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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Social psychologist Roy Baumeister challenges bias

Social psychologist Roy Baumeister challenges bias

"Gay marriage. Student harassment. Racial vilification. There’s an endless list of social issues dominating Australia’s culture wars, with ferocious lobby groups working hard to close down views that challenge the trendy orthodoxy. Well, there’s an eminent newcomer to town who loves getting up the nose of those trying to shut down proper debate...

Even since the 1970s when there was much excitement about research showing women’s capacity for multiple orgasms there’s been a strong feminist push arguing women’s sex drives are generally as strong as those of men. The psychology literature is replete with articles by women arguing this case — yet out in the real world everyone knows that’s not true...

Baumeister was the first to seriously investigate the truth of the matter, embarking in a series of studies, along with some female colleagues. One of these, Kate Catanese, started off totally convinced by the feminist rhetoric that there are no gender differences in sex drive, but as the evidence piled up ultimately she realised that was wrong.

The researchers examined more than 150 studies and concluded there was overwhelming evidence that men have more frequent sexual desires than women. The findings: men think about sex more often, desire more partners, masturbate more, want sex sooner, are less able or willing to live without sexual gratification, initiate more and refuse less sex, expend more resources and make more sacrifices for sex, desire and enjoy a broader variety of sexual practices, and have fewer complains about low sex drive.

“It’s pretty damn conclusive,” says a recent article in Psychology Today. Yet Baumeister still reports regular encounters with female academics, including some on his recent trip to Australia, claiming it just ain’t so...

Baumeister remains optimistic. “A nice thing about science is that one can assume the truth will win out in the end,” he says.

“To be sure, that requires freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech. On politically charged topics there are strong and influential minorities who actively work against those freedoms.”

Gender, sexuality, and race are key areas in which there is limited openness to new ideas and new facts, suggests Baumeister. He resents what he sees as left-wing bias in social psychology: “White prejudice is studied frequently while inter-minority racism is comparatively ignored. If you have a finding that says the conservative viewpoint did better, no one wants to publish it.”

One topic that is hardly likely to win brownie points in the current social climate is research suggesting that men are better than women in anything whatsoever...

He concluded that most people who write about gender are “too intimidated by the feminist establishment to conduct an open-minded consideration of the relative advantages and disadvantages of both genders. The basic feminist dogma is that women are equal to or better than men at everything, and that all women’s problems and failures must be blamed on men.”

Take the common assumption that women are more social than men. Psychologists often make this claim but Baumeister points out the evidence is actually weak and applies mainly to one-to-one close relationships. He says if you define “social” in terms of large groups or networks, it is men who are more social as shown in team sports, military groups, even children’s playing styles.

“It was men’s ability to co-operate with casual acquaintances and strangers to work towards common goals that led to men creating wealth, knowledge and power — which led to the gender inequality that our society is struggling to overcome,” concludes Baumeister, who is happy to label himself a feminist.

Men’s unique social skills were a key theme when Baumeister found himself addressing the American Psychological Association in San Francisco on the topic “Is there anything good about men?”

This led to a book of the same name looking at how culture exploits men. In it he argues differences in gender roles are a trade-off. A few lucky men are at the top of society and enjoy the culture’s best rewards. Others, less fortunate, have their lives chewed up by it. One mistake of many modern feminists, he writes, is that they “look only at the top of society and draw conclusions about society as a whole. Yes, there are mostly men at the top. But if you look at the bottom, really at the bottom, you’ll find mostly men there, too.” His examples: The homeless; the imprisoned; or people who do dangerous jobs (92 per cent of deaths at work are male)."
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