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Spring 2003 l Capital University Journal

Research Notes

If lost loves meet, it’s for keeps
Nancy Kalish

A spoonful of nurture
Bonnie Raingruber

Deadbeats with a fishy excuse
Ronald Coleman

Puppets make it easier being ‘read’
Pamel O'Kane and Noreen Kellough

Talk to me doc
Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater

Settling a sticky debate
Ken Chinen

If lost loves meet, it’s for keeps

Nancy Kalish - Photo by Sherry Mark
When it comes to old flames, the Hollywood ending is a smokescreen, says Nancy Kalish. The Sac State psychology professor has been studying relationships between lost loves for nearly a decade and says movies like Castaway and Casablanca—where reunited couples resist the urge to rekindle their relationships—don’t tell the true story.

“Movies rarely get it right. Real life is happier than Hollywood,” she says.

The “Lost Love Project” began after Kalish tried to reestablish her own relationship with a lost love. An Associated Press article on her work, along with an appearance on the show “20/20,” brought contacts from more than 1,000 people who had met up with lost loves.

The result was a book, Lost and Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances, which features her research findings as well as stories about the couples’ experiences, and a website—

Kalish found that rekindled romances are amazingly successful. Seventy-two percent of the couples in her study ended up staying together. “It’s not a fantasy,” she says.

The couples in the study represented a wide range of ages—18 to 84 with an average age of 35—who had spent at least five years apart. Usually the initial breakup was situational—the parents disapproved, one party moved out of town, or one of them had either gone off to war or had left a war-torn country.

A decade ago Kalish found the impetus for couples to reestablish contact was often a turning point in one of their lives such as a divorce, widowhood or a serious illness. The cliché of the high school reunion sparking passion was the cause in only 6 percent of the cases. “They don’t wait for the reunion. They pick up the phone and call,” Kalish says.

But if that study were being done today, the first move would more likely be through the Internet, which for Kalish is cause for concern. “People shouldn’t treat this type of contact lightly—80 percent of those people I hear from online are in an extramarital relationship with a lost love,” she says. “Before the Internet, contacting a lost love was much more purposeful.

“With the Internet it’s much more casual because it is so easy. Someone who is bored at work might do a search for a lost love’s name, write ‘Hi, how are you?’ and have it lead to an affair.”

She adds that these couples aren’t necessarily looking for trouble going in. “Most are just curious and want to say hello and catch up. But it ends up steamrolling over them,” she says. “They don’t expect there will be an emotional reaction when they actually hear the person’s voice.”

Kalish has bad news for those therapists who dismiss the power of a lost love relationship as a fairytale. “They don’t understand—it’s a different kind of romance. All the rules are thrown out the window,” she says. “They’re not making up their feelings.”

A perfect example, she says, is Prince Charles and Lady Camilla Parker Bowles. “They were in love and they were kept apart. It’s not a matter of how attractive the parties are—it’s first love.”

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A spoonful of nurture

Bonnie Raingruber - Photo by Sherry MarkThere’s a debate underway in mental health nursing about the causes and proper treatments of mental illness. And Sac State nursing professor Bonnie Raingruber has found herself at the center of it.

Many of her peers are trying to shift the focus of their profession to drug-based treatments, and away from a holistic approach that includes extensive personal interaction. They’re arguing for a “nature” instead of “nurture” approach, with the assumption that mental illness is solely a biological problem.

Raingruber believes they’re wrong. She says mental illness has social, cultural and environmental roots, as well as biological ones.

She recently defended her position at a national nursing conference in a debate with Wanda Mohr, a leading researcher who supports the drug-based approach. Afterwards, Raingruber received a standing ovation, though the professional debate is far from settled. She’s been asked to take part in a second debate on the West Coast.

“My argument is that we need an integrated approach in which one person can provide nurturing and, when needed, prescribe the drugs,” Raingruber says. “Mental health nursing needs to challenge the idea of treating people in small bits, and care for the whole person.”

She says many patients—perhaps half, according to some research—don’t respond to drug treatments.

In fact, Raingruber’s research over the years suggests personal interactions and intense therapy are often at the heart of successful treatment.

Raingruber’s graduate research focused on interactions between psychiatric nurses and patients. She has since published numerous articles on the topic in both Perspectives in Psychiatric Care and the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.

“The better you know the person, the better you are able to help them,” Raingruber says. “It’s kind of like a friend who knows you so well they can hear the importance of a tone and get much more from a simple comment. When you know the patient, when you provide therapy for a patient, you can get much more from a simple conversation.”

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Deadbeats with a fishy excuse

Ronald Coleman - Photo by Sherry MarkLike bickering spouses in an underwater episode of “Dr. Phil,” parents in the fish world want their mates to take more responsibility for child-rearing—so they can do less, says Sac State biological sciences professor Ronald Coleman.

In convict cichlids, for example, Coleman finds that while parenting duties are shared, they’re not shared equally. “Both hope the other will do the work,” he says.

Convict cichlids are good parents who defend their children, Coleman says. But individual pairs vary in determining how much each parent should do for their offspring.

One of the factors influencing the decision is size. In his lab Coleman matches varying sizes of partners, which affects the parenting choices. “If there is a small female and a large male, the female will do all the parental care. The male won’t do anything,” he says. “But if the female is larger, the male becomes intensely protective.”

Of course, in the fish world, the parenting decisions have potentially permanent consequences. “In parental situations, if they screw up, someone eats the kids,” Coleman says. “Natural selection doesn’t work on the species—it operates on the individuals.”

Coleman’s work has been published in several national journals. He also pioneered the concept of “investment decision-making” in fish, which he continues to study.

“Fish make very careful decisions on costs and benefits,” he says.

A male fish, for instance, considers the value of what is in front of him—his children versus a predator—relative to his expected future reproductive ability. He makes the decision based on what the children are worth in the grand scheme, not just the here and now.

“There’s no best move. It depends on what it’s worth to the partner,” he says. “As a fish, if your partner values the current situation more than you do, you can get them to do the work.

“The dark side is, maybe that’s why human parents do the things they do: why one parent may do more than the other, why one parent gets to go out and the other stays home, why one works and the other doesn’t.”

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Puppets make it easier being ‘read’

Pamela O'Kane and Noreen Kellough - Photo of Sherry MarkFor years, the citizens of Sesame Street have demonstrated that puppets can make learning fun. But two Sac State professors say puppets also help make children better readers.

“Some of the reasons kids have trouble reading are because of low comprehension and poor writing skills,” says teacher education professor Noreen Kellough. She and colleague Pamela O’Kane say having kids put on a puppet show is a fun way to improve those skills while encouraging vocabulary development and creativity.

The technique has groups of elementary schoolchildren write stories about puppets they make themselves. The kids determine and spell out the setting, characters, the problem the characters will face and how the problem is solved.

Photo of a pupppetIn addition to beefing up their reading ability, working together on the story and on the set teaches cooperation and teamwork. “But they’re probably not aware they’re getting an academic lesson,” Kellough says. “To a kid, putting on a play is fun and the fact that they are learning is secondary.

“There’s no reason learning can’t be fun. Kindergarten is fun. School should continue to be that way.”

The use of puppetry also helps tackle another problem perplexing today’s teachers. “It answers the question ‘How do we incorporate art and reading?’” O’Kane says. “Some teachers can remember when they were children and how much fun they had. They want to have fun while meeting the standards.”

The idea of using original puppet productions as a way to improve reading was a natural evolution from readers’ theater, Kellough says, which uses student readers to act out a familiar story. Puppetry is a role-playing drama where even shy kids can have a part because the puppet can speak for them.

To spread the word about the concept Kellough and O’Kane offer a set of workshops for beginning teachers. The workshops include inexpensive ways to incorporate puppetry in their own classrooms, with ideas ranging from hollowed-out stuffed animals and sock puppets to feather duster- and oven mitt-creatures. They maintain a veritable stockpile of potential puppet parts—bottle caps for eyes, scraps of fabric, cereal boxes—that don’t cost money.

The results of the puppetry’s impact on reading ability are anecdotal so far. But in CSUS READERS, a Sac State tutoring program that used the technique, kids who had been reading at below their grade level and hated to read were playing roles in the productions. “They had come a long way in their reading,” O’Kane says.

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Talk to me doc

Marlene von Friederichs-FitzwaterCommunication studies professor Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater credits a life-threatening illness as motivation for research she has conducted since doctors diagnosed her with cervical cancer 20 years ago.

During the course of her illness von Friederichs-Fitzwater, who was studying mass communication, observed changing dynamics with her doctors. “I noticed that the worse the prognosis, the more trouble physicians had in communicating with me.”

She says she wanted to know why medical personnel spoke to her differently as her illness grew more serious, and if the experience she had was similar to other patients’. She wanted to help people, especially after her health improved.

She founded Health Communication Research Institute, Inc. in 1989 with the goal of improving the outcomes of health care by improving communication.

Von Friederichs-Fitzwater, also a public relations specialist, uncovered doctors’ tendencies to dominate patient interviews. She says physicians interrupt every 18 seconds and they often change the subject. “When the patient mentions something on an emotional level, the physician usually turns the conversation back to physical symptoms,” she says.

One way she’s ensuring the research helps others is by instructing professionals and medical students. Her institute offers free online classes about pain management and how to treat terminally ill patients. Von Friederichs-Fitzwater says she likes applying the research. “I enjoy being able to translate, educate. I’m happy seeing the research put to use. It’s my passion.”

The institute’s next big project is a $500,000 undertaking to install interactive, video-based kiosks in Sacramento-area community centers, churches and schools. They will dispense medical information in several languages including Russian and Hmong. “We’re trying to reach at-risk populations who don’t have access to quality health information and change risky health behavior,” she says.

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Settling a sticky debate

Ken Chinen - Photo by Sherry Mark
Japanese consumers know rice. And nearly 80 percent of them “know” California grown rice is inferior to domestic rice.

That plays a significant part in justifying Japanese trade restrictions. But can they really tell the difference?

“The answer is, ‘no,’” said Ken Chinen, professor of international business at Sac State. “In blind tests they cannot tell the difference even though they say they can.”

Chinen, a native of Japan, put Japanese tastes to the test. He asked 161 Japanese nationals to taste short-grained white rice—the kind preferred in Japanese cooking—and rate them by sweetness, stickiness, texture, fragrance and whiteness. Participants were also asked about their attitudes toward domestic and imported rice and, finally, to identify the samples as Japanese- or California-grown.

The results showed Japanese consumers could not clearly tell the difference. Of the 80 percent who expressed a preference for rice grown in Japan, 40 percent misidentified the rice grown in Japan.

“Statistically speaking, there is no significant difference,” Chinen said. “It’s just an issue of perception. Rice is rice.”

Chinen said the real issues behind official Japanese distaste for foreign rice is economic and cultural, with a dash of national security.

“In Japan, rice is the source of culture, religion, wealth, power and aesthetics,” Chinen said. “Rice is not just food, rice is more than that.”

Domestic rice production is also tied to national security through fears that Japan—which relies on food imports—could be held hostage by foreign rice growers.

Indeed, 65 percent of the Japanese surveyed by Chinen said they were concerned about the island nation’s future food supply. In addition to worries about “food security,” the Japanese also fear that foreign rice may be contaminated with pesticide residues or harmful preservatives.

Under international trade agreements, Japan does import rice—660,000 tons in 1999—but often re-exports it as food aid to impoverished nations. The United States supplies 51 percent of Japan’s imported rice, with approximately 75 percent of that coming from California growers. Thailand (19 percent), Australia (15 percent) and China (10 percent) are other major importers.

Chinen noted that a California buyer could purchase a 20-pound bag of koshihikari rice for under $14. The Japanese buyer would pay about $40 for a bag of the same rice grown in Japan.

“Middle-income Japanese consumers are starting to ask why they have to pay so much more for domestic products when similar foreign products are cheaper,” Chinen said. Part of the answer is in the protectionist policies Japan pursues at the urging of domestic rice growers—very similar to the political influence American agribusinesses have on U.S. policy.

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