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Larry Sherman a new Ig Nobel laureate

Larry Sherman (educational psychology) is one of 10 winners of the 2001 Ig Nobel Prize, presented Oct. 4 at Harvard University.

This is the 11th year of the Ig Nobel prize, a spoof on the Nobel Prize. Its creators say the prizes are awarded for "achievements that cannot or should not be reproduced." Furthermore, "of the 10 Ig Nobel Prizes awarded annually, about half are awarded for things that most people would say are commendable – if perhaps goofy. The other half go for things that are, in some people’s eyes, less commendable. All such judgments are entirely up to each observer," says Marc Abrahams, chairman of the Ig Nobel board of governors.

The theme for this year’s contest was complexity.

Sherman was "honored" for his work on contagious behaviors associated with "group glee" from an article he published in 1975, "An Ecological Study of Glee in Small Groups of Preschool Children." This summer a husband and wife team from Norway presented research on contagious glee that confirmed his original hypotheses regarding the socially facilitating effects of humor and laughter. Sherman says the work was an outgrowth of his Ph.D. dissertation completed in 1971 at Wayne State University, and he gives credit to Jacob Kounin (dissertation adviser) and Paul Gump (professor at the University of Kansas) who were major influences on this topic.

Real Nobel Prize winners presented the awards.

Among previous winners: Don Featherstone (Ig Nobel Art Prize, 1996), the creator of the plastic pink flamingo, and Robert Matthews (Ig Nobel Physics Prize, 1996), who researched why buttered toast always falls on the buttered side. The Igs are sponsored by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) and co-sponsored by the Harvard Computer Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students.

Sherman, who is first vice president of the Ohio Gourd Society, returned to Ohio Friday, Oct. 5, to officiate and perform other duties at the Ohio Gourd Fair in Mt. Gilead.

In addition to belonging to many educational associations, Sherman is past president of the International Society for Humor Studies and a member of the American Gourd Society.

More information on the Ig Nobel prize is online at www.improbable.com/ig/.

Date Published: 10/11/2001
Volume: 21   Number: 11

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