Saturday, October 31, 2009

And the survey says. . .

I've always liked to ruminate about what other people like, think, and do. Perhaps it comes from being an only child. My sample group was small, obviously, with just me and my parents, and I also knew that my family wasn't exactly typical. Knowing that neither of my parents believed in God was a major impetus for my rumination, or more exactly, I wondered who this God was that others believed in, and why they believed so fervently.

But this post is not about religion, though I certainly could write about that for hours on end. It's about surveys, polls, and studies. Where once a philosopher might spend a lifetime thinking and writing about humanity, nowadays we have random sample groups to "prove" things. Nothing wrong with that, but I wonder if this keeps us from doing a lot of hard thinking. Have an idea? Just call 100 people and ask them what they think.

I can't help thinking about the ol' Family Feud show. I used to love watching that show, and actually wished I could get my family on it. Not being exactly normal wouldn't have been a hindrance in the least. Being a bunch of people who did a lot of ruminating about things would cinch our win. I was sure of it.

I have nothing against studies (and love reading their results), but sometimes I wonder how accurate their results are. A friend of mine once participated in a study about pain tolerance. He was hooked up to electrodes and zapped until he said "stop!" He told me that it was absurd, for he could say stop any time. Pain is so subjective; how could those conducting the study know if someone was calling it quits way before it got too awful to endure? Even accounting for estimates that any percent of people would, there was no sense to this. My friend actually did wait until the pain was too much until he said stop, but I'd guess that was atypical. On the other hand, I'd imagine that anyone signing up for this study, even with the good pay, was at least veering towards the masochistic.

Here's an example where I don't think anything about this study would be useful except the very concept of the study itself. The pain study makes me think. The results? Knowing that the average person can withstand 4 volts of electricity before they cry uncle means nothing. Wondering why anyone would come up with the study, who might sign up, how people might "cheat" or if some people would wait until they were really suffering, well, those things are way more interesting to me.

Earlier today I was having a discussion with someone about Northern New Englanders' propensity for minimizing their discomfort. Stoicism is considered a virtue up here. Perhaps that comes from living in a cold climate. This women was telling me how her husband had cut an artery in his leg with a chainsaw (by accident), put a tourniquet on it, and drove himself to the emergency room. Then, there was a four-hour long wait, during which he patiently sat there bleeding to death until someone realized that it really was an emergency.

I bet there is a study about regional differences in pain tolerance. I am not going to google it, no matter how much I feel the urge. I want to just think about it. I would bet that people who live in areas where the weather is generally nice do have less of a tolerance for being uncomfortable. It just makes sense. And no, there's nothing wrong with doing a study about it, though I would argue that it's rather a waste of somebody's money.

Well, I have a strong feeling I forgot what it was I intended to write about. I know I started veering off the topic early in this post. Never mind that. My longer entries were always rambling and off-topic, and I've been doing too much to reel myself in for a long time. Writing late, and when tired, is something that I used to do and feel perfectly fine about. Perhaps it's time to let myself ruminate and ramble again. But for now, I'll end this here. I really am tired, and I do wish I'd done this subject more justice. But this is a blog, so I can come back to it any time I want and no one is paying me to write well. That's a good thing, at least tonight.

Photo note: Richard Dawson, the original Family Feud host. He kissed all the women and they seemed to love it. He gave me the creeps but I still watched. And lastly, I think 1970's "fashion" is unbelievably ugly, especially the men's stuff. So, why I'm subjecting you to this image instead of some lovely piece of art is beyond me. But really, what would have been relevant? Survey says. . .you tell me.

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