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Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Social Experiment

If you've been reading around here for awhile, you know I walk around my neighborhood every night when the weather permits (so pretty much March through November). I have been changing up the walk a lot and walking in more populated areas, so I'm passing a lot of other pedestrians. When I pass someone on the street, I smile. It's normal for me, I was raised to be polite, and to me, that's just being polite. If someone actually smiles back or greets me first, I'll even say hello. I'm feeling like most of those I encounter don't smile back, or even make eye contact. I don't have a threatening presence by any means, so I'm curious as to why. Are we just that impersonal? Is my making eye contact a move toward aggression or showing control of a situation? (There are a gazillion studies on this sort of thing, but I'm not sure it applies in all situations). It is true as a safety measure I make sure I look at those who pass me, and of course I don't want to look submissive - a female walking alone at night. But smile, damnit, I'm just being polite!

So I'm going to do my own little study over the next couple of weeks. I'm going to continue to smile at those I pass, and I'm going to see exactly who smiles back. I'm curious to see the outcome.

Do you smile at strangers? Do you make eye contact with people you pass on the street or in public?


Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I look forward to your experiement results. Its really sad how few people smile. I was walking today and passed one woman who sort of smiled and two boys who would not even have eye contact with me, they weren't the snotty aged kids, they were like ten.

So I don't know what it is. But I think its sad. I'm like you I smile at everyone and often say hi. I think most people smile back if I smile first but not all.

Sheena said...

LOL I've had culture shock with this exact situation. I grew up in small town Texas, where EVERYONE smiles to EVERYONE hehe. Even when driving you wave to people all the time, whether you know them or not. When I first moved here, I found myself smiling a lot when we went out in town. Then in a Welcome to the Island Culture class, I found out that Italians do not smile at all at strangers. They don't even make eye contact. They only smile when they know someone, and then that smile is usually immediately followed by a few kisses on the cheeks and a 15 minute conversation (at least.) So, when we Americans smile, and worse if we look somewhat Italian, the actual Italians will just look at us funny wondering, "Where do I know that person from?" LOL I'm looking forward to your results too. :) take care!

Angi said...

I hate to say this, but it may be more of a "Vegas" thing. Around our neighborhood (for several blocks)everyone waves at each other when they pass. It's been hard for me to get used to waving to strangers - but down here in most areas it's just southern hospitality. It's kinda a nice change actually = )