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An effin' rollercoaster
Psychology has a habit of doing well at the Ig Nobel awards - designed to recognise research that makes you laugh, then think - and this year was no different. At a glittering ceremony at Harvard University, the psychologists Richard Stephens, John Atkins and Andrew Kingston from Keele University walked away with the Peace Prize for their research showing the analgesic benefits of swearing (NeuroReport). Meanwhile, the psychologists
Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam, and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University earned the Medicine Prize for their research showing that asthmatic symptoms can be alleviated by the emotional effects of a rollercoaster (Behaviour Research and Therapy)
'As psychologists doing research with people we are ethically bound to disseminate findings widely, and the prize certainly has drummed up plenty of publicity,' Stephens told us, adding that there is real substance to the swearing research. 'Having shown that swearing can help people better tolerate pain we are now attempting to find out how. Our working hypothesis is that, by swearing, people provoke an emotional reaction in themselves in the form of a low-level fight or flight response. Watch this space, as they say!'
As for the Medicine Prize, van Beest said he and Rietveld felt honoured that the prize will draw attention to people who suffer from asthma. Their research showed that positive and negative emotion could lead people with asthma to under- or over-report their breathlessness, respectively. 'In practical terms,' van Beest told us 'this implies that people who suffer from asthma may use too much medication when they feel bad, but too little medication when they feel good. We think that this latter finding in combination with the fact that we used a rollercoaster to induce positive and negative emotions struck
a chord with the judges.'
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