Short-term decency – a research proposal

From the researchers of The Department of Social Studies at College State University


Cramped, tight, and uncomfortable seating arrangements with strangers are inevitable on a busy airline flight. The average chances of sitting next to a complete stranger on such a flight, as pivotal field research has shown, is as high as 95 percent. As our dependency on technology to carry on basic conversations – even with loved ones – continues to increase, we then find ourselves stricken with long stretches of self-induced awkward silence. That is, however, until all are notified of the final descent of the aircraft by the captain. Suddenly, we experience chatty-Cathiness. Our pioneering research demonstrates that in the final 5% of any given temporary social arena (such as on an airline flight), humans transform from apathetic, anti-social creatures to spirited but artificially-engaged people. In our study, in conjunction with established literature on depleting face-to-face social competence, we show a dramatic spike of pseudo-positive social behavior in flight passengers seated next to complete strangers. Groups of participants who were arranged in 12 social arenas of varying lengths of time demonstrated traits of feigned sympathy, empty well-wishes, second-hand or third-handed travel recommendations, and/or socially-safe political consensus making. It appears that our participants jumped to engage in petty conversations only when the end of the temporarily fixed social arena was in sight. We are calling this behavior short-term decency. In the discussion section of this article, we predict that participants demonstrate short-term decency in the final 5% of the social arena time-lapse because the window for constructing obligations, expressing free-thinking opinions, or exposing one’s lack of cultural engagement will soon close.

*Our research methods and literature were inspired by and drawn from the influentials papers titled “I ain’t one to cheat, said the adulterer: Going out of your way to say what you are not when you are in fact that way (2009) and Though I knew you had a need, if you would have explicitly asked me for help, I would have helped, but now the time has passed so I am morally off the hook: Offering assistance when the timeframe to do so has expired (J. ver Bose – 2011).


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