Archive for 'Research News'

The impact of a quality table cloth in a restaurant [new study]

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Does a high quality (e.g. fabric as opposed to paper) tablecloth affect customers’ enjoyment of a meal in a restaurant? Surprisingly perhaps, up until 2019, this question had not been scientifically examined. But now a team from the Department of Food Science, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and the Center for Food and Hospitality Research, Institut Paul Bocuse, France, have completed the first such study, examining the reactions of 247 paying (26 € per person) customers in a controlled experimental setting.

“The results demonstrated a fabric table linen contributed to a significant higher preference of the appetiser, first course consumed upon arrival, and of the meal quality in general. The fabric linen had no significant impact on the liking of the main dish and dessert, which were preferred similarly to that of paper table linen.“

It’s as yet unclear why the fabric cloth might have affected the main dish and dessert less than the appetiser.

See: The impact of tablecloth on consumers’ food perception in real-life eating situation in Food Quality and Preference, Volume 71, January 2019, Pages 168-171

Willingness Toupee [new study]

Monday, April 8th, 2019

“Some things in life money can’t buy. Unfortunately, hair isn’t one of them.” – explain a research team from the Department of Economics at Appalachian State University, US. They also point out that : “Balding men are willing to pay considerable amounts of money for an improvement in coverage.” – raising the question : “What’s the average willingness to pay to move from a glistening cue ball to a luscious mane?”

Their research, entitled ‘Willingness Toupee’ [geddit?] is published in the March 2019 edition of the journal Economic Inquiry.

And the answer to the question is, apparently, “About $30,000”

A full version of the paper is available here



Economic Consequences of Restrictions on the Usage of Cookies

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

The research project “Economic Consequences of Restrictions on the Usage of Cookies” has received funding to proceed.

The work is being done at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Berndt Skiera [pictured here]. The university explains:

So far, there exists very little empirical knowledge on the trade-off between user privacy and the economic value that website publishers, advertisers, and even users derive from cookies. As a result, policy makers have no way of telling whether their restrictions on cookies have the intended positive consequences for user privacy, or whether any benefits are outweighed by negative effects on the profits of companies—which policy makers also seek to nurture. The research project COOKIES (Economic Consequences of Restrictions on the Usage of Cookies) by Professor Bernd Skiera aims to close this gap. In the project, several data sets will be analysed, including a cookie dataset

(Thanks to Bob O’Hara for bringing this to our attention.)

Effect of swearing on strength and power performance (study)

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Dr Richard Stephens, of Keele University, UK, was a co-recipient of the 2010 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain. Since then, his work on swearing has continued, and he’s the lead author of a 2018 paper for the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise (Volume 35, March 2018, Pages 111-117) which examined the effect of swearing on strength and power performance. Experimental participants, who swore, performed better on an exercise bike and at a hand-grip strength test. It’s as yet unclear exactly why.

“Data demonstrate increased strength and power performance for swearing v. not swearing but the absence of cardiovascular or autonomic nervous system effects makes it unclear whether these results are due to an alteration of sympathovagal balance or an unknown mechanism.”

See: Effect of swearing on strength and power performance


[1] “WARNING: This paper contains language that some readers may find offensive.”

[2] Scope for further research : as yet, the experiments haven’t investigated whether some swearwords might work better than others.

Using Magnetic Induction to Give a Cadaver’s Penis an Erection

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Researchers used magnetic induction to get a rise out of, or into, a cadaver’s penis.

Details are in the study “Use of Magnetic Induction to Activate a ‘Touchless’ Shape Memory Alloy Implantable Penile Prosthesis,” Brian V. Le, Kevin T. McVary, Kevin McKenna, and Alberto Colombo, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 16, no. 4, April 2019, pp. 596-601.

Drawing by Nan Swift, Improbable Research staff, styled after photos in the medical study.

The authors, at University of Wisconsin Madison. Loyola University Medical Center, Northwestern University, and Southern Illinois University, report:

We describe a novel physiologic penile prosthesis that uses shape memory alloy properties to mimic the transition between a flaccid and erect penis using magnetic induction instead of hydraulic pressure…. The device was then tested implanted in an animal tissue model and in cadaveric tissue. Testing consisted of placing the device deactivated in its more malleable and compressed state, then activating it using an external inducer wand…

A cadaver was implanted with a latex-covered penile prosthesis using a modified surgical technique through a penoscrotal approach. An adapter to accommodate standard Boston Scientific rear tip extenders was created for the model using 3-D printing technology and used to mimic the standard rear-tip extender used in contemporary IPPs and improved the device anchoring in the corpora cavernosa. The implanted penile prosthesis was activated by waving the inductor along the shaft of the cadaver’s penis…. The prosthesis reached an almost complete activation.

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