and make a passive aggressive comment to the person behind me. Shoppers who are sufficiently shamed into leaving the lane will be followed and their purchases tracked. This research began in the early 90s and is ongoing. Results are mixed.

Question: Where do all the socks, spoons, shoes, and gloves from my house go after I buy more?

Hypothesis: There are rips in the fabric of space and time which cause small items to be transported to the past and future and cause other small items to be transported into my home from the past and future.

Method: I will take a daily inventory of everything in my home and record all deficits and overages. I will then search family history archives for stories of spoons and ski caps inexplicably turning up in the families of my husband’s pioneer ancestors and give thanks for their good fortune. I will send a postdated letter via Western Union to the future owners of this house and ask them to return all children’s size 10 ½ shoes and socks to 2009. I will also let them know we have their rock collection, TV cords, useless remote controls, and what I believe is a small ray gun.

Question: Does going to class half naked improve your grades in college? I ask this because I see many women dressed this way in the classes I’m taking on campus this semester. Since I’ve managed my 3.9 GPA fully clothed, I can’t imagine less clothing would be to my advantage. (Yes, I know announcing my spectacular GPA is gratuitous and possibly arrogant. I offer no apologies.)

Hypothesis: Showing up to class half naked has a negative effect on grades.

Method: I will attend my classes in tank tops and hot pants for the duration of the semester and record any changes in my GPA. I predict my GPA will fall to 1.7 when I stop attending classes rather than perpetuate a crime on humanity.

Question: What are the long-term emotional effects of having a slow computer?

Hypothesis: Slow computers cause a slow descent into incurable madness.

Method: I will live my life and pray for my family.