Kragen Sitaker's Journal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 19 most recent journal entries recorded in
Kragen Sitaker's LiveJournal:
|Sunday, April 6th, 2008|
|Louann Brizendine is a charlatan; "The Female Brain" is a pack of lies
A friend of mine recently posted
this link to her blog: Excerpt: 'The Female Brain': Learn What Women Really Think
Don't forward around nonsense like this! Brizendine's book (excerpted at the above URL) has been rather thoroughly discredited. ABC's failure to update their web page to make this clear reveals the thin nature of their commitment to journalistic honesty.
As it happens, there are many scientific studies that count the words used by females and males in a variety of same-sex and mixed-sex interactions: phone conversations, interviews, group discussions, and so on. These are always time-limited situations-a few minutes to a few hours of talking-not recordings across the whole range of people's daily activities. But together, these studies involve thousands of speakers of many ages, regions, languages, and cultures.
The findings? According to a 1993 review of the scientific literature by researchers Deborah James and Janice Drakich, "Most studies reported either that men talked more than women, either overall or in some circumstances, or that there was no difference between the genders in amount of talk." The research since that review, including counts from my own research, follows the same pattern.
I haven't been able to find any scientific studies that reliably count the entire daily word usage of a reasonable sample of men and women. But based on the research I've read and conducted, I'm willing to make a bet about what such a study would show. Whatever the average female vs. male difference turns out to be, it will be small compared to the variation among women and among men; and there will also be big differences, for any given individual, from one social setting to another.
Unfortunately, this is just one of several cases in recent books on sex and neuroscience where striking numbers turn out to be without apparent empirical support. On page 36 of "The Female Brain," Brizendine writes that "Girls speak faster on average-250 words per minute versus 125 for typical males." In support of this assertion, her endnotes cite Bruce P. Ryan, "Speaking rate, conversational speech acts, interruption, and linguistic complexity of 20 pre-school stuttering and non-stuttering children and their mothers," Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 14(1), pp. 25-51 (2000). Alas, in Ryan's paper, you won't find the 250 vs. 125 numbers, and in fact, he gives no data at all that breaks down speaking rates by sex.
The truth is out there, however, in many studies over the years that do give figures for speaking rates of females and males of various ages. The most recent data comes from a paper presented at a conference this month, in which Jiahong Yuan, Chris Cieri, and I looked at various measures of speaking rate in thousands of English and Chinese telephone conversations. We found that in both languages, the males spoke about 2 percent faster, on average, than the females. This effect was small compared to the variation among female or male speakers, and it was also small relative to the effect of situational factors. For example, people talking with family or friends spoke about 10 percent faster than people talking with strangers.
These numbers might be unrepresentative or otherwise mistaken, but we've documented the procedures we used and the data we analyzed. And we used conversations that have been published as digital audio, along with time-aligned transcripts and demographic data for the speakers, so others can check our work if they want to.
This ability to check or replicate research is central to scientific progress. It doesn't stop people from disagreeing about facts and theories, but it helps organize the arguments and keep them on track.
According to the same author in http://web.archive.org/web/20070826094339/http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004370.html
Judging from the Sunday Times quotes, some of the otherNature
quantitative inventions in The Female Brain are also intact [in the
new British edition]:
"It’s true that the female brain shrinks by about 8% during pregnancy. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that it recovers about six to 12 months afterwards to create large maternal circuits."
Last year, when I looked up Dr. Brizendine's reference for this assertion ("The spread of bogus numbers in the meme pool", 10/16/2006), I found that the 8% number is not entirely made up, like the words-per-day numbers -- but it was based on one small study, whose results were substantially below the cited value:
There were two women in the study, number 6 and 8, who were measured both before pregnancy and at term. Over that period, their brains shrank 4.06% and 6.6% respectively, for an average of 5.3%. There were eight women in the normal group whose brains were measured at term and 24 week (i.e. six months) after delivery. Their brains increased in size during that time by 4.0%, 3.0%, 5.5%, 3.2%, 4.8%, 5.6% and 5.1% respectively, for an average of 4.3%, with a 95-percent confidence interval of 3.4% to 5.2%.
(And there's no scientific support for the view that circuits of any particular kind are being either destroyed or created. The study simply measured overall brain volume, without distinguishing among gray matter, white matter, blood vessels or whatever else, and without providing any evidence about the relationship of the changes in overall size to any changes in number of neurons, number or type or strength of synaptic connections, or any other functionally-relevant parameters. It seems unlikely that such rapid changes in overall size could be due to the death and birth of neuronal cell bodies, or to atrophy and re-creation of a large fraction of the dendritic arborization.)
But that exaggeration is a tiny one compared to those referenced in this paragraph from Ferdinand's review:...
's review, by different authors but also posted on the Language Log web site
, was similarly negative:
Yet, despite the author's extensive academic credentials, The Female Brain disappointingly fails to meet even the most basic standards of scientific accuracy and balance. The book is riddled with scientific errors and is misleading about the processes of brain development, the neuroendocrine system, and the nature of sex differences in general. At the `big picture' level, three errors stand out. First, human sex differences are elevated almost to the point of creating different species, yet virtually all differences in brain structure, and most differences in behaviour, are characterized by small average differences and a great deal of male female overlap at the individual level. Second, ...
Just doing my part to fight ignorance.
|Thursday, August 9th, 2007|
Another update from Stefan. He's in Sonoma County, "Woolawa" State Park? (I couldn't quite hear on the voicemail.) He says he won't need a ride, and might get into San Francisco on the 10th or the 11th of August.
|Saturday, August 4th, 2007|
|Stefan in Redwood National (?) Park
Stefan just called; he is in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park in Humboldt County. His knees, which had been hurting a bit, are fine. Last night he stayed in Redwood State Park Hostel. When he called, he was six miles from Orick, California
, which is 353 miles from San Francisco.
|Wednesday, August 1st, 2007|
Stefan called me on Monday. He was in Yachats, Oregon, and had been covering about 60 miles per day, and staying in state parks. He's planning a night in a hostel sometime next week. I'm planning to drive up and meet him when he gets close, to take a day or two off the end of his trip.
Also I obtained a Twitter log: http://twitter.com/kragen
|Wednesday, March 7th, 2007|
Creo que en realidad mi número de teléfono es +54 (9) 11 6792 8402. Dentro de Argentina, es 15 6792 8402.
Disculpen la molestia.
|Friday, January 19th, 2007|
Creo que mi nuevo numero de telefono en Argentina es +54 15 6792 8402.
|Monday, September 4th, 2006|
Quoted from Bea's LJ:
kragen has a new cell phone sim for Peru and if you want to call us (always welcome (we're on central time)), the number is +51 994 3129. Peru's country code is 51. So, from the states it *should* be 011 51 994 3129. You can also try sending us a text message, but I somehow doubt that will work.
(update: I think there's a missing 44 or 044 after the country code, not sure)
|Wednesday, August 9th, 2006|
Mi número de teléfono en Ecuador es +593 8 475 9711. Vamos a estar en Ecuador unos dias más.
|Tuesday, July 25th, 2006|
Creo que mi número de teléfono en Ecuador está +593 0847 59711 --- de los Estados Unidos, es 011 593 0847 59711. Ya no recibó llamadas, así no sé si esto número está correcto. Perdoname por mi español malo.
(update) una persona qui llamadó dice que he got a busy signal.
|Tuesday, January 10th, 2006|
|my grandmother died this morning
The woman who was always there for me throughout my life, who held my hand even when she couldn't remember my name; the grandmother whose memory warned me away from violence countless times; the woman who had a 50-year love affair with my grandfather that taught me the meaning of romance; today she is dead.
Update: phyxius's entry
on the subject.
|Thursday, June 3rd, 2004|
|Extreme Programming job in 802.11 network management
AirWave is hiring --- we're trying to expand our development team. Our product is a network management system for wireless networks; it does configuration and firmware management and auditing, performance monitoring, reporting, alerting, and integration with back-end network management systems. We use Extreme Programming and Perl; XP or other
rigorous XP-like techniques are probably the only way to keep a 200K-line Perl program maintainable.
It's a startup, but it's not as precarious as many startups; our expenses are low, our customers are lucrative and delighted, and it's pretty stable. Four of the seven dev team members have been working there for more than two years.
We're growing and need to recruit people yesterday. We all have more than five years of experience professionally developing software, and most of us have been doing startups for much of our careers, so they've been very dense years. So it's hard to find people who are up
to our standards, and many of the people who are up to our standards are turned off by Perl. Perl expertise a plus; being a competent programmer is a must.
Does that interest you? Anybody you know? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Wednesday, May 12th, 2004|
I will Log out....
I will Log out....
I will Log out...
|Wednesday, June 4th, 2003|
Laugh it up, you little shit-monkeys.
Kragen: Sorry we're taking so long, Dan.
Darrell: You should be sorry. It's like an eon over here. Only shorter.
If you're gonna do the refactoring anyway, I want my shit to work right.
Hell, we're almost done, and we haven't even started.
Knowing is half the battle. Not fucking up is the other half.
Hey, Adam. Regular coffee doesn't have sugar in it, right?
If we were coding in COBOL, we'd be done by now.
Darrell: Jason, you put the "re" in "retarded".
Jason: I'm gonna put the "foot" in "your ass".
|Thursday, July 11th, 2002|
|got backdating working
I finally got backdating working in my little LWP client. Now I can upload all of kragen-journal!
|Monday, April 29th, 2002|
|Saturday, June 23rd, 2001|
|Monday, August 23rd, 1999|
|Wednesday, May 10th, 1995|
I left home sometime around today. Exciting!