This week, my classmates and I were required to design our own natural observation project and test a hypothesis derived from the Vohs Environmental Order Hypothesis
Here’s how it went:
Using the Regenstein library (a.k.a “The Reg”), we were wondering if we could observe differences in productivity based on the nature of the environment in which a student works. Out of the Reg’s five floors, Floor 1 is most likely the loudest floor because it has many public computers, a café, public printers, library circulation desks, while also considered to be a social hub for most students whilst they study. On the other hand, Floors 2 through 5 are all designated “quiet zones”, while Floor 1, of course, is not. Amongst the student population, it is more or less accepted that as one ascends to higher floors within the Reg, the spaces gradually become quieter due to fewer people and the difficulty of access (stairs are annoying to climb) as well as some other reasons. So, despite all of these spaces having to maintain silence, we predicted that higher floors should still be quieter. Based on this information our hypothesis was that higher and thus quieter floors are generally more conventional workspaces and therefore should be more productive. We tested this for three days by counting the number of observable laptops with some type of distracting website (like Facebook, Netflix, etc…) on screen in 5 minute intervals for one hour. This gave us a population of screens that we could analyze quantitatively. At the same time, we measured the sound level of each floor with an iPhone app. Floor 5 was predicted to be the quietest floor with the highest productivity by way of fewer laptop screens on distracting websites. On the other hand, Floor 1 was predicted to be the loudest floor with the least productivity. So the results showed that…..
All of our predictions were wrong!
Floor 5 was both the quietest floor and the least productive. In fact, it had even lower productivity than Floor 1, which would probably seem like Distraction Central for most students. Secondly, we expected floors to be quieter higher up but Floor 4 was somehow the second loudest floor (besides Floor 1). Because we were only given a week to prepare and collect data there are also many sources of error to take into account (which you can read yourself here if interested), but this was the best we could do given the time constraints.
Needless to say, sometimes what you believe to be true can be very very false.