Tag Archives: Gender

Emotionally, Men Are Far, Women Near

Me theorizing two weeks ago:

We should expect men to be more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about short-term sexual attractions, while women have more complex, layered, and opaque feelings on this subject. In contrast, women should be more more self-aware, transparent, and simple regarding their feelings about long-term pair-bonding, while men have more complex, layered, and opaque feelings on this subject. By being more opaque on sensitive subjects, we can keep ourselves from giving off clear signals of an inclination to betray. (more)

Now add two more assumptions:

  1. Each gender is more emotional about the topic area (short vs. long term mating) where its feelings are more complex, layered, and opaque.
  2. Long term mating thoughts tend to be in far mode, while short term mating thoughts tend to be in near mode. (Love is far, sex is near.)

Given these assumptions we should expect emotional men to be more in far mode, and emotional women to be more in near mode. (At least if mating-related emotions are a big part of emotions overall.) And since far modes tend to have a more positive mood, we should expect men to have more positive emotions, and women more negative.

In fact, even though overall men and women are just as emotional, men report more positive and less negative emotions than women. Also, after listening to an emotional story, male hormones help one remember its far-mode-abstract gist, while female hormones help one remembrer its near-mode-concrete details. (Supporting study quotes below.)

I’ve been wondering for a while why we don’t see a general correlation between near vs. far and emotionality, and I guess this explains it – the correlation is there but it flips between genders. This also helps explain common patterns in when the genders see each other as overly or underly emotional. Women are more emotional about details (e.g., his smell, that song), while men are more emotional about generalities (e.g., patriotism, fairness). Now for those study quotes: Continue reading "Emotionally, Men Are Far, Women Near" »

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Who Is Consistent?

Young rich well-educated men make more consistent choices. Family structure, risk tolerance and personality type don’t matter:

We conduct a large-scale field experiment … to test subjects choices for consistency with utility maximization. … High-income and high-education subjects display greater levels of consistency …, men are more consistent than women, and young subjects are more consistent than older subjects. We also find that consistency with utility maximization is strongly related to wealth: a standard deviation increase in the consistency score is associated with 15-19 percent more wealth. This result conditions on socioeconomic variables including current income, education, and family structure, and is little changed when we add controls for past income, risk tolerance and the results of a standard personality test used by psychologists. (more)

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Women Enforce Norms

It seems women are more in the role of enforcing social norms:

While there is ample evidence of a society-wide cooperation norm, it is not as clear who upholds this norm. In the present paper, we investigate whether there are gender differences with respect to norm enforcement. We let 1403 subjects play games of punishment and reward, individually or in groups with varying gender composition. Broadly, the results indicate that there are no clear gender differences: men are about as inclined as women to punish norm-breakers. However, behavior is context-dependent: men acting among other men are less inclined to uphold a cooperation norm than are women, or men in gender-mixed groups. (more)

A self-protective goal increased conformity for both men and women. In contrast, the effects of a romantic goal depended on sex, causing women to conform more to others’ preferences while engendering nonconformity in men. Men motivated to attract a mate were particularly likely to nonconform when (a) nonconformity made them unique (but not merely a member of a small minority) and when (b) the topic was subjective versus objective, meaning that nonconformists could not be revealed to be incorrect. These findings fit with a functional evolutionary model of motivation and behavior, and they indicate that fundamental motives such as self-protection and mate attraction can stimulate specific forms of conformity or nonconformity for strategic self-presentation. (more)

It isn’t clear how innate is this female norm emphasis, but if innate then female nature probably deserves more of the credit for enabling the farming revolution, and also probably more of the blame for hindering the industrial revolution.

Added 16June: One more:

Why do men have more lenient ethical standards than women? … Whereas men’s ethicality judgments were affected by the identification manipulation, women’s judgments were not. … Fixed [achievement] beliefs predicted lower ethical standards, particularly for men. In combination, these findings suggest men are more pragmatic in setting ethical standards than women. (more)

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Death Cause Correlates

Over the years I’ve seen many studies correlating overall death rates with other features, and also seen studies on correlates of particular causes of death, but until Ken Lee’s thesis I’d never seen how death correlates change with broad categories of death causes. Yesterday I pointed to one disturbing correlate: more med spending correlates with more cancer deaths, but not with more deaths from other causes.

That data also found injury deaths increasing more with alcohol use, which makes sense. While no population density estimates were significant, density’s most positive correlation with death was for “other” deaths, which contains most known contagious conditions. This also makes sense, as density increases contagion.

That was all from Lee’s chapter 2, where he looks at 50 states over 28 years. In chapter 3 Lee turns to a much larger data set, 367,101 adults from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study, followed over 11 years during which 9.1% of them died. Here are a few selections from Lee’s Table 14, where he breaks down deaths into cancer, heart attack, injury, and other:


If docs are especially bad at treating cancer, then we should expect those who use docs more to do worse at cancer. And in fact women, the rich, and the well educated do worse at cancer. Since there are many more dangerous objects in rural and poor lives, it also makes sense that such folks suffer injury deaths more.

If the main reason rural folks die less is that lower density reduces contagion, we’d expect the rural effect to be largest for “other” deaths, and that is what we find. Interestingly, that is also the kind of death which marriage best prevents – does married life prevent contagion compared with single life?

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Recipe: Men Exploit Fems

There are many movies and documentaries about female prostitutes. While some focus on women forced into prostitution against their will, most of the rest vaguely imply that the female prostitutes are exploited by their male customers. The message seems to be “Don’t they see that the money they gain is just not worth their loss of intimacy, self-respect, etc.?”

The ’06 documentary The Great Happiness Space (reviewed here) offers an interesting contrast. It shows the world of a certain kind of male prostitute in Japan. And it vaguely implies that male prostitutes exploit their female customers. The message seems to be “Don’t they see how much money they lose for just an illusion of intimacy, respect, etc.?” Even though many of the female customers shown are themselves prostitutes, we are expected to see them as victims.

Of course the two prostitution practices differ somewhat, according to male vs. female fantasies. Men tend more to seek simple no-strings sex and polygamy, while women more seek emotional stroking and hypergamy. But it is striking that any for-pay male-female relation portrays men as exploiters and women as victims, no matter who pays whom.

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Self-Indulgence Stinks

As industry has made humans rich, we have become more self-indulgent. But while we might each prefer to be self-indulgent, we are less thrilled by the self-indulgence of those around us. For example, Kay Hymowitz on her book, “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys”:

Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. …

What has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn’t bring out the best in men. … “A guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends. … They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.” …

Large numbers of single young men and women living independently, while also having enough disposable income to avoid ever messing up their kitchens, is something entirely new in human experience. … We often hear about the miseries of women confined to the domestic sphere. … But it seems that men didn’t much like the arrangement either. … They turned to hobbies and adventures, like hunting and fishing. … What explains this puerile shallowness? … The qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete. … Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven.

This makes sense, except that Hymowitz seems to unfairly exempt women from criticism:

Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers, and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. … They are more likely than men to be in grad school. … In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.

And why exactly should society celebrate women’s college GPAs more than men’s high PlayStation scores? After all, college is mostly a wasteful signaling game. And men still out-earn women on average at all ages, mostly because women tend to choose self-fulfilling majors and careers over high paying ones. So those higher fem GPAs are more a sign of self-indulgence than social contribution, at least if we measure contribution by income.

And even if women did earn more, are folks devoted to working to pay for high fashion or travel really any less self-indulgent than those who hone guitar skills? Let’s not forget that our vast fall in fertility seems due more to the changing preferences of women (vs. men) for a fun life unencumbered by kids.

This needn’t be a gender issue. Can’t we just all admit that we’ve all become more self-indulgent as we’ve grown rich, and that, like our icky odors, our own self-indulgence smells better than that of others?

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Easterly On Swimsuits

Yes a swimsuit video has sexual connotations and doesn’t emphasize all aspects of the performer, but then the same can be said of many rock concerts. Why do folks complain so much more about swimsuit vids?

When I posted that Wednesday, I hadn’t noticed William Easterly’s post from Sunday:

The relentless marketing of a “swimsuit” young female body type as sex object … has been a negative trend since the 1960s, inducing more women to be treated disrespectfully or harassed.

Easterly doesn’t explain how exactly watching swimsuit models induces disrespect and harassment, and I find it hard to see the imagined causal path.

In a trivial sense calling attention to folks with exemplary abilities or features generally makes most others look worse by comparison. But if this is “disrespect,” our media is chock full of it – swimsuit models aren’t any worse than the rest.

Perhaps men get hornier viewing swimsuit models, and then try harder to gain sex from other women. But few complain about similar effects on women from watching sexy rock stars. Or from men watching ads for sexy female clothes, or live women in swimsuits at the beach or in sexy party outfits.

Yes if any unwanted sexual advances are “harassment” then hornier men would induce more of that, but if “harassment” means advances that one should know have very little chance of success (e.g., done to humiliate or assert dominance), it is hard to see why wanting sex more should induce more useless attempts. And do we really want to discourage anything that makes men horny?

Compared to most sexy clothing ads, or to real swimsuited women at the beach, swimsuit models express a more playful submissive come-hither persona. Does this give men the misleading impression that ordinary women are more eager for sex? It is hard to see why, since most real women only rarely give such come-hither looks. If anything men should learn that this is more what a woman who eagerly wants sex might look like – if your woman doesn’t act like this, maybe she isn’t that interested.

I suspect that, as so often, the real issue here is status. When the media highlights and celebrates women who are acting submissive to men, this lowers the status of women overall relative to men. It can be ok for woman to act submissive in specialty fashion magazines, since the main audience there is presumed to be other women.  And it is apparently ok to show sitcoms where husbands submit to their wives. But for those eager to raise fem status, submissive swim-suiters are a no-no.

Added: Katja also responds to Easterly here.

Added 8a: In an email, Easterly elaborates:

The causal mechanism I have in mind is that marketers have greatly expanded the supply of a consumer product — the image of woman as sex object — which is complementary to the demand for real women to be sex objects. Hence, more women get treated as sex objects, leading to more disrespectful treatment and harassment.

Added 2p: In a post, Easterly elaborates further:

I don’t think this debate hinges on an empirical claim. Nobody decides whether to use the N-word or not based on randomized controlled trials of whether its use quantitatively predicts assaults on African Americans. We have a moral sense of what is respectful, how to treat our fellow human beings with dignity, how to treat them as equals, in short, what respects their individual rights. Treating women as sex objects transgresses the moral obligation to respect the rights of women.  I believe the Swimsuit Issue does that; others may disagree.

Wow – looking at swimsuit pictures violates the “rights of woman” even if the models themselves don’t mind, and no matter what the empirical consequences, yet watching real women in swimsuits is just fine?!

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Hail Julie Henderson

Top 10 Ways Sports Illustrated Disrespects Women … The swimsuit issue features women models posed not as athletes of strength, skill, and endurance but as playthings; … showing women’s primary value to be their value as sex objects; … bodies as if they are merely body parts; … encouraging … to view women as sex toys … to ogle at; … numbing men to women’s humanity; … exhibiting women to men as the “other”; … sending a message to girls … that … all that matters is how they look to men. (more)

After reading that, I browsed the free videos at Sports Illustrated and — I liked them a lot. More even than their for-pay magazine pictures. I especially liked Julie Henderson, presented like a “flower child” from my generation’s youth (best in full screen):

This sort of thing isn’t easy to do well, requiring skill in composition, photography, makeup, costumes, etc. Hats off to the whole team, including Julie.

Of course I didn’t just admire production skills – I enjoyed the vid, in part because it made me feel attracted to Julie and helped me fantasize that she likes me back. And yes, that includes some sexual attraction.

But most everything that humans do to impress each other has a sexual component. Women are more attracted to men who do music, sport, art, politics, and even research well, and men do such things more as a result. Also, standard displays rarely give equal weight to all of a person’s aspects. A sport performance emphasizes different aspects than a poetry reading or a rock concert, and none give a whole view of the performer.

Yes a swimsuit video has sexual connotations and doesn’t emphasize all aspects of the performer, but then the same can be said of many rock concerts. Why do folks complain so much more about swimsuit vids? Some possibilities:

  1. Since common folks like swimsuits, liking them doesn’t signal elite class or culture.
  2. It takes fewer special skill to appreciate swimsuits, making it hard to signal discernment this way.
  3. For most other displays with sexual connotations, one can more easily pretend to be interested for other reasons. Homo hypocritus prefers ambiguous sex displays in public.
  4. Swimsuits are more salient to men seeking short term mates, and women seeking long term mates fear short term mates in disguise. To present themselves as seeking long term mates, both men and women disapprove of swimsuits.
  5. We prefer displays that emphasize effort over innate ability. and presume swimsuits mostly show off innate ability.
  6. [Added] For other displays we can more easily self-deceive to think that our displays are just as good.
  7. What else?
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Elite College Fems Earn Less

David Leonhardt:

A decade ago, two economists — Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger — published a research paper arguing that elite colleges did not seem to give most graduates an earnings boost. … Ms. Dale and Mr. Krueger have just finished a new version of the study — with vastly more and better data … and the new version comes to the same conclusion. (more; HT Tyler)

Ezra Klein quotes David approvingly. But as I reported two years ago, many, like David and the original paper’s abstract, quite misleadingly ignored its (statistically significant) finding that:

Men who attend the most competitive colleges [according to Barron's 1982 ratings] earn 23 percent more than men who attend very competitive colleges, other variables in the equation being equal. …

Ack!  I was almost conned by elite journal editors and media reporters into believing a comforting lie!  What saved me was becoming puzzled by actually reading the original paper.

The new study’s abstract is also seriously misleading, suggesting that the study finds no effect of college average SAT scores on graduate earnings:

When we adjust for unobserved student ability by controlling for the average SAT score of the colleges that students applied to, our estimates of the return to college selectivity fall substantially and are generally indistinguishable from zero. There were notable exceptions for certain subgroups, [namley] for black and Hispanic students and for students who come from less-educated families.

To find the truth, you have to study Table 4 carefully, and note footnote 13:

For both men and women, the coefficient was zero (and sometimes even negative) [in] the self-revelation model.13

[footnote:] 13 This lower return to college selectivity for women is consistent with other literature. Results from Hoekstra (2009), Black and Smith (2004) and Long (2008) all suggest that the effect of college selectivity on earnings is lower for women than for men.

Table 4 shows that attending a college with higher SAT scores clearly lowered the wages of women 17-26 years after starting college (in 1976) — a school with a 100-point higher average SAT score reduced earnings by about 6-7%!  The two estimates there are significant at ~0.01% level! (The other three, for other periods after starting college, are significant at the 5% level.)

One obvious explanation is that women at more elite colleges married richer classmate men, and so felt less need to earn money themselves. Why don’t the study’s authors want us to hear about that?

The new study conflicts with the earlier one in finding no significant effects of college higher tuition or Barron’s selectivity rating on later earnings. The authors attribute those differences mostly to the earlier study using reported earnings, while this new study used Social Security Administration data. So do elite college folks do earn more, but hide it better from the government, or do they just lie more about their income? The relevant section from the new paper on this conflict: Continue reading "Elite College Fems Earn Less" »

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Gentle Silent Rape

Added Oct ’13: Warning: you may find this post disturbing if you are  disturbed by the topics of rape, abduction, or being drugged.

A year ago I wrote two controversial posts (each 150 comments) that compared cuckoldry to rape. I was puzzling over why our law punishes rape far more than cuckoldry, arguing:

Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it.

Counter arguments included:

  • what the cuckold doesn’t know can’t hurt him
  • lots of men don’t mind raising genetically unrelated kids
  • rape victims are more socially disapproved of
  • rape has direct physical effects, while cuckoldry does not
  • rape victims are more often diagnosed “post traumatic stress”
  • rape victims they know seem more expressively upset

I presented evidence that most men would rather be raped than cuckolded, and that even though men complain less, they gain and suffer more from marriage and divorce, and the birth and death of kids.  Someone noted that many past societies did punish cuckoldry more than rape.

It occurred to me recently that we can more clearly compare cuckoldry to gentle silent rape. Imagine a woman was drugged into unconsciousness and then gently raped, so that she suffered no noticeable physical harm nor any memory of the event, and the rapist tried to keep the event secret. Now drugging someone against their will is a crime, but the added rape would add greatly to the crime in the eyes of today’s law, and the added punishment for this addition would be far more than for cuckoldry.

Now compare the two cases, cuckoldry and gentle silent rape. One remaining difference is that the rapist might be a stranger, while a cuckolding wife is not. But we could consider cases where the rapist isn’t a stranger. Another difference might be that punishing the cuckolding mother financially may punish her innocent kid. But we could specify the punishment to be non-financial, perhaps torture. Consider also that it tends to be easier to prove cuckoldry than rape, so if we avoid applying the law to hard-to-prove harms, that should favor punishing cuckoldry more than rape.

Even after all these attempts to make the cases comparable, however, I suspect most people will still say the law should punish rape far more than the cuckoldry. This even though most farming societies had the opposite attitude (I’m not sure on foragers). A colleague of mine suggests this is gender bias, pure and simple; women seem feminist, and men chivalrous, by railing against rape, but no one looks good complaining about cuckoldry. What other explanations you got?

Added 11p 1Dec: 95 comments so far, almost all of which ignore my “gentle silent” modifier, and just argue about standard rape. Seems a post mentioning rape and cuckoldry is treated by most as a red flag urging heated discussion on those topics without regard to anything else that the poster might have said.

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