Evolutionary Psychology Bingo

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David Craig put a link to this on my facebook wall:

It's funny, but we shouldn't forget the parallel set of male-disparaging labels: we're uncommunicative, we're hard of hearing, we're unempathetic, we're emotionally immature, we pretty much can't see things unless they're moving, in fact we're practically vegetables from the neck up.

You could make up another bingo card with labels of that sort.

(And there are lots of other ways to tease evolutionary psychologists as well — it's almost too easy to be fun.)


  1. Private Zydeco said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 12:21 am

    This is neither the time nor the place, thread-wise, really,
    but, inasmuch as it is a work of similar cunning and tact,
    ("Damn the torpedoes!") there is also Defensive Omnivore

  2. Private Zydeco said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 12:26 am

    Obligatory Link to vegan site in shameless use of Language Log as
    political vehicle here.

  3. Xerxes said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 12:54 am

    Unfortunately, I evolved not to find this funny. Had I been on the savannah and laughed aloud at this, I might well have been eaten by lions.

  4. uberVU - social comments said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 2:50 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by PhilosophyFeeds: Language Log: Evolutionary Psychology Bingo http://goo.gl/fb/x5avo

  5. Ginger Yellow said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 4:46 am

    What's the euro-centrism one about?

  6. Ray Girvan said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 7:14 am

    I had to look up the "rotate three-dimensional objects in my mind" one; I assume it's a dig at Temple Grandin's argument for the evolutionary utility of autism traits: "After all, who do you think made the first stone spear back in the caves? It wasn't the really social people".

  7. Mark P said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 8:02 am

    Ray, men are extraordinarily (compared to something) good at spatial manipulation, while women are extraordinarily good at social manipulation.

    [(myl) As usual, the generic plural is ill-advised. Here's Table 4 from D. Voyer et al., "Magnitude of sex differences in spatial abilities: A meta-analysis and consideration of critical variables", Psychological Bulletin, 117(2), 250-270, 1995:

    Their weighted estimate of effect sizes for sex differences on mental rotation tests is between d= 0.33 and d = 0.66, depending on age. These are fairly large differences — the biggest cognitive sex differences that I know of — but even an effect size of d=0.66 (difference in means of 66% of the pooled standard deviation) means that a randomly selected woman will test higher on this dimension than a randomly selected man about a third of the time.

    As for the social manipulation part, this difference is sometimes asserted, but I don't think that I've ever seen any evidence. Can you cite some? ]

  8. Mark P said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    I'm afraid I have to cite my failure to add some kind of smiley face to indicate that I wasn't being serious.

  9. a soulless automaton said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 10:53 am

    It seems that Mark P has fallen victim to some generalized form of Poe's Law. On the internet, it's all but impossible to say something coherent yet so completely absurd that no one will think you're being sincere…

    [(myl) It's not just the internet. How do we know that Simon Baron-Cohen's whole "extreme male brain" thing isn't some kind of elaborate covert academic-Ali-G joke? I mean, have you ever seen Simon and Sacha together in the same room?]

  10. EvPsych Bingo said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 10:58 am

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  11. J. Goard said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

    Jeez, I feel pretty embarrassed cuz I'm usually right on the ball with the multiple layers of meta-humor. Took me a few minutes to arrive at the joke:

    The tired straw man arguments from evopsych critics are already so old that they should be whiling away their hours playing bingo, rather than seeing publication in reputable journals.

    Good one!

  12. jtradke said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

    I like that phrase "fetish for averaging". Describes my main pet peeve with so many of these "battle of the sexes" mainstream "science" articles – that they only ever talk about the average woman and the average man. To say nothing of the usually miniscule separation between even those.

  13. Nathan Myers said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    Ginger Yellow: My guess, an oblique reference to genetic Manifest Destiny.

  14. Julia S. said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

    Ginger Yellow: I think that the Eurocentrism is probably a reference to the unfortunate tendency of many evo-psych folks to talk about "universal human traits" that are actually quite specific features of European and Eurodiaspora cultures.

  15. Ginger Yellow said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    Ah. I was wondering why EP would be renowned for its affinity to a federal superstate.

  16. Army1987 said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    Mark P, I had figured out that you weren't fully serious straight away. Even though I'm male.

  17. db said,

    April 7, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

    Your suggestions for a male-stereotype bingo card are _far_ more elegant than mine.

  18. Language Log » Evolutionary Psychology Bingo - Thinking Christian said,

    April 8, 2010 @ 10:15 am

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  19. Adrian Mander said,

    April 8, 2010 @ 10:26 am

    I snickered several times; thanks for this

  20. E. said,

    April 8, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    I've heard of most of those arguments but not "Men evolved not to see dirt"; where is that one from?

  21. J. Goard said,

    April 8, 2010 @ 9:46 pm


    My guess would be a contrary hypothesis to much more plausible ones for the observed tendency of women to care more about household cleanliness, children's cleanliness, etc., which was briefly entertained somewhere for the purpose of thoroughness. One dirty trick of evopsych critics is to ignore the difference between possibilities that are merely entertained, those that are claimed to better explain some specific kind of data but not many others, and those that are held to be very good explanations for diverse data, as if evolutionary psychologists came up with something and wholeheartedly believed it in a single step.

    At least this is better than such stuff as I4, which evolutionary psychologists not only do NOT claim, but are regularly, explicitly rejecting as the "naturalistic fallacy". Critics who claim that evolutionary psychology equates the natural with the good quite simply have lost their scholarly integrity: they are either lazy or deceitful.

  22. NonnaMouse said,

    April 9, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    Sorry if I'm being dense, but I can't figure out where the graphic is from – who created it?

  23. Evo-Bingo-Fied « Christian Feminist said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

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  24. john riemann soong said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 1:43 am

    men are way better at spatial manipulation wth?

    now it's a little anecdotal, but the girls in my chem class always seemed better and faster at determining the chirality of a 6-ligand metal centre, often without a model kit.

    [(myl) Effect sizes of d=0.09-0.66 are not really "way better", though (especially in the case of mental rotation) the differences are larger and more consistent than for other cognitive abilities. Note that determining chirality seems mostly to be a matter of spatial visualization, where the effect sizes are smaller than in the case of mental rotation; and it involves some additional steps of reasoning from chemical formula to structure.

    As for your memory of a female advantage for this task in chemistry class, the possibilities that come to mind are:

    1) The girls weren't reliably better at determining chirality, but you remember it that way for some reason;
    2) This was true in your class, which was a slightly atypical sample of males and females w.r.t. to spatial abilities;
    3) It was true in your class, for some other reason (e.g. the girls tended to study or to focus more);
    4) It's true in general, and there's something about determining chirality (in general or in some cases) which makes it different from other tasks involving spatial visualization, reversing the typical direction of sex differences;
    5) All of the studies of sex differences in spatial abilities are misguided, e.g. infected by "stereotype threat".

    My money would be on (1)-(3), but (4) wouldn't surprise me, and there may be a bit of truth in (5) as well.]

  25. octopod said,

    April 12, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

    It's true. Evo psych in the service of gender role determinism is demeaning to men and women both.

    Except it seems like it's usually invoked to exculpate men ("boys will be boys") and accuse women ("girls suck at math")…

  26. Andy said,

    April 13, 2010 @ 8:32 am

    My college history teacher edited our papers out of S&W, just writing things like 4.4 in the margins as he referred to some S&W maxim. As a result, I hate to write since I imagine that every piece of writing is going to be filled with references to my violations of S&W "rules." I'm proud that I've probably broken every one of them, having NOT read the book when assigned in high school, college, graduate school, and high school English teaching. Still, how does one get beginning high school writers to express themselves with clarity, precision, and creativity???

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