Queuing (or 'standing in line' for Americans) is time wasted, part of our lives flushed down the toilet. Just like other everyday activities - grocery shopping, teeth brushing and washing-up - queuing is necessary but tedious, hard to take pleasure in.
This is a shame because over a lifetime we spend about four years queuing (hopefully not all in one go). That's more, on average, than we spend shopping, exercising, cooking or driving. What we need is a way of coping with queuing, a distraction of some kind. One answer comes from psychologist Stanley Milgram, famous for his work on obedience in social psychology: study the queue itself.
Excuse me, I'd like to get in here
米尔格拉姆认为，排队是研究一群人如何自发形成社会规则而避免混乱的经典范例。但是，当面临混乱的威胁时，社会规则是不牢固的，比如来了个插队的。于是突然间我们想到个现成的社会心理学实验课题：这种无意识形成的社会规则（自发社会秩序，spontaneous social order）有多脆弱？人们会为维护规则做什么呢？对这些看似平淡无奇的问题的回答，可能揭示一个人们在团队中行为的重要真理。
Milgram considered the queue a classic example of how groups of people automatically create social order out of chaos. But this social order can be fragile when faced with chaotic threats, like that of the queue-jumper. Suddenly we have a social psychology experiment on our hands: how fragile is this spontaneous social order and what will people do to protect it? In the answer to this seemingly mundane question may lie an important truth about our behaviour in groups.
Early research found that people were strangely reluctant to challenge queue-jumpers, suggesting our spontaneous social order is fairly week. But this wasn't a properly designed experiment and so Milgram set about testing people's reactions to queue-jumpers using a real-life experimental study.
Milgram had assistants travel around New York to 129 different queues in betting shops, railway stations and elsewhere. At each one his experimental assistant followed a strict protocol laid down in advance:
1. 从队伍第三和第四个人之间进去；2. 用平静的声调说：“打扰了，我想站这儿。”3. 站进队列里，向前看。4. 一旦有人出来指责或者排队超过一分钟，就离开。
Enter queue at between the third and fourth person. Say in a neutral tone: "Excuse me, I'd like to get in here." Step into line and face forward. Only leave the queue when someone admonished them or after 1 minute, whichever was sooner.
People's responses were quite meek. On only 10% of occasions were queue-jumpers physically ejected from the line. And on only about half the occasions did anybody in the line do anything at all. Anything at all included, in this case, dirty looks or gestures as well as actual verbal objections. This seems remarkably low.
Hey, there's a line here you know!
Milgram also used two variations to find out under what conditions people would protest at queue-jumpers. The first variation was the number of intruders. Milgram found that doubling the number of jumpers almost doubled the rate of objections, which then rocketed up to 91%.
A second variation involved introducing a 'buffer' person. This was another experimental confederate who was already stood in the queue legitimately. The queue-jumper did their jumping in front of them. The introduction of a buffer was to examine what people would do when they were two or three places back in the queue behind the jumper. The results showed that increasing the buffer decreased the number of objections. When there were two people between them and the queue-jumper, objections dropped to just 5%.
Too scared to question the queue-jumper?
Milgram's most interesting insights are his attempts to explain why people don't intervene. Are people just too scared? Not necessarily:
1. 每个人面朝同一个方向都站在另一个人的身后，这是很难形成团队的。因此社会规则就显得软弱无力了。2. 和插队者理论，可能意味着你会失去自己在队列中的位置。3. 社会系统必须对一些异常行为有容忍度，不然就会很快崩溃。比如一次打架，所有人都要停下来直到争端解决（是很难让人接受的）。4. 队列会通过默许和接受那些威胁队列存在的人，使他们获得一点好处，从而巩固了队列。
Group formation is difficult when people are stood one behind the other, all facing in the same direction. Consequently social order is weak. Challenging queue-jumpers could mean losing your own place in the line. Social systems have to tolerate some deviance otherwise they may quickly break down, i.e. a fight may start and everyone is delayed while it is sorted out. The line is co-opting those who threaten it by tacitly accepting them so that they gain an interest in the queue and the queue becomes stronger.
Milgram thought queue-jumping is tolerated as long as it doesn't threaten the line too much. People want to avoid social disorder because their own interests (getting served) are tied up in an orderly queue.
Coping with queuing
So the next time you're in a queue or spot a queue-jumper think about Milgram's study and how the queue might reflect society at large. If that fails it's fun to imagine the look on people's faces as Milgram's brave assistants pushed in to queues all over New York, while another watched and recorded people's reactions.
Over to you: what strange behaviour have you spotted in queues and do you ever queue-jump or challenge queue-jumpers?
2010-04-15 18:55 编辑：kuaileyingyu