June 29, 2010

Are Women Prone To Paranormal Beliefs?

this will work.jpgyou have a better explanation?

A reader sends me this email:

Subject: Guilty as charged.



Does this mean I'm a bad person?

Eric Barker
Blog | http://bakadesuyo.com/

No, it doesn't make you a bad person, but the author of the study is suspect.


The title of the article Barker had linked to contrast with mine is,  Who wants to believe?  Associations between digit ratio (2D:4D) and paranormal and superstitious beliefs.

Abstract: [...] This evidence may be informative for narrowing down possible developmental pathways of paranormal and superstitious beliefs. Propensities contributing to sex and individual differences in these beliefs probably arise in utero, may partly be due to prenatal testosterone and other prenatal programming effects, but less likely due to pubertal-adolescent androgen action or developmental instability.
Who wants to guess which way the association goes?  Of course it does.


These articles rely on the fact that you're not going to read them.  Only the titles.  Since they are done by academics, they are appeals to authority.  A leading title, a leading abstract-- let the public extrapolate from there.

And who can sit through these articles?  They are intermittently seductive and impenetrable.  Open with the sexual differences in schizophrenia, then the similarities between it and  paranormal beliefs, and close: "All of this points to a possible role of sex hormones for a suite of related or overlapping traits that include paranormal beliefs, schizotypy, and psychosis-proneness."  Game on.

And if you do venture further into the paper, it's protected by landmines like this one:

Directional asymmetry in digit ratios was calculated as DR−L = R2D:4D-L2D:4D. Composite standardised fluctuating asymmetry (Møller & Swaddle, 1997) of 2D and 4D was calculated as FA = {Σd |Rd-Ld|/[(Rd + Ld)/2]}/2, whereby d = 2D and 4D, and expressed as a percentage of trait size (i.e., multiplied by 100).

That means there's science being done in there, got it?  By experts, who can tell a nuclear reactor from an UPS truck.  Stay the hell out, just read what you're told to read, i.e.:

In sum, the current data suggest biologically based, prenatally programmed influences on paranormal and superstitious beliefs. Or, paraphrasing the probably best known slogan from the defining X-Files television series: it may well be that some of the truth is in the womb rather than out there.
("Wait a second-- wasn't the X-Files audience mostly men?"  I said shut your hole.)

The article expects you do not bother to read this:

For women, corresponding relations were all not significant. Second, among women, finger length was significantly negatively associated with total and positive superstition scores (and marginally significantly associated with negative superstitions). And third, associations of paranormal or superstitious beliefs with DR−L or finger  FA were directionally erratic and for both sexes throughout not significant.

Or this:

Corresponding associations among women were throughout not significant, and directional asymmetry in digit ratios (DR−L) was neither associated with paranormal nor superstitious beliefs in men or in women.... Paranormal and superstitious beliefs are female-typed traits, so the current results are exactly the other way round. For now, it is difficult to put forward plausible explanations for this pattern.

Because those things say, "oops."


Where the study went wrong is that last sentence, "paranormal beliefs are female-typed traits." I'm not sure why that is stated as if it were obvious, but leave that aside: that was what they study set out to show, right?  So you can't make that the basis for the interpretation of the results.  "We wanted to determine whether this drug cures cancer.  Since we already know that this drug cures cancer, the fact that it didn't cure cancer is difficult to explain using conventional paradigms.  Further research is warranted."


The point of research isn't discovery, it's confirmation.  And the purpose of research articles isn't to convey information, but plausible deniability, exactly like in the intelligence game.

Did the author lie? Nope.  Is the article methodologically flawed?  Nope.  Everything in there is factually accurate.  But.

The beauty of the paper is that at no point did he have to say, "chicks will believe anything."  He got you to say it.

Did he say paranormal beliefs were feminine traits?  "I didn't write that, you guys misinterpreted the study."  But that was the purpose of writing it that way.  If you didn't want it misunderstood you would have titled the paper, "My Baffling Discovery That Paranormal Beliefs Don't Follow The Sex- Specific Patterns I Wanted Them To, WTF, I'm Going On Break."

Nor do I suspect he's malicious.  He truly believes they are feminine traits, and amazingly his own study is unlikely to have dissuaded him.  He knows he's right.  The science is just padding.  Even if all the studies turn out to be negative, he just needs to point at the stack: "look at all the research that has been done on the question of paranormal behavior and sex differences!"  You look at the stack, five meters high, and think, "guess it makes sense. Chicks will believe anything."


Do you think I staged this?  That it's a coincidence that bakadesuyo.com guy sent me this article, that happened to conform to what I'm saying?  This is the norm, not the exception.  There are no exceptions.  All of this is about handing you all the tools you need to lie to yourself.

You make a false distinction between "politics" and "science," one based on argument and the other on "objectivity."  They are of exactly the same form, conducted in exactly the same way, by exactly the same people.

Both are done by humans, humans who want.  Whatever truth is out there is barely detectable through the mist of envy and need and hope.  They will make their words and their numbers say anything they need them to.

You want something uplifting, well, here you go: we have enough excellent raw data that we could make huge leaps in science without performing one further experiment.  We could take all the, say, antidepressant data, and run it through the Machines to determine that it cures the flu in whites born in Virgo but only left handed ones who eat lots of broccoli-- and we have no idea why-- as long as we were willing to put aside our attachments to words like "antidepressant" and "Virgo" and "flu."

But that would require us to ignore all the previous interpretations of these studies which form the basis for our current postulates.  Can you unlearn what you think you know "feminine" means?  Not without a biological EMP.

I'm not making some philosophical/positivist case for the limits of human knowledge, I'm simply observing that when they want that brown square in the sat photo to be a nuclear reactor, then you'll want it to be a nuclear reactor, no matter how fast it's going.




"Most people do not compreh... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 12:50 PM | Posted by Charles: | Reply

"Most people do not comprehend [no matter how] they encounter such things, nor do they understand what they learn; they believe only themselves." -- Heraclitus

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This is why I love TLP. </p... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 2:00 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This is why I love TLP.

FACT: Who decided that belief in the paranormal is a female trait? Um wut?
I understand the thought process behind it. "Women are illogical, belief in the paranormal and phenomena without evidence is also illogical, therefore belief in the paranormal is a feminine trait."

But that shit requires some hard evidence before one goes around saying it is true. Men are usually very interested in the paranormal too (e.g. xfiles as pointed out) and it does seem most crazy religious zealots are men and such. Even if we assume crazy religious leaders (almost unanimously male) are primarily leaders and secondarily believers, I've still observed that zealots and fanatics in general are usually male. Not that I am saying it's the other way around, just saying that it is far from intuitive or obvious that paranormal /scientifically irrational believes are feminine.

See this is when this shit doesn't work.

If you are researching links between a trait like finding full lips, curvy hips and breasts sexy with post and prenatal testosterone, you are almost certain to find a link... since it is certain that finding fertile women sexually enticing must be the workin's of testosterone on the brain, as the only function of sexuality is reproduction, and men can only reproduce with women.

But... um... stating a "trait" like scientific irrationality (which is what "belief in the paranormal" is, after all) is intrinsically associated with femininity, that really isn't obvious and you need to really have some solid evidence , just my opinion.

My thought: In general, mean are more apt to be extremists it seems to most people anyway, and believe in the paranormal is primarily extreme and only secondarily irrational. You're going to find people with strong paranormal beliefs are either equally male and female or perhaps more biased toward males, as a result of the fact that men in general tend toward extremism in thought and preferences, ideas. Every zealot (scientific or unscientific) I've ever heard of has always been male, with only rare exceptions (e.g. wacko feminists are usually female, there are a handful of wacko female religious extremists too).
If there's someone talking about the z-shaped UFO formations which visit ohio every thursday, I'd bet a weeks pay the speaker is a male.
Most crazy religious zealots are males.
Scientists (professional and armchair alike) who are obsessed with their unproven/disproven hypotheses are males.

Yea, I'm not seeing how scientific irrationality is female.

I've observed scientific ambivalence is feminine, if we are going to make any statements about it one way or other. It's usually women who want to agree to disagree and who say all possibilities are equal and generally avoid extremism and conflict in thought and discussion

I would say, the author is evidence against his hypothesis, seeing as he is male and presently expressing a profoundly scientifically irrational belief and is completely impenetrable to reality, meh?

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@anonymous: the point, you ... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 2:31 PM | Posted by Aaron Davies: | Reply

@anonymous: the point, you have missed it.

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Your thesis is that girls r... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 3:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by MH: | Reply

Your thesis is that girls rock and he's wrong because he's just a guy?

"I've observed..." means you should read the article.

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MH - You're stupid. Plz don... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 4:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

MH - You're stupid. Plz don't respond to me in the future. I don't want to have to write a post like this again. Thx.

Aaron - Never claimed to be addressing TLP's point. I did see his point. He basically reiterated it from the "are certain behaviors masculine" post. I was addressing only the example, since I found it so extremely bizarre that anyone could argue irrational beliefs are female stereotyped traits. I'm not saying they are masculine per se, just saying it's not particularly feminine at all and if anything most nuts with crazy views tend to usually, happenstance, incidentally to be males. It seems.

No I don't think "girls rock" either, plz to try avoiding thinking in a black or white polarizing way, thxu.

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Well you're stupid. That's... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 4:05 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by MH: | Reply

Well you're stupid. That's a fun game.

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How does it make the author... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 4:05 PM | Posted by andon: | Reply

How does it make the author feel when someone's comment only shows they didn't understand the post?

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The problem is that by cons... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 4:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

The problem is that by considering the argument worthy of criticism you're granting it too much respect. Alone's point in This whole
series is that these studies aren't about making convincing arguments, they're about poking ideas into your head. Refutation is no hindrance to the author's goals in such a case.

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GOD is this readership popu... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 4:41 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

GOD is this readership populated by whiny old people or something, why is everyone stroking out over the fact I SELECTED to talk about something in the post which was not the main point TLP was trying to even make. So what. Lots of other people will start in with the inane uncreative comment like a bunch of parrots like "CORRELATION DOESN'T PROVE CAUSATION" while peppering their responses with words like "paradigm" and maybe a bit of obscure latin or two. In short, it will be embarrassing, as TLP's readership usually is. The sort of people who buy a venti latte and think they are high class.

You know, for the poster speculating about how TLP feels about having people ignore his point in their responses, it's really kind of ironic because a few posts ago (in the "are certain behaviors masculine" blog entry) I found myself wondering how TLP feels about the fact that SO MANY of his regular readers are spectacularly uncreative unintelligent with no ability to think independently and simply look for a leader to tell them what to think, with zero ability to process, analyze, and judge the information presented with. I didn't post that because I Know a lot of people would get butthurt, and that would be simply meanhearted.

But now that you are bringing this up like a bunch of old women who are pissed mattlock is being canceled, I might as well say that I find the overwhelming majority of responses on this blog to be painful and embarrassing. The serious and pseudointellectual ones, make me want to just compulsively edit them to save their faces.

Oh and I would point out, we already had this discussion like 2 blog posts ago.

There is no point in starting it again, amirite?

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I, for one, am so thankful ... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 5:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by MH: | Reply

I, for one, am so thankful you're here to set us all straight. Since Andy Griffith is 84, I've really had to come to terms with the fact that his courtroom TV drama days are over. Also, I'm going to switch to Chai Tea.

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I'm really dumb, disregard ... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 5:29 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I'm really dumb, disregard all my previous comments.

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Hey, this is the first flam... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 7:08 PM | Posted by Nik: | Reply

Hey, this is the first flame war I've seen in the TLP comments. Way to drop any pretense of discussion and go straight to personal attacks. Kudos all around.

Alone, thanks for another good post. I probably am looking for a "thought leader", I never claimed not to be a sheep. But I figure someone who jams the message "Think for yourself, don't take what people tell you as fact, look deeper" down my throat can't be too poor of a Shepard to follow.

My favorite topic to study with these lessons in mind is the Arizona debacle. Any time anyone says anything about that subject there are tons of layers to uncover (most of it stupid, but it's a good easy training ground). Thanks for making me a littler smarter than I was before.

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The points in your comment ... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 7:20 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Nik: | Reply

The points in your comment may hold some validity, but who knows because you support/preface your points with statements like this:
"I've just observed..."
"...just my opinion."
"Every zealot...I've ever heard of..."
"I've observed..."
It's hard to attack a even groundless argument without facts of your own.

And you don't have to parrot Alone's points, I've seen some good posts arguing against, but most people come to the comments to discuss the main point of what we read, not the ancillary information used in making the point.

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Correction: "It's hard to a... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 7:23 PM | Posted by NIk: | Reply

Correction: "It's hard to attack even a..." not, "...a even". Sorry

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I was going to comment on t... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 9:43 PM | Posted by Andrew T Ator: | Reply

I was going to comment on the nature of paranormal thoughts/beliefs, but then I decided I should probably define normal before even thinking about paranormal. Words are retarded. I miss the days, because I've been alive longer than methusela, when we communicated in petty grunts and starred at whatever shiny object it was that happened to catch our attentions. This "love" word for instance, what person had the audacity to define the actualization of hope? It bothers me on a purely metaphysical level ecause I've read too many physics papers to believe that physics is an actual branch of science. Wasn't Aristotle wrong about everything, anyway? Science schmience. Methods are what our academic authorities make us make of them.

Did not Socrates know nothing? If anything that means we should be celebrating all of the nothing that his protege helped us learn to understand how to better lie to ourselves.

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If you see a crazy person o... (Below threshold)

June 29, 2010 10:44 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

If you see a crazy person on television talking about UFOs or God Hates Fags and it is a man compared to a woman do you feel more comfortable at a gut level? I sure do. I'm sure television producers understand this and are more likely to put a crazy man on air than a crazy woman.

It's gender roles. Crazy men are supposed to go big and burn out bright, crazy women are supposed to stay in the attic out of sight.

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Hi, this is the anon who wa... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 12:44 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Hi, this is the anon who was blogging about "you're all elderly mattlock watching uncreative idiots, and I think it's ridiculous anyone could put fourth paranormal belief is a feminine stereotyped trait as most extremist crazy people are men"

Um, no, I don't agree with your analysis that we are more familiar with crazy men because "the media" puts them on TV.

It is shown , or at least it is popularly believed due to research that male brains tend toward extremism (in intelligent, in ability, in thoughts as well) whereas female brains are more averaged. There are less females who are mentally retarded, and there are less females who are extremely brilliant as compared to males. Male brains are also more "specialized", meaning to say the male brain is equipped to be very into, very good at, a small number of things, whereas female brains are better at multitasking and doing a lot of things at once.

Intuitively, in my life, whenever I've met a person who had an extreme view and went on and on about it, a view that was utterly irrational, or at least not nearly enough evidence to support it to justify such staunch belief... that person was a man. This is true of bloggers I know (TLP is a good example, and his absolute ridiculous obsession with narcissism and everyone in modern society being one..., although it's been a long time since narcissism has been a topic of discussion). This is true of people I know in real life. This is true of people I see on TV.

I have met some extremist, crazy women. But, USUALLY, the dude going on and on about god, the dude who believes orange juice can cure cancer, the dude who thinks area 51 houses aliens... that dude is a dude.

So, meh.

I don't believe that "the media" puts crazy men in plain view and that is to account for it. If this were so, why then are most of the people I am thinking of when I think of "crazy men" are people I know IRL, people I've met on the interweb, and none are from "the media"?

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Anyone can make a study to ... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 3:11 AM | Posted by Moribund: | Reply

Anyone can make a study to prove whatever he wants to hear. That's why you can't take any study seriously including your own. They're just magazine fillers to get people all worked up about things which have nothing to do with the real world.

Even raw data is suspect, come to think of it, unless it's proven by physical means (ie. blood test) it's most probably a lie. (Yes doc, I feel much better now. Cross my fingers.)

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Regarding throwing all the ... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 10:18 AM | Posted by Ed: | Reply

Regarding throwing all the data into "the Machines": it's already starting to happen.


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Well, chicks will be... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 2:51 PM | Posted by Philip: | Reply

Well, chicks will believe anything, but so will guys, especially if you provide them with impressive sounding articles.

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Does emotion simply "color"... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 3:20 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Does emotion simply "color" our thoughts, or does it shape them?
Why do lawyers bother with jury selection?

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Lot's of stuff you could co... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 4:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Lot's of stuff you could comment on from here. http://roissy.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/science-continues-proving-me-right/

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Whatever the reason, I'm su... (Below threshold)

June 30, 2010 5:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Whatever the reason, I'm sure it has nothing to do with the lack of a constitutional definition of what "peer" is.

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Your title, if read without... (Below threshold)

July 1, 2010 1:31 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Your title, if read without the article, contributes to the same stack of suggestive papers. :p

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I only read the title of yo... (Below threshold)

July 1, 2010 1:35 AM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

I only read the title of your article. That guy looks like he took classes from the APB or Johnny Wolfe. (who taught together).

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Is that Bobby Trendy?... (Below threshold)

July 2, 2010 12:42 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Is that Bobby Trendy?

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I would just take this mome... (Below threshold)

July 2, 2010 2:38 AM | Posted by The best anon ever in the world : | Reply

I would just take this moment to say that my comments always get mad hits. Up or down, people read my comments a