Contrary to the tediousness that regular coursework suggests, Northwestern is home to a number of surprising and unusual academic investigations across a variety of fields. From football ticket auctions to chin beauty standards, here are six research projects from the past year—they’re likely more fascinating than anything you’ll read in your Intro to Macroeconomics textbook.
NU economists Sandeep Baliga and Jeffrey Ely are experimenting with pricing models on University athletics. For select games, they’ve introduced Purple Pricing, an auction-based method in which the seat prices start high and continually drop until tickets sell out. Buyers are then refunded the difference between their bid and the low price. The idea is to incentivize early buying, discourage resale and maximize profit. Sales for the Ohio State and Michigan games this football season used Purple Pricing and revenues increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result.
Anthropology researchers, among them Northwestern doctoral student Zaneta Thayer, discovered significant inconsistencies in chin shape across populations. The study found indigenous Australians have the most unique chin patterns relative to other populations, and also challenged the theory, long held by psychologists, of the universally attractive jutting jawline. suggesting the existence of “region-specific mating preferences,” according to the paper.
Embarrassing Facebook encounters, or “face threats,” as communication studies professor Jeremy Birnholtz calls them, produce more anguish in people who allow profile visibility to co-workers, family and friends. Subjects with higher levels of general Internet know-how are also prone to greater reservation in response to an undesired Facebook post or exchange.
Our bodies operate like fish more than we might think. Neurobiology professor David McLean and postdoctoral fellow Martha Bagnall studied baby zebrafish, a tropical freshwater minnow, and found locomotive processes resembling those of human extensors and flexors. These findings help neuroscientists understand how to better treat neural problems.
Electronics can now be placed anywhere—even inside human joints—thanks to the world’s first cordless stretchable lithium-ion battery. McCormick professor Yonggang Huang and University of Illinois material scientist John Rogers developed a rechargeable, foldable and twistable battery that can operate for eight hours and stretch up to three times its original size.
The remedy to a lackluster marriage? The written word. Psychology professor Eli Finkel studied 120 couples, who reported their relationship satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion and commitment every four months for two years. Couples demonstrated a decline in marriage quality over the first year, but those who participated in three, seven-minute reflective writing exercises during the second year were more likely to maintain marital satisfaction and sexual desire.