sealPurdue Lifestyles News Briefs

May 1999

Y2K problem has its positives, Purdue retail expert says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The doom and gloom of potential computer glitches in the year 2000 may be overshadowing the beneficial side of the current rush to make computers compatible with the new millennium.

"Solving Y2K problems has forced businesses to confront the way they do business," says Richard Feinberg, professor of consumer sciences and retailing and director of the Purdue University Center for Customer-Driven Quality. "As a result, unexpected ways to better serve the customer are being found that are unrelated to computers."

He predicts some very positive benefits from the massive effort to upgrade computers and make sure that products and services are available in the new year. Among them:

  • Y2K fears could stimulate the economy if retailers and businesses stock up on inventory just in case deliveries or manufacturing are interrupted.

  • These increased inventories in the first quarter of 2000 may mean terrific values for customers, as businesses sell off their excess stock.

  • Updated computer systems improve the ability of businesses to partner with vendors and manufacturers. These improved relationships may mean that products reach customers faster and at a better price.

  • Y2K has created thousands of jobs, as businesses need experts and consultants and new products to identify and deal with Y2K concerns.

CONTACT: Feinberg, (765) 494-8303,

Patients better than doctors at predicting their health

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the journal article is available from Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Patients, especially African-Americans, are better at predicting their future health than are their doctors, according to a Purdue University study.

"People assume that doctors are superior at knowing the health risks of their patients," says Kenneth Ferraro, a professor of sociology who studies the aging process. "However, we found that the patients' reports of their own health were more valid."

The discrepancy was greatest for African-American patients. Ferraro says it's well documented that various ethnic groups present themselves differently in health-care settings. "It might be that African-Americans are giving their doctors less information about their health," he says.

It's also true, based on research in hospital emergency rooms, that doctors look differently at different patients. "A patient's appearance and other factors can color the way he or she is treated," Ferraro says.

His study, reported in the April issue of American Sociological Review, analyzed health data collected nationally from nearly 7,000 persons between 1971 and 1975. Those studied were initially between 25 and 74 years old, and their health was tracked for up to 15 years.

When the data first were collected, the respondents filled out questionnaires about their health and also underwent extensive health examinations by doctors.

Ferraro then compared the information to predict the health outcomes of the patients. He found that the disease information provided by the patients was a better predictor of health than that supplied by the physicians. While the difference was modest for white patients, the physician examinations did not predict African-American health well at all.

"Doctors really depend on patients for a lot of information," Ferraro says. "The more descriptive you can be about your health, the better the doctor can do his job."

CONTACT: Ferraro, (765) 494-4707,

Vacation plans: Separate the risky from sure thing

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When it comes to planning the summer vacation, how you plan says as much about you as where you go.

"Risk takers often get burned when it comes to vacations," says Joe La Lopa, assistant professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management at Purdue University. That's because they often rely on slick brochures and advertising hype when choosing their vacation destination. He says Internet sites and brochures can feature outdated or unreliable photos and information. "If you embrace tragedy and comedy with the same enthusiasm, then planning your vacation that way may be for you," he says.

However, the more sensible travelers usually pick vacation spots based on the advice of trusted family and friends. La Lopa points out that most people travel because of relatives and friends, either to visit them, to attend reunions or simply to get in touch with their roots. He says planning where to go based on the advice of trusted individuals is usually a safe bet. "To be safe, ask them 'Have you been there? Did you like it? What did you do?'" he suggests.

La Lopa is an expert on service and hospitality management, and he studies the economic impact of tourism.

CONTACT: La Lopa, (765) 494-6218;

'ER' fans can earn biology credit at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The NBC medical drama "ER" will become a science lab at Purdue University this summer.

Edward Simon, a biology professor in the School of Science, decided to base a class on the show after being regularly bombarded with questions from his students following each new episode. "The Biology of ER" will be offered for one semester hour of credit for the first time in May.

"'ER' raises questions about AIDS in the workplace, the ethics of drug trials, medical economics and euthanasia," Simon explains. "There is never a shortage of issues to research further and discuss in greater detail."

Students will view a specific episode and then prepare questions and comments on the medical and biological aspects of the program for use in class the following day.

CONTACT: Simon, (765) 494-4991;

Support from mom and dad lessens test anxiety

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Parents can quell test anxiety in their school-aged children by recognizing the problem and reinforcing realistic expectations.

"Anxious behavior about test-taking is different in every student, but parents can help by balancing the importance of preparation against the reality that a particular exam is not the only measure by which a grade is earned," says Scott Vrana, associate professor of psychological sciences and director of the Purdue University Anxiety Clinic.

Vrana says that anxiety is a natural part of life.

"A student who doesn't experience some level of anxiety about a test has no motivation to do well," he says. "Anxiety only becomes a problem when it interferes with performance -- either by hindering the ability to prepare or by preventing the student from focusing in the testing situation."

There are three components of test anxiety: The behavioral component will manifest itself in avoidance of the task or poor preparation for it, while the physiological response can range from sweaty palms to an increased heart rate, or even difficulty in breathing. The cognitive component results from being so worried about the outcome that the child can't concentrate on the test itself.

Vrana says parents should offer reassurance and counter any irrational worries with rational thoughts based on other school tasks the child does well. And he warns that this can become more challenging as a child grows older and learns to worry in more elaborate ways.

"But if the anxiety is based on repeated failures, then it's time to look at preparation and ask if it's adequate," Vrana says. "As students get older they become more responsible for their own time, and poor preparation is often a factor. At the college level, it's not uncommon to have students fail exams for the first time in their lives because no one is reminding them to study."

The Purdue Anxiety Clinic specializes in the treatment of a variety of anxiety disorders. Clinic therapists, who are advanced graduate students working toward Ph.D.s in clinical psychology, will see an average of four students a year for test anxiety. But Vrana says the low number does not accurately reflect the problem.

"Like most universities, Purdue has a variety of resources for students who are struggling with academic performance issues," he says. "Many times a stress management or life skills seminar will be all that's necessary to overcome test anxiety. But even if they do end up visiting the clinic, it's fairly simple to treat in terms of the coping skills we teach. We've been highly successful in helping students deal with the problem."

CONTACT: Vrana, (765) 494-0782,

Compiled by: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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