Friday, July 9, 2010

Alone in public.

(Don't let this post distract you from the AWESOME EVENT that you should totally go to if you're in the Boston area!)

Today I did a very minor experiment. I went to a well-populated public square and kept a running tally of everyone I saw, the gender they appeared to be presenting, and whether they appeared to be alone or in a group or couple. These are my results:

Men alone - 54
Women alone - 26
Men in a group or couple - 88
Women in a group or couple - 103

Total men - 142
Total women - 129

Total solos - 80
Total grouped/coupled - 191

Total people - 271

These observations were made from about 8-9 PM on a Friday evening in Davis Square, a heavily-trafficked, well-lit social area near a university campus.

Now, what I didn't do was make any attempt to discover why people were there alone or in groups, let alone contact people who stayed home today and ask them why. So I don't want to try to force any interpretation onto these data. Statements like "women are more sociable!" or "women don't feel safe alone!" cannot be made from my observations. But whatever the reason, women are less likely to be out alone. 38% of the men out tonight in Davis were alone, and only 20% of the women.

Random qualitative observations:
-By far the most common grouping was a MF couple. But there were a surprising number of MMF groupings, and relatively far fewer MFF groups. (The women made it up in numbers by appearing in FF pairs far more often than there were MM pairs.)

-Of the women who were alone, more than half of them were on their cellphones either talking or texting.

-Solos of both genders were more likely to be going somewhere, while groups were more likely to stop at the square and hang out. This effect was much more pronounced for women; several solo men stopped to hang out, but almost all of the solo women kept walking.

-I got hit on twice while making these observations. (Neither one was my type. Like, at all.)
"Whatcha writing there? Wow, that's really interesting. You must be a really thoughtful person. I like to write too, you know."
"Sir, correlation is not causation, but you're providing an intriguingly explanatory anecdote here. Also, I have to go iron my cat."


  1. A few quick questions: Were you alone while doing this survey? I guess I assume so, since you were hit on by some skeevy dudes, though I don't know for sure and don't want to guess. If you were alone, did your "aloneness" (I can't think of a better word, but don't want to depict you as a "loner" type) influence your perception of the groups in any way? Did you focus on the group dynamics or the lone person dynamic?

    In a minor point, I tend to be the alone observer as my job makes me go to foreign places quite often and often alone. Also, I like to people watch. I feel this makes me creepy, so, uh, going to stop now and not bother anyone.

  2. Anon - Yes, I was alone.

    I don' think I was studying "dynamics," though; I was making an effort to note the gender and groupedness of every person in my field of view, because being selective would defeat the purpose of the exercise.

  3. You need to read more evolutionary psychology. Your numbers don't prove that women are more social than men, but they do show that our female ancestors on the savannah were rewarded with greater reproductive health for group behavior, while men were lone hunters who ranged out alone (notice there were still more men, even though they tended to be solo more? Ranging!)

    This stuff just writes itself. I can see how Ph.Ds get carried away.

  4. ...Meanwhile, outside the savannah, men stayed home to do hut-building and basket-weaving while the women hunted with snares and clubs. And that's not counting the more advanced tribes where the women went hunting with bows on horseback. Life on the savannah isn't everything. Hell, even on the savannah men typically didn't hunt alone, as this is a good way to get eaten by a pack of lions.

    (Meanwhile my spellchecker insists that the proper spelling is "savanna" despite that I've never, ever seen it spelled without the h.)

  5. Yeah, I always come close to blowing my drink out my nose when people come up with "solitary male hunters". The only cultures on earth I can think of where hunting is EVER a solitary activity are the ones with modern long-range weaponry and either horses or ATVs. Even then the preference is to hunt at least in pairs.

    Not that I think that's what Don was doing, just mocking the same bullshit...

  6. "I have to iron my cat." I am sooo stealing that.


  7. Were there any family groups, or was it only adults?

  8. Vicky - There were a few families--two or three sets of MF parents, one gay couple with kids, and a few moms and dads alone with kids. I counted the adults but not the children, and considered lone parents as "solo."

  9. Violet Blue posted a PUA thing recently. The ten o'clock comment made me laugh the hardest