11 October 2016

When Your Lab Participant Thinks You're Stupid

During the course of my career, I have met hundreds of people, who would come in to my lab, as they signed up to be volunteers for my experiment. In some settings, this was part of their curriculum (they were enrolled in Psych 101 and as a part of their class, they had to participate in a bunch of experiments). But in others, these were volunteers who say a flyer of mine, advertising that they would be paid a small amount if they agree to participate. I have been recruiting my participants this way for the past couple of years now, since I am not affiliated in a university at the moment. And most of the time, things go well, but sometimes, there are just people who think that I am stupid. These are people who sometimes can improve on their social skills, especially on politeness.

See, there was one person, who contacted me once. We scheduled a meeting, yet when the meeting time came, lo and behold, this person didn't show up. I sent an email reminder earlier in the day, mind you. Nevertheless, I didn't hear from this person anymore.

The next day, I get another email, from a person with a different name. Yet, I had a hunch that this was the same person. So this person pretended to be someone else, but I caught him. He wrote (and later erased) his real name, in one of the legal forms I ask everyone to sign during the experiment. I didn't make an issue about it, after all, what's the point?

But it makes me think. Do these people really think I am that easy to fool? I already had a hunch, I just played along with it. And what I find sad is that these people don't have the social skills that are actually valuable in society. If you have a job interview, you probably wouldn't just bail out of the interview without saying something, and when you want to nevertheless be invited again, you pretend you're someone else and tell them a fake name?

Seriously, some people need to learn social skills. I wonder what they're teaching in school nowadays.


  1. This is so weird and twisted. I think some people just assume they are smarter than everybody else... and usually, they are deeply mistaken.

    1. Zhu,

      Yeah, and I wonder what would happen to these folks when they are faced with more important real-life issues, when their attitude is like this.