Pharyngula

Why are boys and men underperforming?

In this TED video, Philip Zimbardo talks about an ongoing concern, the opting out of boys from academically and socially — boys are more likely to drop out of school, girls outperform boys at all academic levels, boys are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADD. The difference also leads to many man-boys who can’t interact with women except on the most superficial and cartoonish level.

He’s talking about a real problem, but I was not convinced by his explanation. He attributes it to a phenomenon called arousal addiction, where people are hooked on constant stimulation of any kind, and he blames it on the internet, video games, and porn. I get very suspicious when anyone starts talking about the internet rewiring our brains (Susan Greenfield, anyone?) because a) I haven’t seen any persuasive data that it’s a serious and significant, let alone deleterious phenomenon, and b) everything rewires our brains — we respond to experience.

This talk has a serious flaw in that the first half is all about statistics and differences between males and females, and the second half is all about a putative general phenomenon that changes our brains…but it doesn’t say anything anymore about the differences between males and females. Women aren’t excluded from the internet — they get sucked into social media, they play video games, they even watch porn. So how does this explain the declining performance of men in schools and social situations?

(Also on FtB)