Research proves that we'll practically sign anything

Piece of research at DePaul University shows that students were prepared to carelessly sign agreements that "administered electric shocks to fellow participants."

How many contracts have you signed without even checking to see whether you've agreed to donate your spleen and other entrails to a Bulgarian vulgarian who lives in Krk, Croatia?

Well, those clever professors at DePaul University thought that "hundreds" might be your answer, because they did something very strange. Yes, they brought about an interesting piece of research.

It was not inspired by the raising of voices and emotions about Facebook's terms of service. But it might now be dedicated to it.

They dragged 91 students in from various interesting corners of the campus and reminded them that they'd agreed to be research guinea pork as part of the course requirement. Then they asked them to sign an innocent consent form. Just three pages of single-spaced type.

Eighty-seven of the students, some of whom may already have been double-spaced from certain student-friendly paraphernalia, signed the form.

The professors were squeezing their legs together in excitement because the contract declared that the students would be "administering electric shocks to fellow participants...even if that participant screamed, cried, and asked for medical assistance."

The contract also succeeded in getting the students' agreement to do push-ups.

I cannot confirm that this is a memorial to all those who agreed to the electric shock contract. CC Eamonn

The professors then told the students what they had signed. "Some of them laughed, some of them just rolled their eyes," assistant professor Jessica Choplin wrote in the NYU Journal of Law and Business.

However, she and her fellow researcher, Debra Pogrund Stark, are not without heart. So without even a spark of high-voltage punishment, they tore up the bogus consent forms and gave the 87 fine undergraduates the real consent forms.

"Of the 87 participants who signed the bogus consent form," wrote Choplin and Stark, "17.2 percent did not even look at the actual consent form, another 18.4 percent looked so briefly that they could not have read it, and 21.8 percent only skimmed enough to get a vague idea of some of the provisions."

The new consent forms actually committed the students to running naked down Michigan Avenue in Chicago, singing Wham's fine hit "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and holding a flag that read, "I Sleep with the Squirrels."

Well, not exactly. But somehow, one wishes it had. I wonder if Comcast got me to agree to never, ever, ever complain about its service. I must go and check.

 

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