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The Truly Strange Research Hall of Fame’s First Inductee: The Onset of Micturation

- July 24, 2008


A few days ago I was reading an article in a psychology journal — I’ll post an item about it sometime soon — and when I came to the main explanatory variable in the analysis, I was awe-struck by its sheer weirdness. This wasn’t the first time I’d had that reaction — shaking my head and asking myself “How do people come up with stuff like this?” — to something I was reading in a social science journal. I’m not referring here just to some idea that comes from outside the prevailing paradigm, seems counterintuitive, etc. I’m talking about stuff that seems to come from outer space.

It is in this context that I am pleased to announce the opening of a major new initiative of the vast “Monkey Cage” empire, which we have dubbed the Truly Strange Research Hall of Fame. To get things off with appropriate fanfare (Ta Da!), let me introduce the TSRHoF’s inaugural inductee:

Middlemist, R.D., E.S. Knowles, and C.F. Matter. 1976. Personal space invasions in the lavatory: suggestive evidence for arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 33 (May): 541-546.

bq. ABSTRACT: The hypothesis that personal space invasions produce arousal was investigated in a field experiment. A men’s lavatory provided a setting where norms for privacy were salient, where personal space invasions could occur in the case of men urinating, where the opportunity for compensatory responses to invasion were minimal, and where proximity-induced arousal could be measured. Research on micturation indicates that social stressors inhibit relaxation of the external urethral sphincter, which would delay the onset of micturation, and that they increase intravesical pressure, which would shorten the duration of micturation once begun. Sixty lavatory users were randomly assigned to one of three levels of interpersonal distance and their micturation times were recorded. In a three-urinal lavatory, a confederate stood immediately adjacent to a subject, one urinal removed, or was absent. Paralleling the results of a correlational pilot study, close interpersonal distances increased the delay of onset and decreased the persistence of micturation. These findings provide objective evidence that personal space invasions produce physiological changes associated with arousal.

The TSRHoF is hereby open for business and and eager to accept nominations for new honorees. All that’s required is a full citation. As Self-Appointed Curator of the TSRHoF, I’ll take care of the rest.