I laugh more when I get the joke–IFS 2009 Results

by theaudioprof on October 4, 2009

Well, the Australian blog topics are starting to add up, so I thought that I had better spend a few minutes wrapping up the results from my Intensive Freshmen Seminar research groups from this past August.  The third group all worked together on this one…and it started innocently enough with a general discussion of what they found emotional in the media.  Oftentimes this leads to a discussion of media violence (likely because it is discussed in the assigned reading I give them for that time of semester).  But, this of six started talking about what they found funny.  One of the students mentioned this video from You Tube:


And that he found a parody of it, called $2 Deluxe Hugs, really funny.  Here’s that clip:

Along with several of the students in the group, I was unaware of both of the clips.  And, it just so happened that we called up the “Deluxe Hugs” one and watched it first.  It was only after some of us mentioned that it was kinda funny but we didn’t quite get it…and were shown the first video…the one that it was parodying…that we really saw the humor in it. 

From there, the research question was formed.  The students started to wonder whether viewers’ emotional reactions to parodies would be greater depending upon if they saw the original first, followed by the humorous jab…or vice versa.  So, they came up with four different pairs of stimuli:

  • Free Hugs/Deluxe Hugs
  • An advertisement for a Snuggie/A parody ad for the darn thing
  • The rap song “Ridin’ Dirty”/A Weird Al parody of the song called “White ‘n Nerdy”
  • A segment from the Ultimate Fighting Championship/A segment from the MTV show Celebrity Deathmatch
DSCF0102 (Medium)

Creating the Dreaded "Orders of Presenation"

Then they created four different orders of presentation where sometimes the original version was shown first, sometimes the parody.  Here’s a picture of the students doing one of the things I hate most in research:  determining stimuli orders!   After that, though, things got more fun.  They got to measure skin conductance and both zygomatic and corrugator muscle activity while the classmates from the heart rate/attention group watched the media.  Read about their experiments:
  Exp 1        Exp 2

Frank carefully applies zygomatic sensors to Andrew

Frank carefully applies zygomatic sensors to Andrew

And then they got to analyze the data.  I’ll admit, this was a tricky experimental design made all the more difficult because…for reasons I never figured out… we were unable to edit the video clips to their very essences due to problems with Windows Movie Maker.  With IFS being only 3 weeks long there was not time to trouble-shoot this problem, like we normally would in the ICR.  So, the subjects saw clips that were really uneven in length and it wasn’t until the analysis stage that we only looked at the parts that were direct parodies of one another.  Therefore, even more than we normally do with IFS results…owning to the fact that the data come from at most 6 subjects…these results need to be looked at conservatively.  That said, they are pretty interesting to me.  
When students first learn psychophysiological recording, one of the hardest measures to obtain is the zygomatic/smile muscle.  That’s because, like most EMG/muscle measures it is a tremendously small signal and the skin needs to go through some careful preparation to “hear” it.  Furthermore, the zygomatic muscle is even harder to locate than many, since there are few anatomical landmarks to use as guides.  So, it is of little surprise that the results with that index was hard to interpret. 
The corrugator muscle, however, is easier because although the same amount of skin preparation is require, it is more readily located, right above the eyebrow.  Furthermore, it has the added benefit of not only being able to identify aversive/bad feelings through it’s activation…it’s able to identify appetitive/positive feelings when it is less active compared to baseline.  And, that’s what these students found in their data:
parody_corrHere OF=situations where the subjects saw the Original First and PF=situations where they saw the Parody First.
As you can see with the yellow line, the suspicion of the students seems to be confirmed (remember…cautiously)…consistently below baseline was the corrugator muscle activity during the parody clips that were seen AFTER the originals.  Very interesting stuff to me, and to the rest of the class who watched as Lucy, Tripp, Rebecca, Forrest, Frank, and Aaron presented it to the class…something all the IFS students are required to do.
IFS Students Experience <br> The Public Nature of Science

IFS Students Experience The Public Nature of Science

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