A small group of reporters form the New York Times recently replicated Stanley Milgram\’s subway seat experiment. Experimenters entered the New York City subway and very simply asked fellow riders to give up their seat. Well, maybe not so simply, as it was back in Milgram\’s day a majority of subway riders did vacate their seats for seemly no reason when asked to do so, but as with the original experiment one of the most interesting aspects of the study was the anxiety experimenters experienced as a result of making the request. My research assistants and I experienced similar anxiety in 2001 when we replicated the lost letter study, \”loosing\” a letter in a store was surprisingly difficult, we all felt like \”reverse shoplifters.\” Article

Pollsters have long accepted a margin of error in polling as a result of that segment of the population that could not afford or rejected home phones. However, for what I assume is the first time in recent decades, there in an increasing trend of rejecting home phone ownership, particularly amongst younger adults. Wired News and the San Francisco Chronicle have recently published articles on this subject. These articles estimate that 3-5% of Americans (growing to 15% by 2009) use a mobile phone as their only phone. Survey companies are prohibited from using automated dialing equipment to call wireless numbers. The articles suggest that telephone polling may be nearing an end, but I would ask, how reliable has telephone polling been in recent years as response rates decline and pollsters survey only those who are home, board and not watching television?

The New York Times reports on the role of mobile phones in the maintenance of social relationships and decision making. This article brings together the authors of a number of recent publications related to the social implications of cell phone use. I was particularly interested in the discussion of collaborative decision making and the idea that people are less capable of making independent decision when they have immediate access to close friends and family through their cell phones. The comments at the end of the article by Kenneth J. Gergen, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, that “The best decisions are made in a whole set of dialogues” caught my attention. My argument has always been that mobile phones reinforce our existing strong ties (see the work by Rich Ling) – not our more diverse weak social ties – and as a result they reinforce homogeneity of beliefs. Mobile phones probably do not aid in decision making by providing diverse, new views and opinions, but by reinforcing existing norms and expectations that are common to our personal network.