Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is there anything good about men?

Why was it so rare for a hundred women to get together and build a ship and sail off to explore unknown regions, whereas men have fairly regularly done such things? Well women have historically done best by minimizing risks, whereas the successful men were the ones who took chances.

You are likely descended from twice as many women as men. DNA analysis has shown throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced. Said another way, most men who ever lived did not have descendants who are alive today. Their lines were dead ends. In fact most of us are descended from a few great men much more than from other men. Remember, most of the mediocre men left no descendants at all.

Playground observation studies find that girls pair off and play one-on-one with the same playmate for the full hour. Boys will either play one-on-one with a series of different playmates or with a larger group. Girls want the one-to-one relationship, whereas boys are drawn to bigger groups or networks.
When two girls are playing together and the researchers bring in a third one, the two girls resist letting her join. But two boys will let a third boy join their game. Girls want the one-on-one connection, so adding a third person spoils the time for them, but it doesn’t spoil it for the boys.

Men and women are both social but in different ways. Women specialize in the narrow sphere of intimate relationships. Men specialize in the larger group. If you make a list of activities that are done in large groups, you are likely to have a list of things that men do and enjoy more than women: team sports, politics, large corporations, economic networks, and so forth.

Some random tidbits for you: on the Titanic, the richest men had a lower survival rate (34%) than the poorest women (46%) Most workaholics are males. Female musicians are prone NOT to improvise.

A few lucky men are at the top of society and enjoy the culture’s best rewards. Others, less fortunate, have their lives chewed up by it. Culture uses both men and women, but most cultures use them in somewhat different ways. Most cultures see individual men as more expendable than individual women, and this difference is probably based on nature, in whose reproductive competition some men are the big losers and other men are the biggest winners. Hence it uses men for the many risky jobs it has.
Men go to extremes more than women, and this fits in well with culture using them to try out lots of different things, rewarding the winners and crushing the losers.

Read professor Roy F. Baumeister's talk here (he's President of the American Psychology Association):

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