A University of Tokyo study that unleashed “young women wearing mildly erotic nurses’ costumes” on the socioeconomically underprivileged denizens of Japan’s pachinko parlors has caused a stink in the halls of academia and laid its authors open to accusations of chauvinism.
The title of the of the paper is as unsexy as they come. “Affective Stimuli in Behavioural Interventions Soliciting for Health Check-up Services and the Service Users” makes no hint of the racy methodology employed by researchers within.
And there’s no doubt those researchers, Naoki, Kondo and Yoshiki Ishikawa, had the purest of motives when they hired the aforementioned mildly erotic nurses. They wanted to test the hypothesis that socioeconomically vulnerable men are more likely to accept health check-ups if they are first introduced to “hedonic stimuli.”
Nursing a Grudge
“Socioeconomically vulnerable people are likely to have more health risks because of inadequate behavior choices related to chronic social stresses,” they wrote in the paper.
“Brain science suggests that stress causes cognitively biased automatic decision making, preferring instant stress relief and pleasure (eg, smoking, alcohol use and drug abuse) as opposed to reflectively seeking health-maintenance services (eg, health check-ups).”
“As such, hedonic stimuli that nudge people towards preventive actions could reduce health behaviour disparities,” the hoped.
While their motives may have been noble, it seems the academic community was simply not ready for the Benny Hill-style methodology employed when the paper was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
The researchers made 320 visits to pachinko parlors offering medical check-ups to more than 8,000 men, 1,721 of which were of the “mildly erotic” variety — but would they take the bait?
“As a Japanese woman and a registered nurse, I found phrases such as ‘young women wearing mildly erotic nurse costumes’ or ‘solicitation by young women wearing sexy nurse costumes’ to be derogatory and disrespectful,” wrote one of many disgusted readers.
The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health was forced to issue an apology, stating that it condemned “the use of sexism, gender and professional stereotypes and other forms of discriminatory or exploitative behavior for any purpose, including health promotion programs.”
But, ultimately, as online gambling marketing departments have known since the dawn of the industry, gamblers do indeed respond to “hedonic stimuli.”
In short, when it came to gamblers, the researchers aced it with their choice of stimulus.
“The results supported our hypothesis,” they concluded. “Offering health check-up opportunities equipped with ‘tricks’ that nudge people to act might be effective for anyone but is potentially more valuable for socially vulnerable people.”
However, they noted that “ethical discussions are needed to further consider the use of erotic stimuli and other essential drivers of human behavior.”