Psychological Testing / Being a Dick - A Documented Experiment

Hypothesis : People will grumble and complain about stuff, yet continue to do the stuff they are complaining about, rather than spend 30 seconds resolving the issue.

Back Story : At the coffee-point at work, we have small sachets of instant coffee. These sachets are tear-proof, and in order to open them, some altruistic being put out a pair of scissors to assist in opening the sachets. The scissors, however, kept on vanishing (not me). They were replaced, and then removed again (still not me). Someone came up with the genius idea of using a length of string (about a metre) to tie the scissors to the hot water tap.

This was too tempting to turn down. I'm normally the first one in in the morning, so I have ample opportunity to set up the daily test of the human condition

Day 1 : I simply cut the string in the middle, and placed the scissors in the cutlery jar
End of Day 1 : Someone has tied the 2 ends back together.

Day 2 : I cut and re-tied the string to a length of 50cm, meaning that everyone has to cluster round the hot-water tap.
End of Day 2 : Some grumbling, but everyone continues to use the tethered scissors

Day 3 : I cut and re-tied the string to a length of 15cm. It's now tricky to actually get the scissors into your hand to use them.
End of Day 3 : More grumbling, but everyone continues to use the short-tethered scissors.

Day 4 : I re-tied the string so that it goes through both handles of the scissors. You can now, if you really try, just get the end of a sachet between the blades, while hunched next to the hot water tap.
End of Day 4 : I have just watched a senior marketing manager valiantly battle with the tethered, crippled scissors to open a sachet, spilling about a third of the contents over the work surface.

No-one has yet tried to;
1) Replace the string
2) Take the tether off the string
3) Put up a note suggesting that we stop dicking with the string

I'm not sure what the next step should be? The scissors have to continue to be nominally functional for their stated purpose (i.e. open a coffee sachet), while getting more and more impractical to use, while still having a simple resolution (i.e. remove/replace string). The scissors are cheap, and don't have a screw hinge (otherwise I would have loosened it, making the scissors particularly ineffective cutting items).


Tricky, I have a few thoughts:

  • Gum the blades up with sellotape adhesive, they will still be usable, but significantly harder to open and close.
  • Replace the scissors with child safe ones; the ones that can just about cut paper and are tiny.
  • Replace them with nail scissors, still metal and capable, but really tiny ... and possibly with a curved blade.
Bigger Rob's picture

I like the sellotape one, though to be really authentic I would mix up some coffee, sugar and water, and use that as the adhesive.

babychaos's picture

I suppose you could try putting them in salt water over the weekend and see if they rust up a bit.

Bigger Rob's picture

Swap them for left handed scissors (you must have a pair.)

fish's picture

I laughed so hard at this, fish's answer is genius.

How about having two pairs of scissors. Blunt the second pair with a file but make the string longer.

brainwipe's picture

Day 5 : It seems general opinion was to compromise the cutting efficiency of the blades. The simplest way to do this was to insert a teaspoon handle in-between the blades and bend them slightly apart (same effect as swapping in a pair of left-handed scissors, though it should be noted that due to their location, you're probably better off using your left-hand anyway)

Blades now clearly have ~1mm gap between the cutting edges, which will force any attempted users to apply torque with their thumb (which as a left-hander who uses right-handed scissors, is rather painful).

babychaos's picture

AN UPDATE!!! - 1 hour into day 5, someone has cut the string, so it's no longer tethered to the hot water tap...

...the handles are still tied together, and someone actually asked why they had been released. At this point, the scissors could go walkabout, or people will continue to use them in the cripped format...or maybe someone will bring in new string (and thus the entire game starts again...). I'd get a photo, but it's a little busier in the office now...

babychaos's picture

ANOTHER UPDATE!!! - 3 hours in, and the string has entirely been removed. The scissors are now wild in the kitchen area (still bent blades though).

How long before they are stolen?

babychaos's picture

Brilliant. I suggest starting your own series of passive aggressive notes complaining about your own antics. And Fish's idea.

Nibbles's picture

So, on summary, would the following work;
1) 'steal' current scissors
2) replace with left-handed scissors on a short tether
3) leave a terse note saying not to untie and remove the scissors

babychaos's picture

I might start with a long tether that gets shorter over time again, stop people getting too comfortable with the status quo.

fish's picture

Steal, left handed scissors, long tether. Start again.

brainwipe's picture

Remove one half of the scissors

Evilmatt's picture

babychaos's picture

I'm please to see they have plastic handles. They could have an accident in the future and one handle could fall off.

fish's picture

Have there been any further developments?

Bigger Rob's picture

I've seen the new scissors. They are brilliant.

brainwipe's picture

I intend to re-commence the experiment after I'm back from Spain.

The completely battered scissors are still in use (I've watched people struggle to cut through half a coffee packet with them just today). It's a credit to the Dunkirk spirit that no-one has completely lost their shit over them yet. I have a feeling the left-handed ones will be met with joy.

babychaos's picture