Boss revenge, self-colonoscopy studies win 2018 Ig Nobels

September 13, 2018 by Mark Pratt

Anyone who's ever been so furious with their boss that they feel like exacting revenge really needs to listen to Lindie Liang.

Liang and her colleagues found that abusing a virtual voodoo doll instead of your boss will make you feel better without getting you fired or thrown in jail, according to a study that earned them a 2018 Ig Nobel, the annual prize sponsored by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for comical but practical scientific discovery.

Winners recognized Thursday included a Japanese doctor who devised a revolutionary new way to give yourself a colonoscopy; a British archaeology lecturer who figured out that eating human flesh isn't very nutritious; an Australian team that found that people who buy high-tech products really can't be bothered with the instruction manual; and Spanish university researchers who measured the effects of shouting and cursing while driving.

The prizes at the 28th annual ceremony at Harvard University were being handed out by real Nobel laureates. The event featured a traditional paper airplane air raid and the premiere of "The Broken Heart Opera," performed with the help of Harvard Medical School cardiologists.

The winners, who as usual journeyed to Massachusetts at their own expense, also received a cash prize of 10 trillion virtually worthless Zimbabwean dollars. Each was given 60 seconds to deliver an acceptance speech before an 8-year-old girl complained onstage: "Please stop. I'm bored."

Liang, an assistant professor of business at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, specializes in studying workplace aggression.

"We wanted to understand why subordinates retaliate when it's bad for them," she said. "We all know yelling at our boss is bad for your career. So what's the function of retaliation? Why do people keep doing it?"

Obviously, Liang couldn't ask people to beat their bosses. Instead, they were shown an online voodoo doll with their supervisor's initials. They then had the option to use pins, pliers or fire on the virtual doll.

The bottom line: People felt better after abusing the doll, or as Liang put it, "their injustice perceptions are deactivated."

Still, she doesn't endorse littering workplaces around the world with voodoo dolls for people angry at their bosses. Let's just have more civil workplaces to start with, she suggests.

James Cole, a lecturer in archaeology at Britain's University of Brighton, earned his Ig Nobel for a study on cannibalism that found that if you want a high-calorie meal, eating human flesh probably isn't the way to go.

Cannibalism is pretty common throughout human history, he said. But the accepted view is that humans have eaten other humans primarily for nutritional reasons. Cole found that the caloric value of humans isn't that high when compared with other animals we know our ancestors hunted and ate.

"We're not super nutritious," he said.

How did Cole determine the caloric value of a human? Don't worry. No humans were harmed in his study. He used a previously determined formula that bases body-part calorie counts on weight and chemical composition.

Dr. Akira Horiuchi, a pediatrician at Showa Inan General Hospital in Komagane, Japan, won for his self-colonoscopy study in which he used a colonoscope designed for children and sat upright rather than lying in the traditional supine position.

Horiuchi isn't recommending that you give yourself a colonoscopy in the comfort of your home. He said via email that many people are afraid of getting a colonoscopy, and he just wanted to show how easy it can be.

"If people watch a video of my self-colonoscopy, they think colonoscopy is simple and easy," he said.

People may laugh at the winners, but Horiuchi said winning an Ig Nobel brings attention to studies such as his that might otherwise be ignored.

The incidence and mortality rate of colorectal cancer in Japan are increasing, he said. If his work makes someone more willing to get a colonoscopy, he reasons, maybe he'll save some lives.

Explore further: Q&A: Pain management during colonoscopy

More information: www.improbable.com/

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10 comments

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Surveillance_Egg_Unit
5 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2018
LOL I must admit that these are funny people. Good fun as well as creative.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2018
I can't get the image of a self colonoscopizing person out of my head...
MarsBars
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2018
I can't get the image of a self colonoscopizing person out of my head...

Quite so, and the Ig Noble image of "The Thinker" fallen off his plinth and laying on his back with his knees drawn up doesn't help...
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Sep 16, 2018
The cannibal study could actually be useful given that because of chronic overpopulation throughout human history, dead enemies were a significant source of sustenance.

It also gives insight into why bushmeat/apemeat is so popular among African indigenes.
rrwillsj
not rated yet Sep 16, 2018
Just when you think "Oh ottopathetic can't get any more stupid or pusillanimous in his level of inhumanity?" The little venomous worm proves he can sink deeper into his quagmire of fear and hate!
HannaB
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2018
Liang and her colleagues found that abusing a virtual voodoo doll instead of your boss will make you feel better without getting you fired or thrown in jail, according to a study that earned them a 2018 Ig Nobel. An Australian team found that people who buy high-tech products really can't be bothered with the instruction manual; and Spanish university researchers who measured the effects of shouting and cursing while driving...


It rather looks like prize for most useless and trivial embezzling of tax payers money for me.
HannaB
not rated yet Sep 17, 2018
The healing power of rollercoasters: Rollercoasters can cure kidney stones, scientist say
rrwillsj
not rated yet Sep 18, 2018
Well Hannah, you might turn your grumble around. And ask yourself why Private Foundation and Corporate Grants would fund the research you complained about?

My guess? They wind up with a interesting collection of data in the general public's current psychometrics. Catching up on people's attitudes. Emotional responses to manufactured memes.

Hey! It's just business as usual. What do you mean, you resent being psychologically manipulated for corporate interests?

Wjat are you? Some sort of tree-hugging commie queer?

Now, go be a good consumer and... Buy! Buy! Buy!

It's your Sacred Patriotic Duty!
HannaB
not rated yet Sep 19, 2018
Some sort of tree-hugging commie queer? You resent being psychologically manipulated for corporate interests?
I'm commie corporativist, who can see how research became useless and decadent. Note that all this research awarded is just about subjective feelings which are easy to predict: feelings during driving, feelings about virtual voodoo puppet, feelings about instruction manuals. Compare also Bullshit Research
barakn
not rated yet Sep 19, 2018
I'm commie corporativist, who can see how research became useless and decadent. -HannaB

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