Tag: academic research

Study: Male Actors, Models Are 96% More Handsome With Buddy

NEW YORK — Male actors and models are viewed as 96 percent more handsome when pictured with Buddy the Cat, a new study reveals.

The study, conducted by a research team from the Buddy Institute for Handsomeness Studies, found actors like Ryan Gosling, George Clooney and Brad Pitt were scored much more favorably on attractiveness measures when photographed with Buddy.

“Take the Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, for example: Our studies found that Hemsworth pictured alone was rated favorable by only four percent of women,” the study’s authors wrote. “But in photographs where he’s lounging with Buddy, holding Buddy or flexing next to Buddy, women rated him off the scale in terms of looks, masculinity, power and assertiveness. The difference is remarkable.”

Fat Thor
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth photographed without Buddy.
Thor with Buddy
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth photographed WITH Buddy, illustrating a dramatic difference in perceived power, masculinity and handsomeness.

Comedian Bruce Vilanch, who is not generally considered a sex symbol by women, was described by the study’s female participants as “irresistibly sexy,” “uncompromisingly masculine” and “incredibly hot” when women viewed photographs of Vilanch posing with Buddy.

Bruce Vilanch
Bruce Vilanch rated higher than George Clooney on universal scores of attractiveness when photographed with Buddy the Cat, the study found.

“This phenomenon may be one reason why so many men on dating apps choose to display photographs of themselves posing with tigers and other ferocious, regal beasts,” the study concluded. “There’s nothing like a powerful feline to get pulses racing.”

Researchers at the revered and ultra-credible Buddy Institute for Handsomeness Studies — which is considered one of the greatest international research institutions — said they were prompted to study the effect of Buddy’s presence after a fake news study claimed men are viewed as less desirable by women when they’re pictured with cats.

This Might Be The World’s Worst Cat Study

A Brazilian research team wanted to find out if cats experience separation anxiety when their owners aren’t home, so they visited the homes of 200 cat servants, wired them up with cameras and microphones, and conducted a rigorous study in which they first established a behavioral baseline, then compared the cats’ normal behavior with their actions when their humans weren’t home.

Just kidding.

In what might be the laziest, most assumptive attempt at conducting animal behavioral research thus far in 2020, the team from Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora handed out questionnaires to 130 cat owners that asked, among other things, about the body language and behavior of their cats when they weren’t at home to witness it.

Did these cat caretakers have Palantirs that allowed them to spy, Sauruman-style, on their kitties at home? Nah.

The information comes third-hand. I’m not joking:

“Since there weren’t any cameras observing the cats, the owners answered based on evidence from reports by other residents, neighbors or any signs the cat left in the home, such as feces, urine or broken objects, [study author Aline Cristina] Sant’Anna said.”

My neighbor’s friend’s Uber driver, who parked outside for 16 minutes, said my cat looked angry when he briefly appeared in the window, so I’m gonna go ahead and write in this here questionnaire that Mr. Socks has terrible separation anxiety. Yep.

catman2

But suppose the data was reliable, instead of fuzzy third-hand accounts from cat owners who quizzed their apparently nosy neighbors about what their cats do in their down time. How do we know a smashed vase is separation anxiety, and not the result of a cat with the zoomies just knocking stuff over?

How do we know a cat who misses the litter box doesn’t have a UTI, or refused to use a dirty box?

But it gets better, dear reader. This team of superstar scientists decided the reason some cats were supposedly depressed or destructive is because they live with male caretakers instead of women:

Cats with behavior problems also tended to live in households without any female adults or more than one female adult; households with owners ages 18 to 35 years old; single pet households; and households with no toys.

“Maybe, for different reasons, the animals raised in households with no female adults or more than one female adult were less likely to develop secure and mentally healthy types of attachments with their owners in the sampled population,” [study author Aline Cristina] Sant’Anna said.

Or maybe the authors are getting paid to make wild, unsupported assumptions and combine them with worthless data.

The CNN version of the story doubles down by quoting a self-appointed expert who expounds on the cats-and-females theory:

Additionally, female cat owners tended to be more affectionate and doting, said Ingrid Johnson, a certified cat behavior consultant for more than 20 years.

Cats might be a little more distressed in the absence of their owners if they are younger adults who are busy and not focused on the fact that they have a pet, the researchers theorized.

“They’re happy to have a pet, but they’re going out, being social, [going on] dates and having parties,” added Johnson.

Right

For those who aren’t keeping score, we now have an academic and a certified behaviorist telling us cats who live with men or adults younger than 35 are more likely to be depressed because they, like, totally heard we don’t scoop the litter boxes as frequently or something.

That’s because all men refuse to be affectionate with their cats, and people under 35 are party animals who snort cocaine off the posteriors of strippers when they should be feeding Fluffy, according to our experts.

Johnson’s credentials include working at a hospital for cats and running her own “cat behavior house call and toy business.”

It’s worth noting that there are dozens of organizations that certify people as cat behaviorists. Sometimes the difference between a certified behaviorist and one without certification is the former simply paid dues to a member group that issues the certificates.

The Rock and His Cat
“Where’s the jabroni who claimed men aren’t affectionate with their cats?”

By now my opinion on this study is abundantly clear. The methods and conclusions wouldn’t pass muster in most undergraduate classes, let alone a research paper published in an academic journal. (The researchers published their work to PLOS ONE, an open access journal.)

What I don’t understand is, why bother? According to the study, 13.5 percent of the cats demonstrated at least one behavior consistent with separation anxiety, but for reasons I elaborated on earlier, the data is worthless. I’m not a fan of questionnaire studies in the first place, let alone questionnaire studies asking people what other people told them about difficult-to-interpret animal body language.

And lastly, I’m not a fan of this idea that there’s a certain “type” of person who is the best kind of cat owner.

We should be dispelling crazy cat lady stereotypes, not perpetuating them. Maybe men are in the minority when it comes to adopting cats, but nothing other than unfounded assumption suggests we men aren’t loving and affectionate with our little buddies, just like there’s nothing but anecdotal evidence to suggest caretakers younger than 35 neglect their pets.

The past few years have seen an authentic boom in research into feline cognition, behavior and emotion, and for that I’m grateful. But we can do better than this.

Image sources: [1] [2] [3]

Twitter Malcontents Shame Journal Into Dropping Study About Cats

Last Monday, the academic journal Biological Conservation published a “controversial” study about cats.

It didn’t last a week.

The journal quietly took the paper offline after it was buried in a heap of scorn and hysteria from that fount of good vibes, Twitter.

People whose profiles are appended with tags like “she/her” and “he/him” outlined why the paper is “problematic,” providing an afternoon’s worth of fresh outrage for the grievance enthusiasts.

The study, by a research team from China’s Nanjing University, has two main conclusions: The more women living on a college campus, the more stray and feral cats live there too. Additionally, the team surveyed men and women about their interactions with strays — with responses indicating women are more likely to care for them — and followed a handful of men and women to watch their interactions with cats.

53BD6F3A-1F10-4058-99ED-11FF84E3F124
“Study? Yes, I like to study…how to bend humans to my will so they feed me more delicious yums!”

Is it ground-breaking science? No. Do the results prove women are better caretakers of cats than men? Nope. Did the authors perhaps overextend themselves by mixing up correlation and causation? Probably.

But it’s still research, and studies should not be buried or banished from peer-reviewed journals because a handful of malcontents on Twitter cry sexism. Some aspects of the paper, like the small sample of observed interactions, are thin. But the authors did look at 30 universities, a healthy sample size as far as institutions go.

If follow-up studies indicate that women are indeed more likely to care for cats, so what?

Is reality sexist? Do we need to protect people from even the most mildly controversial things?

As a man who loves cats, I don’t doubt that most caretakers are women. I see the anecdotal proof among the ranks of rescue volunteers. I see it in my readership here — aside from the Extraordinary League of Cat Dads, some 85 percent of this blog’s readers are female.

And that’s perfectly fine!

I would like to see more men warm to the idea of adopting and caring for cats, but the fact that women in general seem to have more empathy for them isn’t sexist. It doesn’t mean every woman loves cats any more than it means all men don’t.

Very Sad Buddy
Pain In The Bud’s readership is overwhelmingly female, but most of our traffic isn’t from women — it’s from female cats who find Buddy devilishly handsome!

Some readers know I have a background in journalism and spent almost 15 years of my career as a reporter and editor. One thing that appalls me as a journalist is the routine practice of quoting tweets in lieu of speaking to people face to face or picking up the phone and asking questions.

Platforms like Twitter thrive on negativity. Whether 140 or 280 characters, Twitter’s bite-size messages may be good for people who have the attention span of gnats, but they don’t exactly foster productive or nuanced discussion. Perhaps most important of all, people are more likely to say negative things online than they are in a human-to-human conversation, and too often handfuls of loudly-complaining people are mistaken for a majority.

Studies show negative tweets are far more likely to spread than positive or neutral messages, which skews public perception. They also show Twitter opinions are not representative of the general public, in part because most of Twitter’s power users come from similar backgrounds and share world views.

To put it bluntly, Twitter is full of roving bands of grievance artists constantly on the lookout for new things to shit on, and we should stop assigning so much importance to what we think are the prevailing sentiments on social media platforms.

Academic journals are peer-reviewed. Taking the vetting responsibility away from experts and giving it to a few unhappy people on social media is not a smart way to present research.

The study authors’ peers will poke holes in their work if the holes indeed exist, and that’s part of what peer review is for. Not to bury research, but to encourage scientists to rethink it, refine it and try again.