Museum Camp

A project of the
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Karma Hat

  • Mapping-it-Out

    We started big and serious but ended with a more directed and fun project.

  • The-Mad-Hatters

    We didn't know if the hats would be so popular they disappeared. So we needed backup hats and models to wear them.

  • Karma-Hat

    This is the intended attitude.

  • Leave-Your-Mark

    Visitors were encouraged to leave their mark on the hat to receive their good karma.

  • The-Mixer-Hat

    The final product!

Team Members

Justin Collins
Rosa Camacho
Danya Sherman
Bill Convery

What was your hypothesis?

There will be a higher level of social interaction at the MAH on the 2nd floor compared to the 1st during First Friday.

What indicator did you measure?

Willingness to engage with strangers

How did you measure it?

We decorated two "Karma Hats" and handed them to First Friday visitors with the following instructions:

Want some good Karma?
Pass this hat to a stranger to wear before leaving the floor!
(And don't forget to write your name in the hat)

Over three 30-minute periods on First Friday (Aug. 1, 2014), team members split into pairs and tracked visitors as they passed the hat to strangers. One pair circulated on the 1st Floor and one on the 2nd floor. One team member tracked the hat exchange, while the other used a clicker counter to count of visitors on the floor (averaged over 3x in 30 minute period) to calibrate the frequency of exchange. We tracked each exchange for Gender, Ethnicity, Stranger/Not Stranger, Time Hat worn. We also tracked for length of conversation, but that data was not easily recordable, and we discarded it.

In general, team members tried to let the hat exchanges take place organically. Team members only intervened in the following circumstances:

Visitor did not attempt to exchange hat more than 10 minutes (2-3 times; team member prompted exchange). Possible reasons include comfort with hat, shyness,
Visitor abandoned hat (2 times; team member recovered it and initiated new exchange)
Visitor attempted to take hat to different floor (3 times from 1st to 2nd; team member recovered hat and initiated new exchange on same floor)

What did you learn?

The average total number of people on the first and second floor remained roughly even during each half-hour session. The first floor sociability, measured in ratio of exchanges to visitors on each floor, always favored the 1st floor over the 2nd. If our assumption that a high ratio of exchange equals high sociability between strangers is correct, then conditions on the first floor tend to favor social interaction over the second floor.

Our data appears as follows:

Session Floor # Exchanges # Visitors (Avg.) Ratio: Exchanges to visitors
5:30-6:00 1st 20 31 65%
5:30-6:00 2nd 8 28 29%

6:30-7:00 1 12 88 14%
6:30-7:00 2 6 62 10%

7:30-8:00 1 24 87 28%
7:30-8:00 2 18 86 21%

A second possible indicator of sociability was that more people were willing to sign the hat on the first floor than the second. 61 visitors signed the 1st floor hat out of 54 exchanges. (Some visitors had their groups sign the hat before they exchanged it). 35 visitors signed the 2nd floor hat out of 32 exchanges.

We also tracked exchanges between gender and ethnicity. The data shows that 1st floor visitors were more comfortable exchanging to strangers of a different gender than on the 2nd floor. 2nd floor visitors tended to exchange more (and sometimes exclusively) to strangers who shared their gender.

Exchanges between people of different ethnicities were generally the same on both floors, occurring between 15% to 20% of the time for all but one session. The 2nd session on the 2nd floor was a significant outlier, occurring 60% of the time. The small sample size (n=6) probably accounts for the discrepancy.

Session Floor # Exchanges % Same Gender % Diff. Gender
5:30-6:00 1st 20 47% 53%
5:30-6:00 2nd 8 29% 71%

6:30-7:00 1 12 45 55%
6:30-7:00 2 6 0 100%

7:30-8:00 1 24 48 52%
7:30-8:00 2 18 47 43%

Session Floor # Exchanges % Same Ethnicity % Diff. Ethnicity
5:30-6:00 1st 20 79% 21%
5:30-6:00 2nd 8 86 14%

6:30-7:00 1 12 82 18%
6:30-7:00 2 6 40 60%

7:30-8:00 1 24 83 17%
7:30-8:00 2 18 82 18%

Any surprises?

Visitors didn't always behave as expected. Some (mostly men) accepted the hat and didn't pass it along without a prompt. Two 1st floor visitors abandoned the hat without exchanging it. One person, perhaps covering shyness, remarked "I think I'm just gonna keep it." He held onto the had until prompted by a team member to exchange it, and then did so reluctantly. Visitors sometimes had difficulty exchanging the Karma Hat, despite several offers. One wearer focused on the idea of signing the hat, and solicited 4-5 signatures while keeping the hat for himself. Ultimately, he gave it away. We observed many behavioral dynamics that are not relevant to our study but would be worth further study on their own.