Stupid research

Sometimes people do stupid research. I don’t know how this came about but it might have been they realized the question they really wanted answered was too difficult and they settled for something that was easier and was similar. Or it could have been any number of other things including just total crap for brains. I used to be research scientist for the government and I understand how these things happen. But still, I’m annoyed with this:

When two researchers at Chapman University in California began to study whether tall heterosexual men have had more sex partners than other heterosexual men, they assumed the answer would be “yes.” There was already extensive academic literature showing that height signals dominance, physical (and hence heritable) fitness, and social status to women who are seeking sex partners.

What I suspect they really wanted to measure was whether tall men had a larger selection of sexually interested women. Or that the women interested in them were of higher “quality”. But measuring those items would be much more difficult than asking people how many sex partners they have had. In essence, I suspect, they ended up using quantity as a proxy for quality.

As a result they ended up with rather uninteresting results:

To their surprise, that’s not what they found. Tall men don’t have a history of more sex partners than men of average height or most short men, according to their study in the latest online issue of Evolutionary Psychology. After dividing respondents into different height groups, the researchers found that every group of men taller than 5 feet 4 inches had the same median number of sex partners: seven. Only men classified as “very short,” or between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 4 inches, had a significantly different sexual history. They reported a median of five sex partners.

Because they are using quantity instead of quantity there are numerous other factors that enter into the result. They hint at this some:

There’s another important thing to keep in mind when interpreting this data: The number of sex partners people have had might not be the best indicator of how desirable they are. It’s possible that someone might be highly sexually desirable but choose a monogamous or celibate lifestyle for an extended period of time. Also, “sex” was not defined in the survey, so participants might have differed in their interpretation of “sex partner” when providing their responses.

And there are other things as well.

What about men who find their mate “settle down” quickly? If tall guys have a better selection of quality women to choose from then might not they have fewer sex partners in their lifetime? Or at least the higher quality available early in life counteracts the increased availability of potential sex partners to the point the substitution of quantity for quality renders the results meaningless?

And what about men who pay for play? If short men have trouble finding willing sex partners might they not pay for someone that was more interested in the money than in the height of their customer? That could counteract the expected results as well.

If they really wanted to explore the height issue I would suggest they do some sort of “speed dating” testing. Or a test where two or more groups of women were given the same “online” profiles of men but the groups were told different heights for the men. Then see how many women were interested the men of the various heights.

I do know this, several women have agreed with Barb that it is important their man is as tall or taller than them. Barb is 6’ 1” and that severely curtailed her selection of men. This explains how I, being 6’ 3”, lucked out and she settled for me.

7 thoughts on “Stupid research

  1. Yet another ‘study’ (sic) showing that ‘scientists’ these days for the most part are clueless as to how to conduct a science based study.

    • However, it appears they are smart enough to write the grant and get paid for performing such dubious “research,” so it may appear they are not as dumb as they are useless.

      • I stand corrected.
        Near the end it says “Funding The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.”

        Huh.

    • As somebody in the Science community, I’ll just note that like every other workforce, we have all kinds.

      We have super smart, hard working people, we have idiots who make you question how they even got the job they hold, and we have what might be called “Gamers” which I’ve seen in every other job field I’ve worked with or along side.

      This might be “Gamer” work, cooking up an easy study that can be pushed to create the illusion of a positive result.

      Hell look at the blog “Armed With Reason”, they cook up totally bunk studies by cherry picking meta data, doing bait-and-switch by mixing metrics like “Gun Violence” and “Violence”, and in some cases, like their “Guns Cause Suicide” study, outright claim their “supporting Studies” say things they openly say they don’t.

      It’s bullshit, and it’s unethical, but they’re drawing a paycheck as two “Progressive” Economics majors who likely aren’t the brightest bulbs around.

      But certainly it isn’t EVERYBODY who does research.

  2. Scanning the data tables, the thing that is most notable to me is that while the median remains the same for men (at least to the only significant digit given) is that for all but the very shortest group, the mean and SDEV increase with every increase in men’s height-category. (women are much less consistent in this respect.) I suspect that taller men have a higher rate of falling into either the healthy/attractive athlete/alpha type, or unhealthy/grotesquely large bin, and either get a lot more action, or a lot less than the mean… I expect that a relative handful of athletes and other alpha-types account for a lot of the tail in the, er, tail of the stats.
    Your points about quality and timing, Joe, are spot on, I think. There is a HUGE difference between being a Mr. Right “Tall, dark, and handsome” type that has a few flings with gals in the 9/10 range in their prime before he “settles” for the prom queen, and a guy that managed to scrape together enough to spend a half-hour at the motel a few times with an aging 2/3 range professional. Same number of “partners,” worlds apart in terms of meaning.

  3. I note that the raw data is self-reported numbers of sex partners.
    And as we all know, nobody ever lies about their sexual history.

    So this “study” has that going for it, too.

  4. Survey studies are cheap and easy to do, and relatively easy to get published. For students conducting research, these are all plusses.

    But just like physiology research papers always end up using physiology students as the test group, so do behavioral studies end up studying the behavior of their peer group.

    Unfortunately they all suffer from deficiencies in experimental design and sample size. Just like “case studies” they should be considered the least credible of any peer reviewed publication.

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