Sunday, April 19, 2009

Q&A #2 - Mrs CH's Questions

In my recent post asking for questions from readers, MrsCH offered up the following (my answers are beneath each quoted question):
1. One of my office mates just left to start a new job. The week before he left, he put up stuff around the office, gave everyone in the group a hat with the group's logo, and even gave us a framed copy of his letter of offer. What do you think possesses someone to leave things behind, while others don't?
I'm not sure that anyone has actually studied this, and seeing as my journal access is nonexistent right now, I can't answer you using any scientific basis. Disclaimer in place, I would venture to guess that it has to do with the level of connection a person feels to his/her place of work. He may have felt as though he was closing a chapter in his life that was very important to him, and didn't want to forget it or be forgotten. The people who did not leave things behind or make a big deal of their departure may have had more of the "Good riddance!" mentality. 
2. I bought a book recently called Women Don't Ask, and it's about how women are not as good at negotiating as men. What do you think about this?
This has been scientifically investigated, and there is some merit to this. Women consistently undervalue themselves. If a woman is asked to give her desired salary for a new job, for example, their $$ amounts are often significantly lower than a man would give for the exact same job. Women are also less likely to flat-out ask for a raise. 

Jost, J. T. (1997). An experimental replication of the depressed entitlement effect among women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 387-393.

Major, B. (1994). From social inequality to personal entitlement: The role of social comparisons, legitimacy appraisals, and group membership. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 26 (pp. 293-355). New York: Academic Press. 

Steil, J. M., McGann, V. L.,  & Kahn, A. S. (2001). Entitlement. In J. Worell (Ed.), Encyclopedia of women and gender (pp.403-410). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
3. I'm reading a book right now called The Female Brain, and it describes what our hormones do to our thoughts/actions throughout our lives. Do you think our thoughts/actions are governed more by our biochemistry or by our environment?
The Female Brain is bullshit. If you look up the referenced articles in the back of the book and read them, you'll find that none of them actually support any of her claims. It was a very ballsy move on her part to do that - assuming none of her readers would actually look up her sources.

The only part of her book that I found interesting was the idea that hormone exposure in utero might determine levels of masculinity and femininity. However, rather than consider that in terms of gender, I was made to wonder if it might have implications for sexual orientation. But there is no way to ethically test that. And even then, it would assume a link between sex hormones specifically and sexual orientation, which I'm not sure that's even remotely valid. 

But beyond that book, you're referring to the nature/nurture debate, which is moot at this point. It is always a combination of both influences, and it is ethically impossible for us to scientifically sort out the level of influence of each. For example, I would love to take an infant and raise it in a lab under controlled conditions to find out to what extent nature plays a role in determining gender. But no IRB on the face of the earth would let me do that. But it's the only way to really know the answer to that question. 

I have long been vocal against the idea that hormones dictate behavior, but I had no hard and fast evidence. Ambivalent Academic referred me to a scienceblog and the subsequent journal article it referenced dealing with this very issue. Find it Here. There is much more work to be done in this area, but this is a fantastic start. 
4. What is the deal with people one-upping each other when they talk about negative things in their lives?
I have no evidence-based answer for you here. But using speculation only, I would say that it might have to do with misguided attempts at expressing empathy. As in, "I know how you must be feeling, because I went through X, Y, and Z." In most cultures, a high value is placed on experience. People we believe to have more experience are sought out for guidance. It's logical. So maybe in our desire to help someone, to position ourselves as a guide and a mentor, we feel we have to demonstrate that we have more experience than they do with these negative events and emotions. But in truth, I have no idea. 
5. Why are women their own worst enemies? I find this to be the case especially in the blog world when sexism comes up - why do women have a hard time agreeing to disagree?
I think I need you to be more specific with this question. Otherwise I risk assuming what your question is about when I could be totally wrong. And the idea of women versus women is a very broad subject with tons of applications to different circumstances. 

Very interesting questions, Mrs. CH. I've really enjoyed answering them, and I hope that if you have more that you'll share them! :)


Mrs. CH said...

Thank you for your answers! The one that really surprised me was to the one-up-manship question - I never thought about it that way. I might look at people now differently when they do that!

For the last question, I guess what I was specifically getting at was what Candid Engineer
discusses here. However, I see this issue in a lot of other cases. Think of the two girls fighting over the 1 man (when clearly they should both be angry at the man for cheating/two-timing/etc); women being more aggressive to other women than to men in the workplace; general cattiness/bitchiness toward each other/stabbing in the back mentality (especially in high school).

As for other questions - I think I'll finishing reading The Female Brain and Women Don't Ask and get back to you :)

Anonymous said...

Mrs. CH, I think you are confusing agreeing and disagreeing with personal experiences. With sexism, women are all individual pioneers because of the fact that we are tokens in science. This is why some older women get pissed with younger women when the whole topic of "strides and waves of feminism" comes up and that younger women have it "easier" because of the older women who paved the way. That may be true IN THEIR LOCALITY. It is NOT true at many other workplaces where her achievements were tokenized, leading to a gross exaggeration that all women would/should/could follow the exact footsteps of THE woman before her. The thing about it is that younger women will repeat many of the same cycles as the older women, almost to a tee. You should check out "Derailing for Dummies." They have a playbook while we forge our own paths because we are outnumbered. It's like the entire Defensive Line against 1 runner with the ball. We may disagree on how to break through the line, but we agree where the goal is.

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