Hoo boy. Psychology Today has already yanked Satoshi Kanazawa’s article, “Why Are Black Women Less Attractive Than Other Women?” from the web site. But there’s a screen grab of it here. (The answer is SCIENCE, by the way. REALLY REALLY EXCELLENT SCIENCE. WHICH WE ALL KNOW IS IMPARTIAL.)

If you start typing “Satoshi Kanazawa” into Google search,by the time you get to “Satoshi Kana” the third suggestion is “Satoshi Kanazawa idiot.” So.

I quoted Kanazawa a few years ago for a women’s magazine piece about why we’re obsessed with celebrities. He’d done a study that found that women who watched more prime-time dramas and sitcoms were happier with their real-life friendships than women who didn’t watch as many of those shows. He argued that the TV-watchers felt they were friends with the people on TV, thanks to the way our old-skool evolutionarily-slow-to-adapt minds work: In the ancestral environment, anyone we “knew” was a friend, so we feel we’re friends with the folks on TV. And from that, we extrapolate to our real friendships, because to us, TV is real.

I can think of a lot of other reasons a study might find TV watchers happier than non-watchers. Correlation isn’t causation. It’s possible, for instance, that TV watchers have more leisure time, which also makes them happier and more able to spend time with friends than someone working nights or caring for small children. Just one example.

My husband, who has a PhD in communication theory and research, always says, “Tell me the results you want and I’ll find you the data to back it up.” (Not that he does that. He means, “Take every study with a grain of salt until you see exactly how it’s constructed and who paid for it.” Which we knew already.) I’m wary of evolutionary psychologists in general, who seem awesome at finding data to back up their vision of the world, whether it enforces “Men are hardwired to spread their seed all over the Playboy bunnies!” or “Women are hardwired to stay home protecting their eggs!” or “Men are DESTINED to leave their old wives for younger models — they just can’t help it!” or “My friends and I totally do not find black women hot.”

(Thanks to Marianne for the tip.)


  1. rosmar May 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Holy crap. That article is UNBELIEVABLE. Seriously, my jaw is down to the floor.

    Thank god they pulled that article. But how did any editor read past the line “At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the respondent objectively on the following five point scale….” and not through the article out at that point? (Also, no note, I noticed, about the races of the interviewers, which is probably relevant.)

    I want to rant a whole lot more about the multiple levels of nonsense in that article, but I’ll make myself stop here.

  2. Fawn May 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Evolutionary psychology is neither.

  3. Robin Aronson May 17, 2011 at 9:32 am


  4. renee May 18, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Kanazawa may be a douchebag, but he didn’t make up the dataset. The data come from Add Health, which as far as I knew was a perfectly legitimate, Congressionally mandated, NIH-funded longitudinal survey of adolescents’ health and risk behaviors. The subjects are now in their 30s or so and they continue to be followed through interviews in their homes. But why in hell are the researchers rating their attractiveness? (Here’s the web site, because I am an old person who does not know how to embed links: http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth) I’m going to email them and ask on what planet that is a legitimate survey question (or more specifically, what did they expect to do with that variable, and did Kanazawa use it as it was intended or did he misinterpret it in some way.)

  5. David Doty May 20, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Scientifically, there is no such thing as a “race.” Race is a social-cultural construct. So any study that begins by dividing subjects into four “races,” is extremely suspect from the start.

  6. Juliana May 20, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I can’t believe anyone (with a scientific background, anyway) would even ask this question, much less that an otherwise respectable magazine would print the results. Good grief!

  7. nice job, psychology today. nice. May 24, 2011 at 7:52 am

    […] recall that post by an evolutionary psychologist on Psychology Today’s blog pointing out in a […]

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