Monday, May 22, 2006

Bad Research

I've come to realize that I'm not one of the best researchers in the world. I don't think quickly on my feet; I don't make clever connections; I am not "instinctually" critical of material placed in front of me.
It's funny, possibly even ironic, that I use "instinctual" to describe a process that isn't in this particular entry. For I know that researchers learn how to be critical of studies, media presentations, texts, etc. In other words, the habitual critical faculty of academics and intellectuals is not an instinct; to take it into a common division, it's "nurture," not "nature."
So what does that have to do with this entry? Well, since I'm not a very good researcher, since I'm not very critical, it makes me extremely angry to read research that even I can find fault with.
I think I've mentioned my guilty annoyance, namely women's magazines. I was reading yet another one the other day, R3@l S!mple. In it, there was an article discussing the medical differences between men and women.
Before I go on, I need to make clear that there are medical differences. My favorite story (possibly myth) about this difference is that breast cancer was not considered a major medical problem for decades because men didn't get it very often. But I also think it's important to realize that it's very -- extremely -- difficult to tease out whether something is due to nature -- genetic differences between men and women -- and nurture -- differences due to society influences, which start at birth. Don't get me started on Lawrence Summers' example about his daughter/granddaughter and the trucks.
So the fact that there are medical differences between men and women is important.
The first difference this article listed was that women react to emotions differently than men. Women are more sensitive; in an experimental setting, women react more (whatever the dependent variable was) than men to emotional faces, that women react to more subtle emotional cues than men do. I don't remember most of the details, but I do remember the closing tidbit. That tidbit was a quote from the lead researcher, where she said that women are evolutionarily programmed to cry because that's the only way they can get men to notice they're upset.
Does anyone else see the problem with this statement? the major hole in the argument? the immediate and obvious possible counterargument that hasn't been ruled out yet?
So maybe -- maybe -- the researcher did actually do some sort of experiment wherein she showed that even newborns react differently to emotional images depending on gender. But do you think so?
I don't.


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