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May 05, 2005

The joys of unfettered research

Although I diligently try to keep up with the new papers in my field, there are just so many to read... yet, some are more pleasant than others. In fact, some could be said to be downright pleasurable, such as a mathematical model of scientists writing papers (and citing other papers). Or an empirical study of the frequency of natural numbers on the World Wide Web. Who says science is humorless?

Update: In following the power-law exuberance, power laws exist in the income distribution of movies in the United States. This doesn't suprise me one bit actually, since there is pretty strong evidence that humans prefer a power law in the popularity of things (e.g., power-law degree distribution in the sales of books, etc.). Somehow, I doubt that power laws of this kind will not continue to make headlines...

Friend Dennis Chao (of psdoom fame; another shining example of the fruits of unfettered research) pointed me to this amusing bit of research in 2003 by a pair of Canadian psychologists on the effects of a pretty female face on heterosexual men's ability to accurately estimate the future value of goods. From the article:

A sex difference in discounting is predictable. Because men have always had some chance of gaining fitness from short-term expenditures of mating effort, whereas successful reproduction typically requires more prolonged parental investment by women, men should have evolved to discount the future more steeply than women, and sex differences in age-specific mortality confirm this expectation (e.g. Arias 2002). Men also have higher discount rates than women in choices of monetary rewards (Kirby & Marakovic 1996).

and, on their results,

As predicted, discounting increased signif icantly in men who viewed attractive women, but not in men who viewed unattractive women or women who viewed men; viewing cars produced a different pattern of results.

Straight men's weaknesses: cars and pretty girls...

posted May 5, 2005 04:23 AM in Scientifically Speaking | permalink