Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel

I feel terribly guilty about writing yet another critical post about a summary of a study based on evolutionary psychology, this one:

Men are hardwired after eons of evolution to overspend, a new study suggests. Their maxed-out credit cards and mega-purchases have been tied to their desire to attract mates.

The biggest male spenders in the survey were found to have the highest number of reported past partners and desired the most future partners.

The finding, detailed in the current issue of the journal Evolutionary Psychology, did not hold with women.

Vying for women is simply what men do and have done for hundreds of thousands of years, said study leader Daniel Kruger, a social and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. But how they entice mates has evolved.

"Men in the ancestral environment were valued if they were good providers," Kruger said. "Now we have this new consumer culture, so basically we show our potential through the consumer goods that we purchase, rather than being a good hunter or providing protection."

Hardwired to overspend! Wow.

How do we know that men in the ancestral environment were valued if they were good providers? Did Kruger hide behind a tree for a few centuries to observe how the men were valued and on what basis? And on what basis were the women valued? Did those women go out gathering, say? And did the group benefit from those gathering efforts? But the ancestral guys still didn't value their gathering, eh?

Goddess but I'm tired of this shit. Here comes the money shot:

Kruger used data collected from telephone surveys of more than 400 men and women with an average age of 34 (100 men and 309 women). Participants rated how much they agreed with three statements about their financial habits, such as "I always live within my income range," and "Each income period, I set aside at least ten percent for savings."

(A person who highly agreed with the statements would be considered conservative in matters financial, as opposed to consumptive.)

They also indicated marital status and sexual partners (their count for the past five years and number desired in the future).

Men who spent more (saved less) and who were more likely to shell out more than they earned reported having more sexual partners in the past five years and desired more future partners than other guys in the study.

Specifically, the 25 percent of men who were most conservative about spending had an average of three partners in the past five years and desired about one partner in the next five years. The 2 percent of men with the riskiest financial strategies had double those numbers.

Did you get that? The 2 percent of men with the riskiest financial strategies had twice as many sexual partners as the 25 percent of men who were the most conservative about spending? Could that be a typo?

After all, 2 percent of one hundred men is....two men! Why on earth would Kruger want to compare the two men who were the highest spenders to the twenty-five men who spent the least? Why not compare, say, the top twenty-five with the bottom twenty-five? I wonder if the two big-spenders are outliers, atypical in their answers.

It's a very odd study design (with three times as many women as men) and a very odd summary.