Tate’s Human Ethology Assignment

Focal Sampling and Scan Sampling Analyzation

            I chose to do my Human Ethology Assignment in Fairhope, Alabama, where I went home for Mardi Gras. The samplings took place Friday, February 8,2013 between 11:15 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. The bar is called My Place and is located at 68 N Bancroft Street. The environment consists of a small inside bar with three male bartenders. There is also an outside courtyard, half is tented in and the other half is open air (there is a fire pit outside for people to stay warm which creates a smoky, campfire smell while outside). The inside is a darker atmosphere that is not lit very well and is very smoky. The people inside the bar seem to be more intoxicated and more approachable, unless they are secluded in a booth, which is by their own choosing. This is also where the band plays, so the drunk women really like to dance in front of them and are very receptive to being picked up. The outside is much brighter and very well-lit and seems to have a friendly vibe. The younger crowd tended to stay outside more. Most of the people hanging out there were college kids who had come home from Mardi Gras and many locals and tourists with a wide range of variety. The college kids are all fraternity and sorority types. The locals include very artsy, hipsters, the Fairhope “elite”, as well as the more “trashy” type of people. The inside is very loud: there is live music and a lot of people talking. The outside is not nearly as loud. I chose to do my samplings in the inside in a corner table which allowed me a perfect view of the whole bar as well as the band and the dance floor and I could also view who was coming and going through both of their doors.

For my focal sample, I chose a female who appeared to be in her mid-30s. She has a drink in her hand that appears to be a vodka (or gin) and tonic (or soda) with lime. She is wearing a shorter purple dress with high heel black boots. The dress is very low cut and is rather provocative. She has dark brown hair a little longer than her shoulders. She has heavy eye make-up, but no lipstick. Her posture is slightly hunched which makes me think she may be lacking self-confidence. She is with a group of three other girls (one blonde and the other three brunette, but none dressed quite as provocatively as her). They are all standing in front of the band dancing. She keeps scanning the room, while bobbing her head like a turtle and poking her lips out. She is very receptive to being picked up. She isn’t really talking to her friends because when she is not scanning the room, she is trying to sing along with the band, but she is either too drunk or doesn’t know the words. She took a cowboy hat off a man walking by her. Now she is wearing the cowboy hat and dancing around with her arms in the air cheering on the band. The man immediately starts to dance with her. She seems very interested and dances with him for the remainder of the song, spilling her drink on herself and him a few time, but both too drunk to even realize it happened. She is not smiling, but she does not look unhappy either. After the song is finally over she gives him his hat back and turns to go back to dancing with her girlfriends to the next song, which ironically happened to be “Use Me Up.” The guy doesn’t take the hint and offers to buy her a drink which she drunkenly accepts (turns out she was drinking a gin, soda, and lime) and continues to dance and have a good time. That song finally ends and the cowboy hat man still hasn’t come back with her drink so her and her friends go to the bar and order their own drinks. She goes back to dancing and looking around the room. She tries to make eye contact with almost every male walking by, most not even paying her attention or if they do it is to give her a funny look because she is so drunk. Finally a man, maybe in his 40s, came up to her and asked to dance. They seemed to have a great time dancing and after they he asked her to go to the bar to get a drink. They ordered drinks and stood by the bar talking for a while. My analyzation of this woman consists of all five stages of Helen Fisher’s review. First she uses her outfit and her dancing as a form of attention getting. She is also constantly scanning the room trying to make eye contact to get attention. She even uses stealing a man’s hat as an attention getter. Second is the recognition phase. The woman grabs his attention by snatching his hat, then when he stops and they make eye contact, he is creating recognition. Also, when the older man sees her and approaches her. The third stage is talk. This would be when the men ask her to dance with them and she agrees. The touch stage is when he touches her before they dance and when they begin to engage in the act of dancing. The last stage, the total body synchrony stage, is acquired when their bodies begin to synchronize when they dance, and then after the dance when the man offers to buy her a drink and she accepts, they are still touching each other in total body synchrony.

My scan samples are as follows: Scan number one started right in front of me where a guy is attempting to pick up a younger girl. He is offering to buy her a drink while she is smiling and blushing, not entirely sure whether or not to accept. Next to them is a group of three guys who seem to be the soccer player type. They are not really concerned with talking to anyone else and seemed very caught up in their own conversation at the bar while they all drink Magic Hat #9. Behind them, and closer to the door is a group of five girls. They all appear to be in college or just graduated. One boy is attempting to break the tall, skinny blonde girl away from the group to go outside. Three of the girls have mixed drinks while two girls have beers. The blonde girl (who had a beer) gives in to the guy and the walk outside leaving the other four girls who all shoot her mean looks as she is walking away with the guy. In front of the band the woman who was my focal sample is still dancing in front of the band with her three friends. She is now staring at all the band members trying to seduce them with her eyes and dance moves while they play. Behind that in the corner booth in the back, a group of hipsters were sitting around talking and drinking beer, all decked out in Mardi Gras beads and decor. They only seemed interested in talking to themselves. Next to them and behind the bar were a large group of 15 college kids all drinking. Two of the guys were playing Wii bowling while three were talking to the group of seven girls with them. Three other guys were standing next to them but engaging in conversation with themselves. The whole group seemed very approachable, but none of them seemed receptive to being picked up except by someone in that group.

Scan number two started with the couple in front of me taking a shot and are now walking outside. An older man and woman have come up to the bar right in front of me trying to order a drink. They seem very irritated at the crowd and the slow service. They keep talking about how “Charlie and Alexa” hate waiting and seem very concerned for their friends more so than themselves. The soccer player guys are still sitting there, however three other guys have come up and talked to them (guys from the group of college kids behind the bar). They know each other very well and act very excited to see each other, like it had been a long time. The group of five girls, or four now since the tall skinny, blonde went outside, are huddled together talking but their voices were very muffled making it hard to hear. They stand there a little while longer then make the decision to go outside. The woman and her three friends are still dancing, but the band decides to take a break. All five band members immediately rush to the bar to get drinks then outside for some fresh air. The hipsters are no longer sitting in the back booth, but the two college kids playing Wii are sitting there along with three other guys and four of the seven girls. The other three girls are standing in line for the bathroom behind a big, short woman who has so many Mardi Gras beads on her neck is not visible.

Scan number three started with people arriving from the Mardi Gras Ball. There are men of all ages dressed in tuxes with tails and women of all ages wearing evening gowns. They are all trying to make a mad dash towards the bar, making it very difficult to group all of these people. They are all extremely intoxicated and very loud and rambunctious. They have changed the atmosphere of the bar into more of a party place. As soon as they start arriving, the college kids make a mad dash to the bar to each take a shots. They all seem to have started coupling off. They all go outside when the bar becomes so crowded from all the Mardi Gras people. The line at the bar is taking forever, one couple to my right starts groping each other and making out in the middle of the crowd, but no one even notices because they are all so intoxicated and all they care about is getting another drink. One man who is being served starts raising his voice and screaming at the bartender because they were out of the type of beer he wanted. The soccer players have moved from the bar to allow the ball go-ers to get to the bar. They are now standing in front of me by the door and I finally realize all three of them are British.

In my scan samples, all five stages are met. However, for the majority of my samples I missed the first stage, attention getting, and the second stage, recognition. The majority of people I observed had already gotten the attention of the other or I was viewing other people. The talk stage is demonstrated when the people are sitting a the booth. Both the hipsters and college kids seemed to all be in the “talk stage” because they were all past recognition and knowing each other, but they were not quite yet to the touch phase. The touch phase is recognized by the man trying to by the girl a drink because he was leaning in and kept touching her arm, back, and hair, and she would giggle and lean into him. It also began to be recognized when the college kids all went to the bar and started coupling off and taking shots. The guys that were interested in one of the girls there started paying her the majority of their attention and would lean in extremely close and try to touch her in any way possible (without being creepy). Also, when the tall, skinny blonde girl leaves her friends this shows recognition because she makes eye contact with this guy for him to have to want her to walk outside. It shows touch because he leaned in to her and kept touching her arm asking her to go outside. Total body synchrony occurs when he takes her hand and she follows him outside (they were not seen again that night, but this did not occur during my scan sampling). Total body synchrony also occurs when the couple from the Mardi Gras ball began making out in the bar. It also demonstrated when the older man takes a shot with the younger girl and then they exit together. Most of my samplings took place in order of the five stages, but there were a few exceptions. I noticed that sometimes attention getting is not necessary and that strictly recognition can is a big player in courting. Also, I noticed that a lot of the time talk and touch were correlated together: most men were touching women when they first began to talk or even before they had spoken. I also learned that certain types of touch do not lead to total body synchrony. Instead, sometimes touch can ruin any potential total body synchrony and send the person back to talk or recognition. I also saw that sometimes touch and total body synchrony would happen before a word was even spoken, so the talk stage was skipped completely. It is my belief the talk stage came after the total body synchrony stage. In my opinion, this proves that the five stages do take place in this order for most “routine,” or typical pick-ups. However, more often than not pick-ups are not simply routine because from my observations it appeared most people, especially the college kids and the hipsters, already knew the people they wanted to pick-up which eliminates basically three phases: attention getting because you already have the person’s attention, recognition because you have already made eye contact and know each other rather well (and could have potentially hooked-up previously), and talk because they have been talking to the person the whole night and could have even been together previously. I thought fifteen minutes would go by a lot slower, but it flew by and I observed more than I thought was humanly possible. If this study was longer than fifteen minutes it would give more of a thorough understanding but too much information for this assignment. I did not have any problems making my observations. I did have to ask one man to move who was obstructing my view, but he did not cause a problem. No one even seemed to notice I was there making observations. If I was to do this study again, I would choose a weekend that was not so crowded and without so many out of town guests. All in all, I feel like my strategies worked very well and I was able to make some very interesting observations.

Author: Johnna Dominguez

Johnna Dominguez earned her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies: Cultural Studies and Body Politics from the University of Alabama's New College in May 2011. In her senior thesis, Johnna explored the embodiment of identity through sexuality and sports by observing and studying Alabama football fans and participants in the local burlesque troupe, the Pink Box Burlesque. In her Master's thesis, she is investigating the psychological and physical stresses associated with southern women who get tattoos. After completing her Master's in Anthropology, she hopes to return to school for a Master's in Public Health.

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