“I love science!” Men exclaim this after reading a pop lit book on evolutionary psychology. They never actually read the original journal articles about social and evolutionary psychology to see if those studies have any validity. Can you trust politically correct academic departments to tell you how to be a dominant man?
I’ve actually read dozens of articles and they are pseudoscience at best.
A recent article at The Art of Manliness offers a perfect example of the pseudoscience of evolutionary and social psychology. What you’ll find when you dig into these studies are three commonalities:
- Undergraduates are the test subjects. The behavior of white, middle-to-upper class children is then generalized population wide.
- Undergraduates are asked what they think about some scenario. Their behavioral or hormonal response is not measured.
- The undergraduates do not observe the animals in the wild. Instead, they watch videos or read poorly-written short stories.
If you want to understand dominance, beware of scientific studies.
Scott Barry Kaufman is a leading voice in social and evolutionary psychology. He has a PhD from Yale and is a head honcho at Penn. Indeed, as his bio notes, “Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.”
(Scott Barry Kaufman is an expert on male dominance.)
He recently wrote an article titled, “The Science of Dominance.” In this article, he purports to explain what type of dominant behavior women find attractive in men.
An article on the science of dominance would include a study on behavior and hormonal changes in the test subjects.
Maybe he’d ask women to observe a vanilla gorilla in his habitat. Instead of asking women what they think of such a beast, the women would be wired with electrodes to see how their various body parts responded.
Perhaps a scientific study of dominance would measure hormones such as cortisol and testosterone in men, and oxytocin in women. Maybe you’d have a big dominant man hug a woman and see if she felt connected and prepared to pair bond (again, as measured by objective criteria such as her hormonal response.)
Maybe you’d place some nodes on the skin of men and women to see how their parasympathetic nervous system responds to various stimuli. Take saliva and sweat samples of cortisol.
How do men and women respond hormonally when a dominant man is in his or her presence?
Does a woman’s pulse quicken when a dominant man is in front of her? Does she smile and twirl her hair? Does she find herself drawn to him and slowly lean towards him, as if being attracted by a magnet?
Do beta males cringe and bring their legs closer to together? Do dominant men take up more space with alpha male posture?
(Mike Danger does not have a single scientific credential.)
Perhaps not. Here is what is a well-designed scientific study in the field of social and evolutionary psychology:
The researchers presented their participants with videotaped and written scenarios depicting two men interacting with each other. The scenarios varied on whether the male acted “dominant” or “nondominant.”
I suppose you can tell if someone is being dominant or non-dominant, if you have amazing actors. What if you’re using undergraduates who are reading a script and told to pretend to be dominant. What then?
And written scenarios? That is laughable on its face. It gets worse when you read the short stories.
Let’s look at the written scenario.
Any writer will immediately know you what’s wrong with it:
His serve is very strong and his returns are extremely powerful. In addition to his physical abilities, he has the mental qualities that lead to success in tennis. He is extremely competitive, refusing to yield against opponents who have been playing much longer. All of his movements tend to communicate dominance and authority. He tends to psychologically dominate his opponents, forcing them off their games and into mental mistakes.
Good writers show, not tell. That is a description filled with loaded terms. You are told he is dominant.
Yet your body is going to respond differently when you’re told rather than shown something. Good stories suck you in and play with your emotions. (Red Wedding, anyone?) That scenario is a dry, textbook description that would not elicit any emotional response in the reader.
If you want to provide a written text for women, give them a romance novel and see how their various body parts respond. Or at least hire a decent writer. Maybe write something like:
The arms of his shirt clung to his showers and cinched up, exposing firm biceps. His eyes focused intently on the ball. He smirked as he tossed the ball up and lifted his racket, as if he were telling himself that victory was a foregone conclusion. As his arm stretched up, the ball exploded against the racket. The man immediately leaned forward, ready to volley.
That’s not Shakespeare, but it does actually tell a story that allows a person to create an image in her head.
Why is the “science” of dominance based on written scenarios?
Would you provide a written scenario about wolves or apes or gorillas? Or would you observe them in the wild?
Would you ask women to read a description of a man and ask he if she thought he was attracted? Or would you put a man in front of her and see how her body responded?
Here is what the “scientists” did in their experience:
Enter a study by Jerry Burger and Mica Cosby. The researchers had 118 female undergraduates read the same descriptions of John the tennis player (dominant vs. submissive), but they added a crucial control condition in which some participants only read the first three sentences of the description (see italics above).
As part of this well-designed study, women read a story and then were asked whether they were attracted to a man. They didn’t actually see the man’s body language, smell his pheromones, or interact with him. They read a poorly-written story and then answered a few questions about what they thought – even though attraction is based on how a person feels.
Does this sound like real science to you?