Unwitting urinators

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

Back in the good old days, scientists never wasted their time on tiresome ethics committee bureaucracy. In 1976, the US researchers Middlemist, Knowles and Matter tackled the burning research question: how do invasions of personal space affect men’s urination in a public toilet? Their unwitting urinators could choose from one of three urinals. A researcher then stood directly next to them, one urinal away, or was not present at all. Another researcher observed the stream of urine via a periscope hidden in some books. The results? No surprises here. The average onset of urination is 4.8 seconds when peeing solo, but 8.4 seconds with someone right next door. So don’t grumble about ethics committees. Thank them for the fact that no-one has a periscope pointed at your pee today.


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