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Girls Wired To Fear Dangerous Animals

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the don't-play-with-venomous-things dept.

Science 224

Foot-in-Mouth writes "New Scientist reports that girls are more "primed" to fear spiders and snakes, compared to boys. Infant boys and girls were shown pairs of images, a fearful and a happy object (such as a spider and a flower), measuring the boys' and girls' dwell times on the images. And in another similar test, normally happy objects (such as a flower) were given a fearful face and fearful objects were given a happy face. The results of these two tests suggested to the researcher that girls are not wired to fear spiders, for example, but rather girls are wired to more quickly learn to fear dangerous animals. The researcher, David Rakison at CMU, 'attributes the difference to behavioural differences between men and women among our hunter-gatherer ancestors. An aversion to spiders may help women avoid dangerous animals, but in men evolution seems to have favoured more risk-taking behaviour for successful hunting.' This reminds one of men's obsession with video games. Will game designers use this information to tweak video games for gender, either to make the games more or less frightening?"

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Dangerous animals (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415599)

i.e. mice

Re:Dangerous animals (5, Insightful)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416051)

Mice bite. Bites get infected and transmit diseases. It makes sense evolutionarily speaking. Boys grow to be men and need to be able to not be afraid (or at least keep that fear in check) while hunting so that they can focus on the kill. Girls and women tended to be more on the gatherer side (why they can see colors better amongst other things) to pick fruit and what-not. Spiders and bugs and slithery things would be more dangerous to them than men since they'd be more likely to encounter them. Screaming when in fear alerts the tribe to danger and the higher pitch of their voices seems like it would travel better than a guttural manly tone.. Makes perfect sense to me.

Re:Dangerous animals (4, Funny)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416237)

Another possibility (not saying yours is wrong, but this "correction", is probably another factor).

[..] It makes sense evolutionarily speaking. Boys grow to be men and need to be able to not be afraid (or at least keep that fear in check) while doing stupid but impressive things to show potential mates that they are strong. [...]

Re:Dangerous animals (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416579)

Boys grow to be men and need to be able to not be afraid (or at least keep that fear in check) while flushing that "5mm2 raisin with legs" down the toilet.

FTFY

Re:Dangerous animals (3, Informative)

thepooh81 (1606041) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417377)

Screaming when in fear alerts the tribe to danger and the higher pitch of their voices seems like it would travel better than a guttural manly tone..

Actually the higher pitch is better because it is less omnidirectional (i.e. you can tell where it's coming from) than a lower pitch. This is why police/fire/medical vehicles have high pitch sirens, so you can tell where they are coming from easier.

Re:Dangerous animals (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416323)

The plague killed quite a lot of people.

What about the most dreaded animal of all? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415603)

Trollus Slashdottus?

Does anyone even read the summary anymore? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415605)

Foot in mouth is right. The title and the summary contradict.

Nature vs nurture. (1, Interesting)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415617)

I assume that they picked such young children to avoid the nature vs nurture debate, but this still seems a long way from objective. Aren't we really just reinforcing our own preconceptions with this kind of pseudoscience? It says that the girls "looked" more fearful. It seems foolish to base a scientific study off of some scientist's ability to objectively judge facial expressions in infants. That's not science.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415657)

What if you had HUNDREDS of scientists objectively judging facial expressions of HUNDREDS of infants?

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415695)

I don't think that's enough. Can you isolate the experiment from their expectations? Are those scientists subject to preconceived notions shaped by culture and their exposure to similar media? A larger sample doesn't improve your data if your data is already corrupted.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415791)

Their data is of their creation - yes. They are testing the infant's reaction to those creations. How is the data corruptable? The scientists can think and have as many preconceptions they want about their data, and how they percieve the children might react. Either way - it doesn't stop the children from reacting to the data in any way. And if the recording of the reaction is accurate, ie, larger sample sizes, then you've got yourself an answer to a question.

How would you propose they experiment with human psychology?

Re:Nature vs nurture. (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415933)

In principle, you could easily enough prevent bias by appropriate blinding.

Just take the pictures of the infants' reactions, and get some third parties, who don't even know what the experiment is about, to do the scoring. You could probably conscript a bunch of child-development majors to provide assessments of the sample pretty easily.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416077)

In principle, you could easily enough prevent bias by appropriate blinding.

Just take the pictures of the infants' reactions, and get some third parties, who don't even know what the experiment is about, to do the scoring. You could probably conscript a bunch of child-development majors to provide assessments of the sample pretty easily.

But if adult humans are hard-wired OR socially conditioned to assume girls are more easily scared, they may be slightly more resistant to considering the baby boys as looking fearful. Therefore there may be a slight bias in that when the infant boys are frightened by the fearful images, the "false negative" rate may be higher than for infant girls. When neither group is particularly scared the false positive/negative rate may be the same. This is a particularly difficult experiment to blind, I suspect, because you have to separate the bias of the observer from the bias of the observee.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415821)

You have them look at pictures of the child, not knowing if it is a boy or a girl. Eliminate all elements of gender from the pictures. Then have a panel grade the fear in the pictures, not knowing which gender it is. Run a stats test on the actual genders, and the responses of the panel. voila.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416015)

Seems like you might do better looking for electrical activity patterns in the amygdala.

I find this interesting as it touches my life... my wife has always been afraid of spiders, but recently her fear of them has gone into the realm of extreme phobia. Panic attacks, avoiding places where a spider might be etc. She can't even watch a scene in a movie that has a spider-like creature in it without having an attack.

Of course, she has panic attack issues anyway, it makes me wonder if some peoples amygdalas are just built with a hair trigger.

-Steve

Re:Nature vs nurture. (5, Insightful)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415999)

Can you isolate the experiment from their expectations?

Yes, you can, though I don't know if this study did so.

Make it more blind. Have volunteers (who can't see the images) classify the infants' reactions to the images.

Whoops, hold on. I just RTFA. They're not evaluating based on the infants' facial expressions--they're evaluating based on how long the infants looked at each image. That's objective--hard to see how the scientists' expectations would be affecting the data. Mind you, "more time looking==more scared" isn't obviously valid, but the difference in times between the tests is still significant. You could question whether the girls are learning fear vs something else, but the test still seems to show that the girls are being trained by the images while the boys aren't.

Except that's the crux of the problem (2, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417121)

Except that seems to me like a very serious flaw. Doing a scientific test when you don't even know what you're measuring or what it means, seems to me incredibly unscientific. If they can't actually prove that "more time looking == more scared", then the whole conclusion isn't really supported by anything.

To see how bogus the whole "more looking == more fear" thing is, a whole other team used "more looking == more attractive" when they tried to prove that there is a hard-wired beauty ideal. If I'm to believe this team's "more looking == more fear", than the other team proved that a hourglass woman figure with big breasts is actually scarier than hell to babies. And viceversa, if I'm to believe the other team's interpretation for "more time looking", then this team showed that girls are attracted to spiders and snakes. (Cue trouser snake jokes;)

But really it shows how bogus it is. Nobody actually knows what "more time looking" actually means in those babies. Two different teams assigned two fundamentally opposite interpretations to it. And neither actually has more than handwaving to support that crucial proposition in their inferrence.

There are ways to see which brain zones are triggered, e.g., MRI. If you see the zone for anxiety triggering on a MRI scan, that's a pretty conclusive "yep, it's fear."

Why don't they do just that, instead of guessing what "more time looking" means?

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416857)

I agree with what you're saying, I figure there are definitely cultural aspects of "what are people afraid of", although I can understand the general premise of this whole experiment.

I mean how often does one in an urban city encounter snakes? Not often. Rats? Depends on the city/living conditions.

I'm sure paris hilton sees way less rats in the mirror than most people see when looking at her, etc, and encounters them around the house less commonly than people of poorer parts of society. /subtle

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416267)

What if you had HUNDREDS of scientists objectively judging facial expressions of HUNDREDS of infants?

Unless you found some non-human scientists, they would still be pre-disposed to think that girls would act more fearfully. It'd be impossible to control for the expectation bias in an experiment like that.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (4, Informative)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415701)

It seems foolish to base a scientific study off of some scientist's ability to objectively judge facial expressions in infants.

That's not what the study measured. It used quantifiable criteria. The conclusions are debatable, but you have to read the study before you're entitled to an opinion.

That's not science.

That's not reading.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (0, Troll)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415737)

I'm going off of the linked article here. Those articles almost always misrepresent the studies, but I can hardly be expected to dig up primary sources for every link I read on the net.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (0, Troll)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415771)

Addendum: In case it's unclear, I realize that they measure how long the infants observed the pictures in question. That doesn't make the study or it's conclusions useful.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1, Redundant)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416041)

The linked article says that they were measuring length of time spent looking, not judging facial expressions. If you did RTFA, you skimmed it and missed that detail.

The study does seem to demonstrate that girls are being trained by the images while the boys aren't. It might not be "trained to fear", but something is responsible for the difference between the tests. There's a history effect. The girls are learning something the boys aren't.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (1)

ruewan (952328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416107)

genesis 3:14-15 God made woman scared of snakes.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29417395)

Genesis 19:86

Theres too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Cant you see
This is a land of confusion.

Because we all know men and women are the same? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416177)

How many 300-pound solid-muscle women do you see making millions of dollars a year in the NFL?

Why did that hermaphrodite from South Africa get stopped from racing as a woman?

Women and men ARE DIFFERENT.

That's reality. All the claptrap from "womyn" loons can't change it. Get over it.

Re:Nature vs nurture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416871)

They aren't measuring expressions, they're measuring gaze time. Unless they have a stopwatch that's influence by facial expressions your point it totally moot.

Video Game Changes (4, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415619)

Will game designers use this information to tweak video games for gender, either to make the games more or less frightening?

Tweak video games for gender? You mean like Sims 4 with the man-eating toilet seat?

Wow. I just freaked myself out.

mice? (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415621)

What about female aversion to mice? They aren't dangerous.

Re:mice? (1)

Steve Baker (3504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415731)

They can carry disease, although rats are more dangerous in that respect. Mice may just look enough like rats to trigger the same response.

Re:mice? (1)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415895)

Re:mice? (2, Informative)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416139)

Not a legend, your link just separates them out as not being major rabies carriers. Here in New Mexico, we get cases of hantavirus [wikipedia.org] every year, which certainly is carries by mice and rats. We also typically get several cases of plague [wikipedia.org] every year. And, while the little rodents don't directly communicate the disease to humans, they make a pretty efficient transport device for the critters that do.

Re:mice? (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415789)

I always thought the mice thing was a construction of television, much like the toilet seat wars. I've never once seen a girl who reacts to a mouse with anything other than "Awwwwwwwwwwww, look at the mouse". Certainly never seen anybody, male or female, jump on a chair and shriek. Now, I've seen girls freak out at rats, but not out of fear of the rat. Out of television induced germophobia. "My god, it's full of disease, quick, get the antibacterial soap and the antiviral lysol aerosol spray! I'm sure a spray that says it kills 99.99% of airborne viruses is legit, and won't cause harm when I inhale it, not like all those rat viruses floating around in here now! Also, I better badger the doctor into prescribing some antibiotics and tamiflu, just in case"

Re:mice? (4, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415905)

I always thought the mice thing was a construction of television, much like the toilet seat wars. I've never once seen a girl who reacts to a mouse with anything other than "Awwwwwwwwwwww, look at the mouse".

I've seen a girl jump on a chair and shriek when a mouse scurried through the room. I've also been berated for leaving the toilet seat in the wrong configuration. Your anecdotal experience completely goes against my anecdotal experience, and guess whose anecdotal experience I tend to trust more?

Re:mice? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416055)

So, between your one girl once and at least two villages in my experience which didn't even look twice at a mouse, guess which one I'm going to trust more? :P

But that actually raises a good nature vs learned behaviour question. Was that girl actually wired that way, or had she learned from movies that that's the expected behaviour?

Re:mice? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416273)

Re: nature vs. learned behavior, TFA wasn't suggesting that girls are hard-wired to fear mice per se. Rather it suggests that they are hard-wired to fear animals they've learned are dangerous. I don't know what "villages" you've been to, but I'm guessing that mice were relatively common there and the people had no reason to consider them dangerous.

So basically, TFA claims that girls are wired to fear dangerous animals whereas boys are wired to face dangerous animals without showing the same level of fear.

Re:mice? (1)

jeffshoaf (611794) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416281)

I've also been berated for leaving the toilet seat in the wrong configuration.

I've never understood why women want the seat left down. If you think about it, it's in their best interest to put the seat down when they go into the toilet and put it back up when they're done. That way, they don't run the risk of falling in due to sitting while the seat is up and they don't have to worry about us guys getting the seat wet since it won't get wet in the raised position.

Unfortunately, I've found that even the most logical female will refuse to follow this logic...

Re:mice? (5, Insightful)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416327)

No... it's in women's best interest for the men to put the seat up when they go and back down when they're done. Prevents the "them falling in" problem, prevents the "them sitting on a wet seat" problem, and prevents the "them actually having to do something" problem.

Me, I just leave BOTH seats down anymore. Nobody complains and it doesn't look like the toilet is yawning at you when you walk into the room. ;)

Re:mice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29417449)

"Me, I just leave BOTH seats down anymore."

Leaving both down before you go will teach them to be careful what they wish for.

Re:mice? (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416595)

It's not symmetric through. Multiple cases of no reaction, few cases of a fearful reaction. That implies that the reaction is not hard wired. Most of the women I know were not raised in a rural environment, so I doubt they have overcome a hardwired fear, but rather, have just never acquired a cultural fear. Having seen it would disprove me if I was saying it never happens. But, I'm only saying it doesn't always happen. I'm also talking about a truly frightened reaction, rather than a startled reaction, which are quite different. If a mouse startles you, you may indeed jump up and shriek. The difference is, somebody startled will say "oh, hahaha", where as somebody frightened will stand there shrieking until somebody else catches the mouse. My mom has been startled by a mouse jumping out at her when she opened a bag of birdseed, and did scream and jump back. But a second later she picked it up and carried it outside calmly. She didn't react with fear, but with startlement. Same with my wife. If something runs out from behind a box or something, she'll jump, and so will I. But only if it's a spider does she continue to scream, forcing me to stop what I'm doing and get a glass ;) My sister in law has a severe phobia of butterflies. If she sees one she will become very nervous. If one flies near here she will run shrieking and be shaken for quite a while afterwards. But I conclude that's a phobia, rather than a property of women.

Re:mice? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416725)

The question isn't so much "fear of mice" as it is "fear of danger".

Of course, anything that is startling is potentially dangerous until we figure out what startled us. The question is more how we deal with our phobias, not so much just which animals we fear. How we treat phobias is nature (hard-wired); which animals we fear is nurture (learned).

Re:mice? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416911)

I've seen a girl jump on a chair and shriek when a mouse scurried through the room.

For what it's worth, my male roommate exhibits the same behavior. I get called whenever any non-pet quadruped or insect is sighted. It's just like living with a girlfriend, except without the sex.

Re:mice? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417055)

Sounds like he needs to be properly trained. A few rubber snakes and plastic spiders in his bed (and scattered in other strategic locations) should do the trick.

If he doesn't move out, he'll get used to them.

Re:mice? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417089)

(Yes, I realize that neither snakes nor spiders are either quadrupeds or insects... although I suppose you could get some scissors and make two quadrupeds from a single plastic spider.)

Re:mice? (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417173)

Oh yeah? Well I've seen an NFL linebacker jump five feet straight up when he saw a mouse. Then a woman grabbed it with her bare hand and bit off its head. Then she looked right at me and said "That's what'll happen to you if you leave the seat up again."

guess whose anecdotal experience I tend to trust more?

Probably not the anecdotal experience that was obviously just made up... for shame.

Re:mice? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417273)

I'm guessing, "the evidence that came from the particular breed of woman you're trying to survive amongst". I'd trust that, too...

Re:mice? (5, Funny)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415805)

Actually I've noticed a HUMAN aversion to mice. A couple of mice in a room will often make a 250lb flanel-wearing truck driver hop up on the table to get away.

I'll admit, they freak me out too. I went into the shed in my back yard to clean up a good while back. I had some scraps of carpet stashed in there that were left over from when I'd built a speaker box for my car. I picked up the pile and mice - dozens of them, just scattered everywhere. I'll admit, I shrieked like a girl and ran for mah life . . .

Re:Mice? No. Rats? Yes. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417245)

I'm not frightened by mice in the least. I think they're adorable. Even when I find them someplace unexpected, my reaction is usually "Awww". Even after one of the fuckers has bitten me.

Rats, on the other hand, are a different critter. For one, compared to mice they're huge. Also compared to mice, they're much more likely to be aggressive if they're even close to cornered. And they look evil.

Though pet rats or lab rats don't bother me. Even the rats scurrying around the tracks in the NY subway don't bother me as they go about their business. Strange rat in my house, though, that's freaky.

Re:mice? (1)

guest235 (1558143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415885)

I guess most people simply fear all animals that are not cat or dog. Like... fearing horse is probably rational thing to do, so "fear of horses" does not make news the way "fear of mice" does...

Is there one? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415953)

Actually, is there one? Mice are a fact of life in rural areas. I can't imagine women being able to function at all in, say, medieval Europe if they were wired to shriek and jump on the table at the sight of one. Rats and mice were really that common.

Heck, even in the 20'th century, I've seen more than one when visiting either grandma as a child. And that's not counting the ones the cat used to bring us. And I don't remember anyone freaking out.

Honestly, other than in Hollywood movies and cartoons, I can't remember even hearing about someone who reacts that way to mice.

So is it a real phenomenon, or one of those movie stereotypes like computer displays with huge letters and a "hack password" command?

Re:Is there one? (1)

rainmaestro (996549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416143)

I suspect it is a mix. A slightly different example:

Roaches. You always see the stereotype of the woman freaking out. Well, I live in Florida. Palmetto bugs are a way of life down here. I don't care if you're in a $50 million mansion, you're gonna see palmetto bugs at some point. And they run/fly *straight* at you (tall and thin person == tree == shelter in their eyes).

Down here, people don't really freak out. I know people who will run screaming from a bee, but show them a roach and they calmly pick up a newspaper and crush it.

I don't think we're hardwired for these kinds of fear. My suspicion is that it results either from some trauma early in life (little kid gets bitten by a spider), or the result of being "taught" to fear it by your parents ("Don't touch that, it will make you sick").

Re:Is there one? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417305)

I'd think speed of movement counts a lot too - a bee zips about the place faster than you can react to it, a roach crawls along. Make it move very fast and you'll probably see something like the same response.

As for rats, I don't think women would jump on a chair and scream for help like Mammy Two -shoes, but there's a healthy aversion to the things in relatively recent times. Today we don't have the same housing and health issues we had just 50 years ago, so we've lost what ever instincts we had against them. [wikipedia.org]

That said, women are always going to be more hardwired to flight than men, they just don't have the same "I'm big and strong" attitude men (are more likely to) have, present geeks excluded :)

Re:Is there one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416333)

So is it a real phenomenon, or one of those movie stereotypes like computer displays with huge letters and a "hack password" command?

Don't forget the staccato beeping that comes out of the monitor when you crop a picture...

Enhance! [beep-beep-beep-beep-beep]

Re:mice? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416021)

What about female aversion to mice? They aren't dangerous.

I beg to differ. [wikipedia.org]

Re:mice? (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416147)

Don't forget plague [wikipedia.org] . The state I live in (New Mexico) has both!

Toxoplasmosis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29417409)

When my wife was pregnant, we learned about toxoplasmosis, which is a parasite carried in mouse droppings, which can cause miscarriage or other undesired defects for the kid in utero. I think it may be related to cat scratch fever.

Doesn't sound so crazy anymore? Why wouldn't women of child-bearing age run away from mice? Sounds like a positive adaptation.

First Question (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415641)

How do they define 'fearful' as it relates to infants? My 1 month old son can barely make out my face never mind something 'fearful'.

Designers *COULD* but how many females like scary movies and how many men do not? I think putting more money into gameplay & plot would be better spent!

Unscientific conclusions? (1)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415649)

The whole "men are manly men born to hunt" conclusion seems to be just repeating what we've been taught to believe. There's no proof for that, and really no reason to even believe it. It's a blind guess. Speculation is great except when it's confused with science.

Re:Unscientific conclusions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415799)

It's not speculation when you have millenia of historical records where men engage in dangerous behavior (hunting, war, etc.) and women tend not to. Heck, you can even look at aboriginal cultures today and notice the same pattern. Go take a trip to australia or africa and see for yourself. We're not lions where the females do the hunting. We evolved differently.

Re:Unscientific conclusions? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415841)

Thats not at all what the popular TV Show Xena led me to believe.

Re:Unscientific conclusions? (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415909)

No reason to believe it? I mean sure it is kind of speculative, but over the whole of history, that's been the way it's been done for the vast majority of civilizations. What you're suggesting is probably even more speculative than that. Men being typically larger and stronger clearly doesn't indicate anything, neither does anything about the distribution of brain mass. On top of that, for organisms that have live young, it would be decidedly inconvenient for the primary hunter to be largely out of commission for the better part of a year before giving birth. Yes pregnant women can do a lot, but it's not a good step evolutionarily for the hunter to also be with child.

Yes it's pretty speculative, but suggesting that it's a blind guess requires real ignorance of both history and biology.

Re:Unscientific conclusions? (1)

stagg (1606187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416135)

MOST large game hunting has been done my by men, in MOST human societies. However, human society has almost never relied on hunting large game for survival. When hunting is a subsistence activity it still tends not to require a large percentage of the population's efforts or take a substantial amount of their time. Pregnancy is unlikely to be a factor in preventing women from hunting, except for a comparatively brief period in an individual's life, and child rearing obviously doesn't have to be a woman's activity, or the same mother's activity. No, I can't scientifically proving anything about gender roles. The difference is that I'm not claiming to. I'd hardly publish a thesis on what I know about gender roles in history, but it is enough to suggest that things aren't as open and shut as that.

Re:Unscientific conclusions? (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416789)

Well, except for lions. In lions, the male is truly massive compared to the females. But the male just sits there sleeping, easting, and having sex, and also occasionally eating its own young so the females will want to have more sex to repopulate. So, a larger male doesn't necessarily mean the male is the hunter. It could also mean that the male protects the rest of the group while the females are away hunting smaller prey that needs a fast hunter, rather than a massive pile of muscle, in order to bring down. But yes, lions are just about unique in that regard. It would be most unusual if humanity's ancestors were like that, since as you say, we're pregnant for far longer than greater cats, and babies need the care of their mother (or at least A mother) for far longer than most mammals.

Except it's not that clear cut at all (2, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416797)

Except it's not that clear at all, so, yes, _I_ will call it blind guesses.

For a start, the evolution of the homo species has involved _reducing_ sexual dimorphism. All along the line we moved from disproportionately larger males than females and males with born natural weapons (e.g., bigger teeth and jaws) to something more gender-equal than any other ape. Clearly there wasn't as big a need for big males protecting weak females.

Also, if you're actually looking at primitive cultures, you must be looking through tinted glasses. Because it never was a case where females sit in the cave and just take care of the babies. In hunter-gathering cultures, the males were the hunters, yes, but the females were the gatherers. Obviously we lived with their being out of commission while pregnant just fine.

Furthermore, the actual roles in those cultures aren't anything like the modern stereotype in western culture. Women aren't the weaklings jumping on a chair when they see a mouse, and men aren't the stereotypical testosterone-poisoned idiots.

Women out gathering must be able to take care of themselves. Sure, they won't go wrestle tigers, but they must out-wit, out-run or out-climb any dangers they may meet.

And most importantly, they have to somehow finish gathering food for their family and come back even if they see a spider or a snake. Jumping on some branch and shrieking every time you see either, won't get you too far. There is no guy around who'll bravely come and kill the snake for you, because the guys are out hunting.

There are no guys on escort duty for the women gathering berries. If they need to save their skin, they must do it themselves.

But most importantly the guys in those cultures aren't the kind who'll think with his dick and wrestle tigers to impress the girls either. The role of the men is to hunt some antelope or whatever is available, but try to avoid the predators just like the women do. There is no way a lone bushman hunter will take on the lions, and even a group has nothing to gain and everything to lose from trying to. So he'll just try to avoid them.

Basically _both_ genders' roles were to avoid danger in as much as possible.

Yes, all cultures tried to give their women slightly less risky jobs, but

1. that doesn't really mean more than that they were protecting their pussy supply, to be blunt. For most of human history, the life expectancy for women was lower than for men. Because of birth-related death and complications. As modern civilizations as Old Kingdom Egypt had the median of life expectancy, if you got past the peak of infant mortality, in the 20's for women and the 30's for men. _That_ disproportionate. Warfare to capture women was a stapple all the way to late Roman republic at the very least.

So, yes, those guys tried to protect what was a limited supply of nookie, because demand always outstripped supply. It doesn't have to mean any different wiring or natural handicap or anything.

2. "that's the way it's been done" isn't really proving anything. Equally slavery was the way things were done for millenia, and nobody would still argue like Aristotle that some people were born to be slaves.

3. Even gathering was only marginally less risky, and was still a vastly more risky job than any moder woman will ever have to do. (Unless she's a tiger tamer or something.) Or than most modern men will.

What people are trying to apply to modern jobs and tasks, was actually the difference between (A) might have to outrun a tiger attracted by that freshly hunted antelope, and (B) slightly lower chances to meet the same tiger, but is good enough to save her skin if she does. Stupid "eeek, a mouse!" acts don't even come close to be justified by that ancient division of labour. If one of those gatherer women even heard of someone making a fuss over a mouse or bug -- when, again, they actually had to somehow deal with actual predators -- they'd probably be pretty perplexed.

Bbbbbbbut ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415651)

Men and women are equal! Everything is learned.

This is all lies, lies, lies!

Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415685)

British scientists have uncovered why little girls like pink toys [today.com] . "Women are hardwired to like pink," says Professor Gene Hunt of the University of Metro, "because their cavewoman foremothers spent their days gathering red leaves and berries amongst the trees." Later, women needed to notice red-faced babies and blushing boyfriends. Men are attracted to blue because of the colour of the sky as seen when hunting.

Women are also predisposed to backstab one another in the workplace and cry in the boardroom, just like the social structures in the cave population as extrapolated from two bone needles. Being too successful will increase women's testosterone, giving them hairy nipples and male-pattern baldness. Females joining the hunt may also explain the end of the Neanderthals.

IQ test studies show that women have lower IQs on average than men, undoubtedly from lesser need for environmental variation while taking care of the cave. Tests on little boys prove that testosterone correlates with a sense of humour, so women naturally can't take a joke. Housework has been shown to cut the risk of several fatal diseases, and dressing up nicely around the house is psychologically healthy as it uses the Homo erectus clan maintenance abilities of the female of the tribe.

Men are naturally predisposed to sleep with as many women as possible, as proven by lions, whereas women are naturally predisposed to stay loyal to their man and their spawn. Women who sleep around are at increased risk of parasites and death, as proven by cheetahs, who are a pack of catty sluts.

In a final crowning achievement, the team has shown that daily fellatio greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer. Furthermore, regular sexual intercourse is essential to feminine health, but may be injurious if prolonged for more than two minutes or conducted while the man is sober.

"In conclusion," says Professor Hunt, "all of this is top-notch science that you can absolutely rely on. Now get your knickers back on and make me a cuppa."

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415839)

I find your ideas intriguing, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (1)

notarockstar1979 (1521239) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415977)

Now this is science I can stand behind.

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416201)

Best. Troll. Ever!

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416257)

Best. Troll. Ever!

However, I'm a bit uneasy that it's currently rated as "Score:3, Informative". I mean if you want to give David Gerard points for his effort there was the option of "Interesting", at least that one doesn't imply the mods fell for the troll.

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416277)

Troll, how dare you sir! Everything except the last two paragraphs is actual "news" stories. Evidently our caveman ancestors are alive and well and working at Associated Newspapers in London.

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417149)

Best response to this article I could think of. I haven't (and won't) take the time to read the study, but when I see "conclusions" like this, I'm quite skeptical. Maybe it's true, but the whole idea seems rooted in sexism.

Personally, I F$#%@! hate bugs, and I'm a dude. My wife doesn't mind so much. I grew up in the city, she grew up in the country... see a correlation there???

Re:Evolutionary origins of gender stereotypes (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417353)

You can tell when it's August or September and there's no proper news to print: the papers print an article saying the sexist notion of the day is proven by "our caveman ancestors".

Girls can be fun (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415825)

Girls Wired To Fear Dangerous Animals

It's cute when they scream.

Re:Girls can be fun (4, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415921)

Congratulations, you've just told us what every little boy already knew.

The main attraction of toads, frogs, worms, and bugs is the fascinating effect they have on girls.

Re:Girls can be fun (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416061)

-1 creepshow...

YAVGDT - Yet Another Video Game Design Theory (1)

Arakageeta (671142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415907)

Does everything have to tie back to video game design? I think we're being a little one-track-mind here. Sometimes things just are and we'll see what people make of them. This research is so general, one could pose the question "Will directors/writers/teachers/coaches/lawyers use this information to tweak movies/literature/education/sports/representation for gender?"

Re:YAVGDT - Yet Another Video Game Design Theory (1)

Oloryn (3236) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416043)

I think we're being a little one-track-mind here.

Welcome to /.

Re:YAVGDT - Yet Another Video Game Design Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416315)

Yeah, for some reason people are trying to figure out how to make video games more popular with women.

Has anyone ever considered the possibility that the vary nature of video games themselves is what women don't like? You know, playing a game on a video screen. Maybe that's what they don't like. It's not the content, it's the medium itself.

plugged toilets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415923)

What about the female aversion to unplugging toilets? How about an experiment with a plugged toilet with a happy face on it?

Or getting under the car to fix an oil leak? Greasy happy face?

Bullshit (3, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415973)

My daughter used to pick up spiders with her bare hands when she was 3, as well as dance on shelves 11 feet off the ground and climb out of second story windows. I had to intentionally terrify her a few times to teach her fear, but now I've trained her not to touch spiders. She still has no problem handling garter snakes. Her mother, coming from a part of the world where many venomous snakes are found, is so terrified of all snakes that she cannot even bear to see them on TV. So are all her relatives, so we have had the situation where an adult male refused to hold a garter snake I caught in the yard, but a 6-year old girl didn't have any problem with it. (By the way, garter snakes actually are venomous, but their venom teeth are in the back of their mouth and there are no known incidents of them biting people.)

Re:Bullshit (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416755)

Her mother, coming from a part of the world where many venomous snakes are found, is so terrified of all snakes that she cannot even bear to see them on TV.

Yet she still loves to handle the trouser snakes... sorry, I had to do it.

Dangerous animals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29415975)

Women are wired to fear ME.

Mukekeke.

Re:Dangerous animals? (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416341)

Women are wired to fear ME.

Mukekeke.

That may be; however, I've *trained* women to fear ME.

Bukakekekekeke

Re:Dangerous animals? (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416863)

Women are wired to fear ME.

Hey, my mom's first laptop had ME installed on it - and I'd say fear was a completely reasonable reaction.

Gender discrimination? Say it ain't so. (5, Interesting)

skornenicholas (1360763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29415985)

I find it rather humorous that it is considered so taboo to say that maybe, just MAYBE, men are discrimnated against as well. Don't believe me? As a male, also kinda a large guy I'm 6'3" and 220, I also happen to LOVE kids. And not in the have some candy and get in my van way, in the oh my God have candy and a pony and if you smile I might just steal a space shuttle and go to the moon to get you moon rocks, kinda way. Living in America if I so much as "Oooh, awwww" over a small child, especially if it is female, I am treated as a pervert. Not just sometimes, but 99% of the time. I found a lost crying child in Wal*Mart and I bought her a sucker and put her in a stroller going aisle to aisle to find her parents. I was tackled from behing by security with no verbal warning what so EVER. It hurt like hell and busted my nose. I am now terrified to so much as smile at a child, even my own small cousins. The thing is that every male habit is viewed as bad from the get go and we have to fight to prove it is useful. I work two jobs, my father is dying of cancer, my mothers mill was outsourced, and neither of them graduated High School. I support me, my parents, my ex wife, putting my oldest cousin through ACC, while taking guardianship of his sister while she completes school because both of her parents are now in jail. I come home, I cook, I clean, make sure everyone is okay, laundry is done, homework is done, medication is taken. If I decide to spend two hours shoving bayonets in the throats of other dudes in Call of Duty what right do you have to say I shouldn't? It is a stress reliever. Am I addicted? It depends, it doesn't interfer with my life so I would say no, but I do enjoy it very much. It is time to put aside our "beliefs" about what is male and what is female and look at it from a completely open point of view. Let us start all over with new ideas and create a new comprehensive study using double blind standards, then find out is it male/female, is it race, religion, upbringing, or does it simply vary wildly from person to person? I am thinking it is the latter, I find demographics studies to be prebiased and largely absurd.

Re:Gender discrimination? Say it ain't so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416403)

Yeah, as a man that also likes to see cute kids (in the same way as you) I hate that it seems that if I do anything more than just look and smile the parents tend to shield their kids from me.

As an aside, doesn't it suck that men cannot tell women they are attractive without it being a come on?

Re:Gender discrimination? Say it ain't so. (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416423)

If you find a lost child, you take them to customer service. They have a PA system, much more effective than "going aisle to aisle".

Yes, most of the "gender differences" we see are primarily nurture, not nature. Even if you don't brainwash your own daughter, trust me, other kids will.

As an adult male, I too find it depressing that I apparently cannot be trusted around children, but my daughter's male teacher and principal can (strange double standard). Unfortunately, I do like kids, in the sense that I want to see them be happy. And, as creepy as I am, little girls adore me. Why? Because, unlike most adults, I actually pay attention to them, and treat them like human beings. Which apparently is something that their paranoid parents are failing to do. I believe giving your kids the time and attention they crave would protect them much better than training them to fear all strangers. The "stranger danger" myth is bullshit - the vast majority of child abuse is perpetrated by people the parents know, those same school staff and relatives that the parents trust unconditionally.

Re:Gender discrimination? Say it ain't so. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29417067)

I don't know but you certainly came off creepy as all hell in that post.

Fear It Self (1)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416035)

I'm not sure about girls being afraid of snakes and spiders and such but is weird that I'm spooked if not afraid of the ad in the page about "Dora Saves The Crystal Kingdom. Try it free! Nick Jr Arcade"?

Re:Fear It Self (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29417133)

yes, girls are more fearful of dangerous animals. My 2 year old girl all of sudden claimed one day she will no longer sleep in her little bed because "there is a snake in it". She showed it to me, it's the contouring shape of some plastic model which is similarly shaped like a snake's head, of course, with a screw in the middle where the eye would be. I was perplexed for a while as we don't have a toy snake even with 2 boys in the house. Then I found out, the idiotic day care people brought in LIVE SNAKES to show case to the little kids. I saw a picture where she freaked out and the boys were pointing and showing interest.. That explained the whole thing...

Game for girls ? (1)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416087)

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a g... cute little thing.

Other female fears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416179)

What about the innate hard-wired female fear of dating ./ readers.

There's a PhD in that for someone, I'm sure...

Guys scared of Modern Day Dangerous Animals... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416229)

Like broad shouldered, brain dead sport-jocks...

Just evolution messing with you... (1)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416559)

It may not be that females learn faster that Dangerous Bug is Dangerous, but that males are programmed to be less cautious in order to make them investigate just HOW dangerous it is, thus providing useful information (in case it turns out to actually be harmless and/or tasty).

And sending the male into battle with the unknown will serve as an excellent boost to natural selection.

Her: "Aaagh! Look out! That will kill you! Run away!"
Him: "What? Are you sure? It looks all furry and cuddly... Here, I'll just poke it with this.."
[gets eaten by lion]
Her: "Aaagh! Look out! That will kill you! Run away!"
New Guy: "Um, ok, if you say so."

G.

Dangerous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416753)

Most snakes and spiders are not any more dangerous than any other wild animal, much less so than many other animals which might trigger an "aww" response and attract a youngster to go pet it.

Quick Test (1)

marcop (205587) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416905)

Which do you fear more:

Spider [nerdyshirts.com]

OR

Flower [istockphoto.com]

WTF? (1)

IceFoot (256699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29417325)

Slashdot headline: Girls Wired To Fear Dangerous Animals

Article: girls are not wired to fear spiders

WTF? Is it time to replace employees with droids?

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