Airline Upgrade Guilt – an examination

April 10th, 2017

Do people with high levels of guilt-proneness tend to have a heightened sensitivity to injustices – what happens if they get an unexpected airline upgrade for example? This question has been examined by professor Anna S. Mattila and professor Lu Zhang of the School of Hospitality Management, The Pennsylvania State University, US along with professor Lydia Hanks at the Dedman School of Hospitality, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, US.

Their research paper: ‘Existential Guilt and Preferential Treatment : The Case of an Airline Upgradeis published in the Journal of Travel Research, September 2013 vol. 52 no. 5, pp. 591-599

“Using the context of an unexpected airline upgrade, we examined factors that influence an individual’s reaction when they are overrewarded compared to others: guilt-proneness and relationship to the other, underrewarded, individuals. Results demonstrated that for individuals high in guilt-proneness, satisfaction with the upgrade and behavioral intent may be qualified by a feeling of existential guilt when they receive benefits that others do not, particularly if they have a close relationship with those others.”

The findings have important implications for the hospitality, airline, and travel industries, say the authors :

“ … for customers high in guilt-proneness, receiving an expected upgrade may, in fact, have unintended negative results. Managers can use this information to make employees aware of the potential detrimental effects of rewarding or upgrading only one member of a party.”

The photo shows a Singapore Airlines suite : “How close is too close? You’ll never have to know”

[ Declaration of interest. The author of this post declares an interest, in that he has been the recipient of an unexpected airline upgrade. No perceptible increased levels of guilt ensued however, existential or otherwise.]

Umpteen reflections on Indefinite Hyperbolic Numerals

April 6th, 2017

With apologies to our readers who might already know, Indefinite Hyperbolic Numerals* (IHNs) are words like zillion, jillion, and umpteen. Or, to be exact :

“Indefinite hyperbolic numerals (IHN) are words that (1) resemble numerals morphologically, and (2) act as numerals morphosyntactically within numeral phrases, yet (3) whose direct numerical referent remains indefinite.”

For an in-depth look at them, turn to the work of Professor Stephen Chrisomalis of Wayne State University, US. His paper : ‘Umpteen reflections on indefinite hyperbolic numerals’ appears in the journal American Speech, 2016 volume 91, number 1: 3-33. In which, as part of his investigation, the author has compiled a new table of what he determines to be the earliest origins of IHNs. For example, both squillion and umpteen are found to have appeared as early as 1878, whereas umptillion only surfaced in 1948.

Also see: A load of vague non-numerical quantifiers

*Note: Some call them ‘Numericals’.

Eye-poking, fish swallowing, burnt hair and dead ducks: Ig Nobel Spring Tour ends in Rotterdam

April 5th, 2017

The final stop of the ‘Ig Nobel Spring Euro Tour’ is the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, home of the famous ‘Dead Animal Tales’ exhibition. Saturday April 8, 2017 at 20:00h Marc Abrahams speaks about recent Ig Nobel prize winners and he introduces some Dutch improbable researchers, including:

Lara & Richard Zegers – Eye trauma in Laurel and Hardy movies: another nice mess

Bram Langeveld – Burnt hair and colliding particles: The hunt for the CERN ‘weasel’

Erwin Kompanje & Ben van der Hoven -‘Do not swallow’: How and why a catfish and its predator ended up at the Intensive Care Unit, and in the museum

Kees Moeliker – Homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck: what’s new?

Program starts: April 8, 2017, 20:00h (doors open at 19:30h)
Program ends: around 21:30h, followed by drinks
TICKETS: Euro 10,- including museum admission and a beverage
Reservations: make sure you have a seat, buy an e-ticket here

Address: Natural History Museum Rotterdam, Westzeedijk 345 (Museumpark), 3015 AA Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Untrained modern youths and ancient masters in self(ie) portraits

April 3rd, 2017

What do modern youths and ancient masters have in common? One possible commonality is they way they depict themselves in self portraits – specifically whether they tend to prefer giving preference to their left cheek or the right one.

“[…] a set of selfies and wefies by modern youths reveals comparable biases to self-portraits and portraits by master painters over the history of the visual arts. Assuming that our group of young selfie-takers had no academic training in painting, portraiture, and art history, these findings therefore support an account of posing preferences in terms of biologically determined asymmetries over an account based on culturally induced conventions.”

– explain a research team from the Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Università di Parma, Italy, and the School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, UK.

They make steps towards clarifying potential confusion with regard to image-reversal in smartphone cameras – as opposed to the mirrors which were often used by Old Masters for their pre-photographic selfies :-

“Because in smartphones the preview image is mirror-reversed, but the image file is saved as taken from a front camera (non-mirror-reversed), a saved image with the selfie-taker on the left signals a preference for a (mirror-reversed) preview image where the selfie-taker is on the right.”

See: Nicola Bruno, Carole Bode & Marco Bertamini (2016): Composition in portraits: Selfies and wefies reveal similar biases in untrained modern youths and ancient masters, in: Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 27 May 2016.

Note that mirror (and smartphone) portraits are only reversed left-right rather than up-down – a much discussed phenomenon. Here’s Richard Feynman’s take on it . . .

New book (and show!) by the Ig Nobel randomness reseachers

April 2nd, 2017

The Italian researchers who analyzed how the Peter Principle plays out, and who as a side-effect of that were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, have a new book about their experiences. The book is called Abbiamo vinto l’Ig Nobel con il principio di Peter [“We won the Ig Nobel with the Peter Principle”], by Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda , and Cesare Garofalo, published by Malcor D’.

We will all celebrate the new book in a special show at the University of Catania, on Thursday, April 6. The show features: Marc Abrahams and Ig Nobel Prize winners Marina de Tommaso (measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam), Elizabeth Oberzaucher (mathematical analysis of the man who fathered 888 children), and of course Cesare Garofalo, Alessandro Pluchino, and Andrea Rapisarda (organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random).

The show is a featured part of the Ig Nobel Spring EuroTour.