Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Journal of Absurd Behavior Analysis (JABA 1,1) asks, "How do unclad feet affect floor dirtiness?"

Journal of Absurd Behavior Analysis (JABA) 1(1)



This study confirmed the hypothesis that multitudinous barefoot-to-floor cleaning trials during elongated habitation periods do noticeably clean a varnished wooden floor. The cleaning person, Subject X, took anti-psychotic medication which caused frequent pacing in the experimental chamber, his studio apartment. He is also the researcher and author of this report. He persistently escaped the aversion of minuscule particles adhering to his unclad feet by lifting his leg and brushing them off into a waste paper basket. ABAB conditions alternated among an unclean, clad-foot baseline measurement and two unclad-foot-to-floor experimental cleaning conditions with a return to baseline phase between the two. The independent variable, X's feet, varied between clad and unclad states. X's mother, Subject Y, probed for the dependent variable, floor cleanliness, by donning fresh white cotton gloves and swiping each finger across various locations on the floor. X photographed the gloves and image processing software converted each black and white facsimile into a dirtiness percentage, grayness level, total black pixels divided by total black and non-black pixels. The data revealed that the floor was much cleaner when he wore nothing on his feet.


Housekeeping is a chore. Human energy levels are depleted by sweeping, vacuuming, and damp mopping a wooden floor. Noisy vacuums disturb the neighbors. Liquid cleaning chemicals are emptied into the water system and equipment is costly to replace.

This study shows that the human foot is an easier, quieter, more economical, and more environmental alternative to conventional cleaning methods. To date, peer-reviewed journals in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) have no written reports specifically addressing the function of human body parts as cleaning apparati.

Further research is needed on the untapped potential of other appendices, such as 1) the lips and tongue for removing a layer of peanut butter from off of a stainless steel spoon which is resistant to soap-and-water peanut butter cleaning, 2) the finger nail rubbed over porcelain dishes being washed in the sink to remove stubborn, greasy gravy stains, 3) the easily-dried palm of the hand rubbed over the same clean, wet, dishes, combined with air drying them in a dish rack, in lieu of dampening and soiling a mold-spore-collecting kitchen towel, 4) the horizontally angled lower ridge of the forehead just below the eyebrows and just above the eye socket (used gently and carefully after no objection during an ophthalmological consultation) to tightly secure to the skull the rim of a hat that keeps blowing off in the wind, and 5) the gap between the two front teeth for gripping an inserted strand of dental floss strung out over the lower lip and hanging down below the chin to free the fingers when the demand for another operation interrupts the flossing.


During the experiment, Subject X was a 45-year-old, 5 '7", thick-boned, apple-shaped, beefy, unpaid writer who had been living with his mother until he was 44. He is certificated and experienced as a "Teacher of the Handicapped" and he eventually became disabled from teaching. He had been diagnosed with a grandiose delusional disorder. He has been taking anti-psychotic medication since 1979 and his symptoms are mostly in remission. Besides weight gain, the only other major side effect of anti-psychotic medication has been chronically excessive and erratic sleeping patterns.

Y, X's mother, was 68 at the time of the experiment. She is currently deceased. She had been a public elementary school teacher and reading specialist. She stood like a pear, 5 '3" tall, and presented a solid, stout, sturdy frame.

Both subjects wore glasses over their eyes.


The experiment took place in 2004 in the all-purpose room of X's studio apartment which also contained a small bathroom and kitchen. The unit was one of four apartments in an old house with a wrap-around front porch set in a middle-class neighborhood near the boardwalk of a beach town at the New Jersey Shore.

The all-purpose-room floor was made of varnished oak slats. The kitchen floor was linoleum and the bathroom was tile.


The research followed the ABAB, alternating condition protocol under the following conditions. On the last day of the each period, Subject Y, X's mother, collected data on the dependent variable, the cleanliness of the floor. X's computer software converted the measurement of each of her probes into a mathematical representation of cleanliness.

Condition A-1: In this pre-experimental, baseline measurement condition, X's feet were almost always clad and he hadn't cleaned the floor with a mop, sponge, broom, vacuum, or any other conventional cleaning product for at least two months before Y measured for cleanliness. Baseline cleanliness dependent variable measurement: A-1: Day 1, the only day of A-1. Independent variable: clad feet.

Condition B-1: X lifted floor particles from off the floor and brushed them into a knee-high garbage pail with consistent, persistent multitudinous trials when he wore nothing on his feet. Y's dependent variable cleanliness probe: B-1: Day 14, the final day of B-1. Independent variable: unclad feet.

Condition A-2: This return to baseline, control condition lasted for fourteen days. In the absence of Y, X's housecleaning, including by foot, had ceased almost entirely. When she returned, Y probed for the dependent variable again, cleanliness on A-2: Day 103, the final day of A-2. Independent variable: clad feet.

Condition B-2:This was the return experiment condition. Dependent variable cleanliness probe: B-2: Day 14, the final day of B-2. Independent variable: unclad feet.


This study began as a set of real world interactions between David, Subject X, the resident, and Cornelia, Subject Y, his mother. Y visited X's apartment on four occasions and encouraged him to clean his floor. Since she was a teacher as well as a parent she had had ample behavior modification experience.

One measurement of a grime-free residence is the relative level of discoloration on a worn white cotton glove that has been swiped by the fingers of a human hand across various locations of a varnished wood floor. So during each visit, she performed this operation. She showed him the grime and encouraged him to clean it. During the visits, he kept a diary and she let him have each glove.

When her first visit revealed a dirty floor, X resolved to clean it and keep it clean so he developed a self-behavior modification barefoot-to-floor cleaning plan. He kept a diary of his progress.

Tiny pebbles, grains of sand, dirt, dust bunnies, cookie crumbs, and broken potato chip pieces will adhere to the soles of bilaterally symmetric organisms when they ambulate across wooden and linoleum surfaces. Mechanoreceptors respond to mechanical cutaneous pressure and distortion when particles adhere to the glabrous epidermis of the anatomical structure. Afferent neurons carry the nerve impulses to the central nervous system which mobilizes musculoskeletal responses.

Therefore, the hypothesis of this experiment emerged as follows: Persistent, continuous, and multitudinous barefoot-to-floor cleaning trials by a home-dweller, during elongated periods of habitation, will noticeably clean a varnished wooden floor.

He had saved the gloves and the diary and analyzed the data after Y had passed away peacefully from inside a room at a local hospital.

One year after she passed away, X analyzed the old gloves and the diary he had kept of his cleaning progress.

He set the baseline glove on top of a white sheet of paper, photographed the image in black and white, and uploaded it to his laptop. Its image processing software determined the percentage of gray on the glove, total black pixels divided by total black and non-black pixels. The percentage of gray numeral for each glove rendered relative floor dirtiness, into a measurable, manipulable dependent variable. Clad feet versus unclad feet became the independent variable which apparently caused the change in floor dirtiness.

He also believed that during her four white glove inspections, the intensity and direction (favorable versus unfavorable) of her vocal reaction to the level of dirt on the floor established the motivation in him to clean the floor with his foot.

A-1: Clad-Foot, Unclean Floor, Baseline-Recording, Pre-Experimental Condition

Under baseline Condition A-1, Subject X wore socks, slippers, or shoes without going barefoot, except while showering, dressing, and undressing, for a minimum of two months while home in his apartment. Then one day, quite by surprise Y entered the scene knocking at the front door. X invited Y inside and she said, "You haven't seen me in a month!"

He said, "I'm sorry, but I've been busy. You know, Mom. I write a blog on the ethics of behavior modification."

She said, "I see you haven't been making your bed."

He said, "Mother, if I made the bed every morning, as soon as I took my afternoon nap, I'd mess it up again. It's a useless pain in the neck to make my bed every day."

Then she pulled a fresh white cotton glove over her left hand, bent down to her knees, swiped the floor with her index finger, stood up, re-positioned herself to another location on the floor, and swiped it again with her middle finger. Then she did the ring finger, the pinky, and the thumb across different spots on the floor.

She said, "David, you should be ashamed of yourself. Look at this filth!" Then she pounced up on her feet and tossed it at his face. It landed on his long nose and covered his left lens, dirty side down, stood still for a pause, and then slid off his face and down to the floor.

She said, "Stop writing about other people's behaviors and analyze your own!"

Then she walked out the door and departed.

X lifted the glove up from the floor and studied it intently.

He was flabbergasted and udderly humiliated. (See Freud, 1960.) He wondered if the filth on the floor triggered in her an emotional disgust reaction.  He supposed she would come back soon with another glove.

X resolved to never let it happen again, but he didn't like sweeping, vacuuming, or mopping, so he decided he might make her happy by cleaning the floor with his feet.

B-1: Unclad-Foot-to-Floor-Cleaning Experimental Condition

Two weeks had passed since A-1: Day 1 while every day X paced in his bare naked feet. As expected, Y entered exactly as expected on B-1: Day 14.

She said, "David, it smells nice in here. What have you done with your place?"

"I've been cleaning the floor, Mother."

"You have? What a good son! If you don't mind, I'm just going to see for myself."

"If you must, go ahead."

Five times she dropped to her hands and knees and tested the floor. She inspected the glove and said, "Oh, David! David, David! You make me so happy!"

Then she stayed with him for two hours, emptied the icebox and cooked him some borscht.

X said, "May I please have this glove also, Mom?"

"Why certainly! Such good manners you have." And with a big, fat hug, she handed it over, and went home smiling from from ear to ear.

"I'm going to France again. I trust you'll keep everything nice and tidy while I'm away."

"Yes. Mother."

A-2: Clad-Foot, Non-Cleaning, Return-to-Baseline Control Condition

The apartment house was poorly insulated. While Cornelia, Subject Y, was gone across the ocean for her regular winter sabbatical, the inside temperature dropped. Subject X donned his slippers to keep his feet warm.

In fourteen day, she arrived knocking at the door in her familiar aggressive manner once again.

"Oh, xxxx! (expletive deleted). She's back already?" X removed his slippers and opened the door, but to no avail. He was too late.

"What's this? I see sand on the floor. Here, here, here, here, and here." Down on all fours, five swipes with the glove, bouncing back up, the stocky woman pulled it off her pudgy hand, walked out the door, and threw it back inside at her overweight, rugby player version of a child.

X was speechless.

B-2: Return to Unclad-Foot-to-Floor-Cleaning Experimental Condition

In another two weeks she returned. In anticipation of the arrival, he decided to avoid another unpleasant encounter and took off his socks and shoes once again all throughout the intervening time.

"David, have you been behaving yourself?"

"Yes, Mother, the last time it was so cold inside, I couldn't -"

"Hush, my darling number-two son. Your bed is made, and the floor looks immaculate. I'll just run a glove and give you my report.....

"Why yes. My eyes don't deceive! I'm so proud of you now! Only a glimmer of dust! I brought some Kielbasa. I'll heat it up and you dust the blinds."

"Oh! I love Kielbasa. Heck, Ma. I'll do the dishes and the blinds. May I save our new glove as a memento of our reunification?"

“Now let’s do something about your body odor. Here’s a bar of Dial and an unscented aerosol. I’ll give you a sniff. Then I’ll cook and you clean, but only if you don't stink. We’ll be the talk of the town if you’re not careful.”

“Sounds like a plan!”

They dined and laughed and remembered the good ole' days when he did as he was told before he turned fourteen and started playing high school American football in the line, clashing with all the other guys who were just his size.

Neilly and Dave lived happily ever after.


Subject X swiped all five of her glove-inserted fingers across twenty different locations of A's wooden floor during four separate conditions of an ABAB double-return-to-baseline experiment with two clad-feet, non-cleaning conditions (A-1 and A-2) and two subsequent unclad feet, barefoot-to-floor cleaning conditions (B-1 and B-2), as described in the design and method sections of this report.

Numerical representations of the amount of dirt on the floor on the last day of each condition revealed the floor was cleaner when he kept his shoes, socks and slippers off his feet, paced around the room, and brushed off the particles that stuck to his feet into the garage pail and into the latrine.

Therefore, the hypothesis, that persistent, continuous, and multitudinous barefoot-to-floor cleaning trials by a home-dweller, during elongated periods of habitation, will noticeably clean a varnished wooden floor, is therefore temporarily confirmed, pending corroboration or falsification by additional behavior analytic experiments.

Follow-up anecdotal evidence shows that X maintained perpetual foot cleaning responses consistently after they performed the initial experiment. X and Y lived cooperatively in nearby towns for fourteen year until she peacefully passed away from inside a room at a local hospital.

Before and after Y passed away, X began inviting his friends over for a visit. They complemented him on the condition of his home. They even stood next to him like they never did before, so his cleaning and deodorizing responses were maintained by his friends.

Then he had bedbugs and got rid of them. He told them he could only meet them in a public place where he only sat down if he brought his own aluminum stool to sit in. He told them that once he got bedbugs from a public chair, and although his mother had warned him not to talk about them any more, he lost all his friends once again.

Then he hired a handyman who sealed all the gaps into the other apartments, bought some early warning bed bug monitors, and lived alone in his clean, bed bug resistant apartment as a contented recluse where he currently remains.


In its first test, the hypothesis has been confirmed. More corroborative study is necessary to determine whether or not it fits within the framework of the theoretical ABA system.

Facile foot to floor cleaning responses replace the inescapably painstaking exertion involved in the conventional methods, thus rendering the method efficient and effective. Post experimental trials have determined that without moving the furniture, the foot can reach floor locations where typical brooms cannot. Avoidance of mop-wringing and vacuum maintenance occurs. Delaying equipment replacement creates remunerative generalized conditioned positive reinforcement, as tacted in Standard English as "money-savings" or in U.S.A. slang as "being a tightwad."

Members of the genus Homo, we Homo sapiens, should ask physicians about heath hazards before undertaking a foot-to-floor cleaning plan, should wash their hands and feet before and after each intervention, and take common sense safety precautions such as sweeping and vacuuming a floor after glass breakage and doffing shoes while penetrating an abode.

This experimenter's altruistic behavior is well-maintained by infrequent reinforcement schedules whenever people laugh at his jokes and visit his blog, so he will submit reports of this study to open-access, peer-reviewed, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) journals rather than posting a claim to the Human Foot with the U.S.A. Patent Office, so that fellow citizens of the international community may capitalize freely upon the findings.

The author requests a replication and further report of this study by other behavior analysts.


Freud, S. (1960). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious (J. Strachey, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1905)

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I am an advocate for people with disabilities certified to teach special education with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am not a Licensed Psychologist or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. When in doubt, seek the advice of an MD, a PhD, or a BCBA. My ability to analyze the ethics of ABA stems from the fact that I am disabled and ABA interventions are often done to people like me, which I voluntarily accept, but only when I alone am the person granting consent, and not a parent, sibling, guardian, or institution.