naath: (Default)
[personal profile] naath
Yesterday I forgot to post; too busy freezing my arse off in a muddy field.

This is yesterday's post. One for today later.

Yesterday's annoyance was going to be "goddawful weather" which seems to gravitate towards any 10k race I enter... However there was a more annoying thing.

It is my habit to listen to BBC podcasts whilst running (outdoors; at the gym I watch news 24) this is because I get bored very easily. Anyway, a podcast that I was listening to was women's hour and a thing they were talking about was some research about baby girls liking faces more and baby boys like mechanical things more. This research apparently showed that there is some small bias towards this arrangement.

Now, personally I think it's pretty hard to find children who haven't been influenced by social norms; even very tiny children are treated differently by adults by gender.

But lets assume this is true - girls just "naturally" prefer people and boys just "naturally" prefer machines. Well, this research was claiming it's sort of a small bias; not a huge one. So it isn't Girls Are A vs Boys Are B; it's "girls are on average a bit more A and boys are on average a bit more B".

This doesn't tell you anything about YOUR BABY - it can tell you what your baby is "more likely" to enjoy; but you don't need that, your baby is RIGHT THERE you can consult them! OK, when your baby is a few days old they aren't very consultable; but toddlers can be quite vocal about which toy they want! You don't need to say "oh Suzy clearly wants a doll" when Suzy is demanding mechanno every visit to the toy store :-p

This is also true of a lot of things that are supposedly clearly divided into male/female - none of these things are clear cut "Men X, Women notX"; they are overlapping distributions. You can't look at a woman and know that she's worse at X than ALL MEN (or better at notX than all men); whilst the fastest marathon runner in the world is a man, the fastest woman marathon runner at the olympics would have come 60th were she racing in the men's olympic marathon which had 85 finishers - sure she is slower than the fastest man, but she is faster than 25 men who qualified for the olympic marathon, she is faster than *most men* if you wanted to hire a fast runner there is no point in saying that men are faster than women so you'll just look at the men.

Anyway; even where it is true that more men are more X than women (or vice versa) it is almost never true that all men are (all men are men and all women are women; which tautology is probably the only 100% true statement of that form), and there's no point to using these generalisations when deciding who you are going to hire, or pick for your team, or what you're going to buy your 5 year old for Christmas. Much better to find out the X-ness of the individuals who are actually relevant.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 10:17 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
In my experience, even babies a few days hours old can communicate what they do and don't want. The thing is paying attention to them ...

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 10:34 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
There's the smell of Baron-Cohen about that research. Let's see... a paper - oh, that's a rotten paper. I'm sure there's a problem with the standard deviation scores, I'd liked to have calculated d. Figure 2 is interesting - by God, that's a bad graph, why does the Y-axis have 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 if it has _counts_ of things in it? Surely just 1, 2 etc.

Anyway, yes, there's a distribution. Out of 60 sprogs, the sprog with the third most male-typical LPR (Looking Preference Ratio) was a girl, the sprog with the second-most female-typical LPR (Looking Preference Ratio) was a boy. And it doesn't look like they were crazy outliers.

I _want_ the raw data so I can analyse it. However, on first glance, it looks there's rather more overlap here than between things like height and athletic ability.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:11 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
There does appear to be a correlation between being a Baron-Cohen and being grrr-arrgh-inducing... As I see it; he seems to have a knack for finding the most annoying way possible to describe any experimental result, (I think) short of outright lying. Also, he likes to talk to the press and the public, and to be all iconoclastic and controversial.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:20 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
YES THAT IS HIS PAPER

THERE IS EVERYTHING WRONG WITH IT

EVERYTHING WRONG WITH IT

In particular:
  • the person showing the mobile & face to the babies knew what gender the baby had been assigned
  • the mobile & face were shown one after the other: on a timescale where neonates just, uh, don't have that much attention span and are probably asleep, actually
  • the babies were not kept in consistent positions: some were sitting, some were lying down
  • THERE ARE MORE PROBLEMS WITH THIS PAPER BUT I CANNOT REMEMBER THEM OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD


Basically, SBC's methodology is so repeatedly and inherently flawed in ways that the rest of the community doing research into this kind of thing already knows about and corrects for that he should never fucking be allowed anywhere near another penny of grant money.


...


I'm incredibly bitter about him.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:21 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
The person showing knew the assigned gender ?!? Oh ffs.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 01:13 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
I actually cheered at the point in Cordelia Fine's book Delusions of Gender where she dedicates a chapter to slowly and patiently explaining why his entire approach to the scientific process is a disaster.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:25 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(Reasons that I am incredibly bitter include him giving a talk about this paper at my sixth form's A-level awards evening... to a room full of lay people... with no discussion whatsoever about the overlap, statistical significance of his results, etc: so that's a room full of people who walked away with the keynote idea that "women can't do science".

Also that whole bit where he persists in using the terminology "male brain" and "female brain" when... more than um 50% of the people who test as having a "male brain" according to his bullshit scores... are female.

Also the stupid fucking "Asperger's Quotient Test", which I was VERY GOOD about, i.e. I did not write a detailed critique of his methodology and introduction of stereotype threat etc all over. If I had I might've scored higher than "borderline mild" ;) )

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:05 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (reflect)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Anyway; even where it is true that more men are more X than women (or vice versa) it is almost never true that all men are (all men are men and all women are women; which tautology is probably the only 100% true statement of that form),

And even not that when you consider that male/female is not as binary a dichotomy as it appears.

and there's no point to using these generalisations when deciding who you are going to hire, or pick for your team, or what you're going to buy your 5 year old for Christmas. Much better to find out the X-ness of the individuals who are actually relevant.

Possibly not the best way of putting it when it makes your readers (or at least this one) think of X chromosomes. ;^b

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 01:15 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
And small furry creatures from Alpha Centuri are REAL etc etc ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 10:29 am (UTC)
lnr: (Icknield Way)
From: [personal profile] lnr
Well said!

P.S. I love the comments over on DW explaining some of the methodological flaws in the study too - rather than just the flaws in the conclusions people are drawing from it!
Edited Date: 2012-11-05 03:34 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Yeah, seems like it was super, extra bogus.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feanelwa.livejournal.com
Very well said! A lot of the world's problems would be better if the general public understood basic statistics, or at least tried to.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:53 am (UTC)
gerald_duck: (unimpressed)
From: [personal profile] gerald_duck
It is, of course, illuminating to see what people — even prominent scientists — have accepted as "fact" over the years about sexual identity, sexuality, masturbation, race, hygiene, class, etc.

But at the same time, I'm wary of feeding into the "pah, scientists, what do they know?" trope that causes all sorts of other misery in debates about genetic modification, vaccination, climate change, etc.

I need a "Bumper stickers are an ineffectual means of communicating my nuanced views on a variety of issues that cannot be reduced to a simple pithy slogan" bumper sticker. And an "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that." t-shirt.

It's high time, while we're on the subject, that Tesco stopped having separate "Boys toys" and "Girls toys" aisles. (They should also learn about apostrophes, but that's another rant.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 11:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
I'm sure science might have something interesting to say about gender-linked traits in humans (I'm not sure SBC is the one saying it!) but mostly the thing I think is most important from this sort of study is that the overlap is almost always present and usually large such that informing real world choices (like how you label toys) using these hypothesised gender links is unhelpful to at least some, probably many, individuals.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidheag.livejournal.com
Maybe journalists writing such stories should be required to illustrate them with diagrams of overlapping normal curves indicating the extent of the movement of the mean compared with the standard deviation... More challenging for R4 journalists, but surely they could come up with some form of words to convey the same idea.

I couldn't bear to repost it on FB, but did you see this?

RT @gameism Proud my 8yo girl failed this worksheet. Wish she had failed it even "worse." #GenderBias http://t.co/BJaxazvd (http://t.co/BJaxazvd)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
I did see that one. I wonder whose dreadful notion setting that worksheet was?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidheag.livejournal.com
It's interesting that the toy names are printed but the BOYS/GIRLS/BOTH handwritten. I had hoped that this classification was the child's choice (although even then...) in which case message "you were supposed to choose a three-way classification that would give you a reasonably even split" might be a possible interpretation of the comment... [Although that would be a ridiculously hard task.] But the handwriting on the column heads is not the same as the handwriting on the written in entries, so I think that can't be the case. On the third hand, the handwriting for the entries seems unusually immature for an 8yo girl to me (it's much worse than my 8yo boy's, who has trouble with handwriting, and girls typically :-) have better fine motor skills in the first few years of school), so I wouldn't completely rule out that the whole story is a fake (I don't know how many levels of indirection there are between the original poster and me).
Edited Date: 2012-11-05 01:34 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
good points

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feanelwa.livejournal.com
They start school a bit later in the US though, don't they? So maybe 8-year-old writing is equivalent to 6-year-old writing in the UK.

Or could be she has e.g. dyspraxia - my little bro (little = over 6ft tall! Hmm) has handwriting not much different from that still.
Edited Date: 2012-11-05 02:47 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 04:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidheag.livejournal.com
Of course anything's possible, certainly including an 8yo girl writing like that. It's just that on a Bayesian basis, it tends to make the probability that "my feeling that there may be something a little fishy about this story has a foundation" a little higher than it would have been if the writing had been 8yo-girl-typical. I don't have the impression (from limited experience of what US friends post and some online browsing for samples when I was concerned about whether C was very behind) that US children's writing is on average less neat than UK children's of the same age - preschools do writing, typically, and in any case I think neatness really is dependent on general motor skills development more than on specific learning to write - and in any case, my UK experience is mostly from Scotland where children start later than in England (4 or 5, not 4) although still earlier than most in the US (5 or 6). [Oof, how's that for a sentence? :-) ]

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feanelwa.livejournal.com
YES! (About the diagram with the graphs)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:33 pm (UTC)
lnr: (Icknield Way)
From: [personal profile] lnr
Toy aisles: see also magazine racks.

I'm avoiding the Everyday Sexism project (glad to see that's the first hit on Google) to a certain extent for the sake of my blood pressure.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Gragh. Blood pressure.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:05 pm (UTC)
fanf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fanf
All men are men and all women are women except for trans people?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidheag.livejournal.com
I was thinking, "that's going to work but only if you are careful to use exactly the same definition of "women" and "men" at each occurrence"!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 12:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Trans men are men and trans women are women (I'd hope this was obvious...)

Of course there are some people who are neither; but they fall into neither "all men" nor "all women"; so that doesn't make the statement untrue, just that it doesn't include all people.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bugshaw.livejournal.com
Boys "naturally" prefer machines. What did they do for the squillions of years before machines were invented, eh? It seems fairly recent to be innate.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 06:35 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Rocks. Rocks are _awesome_. Rarr!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bugshaw.livejournal.com
You're not wrong! Sticks are pretty good too.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghoti.livejournal.com
Agreed. I have a whole rant also about the word 'tomboy'. I get annoyed when people use it of Judith, because it seems like they're saying she's not a 'proper' girl. Sure, she's basically everything people think of as stereotypical in a boy. She climbs, hits things with sticks, plays football, and so on, if you're buying something for her it's best to head for the sign marked 'boys' if there is one.

She's a girl - if you ask her, she's quite clear on this - and she just happens to have certain personality traits.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
grr! daft people.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-06 12:16 pm (UTC)
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
From: [personal profile] liv
I thought that's about the definition of the word tomboy, no? In my head it connotates someone who definitely identifies as a girl, who likes the activities stereotypically associated with boys. If Judith were in fact a boy, Judith would not be described as a tomboy. But I can see the not a 'proper' girl implication too.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-07 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghoti.livejournal.com
That's sort of how I felt before I had Judith. I think she's not really bothered at the moment, but I can see how she might become bothere.d

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-05 06:35 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Yeah, I'm fascinated by gender and how it feeds into things, but it tells you much less about an individual than, well, talking to them and observing what they're good at.

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