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Are Male Bloggers in it For the Women? Revisiting the Blogosphere Gender Gap:

There has been a lot of debate over the issue of why there are so many more male political bloggers than female ones. Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit has his own explanation:

Men are genetically programmed to try to stand out through action, in the hopes of attracting women. It's true, of course that blogging is a relatively ineffective way of doing that — but so are many other ways this urge manifests itself, like extreme Star Trek fandom. The point is the genetically programmed urge, which isn't programmed into women in the same manner.

I don't doubt that men (at least heterosexual ones) have a strong genetic drive to attract the attention of women. I'm a bit more skeptical, however, of the claim that this explains the predominance of male political bloggers. Looking at the demographics of political blog readers some 72 percent to 80 percent of them are men themselves. Since political blogging reaches an overwhelmingly male audience, it probably isn't a very efficient way to attract women. It may not be quite as irrational a dating strategy as trying to attract women through "extreme Star Trek fandom," but it's probably less effective than checking out to Ladies' Night at the local bar. If you spend a lot of time blogging, you probably could have devoted that time to other activities where meeting women would be more likely.

What then explains the prevalence of male political bloggers? Many factors may be involved. But one crucial one is probably the fact that women generally have a lower average level of interest in politics than men. The gender gap in political blogging is just one of many manifestations of the broader gender gap in political engagement.

Numerous studies show that women on average pay less attention to politics and have lower levels of political knowledge than men do. I summarize some of the data in Part VI of this 2004 article. In the blog context, it is telling that men are the overwhelming majority of blog readers, as well as bloggers themselves. While it's at least superficially plausible to believe that male bloggers are trying to attract the attention of women, it's hard to argue that this is true of the readers.

The causes of this gender gap in political engagement are complex. It is not that women are dumber than men or less academically inclined. To the contrary, women now have higher average levels of academic achievement than men do, which is why women now account for some 55% of college freshmen, and many college administrators are worried that they can't find enough qualified men to maintain an even gender ratio.

Presumably, part of the gender gap is due to lingering effects of the traditional sexist view that politics is an exclusively "masculine" sphere. At the same time, however, it is striking that the gender gap in political knowledge has not diminished much over the last forty years despite the rise of feminism and other social changes that have weakened the grip of traditional sexism. Persistent sexism is surely a piece of the puzzle, but probably not the only piece.

Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yes, men are programmed to want to stand out due to their action.
After all, the only woman who tells a young guy he's great for his own, sweet self is his mother.
Everybody else praises his deeds.

Bragging and showing off are the young man's equivalent of the young woman's padded bra.

But blogging seems kind of like a low-payoff attempt. Maybe for the guys who can't drop a perfect spiral into a receiver's hands at fifty yards in a rainstorm.
Or hammer the receiver into the cheap seats.
Or look off pestiferous buttheads with an unspoken threat.
Or fix a car.
It's one thing to wear an Army uniform with Infantry brass and jump wings.
It's another to collect all the WW II video games.
10.6.2008 6:03pm
Cornellian (mail):
Since political blogging reaches an overwhelmingly male audience, it probably isn't a very efficient way to attract women. It may not be quite as irrational a dating strategy as trying to attract women through "extreme Star Trek fandom," but it's probably less effective than checking out to Ladies' Night at the local bar.

In my experience, any degree of Star Trek fandom, extreme or not, tends to result in women racing for the exits.
10.6.2008 6:08pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard--

Do guys go for padded bras? I always had more luck with short shorts and mid-driff baring crop tops. :)
10.6.2008 6:11pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
It should be noted that Reynold's ridiculous explanation was not in regard to political blogger, but was in response to the question of "female law bloggers."

I'd like to suggest another reason why there are relatively few female law bloggers (but the ATL article's failure to even mention Jeralyn Merritt suggests that their review was less than substantial) related to the sexist "politics is for men" assumptions -- women tend to be more liberal than men overall, and "speaking out" and expressing view that are more "liberal" than their make peers/bosses could hurt their careers.

(And while I don't have information from lawyers specifically, during the Democratic primary women who supported Clinton said that they often felt marginalized in the workplace when it was a predominately male one.)

Women tend to be marginalized and treated differently in politics to begin with -- and its likely that the sexism and misogyny that pervades the culture makes it far less appealing to women to express their views on the law (and politics) because of the sense that they will not be taken seriously.
10.6.2008 6:17pm
Deoxy (mail):
At the same time, however, it is striking that the gender gap in political knowledge has not diminished much over the last forty years despite the rise of feminism and other social changes that have weakened the grip of traditional sexism.


This calls for TITLE IX! It's going to work for the sciences, why not for blogging and politics?


Persistent sexism is surely a piece of the puzzle, but probably not the only piece.


HHHEEERRREEESSSYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!

All sane people know that any gender gap in anything that might be considered an achievement is pure sexism and nothing more (unless there are more women achieving it, then it's fine).

/sarc (in case that wasn't painfully obvious enough)
10.6.2008 6:17pm
frankcross (mail):
I think this misconceives the theory. Men may be genetically programmed to compete with one another, to stand out, call attention to themselves, succeed uniquely. This may have arisen from the desire to attract women. It is a general tendency, though, and not every attempt would necessarily be deemed to encourage women.

This is the theory about the predominance of male math professors, too. Not that being a math professor is a great way to mate, but that genetic features once programmed to enhance mating by happenstance also contribute to male success in this field.
10.6.2008 6:25pm
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
Ilya

I think you might be misunderstanding Glenn's argument. He seems, to me, not to be arguing that it is a thought-out strategy, but that it is an activity that arises from a subconscious urge to be noticed as competing for status.

That the political blogging expression of the urge is ineffective says nothing about the effectiveness of the urge itself, especially given that such an urge would have evolved in an entirely different setting.
10.6.2008 6:29pm
carlin's kid:
Maybe men and women are just different.
10.6.2008 6:32pm
wfjag:

lucia:
Richard--

Do guys go for padded bras? I always had more luck with short shorts and mid-driff baring crop tops. :)

Sorry lucia, but you don't count. You're rarer than an chick you really likes NFL Monday Night Football -- and isn't just faking it. Triple digit IQ and not afraid to use it. You may attract with short shorts and a mid-driff baring top, but once it's clear you use multi-syllable words and know their meanings, all bets are off.
10.6.2008 6:41pm
Ilya Somin:
I think this misconceives the theory. Men may be genetically programmed to compete with one another, to stand out, call attention to themselves, succeed uniquely. This may have arisen from the desire to attract women. It is a general tendency, though, and not every attempt would necessarily be deemed to encourage women.

Maybe. But there are many ways one can "stand out," not all of which are dominated by men. Consider dancing, acting, and other fields where one can "stand out," yet men don't predominate. You would still have to explain why men who want to "stand out" do so in this particular way and women don't.
10.6.2008 6:42pm
ShelbyC:
@carlin's kid---

Let's keep it civil, eh?
10.6.2008 6:52pm
Houston Lawyer:
Ilya

I believe the list of ways in which women attempt to stand out is fairly narrow. Dancing, acting ... and I can't come up with anything else that doesn't revolve around overt sexuality.
10.6.2008 6:52pm
hattio1:
Professor Somin,
It's interesting that both of the two examples you gave are extremely competitive, have a need for rough gender balance, and, dominated nearly completely by attractive women. Could it be that those who stand out in those fields (dancing and acting) are selected more by the paying audience which tends to be more male?
I agree there are fields where women tend to dominate that don't tend to have quite as much of a focus on attractiveness, but most of them are. in some broader sense, show business. And in show business, attractiveness always helps. The ones that immediately spring to mind are classical violin and Celtic fiddle. Both are definitely show business and both are dominated, not just by females, but by young attractive females.
10.6.2008 6:57pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
I suspect that men, more than women, have an instinct to propagate "children" that take the form of ideas or influences on the course of events. Blogging is creating a legacy. Women, at least those of my acquaintance, seem to think of their biological children as their legacy rather than their words or deeds in the public arena.

On another topic:

Anyone going to the Federalist Society National Convention who would like to share a room? I hate to spend $219/night for a room just for myself when I can split the cost with someone.
10.6.2008 6:59pm
Angus:
Potential support for Reynolds' theory that the root of it all is sex: the very sexual way in which male conservative bloggers praise Palin.
10.6.2008 6:59pm
Woodland Critter (mail):
Ilya,

Political blogging/interest in politics may be a proxy for competing for a leadership role, which does draw female attention. As such, men would find it desirable to stand out in that way. Whether political blogging is actually an effective way of drawing female attention is a question for another day.
10.6.2008 7:04pm
NRWO:
It is not that women are dumber than men [or less academically inclined.]

There are slight but reliable sex differences (favoring males) in the latent trait underlying intelligence and IQ (g), at the population level.

The male advantage is most pronounced at the very highest levels of mental ability. See, e.g., Deary et al., 2006, Intelligence, 35, 451-456. From the abstract: "Males have only a marginal advantage in mean levels of g (less than 7% of a standard deviation) from the ASVAB and AFQT, but substantially greater variance. Among the top 2% AFQT scores, there were almost twice as many males as females."

I'm a male. And I approved this message.
10.6.2008 7:15pm
OrinKerr:
What Frank Cross said.
10.6.2008 7:16pm
Harry Schell (mail):
I can't say I have had any luck with women as a result of blogging, except that a couple think I am too intense about my views...sigh.

Well, yah, I DO think Karl Marx' best idea was to die, and regret it came to him late in life. How could one argue with that?
10.6.2008 7:33pm
SenatorX (mail):
Men may be genetically programmed to compete with one another, to stand out, call attention to themselves, succeed uniquely. This may have arisen from the desire to attract women.

No may about it though. I spent years studying the natural sciences and it is indisputable that flashy male behavior is designed to attract women. In the animal world (and I consider humans animals...) this is very evident. Male animals will even evolve traits that HURT them in the survival realm if it gives them an advantage in attracting females. The male peacock doesn't have that tail because it helps him survive. It seems kind of crazy but the vector of sex is very strong. There is a reason why the sexual animal and plant species rule the world we live in. Sexual reproduction is far superior to all other forms of reproduction evolved so far.

Humans are special and complicated though because the sexual drive can be sublimated into other things that don't necessarily appear sexual on the surface.

While it's at least superficially plausible to believe that male bloggers are trying to attract the attention of women, it's hard to argue that this is true of the readers.

Not that hard to argue because I would say the nature of COMMENTS in blogs are what attract many men. Competitive commenting. Compare "blogs" with no comments to blogs with comments I would bet a statistical difference in the ratio of men to women readers would be evident.

I would agree though that I doubt this is the whole picture. There are probably a host of reasons for it that all mash together to produce the result.
10.6.2008 7:39pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Yet the females who are reading political/law prof/Star Trek blogs, few as they are, is likely the highest concentration of females they feel they have a chance with. If you know that you really can't turn off your geekiness because it's hard-wired, there is little point in going to Ladies Night wearing your Spock ears. Blogging is actually a better percentage chance.
10.6.2008 7:40pm
Bruce:
Hang on, I admit I haven't been to any conventions, but my impression is there are a lot of female extreme Star Trek fans out there. Maybe not a majority of the extreme fan community, but a large percentage. Am I wrong?
10.6.2008 7:58pm
Bruce:
I mean, e.g., Bjo Trimble.
10.6.2008 7:59pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Men are genetically programmed to try to stand out through action, in the hopes of attracting women. It's true, of course that blogging is a relatively ineffective way of doing that — but so are many other ways this urge manifests itself, like extreme Star Trek fandom. The point is the genetically programmed urge, which isn't programmed into women in the same manner.


My wife would be greatly displeased to find that I blog to attract female attention. Fortunately I blog under a pseudonym so were there any women swooning under the influence of my words, they would be hard pressed to find me.

In all seriousness, I'm not sure sex has anything to do with it. Men in general are more inclined to share their opinions with those who don't want them or to spend time reading newspaper articles online as opposed to watching the kids. In other words, we're more interested in this sort of thing, and are willing to ignore other important things to write about them (like, ahem, working.) My wife would blog as well if she shared my interest in politics (she doesn't) or cared to share her opinion with others (she doesn't.)
10.6.2008 8:03pm
Male commentor:
If you are a successful blogger and have a large readership, even if all those readers are male, most women are going to be impressed. It's like asking why would any male want to be captain of the football team when everybody on the team is male.

The majority of readers being male also makes sense for a number of reasons. One is male readers want to be successful bloggers in their own right, and so therefore they need to learn how to emulate those who have been successful. Therefore they will take a natural intellectual interest in the blogging of other men. Another advantage is it is simply an efficient way of staying 'worldly' which directly attracts women. And another good explanation is the commenting competition; a microcosm of blogging within the larger ecosystem.

Regarding being a good dancer and why dancing is not dominated by men, it is because dancing has nothing to do with tribal power. A woman might be amused by and enjoy dancing with a good dancer, but she is not going to make anything 'serious' out of it. A dancer never called any shots; a successful political pundit might, or would at least have more relevance to the person who does.

In conclusion, never question Darwin.
10.6.2008 8:06pm
Sebastian (mail) (www):
Hey, starting a blog worked for me! Of course, that wouldn't explain why I've kept doing it, after securing the relationship almost two years ago.
10.6.2008 8:21pm
Arkady:

Are Male Bloggers in it For the Women? Revisiting the Blogosphere Gender Gap


Since many male bloggers are self-described libertarians, perhaps Roy's characterization is on point:


A libertarian is a conservative who's trying to get laid.
10.6.2008 8:43pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Men abstract from complexity to reach a conclusion, which lends itself to blogging.

Women's interest is sustained by increasing complexity and necessarily avoiding decision, which can be written out and can be interesting, but is lengthy.

What you're interested in is what draws obsessive work.

Vicki Hearne's elaboration here (can also probably be found in google books these days).
10.6.2008 8:44pm
theobromophile (www):
Presumably, part of the gender gap is due to lingering effects of the traditional sexist view that politics is an exclusively "masculine" sphere. At the same time, however, it is striking that the gender gap in political knowledge has not diminished much over the last forty years despite the rise of feminism and other social changes that have weakened the grip of traditional sexism.

Yes, women have certainly made great strides over the past half-century, but there are still very few women in politics. Only one-sixth of the House, Senate, and state governors are female. Until about eight months ago, there had been exactly one woman who had been on a major party ticket for the presidency or the vice-presidency, and not a single woman had even come close in the popular vote for her party's nomination for the presidency.

Beyond that, there is a certain arrogance (confidence?) in blogging: you write something, and, without the sanction of any establishment, put it out there and assume that people will read it because it is smart and interesting. Women don't do that. Some of the reason that women really focus on education is to have another credential or more evidence of their competence, which is constantly called into question.
10.6.2008 9:10pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Many traits that increase fitness for attracting mates in a nonsocial species often evolve into somewhat different traits that increase the survival odds for one's genes in a social species, and for humans, that genetic propagation depends less on attracting a mate than in shaping the environment in which one's genes compete for survival.

This can be seen in the tendency of males to engage in "empire building" behavior. "Empires" can take many forms, from actual territorial empires to cooperative communities and systems of law or ideas. What bloggers are generally doing is trying to build communities that are more likely to survive and enable the genes of its members to survive.

This corresponds to a female propensity for "nesting" behavior. It is a similar adaptation, only operating on a different scale. For a female the "nest" is the home and local community of direct acquaintances, sustained by skill in managing relationships. For a male, the corresponding field is the hunting ground or defensible territory, extending over a wider physical range.

So the ultimate utility of blogging is reproductive success, but for the genes, more than one's own descendants.
10.6.2008 9:20pm
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
"You would still have to explain why men who want to "stand out" do so in this particular way and women don't."

I would hypothesize that men may be more inclined to seek "political" leadership positions because in our previous evolutionary environment, the position at the top of the social heirarchy had the best and most frequent chances to mate. Take the leader of the Mormons, Brigham Young, for a less than ancient example, and his 55 wives:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Brigham_Young%27s_wives

Women, on the other hand, would gain relatively much less reproductive advantage from political/social dominance. No matter how powerful the women, she can only mate with one man at a time, modern technology notwithstanding. And as men are generally more willing to mate, women stand in less danger of being cut off from reproductive opportunities altogether.

Now, it is a fair question whether or not the urge to poli-blog is a function of the same urge that would lead men to fight over tribal leadership positions (e.g.), but it is at least not an unreasonable hypothesis given all of the above. If men do have a generalized urge to compete for status, and this urge tended to push them into what we call "politics", then it might partially explain male overrepresentation in poli-blogs.
10.6.2008 9:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lucia.
Yes. As long as they don't know.
IOW, lure them in--young men and young women alike--and hope other qualities are sufficient.
10.6.2008 9:45pm
Nony Mouse:
It has validity when you go looking for people on your blog. See also: Snowflakes in Hell, IMAO
10.6.2008 10:15pm
Hucbald (mail) (www):
The entire premise of this argument is false. Men have superior abstract reasoning abilities because early on they had to band together to hunt and wage war. This required that men develop the abilities to strategize and develop tactics. Those are the same abilities used in chess, physics, and musical composition (Among many other things).

Attracting a mate had nothing to do with it, because early on women had a less than zero choice in the matter. The most successful men did not attract the best mates, they simply took them ( *sigh* Those were the days. LOL!).

Those superior abstract reasoning abilities are why there never have been, nor will there ever be, any female Bobby Fishers, Albert Einsteins, or J.S. Bachs, regardless of what leftard social engineers attempt.

I imagine witty blogging could be seen as an extension of that as well... except for the fact that we're talking about lawyers here; not exactly our culture's best and brightest. *rimshot*
10.6.2008 10:40pm
TCO:
cuz we are smarter? Geekier?
10.6.2008 10:43pm
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
"Men have superior abstract reasoning abilities"

Can you back that up with data?
10.6.2008 11:09pm
theobromophile (www):
Men have superior abstract reasoning abilities.... The most successful men did not attract the best mates, they simply took them ( *sigh* Those were the days. LOL!).

Someone is clearly trying to compensate. Folks, we've just seen the internet version of driving a Porsche, albeit without the style and and superiour engineering.
10.6.2008 11:20pm
Arkady:

Those superior abstract reasoning abilities are why there never have been, nor will there ever be, any female Bobby Fishers, Albert Einsteins, or J.S. Bachs, regardless of what leftard social engineers attempt.


It's interesting, then, that the only people Socrates claims to have received instruction from were two women, Aspasia, the lover of Pericles and the priestess Diotima. Evidently Socrates--and Plato--seem to have had a much higher opinion of women and their abilities than you do. Of course, with your superior abstract reasoning abilities, I'm sure you'll be able to instruct those old Greeks toward the ameleoration of their opinions.
10.6.2008 11:24pm
SenatorX (mail):
I don't buy the women aren't smart because of evolution thing. Nearest I can tell humans in general are smarter than other animals precisely because we are so weak physically. Our mental abilities are compensation for our physical weakness. I fail to see why this same trend wouldn't occur in women. Also is there any doubt smart women held advantages over dumber women? That the smarter women on average would get to breed more or find ways to get the better mates? That she would have an advantage in ensuring her children survived?

Anyway the selection pressure for women wasn't against intelligence. We can imagine and see the types of selection pressure though and the outcomes of it. There is a reason teenage girls like horses and women in general like bad boys. Tame the beast and all that. Women competed against other women (not men) for things like the best mates and social standing. There clearly are some genetic/psychological traits that have been forced on women based on our evolutionary heritage but lack of intelligence isn't one of them.
10.7.2008 12:33am
TruePath (mail) (www):
I don't know about law blogging but as far as politics and blogging in general I think it has something to do with the response of men and women to conflict. There have been some studies showing that men and women respond significantly differently both to risk and to coming out on top in a contest.

In terms of contests, as one would expect given men's incentive to become socially dominate and mate with many women, men have been observered to get more of a high from winning. While one might suspect an underlying innate difference here regardless of the reason it would explain the greater prevalance of men who follow politics as well as sports than women. Ultimately politics, and particularly blogging, is about telling other people why they are totally wrong.

Also there are interesting studies that show that women are generally more risk averse than men (as demonstrated by behavior in auctions) except during their periods when they have the same risk profile as the men. Given that blogging or talking politics carries with it the substantial risk of being wrong and looking stupid this might matter as well.
10.7.2008 4:50am
adina (mail):
They should control for amount of "free time" to determine if there is a real difference. Women usually end up with more of the housework, even with a full time job, so they probably just don't have time to blog.
10.7.2008 5:08am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Ilya said:


Maybe. But there are many ways one can "stand out," not all of which are dominated by men. Consider dancing, acting, and other fields where one can "stand out," yet men don't predominate. You would still have to explain why men who want to "stand out" do so in this particular way and women don't.


I think my post above answers your challenge. Men gain greater reward from winning contests/beating others than women and are less risk averse about entering contests they might lose. Obviously these are statistical claims about large populations and not only will some men not fit in but also one shouldn't expect that every activity that tends to be competitive will be dominated by men. Dancing, however, isn't primarily a competitive activity in our society (DDR however..) though one might point out that breakdancing and other more competitive variants of dancing do have many male participants.

Ultimately, however, the reason that women like dancing more than men is pretty simple. For most young women dancing yields compliments and sexual/flirtatious advantage while for most men it presents the opportunity for critique and looking foolish in front of women.

Young women are visually appealing to men and women and calling attention to their bodies by dancing motion makes them look appealing even if they have bad rhythm and indifferent style. Combine this with the tendency for men to compliment girls they like regardless of their true talent and we end up with a system where even girls who are bad dancers likely get complimented and recieve more male interest as a result of dancing. On the other hand men's ability to attract the opposite sex depends primarily on their social status and other non-physical attributes. If a guy goes to a club and dances poorly he is more likely to get giggled at than complimented. This difference perpetuates itself as women dance more because they are rewarded for it thus becoming better at it while men dance less. Of course the fact that women really like to dance gives some men an incentive to learn.
10.7.2008 5:15am
Anatid:

There are slight but reliable sex differences (favoring males) in the latent trait underlying intelligence and IQ (g), at the population level.

The male advantage is most pronounced at the very highest levels of mental ability. See, e.g., Deary et al., 2006, Intelligence, 35, 451-456. From the abstract: "Males have only a marginal advantage in mean levels of g (less than 7% of a standard deviation) from the ASVAB and AFQT, but substantially greater variance. Among the top 2% AFQT scores, there were almost twice as many males as females."


Yes. Substantially greater variance, and no particular amount of skew, meaning that in the bottom 2%, you'll see the same gap or a greater one (e.g. Tang et al., 2008, Hong Kong Medicine Journal, Apr 97-102). A large percentage of the genetic sources of mental retardation are sex-lined, putting males at much higher risk. Others, such as autism, do not yet have a proven link but are nonetheless far more prevalent among men than women.

Consider the genetics behind this. Many genes crucial to proper brain development are found on the X chromosome, so men only get one copy. If an allele has a mutation, there's no homologous chromosome with a normal allele to compensate. The large majority of the time, these mutations are harmful, and can contribute to retardation. Women, on the other hand, have two chromosomes, one of which will be randomly reactivated in each cell to become a Barr body. If there is a mutation, it will only express half as much, or not at all.

Although it has not been tested, we might guess that the occasional helpful mutation in the same regions might be the making of a genius. And even geniuses have their problems - try convincing anyone that Tesla or Einstein had well-rounded personalities. Sex-linked mutations aren't the only cause of the rift, but they alone are enough to make a significant difference. There are more outliers among men than among women in both directions.

You take some, you lose some.
10.7.2008 7:23am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dancing....
Fortunately, my knee went through a good spell (old football injury, or parachuting injury, can't remember) long enough for me to dance at my daughter's wedding.
My wife was pissed. Forty years....
Yeah. Dancing is all down side for guys.

OTH, if I were starting over, I might give ballroom dancing a shot
10.7.2008 8:58am
theobromophile (www):
The fact that intelligence genes are on the X chromosome doesn't do much to help the theory that men need to be smart, and women need to be pretty and fertile. It doesn't do a guy much good to have a bunch of kids who all end up biting the dust because they were too dumb (thanks to their mother's genes) to avoid saber tooth tigers. Men who mated with smart women would have done better. Remember, humans take an awfully long time to grow; it's not just those nine months.

If we are going to hypothesise that men engage in behaviours designed to attract women, wouldn't cave men have brought home flowers with the slain caribou? Wouldn't there be some "chocolate and cuddle" gene that would have increased mating potential?

Somehow, though, people only bring up this stuff to demonstrate that all men are brilliant, insensitive alpha males. Hum.....
10.7.2008 9:54am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
theo.
Going with your thesis; Avoiding sabre tooth tigers is a good idea. It's such a good idea you don't have to be a genius to think of it. So, once Darwin wipes off the tail (speaking of the normal distribution) which doesn't get The Picture, there is no further advantage to increasing intelligence, since everybody, just everybody, knows this stuff without having to go to a special ed class.
This, handily, answers the question about the higher numbers close to the mean, and fewer at the tails, than men.
10.7.2008 11:27am
Deoxy (mail):
Maybe men and women are just different.


And see, here's the real answer. There are all kinds of gender gaps (elementary education, anyone?), and I think there are exceeedingly few left today that have any significant dependency on sexism.

Women, in the very general case, enjoy and get emotional satisfaction from children far more than men, thus, elementary education. I don't think anyone really disputes this (not any sane people, anyway, though I am willing to take counter-examples).

This drain alone would put fewer women available for other things. Any area that ATTRACTS women will leave fewer of them for the other areas.

Areas that ATTRACT men, but don't attract women, will end up very one sided (and vice versa - elemntary education again). OK, so there seems to be something about politicking that attracts men... yay.

It all boils down the quote above. And when feminists finally realize this, society will be a MUCH better palce.
10.7.2008 12:32pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard--
Knowing you should avoid being eaten by the saber tooth tiger requires little intelligence. What takes intelligence is figuring out how to avoid the tiger while hunting, gathering, herding a bunch of kids, going about general cave life or warding off the advances of the less attractive proto-men, who like Hucbald, may dream of the mythological era when men could just take women.

Also, just as men need intelligence to tell the difference between a padded brad and real breasts, woman need some intelligence to differentiate between a padded codpiece and the real thing. :)
10.7.2008 1:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
lucia.
Granted that there are more and less efficient ways of avoiding predators. Point is, at a certain level, further intel is no longer an advantage. How much better a driver is somebody whose IQ is 140 than a guy whose IQ is 100?
And the padding, either of one's resume or one's chest, is only good to lure the chump in, at which time the deception is presumed to be no longer relevant and other qualities will suffice.
And, to the extent that the padding is done well, you can't tell at a distance, speaking generically.

My point about padding is that guys MUST accomplish. Nobody aside from his mother gives a hoot for him otherwise.
Which sort of supports one reason for guys being more interested in blogging.
Still, the line "I have a million hits a month." as a conversation starter just seems to lack a certain, oh, I don't know....pizzazz or something.
Better claim to bench 300, maybe. Apparently ex-Navy Sealing is pretty common, too.
Or slight, mysterious smiles hinting at unknown depths of capabilities and deeds.
10.7.2008 1:40pm
Anatid:

Women, in the very general case, enjoy and get emotional satisfaction from children far more than men, thus, elementary education. I don't think anyone really disputes this (not any sane people, anyway, though I am willing to take counter-examples).

This drain alone would put fewer women available for other things. Any area that ATTRACTS women will leave fewer of them for the other areas.


This is actually a big problem in the life sciences right now, which have an increasingly-female majority, and particularly in medicine. Women in general are less willing than men to work those 80-hour-a-week, 24-hour-solid weekend shifts, or other bizarre hours, because it keeps them apart from their families. Among childless women, you see the same hour preferences as men. Simply put, women (averaging together those with families and those without) are overall less willing than men to sacrifice their families for their careers, so you'll subsequently see fewer female CEOs and other high-profile positions that have staggering time requirements. It's affecting medicine because clinics and hospitals need someone to work those less-desirable shifts, and with a greater percentage of health care professionals being less willing to take them, it leaves those shifts short-staffed.

While actively-sexist barriers to equal representation in all levels of the workplace are evaporating, it's still a simple fact that past a certain level, women must choose between devotion to family and career far more than men must.

Of course, this still doesn't explain field specificity, such as why women dominate the life sciences and men dominate the physical sciences.
10.7.2008 3:18pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard,
If you want to argue by hypotheticals, why not pick an activity where intelligence matters? Say some lying bastard with an IQ of 120 tries to BS women by hinting at unknown depths or capabilities. Is he more likely to con the woman with an IQ of 140 or 100? :)

Rest assured that, when young, and wearing ripped short shorts and bare mid-riffs, loads of guys tried to impress me and many of my female friends with their intelligence. Some of the thing they said were hilarious.

Being intelligent is likely equally useful for men and women. But having friends and family is even more useful for both.
10.7.2008 4:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
lucia.
In college, I worked with a woman who was both beautiful and astonishingly bright. Got an MA in English and an Ivy MBA. I knew the best way to look stupid was to try to look smart, so I started out my day with a prayer to help me keep my mouth shut.
We both were going with other people, but I found out later that my tactic actually did create some attraction--fortunately not tested by reality.

The issue of BSing smart or not-so-smart women is interesting, but only relevant once people could travel more than ten miles from their home and choose from among more than, say, five potential suitors.
If Cro-Magnon hunting bands got together once a year for some kind of fair, there might be as many as two or three hundred people there.
The rest of the year, the bands were spread out to be able to make a living which, even in protein rich late Paleolithic Europe, was so hard as to require certain population control techniques such as female infanticide. IOW, the ability to meet or at least see and assess from a distance, the thousands the relationship seekers now find usual was impossible.
You took what you could get. BS was hardly necessary.
IOW, the new regime hasn't had time to affect the gene pool.
10.7.2008 5:03pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard--
Thanks for the little history lesson. Gosh, I didn't know there weren't billions of Cro-magnons 'back in the day. Who would have thought? (Batts long eyelashes.)

Seems to me you just rebutted your your padded bra theory (since we all had to take what we could get) and explained why women needed to be intelligent to avoid getting eaten by those saber tooth tigers while figuring out out how to find food for the babies they didn't ritually sacrifice. I think you've also managed to explain why guys did not need to show off or brag to attract a mate, since we all had to take what we could get. :)

More seriously, the fact that a woman might need to make fairly quick judgments about which of five suitors is the real deal and which are pretenders during a brief cro-magnon get together argues for the idea that intelligence has evolutionary advantages for women. This argument assumes she has some choice in the matter.

But even if she can't pick her favorite, her ability to sway those who pick for her has advantages. Intelligence helps with that.

Plus, if others force a marriage on her, then her ability to deceive the evolutionary dead end they married her off too might have evolutionary advantages. Intelligence might help on that score too.

None of this explains why men blog more. But, I was mostly responding to the arm-chair evolutionist claims about men's and women's relative intelligence.

I threw in the comment about your bra example because it's funny. Have you ever been to a lingerie store? It's somewhat difficult to find a padded bra in an A cup. It's easier to find them in B's and C's.

I've never figured out why someone wearing a C would pick a padded bra. I suspect it's because petite women built like Eva Longoria have no trouble at all attracting men. So, in terms of attracting men, I suspect the chest padding is generally used by those who want to enhance the top to balance the bottom. But who knows?
10.7.2008 5:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The example of the amplified lingerie was used to make the point about guys' having to brag or show off when their deeds weren't sufficient, or they didn't think so. It's the same thing. Faking it for saleability purposes.
I figured my point, that guys don't get points for being good guys, was the point.

If the C-M fair did, indeed, include half a dozen potential suitors, that only worked if the women who showed up were, at that time, eligible. However that was described. There were, say, fifty-one other weeks to be wooed, or to become resigned, or to be shown that her choices were irrelevant. Presuming there were as many as one suitor in the band at the time. May have been some horny guys and whether she had much choice is unknown.

Anyway, I was going with Theo's approach, not necessarily taking it seriously. But it did explain the difference in tails.

BTW, I've been married to a Phi Beta Kappa for over thirty-five years. So I can keep my mouth shut pretty good, huh?
10.7.2008 6:04pm
Anatid:
Was there a point where anyone decided that high intelligence wasn't an adaptive for women to evolve? In times of lean hunting, women in hunter-gatherer cultures are often providing over 80% of the food while simultaneously caring for their children. Intelligence is definitely useful when you need to know which of 500 brown knobbly roots is good to eat, which has medicinal use, and which will make you swell up and die.

Think of it this way. If intelligence is used for intersexual competition, then men are displaying intelligence to try and attract women. If intelligence is used for intrasexual competition, then men will use their intelligence to compete for social status with other men (similar to muscle/strength displays), and high status in turn is attractive to women.

If the former, then it isn't a discrepancy for men to put on intelligence displays for an audience that is largely other men.
10.7.2008 6:22pm
Anatid:
* if the latter (my mistake)
10.7.2008 6:26pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard,
I figured my point, that guys don't get points for being good guys, was the point.

I'm afraid I didn't connect that to the woman's padded bra. :)

Like you, I agree with Theo's various theories. There is strong evidence there is a difference in the tails, and the X linking alone tends to explain that. Other than that, intelligence is useful for both men and women. I suspect it's equally useful for both sexes. But you are correct that there is a limit to its utility.

I disagree that guys don't get points for being good guys. They do. They just don't always know it. However, like intelligence, being nice or good is just one of the constellation of traits that matter. (Also, many guys credit themselves as being good guys, when they are, in reality, self louts. Guy's self-perception of how "nice" they are is not strongly correlated with their actual level of "niceness". In fairness, women's self perception isn't necessarily any better than guys.)
10.7.2008 6:37pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lucia.
I have a metaphor. If I'm out someplace and a guy is making serious eye contact with me, then looking pointedly at the ground, I will interpret that according to context.
If I'm in a war zone, he might be telling me I'm about to hit a trip wire.
If I'm in a barn yard, he might be telling me I'm about to step in something.
He might be telling me my shoe laces are untied.

But if I'm not in a war zone, the trip wire won't occur to me. If I'm not in a barn yard, manure won't occur to me. If I'm wearing loafers, the untied shoe lace won't occur to me.

Similarly, if a guy has never thought anybody cared for his own sweet self, a woman's indirect indication of interest would not be interpreted as it should be. Instead, at best, it would be a stand-alone compliment. Which would be good, but not what was meant.
So, sure, guys can miss some signals. But the fact is that they miss them either because they're hard wired or trained to believe that only deeds count. So a woman who, knowing no more than any other twenty-two year old might know, frames her III in terms of something laudable he's done only exacerbates the issue.
10.7.2008 7:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lucia.
Come to think of it, if we're doing ev psych, a woman would be evolutionarily predisposed to respond to deeds. When things get rough, the uterus says to the brain, "Find us somebody who can take care of business. We'll worry about table manners later."

It happened to me. Turns out a friend of mine was right. "When things are easy," he said, "the violin teachers get the girls. When things are tough, the big, ugly guys get the girls. When the big, ugly guys fix things back up so they're easy, the violin teachers get the girls and the big, ugly guys are standing around going, 'huh?'"
Fortunately, I had done some anthro and decided to wait on the advertised desperate crushes on yours truly.But, being human, instinct isn't everything. Once things got settled down, none of the crushers bothered to contact the crushee with some excuse to meet. Not so much as a word.


Glad I decided to wait and see.
10.7.2008 8:42pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard....

You've totally lost me. So, in this metaphor, were you the big ugly guy or the violin teacher? How about your friend? And what sorts of tough things did the big ugly guys fix up? Who were the crushers? Or the crushee? And what things needed to settle down before they crushers didn't contact the crushee?

On the deeds count thing: Deeds count. They count for men; they count for women. And one of the things intelligent people realize is that deeds really do count. They have to be the right deeds though. :)
10.8.2008 12:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lucia.
Yeah, I was the designated big, ugly guy. Nothing against my male companions, but big ugliness was selected against, more or less by accident. My friend was also big and ugly but was not involved in my situation. He'd had his own.
In my case, it was--speaking broadly here--a long range field project in a dicey area two summers in college. Most of the folks were drawn from a subset of what used to be called the counterculture. I was different, big and ugly and with a background in martial arts.
Most of the time I just was around. In fact, I never laid a hand on anybody. But people would say, where's Aubrey, at worse than usual times.
I was informed by friends or what was loosely called "management" about the crushes on me. As in, be careful. So I was. When things got better, i.e, we got home, the crushers had no further interest in the crushee, me. Due to the structure of the enterprise, they could easily have called for further information on something for their paper or their journal or whatever, as an excuse. I had figured that out ahead of time, so I was not surprised. Nor disappointed personally, although I was disappointed that humans were not more rational. I had had no interest in crushes or anything else on them. Not my type No loss. But a lesson.
Which was, what can you do for me today. Yesterday is so...yesterday. I'd had some other experiences with what seemed irrational behavior but decided that I didn't make the rules. I just live here.
Yeah. Deeds come first. Without deeds, there is no time for thinking and just being a fine and dandy guy.
Problem is, as I say, that by the time a guy hits, say, his twenties, he's been trained to think that's all that counts.
Presuming a woman thinks more of him--unlikely--he's not in a position to "get it". No context, as explained earlier.

So bragging and showing off are what guys who think they are inadequate think they have to do to compete. Like women and their padded bras.
10.8.2008 8:54am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Revisiting this thread after a couple of days, I come to the conclusion that predominantly male commentators and bloggers should not be left to themselves to discuss why most bloggers are male.
10.8.2008 1:48pm
theobromophile (www):
I hate to interrupt this conversation, but I think that Richard Aubrey is proving my point about the ridiculousness of saying that only men are selected for intelligence.

A lot of the evolutionary psych people make the assumption that once a man has copulated with a woman, his genes will be passed on. Given that pregnancy is difficult, that children take forever to grow, that intelligence is on the x-chromosome, and other factors, it is more important to look at long-term fitness for survival.

Men who are attracted to smart women will produce smarter offspring, which may make them slightly more fit than their less-intelligent cave peers for survival. Likewise, a man who is genetically coded to stay with his mate to ensure her well-being and that of his children will increase the chances that his offspring will continue to live long enough to reproduce.

It doesn't do anyone any good to have children, if those children don't make it long enough to have kids of their own. You've only delayed the inevitable (i.e. being weeded out of the gene pool).

As a final thought, men in their 40s and 50s think, emote, and act a lot differently than do men in their teens and 20s. Perhaps, evolution has put pressure on men to grow up.
10.8.2008 2:00pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard--
Well.... the women may have been entirely rational. You say they weren't your type. They may have picked up on that.

I went to an all girl high school and we had to invite guys to our dances. Crush or no crush, I would never invite a guy who gave off "you're not my type" vibes. I also never made up fake excuses like getting advice on a paper as a means to express an interest. I'm sure if I did that, I'd just get advice on the paper.

If you want to express an interest, you have to do it. This is equally true for big ugly guys and small handsome guys! Heck, it's true for women who have their hearts set on a specific guy.
10.8.2008 2:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lucia.
That's the point. My indifference toward these women was, for them, trumped by their being in a difficult or dangerous situation. I figured that out, so I left it alone. Their failure to contact me when we got home is a way of testing my thesis. If the interest had been genuine, it would still have existed, and at least one of them would have found an excuse to contact me. They didn't, so it wasn't.
I didn't mind, being interested in a different type and getting along fine. This was a real-life ev-psych lesson. I lose sleep over other things.

I once saw a woman go all weak in the knees looing at a healing scratch, not quite a scar, on my forearm I'd gotten playing lacrosse. She was our high school valedictorian. I was disappointed. If she wasn't going to be rational about a minor ding picked up playing a game for fun (I was not grievously wounded defending the ville against slave raiders), there wasn't much hope. But I don't make the rules. I just live here. If I'd had a clue, I might have figured out how to get the rules to work for me.

Theo. Seems, from reading my Jean Auel, that resistance to sepsis and intestinal disease, safe child birthing, ability to scavenge nutrition from marginal sources, situational awareness, agility and physical strength, would have been more useful than getting beyond the first standard deviation in IQ.

You need division of labor to provide occupations where intelligence is paramount and physical issues secondary to begin selecting for intelligence and such competence primarily. Which means probably later into the Neolithic. Is that enough time?
10.8.2008 3:08pm
theobromophile (www):
Richard - then it would affect men and women equally. My point is just that it's rather silly to say that men have a strong selection for intelligence, whereas women do not.
10.8.2008 3:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Theo. Didn't you start this?

It would be handy, as I said, to presume that keeping the home fires burning rewarded increased intelligence less than did hunting. It would explain the tails and the mean in male-female intelligence.

So could a lot of other things, but I've always been fascinated by Ab and Fire Hunter and so forth.
10.8.2008 4:00pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard--
How do you know your indifference was trumped by anything?

Anyway, I guess I wasn't picking up what you meant.

I thought you mean the "management" got the impression these women had crushes on you and warned you to "be careful"-- meaning stay away. Since you referred to the people warning you as management, I got the impression, your interaction was work related and you followed the advice of your bosses and didn't test out their theory and that,

In any case, you weren't attracted to them.

Based on what you say, I'm not sure I see much evidence these women had crushes or you. Management could have been deluded. On the other hand, I don't think their failure to contact a guy who showed negative interest tells us anything about whether or not they once had crushes on you. They may have once had crushes. They might not have had crushes. They might have just wanted to sample all the guys in some major summer field study fling; some women do. Who knows?

Even if they once had crushes on you, and still thought you were a good guy after whatever this field study was ended, it would have been irrational for them to concoct some story as a premise to contact a guy who tells us he was giving off, "You are not my type" vibes. This is especially true if all they wanted was a fling. Likely, they could find some other guy.

None of this tells us much about why guys blog and/or whether or not intelligence is favored.

But you are likely right that there are many traits more important than intelligence from an evolutionary point of view. The guys above with theories that men must be smarter than women based on some sort of evolutionary pressure aren't making any sense.
10.8.2008 4:02pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lucia.
yeah. They may have once had crushes. Which ended when the difficulty was over. Correlation doesn't prove causation, but it does take some 'splainin'.
In looking at the situation, some things which had not registered as particularly important fell into place once I got the Word. So I think the friends and management were more likely right than wrong.

Wanting to sample is, afaik, different from having a crush. They weren't my type. Explaining the difference would be mean, but they wouldn't have wanted anything to do with me in other circumstances, such as the five or six months we worked together preparing to leave. Didn't, either.

Only when the uterus was talking to the brain.

If they'd wanted a fling, it wasn't before or after. Just during. Correlation....
10.8.2008 4:19pm
Anatid:

It would be handy, as I said, to presume that keeping the home fires burning rewarded increased intelligence less than did hunting. It would explain the tails and the mean in male-female intelligence.


Why would this be the case?

Humans aren't the only successful pack hunters. Plenty of animals - chimps, wolves, maybe even dinosaurs - form organized hunting packs. In mammals, these packs have a social order with specific hunting roles. There's new evidence that some nonhuman primates even hunt with crude weapons. Human-level intelligence, much less above-average intelligence, is only necessary in hunting for complex communication/organization, complex long-term planning and complex toolmaking.

I'm not sure why this somehow requires more intelligence than the complex long-term planning involved in managing the household/cave or food preparation and storage, or designing the equally complex tools for non-hunting tasks.

Can you make a case for why hunting not only requires more intelligence than the botanical ability necessary for gathering, but that this difference is so great to produce a significant evolutionary effect in the species? Why does being of genius intelligence, which is more likely than normal to come with a barrage of minor or major personal and social problems, make you more fit to raise offspring to the age of reproduction than simply above-average intelligence?

If the greater variance in male intelligence (same mean, remember, just wider spread at both extremes) is by evolution, then how come many of those genes for retardation weren't weeded out more aggressively?
10.8.2008 6:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
anatid.
I guess I got too far into Theo's original point. But I am combative, so here goes.
Hearth work tends to be repetitive. Repetitive work is less rewarding of increases in intelligence than hunting which always presents a problem which is new in some of a hundred variables.
Most pack hunters are bred for the task, with the appropriate tools such as teeth, claws, strength and speed. Humans make their own tools, learn how to use them, and must communicate in hunting, or trust their hunting band buddies to do the right thing, which is to say modify what we called in the Army battle drills in the appropriate fashion.
Robert Ardrey referred to the slow, silent closing of the hunting ring, fatal, perhaps, for some.

My wife being busy, I am about to vacuum the house, do some dishes and clean out the bath tub. I don't have to think about those tasks. And, should I screw it up, there's no problem. Nobody gets hurt. Nothing breaks. Or if I break a dish, they'll make more. Now, cutting wood.... Even without a chain saw. Tracking deer without spooking it until I get close enough to use whatever weapon I have on hand....
You can screw up raising a kid, and, as long as he isn't injured, no major problem. You can't say that about blowing a stalk and having the wild ox run over the FNG who's been promising up to this point.

As it happens, the three brightest people I have ever known were women, one being my wife. There's a guy I know with advanced degrees in the hard sciences who must be bright but he's so socially inept that it's hard to tell.

As I said earlier, there are probably other reasons for the mean/tail phenomenon, but this one interests me. I put no money on it.
10.8.2008 9:39pm
Anatid:

Most pack hunters are bred for the task, with the appropriate tools such as teeth, claws, strength and speed. Humans make their own tools, learn how to use them, and must communicate in hunting, or trust their hunting band buddies to do the right thing, which is to say modify what we called in the Army battle drills in the appropriate fashion.


These are all important, but which of them require genius-level intelligence? Having a high-power, glucose-hungry brain prone to abstract thought will not teach you to build tools, be good with tools, speak clearly, and function in a group. Machinists, soldiers, and deer hunters aren't stereotyped as intelligent, yet no one is questioning that they're good at what they do. (This is not in any way trying to imply unintelligence for anyone. I'm just saying that being a genius won't help you, particularly not from the perspective of evolutionary fitness.) Warrior culture does not emphasize or encourage intellectualism, yet is highly effective as the most stereotypical of male roles. What you describe will value wisdom and social intelligence far more than systematic intelligence.


I am about to vacuum the house, do some dishes and clean out the bath tub. I don't have to think about those tasks. And, should I screw it up, there's no problem. Nobody gets hurt. Nothing breaks. Or if I break a dish, they'll make more. Now, cutting wood.... Even without a chain saw. Tracking deer without spooking it until I get close enough to use whatever weapon I have on hand....


A modern household doesn't bear much resemblance to a hunter-gatherer culture. Who did you say will replace your vacuum cleaner when it breaks? "They"? If you had to craft every single domestic tool yourself instead of buying a new one (know what materials to use and how to render them), if you had to know all the edible plants and their preparations instead of buying them labeled and harvested at the grocery store, if you had to balance the growth cycles of all these foods with your stores so you wouldn't starve in the winter, you'd be thinking a lot more. Historically, women have usually been the ones across cultures to manage the domestic affairs of the household, and while it might not compare to managing your company's position in a global economy, it's still a demanding task.

Again, you have to tie this into evolution in order to support the argument. Unless increasing your intelligence from above-average to genius levels will increase your likelihood of having grandchildren, then it doesn't fit into evpsych.

Instead of asking why men have more outliers than women for intelligence (and keep in mind, IQ is a specific type of intelligence, an excellent predictor of academic performance and test scores but not so great a predictor of overall success in life) the real question currently in the field is why we're this smart at all. The ability to understand string theory simply does not, in any way, make us more fit. Humans were already a wildly successful species simply because of fire and the pointy stick, and from evolution's perspective, our expanding intelligence should have tapered off there. Yet human intelligence, so far as we can tell, has remained relatively constant in the past fifty thousand years, with the most rapid changes in evolution occurring in the immune system, meaning the rise to our current level of intelligence is the cause of, not the result of, civilization. So why are we so smart?
10.8.2008 10:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
anatid

If you wish, I'll agree that knowledge is necessary for hearth activities.
The tool kit of the Paleolithic was limited. Scrapers were scrapers. Get some practice and muscle memory would let you make them over and over. Ditto projectile heads, awls, and so forth. So the need to make my own tools would be a matter of skill at a few types, rather than the ability to make any of a hundred.
Gathering, as you point out, requires knowledge of what's edible.
Crafts and skills require knowledge.
Hunting, however, requires instantaneous problem solving based on rapid changes in multiple variables with catastrophic results for getting it wrong. And then, after you have figured out the new problem, you need to execute with skill, strength, and ruthlessness, modifying it as needed, half-second by half second.
I find, on trying to poison some varmints, that if they merely get sick, they'll get bait-shy and any further attempts with that particular bait will be fruitless. My guess is that humans are at least as smart as moles, so any unpleasant encounter with nasty plants would, if it didn't kill them, educate them.

How smart are we, exactly, anyway?

As I said earlier, I find this line of inquiry interesting, not decisive.
10.8.2008 11:52pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Hunting, however, requires instantaneous problem solving based on rapid changes in multiple variables with catastrophic results for getting it wrong.


Oh? Hunting what? Using what methods? Is there great danger in hunting rabbits? Or acting as a pack to isolate the weakest animal in a heard and kill it? Does the practice of getting a group together to driving herd animals into a pit require all that much instantaneous problem solving?

The theory that hunting somehow selects for intelligence more than other tasks requires us to assume hese Paleolithic hunters were stupid enough to decide to hunt saber toothed tigers for dinner. Now that would require "instantaneous problem solving based on rapid changes in multiple variables with catastrophic results for getting it wrong."

But I was under the impression paleolithic meat eaters are thought to have developed trustworthy techniques that were just as repetitive as hearth activities: Pitfall traps, fishing hooks, scavenging already dead animals. Planning permitted the hungers to come up with methods were more predictable. This meant the "catastrophic" outcome to hunting mistakes was mostly just failure to catch anything.

Intelligence is required to plan, train and communicate with each other. So, yes, more greater intelligence will facilitate hunting. But this isn't necessarily due to being able to think on your feet-- it's due to remembering how you dug the pit fall trap the last time, and remembering how to drive animals toward the traps.

It's simply not clear that hunting requires any more intelligence than learning how to identify, collect process and preserve a large variety of different food stuffs. Hunting doesn't necessarily require long term memory to remember where last years food stuffs were-- or to know when you've seen berry bushes so you can return when berries appear. Or do other things like fashion garments out of some hodge-podge collection of skins one might have this year. Or, weave baskets, tend fires.

There just isn't anything about hunting that would seem to select for genius level intelligence.

It's not at all clear what selected for our level of intelligence. Given that apes in general are intelligent relative to other animals and many apes are vegetarian, it's really not clear that hunting is the main driver!
10.9.2008 12:47am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
jeez, adip.
You take this seriously.

But to humor you. Cutting out the weakest animal meant spooking the rest of the herd. Large herbivore males are stone killers. Good luck with that. And even if you aren't being chased by a, say, zebra stallion, you still run the risk that the herd will panic in the wrong direction and run over you. That means you and your buddies have to get it right. Getting it wrong is, as Ardrey said, likely fatal to somebody.
All carnivores scavenge when they get the chance. Why work so hard to kill something when there's dinner already there? Which means our ancestors ran off giant hyenas, lions, leopards,tigers, wild dogs, and cheetahs. Not to mention dire wolves. The baddest asses on the savannah. Might be better to be a hunter. Less competition.
Hunting large predators for lunch is not a good idea, since they generally have less meat on them than the work is worth.
Neanderthal skeletons are said to have orthopedic injuries consistent with getting up close and personal with large prey. Like bull riders and so forth today.

Well, you carry on. As I said, I was just speculating.
10.9.2008 8:51am
lucia (mail) (www):
Richard--
You take this seriously. ....As I said, I was just speculating.


Feel free to continue speculating that the dangers of hunting itself were the pump to grow big brains, and that that explains why men are smarter than women.

But, I have a question: Do you think there is some blog rule that if you re-post the same flawed speculations over and over and over and over in this post, but tell us they are just speculations, then others don't get to point out that your speculations make no sense whatsoever?

If you do, well, then, "Wow!"
10.9.2008 10:30am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
lucia
I didn't say men were smarter than women. I was addressing the higher end of the tail issue. It has to come from someplace. You have any ideas?
I suggested, although I think Theo started it, that evolutionary pressure have been the key. What, in our million-year history, might it be? Hunting?
I also suggested it might be something else.
I will presume you honestly misread my statements rather than deliberately misrepresented them. Because doing the latter would be stupid, they being enshrined in pixel for all to see.
Or you could consider me an attorney, pursuing a bullshit line of reasoning for pay. IANAL.
10.9.2008 11:28am
Anatid:

Neanderthal skeletons are said to have orthopedic injuries consistent with getting up close and personal with large prey. Like bull riders and so forth today.


Homo sapiens did not descend from Neaderthals - H. sapiens was a competing species that likely drove them extinct. I'm familiar with the paper that you cite, and I do not believe that the authors stated that the same injury pattern was consistent with contemporary humans. Among other things, physiological differences between humans and neanderthals would have prompted different hunting styles, even if they were mental equals (and we don't know if they were).

If you look at hunter-gatherer cultures that survived into the 20th century, even when large prey was available, they usually preferred to hunt more frequently for smaller prey. Easier for one man to catch by himself, and less dangerous - both because the animal itself is less dangerous, and because fewer predators will try and steal your kill. Much easier to hunt a rabbit than an aurochs. Hunts of large, dangerous animals would be organized efforts and much, much more infrequent.


I didn't say men were smarter than women. I was addressing the higher end of the tail issue. It has to come from someplace. You have any ideas?


It comes from the same place as the lower end of the tail? Simplicity argues that the two long tails aren't caused by two completely unrelated phenomena. If men were selected for greater intelligence, then it would also prune the low tail - or actually, it wouldn't, because that kind of change to a population will just right-shift the curve, not increase its variance.

Much more likely that the tails on both ends are caused by the same thing. We have a barrage of genetic and neurological evidence suggesting that men have less protection against many types of mental retardation (which could feasible also mean they have less to keep them from geniushood) and that there are gender differences in levels of intercerebral and intracerebral connections and hemisphere polarization.

To grossly simplify the idea, female intelligence variation is muted by these combination of factors that cause a return to the mean, while male intelligence lacks these backups against variation so expresses far more at both extremes. Average intelligence is the same.

I think you could successfully argue that because of differing mental demands, men and women evolved to be better at different types of mentally-demanding tasks, but that has nothing to do with variance in IQ.
10.9.2008 8:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
anatid
Differences in abilities will manifest themselves on IQ tests because of the structure of IQ tests. How is the test weighted toward one ability or another?

How long back does the evpsych go? Homo Erectus? Ergaster? Neanderthal is an example of hunting prior to projectile weapons.
10.9.2008 10:21pm
Anatid:
IQ tests tend to favor systematic intelligence and heavily reward those who have been trained in the question-and-answer formats found in the current education system.

Evolutionary psychology goes back farther than reptiles. The most basal parts of our brain are common to all vertebrates, the layer atop that common to all mammals, the next level to primates, so on and so forth ... But in this particular case (high level intelligence), we have no other species to compare to. Neanderthals weren't human, and we don't know exactly how human their minds and bodies weren't.

The modern human as we know it is less than half a million years old, and the fine-tuning of the human mind has been an ongoing process ever since. Just like there is great variation in body type among our species, there's also impressive variation in mental profiles, usually with genetic underpinnings. Take, for example, the genes for ADHD - that behavior profile is maladaptive in settled societies like ours. Among nomadic cultures, those with what we'd call ADHD tend to be richer and better nourished, as they will go to greater lengths to seek resources.

It's hard to pinpoint when any one trait evolved. Or, to be more accurate, when a particular mutation became advantageous enough to gain a foothold in the population.

But there's still no reason to think that genius-level intelligence is a direct product of evolution.
10.10.2008 4:22am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
anatid.
No, it isn't. Nor, afaik, has anybody said so.
The original question was the high end of the normal distribution.
As they say, stand on the shoulders of giants and you can see further.
If the inheritable intelligence is pretty high already, a modest increase will end up being quite noticeable.
So if some factor, speculating about evolution is fun, rewarded intelligence however slightly one way of making a living in the Paleolithic, there would be an evolutionary result.
That's a requirement of believing in evolution.
10.10.2008 11:03am