I searched my earlier blogs to see if I ever wrote a blog about my living room test of ‘stranger interaction’. Apparently I only included it as part of a longer blog.
My study occurred in the very early 1970’s when I wanted to use some of my marketing research technologies on general human questions. I worked with my close friend Peter Sherrill, a genius on research design and analysis.
As they came in I gave them a letter to pin on their chest and asked them not to talk to each other. They all did as I asked. Then I had each one answer a dozen spatial dimension questions on a questionnaire. Which two people are more alike A,B,C ...A,B,D' etc.
The test was designed to use spatial measurement to find out how people made judgments of strangers when they first meet and then how they changed those judgments after hearing the people talk for ten minutes.
It turns out when people first meet strangers, the first judgment they make appears to be masculine/feminine. It was sometimes easy for subjects to discern, but in a few cases not so easy. Both men and women subjects used this same criteria.
After I collected the questionnaires, I changed the letters on each person to numbers (I had the list that showed which letters became which numbers.)
Then I had each person in the room introduce themselves and say a few words about what they did and who they were.
How do I know this questionnaire reflected the actual criteria these people used in their minds to evaluate strangers? Because I asked unrelated questions on the second questionnaire that could be matched to the spatial dimensions on the first questionnaire. The second questionnaire was after they heard each other talk about themselves.
Results of strangers meeting each other. First they all decided who was a male and who was a female. There was a little ambiguity about one person for a moment or two.
Second, crude and animalistic as it might sound, I found that men were looking for physical threats as they met strangers and women were looking for female competitors. Very Darwinian. Very much like most wild animals.
The whole point of the research was to have empirical data and empirical tests to corroborate whatever I found. The analysis was done by inverting the matrix of 16 people and applying MDScal, the multi-dimensional scaling test used in those days in physics.
I know, I know. You want to know more. The third dimension in the perception of strangers was their sexual attractiveness, Usually heterosexual and partially explained by the age of the group: all under 35.