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The Score on Scoring
June 24, 2012 9:46 AM   Subscribe

There is a dating guide for Stanford University (PDF file), and it includes a foreword by Philip Zimbardo.
posted by reenum (42 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is all you need to know.
posted by Fizz at 9:52 AM on June 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hmm. They assigned us a faculty advisor when we came to Stanford, in order to kind of make sure that we were not killing ourselves and we got academic advice. It was not that random, the faculty advisor we got: I kind of expressed interest in wanting to be a doctor, so I was assigned to an assistant prof in hematology. I am in undergrad, mind you.

He met me in the faculty clubhouse thing and, with a conspiratorial look, looked over at another table with some female students, and said, "you know, 70% of Stanford students meet their future spouse on the Farm! And you can also meet a spouse in medical school!"

I mean, Zimbardo currently is on a quest to figure our the cause of our generation's men's forever alone-ness. Safe to say that he would start in at home, presumably in the nerdier departments.
posted by curuinor at 10:04 AM on June 24, 2012


Huh. It seems on the forward is by Zimbardo, and it seems much older. Sorry, then.
posted by curuinor at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2012


The Stanford Meat Market Experiment.
posted by asnider at 10:06 AM on June 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


curuinor- They gave the same advice when I started there in, *cough* 1998. Anecdotally, that number seemed severely inflated. Is the "no one dates at Stanford" think still 85%+ true?
posted by JMOZ at 10:06 AM on June 24, 2012


Didn't he end up marrying one of his grad students?
posted by maryr at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2012


Dating. One of the most unethical social psychological experiments ever conducted.
posted by found missing at 10:08 AM on June 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yes, a vile canard.
posted by curuinor at 10:10 AM on June 24, 2012


Far Side cartoons? Tower Records salesguys? This is an interesting artefact of long ago times.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:11 AM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Zimbardo recently did an interesting IAmA:
Recently, through TED Books, I co-authored The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. My book questions whether the rampant overuse of video games and porn are damaging this generation of men.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:11 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


NOTE: Experience dictates that innuendo works particularly well with professors and TA's [sic] in the Comparative Literature, Drama, English, Psychology, any foreign language, and law. Philosophy and Engineering professors and TA's usually need a direct approach, unfaltering delineation of what you want.
posted by skbw at 10:12 AM on June 24, 2012


Speaking of Zimbardo's book, Carl Zimmer had a pretty cutting critique of it (and TED talks in general):

The Demise of Guys is a mish mash of quotes and numbers. Zimbardo and his co-author Nikita Duncan give a column in the Daily Mail about bad boyfriends just as much credibility as a peer-reviewed paper. They cite press releases. They insert an unscientific survey of TED viewers about what they think about pornography. They leap from video games to ADHD to fatherless families, giving just a few hundred words of attention before leaping off to the next hot-button topic.
posted by adrianhon at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Does it include a bit about not locking a group of healthy young men into a basement for a week until your grad student/girlfriend tells you this is now probably crazy?
posted by Phalene at 10:37 AM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is the same guy who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, yes? I do not get why this guy has a career at all now, much less such a successful one. I read the synopsis of that experiment written by Zimbardo on the official website and it vacillates between trying to incorporate criticism of the experiment and justifying it while denying that he did anything wrong in administering it.

I mean the man basically tortured the subjects of the experiment in the name of science and he still teaches, and does research...

I don't get it. I've never seen any justification for his continued employment in his field in response to that experiment. He hasn't recanted it.
posted by newg at 10:38 AM on June 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


What can you expect from a school whose name anagrams to "Snodfart"?

/definitely Berkeleyist.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:51 AM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Have you guys ever seen Philip Zimbardo? Because, christ, just look at that guy.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 AM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thing is, Fizz, and others who leapt to conclusions, this doesn't actually seem to be "Game"-style pick-up artist material at all. Rather, it's the exact opposite - more along the lines of "don't be afraid nice things about people," "research their interests to find interesting things to say," "be honest" and "be confident enough to admit your vulnerabilities."

Radical advice! The kind I actually wish had reached me in those awkward years.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


benito, you really shouldn't insult Stanford too much; they stand for rad fonts and forts. On the other hand, they're darn soft and they have no drafts.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


I mean the man basically tortured the subjects of the experiment in the name of science and he still teaches, and does research...

Of course, at the time, there never was the Belmont Report which set ethical guidelines for practicing psychologists at the time. It is also worth noting that the research conclusions were very astounding for the field, and that some participants were glad they were in the experiment. I see his experiment as a catalyst for causing the Belmont Report to be put into place. I do not think it is fair to judge his future work for mistakes that he did not intend to create at a time when such mistakes were, frankly, allowed in the Psychology world.
posted by weewooweewoo at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Are we really taking seriously a "guide" that devotes a whole chapter to tips on how to seduce one's boss, teacher, or advisor? WTF year is this?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are we really taking seriously a "guide" that devotes a whole chapter to tips on how to seduce one's boss, teacher, or advisor? WTF year is this?

Right, because this never happens in the enlightened year of 2012AD.
posted by jmd82 at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I mean the man basically tortured the subjects of the experiment in the name of science and he still teaches, and does research...

To be fair, some of the participants themselves were responsible for the worst of what happened in that experiment: the guards were bullying the prisoners, but they hadn't been told to do so, they went beyond the rules of the experiment.

To me, it's a hugely valuable reminder of how humans can act. The guards and prisoners were randomly assigned, but within only a few days they were adopting and exceeding their assigned roles. It's really quite scary - but I don't think we can blame Zimbardo for showing us that side of our nature.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the first few pages. The stuff about being confident and at ease with yourself is good. The guide sounds like it is going to be Game style pickup artist stuff, but it turns out it isn't. There's a specific section addressing this.

"Scoring tactics" should be used to exploit opportunities that allow individuals to connect, rather than to exploit others' feelings.

Most of the advice is just what you hopefully learn through the years by trying to be a cool, pleasant and engaging person.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:59 AM on June 24, 2012


"pretend to be confident" "wear your most flattering clothes!"

Oh God. It's so very painful to read this. Like watching a room of senior professors trying to break dance.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hold on. It looks like one of the co-authors the guide is former child actress and Stanford alum Tannis Vallely who played Janice on Head Of The Class.

Also, judging from the photocopied Far Side cartoons and the late '90s dates given in the introduction, the guide appears to have been authored around 15 years ago, which is why it might seem slightly dated in context.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:27 PM on June 24, 2012


It's turned dating into homework. Maybe the solution is to do that literally--give an assignment to go on a date.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2012


Uhh...
Think of a person that you don't know -- they're not a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance -- but you have a perfectly good reason to talk to them. They're the latte girl at Starbucks, the cute salesguy at Tower Records, the hot assistant manager at the Gap ... even if you don't find your soulmate behind the counter somewhere, take advantage of this incredible practice arena. This is the perfect place to try out and work on flirting techniques -- see what works and what really doesn't. Practice everywhere. These interactions are great, low pressure, fun situations -- and isn't that what it's all about?
...

First off, remember that you're dealing with someone who is paid to be nice to you, to serve your needs. You're the customer and you're always right! At best, you can't be ignored.

Oy vey. Hope this was excised from future "editions."
posted by cairdeas at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Infinite Jest
To me, it's a hugely valuable reminder of how humans can act. The guards and prisoners were randomly assigned, but within only a few days they were adopting and exceeding their assigned roles. It's really quite scary - but I don't think we can blame Zimbardo for showing us that side of our nature.

This is true, but we can blame him for taking it too far. In Zimbardo's own words (from the AmA):
Over time, I internalized the role of prison superintendent in which my main concern was the security of my institution when faced with threats from prisoners. In that mindset, as prisoners had psychological breakdowns, my main task was to get suitable replacements from the waiting list rather than to perceive that the study should be terminated given we had proven our point that the situation was able to influence good people to do bad things.
weewooweewoo
I do not think it is fair to judge his future work for mistakes that he did not intend to create at a time when such mistakes were, frankly, allowed in the Psychology world.

This is true, and he shouldn't be held to the standard now for what he did at the time. But I would argue that he should be held to the standard now for what he does and says now. In the AmA above, Zimbardo does take responsibility for what happened in the SPE, but he never says that it would be wrong to do it again. Instead, his comments suggest that he thinks that the SPE was totally fine, should be repeated, and the only thing holding him back are overzealous and over conservative review boards.
A problem is created however, when [review boards] become excessively conservative and reject almost all research that could conceivably 'stress' participants even by having them think about a stressful situation. Thus nothing like the Milgram study or my Stanford Prison study could ever be done again. Is that good? Is that bad? Open issue for debate.
Am I reading too much into that Zimbardo quote? Perhaps. But in my world, the "badness" of doing the SPE again is not open for debate. We learned what we can from it and we do not need to have college students torture each other again (no matter how much they irritate me). The fact that he thinks there is room for debate on the SPE makes it pretty clear which side of the "debate" Zimbardo is on.

I'm usually all for forgiveness, but I have to side with newg on this one. Zimbardo may not have done anything wrong at the time, but he also seems to be unapologetic about what happened in a way that suggests that he never learned why what he did would be wrong today. Instead he ride walks an edge of "fake apologizing," by saying that yes he took things too far, and yes he was responsible, but none of it was actually wrong, and everyone else just overreacted.

I can understand that this is necessary for his self-esteem. That he needs to walk this edge to continue to believe that he is not a horrible person (and he really is not a horrible person), but at the same time, I feel uncomfortable with him walking this ego-ethical tightrope while still conducting experiments on humans. It makes his judgements suspect.
posted by yeolcoatl at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's turned dating into homework. Maybe the solution is to do that literally--give an assignment to go on a date.

It's a pretty common refrain/excuse from Stanford undergrads that "dating is a 5-unit class" so that suggestion probably isn't too far off.
posted by cammimmac at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I reading too much into that Zimbardo quote? Perhaps.

No, not "perhaps", but rather an emphatic "yes". Mainly because it was not one quote but rather multiple quotes stripped of context and their major points conflated to suit your point.

If you read them out separately, which I suggest people do because it is a great AMA, then you would see he makes very valid points. He is not lamenting the fact that he cannot 'lock some people up and torture them' anymore, which is a somewhat uncharitable view of the SPE study, he is speaking to the idea that the regulations are very stringent now and it can be hard to sometimes set up even simple experiments if they include inducing stress beyond a hand in an ice bucket. Maybe this something that you would only know by exposure to researchers, but last I checked mashing together differently framed assertions from different questions is bad form, and unless anyone actually develops oft flaunted mind reading skills then it will remain so.

Although, in one of his answers he does take umbrage with the implications that his study was wrong, or that he is a bad person for doing it and that would in turn invalidates all of his other research. Which, again, are both very valid points if you read his criticism within context. Or, at least make a go at it without thinking he is a quack that likes to literally put the thumbscrews to people.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 4:33 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Then there's the analysis OK Cupid did on its dating data (see Chart #9) which suggests that the more your parents are paying for your education, the more horny you are,
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:00 PM on June 24, 2012


I also thought the Zimbardo Iama at Reddit was fantastic. The best question was the one about how much is too much porn and how much is too much video games. Zimbardo's answer (which there is NO WAY this is a scientific finding) was an hour of porn a day or four hours of video games was definitely too much. It has been a long time since Zimbardo was a teenager.

Also he does vacations with relatives in Sicily!
posted by bukvich at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2012


cammimmac- that refrain was repeated a decade ago, too. Funny how some things never change.
posted by JMOZ at 7:54 PM on June 24, 2012


Zimbardo's answer (which there is NO WAY this is a scientific finding) was an hour of porn a day or four hours of video games was definitely too much. It has been a long time since Zimbardo was a teenager.

Um, what would your answer be? That's 5 hours out of what, 17-18 awake hours? Seems pretty reasonable to me.
posted by msalt at 8:08 PM on June 24, 2012


jmd82: "Are we really taking seriously a "guide" that devotes a whole chapter to tips on how to seduce one's boss, teacher, or advisor? WTF year is this?

Right, because this never happens in the enlightened year of 2012AD.
"

OK, I'll bite: name some schools that publish guides to hitting on one's boss/teacher/academic advisor.

I'll be waiting.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:38 PM on June 24, 2012


Um, you guys know this was written by a bunch of undergrads, right? And that Zimbardo was probably still teaching psychology at the time, so this could even have been a class-related project (he refers to the authors as "my students"?) Because some of the comments seem to be considering this as a real university publication and it is FREAKING ME OUT.
posted by synapse at 9:00 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeolcoatl mentioned my main concern with the prison experiment, which is that Zimbardo did not just conduct the experiment, he inserted himself into it as the "superintendent" and admits that he totally lost contact with the fact that he was running an experiment, not a prison. Even in the 1970's I can't see that really being good study design - but even if it was, Zimbardo won't talk about that now. In the link I posted the entire question of "is it a good idea for the researcher to involve himself as a participant?" is frame like, "Well some people like chocolate ice cream and some like vanilla, what do you think?"

Also: day three of the experiment: Zimbardo mentions that one of his collegues shows up and asks, "What is the independent variable in this study?" Zimbardo admits he had no clue, but continues the experiment! This is just after calling the local jail to see if he can get his prisoners transferred there, but the local jail says no, and Zimbardo is upset because he feels that there is a "lack of cooperation between our correctional facilities."

Also, finally, his study only showed that ordinary (but really who knows how he selected them) people are capable of doing terrible things to each other. This isn't news. He did not add anything to the table there. IF he had been out to find out WHY such a thing might have happened, that might have been a thing - but it's clear from his own account that the design of the experiment was so flawed that he never could have answered any questions to that effect beyond conjecture that wouldn't have required the experiment at all.

My thing is not so much that it happened - others have mentioned the different standards of the time, although it seems like his colleague was up to date with modern ideas about designing studies before running them - but rather my concern is that he is considered a valid mentor for students of psychology at Stanford today, since he created a bad (terrible!) experiment and doesn't seem to be doing much better work now.
posted by newg at 9:19 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


There aren't many experiments we still talk about, forty years later. It's a genuinely shocking result, probably the most important concrete finding in all of social science.
posted by effugas at 3:06 AM on June 25, 2012


Right, because this never happens in the enlightened year of 2012AD.

I think that particular cri du couer was about how it shouldn't be happening in the enlightened year of 2012AD.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:05 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Close, Empress. I was more thinking of the legal liability of the situation. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that our enlightenment has affected the desire of some students to seduce their teachers, or vice versa.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:25 AM on June 25, 2012


"Use the loaded-touch".

"ha ha ha, you're so funny Jim" (*grabs Jim's crotch)
posted by stormpooper at 6:32 AM on June 25, 2012


At least it's aged better than Jerry Sandusky's guide to dating at Penn State.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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