First, the question:

Auto response from [Josh]: The last poll's
results:  The best song of the 80s is Take On Me!

Now, something that just became an issue of 
controversy in my suite:  When you're in the shower, 
do you spend most of the time facing the water, or 
facing away from it?  Let me know!


I first got the idea for an away message poll from my friend Mara, who had one up about a week prior to this experiment, regarding the pronounciation of "Tevas," a brand of Israeli sandals. Inspired by this, I posted a multiple choice poll on the night of 12/10/00 asking people to vote for their favorite song from the 80s. This was a bit of a failure, as most people seemed not to agree with any of the choices offered.

The following night, as I was toying with the idea of having another poll, my roommate Justin and I were inexplicably discussing the fact that the shower in our suite is connected by a hose to the water source, since our suite is wheelchair-accessible. He mentioned that this enables him to wash his back without turning around. I accepted this for several seconds, and then nearly choked, as I realized the implications of this statement.

I asked him which way he faces in the shower, and he replied that he naturally faces toward the water. I responded that I do not, much to his astonishment, and that I myself was surprised that anyone faced in a direction other than that directly away from the water source.

We both immediately solicited the opinions of other people standing nearby, and began to debate the merits of one method versus the other, as well as appearances of one or the other in the media. These arguments continued for hours, but by then, the decision to make this another away message poll was final.

The poll was posted around 9:00pm that night, 12/11/00.


The final results are, surprisingly enough, a dead heat. Exactly 50% of respondants prefer each of the two options, with a few abstentions due to either people not remembering which way they face, or them not having a usual preference. I debated throwing out a few votes that were either cast by word of mouth through several people, or were cast begrudgingly. However, as I had no real reason to do so, and as these disqualifications would skew the results in favor of my personal preference, I opted to count all votes received.


First, the most revealing result is the number of people surprised by the fact that not everyone faces the same way. I did not gather specific data on this point, but many people with whom I discussed this topic, including myself, were amazed that their preferred method was not the only way to go. So the main benefit of this statistical analysis is to bring about this realization.

On a hunch by my roommate and another by his then-girlfriend, I decided to do a further stastical analysis of the results, correlated with religion and gender. The results were rather astonishing. As they both suspected, both females and Jews are more likely to face away from the water, and in fact, of all respondants, there was only one Jewish female who preferred to face the water. The converse is true as well: All but one of the nine non-Jewish male respondants face the current. (Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this one person was the only of the nine that is not Christian, to my knowledge.)

Taking these two criterium seperately, the Jewish vote was 82% in favor of facing away. The non-Jewish vote was 73% for facing towards. The male vote was 69% in favor of facing towards. And the female vote was 69% for facing away.

I have no scientific basis for any explanation of these trends, however, I will make an anzatz*. As the person who originally supposed this trend in girls (for all of the respondants are under the age of 20) theorized, it is "uncomfortable," as she put it, for many of them to face the stream of water for more time than is necessary. As for the religious component, showering direction is probably a learned behavior, developed at a young age. Simply put, most people shower in the same direction and have the same religion as their parents.

Areas for further research, and other notes

(Or, in non-academic terms, things I did wrong)


The following quotes were collected on Instant Messanger in response to the poll. In all cases except where requested otherwise by the person quoted, their screenname has been replaced by their first name.

Justin: facing the water you fool!

Beth: ummm...depends on my mood

[unknown]: i am a "face the water" kind of girl

Mara: next time i shower i'll think about it

Navah: away from the water, but its close

And an interesting pair of quotes:

Kelsey: facing away from the water to wash my hair.

Peter: Facing it, but with my eyes closed.
Peter: Wash the shampoo away from your face...
Peter: habit form long hair


This page and all data contained herein, except as indicated otherwise, are Copyright 2000, 2001 Joshua Rosenberg. All rights reserved. All statistics shown as percentages are based on the number of respondants who showed a preference among the choices.

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Page last modified 2006/10/04