Tag Archives: victoria woolaston

“Music is great!” says stereo manufacturer, via paid scientist

Mathematical formula finds the number one song to listen to ‘if you wanna have a good time’

A mathematical formula has been created to discover the number one song that will really make you happy – and it’s not by Pharrell Williams.

Queen’s hit, Don’t Stop Me Now, topped the charts after expert in cognitive neuroscience and emotion, Dr Jacob Jolij, sifted through 126 songs from the last 50 years.

Source: Mirror, 17th September 2015

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Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is the top feel-good song of the past 50 years… and a scientific formula has proved it

Despite being released 37 years ago, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now still has the ability to lift moods and fill the dance floor.

Now a neuroscientist has confirmed the impact it seems to have on listeners with an equation that shows it is the top feel-good song of the past 50 years.

The 1978 hit has just the right tempo, lyrics and is played in the musical key identified as producing a happy feeling.

Source: Daily Mail, 18th September 2015

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Good old scientists – always working on the important stuff, right? Isn’t it amazing that a university would pay a professional scientist with public funds to spend all his time putting together formulae for things like pop songs? Isn’t that what science is all about and why so many people think it’s not something they should value?

Well, obviously, not quite: as ever with PR formulae, the ‘science’ is likely secondary to the PR, with the body commissioning the research using the legitimacy of a scientist’s reputation to give their advert more credibility. In this case, the scientist is Dr Jacob Jolij and the company dressing up their adverts as science is Alba, the stereo manufacturer:

Dr Jolij concocted the formula in a project with technology brand Alba, whose products are sold by Argos.

A survey by Alba found three quarters of people in Britain use music to lift their mood and 54 per cent use it to motivate themselves.

In stories like these, a quick look at the formula is always worthwhile:

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The equation developed by Dr Jolij requires a combination of positive lyrics (L), a tempo of 150 beats per minute (BPM) and a major third musical key (K) to produce the ultimate feel good song (FGI)

So in essence, a song is a ‘feel good’ song if the lyrics are universally positive, if it has a reasonably fast tempo and if it isn’t in a minor key. I’d be astonished if those were findings that were lead by the ‘research’, rather than a conclusion outlined ahead of time which had a formula clunkily retro-fitted to it to make it seem impressive.

PR stories which use a ‘scientific’ formula as a hook come up from time to time, and I’ve covered plenty on this blog in the past. Whenever such stories arise, it’s worth highlighting that for many people, this is what they see of science: the silly PR puff-pieces that appear in the news, involving no real research and paid for by commercial bodies. These are the stories that carry the reputation of science, and these are the stories which leads some elements of the general public to assume that scientists are out of touch, wasting their time and our money on things are are never going to be important. Just take a look to the comments:

If it was real the "scientist" would have used it to write chart topping hits, and make millions (or billions). Every time I read DM I think of the term 'scientist' or 'expert' with less respect.

Each time a scientist accepts a commission from a PR company to create spurious research in order to push a product, a little of the legitimacy and public trust in science as a whole is cashed in. For my money, it’s a waste.

“People would love/fear/fuck a robot!” says TV show about robots

Did you see the story about mankind’s fear of the impending rise of the robots? Chances are you did, with widespread coverage of the story including appearances in the GuardianTimesDaily Mail and Daily Star:

Humans hope robots of the future will make love not war

A fifth of Britons have said they would have sex with an android but considerably more fear the rise of the machines will threaten mankind.

One in three, perhaps influenced by the likes of the Terminator franchise, believe that robots will spell the end of the human race.

Perhaps more pressing however is that almost as many are concerned they could lose their job to intelligent machines.

Source: The Times, 6 May 2014

Would YOU have sex with a robot? Prostitutes, police and cleaners revealed to be just some the jobs that droids could take over by 2025

In 10 years our streets could be governed by RoboCop-style police, our taxis may drive themselves and prostitutes might be replaced by so-called ‘sexbots.’

That’s according to a survey that looked at how robots will rise over the next decade.

It found that more than a third of people fear robots will take their jobs, while the same number fear androids will threaten the human race’s existence.

Source: Daily Mail, 6 April 2014

The Times and the Daily Mail, amply illustrating their differing priorities, there. However, whether we’re fighting or fucking our new robot brethren, the source of the story remains the same:

The survey was completed by 2,000 British people to mark the launch of new sci-fi TV police drama, Almost Human, which features an android cop.

Curiously, the list of jobs which could be taken over by robots didn’t include ‘journalist’ – when given the number of outlets who ran this simple copy/paste of a One Poll survey press release, it seems an industry ripe for automation.

“Gamers are too lazy to engage in real life!” says pizza delivery company

“Gamers are too lazy to engage in real life!” says pizza delivery company

Important science news from the Daily Mail here, with the revelation that gamers can sacrifice a huge amount of time and an awful lot of dignity at the alter of their console worship. No amount of real life can get in the way of their obsession, as this story paid for by a takeaway delivery service clearly convinces us:

The research was commissioned by Domino’s Pizza to celebrate the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One on Friday and Sony’s PlayStation 4 the week after…

Domino’s spokesman Simon Wallis said: ‘With the number of new launches coming up this month, including PS4 and Xbox One, we’re expecting a spike in orders from across the country as gamers batten down the hatches and prepare to stay in and test out their new high-tech gadgets.’

That’s right – if you’ve exciting things to do like celebrate the launch of a new console, why bother doing menial things like cooking your own food – that’s what Domino’s are for! Pay no attention to the fact that Domino’s have added to a deeply-ingrained negative stereotype of gamers as disgusting slobs disengaged from real life, because, y’know, pizza!

“People show off about being on holiday to make their friends jealous!” says hotel website

“People show off about being on holiday to make their friends jealous!” says hotel website

It’s no longer enough to post photos of yourself on social media – the new media fad is to post photos of yourself in exotic locations, if this report is to be believed – which, given the company who paid for the story, it may not be:

The research was carried out by Hotels.com.

It found 72 per cent of Britons use smartphones to take and share photos when on holiday, with Facebook being the most popular site for showing off.

Given that a hotel website is stressing the importance of being in an exotic location when taking your (shiver) ‘selfie’, it’s fair to say there’s a clear potential for bias here. Side note: I include ‘selfie’ in inverted comments as a mark of disdain, but I draw the line at giving any credence to ‘braggie’.

As for the data, there’s reason to be skeptical there too:

The data was collected by OnePoll from a sample of 2,000 working adults taken between 1 and 4 November.

The figures were then weighted to represent the whole country.

While it may well be the case that Bad PR regulars OnePoll weighted the data to represent the whole country, it’s worth pointing out that without access to the questions that were asked and the options given for people to choose from, it’s impossible to be sure the results which were weighted to represent the country weren’t already flawed. If that was indeed the case, the weighting merely spreads those flaws over a wider area, like covering a stain in the carpet by smudging it over a larger section. The data can still be dirty.

“Pets cause lots of damage!” says warranty company

Who conducted the research warning us about the expensive issue of clumsy pets, and just how much damage they can cause to your home?

Kevin Gillan, managing director at warranty firm SquareTrade said: ‘This research proves that man’s best friend isn’t quite as loyal when it comes to devices which are almost always within ‘paw’s reach.’

If you have a pet, this particular warranty company believes you should take out extended warranties.

“Films can be exciting and scary!” says DVD retailer

As open-goal occasions for getting PR into the news, Halloween is up there only with Christmas, Valentine’s Day and ‘Blue Monday’. Which is why it was no surprise to see headlines highlighting the fear-factor of classic horror films:

Here’s Johnny!’: The Shining scene is scariest in movie history, claims study

Seminal Jack Nicholson scene voted most frightening, but The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street have the edge overall.

The “Here’s Johnny” scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is officially the scariest movie moment of all time, according to a new study.

Source: Guardian, 31st October 2013

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The Shining really is the scariest horror film ever: Heart rate monitors reveal the most terrifying movie moments of all time

What makes a film scary divides opinion – some people prefer tense psychological thrillers, while others want jumpy, edge-of-their seat emotional rollercoasters.

In an attempt to put an end to this debate, Japanese-owned website Rakuten’s Play.com asked people to vote on which horror films they considered to be the most terrifying. 

They then wired a selection of viewers up to heart monitors and tracked changes in their pulse to determine exactly which of the top movie moments got their hearts racing the most.

The winner was the iconic ‘Here’s Johnny’ scene from 1980 film The Shining, which made pulses race and jump by 28.21 per cent.

Source: Daily Mail, 31st October 2013

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It probably says a reasonable amount about the state of the British press that a story categorised by the Guardian in their ‘Culture: Film’ section is, in the Daily Mail, considered a ‘Science’ story. However, it’s not hard to see how the Daily Mail was confused – after all, the story talks about tracking heart rates and monitors. It certainly looks like science. But what was the source of the story?

Website Play.com polled 10,000 users to find the 10 films that most frightened customers, then used heart rate monitors to find out which scenes delivered the greatest chills.

Clearly this is nothing more than an movies-and-games website looking to secure a few headlines in the press, via their PR agency Hotwire PR.

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If you think the blog post Hotwire PR published recounting their work seemed to resemble the article in the Daily Mail closely, you should see the press release they sent out to journalists – from which almost all of the Daily Mail’s article was lifted wholesale.

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If any other journalists want to share with me the press releases they get sent by PR agencies, I’d happily take them off your hands

“People use Facebook!” says voucher company reminding you they exist

Breaking science and technology news! The following articles appeared in the Science and Technology sections of the Telegraph and Daily Mail recently:

Britons spend 86 hours a year ‘stranger stalking’ on social media

The average Briton will spend a total of 14 minutes each day, or 86 hours in a year, looking at strangers’ social media profiles, according to new research.

The study into online behaviour, conducted by money saving website www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, polled a total of 2,704 UK adults (1,336 females and 1,368 males) aged 18 and over on their specific social media habits while online.

Source: Telegraph, 20th September 2013

We’re a nation of stalkers: Britons spend three DAYS a year tracking people they don’t know online – with 14% setting up fake profiles to check up on people

Have you ever looked at photos of your partner’s ex, or stalked their work colleagues on Facebook or Twitter? According to new research more than 80 per cent of us do this on a daily basis.

The study, carried out by VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, found the average Briton spends a total of 3.5 days a year looking at the profiles of strangers, a practice dubbed ‘stranger stalking.’

Men were found to most likely look at random profiles of people they find attractive, whilst women were more likely to check on potential new partners of their exes – and 14 per cent of Brits admitted to setting up fake profiles to check up on people anonymously.

Source: Daily Mail, 26th September, 2013

You’ll have noticed who provided this highly-technological and scientific research – voucher website ‘VocherCodesPro. So, rather than this being a piece of useful research, it’s merely a reminder that some websites exist to help users save money.

As for the troubling finding that broad swathes of the population routinely stalk strangers on social media, it may or may not be true – the ‘research’ doesn’t really care either way.

Speaking of social media – be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook for the latest Bad PR!

“People use Facebook!” says voucher website looking for headlines

“People use Facebook!” says voucher website looking for headlines

Who is the money-saving website incongruously dropped into the third paragraph, and responsible for the awfmanteau* ‘famicable’?

Just under half (47 per cent) keep family members and family of loved ones as friends because they feel they have to, the poll for VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, found.

George Charles, marketing director of VoucherCodesPro, said: ‘It seems with the results of this study, the old saying about keeping your friends close, but your enemies even closer, is definitely alive and well even in today’s society with our reliance on the internet.’

VoucherCodesPro, exploiting meaningless social media truisms with terrible marketing portmanteaus, just to remind you they still exist.

*trademarked, just now.