Long live utterly pointless academic research

Lancashire Evening Post head of content Blaise Tapp
Lancashire Evening Post head of content Blaise Tapp
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I have never hidden my sheer contempt for utterly pointless academic research – the banal nonsense which usually crops up in the pages of certain newspapers and on Steve Wright’s radio show.

We have all read or heard this drivel (indeed I have banged on about this before in these very pages) and we have all scoffed at such ‘crucial’ findings such as the fact that rats can’t always tell the difference between Japanese spoken backwards and Dutch in reverse or the answer to why woodpeckers don’t get headaches. Honestly both of those thorny subjects were actually put to the test by dome-headed scientists in white coats, who probably thought it was better time spent than curing cancer.

But like everything in life there is a flip side to stupid research, which I have discovered comes courtesy of researchers at that seat of international learning Loyola University in New Orleans. Led by the wonderfully monikered Dr Kendall Erskine (I know, who am I to mock people with silly names!) researchers have come to the conclusion that people who buy organic food are less kind than those who seek nourishment in the frozen pizza aisle. According to the research, which has been published in that august journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, those who consume organic produce feel more secure about themselves, which leads to them caring less about whether others regard them as being selfish. On the other hand those who stuff their cakeholes with ice cream and chocolate brownies are more likely to help grannies cross the road.

How did these would-be Einsteins reach their conclusion? Dr Erskine took 60-odd students, split them into three groups, showing one group a picture of organic goods, another images of comfort food and the final bunch were shown dull offerings such as rice, mustard and beans.

To a layman like me it hardly sounds like the most robust research ever conducted but, what the hell, the outcome fits with my views. I have long been of the opinion that organic foods are as necessary as contraception in a convent, a 21st Century fad which has millions fooled with potatoes and carrots covered in soil.

Of course there are lots of women with henna tattoos and men who don’t wear socks who will disagree with me. But, I love good food – I am happy to pay that little but extra for good, local produce but I am not convinced that much of the food labelled organic in the local supermarket tastes any better than the stuff that is 50p cheaper. To be honest, I am still scarred by the experience of being told by a market trader with a ginger goatee beard that an organic cucumber would cost me £1.20.

For a long time now I have struggled to bite my tongue when told by smug men without ties that organic is the only way to go.

Now I don’t feel alone. Long live pointless academic research I say.