Thursday, February 9, 2012


Yesterday, in my social studies class, we were all part of a social experiment. We didn't know it at the beginning, of course. Our teacher told us that we were going to play a game. In this game, each of us had five "coins" that were different colors. Each color represented a different amount of points, and the goal was to get as many points as you could by trading with other people. You couldn't show your coins to anyone, and you could only talk if you were making a trade. 
Well, I was a little skeptical of the game, because it was in the morning, and I've recently discovered I'm not much of a morning person. I'm quiet and not very into "games" and "discussions" in the morning. In fact, during a "discussion" earlier, one of the girls in my group looked right at me and said, "Well, you haven't said anything this morning! Nothing at all!" And I looked right back at her and said, "You're right!"
Anyway, I finally got the nerve to walk around and trade with people, and somehow ended up with a whopping 18 points, which I found fine, and decided to stop trading. I wrote my score on the board with everyone else's, and sat down in my chair waiting for the next step. My teacher then separated us into groups based on our points. Somehow, my little score of 18 was big enough to be in the winning group. We were called the Squares, and we each got a pin for our shirts with the shape of a square on it. There were two other groups as well - the Circles were the middle group, and the Triangles were the lowest group. 
After we had been separated we were given three "bonus coins" that were worth three points each, and we could give them to whoever we wanted in our group. We chose to give them to the top three people in the Squares, because we were unsure of what the coins would really do, and because we thought we'd keep them in the group by doing so. Because of the bonus coins, a lot of people got switched into different groups, and I ended up staying in the Squares, but barely.
Then we were allowed to trade again. I was nervous this time. Regarding my status as a Square as something that I wanted to keep, I traded with more caution than the first time. Once I had 18 points again, I added that score to my first score, making 36, and wrote it on the board. Once again, I was allowed to stay in the Squares because of my high score. Bonus coins were given to us again, and this time we used them on the people with the lowest scores in our group, so that we could do our best to keep the Squares together. 
And then my teacher told us that for the next round, the Squares could make all of the rules, and if the Circles and Triangles wanted, they could suggest rules to us.
We started brainstorming. 
A few of the other girls and I were convinced that we needed to have rules that worked for everyone. I was sure that the game would not go well if we made the other groups do stupid things, or if we gave them the short end of the stick. But the larger part of the Squares wanted to give us all of the highest scoring coins, make it so the other groups had no choice but to trade with us, and one girl even suggested that we make the other groups bow down to us. It was like my cries for equality were not even heard. Every time one of my friends or I would try to speak up for the Circles and Triangles, we were not even listened to. Eventually I tried to change their domineering rules into ones that I thought the other groups could at least live with. And finally, we had our list.
Our teacher stopped us there. She looked around at all of us and told us point blank, that this was an experiment to see what happened when people were given power.
We all got very quiet.
We separated into groups and had "discussions" about this experiment.

And I cannot tell you enough how much I am grateful for my reaction to the game. What an eye-opener! I wish that everyone could have an experience like this and be a Square, just for a moment. It is so so interesting to me how people change, just because they're given a little leg up on the competition. The Squares thought they were better than the other groups. The Squares made the rules that would keep them better than all the groups. And the people in the other groups, who started the game as our friends, ended up hating all of us. Even the ones who spoke up for them. It was so interesting to analyze the feelings I had as a person of power. It's true, I didn't want to leave the Squares. But I also didn't want to make anyone else's life harder. I wanted to share the wealth of the Squares, and make it more equal. 

Anyway, this is maybe the longest blog post I've ever written. But I just thought it was SO interesting. 
How would you act?

p.s. maybe that was rude to say, "you're right" to that girl? everyone else thought it was hilarious. so i let them laugh, but then i mentioned how i thought a healthy food party would be beneficial, and she was comforted.


  1. That IS interesting! It worries me what I would be, I wish we would have done this!

  2. Just like the Standford prison experiment. Crazy to see what power does to people. That is why I think authority figures are dumb. They get power hungry. Today at work, a girl that used to be a bagger and was checking for tonight told me to get a broom and fix her checkstand. And I did it. Because in that moment she was above me. I hated it. Every second. Anyway. Goodnight.


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