Regular readers will recall there are two main kinds of bad statistics. First is when the technique has been done wrong or is misapplied. Errors of this kind comprise only half of all mistakes. The second, and more subtly nefarious, and just as pervasive, is where researchers announce they have used “science” to “discover” that which everybody already knew was true.
Nefarious because it strengthens or inculcates the bizarre and horrible fallacy that true knowledge can only come from science. That is, bad statistics of the second kind boosts scientism and makes scidolators of us all.
Our latest entry is Sarah Gervais, Arianne Holland, and the (given he has two female co-authors, presumably slavering) Michael D. Dodd in their peer-reviewed paper “My Eyes Are Up Here: The Nature of the Objectifying Gaze Toward Women” in the aptly named journal Sex Roles.
Here is the blockbuster opening sentence of the Abstract. Pay attention:
Although objectification theory suggests that women frequently experience the objectifying gaze with many adverse consequences, there is scant research examining the nature and causes of the objectifying gaze for perceivers.
Everything that can go wrong already has, which must set a mark or goal for other researchers to follow. Objectification theory? As the modern aphorism in the right-hand sidebar to this webpage indicates, “The love of theory is the root of all evil.” Only an academic could be puzzled enough that men look at women lovingly and in lust to create a theory of such behavior.
And then comes the “adverse consequences.” Like marriage? The joy, the bliss, the beautiful heartbreak from raising families? I can confess to you, my dear readers, that I first gave a serious eye to the female to whom I eventually plighted my troth. Of course there are also brutes and cads and construction-worker fashion critics, the men who, when they digress, should be instructed by gentlemen. But don’t forget those who gaze in rapturous silence. The mating process is imperfect. Human beings outside the academy understand this.
Our trio, relying on theory which comes before observations, pretend to believe two things which are blatantly false. First, that nobody knows men actually look at women in practice and that “data” is needed to confirm the theory. And second, that a theory is needed to explain this.
There is little point to surveying the “study” they did, but in brief, they used Photoshop to doctor the pictures of women to represent “cultural ideals of feminine attractiveness to varying degrees”. Now one wonders from where did they derive these cultural ideals except through the observations which they say have not yet happened? Never mind. Here are the body types:
high ideal (i.e., hourglass-shaped women with large breasts and small waist-to-hip ratios), average ideal (with average breasts and average waist-to-hip ratios), and low ideal (i.e., with small breasts and large waist-to-hip ratios).
Lo! Men preferred the hourglasses. A wee p-value confirmed this “finding”, or “discover”, if you prefer. That was the “main hypothesis.” Hypothesis forsooth!
And there were secondary “findings.” They “found that participants focused on women’s chests and waists more and faces less when they were appearance-focused (vs. personality-focused).” In other words, men gave the bodies of the pictures on the computer screen the once over before taking a gander at the faces. Who could have guessed? Well, everybody.
The researchers also were shocked—shocked!—to learn that women acted the same as men and that women were (to coin a word) judgmental. Golly.
But enough. Because we are now at the last sentence of the abstract, where all the errors above are compounded and multiplied. “Implications for objectification and person perception theories are discussed.” Person perception theories? This at least explains what academics do with their plentiful free time. They make up stuff to study.