Quirky research

I don’t know about you, but I just love quirky research. Studies that answer questions you might come up with after a glass of wine, or two, or three. Studies where your first thought is: What adviser ever gave the okay for this?
I have a research degree, therefore I do understand when researchers talk about validity and reliability, or the difference between causality and correlation. I know about sample sizes and t-tests. But usually when you want to read them just for fun, it is not that important to know all the terminology. I have also read a good many studies and the quirky ones just stand out.
Some of the ones I keep remembering, even though the citations are long gone are the one that tied suicide to country music; the one that speculated that your facial expressions inform your mood just as you mood inform your facial expressions; and the one that looked at how self-depreciating humor is used ad perceived very differently by men and women.
The study that looked at suicide and country music did find a correlation, but not enough evidence for a causation. In simple terms, what they did was compare suicide rates with amount of country radio stations in the area. And they found that areas with a higher number of country stations also had higher suicide rates. There was no way however to make the argument that country music caused those suicides. Still, it makes for an interesting bit of knowledge.
The one with the facial expression really amused me because of the research method they used. They had two dudes sit in front of each other and making faces at each other. They would then record how they felt accordingly. Imagine that. You go and sit in an office for days on end, making faces at your buddy. It seems trivial, really, but it lead to a very astonishing and useful discovery. If you want to be in a better mood, pretend with your face that you are and the rest of your body/soul might follow.
The self-depriciating humor one was a wake up call for me. Basically it showed that men who used it were valued more and women who used it were valued less. This opens a plethora of interpretations, most of them rooted in sex role stereotypes and sexism. Who would have thought that looking at humor could become so serious?
So if you are ever at a loss of interesting material to wind a story around, I suggest to look up some quirky research and you will end up with a bucket full of new ideas and some time well spent.


About scratchingcat

Writer, mother, friend.
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4 Responses to Quirky research

  1. Right there with you on this one! One of may favourite sources of wacky science is ignobel.com

  2. This is so weird – I just cited that same study about suicide and country music yesterday!! It’s by Gunnell and Stack I believe? Discussing how people involved in the country music subculture are more likely to commit suicide due to the themes of social alienation promoted in country music as a genre? Classic!

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