Tag Archives: Gender

La Difference

This research examined the relative sexual attractiveness of individuals showing emotion expressions of happiness, pride, and shame compared with a neutral control. Across two studies using different images and samples ranging broadly in age (total N = 1041), a large gender difference emerged in the sexual attractiveness of happy displays: happiness was the most attractive female emotion expression, and one of the least attractive in males. In contrast, pride showed the reverse pattern; it was the most attractive male expression, and one of the least attractive in women. Shame displays were relatively attractive in both genders, and, among younger adult women viewers, male shame was more attractive than male happiness, and not substantially less than male pride. (more)

In our society, men and women are different. Not only do they have different physical capacities and vulnerabilities, their minds differ.  They demand different things, in particular from the opposite gender. In response, they supply different things to the opposite gender. For example, men supply the pride demanded by women, and women supply the happiness demanded by men.

While folks are sometimes indignant that others’ expectations about them depend on their gender, few are willing to change the fact that their wants regarding others depend on those others’ genders. So there is little prospect of eliminating gender-based social expectations. Nor is it obvious that this would be a good idea.

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Suits Show Signal Scope

Two years ago I posted on the puzzle of yes men. A simple story says bosses evaluate subordinate expertise via the deviation between subordinate and boss opinions. This predicts bosses hiding their opinions as long as possible. Yet real bosses often reveal opinions early, encouraging “yes men.” I suggested that this is because large boss-subordinate opinion deviations make bosses look bad as well as subordinates. While higher bosses who only cared to evaluate this boss would punish them for encouraging yes men, when they themselves seek to look good to still higher bosses, they’d rather allow such encouragement, while pretending otherwise.

A lot of signaling analysis imagines just two parties, the party signaling and the party interpreting the signal. But often signals have a wider scope – signal interpreters often care a lot about how still other parties will interpret their signal interpretation. For example, even if you didn’t wear a suit to a job interview, in the hour long interview you might still convince your interviewer that you’d be a capable productive employee. Yet that interviewer could still be reluctant to hire you, knowing they’d have to explain the hire to others who know you didn’t wear a suit. Interviewers can similarly be reluctant to hire a competent person from a low ranked college, if others might hear of this fact and think less of them.

The interview suit example brings to mind the question: what distinguishes social situations where we wear suits from those where we don’t? We wear suits to funerals, weddings, in court, and when we represent some groups to other groups. At work suits are also worn in sales, management, finance, and law. And a common factor distinguishing these situations seems to be a wide social scope of our signals. We tend to wear suits to events where wider audiences, who don’t know much about us, are more likely to see or hear about and interpret our behavior, especially norm deviations. A suit is a standard respectful clothing with low style variance to minimize the chance of accidentally giving offense.

Our use of language in such “formal” situations of wide signal scope also tends to be designed to be respectful, conservative, and careful, i.e., to minimize the chance of being interpreted negatively by others who don’t know us well. I’ve written before on farming towns being especially effective at encouraging such careful conformist behavior, and on school today teaching students to send the right signals to wider audiences.

What about entertainers, who often wear “wild” clothing yet clearly seek to impress a wide audience that cares about what still others think of their entertainment choices? Since such entertainers are often especially valued for their originality, defiance, or trend foresight, they must often walk a very fine line between looking unimpressive via seeming too conservative, and giving too much offense by being wild in the wrong way. I envy them not.

On average, a wider variance in clothing style is tolerated for women relative to men at high visibility events like weddings or dances. Does this mean men tend to be evaluated by a wider scope than women? Do women care more about what other women think of their man than men care about what other men think of their woman?

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Japan’s Fat Tax

This has been going on for three years, yet I just learned of it:

In 2008, Japan’s Ministry of Health passed the ‘metabo’ law and declared war against obesity. …

Japanese people are normally envied for their lean physiques. In fact, the OECD ranks them, with only 3% population obesity, one of the least obese developed countries. … Comparing the time periods 1976-1980 and 1996-2000, prevalence of obese boys and girls increased from 6.1% and 7.1% to 11.1% and 10.2%. …

The law mandates that local governments and employers add a waist measurement test to the annual mandatory check up of 40-75 year olds. For men and women who fail the test and exceed the maximum allowed waist length of 33.5 and 35.4 inches, they are required to attend a combination of counseling sessions, monitoring through phone and email correspondence, and motivational support. …

Employers or local government … are required to ensure a minimum of 65% participation, with an overall goal to cut the country’s obesity rates by 25% by year 2015. Failure to meet these goals results in fines of almost 10% of current health payments. (more)

Even before Japanese lawmakers set the waistline limits last year, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) amended its recommended guidelines for the Japanese. The new IDF standard is 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) for men and 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) for women. But the Japanese government has yet to modify its limits. (more; HT Melanie Meng Xue)

Two interesting patterns:

  1. Japanese waist limits are stricter on men, yet since men are taller health-based rules would be stricter on women.
  2. The thinnest rich nation (Japan) passed a big law to make itself thinner just as the biggest medical spending nation (USA) debated a big law (Obamacare) ensuring it would spend more on medicine.

My tentative explanations:

  1. Most societies find it easier to disrespect/mistreat/etc. low status men than low status women.
  2. National policy is more about reaffirming and supporting symbols of national pride than about addressing national needs. The USA is proud of its medicine and Japan is proud of its thinness.

Note that that if you want to regulate health it makes far more sense to regulate weight than medicine, since weight is far more related to health than medicine.

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Who Cheats

Many folks just love to hear that, among heterosexual men, it is homophobic men who are most aroused by gay male porn. “They are just trying to deny their feelings,” they might say. I’ll bet such folks will similarly love to hear that men who feel more sexual performance anxiety tend to cheat more on their spouses. “For women its about feeling connected, but for men its all about ego,” they might also say. The Post:

For women, they found low relationship satisfaction was often tied to infidelity. Women who were unhappy in their relationships were 2.6 times more likely to cheat than women who were satisfied. And women who reported being incompatible with their partner in terms of sexual values and attitudes were 2.9 times more likely to have an affair.

One of the findings that surprised Milhausen most was that men who reported higher rates of sexual inhibition because of performance anxiety were more likely to cheat. “If you have sex with someone outside of your relationship, you’ll never have to see them again,” she says. “You won’t have those problems with wounded pride or ego.” …

Men and women who were less concerned about the consequences of their sexual behavior were more likely to cheat, as were people who could be easily aroused. … Her take-away from the report is that people who want to avoid affairs should be as honest as possible about their needs.

Now if you look at the actual study, you’ll find some discrepancies with this summary.  Not only won’t you find any support for this last claim about honesty, you’ll also find that easy sexual arousal does not predict cheating in women, and that sexual performance anxiety has exactly the same effect on women as on men. Interesting that the female reporter (Ellen McCarthy) left that last bit out.

Even more interesting, you’ll find that, after controlling for other factors, none of the following significantly predicts who cheats: age, importance of religion, being married, sexual satisfaction in the relationship, and compatibility on the importance or frequency of sex. When they don’t control for other factors, older, less religious, and fully employed folks cheat more.

So to sum up, both men and women cheat more when they are less afraid of getting caught, when they tend to do things they later regret, and when performance anxiety tends to inhibit them in sex. For men another cheating predictor is easy sexual arousal, while for women added predictors are overall relationship unhappiness and feeling incompatible on ‘‘attitudes towards (or values and ideas) about sex” (which, after controlling for compatibility on sex frequency and importance, sounds to me like another proxy for relationship unhappiness).

Some previous results on cheating: Continue reading "Who Cheats" »

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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:

KenLeeCauseCorrelates

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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