22 August 2007

Seeing red

This article in the Guardian about how men and women might be 'biologically programmed' to like blue and pink had me spluttering over my cornflakes I can tell you, ladies. The reasoning behind it is just so laughable I had to check the date and that it wasn't a spoof submission from the University of Bums on Seats' social sciences division. (http://www.cynicalbastards.com/ubs/)

What is surprising I suppose isn't that this sort of half-baked crap gets kicked around academic departments, but that the newspapers see fit to print it with any level of credibility.


woodscolt said...

two British neuroscientists... have found a consistent liking for pink in surveys of women volunteers

Riiiight. And these are women who have not ever been exposed to the truly frightening levels of pink that almost all every female baby and little girl will find herself literally surrounded by? These are women who have had a truly colour-neutral life? I tried to buy baby clothes recently and there is nothing, literally nothing, for girls under ten which is not pink or, at a pinch, lilac. So unless these women came from another planet in which the colour pink is not visible, I suspect this test is not all that scientific.

sphamilton said...

Ben Goldacre blows this one well and truly out of the water: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/aug/25/genderissues. He points out that the blue for boys pink for girls stereotype is a) very tied to Anglophone culture and b) very recent even there (citing magazine articles from earlier in the century which state the exact opposite). He also points out:

And snuggled away in the paper was the information that femininity scores on the Bem Sex Role Inventory correlated significantly with colour preference. Now the BSRI is a joy from the 1970s, a self-rated test designed to measure how much you adhere to socially desirable, stereotypically masculine and feminine personality characteristics.

You mark on the score sheet from one to seven how much you feel you suit words like theatrical, assertive, sympathetic, adaptable, or tactful; and then your score is totted up. So women who describe themselves as "yielding", "cheerful", "gullible", "feminine", and who "do not use harsh language" also prefer pink. Thanks for the warning, I'll try and use that to avoid them in future.

sphamilton said...

And another interesting link on exactly how rubbish much research on genes and gender is, from an epidemiologist: http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2007/09/05/genes-and-gender/

As researchers move beyond uncovering
new disease genes and into the realm of
gene-environment interactions, John Ioannidis,
a clinical and molecular epidemiologist at
the University of Ioannina School of Medicine
in Greece, decided to follow them. He
wondered especially about genetic associations
with diseases that seem to vary by gender—
for example, a particular gene variant
that confers increased risk in women but not
in men, an effect that may be modulated by
hormones. Hundreds of such associations
have been reported. But when Ioannidis and
two colleagues analyzed data from
77 papers covering everything from multiple
sclerosis to lung cancer to anger, they
found that … only four papers contained neither
spurious nor insufficiently documented
claims, says Ioannidis.