Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
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Dogs are Ok Too


I am going to start this chapter by stating directly that I own a dog, an American Eskimo, one of the many variants of the basic spitz type. They were known as German spitzes until the First World War made it verboten to admit that anything good could come from Germany. American Eskimos are among the most beautiful of dogs, with a pointed, classic wolf face, upright ears, a long thick coat, and a curly tail. They are also very intelligent. Our dog, whose name is Sikko (which means “ice” in an Inuit language, according to my daughter, who named him), learns tricks very rapidly, and can do so even now that he’s old. I taught him a new stunt, recently, when he turned thirteen. He already knew how to shake a paw, and to balance a treat on his nose. I taught him to do both at the same time. However, it’s not at all clear he enjoys it.

We bought Sikko for my daughter, Mikhaila, when she was about ten years old. He was an unbearably cute pup. Small nose and ears, rounded face, big eyes, awkward movements–these features automatically elicit caretaking behaviour from humans, male and female alike.[224] This was certainly the case with Mikhaila, who was also occupied with the care of bearded dragons, gekkoes, ball pythons, chameleons, iguanas and a twenty‑pound, thirty‑two‑inch‑long Flemish Giant rabbit named George, who nibbled on everything in the house and frequently escaped (to the great consternation of those who then spied his improbably large form in their tiny mid‑city gardens). She had all these animals because she was allergic to the more typical pets–excepting Sikko, who had the additional advantage of being hypo‑allergenic.

Sikko garnered fifty nicknames (we counted) which varied broadly in their emotional tone, and reflected both the affection in which he was held and our occasional frustration with his beastly habits. Scumdog was probably my favorite, but I also held Rathound, Furball and Suck‑dog in rather high esteem. The kids used Sneak and Squeak (sometimes with an appended o) most frequently, but accompanied it with Snooky, Ugdog, and Snorfalopogus (horrible though it is to admit). Snorbs is Mikhaila’s current moniker of choice. She uses it to greet him after a prolonged absence. For full effect, it must be uttered in a high‑pitched and surprised voice.

Sikko also happens to have his own Instagram hashtag: #JudgementalSikko.

I am describing my dog instead of writing directly about cats because I don’t wish to run afoul of a phenomenon known as “minimal group identification,” discovered by the social psychologist Henri Tajfel.[225] Tajfel brought his research subjects into his lab and sat them down in front of a screen, onto which he flashed a number of dots. The subjects were asked to estimate their quantity. Then he categorized his subjects as overestimators vs underestimators, as well as accurate vs inaccurate, and put them into groups corresponding to their performance. Then he asked them to divide money among the members of all the groups.

Tajfel found that his subjects displayed a marked preference for their own group members, rejecting an egalitarian distribution strategy and disproportionately rewarding those with whom they now identified. Other researchers have assigned people to different groups using ever more arbitrary strategies, such as flipping a coin. It didn’t matter, even when the subjects were informed of the way the groups were composed. People still favoured the co‑members of their personal group.

Tajfel’s studies demonstrated two things: first, that people are social ; second, that people are antisocial . People are social because they like the members of their own group. People are antisocial because they don’t like the members of other groups. Exactly why this is so has been the subject of continual debate. I think it might be a solution to a complex problem of optimization. Such problems arise, for example, when two or more factors are important, but none cannot be maximized without diminishing the others. A problem of this sort emerges, for example, because of the antipathy between cooperation and competition, both of which are socially and psychologically desirable. Cooperation is for safety, security and companionship. Competition is for personal growth and status. However, if a given group is too small, it has no power or prestige, and cannot fend off other groups. In consequence, being one of its members is not that useful. If the group is too large, however, the probability of climbing near or to the top declines. So, it becomes too hard to get ahead. Perhaps people identify with groups at the flip of a coin because they deeply want to organize themselves, protect themselves, and still have some reasonable probability of climbing the dominance hierarchy. Then they favour their own group, because favouring it helps it thrive–and climbing something that is failing is not a useful strategy.

In any case, it is because of Tajfel’s minimal‑conditions discovery that I began this cat‑related chapter with a description of my dog. Otherwise, the mere mention of a cat in the title would be enough to turn many dog people against me, just because I didn’t include canines in the group of entities that should be petted. Since I also like dogs, there is no reason for me to suffer such a fate. So, if you like to pet dogs when you meet them on the street, don’t feel obliged to hate me. Rest assured, instead, that this is also an activity of which I approve. I would also like to apologize to all the cat people who now feel slighted, because they were hoping for a cat story but had to read all this dog‑related material. Perhaps they might be satisfied by some assurance that cats do illustrate the point I want to make better, and that I will eventually discuss them. First, however, to other things.


Дата: 2018-09-13, просмотров: 607.