The Hips Don’t Lie…

( But is she smart too? Source )

As long-term readers will be well aware, I’m a big fan of evolutionary psychology. And why not? It usually provides both simple and extremely compelling explanations for many universal cultural features and human behaviors, such as that of the evil stepmother or the fact that 95% of killers are males respectively for instance. So when research in 2004 found that women with hourglass body shapes are 30% more likely to become pregnant than others, it was no great surprise that men worldwide have always tended to find this body type the most attractive.

But even congenitally blind men too?

Yes, it’s true, and while critics have frequently pointed out the sexist and/or (ironically) culturally-based assumptions to many of evolutionary psychologists’ conclusions, this latest news definitely buttresses the “nature” rather than the “nurture” side of the debate:

…Notwithstanding the significant scientific evidence in support for the ubiquitous male preference for the hourglass figure [a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.68 to 0.72], social constructivists doggedly hang on to the position that our preferences are due to arbitrary socialization (e.g., advertising teaches men to prefer a particular body type). Well, in today’s post, I discuss a new study that yet again kills the apparently immortal socialization dragon!

In a recent paper published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Johan C. Karremans, Willem, E. Frankenhuis, and Sander Arons explored men’s WHR preferences with one twist: the men in question were congenitally blind! Needless to say, this largely removes the possibility that these men were taught via media images to prefer a particular female body type. You might wonder how one would go about eliciting such preferences from blind men…via touch of course! The researchers had two mannequins dressed in exactly the same way but who varied in terms of their WHR (0.70 or 0.84)…

Read the details at Homo Consumericus, and the typically acerbic comments section there is also interesting. Meanwhile, on the same day I read that I happened to pick up the June 2010 edition (no.21) of cosmetic store Aritaum’s (아리따움; “Charm”) free advertorial magazine (as one does), and the contrast with the wholly photoshopped, physically impossible “X-line” body type being promoted in it couldn’t have been any greater:

( “Find your X-line”? Good luck! )

I’ve already discussed the X-line concept in an earlier post, almost literally tearing to shreds a Korea Times report – nay, also an advertorial – that uncritically reported on the “new body trend” in the process. But you may also be curious to read the advertising copy for the X-line slimming drink above however: what does persuade Korean women to buy such things?

아리따움 슬리머

울여름, 꿈에 그리는 비키니를 위한 당신의 다이어트 플랜은? 운동하기엔 많은 시간과 노력이 필요하고, 어디서 왔는지 모를 다이어트 방법은 믿을 수 가 없다. 그렇다면 올해도 무조건 굶는 것이 최고? 굶어서 빼는 다이어트는 단기간의 체중 감소는 느끼겠지만 얼굴 혈색을 나쁘게 하고 피부 탄력을 떨어뜨리며, 얼마 지나지 않아 요요 현상을 불러온다.

슬리머 DX는 간편하고 즐겹게 이용할 수 있는 슬리밍 제품으로 식약청으로부터 체지방 감소 기능을 인정 받아 믿고 섭취할 수 있다. 또한 휴대가 편한 앰플 형태라 언제, 어디서든 자신의 라이프스타일에 따라 쉽고 간편하게 다이어트가 가능하다. 아리따움 슬리머 DX라면 올 균형 있는 X라인으로 비키니를 입는 데 주저함은 없을 듯!

Edited slightly, to make it sound better in English:

Aritaum Slimmer

This summer, what is your diet plan for getting into your dream bikini? Exercising takes a lot of time and effort, and you can’t believe in diets if you don’t who came up with them. This year, is simply being hungry the best solution? If you diet this way, it is true that you will soon feel that you’ve lost some weight, but at the same time your complexion will become bad and your skin will lose its elasticity and bounce, almost inevitably resulting in a yo-yo effect as you crave foods again.

Slimmer DX is a simple, convenient, and enjoyable to use slimming product that you can take with the confidence that the Korean FDA has recognized and approved it as a slimming product. Also, it is portable and in a bottle that has more than enough for any occasion, ensuring you can easily use it to diet whenever and wherever you choose according to your lifestyle. This summer, you shouldn’t have any hesitation to use Aritaum Slimmer DX to wear a bikini that shows off your balanced X-line!

Sound familiar?

Diet advertisements in Korean magazinesappear to promote more passive dieting methods (e.g., diet pills,aroma therapy, diet crème, or diet drinks) than activedieting methods (e.g., exercise). Results further indicatedthat women may be misled to believe that dieting is simple,easy, quick, and effective without pain, if they consume theadvertised product. This study suggests that there is an urgentneed to establish government regulations or policies about dietproducts and their claims in Korea. Magazine publishers alsoneed to recognize their role in societal well-being and acceptsome responsibility for advertisements in their magazines.

Finally, a question for readers: I picked up the Aritaum magazine partially because I couldn’t tell if Lee Na-young’s (이나영) neck above in a bus-shelter advertisement near my apartment had been lengthened or not? She’s a tall woman; I honestly can’t tell. Meanwhile, the woman in the first picture is Shin Se-kyeong (신세경) for those that you that are curious (whom I’m well aware will also have been extensively photoshopped; in the original image, her legs appear to have been lengthened), but, alas, the identity of the ant-like figure with the X-line escapes me I’m afraid!^^

30 thoughts on “The Hips Don’t Lie…

  1. Alright, I need to write up my review of a certain book, in which I’ll point out that though some of these alphabet-lines are “new,” the S-line at least, as a concept, is over a century old…

    Soon.

    And yeah… evolutionary biology rocks, when it’s being done by real scientists who understand it. (Most of the bad examples I’ve heard of are administrators or popularizers who don’t quite get it…)

    • Oh for sure: actually, I’ve already discovered that for myself. Given what I’ve said about the body shape’s universal and historical appeal too, indeed it would be very strange not to find that the term has been around for a while, or at least since mass literacy and mass communication developed. Still very curious to learn how and why “S-line” replaced the former jook-jook bbang bbang (쭉쭉빵빵) 5-10 years ago in Korea though, and have had a folder full of notes for a post the origins of many terms in Korean sitting in my bookcase for at least a year now (From Tradition to Consumption: Construction of a Capitalist Culture in South Korea by Dennis Hart {2001}, has a lot on that in passing). And of course, I’ll still be very interested to read your review.

      I hear you about the evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology rocking when done by people who understand it, and it’s unfortunate how well suited both seem for superficial but attention grabbing short stories in the media (they are often about sexual selection after all).

      • I would guess that S-line gained an upper hand for two reasons ~ first, the “fashionable” aspect of including English, and second that S-line inevitably includes a slender waist, while 쭉쭉빵빵 is more generally just t-and-a emphasis.

      • Ah, you did know about that. The term is definitely older than 1950 — the text I mention describes the Gibson Girl fashion stereotype as being one of the late examples emphasizing the S-curve, and that French fashion in the 1920s was explicitly designed to smash apart this image. I’ll have more to say about it in my review, but that’s a while away… busy with other stuff…

        I’d agree with Gomushin Girl that the term “S-curve” probably became popular because, er, it’s English. It may sound stupid, but “쭉쭉빵빵” is Korean, sounds Korean, and is always going to lack the allure of an English body-image term. (For the same reason movie titles are often just English written in Hangeul, instead of a translation of the title as in Chinese — something my Taiwanese students a few years ago pointed out. A Korean marketing major said it’s well known that using English is an easy way to make something “sound cool” to Koreans.)

        Gomushin Girl might be right about the emphasis on a slender waist. Which mobilizes yet more commodities to sell, but may also fit more closely with what Korean *women* tend to prefer their bodies to look like. (I can imagine many women I know wishing for an “S-line” but somehow doubt most of them are dying to be shaped like what I see when I Google “쭉쭉빵빵.”

  2. I’ve always wondered what male body shape is desired by women? Have any scientists even cared to do that research? Yes, men do have different body shapes, believe it or not. I’m guessing men with broad shoulders and a narrow waist and hips would get the same results as the hourglass figure for women. But I do wonder if the preferred male body shape has been overshadowed by societal influences? Has anyone read or heard about any research about the male body in this context?

    Yay my first post! By the way, that lady’s neck does look like it was lengthened. Or maybe it was thinned and gave the appearance of being longer. Those photoshop people have to change something, what would they do all day otherwise.

    • as far as i can remember, it has been found that women perfer the “reverse triangle shape”, which basically means wide upper torso, slightly narrowing towards the waist, and hips and waist approximately the same width.
      pretty much what you can see on the covers of FHM and such magazines.

      also, it fascinates me how so many women still continue to believe that simply ingesting some product, with no other changes in lifestyle or diet, will miraculously take down 20 lb, instantly.

    • Sorry for critiquing your first comment here, but I really do wonder why on Earth you would ask if any scientists have “even cared to” do research of what male body shape(s) are desired by women? Of course they have, and like Homo Consumricus author Dr. Gad Saad points out in a reply to the first comment on his post that by coincidence also raises that strawman argument, there are numerous such studies if you bothered to actually look. I’ve even already mentioned some on my blog too.

    • If you look very closely at the hairs in her ponytail, you can see a few places where the lines of the strands are obviously tampered with – that lady’s been giraffed!

  3. Ok, while stating that I’m relatively convinced that there’s a VERY strong evolutionary aspect of male preferences for hip-waist ratios, I do have a few questions about this study that could well have an effect on the validity of the conclusions . . .

    a) how are they defining blind? because contrary to popular perception, many blind people DO in fact have some sight – not enough to function in the same way as a non-blind person, but enough to have some experience of visual media. For example, I attended school with a woman who is legally blind, including using a cane for navigation. She still read all the same college textbooks, popular magazines, etc. not in braile, but through a magnifying computer program. Clerks in the US, where until recently different denominations of paper money weren’t distinguished by size or color, often witnessed blind people “smelling” money – not actually taking a sniff, but bringing it close enough to distinguish the numbers. In other words, being blind isn’t the same as having no visual information at all.

    b) it’s not like visual media are the only ones that shape our understanding. Anybody who has ever listened to radio, tv, film, etc. has heard women described, and descriptions like thin, slender, willowy etc. being strongly associated with beauty, while words like fat, chubby, and overweight are perjorative. So, no visual media doesn’t mean no media shaping at all.

    c) even if the models were dressed identically, what they were dressed in could also affect the results. Quite simply, different clothes styles hang differently, fit differently, and feel differently on different figures. That’s why there’s so many magazine articles and blog posts (almost exclusively aimed at women, of course) telling us to dress ourselves according to body type. So putting differently shaped mannequins in the same clothing is not really having the men evaluate a single variable.

    I’m not saying that any of this completely negates the study. I am, in fact, relatively convinced of a fairly universal WHR preference, along with preferences for symmetrical bodies and features, clear skin, etc. It’s fairly reasonable to expect that people would develop preferences for partners who appear healthy.

    However, I would like to remind people that it’s important how we read and understand these kinds of studies, and be critical – remember the study that said that women across cultures had a preference for the color red, and everybody said, “Aha! This proves that women were gatherers, and developed a preference and sensitivity to the color red so they could find berries”? Except that the science wasn’t that good to begin with, and the conclusions people were drawing were absolutely unsupported.

    When you read closely, it turns out that while sighted, blindfolded, and blind men all showed a preference for the more hourglass figure, sighted men liked her more. So while I expect most of the coverage of this paper to be “See! Even BLIND dudes like pretty chicks!” it could just as easily be “Blind men show that looking at media images makes men who can see more shallow.”

  4. a) how are they defining blind?

    Did you read the abstract? It says both "congentially blind" as well as "without previous visual experience." So I think they're working with people who are blind, as opposed to "visually impaired" which was, anyway, the terminology when I was working in the field. (I used to write computer tutorials for blind and visually impaired people.)

    b) it’s not like visual media are the only ones that shape our understanding. Anybody who has ever listened to radio, tv, film, etc. has heard women described, and descriptions like thin, slender, willowy etc. being strongly associated with beauty, while words like fat, chubby, and overweight are perjorative. So, no visual media doesn’t mean no media shaping at all.

    Leaving aside the obvious — the question of what shapes media, since, after all, a sensible evolutionary biology perspective would suggest what we see in media tends to be symptomatic of inborn preferences — the waist-to-hip ratio preference exists across different local values of “normal weight” and personal preferences in terms of build. Guys who like chubby women — they exist! — prefer the same sort of ratio as guys who like slimmer women.

    I also have questions about to what degree this “shaping” works like visual media when, after all, it’s an abstracted input — words.

    c) even if the models were dressed identically, what they were dressed in could also affect the results. Quite simply, different clothes styles hang differently, fit differently, and feel differently on different figures. That’s why there’s so many magazine articles and blog posts (almost exclusively aimed at women, of course) telling us to dress ourselves according to body type. So putting differently shaped mannequins in the same clothing is not really having the men evaluate a single variable.

    Surely not for blind men?

    However, I would like to remind people that it’s important how we read and understand these kinds of studies, and be critical

    It’s easier to do that when you’ve read the paper, though unfortunately I think it’s locked behind a paywall. (I didn’t feel like registering.)

    When you read closely, it turns out that while sighted, blindfolded, and blind men all showed a preference for the more hourglass figure, sighted men liked her more. So while I expect most of the coverage of this paper to be “See! Even BLIND dudes like pretty chicks!” it could just as easily be “Blind men show that looking at media images makes men who can see more shallow.”

    It could, though of course the fact that media was blamed for the general preference casts doubt on other such explanations. It’s a curious move, really — it reminds me of the whole “God of the Gaps” phenomenon Dawkins describes of Christians acquiescing to scientific discoveries but also finding some way of fitting God into their cosmology in the bits science hasn’t clarified just yet. (And people who want to blame media will always find a gap.)

    Of course, it could just as easily be suggested that the tactile component of this preference is less deeply hardwired — still extant in some sort of sensory cross-modular association, but less crucially determinant–to the bits of the brain that goes, “Bing! I’m attracted!”

    (Visual traits being the most commonly studied indeed seems to reinforce this: the researchers themselves are acknowledging how big a deal the visual stimuli are determining how men get attracted to women.)

    What would be really interesting would be all kinds of tests of other sensory inputs and attraction. For example, whether completely blind men are more sensitive to the well-known trigger of the body odor of someone with a too-similar, or very-different immune system. Also, for that matter, comparison of blind men’s response to a purely tactile sensory input versus sighted (but blinidfolded) men’s response to the same.

    • Ah, I must concede the point about these blind men were clarified as having no visual experience . . . I was a) reading on the sly at work and b) wanted to clarify that many blind people do in fact have some visual knowledge. But not these, so that can’t figure in.

      I already clarified that I’m entirely convinced that there is in fact an evolutionary aspect to HWR preferences. Of course the media didn’t create this widespread preference out of thin air, and is reflecting existing preferences. That said, it’s not a one-way interaction, and media emphasizes, refines, and yes, shapes and creates preferences among people exposed to that media. Why, for example, have Miss Americas gotten steadily thinner and their BMI dropped so much since the contest began? There’s no evolutionary pressure for them to have become thinner ~ in fact, most people have done the opposite, and become heavier over time. However, media trends moved towards thinner and thinner models, etc.

      At any rate, whatever the origin of media bias towards thinness, it’s surely there, and it surely exists in radio, tv, film, and books, and it DOES influence people.

      And yes, the fit of a garment will affect how it feels, as well. Does the seam fall in the right place? Are there wrinkles caused by bad fit? It is too loose? Too tight? Tight in the wrong spots? Surely you’ve heard of the dread camel toe and muffin top? These are issues of fit and cut that would be different to touch, as well as see.

      • Ah, I must concede the point about these blind men were clarified as having no visual experience . . .

        Fair enough, and I grant that you admitted to an evolutionary root to the preference. However, I think it’s important to highlight this move:

        Of course the media didn’t create this widespread preference out of thin air, and is reflecting existing preferences. That said, it’s not a one-way interaction, and media emphasizes, refines, and yes, shapes and creates preferences among people exposed to that media. Why, for example, have Miss Americas gotten steadily thinner and their BMI dropped so much since the contest began? There’s no evolutionary pressure for them to have become thinner ~ in fact, most people have done the opposite, and become heavier over time. However, media trends moved towards thinner and thinner models, etc.

        At any rate, whatever the origin of media bias towards thinness, it’s surely there, and it surely exists in radio, tv, film, and books, and it DOES influence people.

        This is why I bashed your assertion about how there is — there must be — some sort of media influence, and it DOES exist, you gravely assure me.

        Without a shred of creditable evidence. James offered a scientific study in support of his point, and your response was a standard humanities-type (ie. language-focused, pseudo-deconstructionist) response of critiquing his rephrasing of the abstract. You conceded that science does have something to say, but then asserted that media must be an influence too… with no evidence.

        (Note: pointing out a correlation between media’s presentation of “beauty” and the selective process of beauty pageants doesn’t demonstrate causality, nor does asking a leading question that suggests media shapes attitudes. Not does CAPITAL LETTER emphasis of the assertion.)

        I’m not, by the way, asserting that it doesn’t. Media may have a role. I’d be surprised if it has none, actually… but one must keep an open mind, instead of just saying, “But, my doctrine is True True True!” Your assertion seems based on the assumption that correlation IS causality. X exists. Y exists, and looks analogous to X. Y must be the cause of X. Could there not be some other factor driving both trends — or, indeed, could we not perceive both phenomena as symptoms of another trend? For example, pageants on the level you’re discussing really are — and long have been — part of the media system. They’re televised, they’re as widely viewed as lots of TV dramas, and they themselves are probably among the first “reality TV” shows… meaning that you’re saying the media in general drives smaller subsets of media. Uh… how about, X is part of Y, X follows a trend near-universal to Y, and there may or may not be a causality located outside of Y, like some unknown Z.

        I’m definitely not arguing media has zero influence — though I’d be convinced if it was as significant as you’re implying. I’m well aware of the fact that things outside evolution interact with our sociobiological programming. But the jump to blaming media is simplistic.

        Here’s an off-the-wall stab at an alternate explanation: it’s economics.

        I say this on two levels. First, the kind of “economics” that can be applied to evolutionary theory, mating, and sexual selection. It’s the reality that what is scarce is perceived as special. For example, the “double eyelid” will not longer be a major determinant of beauty in Korea once the majority of Korean women have them (by plastic surgery, cosmeceuticals, or genetic manipulation, whichever comes first). It may be part of the fundamental set of traits desired, of course, but it’d be assumed, like having hips broader than one’s waist, or breasts. Some other trait would be perceived as scarce, and women would start pursuing augmentation of that trait, men who are in a position where they feel they should discern by that trait would suddenly perceive it and start consciously selecting for it — and media constructions of beauty would shift to incorporate that trait. (One imagines all sorts of strange possibilities: vocal cord modification, or neck lengthening, genetically and developmentally controlled height preselection, or other horrors.) Would people be making those choices informed by media? Yes, but media would be driven by emergent alternative constructions of beauty arising from the kind of reproductive scarcity economics built into mens’ and womens’ brains. The media shift would be symptomatic of this fundamental force in sexual selection.

        Likewise, one could argue, thinness is extolled as a thing of beauty now because thin women are a (relative) scarcity in reality in America, where a lot of the media and trends you’re talking about originate.

        One could argue that this is why so many women in paintings long ago were heavier, as they were similarly rare and “special” — a scarce “resource” in the minds of the men who were producing and consuming art — but I’m not about to argue that because for all I know, it could also be an artifact of the reality that the other economics drove patron-funded arts in Europe. I’m not sure to what degree artists were opting to paint heavier women freely, versus how often they had to paint rich women and girls. It’s not something I’ve looked into, so I can’t assert anything either way.

        That other sense of the word economics — not the scarcity of beauty, but how monetary economics shapes bodies en masse — is also probably in play. Poor people are fat people, at least in America today. People have indeed gotten fatter as the relative buying power of their salaries has dropped over the last 40 or 50 years in America, and their choices about food have been artificially narrowed in a number of ways. (And as increasing numbers of companies exploit obviously evolved aspects of the human appetite — we like high-fat, sweet, salty food. It’s easy to sell to people even when they know it’s bad for them, and economies of scale make selling a lot of it easier because cheaper.) Thinness and fitness are actually markers of properity now, especially among younger people, just as fatness was a marker of prosperity in the past. Just as very few men publicly placed stick-thin street waifs on a pedestal as exemplars of beauty, people are unlikely to elevate fat people today to that position.

        While I don’t have much of evidence for it — who has time to research — this model is fully compatible with a binary trend of people getting bigger, while media (and beauty contests) elevating increasingly slim women to the level of exemplar of beauty. What I’m saying is, this pair of trends — one trend, I’d argue — isn’t necessarily caused by mass media. Nor should we assume it is — after all, notions of body shape and beauty have quite certainly shifted through historical (and likely prehistoric) time without the benefit of media saturation.

        The reason I object to theories that present media as having a nefarious power to warp others’ minds is twofold: I don’t experience it that way, at least not as an adult — I find childhood experiences much more powerfully have shaped what drives my sense of attractiveness — but also because such theories are almost always posited by people who don’t feel themselves to have been warped in that way: the standard (and well-established) psychological phenomenon (the formal name of which I forget) wherein people are convinced that others are affected by media in a way to which oneself is somehow, magically, resistant or immune.

        (For example, believing pornography can drive others to rape and murder and so on, but watching it oneself, even for critical purposes, one can emerge unscathed. Or believing that though a violent movie didn’t drive oneself to violence, it can and will drive others to it. Or that playing D&D or receiving nasty comments from netizens can drive people to murder or suicide.)

        And yes, the fit of a garment will affect how it feels, as well. Does the seam fall in the right place? Are there wrinkles caused by bad fit? It is too loose? Too tight? Tight in the wrong spots? Surely you’ve heard of the dread camel toe and muffin top? These are issues of fit and cut that would be different to touch, as well as see.

        I sincerely doubt mannequins would exhibit “camel toe” or “muffin top,” since they don’t have flexible body fat. (At least not the mannequins I’ve seen.)

        Which is an interesting observation, though: it would mean this comparison would be for the mathematical ratio alone and, curiously, not the tactile experience of a real woman’s curves. Which is maybe a bit more evidence of how sight-biased researchers might have been. I wonder, if real women were used — or mannequins that simulate the likely BMIs associated with those two ratios — whether the tactile difference — the softness of the body fat on the two bodies — would change the results.

  5. I wrote this comment about 12 hours ago, but my computer keeps crashing so I gave up. It’s probably about 7 comments too late, as the discussion’s really gone elsewhere, but I’ll leave it anyway.

    It’s probably worth pointing out for the sake of gaining full understanding of your translation that “diet” in Korea doesn’t mean diet. Instead it means “losing weight,” so Korean “diet” can be exercise, not eating, eating healthily, eating what people assume is healthy, eating and throwing up etc etc. Particularly relevant where it says things like “what is your diet plan for getting into the bikini of your dreams,” because it’s actually asking “what steps are you going to take to get thin.”

    Also, I think you’ve been quite kind to the advert when you translate “얼마 지나지 않아 요요 현상을 불러온다” as “almost inevitably resulting in a yo-yo effect as you crave foods again.” The original Korean is much less explanatory, just stating that after a while [this method] will bring on a yo-yo effect. Your translation would have actually been much better, as at least it provides an explanation, whereas the original just assumes the reader will take everything it says on face value and think no further.

    I completely agree with Hellblade’s last point as well: ridiculous that anyone would even consider this. What level would your knowledge of basic science have to be to fall for something like this?! Of course Korea’s not the only country that has an advertising industry that is only too willing to take the public for a ride.

    In the UK recently I saw an ad for a hand wash dispenser type thing for home use that you don’t have to push down to make the hand wash stuff come out; just put your hands underneath and it comes out automatically. The justification for this, the very reason this ad claimed we should buy the product was because apparently there are all these evil germs that gather on our hands all day, and then these get on hand wash dispensers when we press them and we touch these pressy bits. So much wrong with this. First and foremost, we can even accept their basic premise that there are all these evil germs just waiting to kill us that get on our hands and onto hand wash dispensers which we then touch, getting more germs onto our hands and leaving more for the next people. But wait, what action does one perform immediately after pressing the hand wash dispenser to make the hand wash come out? Oh yes, one washes their hands, thus making the “fact” of the evil germs on the hand wash dispenser completely irrelevant. Secondly, there’s this whole scaremongering thing about “germs” and bacteria and whatever these companies use to scare people. If these germs were so bad, why aren’t we all just constantly falling incredibly ill and dyeing? It’s precisely that, just scaring people into buying things they have no need for. Sorry, I’m just ranting because i hate that advert so much, but it strikes me as similar to this one in the way it preys upon the perceived ignorance of the general public in the way it tries to sell its product.

    On the other hand, there are some adverts which are just well made, funny, clever and so on. Like these ones:

    As to your question, looking at photos of her, in some she does appear to have quite a long neck, but never as long as in that image. It also seems like her neck always looks a bit longer in publicity photos, or others that are likely to have been photoshopped. I wonder if she’s naturally got a slightly longer than normal neck and is well known for it, or if people think it’s something about her that looks particularly attractive, and therefore people try and emphasise it when photoshopping. Just a thought.

    And in response to something Gord said, my better half was a marketing major in Korea, and they spent some time looking at research conducted within Korea about shops using signs written in English or at least the roman alphabet, and found that they did noticeably more business than the same shops if they had signs written in pure Korean. There is absolutely something in it: everything “cool” has to have an associated English name or phrase, and usually a funky-looking Romanisation it seems these days. Shame.

    • Basic science: I haven’t done a study — I’m thinking of polling my students next semester, though — but I did informally poll students on a couple of basic science questions:
      - if I drop something that weighs a few hundred grams and something that weight five kilos, say a pencil case (or even just a pen) and a huge book at the same time, “which hits the ground first”?
      - why are there four seasons in the Earth’s temperate zone?
      - why is the sky blue?

      The quality of answers was disturbingly poor. This is not, of course, necessarily an indictment of Korean education: I’d wager American college students are comparable. But it was telling that chemistry majors couldn’t answer those questions any better than the humanities majors.

      (And it wasn’t a language issue: these are students writing articles on things like conspicuous consumption and the Finnish educational system and sexism in Korean workplaces.)

      So it seems to me it’s not just perceived ignorance, but actual ignorance, that is preyed upon.

      As for the hand wash sanitizer things: yeah, actually, I started seeing those all over the place in Korea — dispensing sanitizer, not soap — around the time of the Swine Flu (er, “New Flu”, they had to call it, since people stopped eating pork when they heard the old name). They’re all empty now, dispensing nothing. And in the same bathrooms, the soap dispensers are empty too.

      There are germs all around, though, which is why I wish people would, say, wash their hands in the bathrooms more often. Sanitation is important — but actual sanitation, not just the random gadget installed on the wall that makes everyone think they’re more secure.

      The “funky” romanization that annoys me most of all the ones I’ve seen is “SUL ZIP”… “zip” sounds nothing like “jib,” but it reinforces that ridiculous use of z as the “cool” romanization of ㅈ.

      • I’m afraid I must concur with your casual findings; far too may Koreans I know seem to lack knowledge of basic science that I thought was simply common knowledge the world over (although in their favour they tend to have extensive knowledge of much fairly useless science and have plenty of mathematic formulas committed to memory that I lost as soon as I came out of school).

        When I said perceived ignorance I meant it in the most literal sense, as in the advertising companies perceived the ignorance because it’s there to be perceived, rather than they perceive non-ignorance as ignorance… I haven’t explained that very well, but I hope you get what I mean!

        The advert I’m talking about isn’t actually for one of those public hand wash things, it’s for a hand wash cream type thing to have in your house for general handwashing. The thing that did it for me was that they were claiming its selling point was that you didn’t have to touch the presser-thing that might potentially have damaging germs on it. But this is just ridiculous as a reason to buy a product when you wash your hands immediately after pressing the thing to make the hand wash stuff come out. What are they implying happens in the 2 seconds between touching the possibly germ-covered presser-thing and actually washing your hands?

        I wasn’t saying washing hands is not something people should do – and I’m well aware of the comparative lack of it in Korea. simply that in the UK at least, companies use this abstract and undefined theme as a way to sell products because apparently there are people out there who are hopelessly paranoid about “germs” without actually knowing exactly what this is referring to and what effect – if any – they have in everyday life. The fact that most people don’t get incredibly ill all the time means that there can’t actually be anything particularly bad going on to do with these “germs”. Obviously washing your hands in the bathroom is a must, though, don’t get me wrong.

        And don’t get me started on Romanisation as well! Completely agree with the use of a “z,” a sound that just does not exist anywhere in Korean. I also strongly dislike the use of “u” for “ㅓ”. This is the same as the “z” thing: there is no “z” sound in Korean, so to write foreign words with that sound in han’geul you have to assign “ㅈ” to do the job. That doesn’t mean that the same is appropriate in reverse. Likewise, there is no “u” sound in Korean, as it’s said in the word “up” or “under,” and so the letter “ㅓ” has to be assigned when han’geulising. Fair enough, but you can’t do it in reverse. In English – and all other Romance languages, the Korean “ㅓ” would be represented by an “o” as it is pronounced most similarly to one of the various possible pronounciations of that letter. Obviously, it’s complicated, so that’s all I’m saying on this rather unrelated topic for now!

        • Seamus,

          First, just to clarify, I wasn’t attacking you, but I was confused about what you meant by “perceived ignorance.”Now I understand.

          It’s baffling anyone would buy a product for home that dispenses soap without needing to be touched, but were it not for the presumable waste of silicon, electricity, and plastic, I’d say, “Whatever, if you can make money off stupid, people, why not?” Except those things will fill the landfills. Just as, I assume, will the no-touch dispensers of hand sanitizer that are empty all over Seoul these days.

          We’re on the same page on the rest — handwashing and messed-up Romanization of Hangeul using interchangeabilities from the Hengeulization of foreign languages words.

          Though I use “eo” for “ㅓ” it’s hardly optimal… Westerners have no idea how to use it, and I’ve noticed people who cannot read Hangeul (or speak any Korean) confronted with that bit of Romanization try to sound it out, resulting in something that sounds nothing like Korean.

          Nor, in fact, do most Koreans know how to use the extant official system. A mishmash prevails. The most frustrating of which, though, is the interchangeability of Jea/Jae. And no, it’s not different representations of 제/재, because people use it for the same exact word or name, sometimes for the spelling of their own name, as if the two are interchangeable. (The second most irritating one for me is Whan for 환. It doesn’t even look remotely like how is sounds.)

          While I think the “u” is closer in English for ㅓ, it doesn’t work because u is officially used for ㅜ. So it’s just all a confusing mess.

          • Absolutely with you on getting “w”s and “h”s the wrong way round. It happens a lot, but another example is Ewha Women’s University. Writing it like that just makes non-Korean speakers get it all wrong.

            Romanisation of Korean will obviously never be perfect, because the only completely accurate way to write Korean is in Han’geul, but some of the transliterations are just plain stupid. It’s looking like it might be changed again in the next couple of years, though.

            One of the biggest problems in the creation and implementation of effective Romanisation has been that the people in charge of implementing it seem to believe that the Roman alphabet is the same as English. this is such a widespread belief in Korea I find it absolutely incredible. Example:

            “What’s the English spelling of your name?”
            “Doo-whan” (couldn’t resist).

            Even on official documents you see things like:

            성명:
            영문:

            Which is obviously,
            Name:

            English writing:

            This affects Romanisation because people get so worked up about how English speakers read Roman letters, they forget that the majority of people who use the alphabet don’t speak English as a first language. As a result, there are some fairly standardised understandings of how the letters should be pronounced when they’re not forming English words that people need to realise. Oh well, I’m getting further and further off topic and I didn’t want to…

            • Seamus,

              Yup.

              Of course, part of that 영문 phenomenon is that nobody would be writing anything in a Romanized form except that English is the global lingua franca now. I suspect the fact that all those French, Czech, Polish, German, and other people who might be reading signs in 영문 but aren’t native English speakers aren’t really on the radar of too many people here — especially not those making decisions about how to designation “romanization” on forms…

              But yeah, I’m with you…

        • Just a quick note to say sorry for so many comments in this thread going to moderation guys: I’ve no idea why. Have changed the spam settings to allow 6 links in a comment before putting into the spam folder (rather than 3), but sorry yours in particular still get stuck for some reason Gord.

          Just literally finished handing in all my paperwork for this semester, then have a radio interview, then have to interview someone myself, so might finally be able to write a comment myself this time tomorrow!^^

  6. But even congenitally blind men too?

    Well, social norms are not only internalized with the help of images but also by interacting, actually they are internalized most reliably by interacting. This way it’s completely possible to develop a preference for a certain body type even if you’re blind (You can imagine rooms as three-dimensional objects, you most certainly can imagine bodies as three-dimensional objects). Plus, some of these evolutionary psychologists really seem very eager to discredit social sciences. For example: Well, in today’s post, I discuss a new study that yet again kills the apparently immortal socialization dragon! sounds very gleeful to me. As if they are out to prove that the work done by social scientists is completely useless- I think it’s the “yet again” in the aforementioned sentence; as if numerous of these so-callled completely natural preferences/traits were not “proven” with the help of horribly made studies. (On a side note: it’s not the size of your outer hips that determines your fertility in the sense of your ability to bear children, it’s the size of your inner hips which I don’t know the English word for. I know it wasn’t mentioned but this is the usual explanation for a preference for the hourglass figure.)

    One more thing: most of these studies are only done on men’s preferences. It’s curious, you know? Almost like it’s a new way of saying “Shut up, bitch, I can’t help it, it’s my damn nature.” A neat tool to enforce culturally appropriate preferences. In the end, it is what it is: an internalized and institutionalized ideal that is enforced under threat of punishment (“What kind of women do you like, exactly? You’re not a real man, you know? You must be gay.” etcetc ad nauseam… The threat of social exclusion? Or “Men just don’t like women like you!” The threat of withdrawal of love?).

    Well, there are other things: the refusal to talk about so-called “deviant” behaviour that doesn’t align with the researchers’ preferred hypothesis (What about the men who don’t prefer hourglass types? Are they abnormal? Or are they the result of socialization? The majority is always the product of natural causes, the minority the product of socialization? Clever, very clever), the assumption of free will concerning sexual selection and the claim that if something is widespread it must be biology (Actually, most of today’s societies are patriarchal and love to reinforce notions of sexual dimorphism, especially to women’s detriment. Dimorphism is needed to establish two seperate spheres. And never the twain shall meet.)

    • Wow, I think you have a little Kool-Aid on your chin, kurukurushoujo…

      It’s amazing how someone can speak so “authoritatively” while knowing so damned little.

      You have it backwards: it’s (some) social “scientists” and people in the humanities who have it out for the human sciences. Blame the French deconstructionists/poststructuralists and their relentless campaign to reduce science to just one of many “knowledge systems”: well, and show me another knowledge system that can explain reality sufficiently for us to build a worldwide communications network, to modify genomes, to grasp what we’ve been doing to climate, to disprove idiotic lies about racial superiority, and so on. Social scientists do sometimes get regarded as “the enemy” because a number of them have made themselves the enemy, targeting sociobiologists in their writings for daring to study sex-specific characteristics, or to suggest that something about the way humans work isn’t socialized. Some of the accusations social scientists have made are pretty awful, too… predicated not only on their own misunderstanding of science, but on the mass popular misunderstanding of science as well.

      And while the designation “abnormal” does exist in scientific terminology — abnormal brain development, for example, is all one can really call someone without a corpus callosum, or a child born anencephalic — sociobiologists don’t conceive of humanity as made the same was as plastic Barbie and GI Joe dolls. The point being that sociobiologists wouldn’t conceive of, for example, preferences of body shape as “normal” or “abnormal” but as distributed along a spectrum, usually a bell curve. In fact, sociobiology takes for granted that preferences will, from individual to individual, vary somewhat… so you wouldn’t find a real scientist, who knows what the hell he or she is talking about, declaring someone “abnormal” (or implying they should be ostracized) for having a different preferece… just an “outlier,” Indeed, sociobiologists, anticipating some people will definitely be “abnormal,” would note that this is normal and expected and those who feel the desire to make a statement reaching over into social policy — like Steven Pinker — would tend to argue because of this normality that people with those inborn differences should not be excluded or maligned.

      By the way, tons of sociobiologists are women, and are studying sex-differentiated traits. And then sharing the results at conferences, with their male colleagues. Always, the twain do meet. Scientists tend to be too smart in the aggregate to not listen to someone because of their sex. You seem to be mixing up rodeos and hillbilly drinking parties with professional science.

      They’re not out to prove social sciences completely useless, silly, they’re falsifying erroneous beliefs about human nature, some of which the social sciences have foolishly set up as dogma and promulgated to the mainstream. Which matters because those erroneous beliefs determine all kinds of laws and norms in society. For example, it’s standard within the social sciences to continue to claim that being sexually abused as a child causes one to replicate the abuse. They have no answer for why most people sexually abused as children don’t, as adults, similarly abuse other children . They have no response when it’s pointed out that most people sexually abused as children are abused by relatives, except to claim that, yes, it’s a chain of abuse passed down since who knows when, purely through socialization. But dare to suggest it might — just might! — be a genetic predisposition? Oh, watch their diapers fill! This is why twin studies horrify the social sciences community; because “socialization” works exactly the way Dawkins describes “the God of the gaps” — they use it to fully explain any seemingly inexplicable fact. And then when it’s shown that actually there’s some inborn preference or tendency, oh, well, but socialization must still be part of it. Evidence? Uh… well, it just IS.

      If you want to have a better sense of why sociobiologists might go on the offensive when faced with such dolts, as well as what sociobiologists actually have to say about the world, have a look at Stephen Pinker’s book The Blank Slate. It’s a good layperson’s introduction, with lots of examples of social scientists — especially anthropologists — hammering away at how evil sociobiology is, while being completely wrong in their claims.

      And finally — neither the inner nor outer hip width is necessarily an indicator of fertility of child-bearing capability. You don’t understand the science you’ve read, if any, or the social scientist you’ve read mischaracterized the claims of sociobiologists, which is this:

      Sexual attraction of men to women is heavily determined by outer traits that tend to correlate with fertility and health. That is to say — men generally tend to be attracted to women with a specific minimal wait-to-hip ratio because over time, natural selection has lent great reproductive success to men who were attracted to women with this and similar traits (flushed cheeks, clear skin, presence of secondary sexual characteristics like, say, breasts). The point is that it’s not as if men are consciously, misguidedly attracted to women with wider hips because they think the women are more fertile. It’s a non-rational, hardwired preference that developed because wider-hips has in female humans tended to be a secondary sexual characteristic correlated with dietary fitness, and greater fertility.

      The traits aren’t directly related to fertility. Women with acne can have babies, of course. But back when we were wandering around in Africa, becoming human, it was difficult to know what was acne, and what was a more serious health condition. Clear skin isn’t really the absence of acne so much as the absence of visible signs of illness on the skin — an indicator of apparent fitness and youth, hallmarks of fertility. So your “explanation” of how it’s wrong is wrong in itself, and also you have the sobiobiologists’ claims wrong.

      Which is why I won’t waste any more time taking you seriously. James responded to everything else worth eviscerating.

      • Wow, I think you have a little Kool-Aid on your chin, kurukurushoujo…

        I’M NOT AN IDEOLOGUE. Seeing as my point of view is not the most popular one I am tempted to assume that it’s not me who drank the kool-aid. I mean, there are so many adherents of evo-psych I cannot go out without stepping on one.

        it’s (some) social “scientists” and people in the humanities who have it out for the human sciences.

        So Berger/Luckmann who were instrumental in establishing the paradigm of the world-openness of the human being (which they thought was biologically innate OMIGODZ) are not real “scientists”. WHATWHAT PS.: Berger/Luckman are considered social constructivists.

        to disprove idiotic lies about racial superiority

        Once, there was a time when biology was actually used to prove the inferiority of certain ethnicities (Stephen Jay Gould’s book “The Mismeasure of Man” talks about this – I’m pretty sure though that you have heard of his absymal opinion of evolutionary psychologists.). You can marvelously instrumentalize biology to explain every difference as biologically innate.

        Social scientists do sometimes get regarded as “the enemy” because a number of them have made themselves the enemy, targeting sociobiologists in their writings for daring to study sex-specific characteristics, or to suggest that something about the way humans work isn’t socialized.

        The mean mean sociologists who participate in the scientific process. You know, like this was actually the point of their work. “Targeting” sociobiologists- I guess like snipers they take them out one by one, LOLZ. Dude, there are also biologists who do no take kindly to evo-psych, see: Gould, Stephen Jay. Last time I heard, empirical biologists also have some problems with it.

        Some of the accusations social scientists have made are pretty awful, too… predicated not only on their own misunderstanding of science, but on the mass popular misunderstanding of science as well.

        I would really like to have the names of these sociologists so that I can actually evaluate for myself.

        By the way, tons of sociobiologists are women, and are studying sex-differentiated traits. And then sharing the results at conferences, with their male colleagues. Always, the twain do meet.

        Some women also thought it was not a good idea to get the right to vote. The presence of a vagina will not make me shut up. PS. I see what you did there: taking my Kipling allusion which was meant to illustrate the socially enforced sex segregation of patriarchal societies and using it to show that there are OMIGODZ women who agree with you. DUDE IM DONE. I AGREE WITH YOU. Nah, just kidding.

        Scientists tend to be too smart in the aggregate to not listen to someone because of their sex.

        Hehehehehe. This must be why women were not allowed to study at university for so long.

        Indeed, sociobiologists, anticipating some people will definitely be “abnormal,” would note that this is normal and expected and those who feel the desire to make a statement reaching over into social policy — like Steven Pinker — would tend to argue because of this normality that people with those inborn differences should not be excluded or maligned.

        Interestingly, since Pinker’s et al. claims do so neatly align with “commen sense” (common bullshit) they will be used to justify oppression and structural disadvantages. A woman who is not able to pull a man because she is, I guess people like you would say, evolutionary disadvantaged will have far less income at her disposal than a woman who is married. Does Pinker, however, propose a model to systematically give those women money? After all, she is not at fault for not fitting into the ideal.
        See, I am very concerned with the real world and my understanding of the world is very materialistic. I see the injustice happening now and I wonder how it can be destroyed. (This is actually not meant to be sarcastic.)

        They’re not out to prove social sciences completely useless, silly, they’re falsifying erroneous beliefs about human nature, some of which the social sciences have foolishly set up as dogma and promulgated to the mainstream. Which matters because those erroneous beliefs determine all kinds of laws and norms in society.

        I just…
        Seeing as I can’t click on any news website nowadays without being informed about what I am supposed to be genetically predetermined to prefer because of my sex at least once a week you must have a very interesting understanding of what the mainstream actually looks like. The mainstream loves biological determinism. There is a growing sentiment of the human being as someone who is caged in by her biology.
        Luckily, you need foolproof EMPIRICAL evidence to introduce political measures and not some paper on what our ancestors did in Africa some thousand years ago.
        And you know, suddenly it’s the evil sociological influence which has an impact on laws and norms- I thought it was biology. See, here we are again: biology determines everything but the things that are unpleasant to me it doesn’t. ITS LIKE MAGIC.

        They have no response when it’s pointed out that most people sexually abused as children are abused by relatives, except to claim that, yes, it’s a chain of abuse passed down since who knows when, purely through socialization. But dare to suggest it might — just might! — be a genetic predisposition? Oh, watch their diapers fill! This is why twin studies horrify the social sciences community; because “socialization” works exactly the way Dawkins describes “the God of the gaps” — they use it to fully explain any seemingly inexplicable fact. And then when it’s shown that actually there’s some inborn preference or tendency, oh, well, but socialization must still be part of it. Evidence? Uh… well, it just IS.

        Dude, you don’t have any empirical evidence either. Just saying there might be a genetic predisposition to sexually abuse is not evidence, it’s a hypothesis that must be tested. Moreover, you would actually have to show how exactly this gene works. This is the crux of the argument. You have to show without a doubt that socialization doesn’t play a role whatsoever. Always think of Popper: theories cannot be proven, they can only be falsified. If there is only one twin pair in which one abuses and the other doesn’t a hypothesis proposing the total biological determination of sexually abusive behaviour will not last. And even if you established the hypothesis that it was mostly determined by genetics and this turned out to be true (still: good luck in proving why one twin does abuse and the other doesn’t…) society would have to be turned upside down and you know WHY (not that I would mind)?:
        1. Most sexual abusers are male.
        2. Studies prove that sexual abuse is genetically pre-determined (there is no reform).
        3. You cannot tell which male is an abuser and which not.
        4. Men must be monitored/total sex segregation (most victims of sexual abuse are girls and women)
        I can further explain if you wish to. Never has there been a more solid argument for lesbian separatism than some of the opinions espoused by evolutionary psychologists and their ilk. (Before someone rips out my throat: no, I am not a lesbian separatist and don’t plan to be although I’ve nothing against women who choose to live that way. Man, I’m probably going to have my throat ripped out nevertheless since lesbian separatists are OMIGODZ EVIIIIL WOMEEN, WAAAH)

        If you want to have a better sense of why sociobiologists might go on the offensive when faced with such dolts, as well as what sociobiologists actually have to say about the world, have a look at Stephen Pinker’s book The Blank Slate.

        Uhuh, sure (http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/02/09/the-thoughtful-steven-pinker/).

        And finally — neither the inner nor outer hip width is necessarily an indicator of fertility of child-bearing capability

        Actually, if your inner hips are too narrow you might have trouble pushing out your child which could result in either your or the child’s death. Which means: it’s a perfect indicator for fertility.

        It’s a non-rational, hardwired preference that developed because wider-hips has in female humans tended to be a secondary sexual characteristic correlated with dietary fitness, and greater fertility.

        The traits aren’t directly related to fertility. Women with acne can have babies, of course. But back when we were wandering around in Africa, becoming human, it was difficult to know what was acne, and what was a more serious health condition.

        Cool, evidence? Got a time machine up your sleeve? I mean, did they actually have acne? And what if acne actually correlated with fertility? Also, men have acne, too. Does this correlate with their fertility?

        You know, I might be authoritative (at least I’m not condescending and paternalistic like you, at least when not provoked) but I do not think I’m as wrong as you want me to be. Unluckily, the times have gone when sociologists still saw the light (*snicker*) and pondered about the biological predispositions of women and men to fit into their roles. Which practically means: you’re 100 YEARS TOO LATE. Damn that pesky scientific progress!
        PS: I’m a student of the social sciences (sociology, political science, media & communications) and I do not appreciate you continuously invalidating many important work done by sociologists only because they don’t agree with your paradigm. You make it sound like WAR but it’s only the passion of the scientific discourse.

        • You know, actually I went and read the links you suggested. (Tellingly, the outgoing link on that post is dead. Of course it is, so we can’t see what Pinker wrote. But then, you aren’t interested in his arguments, right? Just the criticisms.)

          But anyway from what you’ve written, I know you’re not going to read anything about sociobiology not written by one of its critics, and I know you’ve made up your mind. I wrote a response to your drivel, but you know, there’s no point in trying to dialog with someone who (a) doesn’t want to dialog, but only to use others’ words as stuffing for a strawman and as a springboard for ridiculousness, and (b) has already made up her or his mind.

          I have better things to do with my life than trying to clear up the misconceptions of a joker like you — misconceptions about science, misconceptions about my point of view (I certainly don’t believe in monocausal explanations, though you think I must), and so on. I especially have better things to do since you clearly have a poor grasp of science and no interest in bettering it. (But: no scientific model demands airtight proof — we can’t know it’s not airtight until it falsified anyway, and on top of that. one needn’t prove the absence of multiple causes if one isn’t arguing a totalizing causality. Sociobiologists aren’t necessarily — and usually aren’t — arguing exclusive biological determinism: that’s a reductionist mischaracterization popular among their opponents, especially in the social sciences.)

          Anyway, like I said, better things to do with my life than trying to clear up your misconceptions, especially since dialog with you is so unpleasant, and since you find dialog with me unpleasant too.

          Enjoy that “paradigm” of yours.

    • I think I’ve fixed up your HTML. But to be frank, I really find your comment that “some of these evolutionary psychologists really seem very eager to discredit social sciences” both ironic and somewhat hypocritical, as you seem so eager to discredit evolutionary psychologists in turn that you resort to a great deal of generalizations and conceptual leaps yourself. To be specific:

      …as if numerous of these so-callled completely natural preferences/traits were not “proven” with the help of horribly made studies.

      What makes them “horribly made”? And which studies are you referring to exactly? Are all of them horribly made, or just some of them?

      Regardless, you might be amazed at what can get considered “natural” without the benefit of such studies. Consider why those of Harry Harlow were so important for instance:

      Back in the 1950s and 60s, it was generally believed by the scientific community that rats were just as effective experimental subjects as primates for learning about human behavior, a position that just so happened to be much cheaper and convenient for researchers too. It was also believed that there was absolutely no basis to the idea that children with bad parents would be more likely to be bad parents themselves either. To prove the former wrong in particular, Harlow conducted:

      …a series of experiments on mother-child bonding in rhesus monkeys. With hindsight, many of Harlow’s tests seem quite hideous. In order to demonstrate that it was comfort rather than food alone that baby monkeys sought from their mothers, he created a pair of monstrous models: cloth mother and wire mother. Cloth mother was soft and cosy. Wire mother was hard and uncomfortable, but delivered milk. No prizes for guessing which one the babies preferred to cling to. Some mothers were even worse. In order to investigate maternal rejection, brass-spike mother, air-blast mother and others like them were brought into play. Harlow had no time for the euphemisms which, even today, are used to soften the descriptions of experimental procedures in scientific papers. The apparatus he devised to impregnate females whose courtship skills had been destroyed by their sterile upbringing was known as the rape rack. The inverted pyramid used to impose isolation, in order to investigate the origins of depression, was the pit of despair.

      The results were exactly what you might have expected. Children need mother love. Upbringing matters. Females who are neglected as children go on to neglect their own children. But Harlow’s experiments were needed to convince the experts of this self-evident truth. And those experts held sway over the child-rearing practices of the day. Monkeys had to suffer so that children might not. The University of Wisconsin’s psychology department was nicknamed “Goon Park” because its address, 600 N. Park, could read that way on carelessly addressed letters. As a comment on crude behaviorism, though, the name could not be bettered.

      (“The Goon Show”, The Economist, Jan 23rd 2003. My emphasis)

      Gord Sellar’s made a similar argument in an earlier comment, so I won’t labor the point here: the science in this case is pretty unequivocal, but you seem to insist that, somehow, social norms must have had an influence nonetheless. In particular, you imply that a) current social norms favor hourglass figures on women, which I would completely disagree with and b) that by ‘”interacting” , the congenitally blind men in the study internalized those norms. Can you please provide a plausible explanation of how exactly? Interacting with what? With whom? In what form?

      One more thing: most of these studies are only done on men’s preferences.

      That’s patently false, like I’ve mentioned in a previous comment.

      It’s curious, you know? Almost like it’s a new way of saying “Shut up, bitch, I can’t help it, it’s my damn nature.”

      That’s a pretty bizarre inference to make. Are you sure you’re not confusing it with something else?

      A neat tool to enforce culturally appropriate preferences. In the end, it is what it is: an internalized and institutionalized ideal that is enforced under threat of punishment (“What kind of women do you like, exactly? You’re not a real man, you know? You must be gay.” etcetc ad nauseam… The threat of social exclusion? Or “Men just don’t like women like you!” The threat of withdrawal of love?).

      I’ve already mentioned that the hourglass figure is not currently the most “culturally appropriate preference”, so…hell, you could even argue that this study is counter-cultural in a sense. Moreover, where have you heard these “What kind of women do you like, exactly? You’re not a real man, you know? You must be gay”-type conversations from exactly? Never in my life have said or heard such comments from men, whom in my experience generally acknowledge and respect each other’s preferences for different kinds of women (yes, we don’t all judge women just on their body types).

      Well, there are other things: the refusal to talk about so-called “deviant” behaviour that doesn’t align with the researchers’ preferred hypothesis (What about the men who don’t prefer hourglass types? Are they abnormal? Or are they the result of socialization? The majority is always the product of natural causes, the minority the product of socialization? Clever, very clever), the assumption of free will concerning sexual selection and the claim that if something is widespread it must be biology (Actually, most of today’s societies are patriarchal and love to reinforce notions of sexual dimorphism, especially to women’s detriment. Dimorphism is needed to establish two seperate spheres. And never the twain shall meet.)

      Granted, those that don’t fit the hypotheses probably should get more attention (albeit a problem hardly confined to evolutionary psychologists or evolutionary biologists), although they may well do in the (usually rather dry) journal articles and so on (not the condensed versions the vast majority of us read). But your point about “The majority is always the product of natural causes, the minority the product of socialization”? Well, if the majority of men regardless of culture and/or exposure to media do indeed prefer hourglass figures, what else is there to conclude but that majority preference is indeed biologically innate? But do bear in mind that a biological preference can still be very dependent on the environment in which it occurs however: for instance, the social norm now is for well-muscled, athletic men to be considered the most attractive, but when resources were scarce it could often make more sense for women to reproduce with a skinnier man.

      I could go on, but to be blunt I find your comment little more than a rant about evolutionary psychology and its practitioners that demonstrates little actual knowledge of either, and I only have so much time to point out the basics. For the record however, perhaps I should point out that I am no fan of Dr Gad Saad, whose dismissive comment about social constructivists is what prompted it in the first place: indeed, he once wrote a rant of his own about leftists in US academia, and after his patronizing reply to my criticism of that I won’t bother making a comment there again. The difference between that post and this one we’re discussing on hourglass figures however, is that he does at least link to a study that supports his statements about that (not alas, his one-liner about social constructivists). Without something similar from yourself though, I’m afraid I don’t find any of your arguments at all convincing.

  7. What makes them “horribly made”? And which studies are you referring to exactly? Are all of them horribly made, or just some of them?

    Well, I said numerous. The ones that are most publicized in the media are usually flawed, at least from what I could pick up from the criticisms I read. I will give you links to one of my favourite blogs, Echidne of the Snakes, who has done a really good job at criticizing some of the most well-known evo-psych data:

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_05_16_archive.html#900260379216266557

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html#4655640877991147366

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_04_11_archive.html#2674116800514336843

    (These are about Brizendine.)

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_04_04_archive.html#492418687578771214

    (The always amusing evo-psych bingo.)

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2008_12_07_archive.html#4251451868891599735

    (A general post about flawed methodology.)

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_03_14_archive.html#4597944692582800038

    (Partly about Baron-Cohen.)

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_02_28_archive.html#1939619106374582086

    (About Kanazawa.)

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_02_28_archive.html#570217758304404808

    (About attractiveness.)

    There are many more if you go back in the archives. She also wrote about Pinker: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/02/09/the-thoughtful-steven-pinker/

    Plus, two more:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2194486/entry/2194487/

    http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/fallacy.html

    the science in this case is pretty unequivocal

    Really, it is? Here’s one article I found. Doesn’t sound that unequivocal to me. (http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/darwin/readings/chartersingh.htm) (“Nobody likes overweight women” SERIOUSLY)
    I also visited a German attraction researcher’s webpage to get more info on the person who initially developed the WHR (waist-to-hip ratio), Devendra Singh. It said that there were cultures where a WHR of 0,9 is actually preferred. Not only that but Singh’s methodology is questionable: the pictures he presented of women (seen on the HP next to the drawing with the two women in corsets, http://www.beautycheck.de/cmsms/index.php/taille-huefte-verhaeltnis) were only modified concerning waist and weight, not including hips which begs the question if men would have found a woman with a smaller waist but thicker hips attractive. They also conducted a study themselves and found that although the median value lies very close to 0,7 and that although a women is more attractive the closer she comes to the median value the correlation is pretty weak.

    In particular, you imply that a) current social norms favor hourglass figures on women, which I would completely disagree with and b) that by ‘”interacting” , the congenitally blind men in the study internalized those norms. Can you please provide a plausible explanation of how exactly? Interacting with what? With whom? In what form?

    They interact socially with other people. First, as children they naturally are very dependent on their parents and will necessarily aim to please their expectations, at least to a certain extent. Parents and all other close relatives/family friends are very important agents of socializations for children since they give information about how to navigate the world and how to behave in accordance with their sex. Boys are told to not cry, girls are often discouraged from being assertive and so on. During the course of your socialization- primary (family) and secondary (institutions)- you also learn who counts more or less in a given society, you begin to realize where your place will be. For instance, women might be made artificially dependent on men by forbidding them to hold jobs and bank accounts. The man is seen as the provider in this case and what he expects in return from his future bride is a docile worker and a pleasing decoration. Therefore, women’s abilities to run a household and their looks are their most valuable resources. Arbitrary and quickly changing norms are established to measure the level attractiveness. Blind boys are not socialized any different when it comes to internalization of norms than any other male children. They will be told how to behave because of their sex and what to expect from a female partner.

    That’s a pretty bizarre inference to make. Are you sure you’re not confusing it with something else?

    Actually, that’s the way it often goes when you read discussions between proponents of evo-psych and people in disagreement with much of the discipline. They phrase it much more nicely than “Shut up, bitch, it’s nature!” though. Usually, you hear sentences like “What can you do? Men are born that way, just deal with it!”.

    I’ve already mentioned that the hourglass figure is not currently the most “culturally appropriate preference”, so…hell, you could even argue that this study is counter-cultural in a sense.

    It’s definitely not counter-cultural since Singh seems to try to make a point of proving that every women thought to be attractive has a WHR of 0,7. (Interestingly, I’ve also read that he makes a point about his studies having a limited range which is completely contradictory.) The notion that there is one perfect woman is not terribly counter-cultural.

    Moreover, where have you heard these “What kind of women do you like, exactly? You’re not a real man, you know? You must be gay”-type conversations from exactly? Never in my life have said or heard such comments from men, whom in my experience generally acknowledge and respect each other’s preferences for different kinds of women (yes, we don’t all judge women just on their body types).

    Well, social discipline is not that obvious, is it? People make fun of small men being in love with a taller woman and will try to break up the relationship with constant ridicule. Things like this happen. Your anecdotes prove nothing except your obviously very lucky circumstances. Personally, I haven’t experienced that much variation in male sexuality, for instance, there seems to be a huge preference for thinness. Not to mention the documentary we watched in biology class in which women had 7-8 different types of preferred male figures and men only 3 preferred female figures (who actually looked almost exactly the same). It would be ridiculous to assume that a society with a narrow set of expectations concerning women’s looks would breed a great amount of variation. More likely, there are variations on the ideal but relatively few which venture too far from it.

    Well, if the majority of men regardless of culture and/or exposure to media do indeed prefer hourglass figures, what else is there to conclude but that majority preference is indeed biologically innate?

    I cannot believe I didn’t make that argument earlier: biology is universal therefore only absolute certainty will suffice in proving a hypothesis. A majority is still a majority with a minority whose existence you would have to explain. Well, how would that be possible? For instance, biologically: males with low status will volunteer to mate with less desirable females because the most desirable females have already been monopolized by the high status males (note, however, that this in itself is a social interaction based on a social structure). Or you could say: certain female features have been arbitrarily selected as desirable in patriarchal societies, especially ones connected to women as commodities or resources (wide hips are read as good resource for offspring) since the female population’s value is largely determined by their usefulness as workers and producers of offspring, preferably sons. However, the status differences in male groups necessitate that only the men most well off get the most attractive mate. Most well off means: having enough external resources to prove to the woman’s father that he’s a reliable provider. It is also possible to have culturally constructed readings of bodily features. Wide hips mean fertility because women with them look like they might birth easily or perhaps more shockingly to some: wide hips differentiate women from men in a very visible way thereby reinforcing a sexual dimorphism used to justify a separation of the male and female spheres. Men with effeminate feature (big lips, round face, large eyes) are read as more sensitive and trustful because big lips, round faces, large eyes are considered typically female and typically female means more sensitive and trustful. (Yes, I now, the testosterone: it makes you aggressive, OMIGODZ. Seriously: if this is supposed to be some universal trait I must not have met all these men that have square jaws and are sensitive.)

    • One more tiny point, as this sticks in my craw, and mostly for those reading along:

      Biology *is* universal, but that doesn’t mean that traits or tendencies manifest universally. That is to say, traits are still distributed across a spectrum. Testosterone in one’s system is correlated with aggression, though causality is not really proven. Still, it seems to be boosted when men are about to compete, like before a sports match, and it stays high in the winners (but not the losers.) For that matter, higher levels of progesterone are correlated to higher aggression, from what I recall, and that’s a hormone that fluctuates much higher in women’s bodies during the menstrual cycle.

      But even if the correlation between testosterone levels and aggression were proven to be causal, that would not mean all men will be equally aggressive. It’s just as ridiculous (and, I’m sorry, but just as stupid) as saying that if estrogen and progestrone in one’s system causes one to lactate, if that’s actually true, then all women should have the same-sized breasts.

      It’s nonsensical.

      Sociobiology does NOT predict universally equally distributed traits. It actually by necessity would presume a variation in traits, with predictable degrees of variation on either side of the bell curve. (Some men are way more aggressive than average, some are relatively less so.) Which is why this blather about airtight proof is nonsense, and which is why it’s clear your grasp of basic science is, well, poor at best.

      Which is why this is directed at readers, not at you, since I’m not wasting more time attempting dialog.

  8. Alright, alright, I concede: there is natural biological variation (however, there are evolutionary psychologists who make it very obvious that the variation is not important). It is actually something I should have known seeing as I had evolution explained to me in 13th grade. Looks like I am influenced too much by the mainstream who is interestinlgy manipulated by the evil social constructionist sociologists who are curiously invested in pushing studies by people who say “NOBODY likes overweight women” (Yes, nobody) and propose solutions to the British government which contain the idea that no money should be paid to jobless women but to men because male attractivity is dependent on income (Echidne mentioned this in one of her comments to a blog post at her web). And don’t forget Lionel Tiger (sitting right on the shelves of the tiny sociobiology section of our library): he established Male Studies since Men’s Studies are already too biased because of the destructive influence of feminism and sociology. He proved his total objectivity by linking to a commentary which blamed the bad quality of relationships between men and women on women’s higher achievements in formal education. That is so objective I cannot belief I heard this last when people tried to argue against letting women enjoy ANY form of higher education.

    Now to my closing remarks:
    1. I will value evolutionary psychology as a whole when examples like the ones in the paragraph above are exceptions and not the rule.
    2. I do not believe that genetics are without influence, that would be stupid. However, like Echidne, I want to say that the influence cannot be measured at the present.
    3. I want to retract my claim that Gould has an absymal opinion about evo-psych. He doesn’t which I could have known had I read his words more carefully. He actually thinks that evo-psych is very important but not in the way Pinker (who is a damn linguist) works with it.
    4. There is no reason for me to take Pinker, a linguist, more seriously than Gould, an evolutionary biologist, when it comes to matters of natural selection.

  9. A couple of very general comments (partially because I’m not particularly pleased with how the conversation is going . . .)
    First, and again, I don’t believe that people are a “blank slate” and that biology has no effect on people’s behavior. No serious, trained social scientist (and even those of us with, say, a focus on cultural anthropology, will have some background in biological anthropology) does. But biology and culture (including, yes, media) interact to produce human behaviors. Ok so far? I’m not claiming we’re all blank slates, and likewise I don’t expect anybody to seriously contend that a majority of our behavoir is biologically determined, either. However, kurukurushoujo is right in pointing out that these studies are often misread or misued in general life, and that as feminists (hail sister!) we’ve got more reason than most to be suspicious of evolutionary psychology, which has a long history of getting things wrong when it comes to women (as James’ earlier link points out) and painting ancient man as a caveman version of the 50′s suburbs. Likewise, the meaning we can take away from these studies is often repackaged and used to shore up gender difference and inequality as somehow “natural” So kurukurushoujo’s concern is not misplaced, and as women we have more need to be concerned about how studies like this are going to be miss-applied to our lives.

  10. Being a college freshmen who is barely an adult I’m intimidated by long comments written by long term readers – just a thought-
    Quite frankly I find it absurd limiting the craze of easy dieting on Koreans (which I don’t accuse anyone of doing) when their western counterparts are either starving or purging, nonetheless I think that Koreans are pressured to look a certain way more than westerns are.

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