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Friday, August 26, 2016

Counter Intuitive?

When I see the terms "research" and "counter intuitive" in an article, it's amazing to me how often the supposedly counter intuitive results of the research I find perfectly intuitive. This seems to be especially true in the social sciences.

The latest such article to catch my attention states:
Dr Brinkman said the research was counter intuitive to popular thinking about exposing young people to babies...
And just what was so counter intuitive?
Digital baby dolls that wake up crying in the middle of the night and need feeding, rocking and nappy changes are supposed to deter teenagers from falling pregnant.
But in an ironic twist, researchers have found they have the opposite effect. [...]
“The most alarming figure is girls are 1.36 times more likely to have pregnancies if they were exposed to the babies,” Dr Brinkman said.
Well, personally, I think the most alarming figure was the cost of the study:
The findings of a 10-year program and study involving more than 1250 girls and costing more than $1.5 million has found the dolls are actually more likely to encourage motherhood.
That was a waste of $1.5 million. Has nobody other than me observed women cooing over someone else's baby? Looking at said baby with clear desire? Especially when there's a gaggle of such women? Perhaps I'm the only one who notices this because I once had a woman say to me, "when I see a young baby it hurts to not be pregnant." Oh wait, hold on, I'm not the only one who's been exposed to the concept of "baby fever":
Maybe it’s the tiny mews coming from a stranger’s passing stroller, the sweet smell of a friend’s new baby’s head or a glimpse of a onesie so cute it makes your ovaries hurt… whatever sets it off for you, most moms know the warning signs of baby fever. But while your mom and girlfriends might tease you about it, researchers from Kansas State University found that people—both men and women—actually do experience baby fever.
So I just don't see how it could possibly be a surprise that giving young fertile women a very realistic and somewhat cute doll might actually entice them to have a real baby.

19 comments:

Bret said...

But, if Hey Skipper is still worried, we now know how to boost fertility rates. Just issue these digital dolls to young women!

Note: 'Gary and Sandra Brase started with a formal survey designed to figure out if baby fever actually exists. They learned that both men and women can develop it, although its intensity varies from person to person and within the same person over time. “Baby fever is normal, it varies a lot..."'

All my model showing rebounding population requires is a little variance and a little heritability. This shows "a lot [of]" variance, other links I've posted shows baby fever is due to hormone levels and those are clearly heritable.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] This shows "a lot [of]" variance ...

No, it doesn't. At least not yet. Of course women go squee when they see babies, kittens, puppies, etc. Kind of the way my head snaps when I hear a Ferrari driving by, or see cleavage. Doesn't mean I'm going to buy a Ferrari, even though I could, or have an affair, even if I could.

And I've told my son to not just walk, but run, away from any woman who doesn't go squee.

The reason it doesn't show what you think it does is that having desires and actualizing them are two different things. James Taranto used to, but hasn't in quite some time, refer to the "Roe Effect". By that he meant women who were pro-choice would eventually breed pro-choice attitudes out of the population.

There are two flaws in that thinking. First, pro-choice is a non-heritable preference (has to be, to conclude otherwise requires a pre-existing heritable characteristic). Second, it also requires that pro-choice women have an actualized fertility different from pro-life women. If they are the same, then even if such a preference was heritable, there would be no differential fitness benefit. A woman who carries her only two pregnancies to term is, in evolutionary terms, no different than a woman who has eight abortions en route to two births.

Which is why I brought up the Roe effect. You don't know if exposure to nurturing changes the quantity of pregnancies these women carry to term, or merely the timing.

Same here. I'm happy to agree that exposing young women to the demands of nurturing actually encourages them to have a baby. (I have bought cars because of the restoration work required.) But that doesn't get you anywhere. The proof comes in whether piquing their maternal instinct changes their quantity, or merely timing.

Trigger Warning: anecdotal evidence ahead. I have a cousin who got pregnant in high school. Despite being abundantly gifted in the realm of feminine pulchritude, she spent the next 17 years trying to get married, which happened a couple years ago. A year later, she has another baby. I have no earthly idea how many she wanted, but it is perfectly clear that number was at least two.

You may not remember, but on the other thread I suggested you were being reductionist. Women's instincts and desires, whatever they may be to have babies, no matter how heritable or variable they may be, aren't the only game in town. Since you are happy to make preferences heritable, then I shall, too. Let's say women have two genes, Welfare and Family. Those women possessing the Family gene want babies more than those with Welfare, but won't have them unless they have acquired a wage slave.

So Fertile is correlated with Family, but counteract each other, because men have preference genes too: Whose and Mine. Men with the Whose gene don't care if they are the father, but also don't care to get married. Men with Mine do care, and want to.

Now, assume such preferences exist (which I don't, but it was fun playing the game by your rules).

Add them to your model. If you can. Which, absent abundant hand waving and question begging, I'll bet you can't.

That's the price of violating Ockham's razor. Piling on unnecessary assumptions can lead to wherever you want to go. Following your lead, it is entirely possible that too much Fertile counterintuitively leads to fewer babies.

Hence my skepticism at invoking that which is unnecessary. Sexual desire and autonomous fertility have been both necessary and sufficient. And even the former, in pre-modern conditions, not so much. Piling anything else on beyond that amounts to Peter's dreaded, for good reason, Just So Stories

(BTW, this is a first draft. If it is riddled with typos and wordios, well, tough.)

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "No, it doesn't."

I'll leave you to argue with the researchers in the link I provide who explicitly say it does.

Hey Skipper wrote: "...changes their quantity..."

<...individuals from large families tend to have many children...

Statistics show that big broods tend to, well, run in families: Women who grow up with lots of brothers and sisters are more likely to have lots of kids themselves.

There's something heritable about rate of having children. Probably some mix of nature and nurture, but it doesn't matter.

Hey Skipper wrote: "Add them to your model."

You too can write matlab code. Please do.

Hey Skipper wrote: "Just So Stories"

Given that human exists, the story that humanity is going to go away because of not enough children is the completely bizarre "Just So Story" that YOU'RE telling, not me.

Hey Skipper said...

There's something heritable about rate of having children. Probably some mix of nature and nurture, but it doesn't matter.

Yes, in fact it does. If the tendency is heritable, then it would be expected to predominate over time. However, if it is situational, which your first link strongly suggests, then as more families have fewer children, the sibling effect correspondingly reduces over time. (NB: the number of families with more than two children, and particularly more than three, has plummeted over the last 50 years.)

You too can write matlab code. Please do.

My point was that if you had a model that wasn't so relentlessly reductionist -- as in completely ignoring half the population -- you would almost certainly find that it was no longer capable of making the predictions you claim for it. Or, indeed, any at all, because the uncertainties multiply.

Given that human exists, the story that humanity is going to go away because of not enough children is the completely bizarre "Just So Story" that YOU'RE telling, not me.

Remember, my argument, has several components:

1. Your supposition of the existence Fertile and Barren makes no sense within the context of evolutionary theory. That needs explanation before starting in on deviation and heritability. Without the former, the latter are pointless.

2. The confluence of an animal capable of making fertility decisions and the ability to easily carry them is an evolutionarily unprecedented circumstance, and happened, in evolutionary terms, almost instantly. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there happens to exist within our genotype a countervailing capacity.

3. So far, all societies that have achieved modernity are at below replacement fertility. And even societies that haven't, the spreading of effective means for women to control their fertility has resulted in plummeting birth rates. Both these effects have been far faster, and more pervasive, than demographers expected. Therefore, the evidence available is that under modern conditions, population growth will stop, then go into decline. That is no story, those are facts.

Therefore, absent some contradictory development -- which, it seems, must be a significant change in the existence of modern societies -- then there what will stop that trend?

If my assertion is correct, that fertility preference isn't heritable because such heritability has no reason to exist in the first place, then looking to our genetics to act as that counter is simply wrong.

With modern technology, even more so as it advances, modern conditions can be maintained with a hell of a lot fewer people on the planet than there are now. It's hard to say what that lower limit might be -- 100 million, 500 million? -- below which reverting to pre-modern conditions will remove the evolutionarily unprecedented combination of brains and chemistry, so in that regard, you are right, that will happen before voluntary extinction.

Peter said...

I find this whole area of demographics and fertility studies to be fraught with nonsense in terms of any predictive capacity. With due respect to Skipper, rationalist materialist theories about why the birthrate rises or falls are clumsy at best and explain why government population policies to increase or decrease the birthrate tend to be either futile or brutally oppressive. Once again "science" tries to objectify that which is experienced as highly personal and subjective for most women and couples.

I have no trouble believing that dolls don't dissuade young women from having children, but I'm equally skeptical that they promote it in any numbers. There are simply too many factors involved here to zero in on such a simple explanation. We know women generally reach a point where enough is enough, that there is a rough correlation between prosperity and higher education and the birthrate, and that birth control has some effect on the behaviours of both men and women, but I suggest we don't know much beyond that.

Consider prosperity. Here are the historical stats for France, which don't show a straight line correlation and point to other factors like war, etc. They suggest security is the important factor. But what about personal security as opposed to collective security? Skipper trumpets female "autonomy" (lovely word, much beloved by men pursuing the timeless male quest for consequence-free sex), but the sharp decline in the 70's coincides with both the pill and no-fault divorce. Have women been liberated by contraception or made vulnerable by male fecklessness and the reality that they can't be counted on to support their spouses? Or perhaps women don't want to be stuck with jerks. Perhaps both at the same time.

From the second article: Funnily enough, women ranked having a baby over having sex and men tended to rank having sex over having a baby. You really have to be a scientist to find that puzzling. We poor little country boys have always known that, which is why our mothers taught us to be so careful. It's called the maternal instinct. But now we learn that contraception and abortion have lowered the birthrate to some level that reflects women's true desires (yea, autonomy) and has "freed" them from biological servitude and that nasty old patriarchy. But, but, whatever happened to Darwinian sexual selection and all those frisky ladies competing for manly men? And why have I never met a man who complained that, try as he might, he couldn't persuade his partner to have more children? Damn feminists.

Once again the problem is that scientific determinism leads the brights to explore this issue as if people ( especially women) were herds of cows responding only to external stimuli with an eye on the collective. Never mind that nobody experiences children and parenting that way. What woman ever decided to have a baby in order to do her part to correct a declining birthrate? Gosh, do you think maybe her wishes are all a delusion and she is really propelled by those invisible genes caring only for species survival? Well, if the experts say that is the case, who are we rubes to question them?

The thickness of experts reached a point of high comedy for me about a decade ago when it was reported that the Japanese government, alarmed by the low birthrate, decided to feature late night soft porn on the state TV channel in the hope it would lead couples to---well, you know. I tried to imagine a group of government officials and experts discussing this around a conference table and slowly convincing themselves that of all the nebulous human passions engendered by porn, the desire to have a baby was prominent. A wonderful example of being educated right out of reality. What could they have been thinking?

Clovis e Adri said...


The best thing about the Japanese is they never fail my expectations of weirdness.

Not included in this whole discussion is the possibility, not so far away I guess, that we may create babies without the need of a womb. Checkmate, right?

erp said...

Exactly. Robots, quasi-robots, humans designed for particular tasks and at the top, of course, the Elites.

Clovis e Adri said...

You only missed the order, Erp.

At the top will be the Robots, of course.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] The best thing about the Japanese is they never fail my expectations of weirdness.

Hey Skipper said...

[Peter: ] I find this whole area of demographics and fertility studies to be fraught with nonsense in terms of any predictive capacity. With due respect to Skipper, rationalist materialist theories about why the birthrate rises or falls are clumsy at best and explain why government population policies to increase or decrease the birthrate tend to be either futile or brutally oppressive.

The correlation of GDP and TFR is apparently 1.

It is true, of course, that correlation does not prove causation. However, it is just as true that there is no causation without correlation.

If the correlation in fact due to causation, then that is a materialist answer to why government natalist policies have thus far been futile: they are spitting into the wind.

Assuming modern conditions change female preferences in so as to yield below replacement fertility, and we decline adding unnecessary entities, then what?

Skipper trumpets female "autonomy" (lovely word, much beloved by men pursuing the timeless male quest for consequence-free sex), but the sharp decline in the 70's coincides with both the pill and no-fault divorce. Have women been liberated by contraception or made vulnerable by male fecklessness and the reality that they can't be counted on to support their spouses?

I wasn't anything like a fan of Catholicism's adamant opposition to contraception and abortion. And I'm not sure that abortion has created a culture of death (IIRC, a phrase at the time). However, there is not doubting both have helped objectify women as self-propelled sex toys.

The pill and no-fault divorce (a demand that was the consequence of lawyers' behavior) are just a couple items in a very long list of modernity's characteristics that are incentives against procreation.

Just like insisting that nursing mothers have no business on the flight deck.

erp said...

Clovis, vehemently disagree. One thing I've learned about lefty elites is they know how to take care of themselves. They'll control everything from their aerie on top of the world. Probably use Olympus as their model.

Hey, maybe we're the robots and don't know it.

:-)

Skipper, as a passenger, a woman and a mother, I don't care if the pilot is nursing and pumping milk as long as the baby isn't in the cockpit with her, but if were I, I'd rather take maternity leave for four or five months since flying isn't the kind of job that can always be dependably on-time.

Hey Skipper said...

erp, what you should care about is that the pilots have no impediments to devoting immediately devoting their complete attention to the task at hand, because it just might not want to wait.

A year and a half ago, the FAA prohibited all non job related uses of personal electronic devices. At first that struck me as absurd. Why is reading on an iPad prohibited, but reading the dead tree version OK?

Then, after getting over my pique that the FAA hadn't consulted me first, I had to agree that an iPad is a brain sucker in ways that books and newspapers aren't.

The point is to eliminate unnecessary distractions, with the goal of reducing the pilot-out-of-the-loop problem.

These women demand a private space, at the detriment of their obligations far greater than reading from an iPad.

I'm trying to think of a reason not treat that with as much derision as I can possibly muster.

As long as feminism is demanding equality before the law, and judgments made on merit rather than plumbing, I'm in. But this isn't that, it has turned into a complete disconnect from reality.

erp said...

Pumping milk can be started and stopped at will.

I still think women should stay home and take care of their own children, hopelessly Neanderthal as that might be, but this isn't my world anymore.

Bret said...

erp,

You don't think each woman should decide that for herself?

erp said...

Of course, however, I think the right decision is to bring up one's children in one's own home with one's own values ... and not give over that privilege to complete strangers at a daycare facility.

Life is about choices. Having a child narrows them down to what's best for them, not for the parents. Several my kids' friends decided that the father would be the full time stay-at-home parent and I was very surprised at how well that worked out all round.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] Pumping milk can be started and stopped at will.

But what about all the clobber? And, according to the NYT article, what these women want is a private space -- totally understandable.

Well, except for the fitness for duty issues.

Life is about choices.

My gripe, and the point of this story, is that contemporary feminism seems convinced that choices come without consequences.

Having a child narrows them down to what's best for them, not for the parents.

Eventually, my son will marry. When he does, my mano a mano will go something like this: If you are to be happily married, you must accept that you will from here on out always come last.

erp said...

Hopefully, when your son marries, he and his wife will together put the needs of their children, if they're lucky enough to have any, first and their own needs as a couple second. Wives who put their husband last aren't happy and husbands who can't/won't be partners to their wives are even more unhappy.

Hey Skipper said...

Husbands who don't put their kids first and wife second aren't happy.

And are often poor.

erp said...

Husbands and wives are one unit. If they're not, neither they nor their children will be or can be happy.