Lap Dances and Cheap Drugs

Photo by Bayat on Flickr

Photo by Bayat on Flickr

Two odd pieces of economic research have been highlighted in the Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded each year by the magazine the Annals of Improbable Research.

The first study examined tips given to lap dancers. Unfamiliar with lap-dancing, Geoffrey Miller and colleagues read up on the relevant sociological and feminist literature before getting eighteen dancers to record their earnings for two months. They found that earnings were greater when the dancers were ovulating: the male patrons expressed a preference for dancers who were currently fertile, even if not consciously aware of the difference.

The other study was by behavioural economist Dan Ariely and colleagues, who found that the placebo effect of a pill was weakened when the pills were discounted in price. In other words, some medicines are more powerful in virtue of being more expensive.

The full references are Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan (2007) “Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?” Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81; and Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shiv, Ziv Carmon, Dan Ariely (2008) “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy” Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

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One Response to “Lap Dances and Cheap Drugs”

  1. Schalk Says:

    The article caught my eye because it was definitely something out of the ordinary and could shed light on a topic not many know about, including myself. This article proves but one thing- the mind is the most powerful tool we posses. How can something work better only if the price is higher? How can prices in today’s day age influences our perceived views of quality so dramatically. Subconscious thoughts play an immense roll in the minds of consumers and yet through this very different and unorthodox study it is plain to see that without knowing the difference us consumers might pay more or less for something based on subconscious thoughts. The question is “How can businesses take advantage of something so intangible and hidden?”

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