Sociology senior’s groundbreaking thesis gets national recognition

Carmel Stephan, it’s me, I’m the soc senior

Entitled “The Held Door: All Your Social Etiquette Quandaries Solved,” a Whitman sociology senior’s thesis has shaken the ground of social science. As its title indicates, the study details and proves from several sociological surveys the appropriate distance to hold a door open for someone. The student was inspired to perform this study after having the library door held open for them when they were still on Ankeny. 

Illustration by Holly VanVoorhis.

The student surveyed 100 individuals from Whitman College, 50 from Walla Walla University and 25 from Columbia Basin College. All subjects met on Whitman’s campus, were shuffled around and placed into groups of 15. Each group had an extra person that would travel with them and make a point to hold the door open. They were then directed to an academic building (three groups were instructed to go Maxey, three to the Science Hall, six to Olin and three to the Music Hall). The door holder arrived with the crowd of 15 people and held the door open for everyone. When the subjects arrived at the classroom they were assigned to, they were given a survey that asked how they felt about the door holder’s method. Did they feel like the door was held for too long? Did they want less distance between them when the door was held open for them? Did they want more distance? The next day, the subject groups were called to different locations and the same method was repeated, except this time the door was held open when the group was approaching from 15 feet away. 

The study found that nobody enjoyed the door being held open for them when they were approaching from 15 feet away. After several more experiments of different distances, the most preferred distance of approach was approximately six feet; no more and no less.