Science of Us (blog)

Some Words About Something I Know Nothing About

Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 8, '… Of the Dead'.

This is one of those I should simply steer clear of.

Critics, on the other hand, point out the teensy problem that the pharmaceutical company’s own drug trials have shown that Addyi (the brand name for flibanserin) doesn’t actually work all that well. The drug, which will likely be available to consumers in mid-October, is a daily medication, and has been associated with some decidedly unsexy side effects, such as dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, insomnia, and dry mouth. Alcohol exacerbates the side effects, so women taking Addyi are told to abstain from drinking as long as they’re taking it. And the payoff is modest at best: In clinical trials involving about 2,400 healthy, pre-menopausal women (their average age was 36), the women taking flibanserin reported up to one more “satisfying sexual event” per month on average, compared with the women who took a placebo.

(Dahl)

After all, if ever there is a time to hide behind being … oh, right. Anyway, yeah, it’s after a paragraph like that, something, something, mumble, murmur, I’ll just shut up now.

(more…)

Worth a Few Minutes of Your Time

Suou's Reflection: Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor.

This is worth keeping an eye on:

Few recent books have spawned as many arguments as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Until last week, though, I hadn’t seen anyone claim that Sandberg’s feminism-in-the-workplace manifesto is anti-science. And yet that’s exactly what Amy Alkon, an advice columnist who frequently dips into psychological research, argued in the New York Observer on Friday.

Drawing on evolutionary psychology — basically, the idea that many of our behavioral tendencies were shaped long ago, when the sorts of pressures that needed to be overcome in order to survive and reproduce were a lot different than they are today — Alkon writes that Sandberg simply ignores fundamental, biologically, and genetically predetermined differences between male and female behavior, and that because of these differences, Sandberg’s advice could actually be harmful if followed.

This sort of thing pops up from time to time — it’s not uncommon to see pop-science accounts that use evo-psych to make sweeping statements about human nature, particularly on gender issues. In one recent incident Science of Us readers might remember, for instance, researchers used evo-psych principles to tell a rather nonsensical story about why Kim Kardashian’s butt appeals to so many men. But Alkon’s column, even if it draws on some long-standing and stale claims about the differences between men and women, deserves a thorough debunking simply because it’s such an egregious example of the subgenre.

Jesse Singal of New York magazine’s Science of Us blog offers the well-considered response to one of those strange defenses of sexism that starts with the premise that “women are meeker than men, and less likely than men to bond, friendship-wise, with members of the same gender — behaviors forged by, you guessed it, evolution”.

And Singal really does deserve some credit for patience; repeatedly dismantling these arguments does nothing to prevent them from popping up again, but this is also the sort of thing people can steel themselves against for the future; and once one learns the familiar patterns, one is well equipped to respond to this nonsense when it arises in personal circles. The thing is that being polite does not mean sitting back and letting your friends embarrass themselves and denigrate others blindly pushing this sort of stuff. The number of advocates who, when challenged, resent the suggestion of misogyny suggests blithe ignorance, lest we have grossly underestimated the will while focusing on the habit.

And, frankly, that latter is a bit unsettling; this isn’t really some sort of conscious calculation so many people make in such a way that it looks like a conspiracy. This is just people being people. But that’s the thing: We can attempt to politely correct the record, and if it really is that big a deal to one of our friends, well, yeah, good luck with that. No, really, I can’t tell you to leave them behind; neither can I suggest you are remotely obligated to stick around.

But it seems somehow improper to leave them to wallow in potentially contagious ignorance. Indeed, we might even suggest it is dangerous. The thing is that this comes up enough that it would probably be helpful to have a response at hand. For now, Singal’s is pretty useful.

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Singal, Jesse. “No, Evolution Doesn’t Disprove Lean In’s Arguments”. Science of Us. 18 May 2015.

Freedom (American Check the Party Mix)

Science of Us“Take that, American companies with product names that sound as though they come from the language of a country that disagreed with the U.S. on a foreign-policy issue!”

Jesse Singal

What? It’s not like this is surprising. Or is this another moment from American history people would prefer pretend never happened?

Freedom fries? Freedom toast? Freedom poodle? What’s that? Going to forget that first freedom kiss?

Yeah. Not surprising in the least.

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Singal, Jesse. “Americans Punished French-Sounding (But American) Brands During the Iraq War Argument With France”. Science of Us. 4 May 2015.

A Prescription of Sorts

Musicus annoyus. The humble common earworm. A minor plague upon humanity, to be certain, but Sofia Lyons brings us this latest prescription:

Science of UsI get at least one song stuck in my head every day, and many of my favorite tunes have been completely ruined after their hundredth mental play-through. Science of Us has grappled before with the question of how to get rid of an earworm, but new research recently published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that there’s been a simple solution all along: chew gum.

Testing the theory that interfering with “articulatory motor programming” — that is, the motor skills involved in speech — by chewing can disrupt the formation of unwanted musical memories, researchers at the University of Reading conducted three experiments involving chewing gum and listening to catchy tunes. (The initial idea for the research came from an inauspicious source: an anonymous online post touting the anti-earworm benefits of chewing on cinnamon sticks.)

To the one, we might wonder if M. annoyus actually has any dangerous manifestations in the world. Would it not explain, well, something, if it turns out this or that ridiculous explosion of human damage occurred because the shooter or knife-wielding maniac or whoever just couldn’t stop hearing One Direction in his head?

Which raises a serious question about the ethics of these experiments. That is to say, as a matter of professional integrity, we might wonder at the wisdom and propriety of any experiment obliging subjects to listen to David Guetta or Maroon 5.

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Lyons, Sofia. “A Simple Trick to Get a Song Out of Your Head”. Science of Us. 29 April 2015.

See Also:

Beaman, C. Phillip, Kitty Powell, and Ellie Rapley. “Want to block earworms from conscious
awareness?B(u)y gum!”
The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 21 April 2015.