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Opinion: People Do Not Seem to Prefer Eating Chicken When They Are Sitting in a Room That Resembles an Egg
by Dr. Jason Stalwortz, Professor of Psychology at Northern University of Seattle
To my esteemed colleagues,
35 years ago, a casual lunch would mark the beginning of a decades-long research quest for truth. I was sitting in a deli in New York eating a chicken salad sandwich, enjoying it immensely. This particular deli had an unusual architecture and decor, and as I sat eating my lunch it occurred to me that the room slightly resembled a chicken egg. Like any good researcher should, when confronted with this fact I began to question if there was a connection between that and my love of the sandwich, and how to test it if so.
Right then and there I did a quick calculation: 50% of the people around me were eating chicken dishes while only 35% of dishes on the deli’s menu contained chicken. I knew right then and there I may have stumbled upon a fascinating research topic!
I returned to my lab at the university to discuss the idea with my colleague Dr. Brian Wellsworth. Dr. Wellsworth assured me that this topic was idiotic and not worth investing any time into. Ha! The competition for tenure is just too steep to ask for honest professional advice from colleagues. How embarrassed he would feel when I was winning awards for my new research!
For the next five years I developed and published my first research article on the topic: “Exploring the Relationship Between Sitting in an Egg-Shaped Room and Desiring to Eat Chicken”. In this study, I placed some participants in a chicken egg-shaped room, other participants in a square room, and a third group in a turkey egg-shaped room to determine what effect the environment would have on the subjects’ will to eat chicken.
To my astonishment, the results of the study showed that the data could not be used because some participants had eaten chicken right before coming to the lab, which skewed all of the data we collected!
It was tough to acknowledge that 5 years had been wasted, but I decided I was in too deep to give up then. From that point on I began running my second study, entitled “Exploring the Relationship Between Sitting in an Egg-Shaped Room and Desiring to Eat Chicken Assuming No Chicken Has Been Consumed Earlier.” For the next seven years, I worked on this topic, bringing participants into the lab with a similar procedure as my last study. Only this time I was wise enough to include a survey question asking if the participant had eaten chicken today.
The results of this study were nothing short of incredible. Once I was able to rule out eating chicken earlier as a potential bias, I discovered that some of the participants were vegetarian, or didn’t like to eat chicken! Once again the data could not be used and the world was delayed an answer to this pressing question.
For 10 more years I worked on this project. I developed a new, complex survey called the PACRE (Psychological Assessment of Chicken-Related Experiences), which featured over 3 million questions about participants’ life experiences with chicken. I included this survey in my new study and ran participants in a similar manner as the first two tries.
This time, I finally was able to come up with an answer. Through my study, I determined that it was only 47% likely that being in an egg-shaped room would change people’s taste preferences for chicken, and there was only a 49.8% chance that my results were due to random chance and not a scientific proof!
So despite the fact that my data hardly meets research credibility guidelines, and also considering the fact that many participants told me afterwards they deliberately lied because the study seemed so stupid to them, I am proud to announce that I am a little bit certain that maybe people do not prefer eating chicken more when they are in an egg-shaped room.
Take that, Wellsworth! I look forward to hearing back about award nominations and general praises for my work.
Dr. Jason Stalwortz
Professor of Psychology at Northern University of Seattle