The Institute For Laser Pointer Studies is dedicated to understanding how laser pointers are used as communication aids, and how variation in laser pointer usage correlates to social factors.
Our landmark studies were first announced to the public in a poster presented at the 2000 Animal Behavior Society meeting at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, and have been reported in the New Scientist (August 19, 2000 issue, page 7).
The abstract of that study:
Many signals are used in communication by animals. In some cases, one or two signals may be dominant, while others are used for emphasis, as a byproduct, or out of habit. In this study, we assess differential use of an accessory communication signal and the social factors that influence its use. Specifically, we observe differential use of laser pointers by Homo sapiens in a semi-natural environment. We determine whether social status, gender, population, or niche affect the use of this accessory communication signal. Interestingly, subjects who used more shapes did so for shorter durations (r^2=0.192, p=0.004). More surprisingly, only niche (animal/area studied) affected laser pointer performance. Subjects who studied invertebrates were the least likely to use laser pointers, used the fewest shapes, and pointed for the longest durations. Subjects who studied non-avian vertebrates were intermediate in these traits, while those who studied avians were the most likely to use laser pointers, used the most shapes, and pointed for the shortest durations. While accessory communication signals can be valuable, we suggest that the most efficient use is of a few signals of sufficient duration to focus audience attention on the signal, indicating that subjects that study invertebrates use this behavior most efficiently. Given the showy nature of their organism, we are not surprised that subjects who study birds use the most shapes.