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Gill-Gun Guru
Special Hen Supporter
Aug 1, 2014
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Ok so where do all my socks go after the laundry is done?

And YES, this was a real study.

The Sock Loss Formula

Sock loss index = (L+C)-(P x A)

The higher the figure, the higher the likelihood of losing socks. For the truly diligent, this formula can also be adapted to work out the probability of losing a sock in a single week by using a calibrated version using statistical modelling software which adds constants thus:

Prob= 0.38+(0.005 x L)+(0.0012 x C)-(0.0159 x P x A)3


L = Laundry size

Calculated by multiplying the number of people in the household (p) with the frequency of washes in a week (f)

C = Washing complexity

Calculated by adding how many types of wash (t) households do in a week (darks + whites) and multiplying that by the number of socks washed in a week (s)

P = The positivity towards doing laundry

Measured on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being ‘Strongly dislike doing clothes washing’ to 5 which represents ‘Strongly enjoy doing clothes washing’

A = Degree of Attention

Which is the sum how many of these things you do at the start of each wash check pockets, unroll sleeves, turn clothes the right way and unrolling socks

Psychological Reasons for Sock Loss
Numerous interviews were conducted around the UK as part of the research to identify key psychological themes that contributing to losing socks in the wash. The following four trends were identified:

1. Diffusion of responsibility (“someone else has it covered”)

Simply put, when a task is shared among a group, the tendency is for individuals to assume someone else will take responsibility – so no one does. This was a key theme emerging from many of the households interviewed.

2. Visual awareness (“heuristics”)

Heuristics are mental problem-solving shortcuts we use to save time and effort. For example, when we lose a TV remote we search in all the likeliest places such as under cushions. When socks disappear, we simply look in the easiest places and then assume the sock is lost forever.

3. Confirmation bias

This occurs where we tend to believe something is true if we want it to be true. So in this case, if we cannot see any odd socks, we convince ourselves there are no odd socks.

4. Behavioural errors of omission and commission

Human error accounts for many accidents, mistakes and mysteries, particularly in the wash cycle and these fell into two main areas:

Omission: where we fail to respond or do something when we should (leaving a sock on a bedroom floor, in the laundry basket or washing machine)

Commission: where we do something when we shouldn’t (throwing a lone coloured sock in a white wash, kicking a sock out of sight, balancing a sock drying precariously which might fall behind a radiator)

Further findings
The research also found:

  • Coloured socks make up the majority of missing socks (55%), compared to other types (including white and patterned items) which make up the remainder
  • The average household does 2.45 washes per week which amounts to 127.4 washes per year
  • People in the Midlands suffer the highest incidence of sock loss, admitting that 1.64 socks go missing each month, almost 20 socks a year
  • More than a sixth of those in the study (16%) reckoned doing the laundry was a waste of their valuable time
  • Almost a fifth (19%) say one of their biggest anxieties about washing is colours running
  • Men say they do two washes a week while women handle three
  • Seven out of ten women said they find the laundry stressful, while just 58% of men say this
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