Sunday, July 1, 2012

Modern etiquette dilemmas, #137

I've never wanted fame, but I do relish those odd moments when I'm one degree of separation from it. Back in the 1970s, as a psychology undergraduate, I remember the weird thrill I got when our social psychology department at Oxford was featured in a Sunday newspaper, under the tired old trope of "look what ludicrous things these academics are spending public funds on."

In this case, it was a video camera that had been set up on an Oxford Street (London) pedestrian crossing to observe how people passed each other in public places. And while it was easy to ridicule, the post-grad researchers actually discovered some interesting stuff about human behavior.

So here's one valuable piece of advice that comes out of that study. You know those situations where you come face to face with someone coming in the opposite direction, and then you do that interminable little dance where you both try to pass on the same side for several iterations. (In the indispensable masterpiece The Meaning of Liff by the late Douglas Adams and the still-on-time John Lloyd, this is defined as a "Droitwich.")

Well, if it starts to happens to you, go to the right and stay there. Nips it in the bud every time.

The British taxpayers' money well spent.

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