Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


In a commentary in The Business Times on 15 January, Visiting Research Fellow Dr Rahul Choudhury from the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies ponderedthe future of the global retail industry in the light of the hype about online retailing. Dr Choudhury opines that there is little evidence suggesting that online sellers will dominate the market at the expense of offline retailers — the share of online sales compared to physical retail sales remain modest, and several big online firms have made the transition to the physical sector. He said that the lines between online and offline retail trade are already being blurred, and envisioned a future retail industry with a hybrid model comprising both platforms. He added it is unlikely that offline shopping will go out of business and that both sectors will learn to coexist.

Dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health Professor Teo Yik-Ying penned an opinion piece in The Financial Times on 17 January calling for a greater emphasis on health promotion programmes in the workplace. He noted that opponents of the workplace health promotion cite staff turnover and risk of financial outlay with no benefit as reasons not to invest in such programmes, but calls this a narrow-minded perspective that overlooks the collective benefits, including job satisfaction, pride in their company and work-life balance. In order for a health promotion programme to be successful, Prof Teo highlighted that senior management must be involved, not only by participating but also establishing a framework for it. Warning that chronic diseases can impair work performance and productivity, Prof Teo urged governments and employers to acknowledge the costs of inaction and the cost-effectiveness and benefits of these programmes, or the future will see soaring healthcare costs compounded by the rapidly ageing societies.

In another story on 17 January, an NUS Business study investigating the link between joke appreciation, joke making and people’s morality was featured on The Independent. The researchers used a series of jokes and memes to study people’s reactions, testing the theory that humour relying on violating social boundaries could generate tension in people who strongly follow those rules. The research revealed that while highly moral participants are no less likely to engage in humour without “moral violations”, they avoid jokes that challenge moral norms. They also did not feel the need to compensate by telling jokes without “moral violations”. As such, people with strong moral identities are perceived as less humorous, and are often less well-liked.

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