Quick hits (part I)

1) This is disturbing:

Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with men more than women. These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are “really, really smart.” Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are “really, really smart.” These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interests.

2) What to do about it?

What is to be done? Research provides some clues. The psychologist Carol Dweck has written that emphasizing the importance of learning and effort — rather than just innate ability — for success in any career might buffer girls against these stereotypes. The relevant stereotypes, already in place at the age of 6, seem to fixate on who is supposed to have innate ability. If innate ability is seen as secondary, then the power of these stereotypes is diminished. Other research indicates that providing girls with successful role models might similarly “inoculate” them, boosting their motivation and protecting them from the idea that they are not intellectually competitive. One study even suggested that witnessing a more equal distribution of household chores could help balance the career aspirations of boys and girls.

Early and consistent exposure to such protective factors – and to the countless contributions made by women – may have the best chance of convincing little girls that they are, in fact, smart enough.

4) This is fascinating!  Breast milk has a gender bias.

In 1973, the biologist Robert Trivers and the computer scientist Dan Willard made a striking prediction about parents and their offspring. According to the principles of evolutionary theory, they argued, the male-to-female ratio of offspring should not be 50-50 (as chance would dictate), but rather should vary as a function of how good (or bad) the conditions are in which the parents find themselves.

Are the parents’ resources plentiful — or scarce? The Trivers-Willard hypothesis holds that when their conditions are good, parents will have more male offspring: Males with more resources are likely to gain access to more females, thereby increasing the frequency with which their genes (and thus their parents’ genes) are preserved in future generations. Conversely, male offspring that lack resources are likely to lose out to males that have more resources, so in bad conditions it pays for parents to “invest” more in daughters, which will have more opportunities to mate.

It follows, as a kind of corollary, that when parents have plentiful resources they will devote those resources more to their sons, whereas when resources are scarce, parents will devote them more to their daughters.

In short: If things are good, you have more boys, and give them more stuff. If things are bad, you have more girls, and give more of your stuff to them.

In recent years, evidence has emerged suggesting that in various mammalian species, breast milk — which is, of course, a resource that can be given to children — is tailored for the sex of each offspring. For example, macaque monkey mothers produce richer milk (with higher gross energy and fat content) for sons than for daughters, but also provide greater quantities of milk and higher concentrations of calcium for daughters than for sons.

5) Ryan Lizza on Trump, Mexico, and foreign policy:

The incident also made it clear that congressional Republican leaders, who, during the Obama years, were vocal about the President’s relationships with other countries, have no interest in policing Trump’s foreign policy. At a press briefing in Philadelphia yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who casually announced that Congress would find some fifteen billion dollars to pay for the border wall, had nothing to add about Trump’s detonation of the U.S.-Mexico alliance. “The President can deal with his relationships with other countries,” McConnell said.

Finally, and perhaps most important, Trump’s treatment of Mexico reinforces an emerging world view that casts aside the values at the center of American foreign policy since the Second World War. As with his degrading comments about nato, his view that Taiwanese democracy and independence is a negotiating chip with China, his cavalier attitude toward Russia’s annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine, his abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership without even a cursory consultation with allies in the region who fear Chinese hegemony, his obsessions with the use of torture and the seizure of Iraq’s oil fields, Trump’s views on U.S.-Mexico relations are devoid of the liberal values that have kept Western democracies together for decades. During the Cold War, Reagan pushed Mexico to liberalize its economic and political system and tried to bring the country closer to America and away from any Communist-inspired Latin American movements. Both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama made economic integration with Mexico a priority, and they all worked toward humane immigration solutions. Trump, meanwhile, is treating Mexico like a nineteenth-century colony. Other countries are watching, and the long-term effect could be to gradually isolate us from the rest of the world.

6) The abortion “gag rule” is a political football that changes every time the president’s party changes.  But this time is different.  And bad for, you know, actually helping people.

7) Rapidly-improving artificial intelligence may largely replace much of the diagnostic work of radiologists, pathologists, and dermatologists.

8) Do not miss the “bad lip reading” version of the inauguration.

9) Brian Schaffner actually did a survey experiment on the inauguration crowd size.  Results.

10) PPP with a North Carolina poll.  Not suprisingly, my fellow NC denizens love Krispy Kreme donuts and UNC sports.

11) Jason Kander on Trump’s ongoing voter fraud lies.  The real problem is that Trump differs only in degree from his fellow Republicans:

By deliberately undermining confidence in the integrity of our democracy, the president can make it quite a bit easier for his party to push legislation making it harder for certain eligible voters to vote. Curtailing voting rights by dishonestly inventing widespread fraud has been a major part of the Republican Party’s political strategy for a while. Now that plan is getting a major boost from a president who has no problem just making stuff up.

12) Why are journalists more liberal than the public?  Journalists want to live in cities and therefore have metropolitan values.  And they tend to be relatively smart people who are in a career pursuing facts and the public good of an educated public, not money.

13) It really is banana republic stuff that we let members of Congress, e.g., Tom Price, trade stocks in the sectors they regulate.  And, even if what people like Price are doing is legal, it sure as hell is unethical.

14) Andrew Reynolds shares a summary of his responses to his famous NC is no longer a democracy Op-Ed.

15) Apparently, being an airline pilot is a depressing job.

16) The headline pretty well gets it: “A Wall Alone Can’t Secure the Border, No Matter Who Pays for It.”

17) Another good reason not to make it easier to get a gun silencer— the loud noise of a gun is an important safety feature.

18) You know the biggest reason I would never want to run for office (at least in our public-financing-free world)?  It really is hellish.

19) I didn’t re-read 1984 last year in anticipation of Trump; I just wanted to.  (And I loved it as an adult, as opposed to finding it a slog as a teenager).  But, damn, no am I sure glad I did.  Adam Gopnik on Trump and 1984.

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. Mika says:

    #2 “Other research indicates that providing girls with successful role models might similarly “inoculate” them, boosting their motivation and protecting them from the idea that they are not intellectually competitive.”

    When my daughter was smaller I was really glad that she loved watching Octonauts. Tweak is engineer and Dashi information technology officer and photographer. Nya from Lego Ninjago is also pretty cool. Lego Dimensions (WiiU) has a female character Wyldstyle. I’ve no idea who she is but when her friends are Gandalf and Batman she can’t be that bad 🙂

    • Steve Greene says:

      Yeah, I have noticed all those cartoon role models. It’s pretty cool. Of course, Sarah mostly loves Sofia the First and Elena of Avalor and probably wants to be a princess. Then again she’s at her school’s Science Saturday as I type.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    #4 breast milk.
    Anecdote: As an observer of over 50 litters of a single breed of dogs over 40 years from one breeder whose economic and other circumstances have remained level and middle class over the years, I see no evidence that breast milk influences sex distribution in litters overall. Litter size may be influenced genetics but sex distribution appears to be random.
    Dog breeders have tried breeding early for males, late for females without predictable results. (Theory – yx carrying sperm travel faster but die faster; opposite for xx carrying sperm.)

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