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

By ncbi rofl | June 9, 2011 7:00 pm

“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’.”

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: This just in: best paper title of the year!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: A new scientific source of bias: SILLY bias. Analysis of citations of BMJ’s Christmas articles.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly.

WTF is NCBI ROFL? Read our FAQ!

  • gradstudent

    I don’t see how that survival analysis title is amusing. Sounds pretty dry and heavily statistical.

  • strixus

    I wonder if this holds true in non-mathematics heavy fields? I would be very interested to see this methodology used on say, Philosophy or History publications.


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About ncbi rofl

NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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