20 November 2010


So the two experiments that I have been running this past week have concluded. I am glad. I have tons of data points to look at, analyze, and average, and I am now working on that. I just coded about 1728 sentences and phrases into an electronic format, since one of the two experiments were done on a paper-and-pencil format. It's tiring, but at least I am enjoying it. From time to time, I would see a funny result, and it just provides me with a little comic relief.

Anyway, the other experiment also concluded, but before it did, there was a rather bizarre incident. I had a participant, who I shall say, gave me some headache. Well, first of all, this participant decided to postpone the experiment first, and then when this participant finally came in, it seems that the participant does not understand what the task was about.

Despite that, this participant decided to be offensive. The task was supposed to be done with participants whose native language was English. For some reason, the participant decided to make it a point to point out that it is a pity that I myself cannot take my own test. Well what the hell? Is that even relevant? Just because I do not have English as my first language does not mean that I cannot take my test. I cannot take my own test, my own experiment, my experiment that I myself have designed, not because my first language was not English, but for the more glaring reason that it is I who designed the experiment. If I were to take my own experiment, I would break it. It is not because I am not a native English speaker, but because I am the designer of the experiment. Heck, even native speakers who devise psycholinguistic experiments cannot take their own experiments, because they will break their own experiments since they know what the manipulations are.

Anyway, I decided to be civil and calm, but inside I was fuming. I felt like I was being patronized. It felt like I was treated like a curious monkey, who landed on the shores of the United States for the very first time, who was asked why I am here, and when I reply that I am here to study, I am told, "Good for you. Welcome to our country." Deep inside, I thought "Wow. You think I am a novelty? That's what happens when your own country doesn't produce enough bright minds, that bright minds from other countries come in and take their spot."

Anyway, from the looks of it, the participant didn't understand what was going on in the experiment, that I would end up throwing away the data anyway. So at the first sign of a break-down (the participant pressed a button that made the screen display something: this should not happen if the participant was following directions), I told the participant that the equipment experienced a break-down and that I have to unfortunately terminate the experiment. I still paid the participant, but at least, I didn't have to wait all the way until the end of the experiment, and by the rate in which this participant was doing it, it would have taken an hour what normally takes about just 30 minutes.

So, I suppose that incident just proves that data out there is messy. Data is not always clean and dandy, and there are always outliers. For my other experiment, I think I am re-running them with a different set of instructions, because that way the data would be cleaner.

And yes, I am a foreigner. I am grateful that the American educational system has provided me an opportunity to study and further my education. But I don't need to be talked down to. I understand what you're saying, so you don't need to pronounce every syllable twice as long and twice as loud. I am not an idiot, just so you know.

(Stone Edges, from my Pukapukara Series)


  1. Man, the guy was an idiot. Indeed, it's pretty obvious why those who design experiments can not take part in it! It has nothing to do with your language skills... Idiot indeed. Love the way you got rid of him!

  2. Zhu,

    Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! After all, it's the data I care more about than the individual participants. But then I guess I shouldn't let the ethics committee know of my attitude. :P