Science Interviews

Interview

Sat, 21st Oct 2006

Science Update

Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon from AAAS, the science society

Part of the show How We Hear, Echolocation and Giant Whoopee Cushions

Kat - Now it's time for us to go Stateside, where Bob and Chelsea reveal why males obsessed with sex could be digging themselves an early grave - but that's only if you're a prairie dog - and how males of our own species have been exposed as closet shopaholics.

Bob - This week for the Naked Scientists, we have new research that shows that a single-minded preoccupation with sex can be fatal-especially if you're a male prairie dog. But first, for all the male humans out there, Chelsea's here to tell us that men may be more vulnerable than scientists have thought to a condition often ascribed to women.

Chelsea - Despite popular stereotypes, men are about as likely as women to be compulsive shoppers. This according to a new study by psychiatrist Lorrin Koran and his colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The researchers screened over twenty-five hundred randomly selected adults for compulsive shopping patterns, like irresistible urges to buy things they never use.

Lorrin - One man had fifty cameras that he never took a picture with. Or another man had two thousand wrenches.

Chelsea - Koran says that until now, all the information on gender came from treatment studies, which actively recruited volunteers who thought they had a shopping problem. 80 to 90 percent of these volunteers were women.

Lorrin - And so it was thought that men weren't particularly affected by this problem. But now it looks like men are about equally affected, and just don't come for help. Which is what we see also in men with major depression.

Chelsea - Technically, compulsive shopping currently falls under the heading of miscellaneous impulse control disorders. But between the explosive growth of internet shopping and the ever-broadening selection of consumer goods, Koran says the problem may soon warrant its own clinical definition. And while unchecked compulsive shopping can wreck credit ratings, family finances, and even marriages, Koran says treatment is effective. He hopes the findings will encourage more people, especially men, to seek help.

Bob - Thanks, Chelsea. These Utah prairie dogs are barking out a warning that they've spotted a hungry fox. You'd think that the fox's best hope for dinner now is a prairie dog who's too old or sick to get away. But University of Maryland behavioural ecologist John Hoogland found that during prairie dog mating season, the easy targets are healthy males.

John - And the bottom line is, because of this obsession with sex, these males were highly vulnerable to predation. So during that seventeen days of the mating season, we saw ten males get taken by either a red fox or a northern goshawk.

Bob - That's out of just twenty-six prairie dogs that were caught all year. He says saving endangered prairie dogs may require keeping predators away when the males are preoccupied.

Chelsea - Thanks, Bob, and good luck to males out there of all species. Next week learn how early European explorers in the Americas purchased gold with shoelace tags. Until next time, I'm Chelsea Wald.

Bob - And I'm Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, The Science Society. Back to you, Naked Scientists…

Kat - Thanks guys, and they'll be back next week. But as always, you can always hear more from Bob and Chelsea by going to their website: www.scienceupdate.com.

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