May 6, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
The New Avengers film has been facing some blowback due to its portrayal of women, particularly Black Widow. An anonymous former Marvel employee noted that the Avengers merchandising largely ignores the female Avengers and explained why:
- Age of Ultron has had one of the biggest openings in film history – a lot of it driven by female audiences – yet the toys and action figures aren’t geared to appeal to girls.
- This seems to be something that happened after Marvel was acquired by Disney.
- Disney already has its merchandising towards females locked down with dolls from movies such as Frozen and Brave proving popular with girls.
- Part of the reason for Disney’s acquisition was so that it could build a line of merchandise that was also popular with boys.
- Thus toys from films such as Frozen are aimed at girls, and those from The Avengers are aimed at boys.
- Moreover female characters are often hyper-sexualized in the movies, and there are concerns about selling merchandise to young children with that kind of imagery.
The full article talks about how consumers can best go about pressing the industry for change, and takes a more detailed look into how merchandising deals are set up financially. You should read it here.
Centives has also previously covered how male oriented action figure toys prevent executives from greenlighting comic book cartoons aimed at girls here.
Source: The Mary Sue
May 5, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Joe Pinsker wrote about research that indicates that wearing formal attire changes how people interact with the world:
- Wearing formal clothes seems to make people feel powerful.
- While wearing them people think more holistically rather than about fine-grained details.
- Similarly wearing a Doctor’s white coat can make a person more attentive.
- However if the wearer believes that the same coat belongs to a painter the effect is no longer observed.
Read about how the study was conducted, and why the effect may get stronger in the years to come over here.
Source: The Atlantic
May 4, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Laurel Randolph wrote about the rise of sushi in the United States:
- The first known American sushi restaurant was opened in 1966 in California, by a Japanese man looking to spread his native culture.
- It became popular with Japanese businessmen who invited their western counterparts who took a liking to the dish.
- It was also the beginnings of the health food craze, and sushi began to draw the attention of movie stars, making the restaurant a Californian hot spot.
- In the 1970s the California roll was invented and this unleashed a wave of experimentation across the United States.
- Soon sushi included things like jalapenos, cream cheese, and steak. Some places, of course, tried deep frying sushi rolls.
- But there are concerns about the decline of quality sushi. Fewer sushi chefs are travelling to the United States from Japan – possibly as a result of the difficulties in obtaining a visa.
- While there have been several great non-Japanese sushi chefs, they were often well trained in special academies – something that is also becoming less common.
Read about the wider 1,700 year history of sushi, and more over here.
May 3, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Bianca Bosker looked at how taste is affected by the human body’s other senses:
- Several kitchens that explore “multisensory gastronomy” have sprung up.
- One dish comes with textured cubes. As patrons are chewing they stroke rough, fuzzy, and gritty surfaces, changing the taste of what they’re eating.
- Other dishes are served as scents such as saffron or a bacon perfume are sprayed into the air.
- Music pairings enhance flavours. Playing an electronic composition with clanging metal sounds enhances the crackling of a Pop Rocks like candy dessert.
- And then there’s colour. Wine tried in rooms bathed in green light taste fresher.
- It’s not just novelty restaurants taking advantage of these associations in the human mind: British Airways has announced “sonic seasoning” – a playlist that improves the taste of airline food.
- Chefs could also use this in the future to make food healthier. They could reduce the amount of fat and sugar in the food without changing its taste by altering how the food is presented.
The full article goes into the science behind the phenomenon, mentions how the principles of Gestalt Psychology can be used, and provides other fascinating examples of uniquely presented foods. You should read it here.
Source: The New Yorker
April 30, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
The Economist and others have argued that declining rates of marriage in developing countries is due to gender imbalances resulting from a preference for male children. Matt Phillips looked at statistics which indicated that this was not the case:
- In France after World War 1 there were 40% fewer single males than females.
- Yet rates of marriage were higher than ever – French women simply adjusted by marrying younger French men.
- Couples were also more willing to engage in cross-class relationships.
- Therefore it seems that rates of marriage don’t depend as much on having roughly equal numbers of single males and females.
- War, in general, seems particularly good at boosting the appetite for marriage:
Read more here.
April 29, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
In the latest edition to our ongoing series on restaurant menu secrets, Jessica Hullinger wrote about some of the psychological tricks that restaurants use to boost sales:
- Customers get uncomfortable if they’re presented with too many choices. The golden number of options per category of food (appetizers, entrées etc.) seems to be about seven.
- Pictures boost sales of menu items by as much as 70%.
- However pictures also lower the perceived quality of the food – which is why high end restaurants rarely have photos on their menus.
- The price “$12.00″ on a menu is far less appealing than simply “12”.
- Menus may often open with an expensive item – say a $100 lobster – to make a $70 item later on in the menu seem affordable.
- The most profitable items are strategically placed in the top right corner of the menu, since that’s where people look first.
- Profitable items might also be put in a box on their own to draw attention to it.
- Longer descriptions of food boost sales, in part because patrons think they’re getting more for their money.
Read about the colour schemes that menus use, the power of nostalgia, and more over here.
Source: Mental Floss
April 28, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Sarah Begley wrote about the role that late night talk shows play in helping candidates run for President:
- Talk shows can help redeem a candidate in trouble. In 1988, after a speech by Bill Clinton fell flat, he appeared on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with a saxophone. It rehabilitated his image and made people forget about the speech.
- Talk shows can be a barometer of the political mood. In 2008 Obama was the target of jokes when his poll numbers were down. Then McCain called the economy fundamentally sound during a period of crisis. The comedians had a new target to aim jokes at the polls swung.
- If a candidate doesn’t have a narrative around them, then talk show hosts will create one with their jokes. It’s better then to show up at a talk show and help guide the narrative.
Read more here.
April 27, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Before an election incumbent government sometimes try to implement policies that will give a short term boost to economic growth in the hopes of tipping the election in their favour. The Economist looked at the success of the strategy:
- Data shows that incumbent politicians are most likely to try to manipulate the economy when elections are expected to be close.
- Third world governments seem particularly fond of pre-election spending splurges.
- Yet the tactics are usually unsuccessful. Despite the boost in government spending, there is no clear impact on GDP growth.
- It seems that this is because even as government increases its spending, businesses retrench their spending as they want to avoid making investments in an uncertain political climate.
- The effect has been quantified: businesses are found to reduce their investment spending in election years by 4.8% relative to non-election years.
- There’s hope however – companies are less likely to reduce investment if the politics of a country are transparent and there are limits to government power.
- Thus instead of boosting spending, an incumbent government could try to ensure more transparent governance, if it wants to increase economic growth before an election.
Read about the studies that have been conducted on the subject, other reasons why election year spending may not help the economy, and more over here.
Source: The Economist
April 26, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
Philip Sopher wrote about the history of beer gardens:
- Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, in modern day Germany, decreed in 1533 that beer could only be brewed between September and April.
- This was in part because beer brewed during colder months tasted better.
- This encouraged breweries to create underground cellars to store beers for the summer.
- To keep the beers cool they planted trees above the cellars.
- Soon they placed a layer of gravel and some tables and the areas became popular drinking spots.
- So popular in fact, that the owners of inns and taverns wanted to ban breweries from directly selling beer to customers as they were taking away too much business.
- In 1812 the government compromised and said that breweries could continue to sell beer, but they couldn’t serve food.
- This didn’t prevent patrons from bringing their own food, so beer gardens went on to become a nice place to have picnics.
Read more here.
Source: The Atlantic
April 24, 2015 in Daily Bulletin
In some parts of China, strippers are called to perform at funerals wrote Te-Ping Chen and Josh Chin:
- The presence of strippers draws large crowds which is thought to bring good fortune into the after-life of the deceased.
- The services cost $322 a session, and companies may put on up to 20 shows a month.
- The practice isn’t limited to the mainland – women in short skirts and stilettos sometimes perform at Taiwanese funerals.
- The Chinese government is trying to crack down on the practice, calling it “obscene”.
Read more here.
Source: The Wall Street Journal