Ailuropoda economicus

The Jury’s still out on whether humans respond to incentives, but it’s clear that some species do.

The world’s first live broadcast of a panda birth has been called off after experts said the “mother” involved may have been faking the pregnancy to receive better treatment.

Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre where Ai Hin is kept, explained that not all “fake” pregnancies among the animals are just down to hormonal changes.

“After showing prenatal signs, the ‘mothers-to-be’ are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care,” Wu told Xinhua. “They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.”

Photo taken by Kevin Dooley, used under Creative Commons license.

4 thoughts on “Ailuropoda economicus

    1. I remember seeing a study of rats getting quinine as a Giffen good-like reward. This was interpreted to mean that amelioration theory is wrong and cost-benefit analysis is right.

      In addition to animals I’d like to see “rationality” studies of children. Supposedly 18-year-olds are all good to make their own economic decisions, but 14-year-olds are not. When and how does the transition happen?

    2. Chris, I can’t comment on your site — but the resolution to those questions seems to me to be that Kuhn-Tucker-solving rationality is merely ecological. I bet if you set up the argument right you’d get Walter Grey turtles to be “rational” in this respect as well (going toward “food” until there’s no more).

      Humans’ utility gradients point toward “higher-functioning” behaviours like reading and commenting on blogs. And buying cigarettes after seeing a celebrity endorsement.

  1. If you continue heaping benefits on women who do nothing but get pregnant just so they can receive more aid, you’ll see this panda driving a Cadillac soon enough.

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