The Creepy Scientists Who Hid In Girls’ Dorm Rooms

“Didn’t Mummy ever tell you it was rude to eavesdrop, Potter?” —Draco Malfoy, in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In A Nutshell

Scientists are great, but sometimes their experiments get a little freaky. For example, let’s consider the time that a group of researchers decided to hide under the beds in a women’s college. While their goal was to analyze daily conversations, their methods were more than a bit creepy.

The Whole Bushel

Ever get the horrible feeling that something might be lurking under your bed? Don’t worry. It’s probably just a scientist. From time to time, researchers may get the odd urge to arm themselves with pens and paper and sneak under your mattress, all for the purpose of writing down your conversations. Or at least they did back in 1938. Wanting to refute a study that claimed people became less egocentric as they grew older, these guys decided to trail random strangers and record nearly every single word they said.

Since they didn’t have to worry about things like informed consent (it was the ’30s, anything went scientifically speaking), the researchers just started following people on the streets. They’d sit beside them in cafes or follow them into cinemas. They’d chase them into clothing stores or hang around in public bathrooms, listening to their chitchat. While trying to remain invisible, they secretly dictated almost everything their subjects said, taking down their words in shorthand. What exactly was the point? Well, the idea was to focus on daily conversations and see how often people talked about themselves. Sure, this was incredibly creepy, but things got even weirder when the scientists moved into Phase Two.

The problem with eavesdropping on others in public is that people are always aware of others around them. They might be chatting with friends or family, but they aren’t as relaxed as they would be, say, at home. So in the name of science, the researchers decided to set up camp inside a women’s college. As you might expect, this is where things get really disturbing. Not only did the scientists start listening to all the students’ phone calls, they also got the keys to their dormitories. Soon, a bunch of scientists were lying under mattresses in women’s bedrooms, spying on gatherings and tea parties, writing down everything they heard. Evidently, these guys were science ninjas, as it seems none of the women suspected a thing.

Eventually, the study was published in the Journal of Social Psychology. Titled “Egocentricity in Adult Conversation,” the scientists wrote that after spending hours and hours as professional stalkers, they discovered people mostly tend to talk about themselves. The scientists stated that as children, we take part in a lot of egocentric conversation, and we never really stop. No matter how old we get, we keep on talking about our favorite subject . . . ourselves. Of course, the study never addressed the really interesting question of what people should do if they happen to find a scientist hiding in their room. And while we’re asking questions . . . have you checked under your bed lately?

Show Me The Proof

io9.com: Scientists are hiding under your bed
Mind Hacks: Relax ladies, I’m a scientist

  • Hillyard

    I love science. It gives me an excuse to do… all in the name of research.

  • Joseph

    I remember when some guys created a woman using a computer and science. That was weird… weird science! Awesome article, I’m going to go find a girl’s bed that I can hide under.

    • Clyde Barrow

      If they’re bed wetters, you’re in trouble…

      • Joseph

        Do a lot of college girls wet the bed?

        • Clyde Barrow

          That all depends if they find out you’re hiding under their bed!

          • Joseph

            It depends on how high their bed is off the floor…

          • Nomsheep

            wear a raincoat just in case.

  • oouchan

    Neat info, creepy guys.

    • Joseph

      It’s not creepy at all, it’s science.

      • oouchan

        Yeah….no.
        It’s creepy.
        No monsters under the bed…just creepy, stalker scientists.

        • Joseph

          Yeah, it’s creepy. I don’t even know if I believe it, though. I could only find one source for an article and I can’t imagine how they’d be able to hide under a girl’s bed without them knowing about it. I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s very probable. Did any of them ever get caught?

          • oouchan

            Probably not considering the time when it occurred. Science and all that….sad.

          • Joseph

            I’d find it easier to believe if there were more details. I’d like to know how they remained hidden. Did these girls have really giant beds? Were they really, really small scientists? The world will never know… On an unrelated note, Is there an email for Jamie Frater? I’d like to discuss a research proposal I have regarding the conversations that Listverse moderators have. Hopefully, none of them realize that their beds are strangely tilted and raised off the floor for some reason…

          • oouchan

            Too funny. He can be reached at [email protected].

          • Joseph

            Does it make it more creepy or less creepy if the guy under the bed asks to be “buttered up” to be able to get free?

          • oouchan

            ew!