Friday, March 19, 2010

Guys show off for girls if sun rises in east

Who knew? It seems skateboarders take bigger risks if an attractive young woman is watching than if another guy is watching. And their testosterone is higher when they're done.
When skateboarders attempt tricks, they make a split-second decision about whether to abort the trick or try to land it, based on a mid-air evaluation of the likelihood of success and on the physical costs that failure might bring. It was that moment the researchers sought to examine because it resembles the type of risky decisions that young men make when behind the steering wheel of a car or when in physical confrontations with each other.
I'm sorry. I'm sure it's valuable to have measured the testosterone increase* in this kind of situation. It might help people think about risk reduction.

But really. Didn't we know that guys show off for chicks? It's part of our standard literature. Tom Sawyer walked the picket fence when Becky Thatcher was watching, not when he was hanging out with Huck Finn. James Dean raced his car toward the cliff because Natalie Wood was watching, not Sal Mineo. This is almost Ignobel-class research.

Although what would be interesting would be to compare this with gay men and straight and lesbian women, to see how each reacts to various other types. Do straight guys show off for women they know to be lesbians as well as for straights? If they know the guy watching is gay, does that change the testosterone level up or down compared with being watched by a straight guy? Do straight women care at all? I have my guesses how it would all sort out, but it would be fun to see if it is true.

I take back my comment about the Ignobels. It's just unfinished research, as isn't it all?

*I first wrote "testosterone poisoning," but that's rude.

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