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Wealth Inequality Among Snails

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

The economics of snails—specifically, what one might call “the economics of the shell game”—gets some data and hard thought in a new study.

A Comparison of Wealth Inequality in Humans and Non-Humans,” Ivan D. Chase, Raphael Douady, and Dianna K. Padilla, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 2019, 122962. The authors, at Stony Brook University, explain:

“Inequality in the distribution of material resources (wealth) occurs widely across human groups…. Here we present the first description of inequality in material resources in an animal population: the distribution of gastropod (snail) shells inhabited by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus. We find that the shell distribution for the crabs strongly resembles the characteristic form of wealth distribution in human groups. The amount of inequality in the crabs is more than that in some small-scale human groups but less than that in nations.”

“National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing”

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

A new study marries, so to speak, economics and kissing. The study is:

National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing,” Christopher D. Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan, Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article no. 6698 2019. (Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

Romantic mouth-to-mouth kissing is culturally widespread, although not a human universal…

Here, we test for cultural variation (13 countries from six continents) in these behaviours/attitudes according to national health (historical pathogen prevalence) and both absolute (GDP) and relative wealth (GINI)…. When aggregated, the predicted relationship between income inequality and kissing frequency was over five times the size of the null correlations between income inequality and frequency of hugging/cuddling and sex.

Here is some numerical detail:

Harvard Business School studies/celebrates Ig Nobel Prize winner Lehman Brothers

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Harvard Business School has a special exhibition exploring the history of Ig Nobel Prize winner Lehman Brothers. Max Reyes reports, in the Boston Globe:

Harvard exhibit details the rise and demise of Lehman Brothers

Before it was a titan in the investment banking field, before it engaged in a form of financial sleight of hand that doomed the housing market, before it initiated the largest bankruptcy filing in US history — and threatened to bring the global economy down with it — Lehman Brothers was a general store.

The fabled firm’s history, from its humble beginnings as a family-run business in Alabama during the mid-19th century to its spectacular collapse on Wall Street in 2008, is on display in an exhibit now showing at Harvard Business School’s Baker Library | Bloomberg Center.

The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to the executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.


Voodoo dolls, the Ig Nobel Prize and why headlines matter in academia

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Here’s a voodoo-doll-rich, behind-the-scenes account what happened before and after a researcher (and her team) won an Ig Nobel Prize. Elsevier Connects reports:

Voodoo dolls in hand, the winning co-authors await their press interviews before the Ig Nobel ceremony at Harvard. Left to right: Prof. Lisa Keeping (Wilfrid Laurier University), Prof. Huiwen Lian (University of Kentucky), Prof. D. Lance Ferris (Michigan State University), Prof. Lindie Liang (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Prof. Douglas Brown (University of Waterloo). Not pictured: Samuel Hanig, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo.

Voodoo dolls, the Ig Nobel Prize and why headlines matter in academia
How psychologist Dr. Lindie Liang captured the world’s attention with her research

By Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

Many researchers have a story about a time they were surprised: an unexpected finding, an accidental hack that improves an instrument, a collaborator they meet at a bar. It can be exhilarating or unnerving and almost always brings a lesson.

That was certainly the case for psychologist Dr. Lindie Liang, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior/Human Resources Management in the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics at Wilfrid Laurier Universityin Canada, when she published her paper on dysfunctional leadership and retaliation. Rejection followed rejection, which led to acceptance and publication, which resulted in interviews with journalists and international media coverage; before she knew it, she found herself on stage holding a voodoo doll, accepting the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics, in 2018….

The Prize-winning Research

The 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa Keeping, for investigating whether it is effective for employees to use Voodoo dolls to retaliate against abusive bosses.

The team documented their research, in the study “Righting a Wrong: Retaliation on a Voodoo Doll Symbolizing an Abusive Supervisor Restores Justice,” Lindie Hanyu Liang, Douglas J. Brown, Huiwen Lian, Samuel Hanig, D. Lance Ferris, and Lisa M. Keeping, The Leadership Quarterly, February 2018.

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.)

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