Dark sitters

The Little Professor observes/wonders why it is that it is common for teachers to come into a class of students who are sitting in the dark. Judging by the comments here and the fact that Inside Higher Ed linked to it in their “Around the Web” section, I am guessing that this is a common phenomenon in colleges in the English speaking world.

A few thoughts:

  • I haven’t experienced this for a while because I tend to teach in the late afternoons and evenings, and, in my experience at least, the lights tend to be on later in the day. I also tend to not teach classes populated with first year students, the most likely group to remain patiently in the dark, especially at the beginning of their college experiences. And to tell the truth, I suspect that some of these students come from high schools where they were told to not touch the light switches, that those switches were in the domain of the teacher. That’s just a guess though.
  • Having said that, I have indeed come into classrooms of students sitting silently in the dark and have always thought it kinda weird.
  • Despite some of the theories advanced on the Little Professor’s site, I suspect the reason for dark sitting is a simple group psychology phenomenon. I remember seeing a little movie about this in high school psychology/sociology class. The movie was (supposedly) footage from an experiment. The first scene showed a single person sitting in a waiting room. Smoke started to come in from one of the vents. It didn’t take more than about 2 minutes for this person to get up to inform someone about the smoke situation. The second scene showed a waiting room with about 10 people sitting around in it. Smoke started to come in from one of the vents. No one moved, and if I am recalling this right, the reason given by participants was something like they thought someone else would do something.

Anyway, if there are any students reading this: go ahead and turn on the lights. Or, if you really want to mess with people, turn them off.

One thought on “Dark sitters”

  1. Hello, I am the ultimate night person, I hate mornings and avoid being awake during the morning adamantly! I found that having to wake up for school seriously impacted my ability to motivate myself. But taking a class at night seemed to perfectly compliment my lifestyle. I feel like I wake up with tons of idea’s and plans, and I like take care of my personal business and finish the day with school. Just my opinion…great blog by the way!

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