Ivory Towers: Close contact sports

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The Independent Culture
WE CONCLUDE our browse through the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills with news on sport, fashion and subliminal messages.

'Comparison of touching behaviors of winners and losers in racketball and tennis' is an analysis by Robert V Heckel of 'post-contest interactive ritual' in sport. The endings of 25 tennis and 100 racketball (a version of squash) matches were observed, and physical contacts classified as: handshake, back pat, head pat, shoulder pat, front pat, buttocks pat, arm pat and other touches.

Note was also taken of whether the contact was initiated by the winner or loser. Handshakes were by far the most common form of activity, particularly in tennis. Back and buttocks patting, however, were more common in racketball. Overall, tennis players were significantly more likely than racketball players to indulge in this tactile behaviour.

'While reasons for this difference cannot be identified at this point, one may speculate that players compensate for the compressed space of a racketball court (as compared to a tennis court) by physically distancing themselves from one another on leaving.'

In 'Fashion advertisements: A comparison of viewers' perceptual and affective responses to illustrated and photographed stimuli,' P Kimle and A Fiore examined women's responses to adverts, with an emphasis on differences between photographs and drawings.

Interviews were conducted with 44 women whose reactions to eight advertisements (from Vogue and Harper's Bazaar) were obtained through questions such as: What catches your eye in this advertisement? Do you like the ensemble in it? Why, or why not?

In general, subjects were found to prefer the garments illustrated by photographs. 'Contrary to suggestions from professionals in fashion advertising, no significant differences were found in viewers' perceptions of information about the products in the advertisements or perceptions of meaning and aesthetic response.' In general, however, the subjects did tend to assume that the less they could see of a garment, the more trendy it was.

Finally, a decision of the legislature of Arkansas in 1983 is brought into question by 'Effects of subliminal backward-recorded messages on attitudes,' by Lyle Stewart and Cynthia Morgan. In that year, the US state of Arkansas imposed a mandatory message on certain albums: 'Warning: This record contains backward masking which may be perceptible at a subliminal level when the record is played forward.'

But do backward-played messages really affect judgement? In the experiment, groups of students were played 'Dark Light' by the Beat Farmers. Some heard the song in its original version, others heard it doctored to include backward messages such as: 'Don't take drugs', 'Stay in school' and 'Clean up your room'. Subjects were given questionnaires both before and after listening to the song, to measure their attitudes to drugs, truancy and tidiness. No statistically significant results were obtained.

It is suggested that the messages may have been too complex for the subconscious to comprehend when played backwards.