No shows and pushy people

I know I should be really really thankful for every person who shows up to run through my experiment. I know that, really. But that doesn’t make it any easier when people don’t show up. Or are rude. Or pushy. Or some combination.

Like the person who knocks on the door after the experiment has started and the sign has been posted saying they’re late. They don’t seem to realize/acknowledge that they are interrupting every single person in the study. Or the person who tries to get you to let them sit in the room as you get things set up half an hour before the appointment time, because they blame you for the fact they were worried they had missed it because for some reason they had the actual time wrong (not the experiment time, but they were off by an hour as to what time it was right then).

I try, really hard, to not piss off participants. I want them to have an enjoyable experience. So I test my stuff, a lot, before having them try it. It may not be perfect, but it’s as close as it’s going to get. I work to keep the experiment as short as possible. And I try to be very friendly when they do show up. I’ve run people through early (if possible) and even accepted those late participants when I shouldn’t (I do want the data if possible).

And I’ve also been on the other side, as a participant. So I know it’s not always the participants fault when things don’t work. I’ve gone to one experiment, was promised x as compensation (not money) and never received it. I probably should’ve followed up, but I didn’t, since it really didn’t matter. I’ve also had cases where the instructions were really unclear and the researcher very unhelpful. Or those rooms, where you thought you gave yourself tons of time to find it but it turns out to be down some mysterious hallway you start to think doesn’t exist (I try to post very clear directions on how to find the lab I’m in for just this reason).

It really doesn’t take much to be a decent participant. Really, if you follow the first three below, any researcher will be happy. If you add in the fourth we’ll become ecstatic.

  1. Show up on time. If the experiment is scheduled to start at 1pm, you show up around 12:55 unless instructions specify to be there even earlier. Don’t expect the researchers to be ready at 12:30.
  2. Follow the instructions. Listen to what the researcher says. Read the instructions given to you. And then follow them. If unsure – ask.
  3. Realize that problems happen. It’s unfortunate. And the researcher likely tried very hard to prevent them. But sometimes it happens. If the researcher can’t accomodate you in a reasonable amount of time (usually within a few minutes) it’s acceptable (in my opinion) to withdraw yourself from the study.
  4. If the researcher provides area for comments, give them, even if some what random. I’ve learned a lot of interesting stuff about my experiments based on some of the comments. Some good, some bad, but almost every single one was useful.

So, while I’m currently feeling a bit grumpy after dealing with participants this week, I’m also glad I finally have data so I can hopefully confirm everything is good. And move on to the next step – whatever that may be.


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