Pseudopsychology Today

Magazine reveals list of "politically incorrect truths," a twisted view of the universe disguised as science.


Carol Lloyd
July 20, 2007 2:23AM (UTC)

Oy gevalt. I know Psychology Today isn't a bastion of nuanced thinking, but including a four-syllable word meaning the "science of mental processes" in the magazine's title suggests that its articles should exhibit at least a modicum of mental activity.

Instead, a recent article provocatively titled "Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature" made me long to study more serious periodicals -- like, say, Hooters Magazine or Cat Fancy. In the aforementioned gazillion-word journalistic aneurysm, Satoshi Kanazawa and Alan S. Miller offer their twisted view of the universe disguised as science. Among the uncomfortable truths they seek to explain: why men love blonds with giant boobs, why most suicide bombers are Muslim and why beautiful people have more daughters.

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But before getting to their other scintillating arguments, inquiring minds need to ask: Who are these guys? This is actually more interesting than one would expect. It seems Miller is an American sociologist who taught in Japan until he died in 2003, so his authorship of the article based on a forthcoming book, "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters," is ghostly at best. Some arguments made by Satoshi Kanazawa, who coauthored with Miller the scientific treatise "Why Men Gamble and Women Buy Shoes," are even more bizarre than the thought of someone penning pop psych nonsense four years after meeting his maker. Most recently he made news when he published an article suggesting that Africans are poor and suffer chronic ill health because their populations are less intelligent than people in richer countries. Nice.

Not surprisingly, the authors derive most of the "science" explaining, for instance, the supremacy of Pamela Anderson and the "fact" that men who sexually harass women in the workplace are not sexist, from evolutionary psychology, a cultish pseudoscience that still maintains clubfoot-holds in the academy. Like their E.P. brethren, the authors tend to look at frozen-in-time stereotypes and then extrapolate a "survival of the fittest" rationale from there. Here's a taste of their logic on why blonds are "more attractive": "Women's desire to look like Barbie -- young with small waist, large breasts, long blond hair and blue eyes -- is a direct, realistic, and sensible response to the desire of men to mate with women who look like her ..." Men want young women with blond hair and big breasts because blond hair and big breasts are a better measure of a woman's age, they say.

But, historically and cross-culturally, men's appreciation of the Mattel-styled bombshell is hardly normative. Second, blond hair doesn't show gray hair and given the fact that breasts may shrink or grow after childbirth, they're not a terribly clear measure of a woman's fertility or youth. Their point about men sexually harassing women specifically because they are not sexist is similarly idiotic. Since studies show that more men than women are interested in casual sex (they cite a really bogus study to bolster this point, involving actors offering to have sex with college-age men and women) and men tend to subject one another to "abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment," male sexual harassers are not being sexist. They're just being men!

Actually, the article is filled with so many chowder-headed notions and dumb-ass logic, I don't have the patience to take it apart point by point. But Echidne of the Snakes has done just that in a four-part dissection that would make her 10th-grade biology teacher proud.

Needless to say, by the 10th point I was still waiting for the mental processes to kick in ... I think I'll get back to that profile of the American bobtail.


Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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