De mythe van multi-tasken

Liep laatst keihard met m'n hoofd tegen een kastje aan toen ik al hond-uitlatend met m'n iPhone trachtte te SMS-en of Twitteren; krijg je altijd te horen dat mannen dat niet kunnen, maar vrouwen wel.

Nu blijkt uit onderzoek van Professor David Meyer (Universiteit van Michigan) dat jonge volwassenenen die twee wiskunde-opdrachten tegelijk deden, daar langer over doen, dan als je ze sequentieel doet; het resultaat was bij mannen en vrouwen gelijk!

En dat komt omdat onze hersenen fysiek zo 'bedraad' zijn dat ze maar 1 taak tegelijk kunnen; dat blijkt uit het onderzoek van professor Earl Miller, een neuro-wetenschapper van MIT, die onderzocht met een MRI-scan (oid) wat er gebeurt in de hersenen als je meerdere objecten neerzet voor iemand zijn/haar ogen. De hersenen reageren maar op 1 van de stimulatoren en kunnen dus, of je dat wilt of niet, echt maar op één ding echt goed tegelijk focussen.

Dus MultiTasking is 'Uit' en MonoTasking is 'In'.

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Doen vrouwen het nu al beter?

Uit recent onderzoek in de UK, blijkt dat vrouwen (behalve nog op Oxford en Cambridge waar de stand gelijk is) het op universiteiten beter doen dan mannen. Zou ik het dan toch nog meemaken dat we een numerus fixus voor het aantal vrouwen op de universiteit krijgen? Heeft de emancipatie nu haar hoogtepunt bereikt? Zijn vrouwen gewoon slimmer en zien we dat nu pas?

Ik weet het niet, maar nu deze mijlpaal is beriekt zal het niet lang duren dat ook in het bedrijfsleven de verdeling mannen / vrouwen gelijk is. Of toch niet? Want was het niet zo dat Professor Roy F. Baumeister had bedacht dat vrouwen mannen gewoon het lastige werk laten doen?

Dit is de verklaring van de dames en heren studenten zelf:

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Is er iets goeds aan mannen?

Vandaag een wat langere post over het nut van mannen en het verschil met vrouwen. Professor Roy F. Baumeister van de State University van Florida, heeft een prachtige rede gehouden: Is There Anything Good About Men? Hij constateert daarin dat er meer mannen aan de top zijn (wist u al), maar dat er ook meer mannnen in de goot zitten (de meeste junks, daklozen, criminelen zijn mannen!). Hoe komt dat? Omdat we niet anders kunnen! Hij komt tot de conclusie dat dat een evolutionaire reden heeft, want wat blijkt mannen moeten wel zo doen als ze doen, omdat ze anders niet reproduceren. Als je de statistiek uitpluist en DNA onderzoek doet, blijkt dat 80% van alle vrouwen zich reproduceert en dat slechts 40% van alle mannen zich reproduceert. Het is dus niet 50/50%! Hier de belangrijke passages (engelse tekst) uit het origineel:

When I say I am researching how culture exploits men, the first reaction is usually “How can you say culture exploits men, when men are in charge of everything?” This is a fair objection and needs to be taken seriously. It invokes the feminist critique of society. This critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth — these are mostly men. Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men. It must be great to be a man.

            The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top.
If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who’s in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who’s homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? US Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men. Likewise, who gets killed in battle? Even in today’s American army, which has made much of integrating the sexes and putting women into combat, the risks aren’t equal. This year we passed the milestone of 3,000 deaths in Iraq, and of those, 2,938 were men, 62 were women.

            One can imagine an ancient battle in which the enemy was driven off and the city saved, and the returning soldiers are showered with gold coins. An early feminist might protest that hey, all those men are getting gold coins, half of those coins should go to women. In principle, I agree. But remember, while the men you see are getting gold coins, there are other men you don’t see, who are still bleeding to death on the battlefield from spear wounds.

            That’s an important first clue to how culture uses men. Culture has plenty of tradeoffs, in which it needs people to do dangerous or risky things, and so it offers big rewards to motivate people to take those risks.
Most cultures have tended to use men for these high-risk, high-payoff slots much more than women. I shall propose there are important pragmatic reasons for this. The result is that some men reap big rewards while others have their lives ruined or even cut short. Most cultures shield their women from the risk and therefore also don’t give them the big rewards. I’m not saying this is what cultures ought to do, morally, but cultures aren’t moral beings. They do what they do for pragmatic reasons driven by competition against other systems and other groups.


The Most Underappreciated Fact
            The first big, basic difference has to do with what I consider to be the most underappreciated fact about gender. Consider this question: What percent of our ancestors were women? It’s not a trick question, and it’s not 50%. True, about half the people who ever lived were women, but that’s not the question. We’re asking about all the people who ever lived who have a descendant living today. Or, put another way, yes, every baby has both a mother and a father, but some of those parents had multiple children. Recent research using DNA analysis answered this question about two years ago. Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men.

            I think this difference is the single most underappreciated fact about gender. To get that kind of difference, you had to have something like, throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced. Right now our field is having a lively debate about how much behavior can be explained by evolutionary theory. But if evolution explains anything at all, it explains things related to reproduction, because reproduction is at the heart of natural selection. Basically, the traits that were most effective for reproduction would be at the center of evolutionary psychology. It would be shocking if these vastly different reproductive odds for men and women failed to produce some personality differences.

            For women throughout history (and prehistory), the odds of reproducing have been pretty good. Later in this talk we will ponder things like, why was it so rare for a hundred women to get together and build a ship and sail off to explore unknown regions, whereas men have fairly regularly done such things? But taking chances like that would be stupid, from the perspective of a biological organism seeking to reproduce. They might drown or be killed by savages or catch a disease. For women, the optimal thing to do is go along with the crowd, be nice, play it safe. The odds are good that men will come along and offer sex and you’ll be able to have babies. All that matters is choosing the best offer. We’re descended from women who played it safe.

            For men, the outlook was radically different. If you go along with the crowd and play it safe, the odds are you won’t have children.
Most men who ever lived did not have descendants who are alive today. Their lines were dead ends. Hence it was necessary to take chances, try new things, be creative, explore other possibilities. Sailing off into the unknown may be risky, and you might drown or be killed or whatever, but then again if you stay home you won’t reproduce anyway. We’re most descended from the type of men who made the risky voyage and managed to come back rich. In that case he would finally get a good chance to pass on his genes. We’re descended from men who took chances (and were lucky).

            The huge difference in reproductive success very likely contributed to some personality differences, because different traits pointed the way to success. Women did best by minimizing risks, whereas the successful men were the ones who took chances. Ambition and competitive striving probably mattered more to male success (measured in offspring) than female. Creativity was probably more necessary, to help the individual man stand out in some way. Even the sex drive difference was relevant: For many men, there would be few chances to reproduce and so they had to be ready for every sexual opportunity. If a man said “not today, I have a headache,” he might miss his only chance.

            Another crucial point. The danger of having no children is only one side of the male coin. Every child has a biological mother and father, and so if there were only half as many fathers as mothers among our ancestors, then some of those fathers had lots of children.
Look at it this way. Most women have only a few children, and hardly any have more than a dozen — but many  fathers have had more than a few, and some men have actually had several dozen, even hundreds of kids. In terms of the biological competition to produce offspring, then, men outnumbered women both among the losers and among the biggest winners.

            To put this in more subjective terms: When I walk around and try to look at men and women as if seeing them for the first time, it’s hard to escape the impression (sorry, guys!) that women are simply more likeable and lovable than men. Men might wish to be lovable, and men can and do manage to get women to love them (so the ability is there), but men have other priorities, other motivations. For women, being lovable was the key to attracting the best mate. For men, however, it was more a matter of beating out lots of other men even to have a chance for a mate. Tradeoffs again: perhaps nature designed women to seek to be lovable, whereas men were designed to strive, mostly unsuccessfully, for greatness.

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Kunnen alleen vrouwen multi-tasken?

Thuis leidt het feit dat je als man minder tegelijk kunt soms tot lastige discussies. Vrouwen kunnen nu eenmaal meer tegelijk, hoor ik dan weer. Het schijnt toch ook wetenschappelijk bewezen te zijn door Professor Helen Christensen van de Australian National University in Canberra:

"Dit onderzoek toonde aan dat moederratten sneller hun weg kunnen vinden in een doolhof, minder last hebben van stress en dat ze beter zijn in multitasken. Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat we dezelfde resultaten bij mensen zullen vinden.", aldus Christensen.

Gelukkig is er altijd 1 man (ook een Australier) die bewijst dat haar onderzoek niet klopt. Mannen kunnen echt wel multi-tasken!

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Women on Top?

Gisteren op BNR een item over de klacht-brief aan de NMA van een nieuwe feministische groep over het ‘mannen-kartel’ (zo’n 3% van de bestuurders van de Top 100 bedrijven zijn namelijk maar vrouw). Een terechte klacht en zorgwekkende constatering; al was het maar omdat bijna de helft van Nederlandse managers het idee van gelijkwaardige (50/50) verdeling van functies tussen mannen en vrouwen (en het nut daarvan) niet ziet zitten.

Daarmee is Nederland femofoob nummer 1, althans in de Westerse Wereld (bron PWC onderzoek). Dus een strijd van ‘Women on Top’ (zo heet de feministengroep) voor een goede en terechte zaak, maar wat mateloos irritant is dat zij zichzelf ‘Women on Top’ noemen (letterlijk: vrouwen bovenop). Waarschijnlijk nooit een engels woordenboek geraadpleegd, maar dit heeft een nogal sexuele connotatie. Ze bedoelen waarschijnlijk ‘at the Top’ en met dit misverstand doen ze hun zaak geen goed, ondanks het feit dat in Nederland de gemiddelde vrouw hoger/beter opgeleid is dan een man. Of zouden het gefrustreerde mannen zijn die achter Women on Top schuilgaan?