Social Experiment: Greeting 103 Strangers at UPNG

UPNG Political Science Honors Students, 2021.

How friendly are students from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) to strangers who greet them?

Would they greet you back if you said “hello”?

If they do, is it in a clear voice, or mumbling?

And would they look at you whilst greeting you?

We spoke greeted 103 strangers (defined as: students we’ve never spoken to before). Only 7 students looked at us, and greeted us back in audible voice. A long way to go. Read on.

On Monday, 9 August 2021, I was heading over to work at UPNG. I greeted the first person. He didn’t reply. I greeted the second person. He mumbled something without looking up at me. I just assumed he was replying to me, could be in his language. I tried the third person, she seemed surprised that a stranger would greet her. Looked at me suspiciously for a few seconds, and managed an inaudible “good morning.”

I continued greeting 30 people before I reached my office. I posted my experience on Facebook, and asked people to try the same experiment. Five UPNG students decided to try it on the same day. The rules were:

1. Greet the person when he/she is at least one metre before you so they have the chance to greet you back.

2. Only count responses of those who you never spoken to before (strangers)

3. Smile while you’re at

The five students spoke to 73 other students who they’ve never spoken to before. Together with the 30 I’ve spoken to, we’ve disaggregated the data into:

“Replied GM” and “No Reply”. See table 1.

Table 1: Replies of people greeted. *GM = Good Morning

Out of the total 103 ‘strangers’ we’ve greeted, 81 replied, whilst 22 didn’t. That’s encouraging, but doesn’t tell the whole story. The 81 who replied didn’t always speak in audible voices. It ranged from audible greetings, to mumbling, heads down or not even making an attempt to look at the person. So we’ve further divided the responses into: “Audible”, “Non-audible”, and “Made-eye-contact”.

Table 2: Varying degree of responses

As table 2 shows, 35 of the 81 responded with audible voices – good morning, hi, hello etc. But only 7 managed to look at the person greeting him or her. The other 39 mumbled, without looking at the person.

Data like this doesn’t tell much. It could be that Monday is not a good day, and that there would be better responses on a Friday. Or perhaps it would be the same on a Friday. It’s week 6 of semester 2, so the students may have a lot to do, and don’t have time to talk to strangers. Or it could be that, students at UPNG are not used to greeting people they don’t know – strangers.

But there is hope, that, out of 100 people you greet at UPNG, at least 7 people will greet you back, looking you in the eye with a smile.

These 7 were either having a great day, outgoing, or are just used to talking to strangers. Congratulations to the 7, and hope all of UPNG would be like the 7 students.

Try this experiment at your school, workplace, street, shopping mall etc. Keep a tally, and comment below so we know how your experience was.

To subscribers of Academia Nomad: be like the 7 people. Politely greet the person who says ‘hello.’ And do it with a smile. Either doesn’t takes much effort. 😊🤞🙏

Published by Academia Nomad

Blogs on politics, economics and social issues in simple language.

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