The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Amusing titles in scientific journals and article citation.

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflJun 9, 2011 11:00 PM

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"The present study examines whether the use of humor in scientific article titles is associated with the number of citations an article receives. Four judges rated the degree of amusement and pleasantness of titles of articles published over 10 years (from 1985 to 1994) in two of the most prestigious journals in psychology, Psychological Bulletin and Psychological Review. We then examined the association between the levels of amusement and pleasantness and the article's monthly citation average. The results show that, while the pleasantness rating was weakly associated with the number of citations, articles with highly amusing titles (2 standard deviations above average) received fewer citations. The negative association between amusing titles and subsequent citations cannot be attributed to differences in the title length and pleasantness, number of authors, year of publication, and article type (regular article vs comment). These findings are discussed in the context of the importance of titles for signalling an article's content." Bonus excerpt from the full text: "Examples of Top Amusing titles that were also in the Top Pleasant titles group include: ‘Beware of a half-tailed test’, and ‘The unicorn, the normal curve, and other improbable creatures’. An example of a Top Amusing title that was not in the Top Pleasant title group is: ‘Modeling the days of our lives: using survival analysis when designing and analyzing longitudinal studies of duration and the timing of events’."

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