Jun
11
2008

Why, I’m feeling improved cognition and creativity already!: Now we have scientific proof -- looking at scantily-clad young women makes men smarter.  And hungrier, somehow.
Why, I’m feeling improved cognition and creativity already!: Now we have scientific proof -- looking at scantily-clad young women makes men smarter. And hungrier, somehow.Courtesy Roro Fernandez

So, what’s the opposite of “the dismal science”?

A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that men, after receiving a sexual stimulus – touching lingerie or even just seeing a woman in a bikini – seek immediate gratification.

Why can’t I ever get chosen for research like this?

(The lingerie, the report is quick to point out, was “not being worn during the test.” Still – dude – awesome methodology!)

Now, what’s all this about “immediate gratification”? I mean, we’ve all seen There’s Something About Mary, right? Well, get your minds out of the gutter, people. What they mean is, aroused men are more likely to try to satisfy any appetite – food, alcohol, money, whatever is at hand. So to speak.

To which men everywhere are saying “You paid how much to figure that out?”

It all has to do with the appetite centers in the brain. Seems it’s all one big giant Id. Once it’s aroused by some stimulus, the man seeks to satisfy it any way he can.

To which women everywhere are saying, “No duh.”

Apparently, the smell of fresh baked bread has the same effect, which would explain why you see so many pie shops right next door to strip clubs.

A group of test subjects tragically misinterprets the research findings: All in the name of science, I'm sure.
A group of test subjects tragically misinterprets the research findings: All in the name of science, I'm sure.Courtesy avlxyz

But, most interesting of all, we find, buried in the article, never explained, never elaborated upon, this little gem:

It wasn't that the men were simply distracted by their sexual arousal, which caused them to choose more impulsively. On the contrary, they exhibited improved cognition and creativity after exposure to sexy stimuli.

While this does not comport with the stupid pick-up lines one hears in bars every night of the week, nevertheless, there it is. I mean, this is science, right? Looking at pretty girls actually makes men smarter! Therefore, we should view beer commercials and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, not as crass attempts to move product by appealing to hard-wired neurological instincts, but rather as a public service, a selfless effort to increase intellectual activity and creative achievement by stimulating men’s brains.

But no. That’s not what the liberal media wants you to hear. Men bad. Men can’t control urges. Men barely better than animals. So what we get are prurient headlines, lascivious photos, and sly innuendo like “seek immediate gratification,” wink wink. Why, it’s enough to…

Gutter. Out. Now!

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

You know, you joke about strip clubs being right next to pie shops, but I kid you not: when driving through Wisconsin on my way to Chicago a few months ago, I noticed quite a few roadside porn shops/strip clubs sharing parking lots or even buildings with bakeries. It was a fascinating phenomenon I'd never noticed before. I thought it was just a bizarre coincidence, but maybe it really does make good business sense...

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 12:55pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Well, employees at strip clubs and bakeries work crazy hours that go to the wee hours of the morning, so maybe there is more to this connection than you'd first think.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 1:10pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I used to live across the street from a pie shop that had been, until very recently, a "massage parlor."

Occupying the same space, but adjacent in time!

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 1:10pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Oh, there's a joke to be made here, but I'll refrain...

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 1:23pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Yep.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 1:24pm
amdayton's picture
amdayton says:

I hate to be a stick in the mud guys, but is this really what your NSF money is paying for? I understand the concept of making science more accessible to those of us who aren't professors, scientific researchers, or otherwise immersed in the field — but posts like this seem to be severely overcompensating for science's sometimes "stuffy" image.

Being "interesting" doesn't have to mean being completely unprofessional ... or in this case juvenile and borderline misogynistic (in my opinion, at least).

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 2:12pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

We report. You decide.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 2:13pm
amdayton's picture
amdayton says:

You can take my criticism or leave it, I'm mostly pointing out that as someone interested in science but not a "scientist, " (presumably a member of your target audience) this sort of coverage at the very least makes me less inclined to visit the site, not to mention being potentially offended by it. I just don't see how that's constructive or helpful to your audience.

(I suppose you're going to tell me that your coverage is "fair and balanced" next.)

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 2:24pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Thanks for your input, even if we must disagree. I see posts like this one illustrating the fact that science is everywhere, even in bikinis. Some people like bikinis, and are attracted to them. (I believe that was the whole point of the original research.) If one doesn't care for them, that's OK -- we've got 220 pages (and counting) of other items one may peruse.

As for "fair and balanced" -- I leave that to the pros.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 2:32pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Juvenile? Hell, yeah! But misogynistic? I have read over the post carefully, numerous times, and I cannot find a single word that can even remotely be construed as promoting hatred toward women. The story is about men. You remember -- the other white meat? So, misandristic, maybe. Misanthropic, definitely. But misogynistic? I refute that.

Oh, BTW, if I'm not mistaken, our NSF funds ran out. We're now wasting someone else's money. NSF is busy throwing taxpayer cash away on useless global warming studies. But that's another thread. Or twelve.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 2:28pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

While this doesn't actively promote 'hatred' towards women, it does feed into the 'male gaze' as they call it which can be seen as sort of an element of misogyny. While you've written this with much snarky sarcasm, I have (what I feel are valid) fears that your typical, young audience may not necessarily see through the sarcasm - in particular the straight-out objectifying of women and how this is 'science' (again, despite whether this may be sarcastic)

This article could be an impetus for GREAT discussion about science (and it may have already anyway, based on the previous posts) in the everyday and unexpected, however how it was handled in this post (not the content of the research) crosses a line for me.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 2:44pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

So, men are not allowed to look at women, eh? Unfortunate for those few women who are seeking male attention, but that's the price we pay for living in a free society.

Yes, irony is a subtle art. Not really seeing sarcasm, though. Nor objectification. Unless you are referring to the original research methodology.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:01pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

Well, you're up against a tough social history there, buddy...and I'm not sure you're seeing my point, either.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:35pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

You are correct -- I am not seeing your point. So, in all honesty -- no irony here -- can you explain:

what was sarcastic?
what was objectifying?
what social history am I up against?

Thanks!

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:52pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

I certainly hope that at the very least the title of your post was sarcastic, otherwise we're all in for a mess, we can go from there if you'd like.

The social history of gender inequality. Maybe you've read about it...

And I meant HOW you have written this post could be read as objectification (and have negative repercussions with the youngins), i.e., "Therefore, we should view beer commercials and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, not as crass attempts to move product by appealing to hard-wired neurological instincts, but rather as a public service"

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:56pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The title was ironic -- saying one thing but meaning the opposite. It was not intended to be "sharply mocking or contemptuous... intending to wound" -- the American Heritage definition of "sarcasm."

I have read about gender inequality. Even experienced it from time to time. But I'm not seeing how my comment:

So, men are not allowed to look at women, eh? Unfortunate for those few women who are seeking male attention, but that's the price we pay for living in a free society.

"goes up against" it, as you stated. (Though, I suppose, maybe the last bit was a little sarcastic. Sorry.)

And again, I do not see how my post, or how I've written my post, is itself objectification. You have explained elsewhere that you feel my post could be construed to support or justify other's objectification. But the post itself is not objectifying.

Paul McCartney once noted that there are people who believe "Can't Buy Me Love" was about a prostitute. They are entitled to that opinion, he noted. We are not obliged to agree.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:19pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

Well, I personally took it to be mocking the original researchers, perhaps that was incorrect.

What was meant by the comment on cultural history was that I felt you were brushing off the power differentials that exist in our society, and the media which feeds this (subtly or overtly). I meant simply that by not acknowledging this differential you were going up against a 'tough cultural history', not your specific comments verbatim. Maybe that's a subtlety as well.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:26pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Wow.

I'm not into the continued objectification and oppression of women. But I also thought this post was funny. And sometimes science isn't politically correct. Sure, it's shaped by the questions we ask and the lenses we look through to interpret data, but sometimes the answers--even to the most sensitive and thoughtful questions--don't seem to fit with the world we want.

It's VERY interesting to me that folks have strong opinions about this post, but very few people piped up on the "Math isn't hard; it's just boring" post from two weeks ago.

As a rule, people enjoy looking at attractive people in swimwear. That seems like an inarguable point to me. (And women, in my experience, ogle just as much as men do. And they check out women in bikinis.) This is only a problem if an attitude fostered by the act of looking somehow keeps women out of jobs and power.

The lessons *I* take from this are: 1) take math and science classes, girls, both so you'll have opportunities later and so you can deconstruct a bogus argument when you're presented with it; 2) speak up when a situation is unfair and make a strong case in your own defense; and 3) enjoy the summer. Life is short, and if enjoying the view of your significant other sunbathing makes you happy, and if creativity and smart-ness are potential side-effects, hey, live it up.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:22pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

I agree, and it isn't the science I have a problem with, it's the manner in which it was presented second-hand in this specific post. I even read the original research and didn't blink at that. In particular, this, "Looking at pretty girls actually makes men smarter! Therefore, we should view beer commercials and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, not as crass attempts to move product by appealing to hard-wired neurological instincts, but rather as a public service, a selfless effort to increase intellectual activity and creative achievement by stimulating men’s brains." Which prompted some response from me as it could be read as being apologetic to such objectification...

Your point about fostering a negative attitude about women is my original point. The above quote, to me, has the potential to do just that with the uncritical reader. To be totally upfront here, I view things like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and beer commercials as objectification and feeding into that 'male gaze' as well...and I'm wondering what place that sort of attitude has in this kind of a venue...

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:34pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I assume we are all familiar with reductio ad absurdum? If not, shall we self-censor and only issue posts which nobody could possibly misconstrue? Like, I dunno, the one above?

(You're right -- this irony / sarcasm thing is an awfully fine line.)

I only read Sports Illustrated for the articles.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:00pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

In fact, that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm just calling for another read-through of what was written. The point of this blog is for productive discussion, yes?

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:05pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Well, I'm finding this discussion productive. I'm hearing points of view I would otherwise have never considered, and your arguments are forcing me to reconsider my positions and my explanations, and I sincerely thank you for that.

I have, of course, come to the conclusion that I am right in all things -- but that could hardly come as a surprise. ;-)

But you and I could bat this ball back and forth forever. I would love to hear some other folks jump in.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:23pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Hmm... people respond to a post about bikinis, but they don't respond to a post about math? Yeah, that is a head-scratcher...

(OK, that was sarcastic. Sorry.)

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 3:54pm
amdayton's picture
amdayton says:

To, me the fundamental issue here is simply the tone of the post. The "Math isn't hard" post took a recent scientific study and used it to form an argument from one end of a larger debate. A debate that, by the way, I would say continued in an interesting and constructive manner in the post's comments.

The tone of this post was really more ... well ... "Why can’t I ever get chosen for research like this?" I'm not saying that it's unacceptable to have this reaction, but my point is that this probably isn't a very good forum for it. Not only does it distract from the scientific debate, but it also has the potential to alienate readers and possibly reflect poorly on the SMM.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:06pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I often read about studies and think, "Dang, I would have loved to be part of that study." Or, "How'd they get anyone to volunteer for that?" I don't think that's out of line.

But I'm going to go off on a tangent here:
I HEART Google
I HEART GoogleCourtesy Liza Pryor
I Googled math + bikinis, and there's actually a ton of research that involves both. An example:

Psychology Today reported that when fully clothed men and women were asked to solve math problems, they did equally well. But when asked to solve math problems while wearing swimsuits, women did worse.

I thought this blog entry about it was nice. Especially this line:

"The study goes on to state that when contemplating intelligence, we don't compare ourselves to Einstein. However, put us in an outfit and we are secretly measuring ourselves against every Victoria's Secret model we have ever seen. Why is that? Or more importantly, what can we do to change that?"

That's the tangent. But I can bring it back full-circle! One rejoinder to Gene's post might be this: Dude, checking out a girl in a bikini might make you feel happier, smarter, and more creative. But what if it makes the girl, or girls in general, feel dumber? Or even unsafe?

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:23pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

THANK you! I've been waiting for someone to bring that up. Because the original study actually addresses that.

Let's say I'm a girl on the beach, and some creep keeps leering at me. He comes over, no doubt to show off his intelligence and creativity, but also, no doubt, to satisfy his appetite. What am I to do?

Well, according to the study, the aroused man seeks gratification. But the gratification doesn't have to be sexual. It can take many forms. For instance, you could just offer him some pie.

Ah, but what if you've come to the beach without your pie? Perhaps offer him a beer or other refreshing beverage.

Or, simply flatter him. The study shows that men who feel secure about their financial situation are less likely to seek out additional gratification -- apparently driving a Ferrari is gratification enough. So, butter up the guy. Tell him how it's obvious he is wealthy and successful (even if it's obvious that he's not). He may walk away satisfied. He may walk away utterly confused. He may not walk away at all, in which case call the lifeguard.

Oh, and when I wrote "Why can't I ever get chosen for research like this?" what I meant was "I would love to get paid for looking at pictures of women in bikinis!" I've had lots of practice, all on a volunteer basis. If anything, I may be over-qualified. If that's wrong, then I guess that makes me a bad person.

A really bad person.

A really, realllly bad person...

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:37pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The issue, I suppose, is that perhaps I'm interested in sunbathing, not satisfying anyone else's appetites with pie, or flattery, or anything else...

Or maybe I'm busy looking myself and have no interest in indulging another person.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:53pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

This reminds me of various free speech debates. Many people find Nazis deeply offensive. But if we ban Nazis from holding marches, then what do we do about Gay Pride parades, which many other people find deeply offensive?

(I am not drawing a moral equivalence here. I'm just pointing out that if hurt feelings become the gold standard -- as they seem be in Canada these days -- then we pretty much have to ban everything.)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that, at least once in your life, you were interested in getting attention from at least one male. (I'm imagining a tall, quiet type with short blond hair.) And at least once in your life, you were interested in giving your attention to him. And from what I understand, it seemed to work out pretty well.

If we are to allow that, then we must of necessity allow others to give and seek attention as well. The moral here is: never go to the beach without your pie.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 5:09pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

In fact, I was just IMing Bryan:

I'm just saying this: sometimes it's nice to look. Sometimes it's even nice to be looked AT. And if you don't like being looked at that way in that situation, raise some hell."

And I'm all about your final moral. Life is better with pie.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 5:19pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The Science Museum of Minnesota attempts to reach out to the broadest spectrum of people -- those who understand and appreciate Gene's humor, as well as those who don't. It's a big tent -- there's room for all!

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:24pm
ekfenton's picture
ekfenton says:

Now that's the kind of discussion-welcoming attitude I expect! (No sarcasm or irony here, just sincerity)

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:27pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Does anyone see any connection between this post and the one I did earlier last week about barn swallows? It's funny how the dynamics change when we talk about differences between the sexes of other members of the animal kingdom compared with how we talk about them in the human population. I'm not sure what conclusion can be drawn from all this; it's just an observation.

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:40pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I suspect it means that many people put "barn swallows" and "math" in the same mental category, and rank it somewhere below "that insanely hot man/woman sitting over there." Just a guess. ;-)

But now I'm curious... I think I'll go read the barn swallow post...

posted on Wed, 06/11/2008 - 4:47pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Science Buzz gets results! Upon reading our post, the city of Kanab, Utah, has lifted a ban on bikinis at the city swimming pool! We anxiously await the onslaught of intellectual and creative activity soon to burst forth from Kanab.

(OK, that was a joke. The city banned bikinis "accidentally," when they passed an ordinance which copied National Park Service regulations, without thinking through all the ramifications. The lifting of the ban merely restores the previous rules.)

posted on Thu, 06/12/2008 - 10:33am
My Butt is Bigger Than Yours's picture
My Butt is Bigger Than Yours says:

Those guys are perverts!!!!!!

posted on Fri, 01/16/2009 - 11:44am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

New research throws previous findings into question. This does seem to comport better with anecdotal evidence.

posted on Fri, 09/25/2009 - 11:31pm

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