Scientific Irresponsibility at Psychology Today
The blog post by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist opines about the attractiveness of women. Mr. Kanazawa “found” that “Black women are rated less physically attractive than all other women.”
The article itself is a pretentious piece of pseudoscience and (as of the time I sit to write this blog post) it is no longer available at Psychology Today. It is unclear whether it has been removed due to its content (or lack thereof) or because the servers at Psychology Today are overtaxed.
In writing about this on a friend’s Facebook wall I stated that any study that fails to account for significant variables which would explain it’s conclusions is (a priori) invalid.
This is clearly the case with the article by Satoshi Kanazawa.
In the article he states. QUOTE: “The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone….”
Really? That’s funny, because I can think of MANY other explanatory mechanisms for such a STATISTICAL FINDING.
We could begin with the fact that (in the United States and elsewhere) hundreds of years cultural programming have systematically resulted in devaluation of black womanhood and beauty.
For Kanazawa to state that testosterone is “the only thing” that could account for this study’s results is ludicrous. The duty of any researcher is to exhaust other mechanisms which may be potentially etiologic to his findings. Without that a study remains invalid conjecture. And in this case it is conjecture which supports a societal bias that is destructive and counterproductive. Mr. Kanazawa owes his readers more than what he provides based on simple due diligence. Without such an analysis of additional explanatory factors his methodology and conclusions should (rightfully) be subjected to criticism and (indeed) ridicule.
Let’s say I do a study where I show Norwegians a picture of a hamburger and get their response. Then I show Indian Hindus the same picture of a hamburger and get their response. Let’s say the Norwegians showed responses of hunger or happiness. And the Indians showed disgust and distress. Would it be valid to say that the nature of response is related to the ambient temperature in each country? A warmer climate (India) invokes feelings ofdisgust toward hamburger while colder climates induce feelings of happiness. Valid conclusion from the data? Or would you question the fact that the conclusion does NOT address the fact that Hindus view cows as sacred and thus the idea of a hamburger is sacrilegious (and thus disgusting).
Kanazawa has done the same thing. He ascribes the results of his study to Testosterone levels when there are many other explanatory mechanisms. It may not be racism; but from a scientific perspective it’s a FAIL.
If the author had wanted to disprove cultural/sociological explanatory mechanisms for assessment of physical beauty he could have easily accounted for social variables in his methods and then utilized logistic regression (or multivariable analysis of variation) to control for this as a study bias and thereby exclude it as a potential explanatory mechanism. This could have been done by basically ANY graduate student with access to the data and a statistics program. But of course; he didn’t. And then he presents his “study” for public consumption.
In publishing his “study”, Kanazawa has insulted African American women (with a thin patina of scientific legitimacy) AND he has held true scientists up for ridicule. Scientific professionals and bloggers with an audience need to begin holding so-called “scientific intellectuals” accountable for their irresponsible content.