Posted by: Jamie | October 12, 2009


Does it seem to anyone else that the only psychology/sociology studies that get reported in newspapers are the ones with the very worst methodology and the least-founded conclusions?

Because I sure feel that way.

If you are able to read the actual paper, cited at the bottom of the article, you’ll find that:

…the selection takes place in a laboratory where undergraduate women look at facial images of men on computers. Well, at least that’s what the studies consist of, the ones which we are told explain mate selection preferences. Then the researchers decide that the faces some number of women pick when ovulating are CLEARLY the faces of dominant males who engage in male-on-male competition! Something to do with large jaws, I guess.

And then all this is written into a story about how women on the pill are wrecking human evolution because they are less likely to pick men with the faces the researchers think demonstrate male dominance.

(Thanks to Echidne for the summary.)

I’m sure there are plenty of interesting conclusions that can be drawn from the research cited. Sweeping generalizations about the pill and human evolution are not one of them.


  1. I’ve said it before, I’ll likely be forced to say it again: correlation is not causation! Every science editor needs this tattooed on their forehead.

  2. Unfortunately there is bad research in every field, and also unfortunately it is the “sexy” studies like this one that get picked up by the media. And the media often misreports these studies, which doesn’t help!

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