Mismatched Lust Between the Sexes

OKCupid founder Christian Rudder has a new book out: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking). Rudder is the guy responsible for the always fascinating OKTrends blog, which he started in 2009. From Nate Silver’s blog Five Thirty Eight, we learn that Dataclysm is based on Rudder’s OKTrends posts, for which he spent countless hours crunching data in Excel.

Rudder’s first chapter covers the basics of sexual attraction, and highlights how the sexes differ in this regard.

“Women who are, say, 28 find guys who are also 28 about the most attractive, and so forth. Up until about 40, when that’s getting too old.”


Actually, you can see that before age 29 women prefer men 1-3 years older. After 30, they prefer men younger than themselves. Rudder is careful to point out that this is not about choosing a long-term partner, it’s simply a measurement of who women find hot.

“This is attractiveness votes, so think of this as our proxy for lust.”

Rudder then showed the male version: [Read more...]


Are Women More Emotional Than Men?

The difference between us
Is way down on the inside
Its very tricky business
No baby I
No baby I
No baby I dont want to see you hurt
You got them tears
They fall like pearls
Blame it on gravity, yeah
Blame it on being a girl
Blame it on gravity, yeah
Blame it on being a girl

Rhett Miller, Old 97s, No Baby I

Are women more emotional than men? I recently joked about this and ruffled a few feathers among readers. In my mind the question was essentially a no-brainer, but I admit I’ve never studied it. I decided to find out what the research shows about gender differences in emotions. I learned some interesting things and want to share them with you.

A 1998 study at Vanderbilt University found that men and women feel emotions similarly but express them very differently.

[Read more...]


Who Wants a Manwhore?

images (6)Yesterday I wrote about the twisted, deformed definition of masculinity that depends solely on a man’s level of sexual experience with many partners. The men who subscribe to this view willingly forfeit all control of their identity by asking women to judge their desirability as the sole measure of their worth. They believe that manwhore status is the ultimate chick bait. Are they right?

We know that social proof is powerful reinforcement – but is there any limit to the promiscuity women desire or find acceptable in men? Past research has demonstrated that both women and men have a vested interest in securing a partner with limited sexual experience:

[Read more...]


Men Exhibit More Confirmation Bias Than Women Do

confirmation biasThis post reviews the paper The Effect of Gender on Cognitive Structuring: Who are More Biased, Men or Women?

Here is the common assumption in popular culture:

Ample evidence demonstrates the existence of stereotypes about gender differences: men are more rational than women, while women are more emotional, intuitive and biased.

We’ve certainly gotten an earful of this at HUS over the years! Female solipsism, anyone?

Back in 1989 researcher J. Meyers-Levy found evidence for another, counterintuitive hypothesis:

In her Selectivity Hypothesis Meyers-Levy theorizes that men are considered to be “selective processors” who often do not engage in comprehensive processing of all available information before rendering judgment. Instead, they seem to rely on various heuristics in place of detailed information processing…Women, on the other hand, are considered to be “comprehensive processors” who attempt to assimilate all available information before rendering judgment.

Yoram Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University and Maria Jarymowicz of Warsaw University sought to test the hypothesis further, conducting the three separate studies that comprise this paper.


Two different thinking approaches prevail among human beings:

Cognitive Structuring

“CS has been defined as “the creation and use of abstract mental representations (e.g., schemata, prototypes, scripts, attitudes, and stereotypes)—representations that are simplified generalizations of previous experience.”

Piecemeal Processing

“Piecemeal processing involves vigilant behavior, consisting of a bottom-up, systematic and effortful search for relevant information, and the evaluation and unbiased assimilation of that information. 

CS allows individuals to attain certainty most efficiently because it is relatively automatic, effort-free and faster than piecemeal processing. It helps reach certainty by filtering out inconsistent and/or irrelevant information and may make use of previously stored information if needed to attain certainty as to the validity of the inference. CS is often identified with holistic and top-down processing. These characteristics make CS very effective….using CS helps the perceiver to make the world a meaningful, orderly, and predictable place.

In addition, however, to the very functional characteristics of CS it is also characterized by the use of:

  1. crudely differentiated categories
  2. stereotypical thinking
  3. heuristic, biased cognition

The association between CS and the use of biases is explained by the lower utilization of the relevant information as well as the relying on previously stored information that might be in form of stereotypes or other schema.”

One obvious example might be the categorical rejection of numerous sources of relevant data in favor of anecdotal evidence gathered while “working at a bar” or “according to my cubicle mate who is a player.” See where this is going? :)

Previous Research

Among the few studies that have examined this question is Martin’s study (B. A. Martin, “The influence of gender on mood effects in advertising,” 2003), which showed that men and women are affected differently by promotional messages. Women were found to process promotional information more comprehensively than men, while men focused on more peripheral information.

This implies that men use schema based heuristic strategies to process information. Hayes, Allinson and Armstrong found, similarly, that women use more analytical (less intuitive) information processing than men (J. Hayes, C. W. Allinson and S. J. Armstrong, “Intuition, Women Managers and Gendered Stereotypes,” 2004).

The three studies in this paper further examine how gender predicts the use of available diagnostic information (explicit measurement) rather than relying on a “self-schema” (implicit measurement).

Significant Findings

Study 1

“Confirmation bias is defined as the tendency, when examining the validity of a hypothesis, to prefer corroborative rather than refuting evidence. Study 1 focuses on the tendency to avoid examining rival hypotheses.”

A t-test showed that men’s confirmation bias (M = 1.43 SD = 1.09) was significantly higher than women’s (M = 1.09 SD = 0.96), which supported the study hypothesis that women tended to use cognitive structuring less than men.

Study 2

The second study examined the effect of subliminal priming messages while asking men and women to guess which photos represented people who were in relationships, and in a second set of photos, which people made the most money.

Women’s judgments were not affected by the priming, while men showed a significant shift.

Study 3

The third study aimed to discern whether gender plays a role in the extent to which personality traits influence decision making. Specifically, the personality trait anxiety was studied in relation to decision making during a health crisis.

The correlation between trait anxiety and the measures of state anxiety, distress, and well-being was significantly higher for men than women. Thus, this study validates the hypothesis that men use schematic thinking more than women do.

The data and findings of the three studies clearly support the idea that men tend to use more CS (and therefore use more cognitive biases) than women do.

As someone who is fairly analytical and logical, I have often been described as being “male brained,” and I tend to think of myself that way. I appreciate learning about research that illustrates my own biases, so that I may correct them. 

Don’t let anyone tell you that as a woman your judgment is compromised by your being emotional, solipsistic or irrational. Turns out you’re very good at piecemeal processing. My experience as a blogger dealing with confirmation bias, while anecdotal, is considerable, and very much in keeping with the research findings. YMMV, as always. 


Gender Differences in Casual Sex

In 1978, a psych prof at FSU was discussing gender differences and suggested to his class that men have a much harder time getting casual sex than women do. His female students were incensed and one even hurled a pencil at him. He set up an experiment, now legendary, in which student volunteers asked strangers for sex. 75% of males and 0% of females accepted the casual sex offer. 

The study results have never been replicated, but 35 years later there are amusing YouTube videos making the rounds that once again explore the willingness of strangers to accept an offer of sex.

What’s changed?

[Read more...]