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Rightwing authoritarians aren’t funny — and other silly academic research findings that waste taxpayers’ money

Margie Politzer/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Did you know that you can get a great idea while showering? It’s true! At least that’s the finding of researchers at the University of Virginia.

“Say you’re stuck on a problem,” Zac Irving, a University of Virginia assistant professor of philosophy who helped conduct the study, boasted in a statement. “What do you do? Probably not something mind-numbingly boring like watching paint dry. Instead, you do something to occupy yourself, like going for a walk, gardening, or taking a shower. All these activities are moderately engaging.”

Wow. Awesome.

Almost as awesome as knowing – thanks to the crack scientific team at the University of California – Irvine – that the pain from getting an injection is mitigated when you smile or grimace. Wish I had known that while getting vaxxed.

Another thing I didn’t know is that monkeys prefer watching reality television. It’s true, people. The esteemed scientists at the University of California – Davis and Cuesta College found it necessary to “quantify a monkey’s preference for social information” by forcing four of these poor souls (the monkeys, not the researchers, although the differences are beginning to blur) to endure more than 900 videos a piece to prove their point. Their favorite show? It’s “90-Day Fiancée.” Just kidding — that’s my wife’s favorite show.

While the scientists in California have been monkeying around, other intellectuals around the United States have been performing all sorts of vital research over the past few years.

For example, I bet you didn’t know that rightwing authoritarians aren’t very funny. Researchers at the University of North Carolina and the University of Pennsylvania have found that even though rightwing authoritarianism “has well-known links with humor appreciation, such as enjoying jokes that target deviant groups,” apparently those people aren’t good at coming up with funny ideas on their own.

If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, no doubt you’ll be interested in hearing that the Biannual Online Journal of Springsteen Studies (and no, I’m not making this up), which publishes numerous academic studies from around the world that analyze The Boss and his music, recently made note of a study by a researcher at McMaster Divinity College that explores how the Asbury Park musician’s work “embodies a North American/Western European twenty-first century religious sensibility that encompasses a secular outlook but is colored by the Christian tradition and is informed by biblical language, images, and ideals.” Guess I need to stop smoking so much weed the next time I go to one of his concerts.

And did you know that legal documents are hard to read because of poor writing? For that newsflash, we have the Brain and Cognitive Science department at MIT to thank, assuming you can make it through the poor writing contained in the actual study.

But let’s get back to practicalities, shall we? And for that, a must read is a deep study by two university professors that solves the mystery of why people eat the same breakfast every day (I’m not going to reveal that here, don’t worry!).

And there’s a fascinating study from Knox College that seeks to resolve the endless debate as to whether the testosterone levels of male students would rise when given an automatic handgun (it was a replica, mom and dad, so don’t worry) to handle for a few minutes, and if so, would they be more inclined to dose a cup of water with Frank’s RedHot sauce, which they believed another male subject also had to drink? What?

Yeah, I’m confused too. But I’m definitely not confused about this statement: Real men don’t own cats. And if they do, they probably don’t have a lot of luck with the ladies. That’s the conclusion reached by two female researchers from Colorado State and Boise State universities in their seminal report appropriately titled “Not the cat’s meow? The impact of posing with cats on female perceptions of male dateability.”

Spoiler alert, guys: You probably want to ditch your tabby for a golden retriever because this research found that “women viewed men as less masculine when holding a cat … and less dateable.”

What is going on here? I tell you what’s going on: waste. A mindless destruction of taxpayer money on dopey research that has little value other than to provide jobs to academics who would otherwise be unemployable in the private sector. And I’m not even getting into the taxpayer money wasted in the higher education industry on excessive compensation, benefits, bureaucratic oversight, hot and cold running toilets, round-the-clock sushi for freshmen and other such garbage.

And by the way: I’m mentioning only a select few of the ridiculous research projects our higher-education institutions permit. If you’d like to see more of this nonsense, check out the hilarious Annals of Improbable Research.

Meanwhile, President Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other politicians are lobbying hard to use taxpayer dollars to forgive student loans. I’m sure the universities love this, and why wouldn’t they? Wiping the slate clean allows them to continue plundering students into more debt from useless degrees and belaboring businesses with un-prepared workers while funding these silly research projects.

Hey, here’s another research idea: an IQ comparison of the people who support this bad policy versus those who are opposed. That’s not so silly to me.

Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC.

Tags government spending government waste Higher education bubble in the United States

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