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Thursday, April 14, 2005

15 years of studying shopping cart safety, and going strong

and now, ladies and gentlemen, a new feature: Fun With Press Releases. this particular press release is brought to you by the good people at Population Research Lab at the University of Alberta, where they definitely do not engage in eugenics.

A researcher at the University of Alberta has shown that parents are more likely to give better care and pay closer attention to good-looking children compared to unattractive ones. Dr. Andrew Harrell presented his findings recently at the Warren E. Kalbach Population Conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

ok. i have to know: where the hell can i get some tickets to the Warren E. Kalbach Population Conference? honestly, what goes on at these things (aside from corny jokes with punchlines relying heavily on puns on "Malthusian" and, of course, incredibly awkward extra-marital dalliances among deranged eugenicists)? i am betting the keynote address, if you're able to focus through the haze of your work-conference hangover, is a doozy, what with it's provocative title: "Physical Attractiveness of Children and Parental Supervision in Grocery Stores: An Evolutionary Explanation of the Neglect of Ugly Kids." folks, i couldn't make this shit up if i tried. read on, the press release continues:

Harrell's findings are based on an observational study of children and shopping cart safety. With the approval of management at 14 different supermarkets, Harrell's team of researchers observed parents and their two to five-year-old children for 10 minutes each, noting if the child was buckled into the grocery-cart seat, and how often the child wandered more than 10 feet away. The researchers independently graded each child on a scale of one to 10 on attractiveness.
ok, so it's nice that harrell got the approval of 14 different supermarkets, but what about the parents? did they just sneak around, behind mom and dad's backs, and say shit like "Dr. Goebbels, i believe that brown child over there registers a two on our scale of attractiveness. Why don't you follow her unsuspecting mother (who is ugly and therefore probably stupid) to see if she buckles her child in. I will be following this beautiful blonde child and its exceptionally buxom mother over here."

Findings showed that 1.2 per cent of the least attractive children were buckled in, compared with 13.3 per cent of the most attractive youngsters. The observers also noticed the less attractive children were allowed to wander further away and more often from their parents. In total, there were 426 observations at the 14 supermarkets.

readers! a question! who actually buckles their children--unsightly or not--into grocery carts? do people do this? i was never buckled as a child. should i infer something about my looks from this? i was also a wanderer! although, i am told that i was allowed to wander not because i was "ugly" but because i was "smelly."

Harrell, who has been researching shopping cart safety since 1990 and has published a total of 13 articles on the topic, figures his latest results are based on a parent's instinctive Darwinian response: we're unconsciously more likely to lavish attention on attractive children simply because they're our best genetic material.

that's why i married me a good breeder. if'n she makes me an ugly whippersnapper, we's gonna try again. also, i figger this is a better argument for polygamy that the mormons ever came up with. and wait a second, did i read that correctly or has this poor person really been "studying shopping cart safety since 1990." only 13 articles published in 15 years? pretty weak, dr. harrell. and finally, can you imagine bumping into this guy at a cocktail party:

unsuspecting small talker: so, what do you do?
dr. harrell: actually, i study shopping cart safety.
unsuspecting small talker: i'm sorry, did you say 'shopping cart safety?'
dr. harrell: it's really quite fascinating. why, did you know that the great shopping cart riots in saskatoon (i am of course referring to the terror of 1997 and not the minor kerfuffle of 1993) could have easily been avoided if only enough shopping cart wheels had been properly aligned. only in saskatoon!
unsuspecting small talker: hmm, interesting. oh dear, look at the time. i am sorry, i hate to interrupt, but i really must go pour drano directly into my eyes.

"Attractiveness as a predictor of behaviour, especially parenting behaviour, has been around a long time," said Harrell, a father of five and a grandfather of three. "Most parents will react to these results with shock and dismay. They'll say, 'I love all my kids, and I don't discriminate on the basis of attractiveness.' The whole point of our research is that people do."

dr harrell is subtly telling us that not only was HE attractive enough to be raised a doctor, but he had attractive children as well ... after all they were well-cared for enough to produce three grandkids. although i wonder: only three grandkids out of five children sets off an alarm bell. clearly one of the harrell tykes didn't rank quite as high on the attractiveness scale as the others.

well, mrs nice guy and i have about a 50/50 chance then of being good parents. if the child inherits my wife's genes, it will be beautiful and well cared for. if it looks anything like me, it will be doomed to wander the halls of Food Giant for all eternity. either that, or we will sell it to the gyspies for beer money.

so all of this is interesting. but the real reason i want to attend the Warren E. Kalbach Population Conference is this: what the hell is up with the penultimate lecture, vaguely titled, "Same Sex Relationships: The Question?" i am actually dying to know what the question is, because i already know the enigmatic answer: "only in saskatoon."


Blogger Moo Moo said...

I just poured drano in my eyes, help!

4/14/2005 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. He's been studying shopping cart safety since 1990, not 1900; that's almost an article a year.

2. Nobody has ever said this is all or nothing, you either lavish attention on your kid, or you don't. They're just saying that ON AVERAGE, children that are MORE attractive tend to have SLIGHTLY MORE attention paid to them. 2+% of the "ugly" kids still got buckled in, after all, and 86+% of the pretty kids didn't.

3. You didn't get buckled in to shopping carts when you were a toddler because when you were a toddler there WEREN'T seat belts in shopping carts. And apparently only about 8% of parents, on average, buckle their kids in the shopping cart now, so it's hardly a majority.

4/14/2005 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot:

4. Ugly toddler does not necessarily mean ugly adult.

5. Since when does becoming a doctor have anything to do with how much attention your parents paid to you when you were a toddler?

6. How the hell does whether you have kids of your own or not have to do with how much attention your parents paid to you when you were a toddler?

Frankly, I think this whole thing's barking up the wrong tree; there might be slight variation in how prettier versus uglier babies are treated by parents, but I'm willing to bet that attention paid to safety varies MUCH more based on birth order; most parents are hyper-aware of safety with their first kid; if they have another, though, they've figured out that eating dirt or drinking from something unsterilized isn't exactly likely to kill a kid (plus, with two kids, there's less time to pay attention to each one), so they're more lax with subsequent kids. Maybe younger siblings are usually uglier, too? :)

4/14/2005 9:08 AM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

thank you anonymous! 100 year/10 year typo fixed. as for barking up the wrong tree, i can't help you there.

4/14/2005 10:06 AM  
Anonymous kt of salt lake said...

Woah, strong words in the comment section today.

I found this lecture to be rather disturbing as well:

"Mortality, Salience and Tolerance of Civil Liberties for Holocaust Deniers: A Mixture Model"

When did civil liberties for holocause deniers become an issue? Did they have actual liberties that were being denied? I've been looking for some reaons NOT to move to Canada since the election and I thank you Mr. Nice Guy for finding some good ones.

Say hi to the missus for me!

4/16/2005 1:04 PM  

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