In an exciting new piece of research reported today, but without any link to any substantive facts, journalists learned that men look at ladies. By drawing lessons from life (in the form of a series of photographs of shapely ladies), reporters discovered that attractive women sell papers, at least to their leering colleagues. Astoundingly, men began to “gaze upon the components of the hourglass figure within 0.2 seconds”, rather than averting their gazes completely, ignoring a good two-thirds of the body (you know, the torso — the big bit you aim at when sniping because it’s harder to miss) and only opening small gaps in their fingers to focus on the subject’s eyes, fingers, shapely ankles, split ends, etc.
Sadly history does not record how the scientists (for lo! this is Science, a cape in which bad journalism too often proudly drapes itself) actually carried out the study. If the images were of the obviously pneumatically advantaged, how do we know that men aren’t simply responding to cues to pay extra attention to unusual things? (Silly me — breasts are involved, so it has to be sexual — I keep forgetting.) And of course one has to conclude that all the men were gay tailors — checking the quality of the weave in the difficult decolletage area.
I know it’s Silly Season and I know I shouldn’t ever take anything the Daily Mail say in any way seriously, but I do find this consistent “Science proves a stereotype! Hooee! We were right all along! Plus, phwoar!” drivel really depressing… who knows what the researchers a) actually wrote (the editorial opinion is obviously that Daily Mail readers are not smart enough to cope with links to research, or they are perhaps lifting this wholesale from a block-headed press release) or b) think when they see this kind of coverage? This is what makes people yell about stupid research, and that hurts not just research in general but society as a whole, because it reinforces anti-intellectual stances, erodes broad support for research funding, and makes life poorer for everyone.
Humph. Rant over.