Flatulence: Are you embarrassed by your flatus?

Research conducted by: Shannon E. Collins, UH-D undergraduate, Faculty Advisor: Heidi Ziemer

Case study prepared by: Shannon E. Collins

The purpose of this study was to find out whether or not people are embarrassed by their flatulence. The participants were 35 University of Houston – Downtown students. Flatulence is a normal part of being human, but it can cause an alarming rate of embarrassment in certain situations. How many times have you been subjected to the unpleasant odor emitted from someone around you? Medical research indicates that it is normal to have anywhere from 7 to 20 episodes of gas in a day.

Would you believe that women produce more of the bad smelling stuff than men do, and that women are more likely to complain to their doctors about the smell of their flatulence? The smell comes from sulfur gasses, the most offensive of which is hydrogen sulfide; it smells like rotten eggs. Still, everybody does it, we just don’t know how embarrassed they are by it.

Questions to Answer
Are people without male siblings more embarrassed by their flatulence than people with one or more male siblings? Do people that come from households where flatulence was acceptable report less embarrassment than people that come from households where it was not acceptable? Are women or men more embarrassed by their flatus?

Design Issues
Embarrassment scores were reported on 14 different measures and tallied as a total embarrassment score, then divided into seven categories, producing one number per category. Only the scores on the seven categories are reported here. The data in this research is self report data, and because the topic is sensitive some people may have been less than honest about their reported flatulence.

Descriptions of Variables
Variable Description
Gender 1 = male, 2 = female
famaccp Household acceptance of flatus
1 to 7, 1=very acceptable and 7=very unacceptable
brother Number of brothers the participant has
howlong How long before farting in front of partner?
1 = 1 year, .5= 6 months, .25=3 months, and smaller decimals represent portions of a year. Numbers larger than 1 indicate longer than 1 year.
perday Number per day
The following variables were rated on this scale: 1=extremely embarrassed and 7= not really embarrassed
mtgwork Meeting at work
talkprof Talking to a professor
romint Romantic interest


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  1. Plot a histogram of the variable "perday."
  2. Based on the histogram, do you think the mean or median of this variable is larger? Calculate the mean and median to see if you are right.
  3. What is the range for the of the variable "perday?"
  4. Is there are relationship between the number of male siblings and embarrassment in front of romantic interests? Create scatterplot, compute r, and perform a significance test on r.
  5. Create parallel box plots of family acceptance as a function of gender. What did you learn from the boxplots?
  6. Create a scatter plot of "perday" as a functioon of how acceptable flatulence is in the family. Add a linear regression line to the scatter plot. Do a significance test of the slope of the line.
  7. Create parallel box plots of "howlong" as a function gender. What can you say about the results?
  8. Compare men and women on the variable "perday." Create parallel box plots and compute the 95% confidence interval on the difference between means. Note any outliers.
  9. Create a stem and leaf plot of the variable "howlong."What can you say about the shape of the distribution?
  10. What is the 95% confidence interval of the mean time people wait before farting in front of a romantic partner.
  11. Predict embarrassment at work from embarrassment in front of a romantic partner. Find r and the regression equation.Test r and the slope of the regression equation for significance.
  12. Compute a 95% confidence interval on the number of brothers.