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Nov 21 2012

How Girls Evolved To Shop

Rebecca Watson’s talk at Skepticon 5, which made my sides hurt from giggling.

So, back in the day, men were hunters and women were gatherers…and now, men like museums while women prefer shopping…And the researcher in question noticed this on a trip to Prague. He went with some friends, and all the men in the group wanted to see cultural attractions and the women wanted to go shopping. And he was like, whaaaaa? [audience giggles] So he has determined that visiting museums is just like hunting, and shopping is just like gathering…ergo, SCIENCE!

In all seriousness, this stuff is only funny when I’m not daling with people spouting it as evidence of gender roles.

[Content note: evo-psych about rape; sexism]

watch?v=r9SvQ29-gk8

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  1. 1
    crocswsocks

    Basically, evo-psych will be hocum until the proper connections are made between genetics and neurology, and between neurology and psychology. Until then, it will simply be very tantalizing nonsense.

  2. 2
    julian

    Watson joked about it but how we end up with these traits and just which traits would be selected for/against is what makes this already sexist gibberish fall apart.

    What traits or abilities would make gathering easier, exactly? An eye for detail? Good spacial mapping to better locate food? A photographic memory? Strong legs and back to act as pack mules? Keen eyesight? What exactly is that makes women superior gatherers, let alone better shoppers.

    Whole thing is crap.

  3. 3
    discomcomcobulated

    Watson, I’m skeptical of your skepticism.

    Every single example she made. Every single “study” she cited were those that the Evolutionary Psychology community do not recognize. Now, For those who know me personally, know my opinions on Psychology. I’m not a fan of how social sciences work, so for me to come out and defend psychology, somebody had to done goof real hard.

    Nobody who studies Evo. Psych. lends any credence to these studies. I’ll agree with Watson there, these are examples of science. What she fails to recognize is that evo. psychs also agree that there are examples of bad science. You do not tear down an entire field of research because a small number of papers released (and not even in respected journals) are offtaste. If you were to apply that scrutiny to other fields, Medicine would have long been fucked. I will post in the comments an article from an Evo Psych journal ostracizing the researchers Watson mentioned.

    Furthermore, I LOOOOOVVEEEE how she said “fox news contributor” when quoting Ann Coulter. How convenient to you that you’d passively ignore that a women said your misogyny quote. There are so many dumbfucks who blurt shit like that out, you could have found a male to quote and made your point. But no, you avoided the fact that you’re quoting a woman and said “fox news contributor”. And I’m disappointed in the skeptics community for not pointing that out. I’m skeptical of your skepticism.

    And now I understand why, if I ever want to bring up a point about Watson’s views on evo-psyh, I get pushed into the same category as the sick individuals who threaten your safety. She, personally, may be open to the discussion, but her subservient readers are so convinced (by her) that evo-psych is evil, condoning of violence and abuse, that if I support it, I’m instantly labeled misogynistic.

    Evo. Psych seeks to understand how our actions/thoughts have evolved parallel to our body/brain. Is there a basis in our thoughts/actions that can be traced in our evolutionary line? I don’t know. I’m much more familiar with the biological aspect of evolution than I am with the psychology involved, but it is wrong to tear down an entire field because some of the things it reveals may be inconvenient truths. Not every discovery we make will be happy sunshine. We should also be able to tell the difference between a bad study and a good study. Watson is obviously capable of this as she pointed out the bad studies. And I’m glad she did, but she misrepresented the field. “I’m not a scientist, but…” Well, no, you’re not. And I’m glad she admits that because a scientist would also look at the valid studies (you know, the ones that aren’t condemned by the research community) and admit that evo-psych is very easy to abuse, and we should look harder to determine which studies hold more validity.

    She could have turned this into a wonderful talk on scientific literacy and being able to determine science from pseudoscience. She could have used this a chance to talk about how we should be very critical of who funds certain studies as that may affect results. She could have made an excellent point on skepticism. But no, instead she decided to continue blurting out her biased crap. And for that, from skeptic to skeptic, I’m very disappointed.

  4. 4
    julian

    rage less, brosef

  5. 5
    Kate Donovan

    Two notable points here:
    -I heard someone call out Rebecca on the Coulter quote. Her response, as I recall, was that it was a last minute add in and she found multiple attributions. She couldn’t verify it was Coulter, and stuck with the bland-but-accurate statement. I’d say that makes better skepticism (recognizing your lack of evidence and only making statements you can verify.
    -You may have a point w/r/t to some of the evo psych being discredited, but some of the studies she cited (particularly the casual sex and gender differences) one appear in my psych textbooks (I’m a third year double major in psych and psych services) and are taught in class. So, no, it’s not just silly media talking about them.

  6. 6
    JoQuin

    She could have turned this into a wonderful talk on scientific literacy and being able to determine science from pseudoscience. She could have used this a chance to talk about how we should be very critical of who funds certain studies as that may affect results. She could have made an excellent point on skepticism.

    @julian — it’s not ‘raging’ to make valid criticism about the talk, how people respond to questioning skeptics and suggest improvements. I want to read an more detailed analysis to see if there’s more than entertainment value.

    Q&A asked if there were any ‘good’ scientists in the field and she didn’t have an answer, what about Dawkins’ contributions to Evo Psych (memes)?

  7. 7
    julian

    i’m sure some julian somewhere cares to hear what you have to say

  8. 8
    miles

    This is mostly a question, since this is the first thing that comes to mind when people bring up this “women do x, men do y – ’cause EVOLUTION” crap.

    Aren’t men and women the same durned species?

    If a few thousand years ago “Ugh Caveman of Clan of the Rabbit Hunters” is born and is taller and can run a little faster and it helps hunting, wouldn’t his daughters also be capable of inheriting these traits? If Momma Ugh stays at home and does some stereotypical Momma thing like bake Rabbit Pie and she’s got a bigger Pie Gland or something and it helps to make healthy pie, wouldn’t the sons be just as likely to inherit that trait?

    Obviously there are differences between genders (boobs, height, genital configuration, etc.) but my completely uneducated brain makes me think these differences are probably slower to evolve/harder to cause with environmental stress as it’d have to be both beneficial to one and a disadvantage to the other (or a variation in something that was already gender specific)…

    I haven’t heard that argument yet though, and I’m not exactly evolutionarily educated beyond an “origin of the species” bathroom read – is it wrong? Or just another disproof of something that’s been pretty beaten to death already?

  9. 9
    =8)-DX

    I’m all for breaking down the existing cultural stereotypes about women (and realise that although not a super-fan, I actually enjoy shopping for certain things, as well as being not too interested in museum-going), but how come it’s only the women I know who have the “shoe thing”? Like owning more than a winter/summer pair of outdoor shoes – like having multiple pairs for each day of the week and each social situation. Seriously, I’m starting to suspect .. oh wait there IS this one guy I know who’s always posting pictures of converse on facebook.. Darn this sexual stereotyping and how it colours our perception of reality even if we know it to be wrong from experience!

  10. 10
    Stephanie Zvan

    Memes run directly counter to evolutionary psychology. Evo psych posits that the roots of our behavior are in our genes. Memes are posited to spread culturally. Memes are also incredibly difficult to operationalize for study, making the concept not particularly scientific in its various forms. Nearly all enthusiastic proponents of memes are not experimentalists for this reason.

    There are a few good evo psych researchers–a good researcher in this field being one that studies topics cross-culturally including across time, includes biological measures when appropriate, and doesn’t make broad claims based on very narrow findings. They don’t tend to make the news, which was the starting point for Rebecca’s criticism.

  11. 11
    Stacy

    Thanks for asking, I’ve often wondered the same thing myself.

  12. 12
    Margaret

    oh wait there IS this one guy I know who’s always posting pictures of converse on facebook

    And I know of one guy, a professor of biology, who often posts pictures of his cowboy boots on his blog web site.

  13. 13
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Like owning more than a winter/summer pair of outdoor shoes – like having multiple pairs for each day of the week and each social situation.

    Sexist social memes introduced by Marketing were encoded in our Genes by Evolution. (Which half of the preceding sentence is wrong?)

  14. 14
    LOL

    Rage less, julian.

  1. 15
    Around FtB | Pharyngula

    [...] Kate Donovan seems to have had a good time at Skepticon, and especially enjoyed Rebecca Watson’s talk. [...]

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