This Week in
Weird Science: Sex doesn’t sell. A massive analysis, which includes 11,000 participants, suggests that sex doesn’t actually sell and that those brands using “sexual appeal” are viewed more negatively. Next, dads hoping for a geeky son just need to wait until they’re a little bit older. Research out of King’s College in London suggests that older dads tend to have sons who perform better in school, notably STEM subjects, and go on to have more successful futures. Finally, Seagull shit is fantastic for the environment, and they may be a solution to cleaning landfills.
Sex Doesn’t Sell
Advertisers have long-known that sex doesn’t sell. One repeated quote from Jef Richards, a professor at Michigan State University, goes “In advertising, sex sells. But only if you’re selling sex.” Since that hasn’t stopped brands from advocating bikini-clad women selling insurance, maybe this new study out of the University of Illinois will.
In an analysis of 78 peer-reviewed advertising studies that span more than three decades, researchers conclude that sex doesn’t sell.
“We found that people remember ads with sexual appeals more than those without,” said John Wirtz, a University of Illinois advertising professor and the lead author of the research. “But that effect doesn’t extend to brands or products that are featured in the ads.”
Not only were people no more likely to remember brands featured in ads with sexual appeal , but people were also more likely to have an negative attitude towards those brands.
“This assumption that sex sells—well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect,” Wirtz told the university.
The implications of the research could potentially change advertising. While advertisers want their ads remembered, are they willing to assume the potential negativity drawn from having sexual undertones in a sandwich commercial? Or will brands be more likely to follow the old adage, “any publicity is good publicity?”
GoDaddy recently opted for a non-sexual Super Bowl ad for the first time in years in 2017. Certainly, their research suggests sex wasn’t selling as it once had.
Old Dads Produce “Geeky” Sons.
Dads, if you want a socially awkward son who’s into geeky activities like building computers, reading the encyclopedia for fun, or writing for the science section of a magazine, then consider waiting to have kids until you’re a bit older. You’re odds of producing a geek a much higher, according to recent release out of King’s College London and New York’ Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment.
To understand what exactly “makes” a geeky child, the team tested 15,000 sets of British twins and their “geeky” characteristics like IQ, social aloofness, time spent on their “hobbies,” and how much they care about what their peers think. As if merely being called a “geek” weren’t bad enough, these twins and their characteristics were assembled into an official “geek index”—like some kind of dodgeball line-up. Sets of twins with older dads had the highest scores on the geek index.
That means: Kids born to older dads are more intelligent, have more focus, worry less about fitting in, and probably have some predisposition to learning Elvish. Those born to older dads are also more predisposed to autism and schizophrenia, too.
“Our study suggests that there may be some benefits associated with having an older father,” said lead author Magdalena Janecka of King’s College and the Seaver Autism Center. “We have known for a while about the negative consequences of advanced paternal age, but now we have shown that these children may also go on to have better educational and career prospects.”
This effect persists even after controlling to socioeconomic status, qualifications, and even employment. Geeky kids perform better in school, notably STEM subjects, and go on to have more successful futures.
Why is this? The researchers suggest that older dads are more rooted in their careers and generally have higher incomes, which typically allows their kids to grow up with better educational opportunities and in a more enriching, less stressful environment.
These results also help researchers understand links between higher paternal age, “geekiness,” and their connection with autism. “When the child is born only with some of those genes, they may be more likely to succeed in school,” Janecka said. “However, with a higher ‘dose’ of these genes, and when there are other contributing risk factors, they may end up with a higher predisposition for autism.”
Trash-Picking Seagulls are Shitting All Over the Environment.
At least 1.4 million seagulls feed at landfills across North America, and those 1.4 million seagulls are shitting all over nearby lakes and reservoirs—and Honda Civics. Those “deposits” yield 240 extra tons of nitrogen and an extra 39 tons of phosphorus into the nearby ecosystem, making seagulls, and their home-grown fertilizer, a nuisance to the environment.
The study, out of Duke University, analyzed the effects of seagull poop on the environment, and, apparently, the added nutrients contained in the bird droppings are contributing to algal blooms that rob surface waters of the oxygen needed to sustain healthy aquatic animal life. This oxygen depletion, along with the algal toxins, are killing fish, increasing local water costs, and robbing local fishing communities.
“It costs local U.S. governments an estimated $100 million a year in nutrient offset credits to address or prevent the problem and maintain nutrient levels at or below the total maximum daily load threshold for water quality,” said Mark River, one of the study’s researchers to Duke University.
The team suggests that these results could be even worse than assumed because the population of gulls is probably greater than 5 million.
More alarming is the amount that gull excretion is costing local governments. That number: over $2 million annually.
We knew seagull shit has been a constant threat to windshields everywhere, but who knew there could be this much damage?
Top photo courtesy of Francisco Gonzalez, CC BY 2.0
Tommy Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but with more sunscreen and jorts.