Why do so many people seem to have difficulty following simple instructions?

Most people think they are smart, or at least smarter than you. They think they know what to do already, so they tune out the instructions. Simple as that.

Every class I teach on the potter’s wheel I start by saying “Put your left hand flat on top of the wad of clay.” Then for some I always have to add “No, your other left hand.” :smiley:

This is actually a very good question, that would interest me a lot if I were a psychology or sociology grad student. I don’t think the answer is simple, either. I think most of the reasons given already are all part of the answer; people don’t listen, people aren’t aware of their surroundings (just zoned out in their own little worlds), people are stupid (statistically, half of all people out there are below average intelligence), people all think they are special and the rules don’t apply to them.

Add into the mix people who don’t think like average humans (I’m one of them - if there’s a way to misunderstand directions, I’ll find it unintentionally), and the sloppification of the English language (word definitions, spelling, and grammar are getting looser every day), and it’s a wonder that anyone can communicate at all.

Sometimes the irony hits hard, and sometimes it hits hard, face-down and skidding… :slight_smile:

Need more information, but just to guess:

If there are only 3 theaters, they figure they can find it themselves, and so they don’t listen to the directions. Then they may or may not realize they were mistaken.

With the massage thing, maybe they don’t want to get under the sheet. Could be exhibitionists. Or perhaps they just aren’t shy, and mistakenly assume the sheet is provided as an option for their benefit, and figure they don’t need it.

Maybe you’re assuming that they didn’t understand your directions, when in fact they simply chose not to follow your directions.

I’ll give you an example: If I go to the doctor for an ear infection, and the nurse tells me to take my clothes off, sit on the table, and wait for the doctor, I may choose to sit in the chair with my clothes on because it’s more comfortable and there’s no reason for me to take off my clothes. The nurse might assume I don’t understand directions, which wouldn’t be true.

The hook thing just sounds like stupidity.

We are bombarded with so much information, instructions, advertisement etc. that we need to constantly filter out the crap. Like an email spam filter, sometimes good stuff gets caught by mistake.

Think about how much information the theater patron filtered out, before they got to you. If they attempted to actually pay attention to, and evaluate every single ‘instruction’ they would go mad. See this movie next week, buy this soft drink, park here, keep your stub…. All ‘instructions’ they safely ignored. So it’s no surprise to me that they accidentally ignored something that they really shouldn’t have.

Also, the designers of some systems don’t take account how people actually think and expect them to conform to the system. Last name first, is convenient for them, but ignores how most people think. If they let people write their name the most natural way (first name, last name) – problem solved. And a fax machine should recognize repeated presses of the cancel button means they really want to cancel, rather than this ‘press 1’ crap. It’s just laziness in the design.

I think this is a case of just noticing the people who don’t read. You don’t notice the people who do read, because they don’t ask you.

I once asked someone which door to take to go the building next door. I was told to take the door on the left. When I got there, there were two doors on the left and two doors on the right. He had meant to say of the two doors on the right take the left. The didn’t think to mention the doors on the left because they are always locked. :wally

I think you’ve got some excellent analyses of the situation here. I’m sure people’s individual tolerance for sensory overload differs (and conversely, their tolerance for the embarrassment of asking questions) - but when it comes to signs in a crowded area, sometimes I simply don’t see them. Sometimes I stop looking because I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information coming at me. Not that I feel any overt emotion regarding the experience - but I just look around, and it’s hard to separate the sign that says “Cash only” from the magazine rack with pictures of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. There’s many situations where I think we’re simply overwhelmed with the amount of information flowing at us (which feeds into a pet theory of mine that I won’t go into - suffice it to say, we live in a world brimming with information in a way that our brains aren’t naturally built to handle.)

And then there’s that issue of design. Many systems aren’t designed - as you say - for optimal use. Many of them require a specific pattern of operation even when there’s no reason why it should be necessarily so, and even when it makes operating a device inconsistent with similar devices.

As for folks getting confused by “put your clothes on the hook” - well, every once in awhile you just have a brain fart. Things that should be obvious, or should make perfect sense, just don’t. If someone’s new to getting massages (which a large proportion of customers unfamiliar with a particular masseuse’s practices probably are) there’s the added nervousness of exposure, intimate contact with a stranger, perhaps body image concerns - someone who’s preoccupied with worrying about getting a hard-on during a massage might not be able to understand directions quite as well as they would if they were calm.

Plus most people are stupid. :slight_smile:

Plus the uncertainty of not knowing if the massage comes with a “release”. :wink:

Is there ever really any doubt? I mean, you know when you’re going in which type of business it is. For the record, I’m pretty sure Asbestos Mango doesn’t do that type of work.

Actually, a masseuse wouldn’t care- she would simply assume that the client wanted the, um, full-service massage and proceed accordingly.

But I’m not a masseuse, I’m a massage therapist, and, dammit, I told them to get under the freakin’ sheet. And anybody who has gotten a massage in a legitimate establishment in just about any state I can think of knows that you get under the sheet, that’s the law, the client must be draped, so it’s not a matter of being familiar or unfamiliar with a particular therapist’s practices.

Harriet the Spry

you are freaking brilliant.


And sometimes people have trouble with their reading comprehension skills.

I was looking for factually based, or at least workable scientific-type theories, about this phenomenon. xash decided (prematurely IMO) that there was no way I was going to get them, and made a judgement call that the thread should be moved.

If everybody knows this, why are you telling them to get under the sheet? Maybe if you left the room without saying anything, they’d do what you wanted.

I’m not sure this is quite the same thing, but I had a student last semester who spelled my name “Ms. Porpington” on the header of one of her papers.

I corrected it. On the next paper, she wrote “Ms. Porpeng.”

I corrected it again. On the next paper, it came out as “Ms. Porpingtine.”

N.B. 1) She was in possession of a syllabus that had the correct spelling of my name on it; 2) I have never, not once, told my students to put my own name anywhere on their papers. I know what my name is. I don’t need them to tell me.


Anyway, after the third time around, I figured she was doing it on purpose and chalked it up to extreme passive-aggressiveness, although that might not have been entirely fair, since she couldn’t spell anything else either.

Anybody tells me to go left (or right for that matter) my brain immediately freezes. First of all—your left or my left? Second of all—I will never be certain of my ability to distinguish left from right. It’s some kind of minor brain defect (tell me to go east or west though, and I get it right every time).

The massage thing isn’t hard to understand at all. Although I didn’t practice as a massage therapist for very long, I gave hundreds of massages as a student. I’ve had hundreds of massages. People are generally nervous when getting naked or mostly naked around a stranger (or any non-intimate). I’m always a little nervous when getting a massage. So, in that state, I think it’s perfectly understandable to fail to hear or remember directions.

Mostly, because it’s professional protocol to do so, partly because enough of a percentage of clients are either getting massage for the first time and have no clue what to do with themselves in a massage room, or come from foriegn countries where massage is considered just another aspect of taking care of your body (along with eating lots of veggies and exercising regularly), possibly have legal prostitution and therefore don’t have hookers advertising themselves as “masseuses” and don’t have the hangups about nudity we have here and draping is optional. I’ve heard plenty of stories about therapists dealing with European clients (Swedish seems to be the most common nationality), finding the client on top of the sheet, explaining to them that they must be draped, and being told, “That’s not how it’s done in my country”.

To be fair to the OP, she pretty much knew that and was just hoping to hear some sort of factual reason for it.

Saying “I know that the rules are supposed to be XYZ, is there any way we can modify them?” is a far cry from ignoring the whole sign or instruction in the first place.

Wait, “masseuse” is a bad word? I knew someone who was trained in massage therapy who called herself a masseuse.

That’s strange. Not you, but that I had exactly the opposite problem for the longest time.

A friend of mine, an old boss, helped me figure out my NSEWs. I had to spend a lot of time with maps and landmarks, but now I can do it, I’m still directionally challenged and have to think about it, but I can do it.

But for the longest time I could only get “do I go right or left?” regarding directions to get places.

I spent 8 months working at a local gym chain before going back to work (Thank GOD) in my normal industry. I swear, it was so annoying how many people were so stupid.

I worked this past Easter with another coworker. We were seriously considering starting a change jar for the hundreds of callers that, after we answered the phone with “Good Morning XYZ Gym”, they’d say “are you open today”?

NooooooOOO…we just couldn’t think of anything better to do than come to work and answer the phone even though we’re closed, NOT.

And on every Holiday the daycare center would be closed. Starting a week before the holiday we’d put signs all over the place stating that. Signs on the doors, the locker room doors, all over the place. And we’d still get angry people coming in on that Holiday with their kids yelling that “nobody told them”.

Or on the rare occasions when we’d have to close one of the women’s locker rooms down for repair (we only had male repair personnel). We’d put signs on the doors coming in, signs at the front desk, signs on each locker room door. We’d tell EACH and every person coming in that Locker room B would be closed for changing (they could still go in and get their items), and we’d STILL get at least 2 women who’d suprise the ppor workmen by sneaking in from the pool and then strolling out of the shower room naked.

And they’d always say the same thing “nobody told us, why don’t you put up some signs”??? :smack:

Noo, an earlier poster had it right, people ARE stupid. VERY stupid.

Is this, by any chance, a woman of a certain age?

I am aware that a lot of older people who have been in the profession for many, many years still use the term “masseuse/masseur” out of habit, but there are so many prostitutes operating under cover of giving massage that for the last several years, the term “massage therapist” has been preferred to set legitimate practioners apart from the other kind. Also, IIRC, “masseuse/masseur” is still the accepted term in Europe, so if she’s from the other side of the pond, or was trained there, she may be calling herself a masseuse because that’s how she was trained.

I think that MT’s here in Las Vegas are a little more sensitive about the terminology because, well, we’re in Las Vegas. The establishment I work in is within rock-throwing distance of three, erm, massage parlors, where I hear tell even female clients are offered the “full service” massage. If you ever come here, check the yellow pages under “massage”. Sprint doesn’t allow them to have pictures of the girls in the ads any more, but they still make for great entertainment.