Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Ig Nobel winner’s damn!’s-good book on bad behavior

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Richard Stephens, who was awarded the 2010 Ig Nobel peace prize for demonstrating that swearing helps relieve pain, has written a book about the good sides of bad behavior.

The book, to which I delightedly contributed a cover blurb (‘Richard Stephens demonstrates that the bad (“NEVER DO THAT!”) things in life do have their good, practical side’), is called Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad. The publisher produced this wicked little video about it:

Caroline Morley wrote an admiring book review, in New Scientist magazine, that begins:

WHETHER it’s skiving, sex, speeding or drinking alcohol, everything fun seems to have a warning attached. So why does behaving badly feel so good?

Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, UK, may not sound like the obvious person to tackle the science of deviance until you discover that he has won an Ig Nobel prize for his work on swearing. And since swearing is a particular vice of mine, I was keen to read about any advantages fruity language might confer.

In Black Sheep, Stephens ranges far and wide, surveying the psychological and physiological research into our character flaws. He writes with the glee of someone at a theme park, which is fitting since he tells us that a ride on a roller coaster is beneficial for asthma….

Attracting Wildlife – for research (or shooting) [new patent]

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Inventor Harrison Forrester, from Greenwood, SC, USA, has just received a patent for a wildlife attractor device which may help scientific researchers (or hunters),


“The present invention is related to a hunting device that is particularly suitable for attracting wildlife and animals, such as deer, antelope, and varmints to a particular location.”


The device, which can be strapped to a tree as shown, has, if required, a remote controlled tail-wagging function.

“Attracting wildlife and animals such as deer to a particular location has many benefits. For example, attracting wildlife to a particular location can aid scientists with their studies on a particular wildlife’s migratory patterns.”

Or, alternatively, it can

“[…] allow a hunter enough time to aim and discharge his weapon.”

See:Wildlife Attractor Device’ (US Pat., May 26, 2015)


Podcast #16: You bastard.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Business bastards, garlicky men and women, flatulent dogs, and crowded beds, and other things, turn up  in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on or iTunes, to get a new episode every week, free.
[NEWS: Soon, the podcast will also be available on Spotify.]

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, both on the new CBS web site, and on iTunes (and soon, also on Spotify).

Studies: “Interacting with Women Can Impair Men’s Cognitive Functioning”

Friday, June 12th, 2015

As discussed in this week’s podcast, some scholars believe that “Interacting with Women Can Impair Men’s Cognitive Functioning.” That is the title and theme of a Dutch study published in 2009. The study is:

interacting with women-450p

Interacting with Women Can Impair Men’s Cognitive Functioning,” Johan C. Karremans, Thijs Verwijmeren, Tila M. Pronk, and Meyke Reitsma, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 45, no. 4, 2009. (Thanks to Joan Baugh and Vicki Hollett for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, report:

“The present research tested the prediction that mixed-sex interactions may temporarily impair cognitive functioning. Two studies, in which participants interacted either with a same-sex or opposite-sex other, demonstrated that men’s (but not women’s) cognitive performance declined following a mixed-sex encounter. In line with our theoretical reasoning, this effect occurred more strongly to the extent that the opposite-sex other was perceived as more attractive (Study 1), and to the extent that participants reported higher levels of impression management motivation (Study 2). Implications for the general role of interpersonal processes in cognitive functioning, and some practical implications, are discussed.”

Here’s graphic detail from the study:

interacting with women DETAIL

A later study, by partially the same team, suggests the effect can happen even if a woman is only mentally (in the man’s mind, that is) — but not physically — present. That study is:


The Mere Anticipation of an Interaction with a Woman Can Impair Men’s Cognitive Performance,” Sanne Nauts, Martin Metzmacher, Thijs Verwijmeren, Vera Rommeswinkel, and Johan C. Karremans, Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 41, no. 4, 2012, pp. 1051-1056. The authors report:

“Recent research suggests that heterosexual men’s (but not heterosexual women’s) cognitive performance is impaired after an interaction with someone of the opposite sex (Karremans et al., 2009). These findings have been interpreted in terms of the cognitive costs of trying to make a good impression during the interaction. In everyday life, people frequently engage in pseudo-interactions with women (e.g., through the phone or the internet) or anticipate interacting with a woman later on. The goal of the present research was to investigate if men’s cognitive performance decreased in these types of situations, in which men have little to no opportunity to impress her and, moreover, have little to no information about the mate value of their interaction partner. Two studies demonstrated that men’s (but not women’s) cognitive performance declined if they were led to believe that they interacted with a woman via a computer (Study 1) or even if they merely anticipated an interaction with a woman (Study 2). Together, these results suggest that an actual interaction is not a necessary prerequisite for the cognitive impairment effect to occur. Moreover, these effects occur even if men do not get information about the woman’s attractiveness.”

Recent events, inspired by Nobel laureate Tim Hunt, have produced pictorial evidence that women can be distractingly sexy.

Spine motion during coitus (with commentary on the implications)

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Physicists and engineers, among others, might be able to appreciate the care that went into this study of female spine motion during coitus:

SidorkewiczDocumenting female spine motion during coitus with a commentary on the implications for the low back pain patient,” Natalie Sidorkewicz [pictured here] and Stuart M. McGill, European Spine Journal, Volume 24, Issue 3, March 2015, pp. 513-520. The authors, at the University of Waterloo, Canada, report:

PURPOSE: To describe female lumbar spine motion and posture characteristics during coitus and compare these characteristics across five common coital positions….

METHODS: Ten healthy males and females performed coitus in the following pre-selected positions and variations: QUADRUPED (fQUAD1 and fQUAD2 where the female is supporting her upper body with her elbows and hands, respectively), MISSIONARY (fMISS1 and fMISS2 where the female is minimally and more flexed at the hips and knees, respectively), and SIDELYING. An electromagnetic motion capture system was used to measure three-dimensional lumbar spine angles that were normalized to maximum active range of motion—a transmitter and receiver were affixed to the skin overlying the lateral aspect of the pelvis and the spinous process of the twelfth thoracic vertebra, respectively….

RESULTS: Based on the spine kinematic profiles of each position, the least-to-most recommended positions for a female flexion-intolerant patient are: fMISS2, fMISS1, fQUAD1, fSIDE, and fQUAD2.

Here’s further, graphic detail from the study:


(Thanks to Delia Bailey for bringing this to our attention.)

In this video, Professor McGill savors the spine: