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Ig Nobel Prize for Tulio Guadalupe
Leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, psychologists Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Tulio Guadalupe (MPI & Donders Institute) recently discovered. Their study was awarded an 2012 Ig Nobel Prize. The award ceremony took place on September 20th at Sanders Theater, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
September 27, 2012
At the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, ten prizes were awarded, two of which were for Dutch researchers. The winners have all done something that first makes people laugh and then makes them think.
In their paper 'Leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller: posture-modulated estimation', Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and Tulio Guadalupe (MPI's Language and Genetics Department) investigated whether body posture influences people's estimation of quantities. According to the 'mental-number-line theory', people mentally represent numbers along a line with smaller numbers on the left and larger numbers on the right, the psychologists explain in their paper.
In two experiments, participants had to answer estimation questions while standing on a Wii Balance Board. Their posture was manipulated during the experiments, but participants were not aware of this manipulation. Surprisingly, estimates were significantly smaller when people leaned to the left than when they leaned to the right.
"We discovered that by manipulating posture, and making subjects lean slightly to the left side, this makes lower quantities more readily accesible, as the mental number line would predict, thus biasing estimations towards a lower quantity," Guadalupe explains.
Did you expect to be awarded an Ig Nobel Prize?
"No, actually the only funny thing about this research is the title, which does sound funny. If we had used a title like 'Manipulating posture on the medio-lateral axis modulates the estimation of quantities', I don't think any of this would have happened."
What does this prize mean to you, will it stimulate your future research?
"I think the prize is a nice acknowledgement of the originality of the research. I was involved in that study during my research master's. Next to my more 'serious' study on bilingual lexical access, a couple of master students and I were also trying to get the Nintendo Wiimote and Balance Board to work in experimental designs. In my current PhD research I'm looking at cerebral asymmetries, so I don't think the prize and attention will stimulate my current research."
How was the ceremony at Cambridge?
"Lots of fun and laughs, although I would personally have made the ceremony much shorter. But the Sanders theater is a beautiful place."
Link to Guadalupe's personal page.