Friday, October 19, 2012

An increase in skepticism among young people?

I've been distributing a questionnaire to students which, among other things, asks them their religion. Quite a few have answered "atheist" which makes me wonder if skepticism is on the increase among young people. It would not surprise me, given the success of New Atheists like Richard Dawkins.

The General Social Survey has been asking about belief in God most survey years since 1988. Here are the percentages for men and women ages 18-29 for the 90s and the past decade:

Percent skeptical--1990s

Men (n = 470)
Atheist 4.9
Agnostic 7.7

Women (n = 571)
Atheist 2.5
Agnostic 3.9


Past decade

Men (n = 644)
Atheist 5.3
Agnostic 10.2

Women (n = 824)
Atheist 1.6
Agnostic 5.3

All categories appear to have increased except for female atheists.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Desire for revenge, not anger, helps explain why men are more physically aggressive

New from the Journal of Research in Personality:
Past research indicates that men are more physically aggressive than women, but very little research has examined mediators of this gender difference. Indeed, the only established finding to date is that one plausible mediator – namely trait anger – shows no reliable gender difference whatsoever. Drawing on sexual selection theory and social-learning theories, we predicted that revenge may mediate this gender difference even though anger does not. Three studies using both personality questionnaires (Studies 1 and 2) and objective laboratory measures of aggression (Study 3) provided support for this contention. The results provide some of the first evidence for a reliable mediator of gender difference in physical aggression.
And here their version of sexual selection theory is spelled out:
Sexual selection theory is the most prominent evolutionary explanation of gender differences in physical aggression. According to this theory, men are typically under greater evolutionary pressures to behave aggressively than women. Because women are sometimes unavailable for reproduction due to pregnancy, women are argued to be a more valuable reproductive resource for which men must compete. Men can do so by aggressively excluding other men from mating opportunities or by seeking to attract women. Evolutionary theorists have traditionally argued that men mainly seek to attract women by establishing a more dominant position in the social hierarchy.
According to Daly and Wilson, these factors have converged and made men more prone to aggressive retaliation in the face of minor provocations. In order to deter male rivals from aggression and to achieve a dominant status, men need to establish a reputation for “toughness” (i.e., that they are not vulnerable to mistreatment by others). Thus, even minor insults demand swift and forceful retaliation.
Consistent with this, crime statistics and laboratory experiments have both shown that men are more likely to respond to trivial provocations with extreme retaliation. A large proportion of murders can be attributed to men responding to minor provocations, but similar incidences are exceedingly rare among women and. Moreover, laboratory experiments show that priming status goals leads men (but not women) to be more physically aggressive in the face of minor provocations.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sexual people overperceive flirtatiousness in others

New from Personality and Individual Differences:
As reproductive rates have the potential to be higher in men than women, it is more costly (from an evolutionary perspective) for men to miss a mating opportunity than women. This asymmetry in costs has been proposed to result in men being more sensitive to cues to sexual opportunity than women, and thus men are more likely than women to misperceive sexual interest from opposite sex others. To investigate this sexual misperception bias, smiling male and female faces were presented to participants who were asked to judge whether the face appeared friendly or flirtatious. Participants also completed a sociosexual orientation questionnaire in order to assess their current attitudes towards sexual relationships. In general, we found that males perceive female faces as flirtatious significantly more often than females. However, our results also suggested that people with high scores on the sociosexuality inventory (who rated themselves as more likely to engage in short-term, casual relationships), regardless of sex, had a tendency
to perceive the faces of potential mates as more flirtatious, and that this variable explained more variance than sex alone. Our findings demonstrate that sociosexuality may mediate biases in perceiving the sexual intent of others.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The South and sexual perversity

Here's an interesting topic. I've been reminded recently how the cultural elite thinks that Southerners are sexual perverts. Just a couple days ago I watched an episode of Louis C.K. where a redneck pulled a gun on Louis to get him to have sex with his sister. Just last week I watched Midnight Cowboy again which suggested that the Southern protagonist was sexually abused by his grandmother. That reminded me of the "purdy mouth" scene in Deliverance. More recently, Texan Killer Joe, played by Matthew McConaughey, obsesses on a young girl. And so on and so on.

I looked for data on the question. I had a difficult time finding anything, but the GSS has asked participants if their religious leader has ever made sexual advances, and this is certainly sexually deviant (sample = 1,758). The percent for Americans in the non-South is 2.3 percent, while it's 2.6 percent in the South; they are not significantly different. Plus, the rate in the South might actually be lower if you take into account the fact that the non-South is less religious and thus has a smaller share of its people that are at risk of clergy abuse.

UPDATE: I equalized the situation by only looking at people who attend at least nearly every week. The non-South percentage rises to 4.2%, while the South's rises to 3.7% (N = 531). Still no significant difference.

UPDATE UPDATE: These low numbers contradict the picture presented in Grapes of Wrath of ministers having sex with members every time they get to feelin' the Spirit. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Science Left Behind

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51UsuO33sVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

I see that Razib Khan and Audacious Epigone are listed in the index of this book. You should buy it and see what it says.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sexual people are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment

A new study from Evolution and Human Behavior reports that highly sexual people are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment:
Sexual harassment and coercion have mainly been considered from a sex difference perspective. While traditional social science theories have explained harassment as male dominance of females, the evolutionary perspective has suggested that sex differences in the desire for sex are a better explanation. This study attempts to address individual differences associated with harassment from an evolutionary perspective. Considering previous research that has found links between sociosexual orientation inventory (SOI) and harassment, we consider whether this association can be replicated in a large, representative sample of high school students (N=1199) from a highly egalitarian culture. Expanding the previous studies which mainly focused on male perpetrators and female victims, we also examine females and males as both perpetrators and as victims. We believe that unrestricted sociosexuality motivates people to test whether others are interested in short-term sexual relations in ways that sometimes might be defined as harassment. Furthermore, unrestricted individuals signal their sociosexual orientation, and while they do not desire all individuals that react to these signals with sexual advances, they attract much more sexual advances than individuals with restricted sociosexual orientations, especially from other unrestricted members of the opposite sex. This more or less unconscious signaling thus makes them exploitable, i.e., harassable. We find that SOI is a predictor for sexual harassment and coercion among high school students. The paper concludes that, as expected, unrestricted sociosexuality predicts being both a perpetrator and a victim of both same-sex and opposite-sex harassment.

Monday, August 27, 2012

National differences in female partner violence

In this WHO study of ever-partnered women in 10 countries, Ethiopia has the highest percent ever being physically or sexually assault by a partner--71 percent. Japan has the lowest with 15 percent. The authors chalk it up to differences in economic development. I'm not so sure.