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April 08, 2019


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

I have drawn my own conclusions:

I am curious as to what counts for “happiness” (I cannot access the article so perhaps that is explained) and to what extent that (however defined or understood) is amenable to measurement (I am rather skeptical with regard to the possibility of measuring ‘net incremental happiness’). Is it based solely on self-reporting? Are we immune from self-deception and wishful thinking when it comes to our sense or feelings of happiness? Do our respondents or subjects share the same meaning of happiness? I spoke to some of the relevant questions here:

The second, psychological study strikes me as rather strange, at least in our family’s case, as a “sense of mastery” seems rather elusive and the idea that we “own” our dog silly (the notion being relevant only for legal purposes; we feel our dog to be a part of the family and that his welfare and care are first and foremost in our minds) and in fact I continue to derive pleasure from seeing our dog do things that (apparently) express his own desires or wishes: for example, on a walk, he will suddenly stop and refuse to move, letting us know it is time to turn around and go home; he will let out a brief whine at us if our attention is devoted to much to each other over a considerable length of time at his apparent expense; he paws at the blankets to let us know he wants under them; stares patiently and quietly at us if we are eating something he knows we will share with him (having done so in the past); his nose is glued to the bottom of the front door and his tail wags if someone has arrived who knows us (even if yet only inside a vehicle of some kind), especially a close friend or relative, otherwise he will bark at someone near the front door, etc. etc. My spouse occasionally shows voluntary compliance with my wishes ... as will I occasionally do so with hers: that has not led me to be believing I have anything like control over her behavior, let alone a feeling of ownership (the same holds for our beloved dog).

Patrick S. O'Donnell

erratum: ...if our attention is devoted too much to each other...

Steve L.

Why can't you access the WaPo article, Patrick? It is paywalled, but you get 10 free articles every month.(Or have you already used them this month?)

In any case, happiness is self-reported in the study. Respondents on the General Social Survey are simply asked if they are "very happy," "mostly happy," "not too happy," etc. I agree that it isn't a very rigorous measure, but I believe there are about 60,000 respondents and the results are used widely in the Social Sciences. Make of it what you will.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

It says I need to pay $1.00 to keep reading: it does not inform me that I have already read 10 free articles for the month (and I know for a fact that I have not read that many, perhaps none at all, for the month of April).

Steve L.

Oh, I guess the $1 charge is new (I subscribe, so I was not aware of it). Perhaps I will stop linking to WaPo.

Howard Wasserman

In the commercials for Cymalta and other anti-depressants, the person is always shown with a dog later in the commercial, (implicitly) after she began taking the medication to help control her depression. Does being happier (with depression under control) make her get a dog? Or is getting a dog part of getting happy, along with Cymbalta to help control depression?

Steve L.

Interesting observation, Howard. Other than for cat food, are there any commercials that feature cats?

Many presidents have had well-known dogs, including FDR's Fala, Nixon's Checkers, LBJ's beagles (Him and Her, who may or may not have been mistreated), Bush 41's Millie, and Obama's Bo. But I can only think of one presidential cat: Clinton's Socks.

Bill Turnier

Dogs are basically pack animals who rely on an alpha. Because they rely on you to supply food, walk them, etc., you become the alpha, unless you display weakness or otherwise screw up. The alpha controls the beta (dog). Hence, dogd are great for people with control impulses. (Declaration against interest-I really like dogs) Most people do not like being controlled and you will have difficulty developing a good personal relationship if you seek to control other people. Get a dog who will leap up to lick your face when you return home and will jump with delight as you put a collar around its neck and with the aid of a chain or leather strap walk it through the street. Warning-Do not attempt this with a person.
Cats on the other hand were domesticated from solitary hunters which prowled desserts and other places lacking major predators in search of lizards and voles. They will remain solitary creatures in your home. Yet they are easy to care for.

Bill Turnier

I must add that although I prefer digs to cats, as I have aged, I tired of walking my dogs in the rain on chilly nights and now have a cat. I have learned how to become its alpha but that is a tale fir another occasion. (I did warn you that I like many have control impulses.).

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Bill, The first sentence in your first comment is part of an enduring but now debunked myth (the 'alpha dog' theory which has inordinately influenced the formal and informal training of dogs), and the ideas that buttress it were never never based on either appropriate research or sufficient evidence (you can find some of the appropriate discussion and references online). And it is rather important (i.e., it behooves all of to endeavor) to appreciate the fact that the behavior of domesticated dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) differs in several important and still unappreciated respects from their biological ancestors (and the dog food advertising that encourages you to feed your dog's 'inner wolf' are pernicious nonsense), if only because of the latter's historical and close interaction with human companions, although that explanation does not convey the possibility, in the words of Carl Safina: "Dogs _may_ be the only creatures ever to have domesticated themselves. And--they _might not_ be the only such creatures."

Patrick S. O'Donnell

erratum, in parentheses: it behooves all of us to endeavor

Patrick S. O'Donnell

and: is pernicious nonsense

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