Human Ethology Assignment


The purpose of this study is to conduct a simple observational study of human mating behavior. Students were instructed to go to a known “pick-up” spot and write down their observations including the date and time they arrived at the location and the name and address.  Additionally, they were asked to describe the environment.  Was it dark or well-lit?  Was it smoky?  What types of people were hanging out there?  And then characterize them – are they fraternity/sorority types?  Hipsters?  Is it a locals’ place or a college student atmosphere?  Is it loud and boisterous or quiet?

NOTE:  THIS ASSIGNMENT DOES NOT CONDONE THE USE OF ALCOHOL.  It is strictly an observational assignment.

From a good vantage point two types of observations were conducted.  The first is called a “focal” study.  Choosing one individual, male or female, this person becomes the focal individual. Students were asked to record his or her behavior for a 15 minute period.  Is s/he drinking?  What is s/he drinking?  Is s/he talking to friends?  Attempting to talk to others?  What is the person’s posture like?  Does s/he look receptive to being picked up?  Is s/he scanning the room and making eye contact with others?  Is s/he smiling, sullen, what?  How is s/he dressed?  Provocatively? Sedately?  Somewhere in the middle? Once those 15 minutes were up, students conducted the second type of observation called a “scan” study.  They were instructed to scan the room every 5 minutes for 15 minutes and record what everyone is doing in the room to the best of their ability.  Are people socializing?  Smoking quietly?  Playing pool?  Admiring the etchings on the walls?  Are groups converging to talk, or are individuals breaking away from groups to meet or greet other individuals?

What we are looking for is data that can be compared to the singles-bar courtship conducted by David Givens and Timothy Perper, as reviewed by Helen Fisher.

Students then summarized their findings as consisting of five stages as follows:  (1) attention getting, (2) recognition, (3) talk, (4) touch, and (5) total body synchrony and discussed thier observations in relation to these stages.

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