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Nancy Berk, Ph.D.

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The Importance of Doggy Bags

Posted: 10/26/2012 6:37 pm

Warning: This post is far from appetizing, but it has definite curb appeal.

A few days ago, one of my Facebook posts exploded with comments. It set a new record that I never saw coming. I've posted funnier and more insightful material. I've written and chatted with fascinating celebrities. But it wasn't celebrity scoop, it was a dog walker's failure to scoop that caused this Facebook stir.

Here is the post: "This has been an amazing day capped off by my successful undercover sting operation to identify the dog owner who visits my yard regularly and apparently has an aversion to plastic bags. Now adding 'detective,' 'forensic psychologist' and 'lecturer' to my resumé."

I must confess that after months of cleaning up lawn deposits in the exact same spot, I was obsessed with tracking down the culprit and thrilled to catch him and his dog red-handed, and red-faced. Interestingly, violators have only two responses. The first -- "This is the only time it's ever happened." And the second -- "This is the only time I've ever forgotten a bag." Uh huh.

As a psychologist, I was fascinated by a) the gratification I felt from pulling off a successful sting operation and b) my friends' enthusiastic support, outrage and suggestions. Why was that? And why did so many people feel the need to weigh in? Here's my analysis...

1. Any topic that includes dogs is a winning topic.

2. Everyone's been a victim of bad manners. And when you've been playing by the rules for years, it's annoying to watch others break them.

3. People value their property and resent those who treat it like a litter box, and them like a clean-up crew.

4. A violator's sense of entitlement and scramble for excuses frustrates the victim. There's rarely an apology or a pick-up, and that just fuels the fire.

5. People love to give suggestions on how to handle inconsiderate people. This is because a) they love being creative and b) you're the one who'd suffer the backlash from their solutions.

Some might think that this is a silly topic. Of course people should focus on more important things than weighing in on dog deposits, but this fervor reflects people's passion for common courtesy and respect. The dialogue made more than a few chuckle because, let's face it, poop happens. Most of us just don't want to step in it.

 
 
 

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