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July 09, 2007

Comments

Andrew,
Great post and fascinating story. It seems to me this may be an example of empiricism running up against cultural myth wish fulfillment. It may make people feel there's something more just and feel-good about a world where engineers are more likely to have sons and beautiful people and nurses are more likely to have daughters (for example, an engineering family could be perceived as more value-added for a son, a nursing family could be perceived as less value-added for a son, and a beautiful family could be perceived as more value-added for a daughter). I don't necessarily have the answers for what you should do, except to say that I think this is a rather common problem, particularly in fields that have been called the "softer sciences". I think I lot of popular claims in the social sciences in particular deserve rigorous scrutiny by statisticians, experimental psychologists, and others.

This article is awful.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20070622-000002.xml

I posted in January on a similar example, where people were too quick to believe that facial symmetry indicates beauty.

Hopefully Anonymous,
Thanks for the link.... I cannot believe this article is going to be published.

Robin,

Thanks for the link. I'd just assumed that the facial symmetry thing had been proved--it seemed so naturally true!

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