Monday, January 23, 2012

The Growing Science of Sex Difference

The headline at the online magazine just about says it all: "Sex on the Brain Proves Costly for Men."

In an intriguing set of empirical studies just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a team of social scientists led by professor Sanne Nauts shows that the mere prospect of speaking with an unknown woman reduces men's (but not women's) performance on cognitive tasks.

In the first study, 71 college students at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands were asked to complete a "lip-reading task" while supposedly being observed on a webcam by an unseen researcher who would instant message them. When the alleged researcher messaging them was named "Lisa," the men performed worse than when the purported observer messaging them had a male name.

In a second study -- this one involving 90 students -- the researchers decided to create even more distance between actual interaction with a woman to see if merely imagining that they were about to interact with a woman could affect men's cognitive performance.

As in the first study, participants were escorted to a cubicle by an experimenter of their own sex, ostensibly to collect stimulus materials for a study on lip reading.

Then the students were merely told they were being observed by a researcher named either Danielle or Daan, who would turn on the webcam and send them an instant message. That never happened. Nonetheless, the mere idea they might soon be messaging with an unknown woman whose attractiveness they could not evaluate caused in the men what the researchers call "cognitive impairment."

The authors attribute this to the cognitively costly effect of impression management, which leaves less brain energy for other tasks:

"Men seem so strongly attuned to mating opportunities that they were influenced by rather subtle cues to a woman, even in the absence of clear information about her," they note. "Casually mentioning a female instead of a male name was sufficient to impair men's cognitive performance."

It may just be that firing up the reward systems of the brain makes men less focused on the task at hand. The authors cite a 2004 study led by Bram Van den Bergh, intriguingly titled "Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience in Intertemporal Choice." After men were shown photos of women in lingerie or swimsuits, they became generally more impulsive -- e.g., they tended to prefer a little cash now to more cash down the road.

When women enter the room, reason flees?

The most interesting thing is that the inverse is not true for women. On average, women who were told they would interact with men did not perform any differently on cognitive tasks than women who were told they would be interacting with women.

Gender simply matters less to women. I've always suspected this is the root of much feminism, as well as women's sexual confusion, and the deepest source of the endless human sexual comedy.

Unlike men, women have a category called "human" in which gender (while recognized) is relatively unimportant. As a hypothesis for future busy research scientists, I offer the suggestion that this may be due to the primacy of maternity in women's evolutionarily adapted brain structure. The category "my baby" is way more important than the gender of a child to the mother.

When I sent a copy of "The Mere Anticipation of an Interaction With a Woman Can Impair Men's Cognitive Performance" to my husband, his response was: "They need scientific studies for this stuff?"

Well, yes, apparently these days we do. Men and women really are different. Not only our bodies, but our brains react differently.

Suppressing reality in the interests of ideology doesn't help women -- it just makes us all act in dumber and dumber ways.


Tens of thousands of criminals in Britain commit a new crime within a month of receiving a caution

Tens of thousands of criminals go on to reoffend within days of being let off with a caution. In one year, 21,000 offenders – including 6,000 teenagers – broke the law within a month of being given what is effectively a ‘slap on the wrist’.

It means that every day almost 60 criminals – a third of them youths – offend again less than four weeks after being let off for crimes from theft to violence.

The figures are yet another illustration of Britain’s soft justice system and will raise further fears over the ‘caution culture’.

Just weeks ago it emerged that more than half of those involved in the August riots had been let off with a caution for earlier crimes.

The latest statistics were revealed days after Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt called for fewer young criminals to be sent to jail. Mr Blunt faces an overcrowding crisis as prison numbers rocketed to more than 87,000 this week.

Last year police handed out 235,600 cautions to thugs instead of passing the cases to prosecutors to administer justice in court. Critics say the penalties – which carry no other punishment than remaining on their record – undermine the message that ‘crime does not pay’.

The figures revealed that in one year, 6,007 children and 14,994 adults committed further crimes a month after being handed a caution.

Almost a quarter of all under-18s given reprimands end up reoffending within a year. The average adult reoffender commits more than two offences after a caution.

The totals emerged after a parliamentary question from Priti Patel, a Tory backbench MP, who said last night: ‘This shows the scale of the problem ministers have inherited.’

The figures, from 2009 – the most recent available – show 17.6 per cent of all adults handed a caution reoffended within a year, as did 23.3 per cent of juveniles.

A total of 85,750 adults reoffended within a year as did 39,697 juveniles who were issued a reprimand or final warning – the under-18 equivalent of a caution.

Some 52,442 adults and 22,648 children reoffended within six months; 23,403 adults and 9,572 juveniles did so after two months.

Separately, Miss Patel found that every year, hundreds of adult criminals receive cautions despite having been convicted of offences more than 15 times before.

From 2005 to 2009, there were 2,347 occasions on which a cautioned adult offender with 15 or more previous convictions received another caution within a year.

Despite these figures, Mr Blunt said earlier this week he wanted to see fewer children being locked up, with more being told to say sorry to their victims instead.

He said he did not believe ‘offending should automatically lead to prosecution’, adding: ‘In some cases, particularly involving young children, restorative justice can satisfactorily resolve incidents.’

Criminologist David Green, of the think-tank Civitas, said: ‘The thousands who are reoffending within a month are only those who are caught – which will be a tiny proportion of the real number.

‘These figures show cautions are being inappropriately used. If these are career criminals, they should be given more serious sanctions.’

Last month the Daily Mail revealed 50 people a day suffer a violent or sexual attack by a convict spared jail in the soft justice system. Official figures showed every year more than 18,000 convicts given a community punishment commit a sexual or violent crime within 12 months of being sentenced.


Dodgy British crime statistics again

They would make Stalin proud

The riots that left whole neighbourhoods up and down the country in a state of ruin last August were the worst civil disturbances for a generation. But reading crime figures released yesterday, it is almost as if the five days of widespread looting and violence never took place. Nearly half of the areas worst-affected by the riots saw crime fall during that month, according to Home Office statistics.

In Croydon, where a 144-year-old furniture shop was one of dozens of buildings burned to the ground and a photo of a woman jumping from a first-floor inferno became one of the defining images of the riots, police recorded just seven disorder offences.

Seven disorder offences. Rioting by hundreds of mostly-masked youths in the south London borough saw dozens of shops burned, including a 144-year-old furniture store.

The disparity comes down to the way officers recorded the avalanche of offences committed during the unrest. Some forces classified hundreds of feral thugs rampaging through different streets in the same city as just one incident of public disorder.

Similarly, mass looting in which one person broke into a shop only to be followed by dozens more was recorded as a single offence.

And not one force reported the offence of rioting, officially defined as '12 or more people who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose'.

In a statement, the Home Office said: 'It is important to understand the basis of crime recording to appreciate the impact of the disorder incidents on crime statistics. 'Police record crimes according to the number of specific victims, rather than the number of offenders.'

But Trevor Reeves, the owner of the 144-year-old Reeves Furniture Store in Croydon that was destroyed in an arson attack, slammed the police's method of recording crime as 'crazy'.

'You would expect a great big blip in the crime statistics after those five days of rioting,' he told the Telegraph. 'It is crazy to put down something like looting as one crime and is unnecessary. The whole world saw what was happening and to record it like this will just make them look ridiculous.'

Police in the London borough of Southwark recorded just one public disorder offence despite five days of unrest and 314 other offences. Officers in Manchester also said crime fell during August, despite recording 11 public disorder offences and 386 related crimes. A total of 184 incidents of violent disorder and 5,112 connected offences were recorded by police forces across England. Despite this, nine of the 15 worst affected councils recorded more crime in August 2010 than a year later.

The figures did show that knifepoint robberies rose by 10 per cent last year and that one victim is held up by a knife-carrying criminal every 35 minutes. Senior officers have warned the attacks are carried out by muggers determined to steal smartphones and cash.

Separate figures show a double digit rise in the number of pickpocket thefts – the biggest increase for nearly a decade.

Across England and Wales, robbery rose by 4 per cent in the year to September 2011 compared with the previous 12 months.

There were 15,313 knifepoint robberies in the same period – up 10 per cent from the 13,971 offences a year earlier, the crime statistics showed.

Around half of all robberies took place in London and the most common items stolen were smartphones, bags and cash.

The Metropolitan Police recorded a 13 per cent rise in robberies in the capital and West Midlands Police recorded a 10 per cent increase.

Former Met commissioner Lord Stevens, who is chairing a commission into the future of policing set up by Labour, said the rise in crimes against the person was ‘a bit alarming’. He said: ‘I’m not surprised. It’s really worrying. We’ve got to get on top of them really quickly or you could run out of control.’

The British Crime Survey, based on a poll of more than 40,000 victims, suggested a 5 per cent rise in burglary, and a 7 per cent increase in car theft.

Pickpocket thefts rose by 12 per cent to nearly 600,000, while garden shed break-ins fuelled a 15 per cent rise in other thefts of personal property. However, overall recorded crime fell fractionally. The number recorded was down by 4 per cent to 4.1million.

Chief Constable Jon Murphy, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: ‘While incidents in violence against the person fell, a continued cause for concern was the increase in pickpocketing, robbery and robbery with knives.’ ‘This has been driven by a rise in robberies of personal property and police will want to focus on tackling these offences and offering crime-prevention advice.’

Meanwhile, the number of murders and other killings rose by 5 per cent in the year to March 2011, said the Home Office. That is a rise of 28 – taking the total number of violent deaths to 636, up from 608 in 2009/10. The latter includes the 12 victims of the Cumbrian shootings in June 2010 by Derrick Bird.

Ministers are set to introduce a ‘tough’ law meaning automatic jail for anyone caught carrying a knife with the intention of using it to commit a crime. Currently just one in five of those caught carrying a knife is given a jail term. The rest are handed community sentences, fines or other punishments.

Policing minister Nick Herbert said: ‘Today’s crime figures cannot be used to show there is a long-term change in either direction. There are areas of concern and, as we have consistently said, crime remains too high. ‘We know good policing makes a difference.’


Power to the people? British Liberals have other ideas...

As you would expect -- JR

People sometimes accuse me of being too hard on MPs. Why, they say, are you so sceptical? Well, just look at what the Establishment has done to the election promise to give voters the right to sack their MPs in the middle of a Parliament.

Here was a strong idea, widely endorsed. Now it is being strangled.

Two independent-minded Tories, Douglas Carswell and Zac Goldsmith, went before the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee yesterday to cry foul. The Whips long ago gave up on pukka Mr Carswell (Clacton) and tanned Mr Goldsmith (Richmond Park). That is greatly to the credit of both men.

Both support ‘parliamentary recall’ – the term for allowing constituents to call a by-election if they feel their MP has erred badly. However, they loathe the way the Government is pretending now to fulfill its promise to bring in recall. A White Paper has emerged from Nick Clegg’s office. It certainly suggests something rather greasier than what was expected.

Many of us imagined an arrangement under which, say, 20 per cent of an MP’s constituents might have to sign a demand for a re-election, which would then be held if 50 per cent of voters opted for that in a local referendum.

Cleggy and his Tory ministerial sidekick, clean-fingernailed Mark Harper, had a different idea. Their draft Bill hands the power of triggering the re-election process to – oh no! – a committee of parliamentary grandees.

Madness. The whole point of recall is to empower poor, ruddy electors fed up with MPs for fiddling their expenses, reneging on promises, failing to attend the Chamber (Gordon Brown, ahem) or Heaven knows what.

David Cameron’s guru Steve Hilton was hot for this idea. Alas, it was given to mad monk Oliver Letwin, a minister who complicates everything. Then it passed to Mr Clegg, who must have thought about his U-turn on college fees, contemplated voters’ sentiments and done a big gulp.

Out of the Whitehall sausage machine we now have this White Paper which, disgustingly, would give the political party system all the power originally envisaged as going to the voters. Classic.

‘This is a 180-degree wrong proposal,’ chomped Mr Carswell out of one side of his mouth. ‘It has been messed up by the people in charge.’ He argued that under the Clegg idea, the party bosses would be able to threaten rebellious backbenchers.

Mr Goldsmith said the Government’s Bill was so terrible it needs to be opposed by the very supporters of parliamentary recall it supposedly set out to assure.

The committee’s chairman, Graham Allen (Lab), was concerned about elected politicians, who may already be too weak, facing constraints on their power. There are also worries that recall could be abused by pressure groups and vexatious obsessives. Mr Carswell met this argument by saying that the public are not fools. They would soon spot anyone playing silly games.

So what has gone on? ‘Sir Humphrey would like to keep the people at bay,’ reckoned Mr Carswell, a punchy performer and empirical thinker. ‘Most governments fear the impact of democracy,’ added Mr Goldsmith.

Some people recoil from Mr Goldsmith because he is stonkingly rich. Actually, he is proving a better tribune of the people than many MPs who are supposedly closer to their voters.

An academic from Reading University was wheeled on to provide opposing arguments. He was all in favour of more panels of the great and good. These people usually are. They seem to regard the populace as something unwholesome. The attitude of Paul Flynn (Lab, Newport W) to tabloid newspaper readers was, alas, similarly snooty.

But Mr Flynn perhaps had a fair point when he wondered if electors are sufficiently outraged by MPs’ misbehaviour ever to crowbar them out of office.

Do you feel you should have the right to bin dishonest MPs? If so, get writing to 10 Downing Street, specifically our ally Mr Hilton. Fight for your rights. The Establishment will not surrender them lightly.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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