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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

 

Lesbian and putative pheromone study, Part 4

Much correspondence has gone on regarding this study and the way it has been reported by the Associated Press. I can say this: the Associated Press writer, Randolph Schmid, has been made aware that the new study says nothing about whether sexual behavior is learned. Here is a quote from a recent email from Dr. Savic: "The easiest way to clarify the situation is to go to the original data. I do therefore refer to the manuscript in PNAS. The study does not give answer to the cause-effect issue. Sincerely, Ivanka Savic"

She also pointed out other flaws in the AP report. For instance, this section is misleading:

"Heterosexual women found the male and female pheromones about equally pleasant, while straight men and lesbians liked the female pheromone more than the male one. Men and lesbians also found the male hormone more irritating than the female one, while straight women were more likely to be irritated by the female hormone than the male one.All three groups rated the male hormone more familiar than the female one. Straight women found both hormones about equal in intensity, while lesbians and straight men found the male hormone more intense than the female one."

To this, Dr. Savic said: "...the perception of these compounds was similar in ALL the subjects and all statements [in the AP article] about the pleasantness, irritability etc. are erroneous."

In fairness to Mr. Schmid, the graph in the article gives the impression of differences but in statistical terms, the differences were small enough that they cannot be considered signficant. The AP report gives the impression that there were more sexual preference related differences than were actually found.

So we have this situation: the AP writer knows the study author has found significant errors in the story. She even asked if they could be corrected and to date there has been no correction. Perhaps one is in the works. Corrections are issued all the time, I wonder why this story is different.

I do not take interest in this just to be difficult. I think the media have a great responsibility in this climate to report accurately. And saying that "the findings add weight to the idea that homosexuality...is not learned behavior" is not accurate reporting. The other factual errors just add weight to the idea that a correction is in order.

Comments:
I think that corrections in a science article are harder to handle, simply because then it becomes evident that the original study may not have been such a "newsworthy" event after all.

The AP needs something that proves something, concludes something, is groundbreaking. The stated conclusion to this study couldn't be more underwhelming (though I do think that more studies of its kind will solidify a biological basis to same-sex attraction). All it says is there is a connection that needs more work to investigate.

If the AP writes a fair piece, they'll be writing something incredibly boring to most of the population.

This goes for the latest studies "proving" that red wine is good for you, that diet X works in such a way, that they've "cured" Alzheimers in rats... I don't go to the AP for science. I use their headlines as a jumping point to go to the original, or a reputable journal's summary.

End of morning rant.
 
All the more reason to update the article for future reference. Say, "hey, well, there weren't any subjective differences and well, this doesn't say anything about learning and actually it mainly says the brains of one small group of lesbians reacted differently than straight women when they inhaled some odorless chemicals we think might be pheromones." Should take about a paragraph.
 
5 blog entries in 3 days. If I didn't know better I'd say it almost looks like something's scared the bejeesus out of you.
 
Guess the bejesus is in the eye of the beholder. What is a bejesus, by the way?
 
"hey, well, there weren't any subjective differences and well, this doesn't say anything about learning and actually it mainly says the brains of one small group of lesbians reacted differently than straight women when they inhaled some odorless chemicals we think might be pheromones."

Um, so does this mean being gay is choice or biology? I don't get it!

Sorry, but I think that all of the nuance there would lose most readers...you've gotta aim for a fifth grade reading level, and I don't think you can do that with some topics.

Bejesus! I must be turning elitist.
 
I suppose since the study didn't ask that question it would be presumptuous of the reporter to address it. You can't answer a question the study didn't ask. The fifth graders will have to read something else.
 
Bejesus is the title held by the holiest Gibb brother. It gets passed around.
 
Speaking of which...

Any update on the PFOX brochure co-authored by yourself that contains those unwarranted claims?
 
Bejebus >

1) "Bloody"
2) "Jesus"
3) altered, so you didn't have a conservative burn you at the stake or bring down The Lord's wrath (snakes and plague variety) on your head for using same self's name in vain. As always, the all knowing and all powerful appears to operate as if utterly corrupted by the power (as per common, but often misquoted, proverb). Even the slightest straying sees one crushed like an ant (which we all are, BTW, if you need reminding).

cf: Holy Bejebus

cf: reason for writing "Xmas" or "Xian"

useage: very NOT considered polite language in Salvation Army circles (with the type that continue to refer inclusively to "Our Lord" even when they know you are not of same mind)

origin: Baptist, mainly, but has entered common vernacular.

Happy now??? :)
 
Homer Simpson knows who he is--

"I can't be a missionary! I don't even believe in Jebus!"

It's gotta be my favorite episode. Even includes jokes at the expense of Unitarian Universalists, Indian gambling, public TV pledge drives, the Golden Girls, and of course, Christian missionaries.

Wikipedia link
 
Oops. Jebus must be Bejesus' brother. Wrong deity.
 
Yes, wrong deity. It gets confusing, I admit.

And that would have to one of the funniest Simpson episodes -- everyone gets a rightly deserved (IMO) splattering, but all in the best possible taste!

--------

Clue: for those who DON'T get BBC humour on a regular diet: run down the end, to the quotes. Then imagine the visual, before looking at who, just thinking, was that plastic tacky Hollywood woman once married to the be-wigged Burt Reynolds?... :)
 
Back to the topic at hand:

May 14, 2006

AP says lesbian brains story was wrong

The Associated Press has clarified a story they released which inferred that lesbian brains are significantly different to those of heterosexuals. The story was released on May 8 and carried by GayNZ.com on May 9 (“Lesbian brains react differently”).

The story cited Swedish research that showed lesbians are more likely to find male pheromones, essentially the scent of men, more irritating, and furthermore that lesbians processed both male and female hormones in the ‘scent area’ of the brain, whereas heterosexuals processed the pheromone of the opposite sex in the hypothalamus, or ‘sexual stimulation’ area of the brain.

The report prompted a number of sexuality-researchers to claim that this revealed that sexuality is biologically formed, rather than solely through life experiences.

The Associated Press now claims this conclusion to be unsupported by the research, as no statistically significant differences were found.

Most researchers continue to maintain that the formation of sexuality is a complex issue, stemming from both biological and cultural factors – or, simply put, both nature and nurture.

via GayNZ.com
 
Thanks for that Colleen, I had not heard. I will make a new post about this.
 
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