Saturday, November 26, 2011

evolutionary psychology - the go-to theory for sexists

How many times have I said that evolutionary psychology is the go-to theory of human behavior for sexists?

(Anthropologist Marvin Harris would call it a "research strategy" rather than a "theory.")

Ed Rybicki demonstrates how it works:
Being a scientist, however, I have been trained to demand evidence, to either support or disprove a hypothesis.

And it appears that it exists… now, while the credibility of the journal has been doubted in a blog to which I really don’t feel like linking, it remains a fact that the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology exists, that it appears to be a peer-reviewed academic journal, that it garners citations from other journals – and that it published an article entitled “Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors“, by Daniel Kruger of the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, and Dreyson Byker, of Literature, Science, and the Arts, University of Michigan. In Volume 3, Issue 4, of December 2009 – a special issue reporting “Proceedings of the Third Annual Meeting of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society”.

He provides links to the articles he cites at his blog.

Now one of the beauty parts of evolutionary psychology is that you don't have to actually prove that any given modern behavior is evolved - all you have to do is identify the behavior and just assume that the very act of quantifying the behavior is proof that the behavior is evolved.

You can see that one reason why evolutionary psychology is so wildly popular with researchers is because it is so incredibly inexpensive and time-saving to do evolutionary psychology "studies."

The next step is to write a book about how men are from Mars, women are from Venus - although you will have to come up with an original title to hide the fact that you are serving warmed up pop-psychology from twenty years ago.

Rybicki's blog post "Sexually dimorphic behaviour in human shopping" is a defense against all the criticism he's received for his truly pathetic attempt at humor in Nature entitled Womanspace:
At this point I must digress, and mention, for those who are not aware, the profound differences in strategy between Men Going Shopping and Women Going Shopping. In any general shopping situation, men hunt: that is, they go into a complex environment with a few clear objectives, achieve those, and leave. Women, on the other hand, gather: such that any mission to buy just bread and milk could turn into an extended foraging expedition that also snares a to-die-for pair of discounted shoes; a useful new mop; three sorts of new cook-in sauces; and possibly a selection of frozen fish.

Now many people responded to those who said this is sexist with the standard oh-lighten-up-he's-just-kidding response. Because you know, this is a ridiculous stereotype and nobody would believe it.

But as I believe I've demonstrated on this blog many times, there is no stereotype so ridiculous that some promoter of evolutionary psychology won't claim it's actually an innate, evolved behavior.

Rybicki comments right after the Womanspace article:
I wrote this tongue-in-cheek, but I swear I've witnessed my daughter entering Womanspace recently: she's 16, and has started doing all the same things in supermarkets I've become used to my wife doing.

Like vanishing completely, and reappearing up to half an hour later in a random aisle, and getting all impatient when I plaintively ask where's she's been.

Ah, me....

This pretty much gave the game away as far as I was concerned - it was clear he actually believes in all that just-so evolutionary psychology bullshit.

It didn't take me long to find his blog and get the evidence. Which I shared with a whole bunch of bloggers who had initially criticized Rybicki's piece. I thought they might find it interesting that contrary to what many - including Rybicki - have said in defense of the Womanspace article, what Rybicki really believes about the antiquated gender caricature he presented is that it's funny cause it's true.