Rocky road to an Ig Nobel prize

Former Gisborne woman wins award for interesting, curious and often seemingly ridiculous research.

Former Gisborne woman wins award for interesting, curious and often seemingly ridiculous research.

BRAND PERSONALITY: And Gisborne-born Sarah Forbes, as part of a team that researched the perceived personalities of rocks. Picture supplied
AND THE IG NOBEL GOES TO: Thomas Thwaites for creating prosthetic extensions that allowed him to move like and roam among goats. Picture by AP

GISBORNE cannot lay claim to any Nobel Prize winners but it now has a connection to an “Ig Nobel” one.

One of 10 Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded annually for interesting, curious and often seemingly ridiculous research, was presented to Gisborne-born and University of Birmingham researcher Sarah Forbes for research into whether rocks have personalities.

She was part of a team that included University of Otago marketing department lecturer Shelagh Ferguson and Massey University School of Communication lecturer Mark Avis.

“We knew it sounded bizarre and we actually expected people to walk away from the study and tell us that it was absurd,” Ms Forbes told The Gisborne Herald.

The research involved 225 University of Otago students, who were asked to describe the traits of the rocks using the brand personality scale (BP).

“Human beings do not ordinarily think of brands like Pams Tomatoes as intelligent, confident, wholesome or corporate,” she said.

“The brand personality measurement scale forces you to rate the brands with these characteristics.”

Ms Forbes and her colleagues believed brand personality only existed because someone thought to measure it. So they decided to test their hypothesis with rocks.

“Much to the team’s amusement, participants generated very elaborate perceptions,” Ms Forbes said. “People perceived rocks to be corporate jetsetters, backstabbers and even chicken farmers.”

Confirming their suspicions

These conclusions confirmed the group’s suspicions that the measurement scale used leading questions, personification and projection.

“We were able to find out that rocks had more brand personality than brands did,” she said. “Using rocks was amusing but the message is serious.”

Ms Forbes’ team won the Economic category of the Ig Nobel Prizes at a ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusettes.

Other winners included a Japanese duo’s research into bending over and a a man who lived in the wild, at different times, as a badger, an otter, deer, fox and bird.

Despite her success overseas, Ms Forbes still has a love for Gisborne from her time spent here as a child.

Her parents moved to Gisborne from Scotland in the 70s and moved away in 2012.

She went to primary school in Gisborne and high school in Hawke’s Bay although her family always returned to Gisborne for school holidays.

“I love Gisborne and want to come back as soon as I can,” she said. “Gisborne is a beautiful city and I have told many friends overseas to visit and they have all been impressed with the research and lifestyle opportunities.”

GISBORNE cannot lay claim to any Nobel Prize winners but it now has a connection to an “Ig Nobel” one.

One of 10 Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded annually for interesting, curious and often seemingly ridiculous research, was presented to Gisborne-born and University of Birmingham researcher Sarah Forbes for research into whether rocks have personalities.

She was part of a team that included University of Otago marketing department lecturer Shelagh Ferguson and Massey University School of Communication lecturer Mark Avis.

“We knew it sounded bizarre and we actually expected people to walk away from the study and tell us that it was absurd,” Ms Forbes told The Gisborne Herald.

The research involved 225 University of Otago students, who were asked to describe the traits of the rocks using the brand personality scale (BP).

“Human beings do not ordinarily think of brands like Pams Tomatoes as intelligent, confident, wholesome or corporate,” she said.

“The brand personality measurement scale forces you to rate the brands with these characteristics.”

Ms Forbes and her colleagues believed brand personality only existed because someone thought to measure it. So they decided to test their hypothesis with rocks.

“Much to the team’s amusement, participants generated very elaborate perceptions,” Ms Forbes said. “People perceived rocks to be corporate jetsetters, backstabbers and even chicken farmers.”

Confirming their suspicions

These conclusions confirmed the group’s suspicions that the measurement scale used leading questions, personification and projection.

“We were able to find out that rocks had more brand personality than brands did,” she said. “Using rocks was amusing but the message is serious.”

Ms Forbes’ team won the Economic category of the Ig Nobel Prizes at a ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusettes.

Other winners included a Japanese duo’s research into bending over and a a man who lived in the wild, at different times, as a badger, an otter, deer, fox and bird.

Despite her success overseas, Ms Forbes still has a love for Gisborne from her time spent here as a child.

Her parents moved to Gisborne from Scotland in the 70s and moved away in 2012.

She went to primary school in Gisborne and high school in Hawke’s Bay although her family always returned to Gisborne for school holidays.

“I love Gisborne and want to come back as soon as I can,” she said. “Gisborne is a beautiful city and I have told many friends overseas to visit and they have all been impressed with the research and lifestyle opportunities.”

The Ig Nobel Prizes honuor achievements that make people “laugh and then think. Prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology.

The awards, organised by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research, are presented at a gala ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre.

They are handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates in front of an 1100-strong audience while thousands more around the world watch live online.

The official Ig Nobel mascot is “The Stinker” — a take on Rodin’s The Thinker.

This year’s winners

REPRODUCTION PRIZE (Egypt) — The late Ahmed Shafik for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or woollen trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.

ECONOMICS PRIZE (a team from New Zealand, United Kingdom): For assessing the perceived personalities of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective.

PHYSICS PRIZE (a team from Hungary, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland): For discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE (Germany): Volkswagen for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.

MEDICINE PRIZE (a team from Germany): For discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice-versa).

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE (a team from Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, USA): For asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers.

PEACE PRIZE (a team from Canada, USA): For a scholarly study called On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit.

BIOLOGY PRIZE (United Kingdom): To Charles Foster for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of goats.

LITERATURE PRIZE (Sweden): To Fredrik Sjöberg for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead.

PERCEPTION PRIZE (a team from Japan): For investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    The region’s roads are in a bad state and need greater investment. What options would you prefer to increase the amount of local money committed to roading?

    Choose in order of preference, selecting just the options you think are worth considering and rate your preferred option as 1, next 2, etc.

    See also:
    Roading crisis ‘too big’, August 11 lead story

    Select multiple options. Press 'Clear' button to start over.
    Clear