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

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.

Gorillas and humans, too, imitate each other

April 23rd, 2019

This report from Virunga National Park appears to broaden and confirm the Ig Nobel Prize-winning discovery about different kinds of animals (humans and some of our close relatives) imitating each other:

The photo, posted on Instagram, bears this caption:

You might have recently seen caretakers Mathieu and Patrick’s amazing selfie with female orphaned gorillas Ndakazi and Ndeze inside the Senkwekwe center at Virunga National Park. We’ve received dozens of messages about the photo. YES, it’s real! Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities! Also, it’s no surprise to see these girls on their two feet either—most primates are comfortable walking upright (bipedalism) for short bursts of time….
Conserving Virunga’s amazing wildlife is a constant challenge for the Park and our work wouldn’t be possible without your support.

The photo has appeared in numerous press accounts, including a BBC report with the headline “Gorillas pose for selfie with DR Congo anti-poaching unit“.

The Prize-Winning Study

The 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for anthropology was awarded to Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees.

They documented their research, in the study “Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors,” Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, and Elainie Madsen, Primates, vol. 59, no. 1, January 2018, pp. 19–29.

(Thanks to Bruce Petschek for alerting us to this.)

The case of toilet management in a French academic library

April 23rd, 2019

A look at how a library manages to manage the facilities that help library users manage their bowels will likely enliven the 5th annual international User Experience in Libraries conference, or UXLibsV. The conference will take place at Royal Holloway [pictured below], University of London, on 17-19 June 2019. The session to be sure to visit is:

NATHALIE CLOT [pictured here]
University of Angers, FRANCE
Paper: An accidental UX project: the case of toilet management in a French academic library
Abstract: This is the story of how, by observing, interviewing, surveying and using, we improved the user experience of the toilets in an academic library in France between 2010 and 2019. Through exploration of a seemingly trivial problem, using simple UX methods with valuable results, the toilet case study helped us to learn how to articulate and conduct UX methods and to iterate upon their design until we arrived at the best experience for our users.

(Thanks to Adrian Smith for bringing this to our attention.)

Surfer’s ears – and what can be done about them [new study]

April 22nd, 2019

“External auditory exostoses, also known as surfer’s ear, are benign tumours of the external auditory canal. They form primarily as a result of environmental factors, including recurrent exposure to cold water (below 19°C) or cold air, with a prevalence in surfers ranging from 38% to 73.5%. The prevalence and severity of exostoses are dependent on the amount of time spent surfing.”

Such is the description of a case published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 08, 2019 191 (14) E396. As for remedies, they suggest :

“Initial management of external auditory exostoses should focus on prevention by reducing specific environmental exposures such as cold air or water, through the use of ear plugs, hoods and swim caps”

Or, as the ‘Surfer’s Ear’ page at Wikipedia puts it,

“ • Avoid activity during extremely cold or windy conditions.
• Keep the ear canal as warm and dry as possible.”

BONUS: Tommy Cooper joke:

“Doctor, it hurts every time I do this . . .”

“Well don’t do it then”

The photovoltaic effect of “ferroelectric” bananas [new study]

April 18th, 2019

Building on the work of Prof. James F. Scott, FRS of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge UK, who showed that :

“[…] ordinary bananas exhibit closed loops of switched charge versus applied voltage that are nearly identical to those misinterpreted as ferroelectric hysteresis loops in crystals.”
See: Hysterical ferroelectric banana misinterpretations’, November, 2015)

Muhammad Ismail and colleagues at Zhejiang Normal University, China, have now been able to demonstrate, for the first time, that ordinary bananas can not only be thought of as ferrorelectric, but also that they can exhibit a pseudo-photovoltaic response.

Their work involved illuminating banana skins fitted with sliver electrodes, and enabled the following conclusion :

“In summary, the pseudo-photovoltaic effect is found in bananas, which are neither a ferroelectric material nor photovoltaic material.”

See: Photovoltaic effect of “ferroelectric” bananas in EPL (Europhysics Letters), Volume 125, Number 4, March 2019.

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