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Are you a wee bit unfree with your public pee? Have trouble letting it flow when you need to go? Need to be in private to drain your privates—of urine? So-called "shy bladder syndrome" has a technical medical name, paruresis; an International Association; and, best of all, a landmark 1976 study that scientifically tested whether the condition actually exists, or is just an urban legend. The results were totally worth all the secret urinal spying that the scientists had to do to get them.

The experiment took place in a bathroom with three urinals in a line. They tested both how long it took men to start peeing, and the duration of their peeing under three separate conditions: alone in the bathroom; with another man there, separated by a urinal; or with another man standing right next to them. But they ran into a little problem:

The authors' intentions were to use auditory cues (i.e., splash) to capture the dependent measures, but they quickly realized that this wasn't the most reliable measure since some people were aiming at the ceramic basin and the sounds couldn't be made out. So, what else could they do? Here's what: "The observer [the guy in the stall] used a periscopic prism imbedded in a stack of books lying on the floor of the toilet stall. An 11-inch (28-cm) space between the floor and the wall of the toilet stall provided a view, through the periscope, of the user's lower torso and made possible direct visual sightings of the stream of urine."

Way to put those pervert skills to good use! And what did the scientists find? That Shy Bladder Syndrome really exists!:


As predicted, when urinating next to the confederate, the micturation delay was significantly greater (8.4 sec) than when the participant was separated by one urinal (6.2 sec) or when (ostensibly) alone (4.9). The duration of micturation also supported the authors' hypotheses, with the participants urinating, on average, for a briefer period in the close condition (17.4 sec) than in either the far condition (23.4 sec) or alone condition (24.8 sec).

So rest easy, you paruresis-having readers; it's not all in your mind. Feel free to pee in front of everybody.

[Psychology Today; pic via Corbis]