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August 02, 2010

The Lure of the Simplistic Answer

When confounded by life's great mysteries, we yearn for a simple, one size fits all explanation.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with discussing the general characteristics of men vs. women in general, I'm becoming increasingly annoyed by the "all men" and "all women" school of unthinking gender stereotypes. I've never met "all men" or "all women". Have you?

On the other hand, I have known many men who differ a great deal in their likes and dislikes, their character and integrity, their self control and self awareness for others. Which makes me appreciate Attila's comment even more:

Guys like different things. They’re almost . . . . almost like individuals.

Which reminds me of something I once saw in a movie:

The thing is, you cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time.

Women, too.

Posted by Cassandra at August 2, 2010 08:16 AM

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Comments

When confounded by life's great mysteries, we yearn for a simple, one size fits all explanation.

A flight suit with spandex inserts.

It doesn't explain everything, but it does explain a lot...

Posted by: BillT at August 2, 2010 10:31 AM

"You take men one at a time."
Women, too.

Shouldn't you have saved that for the Inflammatory Debate Topic of the Day post?

Posted by: BillT at August 2, 2010 01:58 PM

There are individuals and there are hierarchies. Groups are not equivalent to either one, which is why it is often inaccurate to judge upon.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 3, 2010 09:06 AM

Wow, didn't I say this a while back? When considering the average behavior of large groups, Skinner still rules; I firmly believe that. The difficulty with probability is that the average of a large number of trials doesn't do much to tell you what the outcome of one individual trial will be. It's like a casino craps table with loaded dice: just from observing a single roll, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that anything is wrong. But if you play all night at that table, eventually it will become obvious.

Same thing with people. If you deal with one person in one situation, statistics about the average behavior of whatever groups that person belongs to won't do much to predict how that person will behave in that one situation. If you deal with them continuously over a period of years, you may begin to notice. If you deal with a large group of those people over a number of years, you will definitely notice.

But one person in one situation, no. Individual variation (aka noise) will bury the averages. Plus, there's the little matter that human beings have free will and an individual can make a conscious or unconscious decision to go against group tendencies if they are aware of them.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at August 3, 2010 12:14 PM

When considering the average behavior of large groups, Skinner still rules; I firmly believe that. The difficulty with probability is that the average of a large number of trials doesn't do much to tell you what the outcome of one individual trial will be.

That's a point that gets lost in a lot of policy debates. General rules (laws) have to take aggregate or average behaviors into account - it makes no sense to base them on single cases and anecdotal "logic"... not that that stops politicians from trotting out heart rending anecdotes to counter any consideration of trade offs.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 3, 2010 12:23 PM

not that that stops politicians from trotting out heart rending anecdotes to counter any consideration of trade offs.

They have an objective criteria to judge their success upon. The more power in their bank, the better they know they are doing.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 3, 2010 01:30 PM

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