Archive for 'Research News'

The semiotics of lamppost stickers in Birmingham (new study)

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

“This article set out to examine the role of stickers in urban semiotic landscapes by focusing on their spatial distribution, agency, and linguistic practices involved in their design and production, function and discursive distribution. The analysis of 1191 signs recorded on Digbeth, a street in central Birmingham, UK, has revealed that stickers form the predominant genre in this corpus (60%).”

The study revealed that the majority of stickers (329) were located on lampposts. [see below]

And also showed (for example) that 22.5% were commercial, and 18.5% were artistic in nature. [see below]

See: ‘Lamppost networks* : stickers as a genre in urban semiotic landscape’ authored by Professor Gertrud K. Reershemius of the School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK. It’s scheduled for publication in the journal Social Semiotics

*This term was coined by Leonie Gaiser and Yaron Matras as part of their presentation for the conference “Multilingual Landscapes: Planning, Policy, and Contact Linguistic Perspectives”. 21–22 May 2018, University of Manchester. ‘Toward an integrated approach to urban linguistic landscapes’

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

On Creepiness [research study]

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

A Case of The ‘Heeby Jeebies’: An Examination of Intuitive Judgements of ‘Creepiness’ ”, Margo C. Watt, Rebecca A. Maitland, and Catherine E. Gallagher, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, vol. 49, no. 1, January 2017, pp. 58-69. The authors, at St. Francis Xavier University, Dalhousie University, and the University of New Brunswick, Canada, explain:

“The present research examined ‘creepiness,’ a commonly referenced but little understood construct. In Study 1, 185 undergraduates (74% women) provided qualitative data on the defining characteristics of ‘creepiness.’ ‘Creepiness’ was found to reside in the eyes, and was associated with men with ectomorphic-like bodies, with a dishevelled appearance, between 31 and 50 years of age. In Study 2, 48 students (71% women) rated black-and-white photographs of Caucasian male faces on a 7-point Likert-type scale for ‘creepiness,’ trustworthiness, and attractiveness.”

Read that and more, in the column “Soft Is Hard—Further evidence why the “soft” sciences are the hardest to do well” [free, downloadable PDF], in the special NOISE issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

For heaps of improbable research, subscribe to the magazine (or if you like, buy single issues). The magazine has six new issues a year, all in PDF form.

Hearing “White Christmas” in white noise [research study]

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Another White Christmas: Fantasy Proneness and Reports of ‘Hallucinatory Experiences’ in Undergraduate Students,” Harald Merckelbach and Vincent van de Ven, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, vol. 32, no. 3, September 2001, pp. 137-144. (Thanks to Kristine Danowski for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, report:

“44 undergraduate students were asked to listen to white noise and instructed to press a button when they believed hearing a recording of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas without this record actually being presented. Fourteen participants (32%) pressed the button at least once…. hallucinatory reports obtained during the White Christmas test [might] reflect a non-specific preference for odd items rather than schizophrenia-like, internal experiences.”

Read that and more, in the column “Music and Noise Research—Explorations of artistic and other vibrations” [free, downloadable PDF], in the special NOISE issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

For heaps of improbable research, subscribe to the magazine (or if you like, buy single issues). The magazine has six new issues a year, all in PDF form.

Evaluating an app which nags users to apologize to their phones

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Building (in part) on previous research into the potential benefits of superfluous apologies, researchers Alice Lam, Randy Hsu and Ivan Lobachev of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of British Columbia, Canada, decided to investigate whether it might be possible to increase phone users’ “emotional connection” with their phone, by nudging them to frequently apologize to it.

Their experiments were designed around an app (called Pet Phone) which nagged users to apologize when the phone experienced a negative event of some kind – e.g. if the user allowed its battery to discharge too far, or if the phone was dropped.

“We extend this concept to encourage a smartphone user to adopt a more caretaking role toward their phone. By prompting the user to apologize for perceived transgressions, we can create the self-perception that ‘I am someone who is concerned for my phone’s wellbeing’, thus forming an emotional connection between user and phone. It is worth noting that the apology may not need to be entirely heartfelt and sincere, as superfluous apologies still demonstrate empathetic concern.”

The experiments showed, however, that there could be room for improvements with regard to the app’s emotional-bond-enhancement potential :

“Due to time constraints, we designed the application to output a high number of apology prompts, with the intention of encouraging users to apologize frequently to their phones in a short period of time. Instead, it appears that users simply learned to ignore the high volume of apology prompts.”

Put another way :

“The fact that there was a decrease in apologies without a corresponding decrease in apology-causing events suggests that users learned to ignore the notifications generated by the app, instead of responding by apologizing.” [see graph]

For full details see: Pet Phone: Using Apologies to Enhance User-Smartphone Attachment

BONUS (apologetically related)

The Barcelona concert for embryos: Sharon Corr & Álex Ubago

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

Sharon Corr and Álex Ubago celebrated Institut Marquès’ Ig Nobel Prize by singing to the embryos.” That’s the headline on a report by Top40-Charts. The report explains how Sharon Corr (of The Corrs) and Álex Ubago came to be involved in this historic concert:

Institut Marquès, the worldwide leading fertility centre, has hosted a new live concert for embryos at its laboratory in Barcelona. and Álex Ubago performed for hundreds of embryos growing in the incubators at Barcelona, Rome and Clane (Ireland)….

Sharon Corr, singer-songwriter member of the famous Irish band The Corrs, and Álex Ubago featured several songs, i.e. “Amarrado a ti” (“Tied to you”) and “Buenos Aires”. “It was a very emotional experience. It is great to think that possibly we can be part of their future. I am not surprised that music really helps the embryos to form; music is the greatest therapy in the world so I feel very honoured to be asked to do this,” stated Sharon Corr. This performance follows the lead of other artists such as the famous Spanish singer-songwriter Antonio Orozco. Institut Marquès plans to offer further live concerts at their laboratories in the coming future….

These events fall within the works undertaken by Institut Marquès on how music benefits the embryonic and fetal development. Those studies were awarded last September by Harvard University with the Ig Nobel Medicine Prize. The goal of this award is to promote that scientists from all over the world can present their studies to the audience in a pleasant and enjoyable way. The Ig Nobel organisation chose Institut Marquès researchers to present their work on a tour around the most important Universities in Europe in the past month of April . Doctor López-Teijón, Institut Marquès’ Director, alongside Doctor Álex Garcia-Faura, Scientific Director of the centre, presented their studies on fotal hearing the positive effects of music at the beginning of life at the Karolinska Institute and at the Aarhus University.

Here’s video of Doctor López-Teijón, Institut Marquès’ Director, who, together with colleagues Álex García-Faura, Alberto Prats-Galino, and Luis Pallarés Aniorte, was awarded that Ig Nobel Prize for showing that a developing human fetus responds more strongly to music that is played electromechanically inside the mother’s vagina than to music that is played electromechanically on the mother’s belly. The video gives a quick tour of the facilities in Barcelona:

REMINDER: The clinic’s Ig Nobel Prize-winning work included the development of Babypod, the device for playing vagina music properly.


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