A Wolf in Shih Tzu’s Clothing?

Animal shelters are under pressure to find homes for as many animals as possible but they also must ensure that the animals that are adopted pose no threat to their new families. According to Dr. James Serpell, director of Penn’s Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society and a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, “An owner-relinquishment questionnaire may give a better idea of a dog’s typical behavior at home [compared with commonly used temperament tests], but first we needed to determine whether owners will lie about their pet’s behavior in a questionnaire in order to give it a better chance of adoption.”

Serpell and researchers from the University of California-Davis administered questionnaires to two groups of dog owners surrendering their pets to animal shelters in Sacramento. The first group was told that their questionnaires would remain confidential while the second group was informed that their responses would be shared with shelter staff. “The results suggested that owners tend to be dishonest about one or two behaviors but not about the majority of them. The questionnaire may therefore still be useful to shelters as a diagnostic tool.” The questionnaire used in Serpell’s study measured 11 separate temperament traits, including most forms of aggression and anxiety. When compared with data from a large normal population of dogs, Serpell believes that the questionnaire can give shelters a set of objective criteria to decide whether or not to invest time in rehabilitating an animal.

Smoke and Mirrors

An ad for Quest cigarettes offers smokers a way to gradually cut back on their nicotine exposure while still enjoying the pleasures of lighting up. But even though the cigarettes are made with three progressively lower levels of nicotine, they still contain chemicals such as tar that make smoking dangerous to long-term health, notes a study led by Dr. Caryn Lerman at Penn’s Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.

When researchers from TTURC showed 200 smokers the ad for the cigarettes, as many as 45 percent made false inferences about the product’s tar content.

“These results reinforce the need for public-health-awareness campaigns to relay the message that smoking any cigarettes—regardless of nicotine content—can have deleterious effects,” said study co-author Dr. Andrew Strasser.

Three Is the Happiest Number

Do marriage and children make people happier—or are happier people simply more likely to enter partnerships and have children? To find out, researchers led by associate professor of sociology, Dr. Hans-Peter Kohler, looked at data on thousands of identical Danish twins aged 25 to 40 and 50 to 70.

They found that men and women who are in a partnership report “substantially higher levels of happiness” than those who are not.

According to their findings, published in Population and Development Review, first-born children also contributed to the happiness of men and women in the younger age-group, but not in the older group. And having additional children reduced “the subjective well-being of females while leaving the well-being of males unaffected.”

Though this finding could be consistent with evolutionary arguments that males and females “invest differently in children, and that women may therefore have a lower ‘optimal’ fertility’” than men, another explanation could be that as a result of gender specialization in child care, women “bear more of the costs of raising children.”

Another Reason the Customer is Always Right

When a shopper has a bad experience—a long line to pay, inconvenient parking, prices higher than advertised—the retailer risks losing more than one unhappy customer, Wharton researchers found.

In interviews with some 1,200 consumers, Wharton’s Baker Retailing Initiative and The Verde Group found that dissatisfied shoppers were five times more likely to tell their experiences to a friend or colleague as they were to voice their complaints to the store itself. Of the one in three consumers who shop-and-tell, each one will spread the word to an average of 4.1 people.

In addition, almost half of shoppers have avoided a store because of someone else’s negative reports.

©2006 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 05/05/06

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