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Brain research on boys’ preference for video games and girls’ for social media (wsj.com)
233 points by bookofjoe 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 186 comments

If you comment in this thread, please stick to the specifics of the article.

This thread got bogged down on its first go, but the article is interesting enough to deserve a second chance.

FWIW, that link does some weird stuff to the charts for me.

IMHO a big part of "controversy" surrounding the idea of purely biological male vs. female predispositions comes from people not really understanding how statistics work. People feel that results like this are somehow limiting to them individually so they argue emotionally against it, but statistics don't really deal with the individual outcomes. Statistical researches are never about you, me or any single individual. Just because on average sexes seem to prefer different things doesn't mean that every and single person of that sex has to feel that way, there will always be a spectrum of different results on the individual level. It's like saying that males are taller than females, that doesn't imply that there's no short men, or very tall women, we all know that there's a lot of them.

Now, that said, I personally don't buy neither just "everything is predefined by biology", nor the "the society shapes everything" positions, both seem like crude over-simplifications.

Steven Pinkers the "blank slate" deals with this question in depth. From what I recall is that genes do determine a lot. Evidence for this are studies with twins that grow up separate. The crux however is that only because genes shape a lot of your behavior, that dosent mean they force you. You are not a marionette of you genes, you still have free will. There was also an interesting study where the correlation in behavior between parents and children weakens the older the children become. Meaning there is almost no nurture influence left if your 30. There was a lot more interesting stuff in the book but I dont remember it. I really recommend it though.

And yet...

I've read this[1] yesterday on a complete unrelated topic, and I must say that "I don't buy" it's another form of not understanding statistics.

Biology is what it is and controls major aspects of our lives.

If you can be stronger of some of the biological instincts, good, but statistically biology always wins.

We can say for example that "women prefer laudanum, men prefer opium and pronstitues" is 100% a social construction.

"Women are better at social activities while men are better at competitive activities" much less so.

> Like most psychologists who study personality, Peterson believes there are five core personality traits—extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism—and that these traits are universal across most cultures. The taxonomy is also gendered. For example, women tend to be more agreeable than men. The traits have both biological and cultural origins and, as Peterson is fond of saying, the biological factors maximize in places—like Scandinavia—that have strenuously tried to flatten out the cultural differences. Biology is, therefore, in a sense, destiny, no matter how much people may want to deny it. To his mind, arguing that gender is a social construct or a kind of performance or—as the Ontario Human Rights Code says—an individual’s subjective experience is just wrong. “It’s not an alternative hypothesis,” Peterson says. “It’s an incorrect hypothesis.

-- Jordan Bernt Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

[1] https://torontolife.com/city/u-t-professor-sparked-vicious-b...

> "Women are better at social activities while men are better at competitive activities" much less so.

I never heard Peterson or any research claiming this. The claim is that women PREFER certain activities, while men PREFER others. Given a free choice, they're (on average) likely to pick different things to do with their time. That is very different from being better or worse in something, in fact it's a huge misinterpretation.

And this directly brings us to my parent post, because I just proposed what I believe is the main reason contributing to huge and very emotional reaction to these theories (and the hate that Peterson is getting for it, among others). People (women to be exact) feel threatened by it, they feel it takes from them the freedom of choice and puts them into boxes. Which, I argue, is misinterpretation of what statistics claim. Statistics don't say anything about any individual person, and deal with purely fictional middle person.

However, I stand corrected, as your own interpretation of Petersons theories itself is a big proof that the fear of females over these theories is not irrational, as obviously many men will not miss a chance to jump to conclusions like "we are better at this", which is a malignant construct that science never implied nor supported. Being good at something depends on many factors, and personal preferences are only a minor one. Intelligence, discipline, motivation, work habits are all much more important, and AFAIK sex doesn't influence these, in fact some researchers claim that women are better at self-discipline (again on average)

> many men will not miss a chance to jump to conclusions like "we are better at this", which is a malignant construct that science never implied nor supported


And there is no amount of social construct that can change this "opportunism".

Either we stop doing and publishing researches on social behavior or we have to assume that it will be distorted and used by malevolent actors or by sheer ignorance.

> and AFAIK sex doesn't influence these

I agree, the only exception I could see is testosterone.

Testosterone, among its other properties, is linked to risk taking behaviour, and risk taking behaviour, apart being of course dangerous, is a way to improve faster.

Peterson is a particularly problematic source because he usually doesn't correctly declare where the science stops and his personal musings start.

The Big Five in your quote are a perfect example: They have a significant heritable component, but for all factors heritability ranges from 40 to 60%, meaning 60% to 40% are explained by environment.[0] Yet when listening to Peterson somehow the environmental factor doesn't seem to matter at all, which is clearly in contrast to the current state of research.

[0] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/neu.10160

You are either lying about Peterson, or you just haven't listened to him properly. He brings up heritability ranges all the time and he also explains why a seemingly smallish difference between preferences by gender can have surprisingly large effects.

I've both actually studied the topic so know what this is all about, and watched dozens of hours of content from Peterson. His 101-like lectures (e.g. his 2014 personality lectures in his YT channel) are pretty good, both content-wise and from an educational standpoint. He certainly is a really good orator. I whish I had more psychology professors like him.

But just listen carefully to his more political talks. I sadly can't find it right now, but there was a mythical lecture about different cultures all having a variant of a tree of life. He simply lists a few cultures and then states that this list obviously can't be coincidence, ergo god exists.

He also routinely phrases things like "people high on consciencousness tend to be more conservative" in his public appearences. Which is true! The problem is in the context and the way he says it implies causation where there is no proof of any. Same thing for the gender differences.

Unrelated, but I personally really dislike his strawman arguments like his stance that postmodernism equals leftism, then criticising postmodernist theory. Practically all leftist/materialist theorists are directly opposed to postmodernists. There have been decades of bitter ivory tower battles between both factions.

Mind you I have no axe to grind here. I actually feel really sorry for the things the social media mob did to him. Just from watching his videos you can really see how bitter that experience made him in just a few months. The tragic thing is that in that original 2016 incidence, he actually was right! It really is futile to try to fight human tendency to categorize by changing the language for the categories. And there there is abundent evidence for that. (Amusingly the idea of changing reality trough language is actually a conservative one, represented by e.g. Heidegger.)

Just a funny aside if you allow me: gender pronouns are imho a great example of how seemingly trivial design choices can have a ripple effect on systems behaviour. What I mean by that is my mother tongue have no such concept as gender pronouns! It's not a thing. This whole problem that people spend enormous amounts of energy discussing on various social platforms like twitter simply does not exist. I find this rather amusing.

that's spot on.

I had the same conversation trying to explain that in Italian there are "male" things that have "female" names and vice versa.

For example "car" (automobile in Italian) or bulldozer (ruspa in Italian) are feminine nouns.

If you lookup those words in an Italian dictionary you'll find

    [rù-spa] s.f. 
that s.f. means singular feminine.

We don't associate the fact the bulldozer has a feminine name with the notion that women are bulldozers.

At least, I don't!

Please don't use JP as a reliable source. He is extremely subjective and pushes many ideologies in his "non fiction" takes.

He is professor of psychology who taught in top universities, his scientific articles have many citations, why wouldn't he be reliable? As far as I'm concerned he is as reliable as whole field of psychology - there can be multiple competitive theories, but you can't reject his just because you happen to not like them.

As a counterpoint, consider Peter Duesberg (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Duesberg), a world expert on viruses, who denies that the virus HIV causes AIDS. The reason we can reject this claim is that (unlike his previous work) it's totally unsupported by any evidence, counter to high quality evidence from large numbers of mainstream science.

The way to make a counterpoint is not to bring up someone else and say "this other guy's claim is unsupported by evidence."

Instead, you'd do this by showing how Peterson's claim is unsupported by evidence, specifically on how his view pertains to the current topic.

My counterpoint is apt; it points out that even people who have credentials can be wrong, and it's important to consider that.

Hitton's point is that "you can't reject [Peterson] just because you happen to not like them." If it was instead "because his claims are unsupported by evidence," then I could see how your counterpoint is apt. However, that is not the case.

I was responding to "He is professor of psychology who taught in top universities, his scientific articles have many citations, why wouldn't he be reliable?", not "because his claims are unsupported by evidence".

> who denies that the virus HIV causes AIDS

That's understandable.

He supported an alternative theory.

But he was already 50 years years old when he published his first essay on HIV, and over 60 when he started the campaign against HIV/AIDS correlation.

And most of his theories have been disproved by following studies, his first publication on the subject is date 1987, Montagnier discovered HIV in 1986 and it was taken for granted as a fact years later.

The best moments of Duesberg career had already gone (like 30 years before).

Montagnier himself late in his life, at the age of 77, gave a speech that basically supported the validity of homeopathy.

I bet it's more an aging related problem than a credibility problem.

BTW Duesberg was wrong on HIV but not on the other topics he studied.

I have no reason of doubting your warnings on Peterson, but it may be possible, as in the Duesberg and Montagnier cases that he might be wrong on something and right on something else.

I don't see it that way.

I know little about him personally, and I shouldn't have quoted the last bit, because it wasn't related to what we're talking here.

The point is sex differences exist and are framed in a way that culture or nature have really no meaning anymore.

They are both hard to change and even if we change them in a meaningful way, we can't be sure it will fix what we think needs fixing.


> yet also ensure that girls and women will not avoid mathematics more than boys and men due to mathematics anxiety. Policies must take into consideration that sex differences in career choices are not a simple function of gender equality and equal opportunities; and that, paradoxically, other factors (e.g., sex differences in occupational interests [74–76] and sex differences in other skills [9, 81, 82]) emerge in highly developed, gender-equal countries that might disproportionately affect girls’ mathematics anxiety and participation in STEM.

It doesn't mean of course that one sex is intrinsically better than the other, but the fact that we as individuals have not really existed for thousands of years and our choices in life have always been a cat and mouse game between rules of society and biological instincts, makes the distinction harder to make.

Our DNA tells us what we are biologically, but that's only the bootstrap process, what we become is mostly about the experiences we live and even in the flattest possible ideal society, where every choice is possible, we will all live different experiences and become different individuals.

And we would not see a perfect random distribution of choices, but very clear patterns or clusters, much more clear than they are now.

EDIT: sorry for being verbose.

Another example I can make is universal welfare state in Italy.

It was supposed to help families raise kids with less effort than the previous generations.

The unwanted (I hope) effect has been that it shaped a society of full time men workers and part-time or no-working women.

Because one way or another kids needed to be with their moms more than with their dads, we're talking about 60s in Italy here and a salary or a salary and half were enough. More money meant bigger dreams, moving to the city, in shiny new houses, but away from families that had been the buffer that allowed women to go to work while grandparents took care of kids.

It meant hiring a nanny, but why hire a nanny that costed as much as the woman's salary, when she could stay home, save on money and raise the kids?

This way men monopolized the higher paid jobs and women dominated education and services, because it was more flexible on hours.

It was good nonetheless, my parents couldn't have raised two kids without the free nursery school that the public hospital offered to their employees (having to kids when you work 12 hours night shifts is not really possible without help), but that's how a system created to support natality and to make it possible for women to go to work, have become the disaster of inequalities that it is now.

Here is one of the actual studies, which is much less annoying to read: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6234325/?mod=ar...

I was particularly interested in the participant selection section; they did go to an effort to select male and female participants with similar gaming habits. However, this doesn't mean that the only explanation for the different "craving" response is a fundamental difference between men and women. Just because you end up with a similar population with similar habits, doesn't mean that the path those individuals traveled to get there is the same.

As an example of how the observed differences could still be due to nurture rather than nature, suppose that across all young boys and girls, there is a subset of people that are predisposed to addiction. Also suppose that in many cases, an addiction can begin the first time you're exposed to something. Even if both boys and girls were equally predisposed to become addicted to both video games and social media, they would not be equally likely to be exposed to those two addictive digital activities. It would be more likely that a boy's friends would introduce him to video games, and that a girl's friends would introduce her to social media. Once they are addicted to one or the other, they will spend more time on that activity, and will be unlikely to explore the opposite.

Eventually, these hypothetical boys and girls grow up, and our hypothetical scientists select participants for their version of this fMRI experiment. They do a good job selecting male and female participants who play games for similar numbers of hours, but the potential female video game addicts in this universe are much less likely to ever start playing games, before getting addicted to something else. Since these hypothetical people have selected themselves out of this hypothetical study, they discover a difference in fMRI responses to images of video games that's correlated with gender, but still 100% caused by existing gender roles and stereotypes.

This argument is superficially compelling but I fear that it is ultimately argument from ignorance. It is true that we don’t know everything. You even offer a fairly elaborate example of something that we don’t know whether it happened or not. It could be true. The problem here is that you offer no evidence to support whether it is true or not. Now it’s story time and instead of evaluating the studies and working with a minimal conclusion supported by the evidence, the task becomes telling the better story.

It's worth considering that in complex systems sometimes it is impossible (or extraordinarily unlikely/expensive) to be able to disentangle specific elements and that thus they might always be present, even in a rigorously considered study.

Arguably the only ethical way of removing external social conditioning might be to find a regional social setting which lacks that specific element in order to evaluate the statistical impact by comparing results that should be similar between the two environments.

Especially in communities. For ease, people lump things such as social media and gaming in with "addiction". I'm sure 100 years from now in many cases the "social media addicts" will have a subset that leans toward success beyond their local community, and the gamers have a longer life expectancy than many in their community. I'd rather my kid game than go outside even in our middle-class neighborhood. I'd rather have my kid keep in touch with friends via social media than having them all in my kitchen when I'm not home.

There're tradeoffs, pros and cons to social media and gaming, but framing it in an addiction narrative isn't helping matters. This is what led many Chinese people to put their kids in "camps" that used Electro Convulsive Therapy to "fix their internet addiction". This is born of ignorance, and the addiction narrative.

I think elements can be intuited, and more studies done, but when you're bashing the cheapest forms of entertainment and social contact, and safest to boot, as addictions... that's just ignorant.

> I'd rather my kid game than go outside even in our middle-class neighborhood. I'd rather have my kid keep in touch with friends via social media than having them all in my kitchen when I'm not home.


You don’t allow your kid to go outside or hang out with friends face to face? You prefer his/her social interactions are all intermediated by a computer network? This seems like a very strange and dystopian preference.

Do you actually have a kid or is this hypothetical?

I also have very different ideas about what I'd want for my hypothetical kids than the OP, but preferring one thing isn't the same as disallowing the other.

You're arguing gamers would have a longer life expectancy than others, and that you'd rather have your child game than go outside. Do you disagree with the widely accepted fact that exercise is beneficial to health, and thus a longer life?

And not just physical health, but also mental health, which is a massive factor in many aspects of life.

This comment was never meant to be anything more than "story time". Logically, I know that this study doesn't prove any genetic difference in how men and women interact with video games. However, my monkey brain wasn't satisfied with "well there could be some other reason"; so I put together a neat little narrative, to represent a single point in that entire probability space. It took some effort to come up with this narrative, and the thread didn't have any good comments at the time, so I decided to post it.

If you do think that this study proves a genetic difference between how men and women, then one of us is wrong about what an experiment like this can "prove". (I don't think it's quite "correlation != causation", but it's along those lines; I don't have the vocabulary to precisely say why I think that position is wrong.) If that is your position, then maybe this one counterexample will be enough to change your view; it should be, even though that was never my intent. Maybe I've drastically misread your comment and you don't believe anything of the sort. If so, I'm sorry.

You say that you "know" that "that this study doesn't prove any genetic difference in how men and women interact with video games." That is a really strong statement, which you offer without support. How do you know that?

What if we asked whether this study "supports" such a difference instead of "proves" it? Would you still say you know it doesn't support it?

> you offer no evidence to support whether it is true or not.

The point is that it illustrates the study may not have taken such considerations into account. It calls to question the accuracy and efficacy of their results.

There are and will always be considerations not taken into account. Raising them is thus a fully general counterargument, and as such is best ignored. If you don't want your potential confounders be ignored, the burden of proof is on you to provide evidence that these confounders actually matter.

There isn't a general case rule you can apply here to determine burden of proof.

If the target domain is incredibly complex with major fundamental unknowns, then even robust results should not be viewed as 100% definitive.

It is a good practice to not view results as 100% definitive and be willing to revise your ideas in the light of disconfirming observations — just not in the light of disconfirming stories.

IMO the “burden of proof” is a mostly vacuous concept to begin with, because it always and only ever lies with the party that wishes to change others’ minds.

Because it's reasonable. You cannot disprove what has no evidence, and why should you look for it, other than normal single good science "college try" check? It's a great way to waste time.

If the concept is not obvious, the onus is even more on the person bringing it up. Otherwise we'd still have physics running on phlogiston, and medicine on leeches as everyone explored irrelevant ideas.

What you said is basically “the one who asserts must prove”, an old standard way to describe the burden of proof.

A common critique in all behavioral science is that most of it can be distilled down into telling the better story through weak or nonexistent evidence, and thus the only "real" way to conduct science into behavior is to use more hard evidence like genetics, neuroscience or even more concrete such as fossil records.

The problem is that the probability to finding a "gaming" gene, one that only exist or be expressed in males, would be very unlikely.

Robert Sapolsky has a good description of this in his lecture series "Human Behavioral Biology" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnIGh9g6fA&list=PL848F2368C...).

The whole point for randomized trials, and much of modern statistics is to argue from ignorance. You hypothesize that maybe there's something missing, who knows. A causal boogey man. Then you design a test robust to that. One term for problems this leads to is omitted variable bias. It's not about "ooh maybe this one thing is bad." It's about "this class of problem is introduced."

It's tough to make an intuitive story for why RCTs are important, so the story sounds elaborate. You don't need to offer evidence against the theory to say that the methodology is weak.

Anyways, wet streets might cause rain.

Argument from ignorance is a specific kind of logical fallacy. It’s where you argue for something by saying, in effect, “we don’t know that it’s not true”.

If a hypothesis leads you to test for something and collect (dis)confirming evidence, And your argument hinges on the evidence, then we aren’t arguing from ignorance.

It seems like you're saying "this is weak methodology" is a fallacy. It's open to all sorts of errors, but since we don't know that any of the errors are really the case, so we shouldn't argue that it's bad evidence? We aren't arguing boolean true/false, but strength of evidence.

There are many ways to argue for something like "this is weak methodology" and some of them are fallacies. Some of them aren't.

A good argument against a study's methodology would probably talk a lot more about the methodology, and a lot less about a believable alternative narrative that is supported by the study. The latter strategy is accepting of the methodology because it is granting that the observed effect is real and deserving of explanation. In a different light, the earlier comment ("As an example of how the observed differences could still be due to nurture rather than nature...") is kind of weird because it is as though the effect might as well be due to nature -- it would present the same way and be as consistent and robust -- even if it were due to socialisation.

The problem being, RCTs are tricky to set up for social variables to have enough statistical power, while avoiding the "test bias" which is known to change behavior. (Essentially a kind of placebo effect.) It has to be huge.

And how do you produce a social placebo to detect such effects by comparison? No treatment is not the same as known fake treatment.

In fact, even the observational study here is quite underpowered and not multicultural. It is to be taken with a few bags of salt.

It isn't massively distinct, but another way the observed differences could still be due to nurture rather than nature is that the connectome of the subjects could literally be shaped by how we raise and socialized the genders. This is more like an expanded version of the parent argument--these experiences play a role in structuring the eventual-participants brains, and the study is (unknowingly) measuring past-exprience rather than biological destiny.

The article claims that inside games "most communication is through text". This makes me think they haven't seen very many real gamers. There's no mention of voice chat's extensive use inside games for everything from gameplay to homework advice from buddies. Pretty clueless.

Agreed. Gaming-oriented discords (or their predecessors, mumble, teamspeak, skype) are often a social networks of their own - complete with the social drama that often comes with social networks. I love games, but I've never felt comfortable in any gaming group due to the fact that being female in one of those groups almost always means you end up getting a special sort of attention or making others uncomfortable by your presence. My husband has been in a few of these groups throughout the years though, so I often listen in since he plays through the speakers. Some groups are more competitive and oriented to a specific game, others are just groups of friends who pick a game based on who's around and what games they have, but the social aspect is critical in each. In competitive ones people typically want to prove themselves as valuable teammates, while in casual ones people just want to share a experience with friends. The one huge difference I have seen between gaming social groups and social media though is that it's typically much easier to ditch your gaming group since you don't always have connections to those people in other ways. It's more socially acceptable to say you just changed gaming preferences when you want to avoid interacting with certain people who play that game, meanwhile deleting your whole social media profile or blocking a bunch of people is more prone to being judged harshly.

So I think the article is way off base with dismissing the social aspect of games as a major draw for guys. But there are truths to there being significant differences in the way the social networks manifest. My personal hypothesis would be it's related to differences in the "stickiness" of the platforms over which communication primarily occurs now.

Hunting had a social aspect too.

But it wasn't a social activity. Just like gaming, it's gaming the majority of the time.

Social activities have parts that are similar to gaming, like when a group of friends ends up playing beer pong. But it's a social activity, not gaming.

And that's where we make the distinction.

I don't really see it. Hunting for survival and social game-playing to pass the time and hang out with people are different motivators. Game playing as a social activity has existed in many different cultures throughout history. Think about the popularity of simple dice and card games as recreational social activities throughout history. Most people who played those games didn't care about the game itself, it was just something to do with people and maybe they would win and get a bit of a thrill (or some cash when a gambling element was attached).

So if the theory is that men just like games themselves, and that the social element is not a big factor in frequent game playing - then better comparison then would be to compare gambling habits between male and females. One study showed that among people with gambling problems, men were more likely to participate in sports betting, poker, and casino games - all games with a high social element and where it's possible to have a network of regulars you befriend and play with (and which in most casinos I've been to, those games have a social environment that is male-dominant). Meanwhile, women gambling addicts were more likely to be use single-player machines (poker/blackjack machines, slots) while gambling [1], which seems to indicate they are more likely addicted to the games themselves and rush of winning. I could be missing something and maybe women like go out playing with a group of friends and chat while playing - but every time I see people playing video gambling, they usually seem pretty enthralled with their machine.

But then there's also a big difference in the number of women who gamble and rate of addiction to gambling between men and women (with men more likely to play and be addicted in the first place). So again, I'm not disputing that there are differences and that some men are genuinely just obssesed with games themselves - but I do think that the social network factor and "stickiness" factor of that social network is hugely important to understanding why many guys spend such a disproportionate amount of time playing video games vs social media or other social activities, and why it's not necessarily so different from other social activities.

[1] https://doi.org/10.1080/14459795.2018.1495750

In higher level competitive scenarios, yeah voice is predominant. However, that is by no means the majority. They only seem like a bigger segment of gamers because they're loud and make themselves known. All they said was that most is done through text, which is true

Even nearly 20 years ago I was hanging out daily on voice chat servers with my Counter-Strike buddies.

It wasn't just for coordination in-game, just hanging out and talking while sometimes not even playing, because that's what even male friends do: They talk.

It's even more dominant with consoles where since the 360/PS3 era voice has also seen quite high adoption rates even more common than in PC gaming.

Then there's Discord which is very much the millennial version of "hanging out in IRC all day" culture combining text and voice chat.

Firstly, you're talking about CS which is one of few games where voice chat is more of the norm. Whats funny is that I still to this day get stuck in pugs with half the team not having mics. For console games like COD, most causal games I played few people had mics. But what we are talking about is competitive games more or less which does generally get more attention than Viva Piñata or something like that. And, if you look at something like LoL or Dota2 voice chat is either non-existent or no one uses it. I have ran into so few people using their mics in Dota2 and that is a competitive game. Instead people ping or type in chat.

When I played MMORPGs, which I think we can all agree are pretty popular, very few people had mics. For WoW people would connect to Vent but most didn't have a mic. It was useful for raids, but most of the time communication was via text chat. When playing MapleStory I would sit on Vent with my friends who often played on entirely different servers and no one on that game actually used Vent or TS regularly as part of their daily grind, it was almost exclusively chat.

So, I think the assertion that voice chat is a minority is probably correct. And like you said Discord is beyond a voice chat for gaming. I am in plenty of Discord channels and I have never once entered into a voice chat with anyone. It's a community chat room that happens to offer a voice chat option. Plenty of people use voice chat while gaming, but I don't think it's by and large the majority.

> Firstly, you're talking about CS which is one of few games where voice chat is more of the norm.

For close to 20 years, as such, it's hardly something new. That's just how communities organized back then: Around clans and servers.

Matchmaking killed a lot of that, but the clan structure helps retain some of it. That's something a whole lot of people, particularly younger ones, participate to this day without ever fully going "pro" because there's a pretty massive middle ground between "absolutely casual gaming" and "sponsored organized pro gaming".

> For console games like COD, most causal games I played few people had mics.

Did you actually play with friends? There's a reason "party chat" features like Xbox Live Party were heavily demanded for many years.

> When I played MMORPGs, which I think we can all agree are pretty popular, very few people had mics. For WoW people would connect to Vent but most didn't have a mic.

That's completely opposite to my experience in vanilla Wow: Organizing and managing 40 man raids without voice chat was pretty much impossible.

Just like daily guild live mostly happened on a voice chat server, where people would hang out even when they were not playing.

> So, I think the assertion that voice chat is a minority is probably correct. And like you said Discord is beyond a voice chat for gaming.

If you define voice chat as solely "voice chat interactions with randoms in public rounds" then maybe yes, but your mileage will vary vastly depending on the platform and genre.

Discord also isn't "beyond a voice chat for gaming", it's pretty much just the modern manifestation of server centered communities like they used to be a thing with CS game servers and still are a thing to this day with "Clan TS2 servers", Discord is just a natural evolution of those where people don't have to pay rent/bandwidth for a server.

> For close to 20 years, as such, it's hardly something new. That's just how communities organized back then: Around clans and servers.

CS is not new, but it's one game. And even within this one game, many people do not have mics. Most people don't play exclusively with pre-mades they play pugs. Either via MM or Faceit (and to a lesser extent these days, ESEA). If you pug you'll find most people don't use mics at all.

> Matchmaking killed a lot of that, but the clan structure helps retain some of it. That's something a whole lot of people, particularly younger ones, participate to this day without ever fully going "pro" because there's a pretty massive middle ground between "absolutely casual gaming" and "sponsored organized pro gaming".

Most people don't play in clans or pre-mades like I said before. Yes, the move visible players do use voice chat, and at the highest levels it's uncommon for people to not use it. But a bulk of players in CS do not fall into these categories whatsoever. The average ranking is Gold Nova-ish which is far from the top end of the player base.

> Did you actually play with friends? There's a reason "party chat" features like Xbox Live Party were heavily demanded for many years.

Yes, I played in a clan starting in MW2 - BO2 or MW3 (I forget which came out last) and plenty of my clan members didn't have mics during clan events, let alone just playing random games. This was on Playstation Network, so maybe Xbox players used this way more, I can't speak to that.

> That's completely opposite to my experience in vanilla Wow: Organizing and managing 40 man raids without voice chat was pretty much impossible.

I guess this depends on how dedicated your groups were. We had 40 people in voice chat, but really only the party leaders regularly had mics in Vent or TS. This was enough to organize and successfully raid. But I guess YMMV here. All other MMOs I've played voice chat was essentially non-existent and you chatted with random people more often anyways since you didn't need pre-made parties or your guild to do most of the events. Using MapleStory (since I played the shit out of that) Party Quests were almost always just randoms in channel 1 not your friends. This echos the experiences I had playing Eve and Rift when that came out.

> Discord also isn't "beyond a voice chat for gaming", it's pretty much just the modern manifestation of server centered communities like they used to be a thing with CS game servers and still are a thing to this day with "Clan TS2 servers", Discord is just a natural evolution of those where people don't have to pay rent/bandwidth for a server.

Discord isn't used exclusively for in game chat in my experience. I'm part of plenty of communities on discord that have nothing to do with gaming, and even the gaming communities don't focus around chatting while gaming. They are usually to keep up with whatever the community is focused on, be it a streamers Discord or whatever. I'm not saying that Discord isn't used similar to TS or Ventrilo but it's beyond what those services did, and they aren't dedicated to just voice chatting with your group. It's a far more versatile service.

That's an assumption. I'm pretty certain there is no data on text vs mic use in casual games, and my anecdotal experiences suggest the opposite. There is also a qualitative difference between "gg ez :^)" and chatting on mic.

That's a pretty big omission. Part of why I stopped playing FPS games is specifically because voice chat is both A- Important to team coordination and B- Full of the worst examples of human speech you can encounter. Weird take on their part for sure.

The vast majority of in-game communication is through text, across most games. Voice is picking up momentum (via Discord, etc.) but it's still text

This sounds to me like they haven't updated their sources in fifteen or twenty years. Text chat was huge back in the Starcraft/Age of Empires era.

I'm sure it exists in newer games, but I have no idea where I'd find it in most of the games I've played from the past decade.

I think text is more common for casual gaming with strangers. The only times I find myself using voice chat is when playing with friends or playing competitive team based games. If I'm just playing casual counter strike I tend to not bother putting on a headset and moving my microphone.

Problem is that it's not as easily trackable. So in order to safe the effort, just declare text as the "winner".

I play a lot of games but never used voice chat. But I never play multiplayer either.

Is single-player at all relevant to the "in-game communication" topic? That's not entirely rhetorical, since it's possible I'm missing something, but this seems like a complete non sequitur.

Every game I have ever played required voice chat. But I only play board games.

Imagine if this headline read "Research on drunks' preference for aggressiveness and sobers' for politeness". Would anyone argue that nurture and societal norms is the reason drunks behave more aggressively ?

As someone who has been drunk on testosterone most of their life, I can testify it is a powerful and fun drug. Perhaps if research was framed in terms of hormonal differences rather than sex differences it wouldn't be as intrinsically controversial.

It shouldn't be controversial at all. There are sex differences. A good chunk of those differences are the effect of hormonal differences that stem from sexual dimorphism that in turn likely stem from some other evolutionary selection process.

Does culture play a role in behavior? Probably. But is there an inherent difference between the sexes? Yes.

In the nature vs nurture debate, every time someone argues for all nature or all nurture it’s an ideological position. That biology has no influence on behavior is as absurd as that society has none. The division into nature and nurture is also not as clean-cut as people think it is. There are many things in human culture that are that way because of biology and our culture influences our biology over the long run.

Plus unless the person arguing is a biologist backed by some hard evidence, it is only ideology talking.

Unless it's James Watson, then shut him up, fire him, and take all his awards away.

Plenty of biologists see what happens, and toe the line so they can keep their lives and pay their mortgages.

Hopefully we can just all agree that no amount of nurture will turn a duck into a swan or vice versa.

Finding out which things are more affected by culture is still interesting and worthwhile.

Sure, but that's the point. Paraphrasing brodo's reply, anyone who says outcomes here are all culture or all nature is full of it. However, we've swung all the way to the other end where to imply that nature might play a role in outcomes here is grounds for excommunication from many circles (see Damore and Empathizing–systemizing theory).

It seems to me that if it is the case that testosterone is responsible, then it would be much better science to identify that and have "high testosterone" vs "low testosterone" groups. You'd be able to predict more strongly if the evidence isn't binary but rather a variable.

This is similar to the claims that "race" predicts health issues, when actually it's usually some specific gene which is only correlated with race.

I don't see how it helps to introduce that extra layer of indirection.

> hormonal differences rather than sex differences it wouldn't be as intrinsically controversial.

it is controversial only if you assume that

- we can control sex differences more than hormonal differences (in fact it's quite the opposite)

- cultural differences are more controllable than biological differences (same as above)

it doesn't matter how you frame it, the study shows a clear tendency, we can discuss the implications or the correctness of the study, methodology and title

For the first a functioning brain it's enough, for the rest we are subject to burden of the proof.

All of the games I played as a kid were clearly designed for boys and young men (featuring all of the typical things like guns and heavy machinery that men are well known to like more than women). That's just how the market was. If it's like that today, then it is no wonder that boys exhibit signs of enjoying video games more.

There are plenty of games "for girls" (the hidden-object and life-simulation genres are almost exclusively consumed by women, regardless of theming) but they're not marketed with quite the high-budget superbowl ad-campaign effort that games "for boys" are.

I've encountered the situation many times where I'll find out one of my female friends doesn't play video games. I'll ask why, and—disregarding the people who just don't like to spend time cooped up indoors—it'll usually end out that she's just never been introduced to a game she's enjoyed. Upon introducing her to a game or two in the genres more traditionally targeted at women, she'll be just about as likely as any of my male friends to gradually evolve from there into an avid gamer: one for whom "gaming" is now counted among their serious hobbies; one who might be excited to dedicate a weekend to full "hardcore" engagement with a new game.

In other words, for these ladies, it was 100% a market education problem: the companies making these products weren't managing to make their target audience aware of them.

According to some random infographic¹, over 60% of the mobile gaming demographic is female. This kind of game is absolutely being advertised during the Super Bowl. They're just not on the radar of "hardcore" gamers who tend to look down on console and especially mobile players.


I didn't want to get into it, but I would like to make a distinction, that I hope should be obvious in retrospect, and is different from the usual "casual"/"hardcore" distinction:

Some people play games; but some other people are only addicted to spending money on slot machines. The kind of mobile "game" you see Super Bowl ads (or, really, any TV ads) for are almost exclusively actually just slot machines at their core, with any game mechanics being tacked-on afterthoughts.

(If you wouldn't let your own children play a given "game", and your intuitive reasoning is the same as why you wouldn't let them wander freely in a casino—then you probably should mark such titles down under the "casino" tally, not the "games" tally, no?)

Importantly, the audiences for these two types of... experiences, let's call them—are mostly non-overlapping sets of people. Plenty of people are addicted to these slot-machine apps but would never play an actual "game", no matter how casual it was. They're not in it for game-mechanical "fun"; they're in it for variable-scheduled dopaminergic rewards. And, vice-versa, the more of an experienced "gamer" someone is—the more actual games they've played (where even FarmVille with all its dark patterns is still a game)—the more they'll have a taste for actual fun brought about by game mechanics, and so the more clearly they can intuitively feel that these slot-machine apps aren't providing such "fun."

Once you take these slot-machine non-games and their mostly non-gamer audiences out of consideration, then things do line up the way I described: there are no game companies targeting women bothering to spend much on advertising.

(There are, however, plenty of games without gendered targeting that have AAA ad spend. Pokemon, for example.)

Yeah as I alluded to in this thread I believe most gamers have been female for some time, but somehow for many people (read: many men) they don't 'count' because they're mobile games, or casual games, or not real games. At least that's the responses I've got every time the subject came up in previous discussions.

I assume an example of a "life-simulation" game is the Sims? What are "hidden-object" games?

They are like eye-spy books or Where's Waldo moved to tablet. You pick try to click on objects hidden in a scene.

Just what it sounds like - there are objects in a picture and you need to spot them. You'd get a list of 10 objects(guitar, owl, hamper, etc) and you need to find them in a picture of a room. The objects frequently aren't hidden per se but are just hard to spit because there might be 100 objects in the picture.

At its core, sure, but then imagine taking that and making it the core mechanic of a larger experience, in the way that "moving between tiles and attacking in a direction" is the core of a roguelike.

You can add time pressure; things that only appear once you've found other things; hybridize the mechanics with those of other genres, like adventure-game-like puzzle minigames to combine or use objects; etc.

In some sense, any game where progression is gated by a threshold of gathered collectables—and where the hard part is detecting the collectable, not navigating to or otherwise retrieving the collectable—is a hidden-object game. Pokemon Snap is a hidden-object game—the objects are shot compositions. The Ace Attorney games are hidden-object games—the objects are literal evidence, but then during the trials they're evidence+opportunity pairings. "Hacking" games, where you detect vulnerabilities to exploit, are hidden-object games. Trade-war or Elite type games (i.e. inefficient-market exploitation simulators) are, on an abstract level, hidden-object games. :)

And, of course, games in other genres can employ hidden-object mechanics, too. Platform games have special coins in out-of-the-way locations, where the challenge is just inferring that that was a visitable place to begin with. RPGs have treasure that shows up as little often-hard-to-spot motes of light on the field rather than big obvious chests. Etc.

This is somewhat anecdotal but the company I work for makes and publishes puzzle games, match three and hidden object games for the mobile space, which are by and large marketed towards women. However, large, AAA console and PC titles look to be marketed towards men. Now, there is A LOT of money put into these games and we run fairly comprehensive marketing campaigns, but rarely televised (though I think we ran one on The Bachelor with small returns which did not warrant the cost). So it isn't that we don't make women aware of the product but we have to follow nontraditional avenues of advertisement to reach them and mobile phones seem to be the preferred gaming platform for women, statistically speaking. At least as far as what I've seen from my company's data.

My experience as well. People on this site tend to think everything goes back to hunter gatherer societies and genes (a field they generally know little about) when the most plausible explanation (advertising) is something they know a lot more about. Kinda puzzling, or maybe a coping mechanism.

Would 'escape room' and/or puzzle-room games (maybe more like the Myst genera) be under the Hidden Object umbrella, or possible a "puzzle environment" genera?

Also, IMO, Puzzle Environment is (hopefully) non-gendered, but I've never seen stats for it.

The problem is hoping for reality to be a certain way rather than evaluating the evidence and seeing where it leads. Maybe you hope to change it to be non-biased in the future? In any complicated trait that's a complex interaction of nature and nurture, it's unlikely that all of the forces would be balanced perfectly for there to be no difference between groups.

Guns and heavy machinery are not topics for boys. Its just that those things are pushed on boys more while they are growing up. My sisters main game right now is counter strike.

I saw an interesting video last year where they used toddlers young enough to have no visible gender and they got in babysitters to help the toddlers play with toys. They gave the toddlers random gendered names and clothes. They then asked the babysitters what they think the kids's favorite toys were.

In almost every test the babysitter handed the kids the toys associated with the gender they thought the kid was from the name and not what the kids actual gender was. They then went to comment that the perceived genders toys were the kids favorite.

I'd offer the counter example of other infant primates expressing gender preferences for toys.


An interesting fact from that study that gets often overlooked is that the female monkeys spent as much time playing with the "boy" toys as the male monkies.

They only had a stronger preference because the boys didn't play with the cuddly toys as much.

A subtle but important distinction.

This is similar to studies that show women's favourite colour is actually blue. But what gets reported is that they have a stronger preference for pink, because, compared with men, more chose that and that somehow gets into the consciousness as "girls prefer pink over blue".

I beg to differ. Early on boys will pick up wood staff and play fight. They need no hint here.

>all of the typical things like guns and heavy machinery that men are well known to like more than women

Okay, so either men liking guns, heavy machinery, and videogames more than women comes from a inherent, biological difference between men and women, or it all comes from a huge, complex social construct that has been cultivated and dominant for centuries. Which one is it, then?

I'm going to take off my "mature adult" hat here, and say something I think which is probably totally groundless, but I want to talk about it anyways.

A lot of little boys are hyper as fuck, and I don't think that's a social construct. I think that's just how little boy bodies tend to produce energy: in excess.

Also, a good description for most games might be "twitchy." I think these two line up.

But in answer to your question, Nature vs Nurture: the answer is always both, but far more nature than we'd like. When we hit the cyborg/embedded computers line, that's when I think it'll be 50/50.

My father's peer group used to get in brawls with boys from three streets over for the hell of it. See also Achewood's "The Great Outdoor Fight".

There was an excellent series on this exact question released in Norway called Hjernevask [1]. Linking to Wiki there since it provides a link directly to each video as well as a brief synopsis. It had a profound impact on its release in Norway starting extensive discussion of the topic and ultimately led to the removal of government funding for gender studies programs. The primary methodology was simply approaching researchers with contrary research and seeking their views and opinions.

This is also not an American style documentary where things are taken out of context or efforts made to entrap researchers or anything like that. It's just regular interviews on both sides of the argument alongside giving each side the opportunity to express themselves as well as their views on research that tends to run contrary to their own personal views. But all in all this ultimately serves to greatly emphasize how tenuous the appeals to a social construct are when contrasted against the other option.

It goes without saying, but all episodes are of course also subtitled in English.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hjernevask

The artifacts of the social construct are all around us, starting with most Western religious texts, so... people's confidence that everything is biological and that everyone who spent millennia on indoctrination was just wasting their time surprises me. Redirecting people's biological urges is exactly what society has tried to do for ages. At this point it's gotten pretty good at it. So why do we assume that the things people are directed at in gendered ways is anything close to indicators of gendered natural ability, affinity, or talent when it comes to the brain?

>So why do we assume that the things people are directed at in gendered ways

Because we're well past assumptions and have significant amounts of hard evidence that point towards relevant structural differences in the brain along gendered lines and behavioral differences that manifest at the earliest ages.

That huge, complex social construct is called advertising and it is something HN users should know about seeing how most of their jobs is serving as much of it to as many Internet users as possible. You wouldn't think HN users would get into a job that involves shaping the minds of literal millions of people without being aware of the consequences that would entail, would you?

It's from the huge and complex social construct. I think this has been fairly well documented throughout the evolution of video games, specifically when you start looking at the golden era of arcades and games like Pac-Man (whose demographics consisted mostly of women).

With the home console revival and growth of PCs, games were marketed primarily towards young men as the default demographic. There's also the fact that what's considered for men vs women can vary drastically depending on whether we're talking about the US, Korea, Japan etc.

My (female) SO is a huge fan of the Sims, which must be as close to social media as you can get in video games. So there's some stuff out there for girls.

More importantly IMHO, they were designed with male protagonists, and few-if-any playable female characters.

> few-if-any playable female characters * Joanna Dark (Perfect Dark) * Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) * Sarah Kerrigan (Starcraft) * Sonya (Command & Conquer) * Samas Aran (Metroid) * Sonya Blade (Mortal Kombat) * Chung-li (Street Fighter) * Jill (of the Jungle)

Those are ones I can name without Googling from games before 2000. If you think there haven't been female playable characters in video games, you weren't paying attention.

You're proving my point. There is a list - longer than this one of course, but a very finite list - of examples. You wouldn't think of listing the playable _male_ characters in games, because those would be, well, almost all characters in all games.

> Sonya (Command & Conquer)

You mean Tanya? Cha-ching!

There is no shortage of video games both enjoyed by boys and girls. One popular "game" among younger children is "Roblox". It appeals to both girls and boys. My son tends to enjoy the more high paced action type games and my daughters enjoy the ones focused on running a store, dress up etc. They all enjoy playing games but my son can play for a much longer period of time. My daughters seem to get bored quicker and switch over to Netflix or similar.

> it appeals to both girls and boys

It still seems to be mostly marketed at boys. Looking at the itunes store page, first item is a video with running, shooting, fighting, racing cars and burning armors. Second photo a mosaic, third fighting armors, fourth a robotic cowboy, fifth ninja like armors. https://apps.apple.com/jp/app/roblox/id431946152

Both genders might enjoy, but wouldn’t there be more content and more optimization towards boys play style ?

this is self selection bias in action, you liked those games and you sought these genre. there were far more adventures and puzzles than shoters and strategy game, even without accounting the nineties pet simulation craze and all the activities games like mini golf, tabletops conversions etc.

ovaries are indeed well known to contract when in close proximity to heavy machinery

Here's one of the studies quoted, centring on adolescents' propensity towards getting addicted to online games: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6234325/?mod=ar....

These studies don’t claim to say anything deeper about either gender's innate predisposition towards certain behaviours, only that the populations they studied behave in particular ways.

The data should be used to focus efforts in things like, for example, preventing online gaming addiction or preventing feelings of inadequacy from using social media, but I think it's folly to extrapolate the findings to make any larger scale statements on society at large.

Viewing the initial question from a perspective of social status the answers the article makes have pretty simple answers. Males competing between other males in video games and win gains a perceived gain in social status, so when they put down the game and face others around them there is a natural clash as the social status gain is seen nor recognized by the social environment outside the game. Aggression is common in most societies as the cultural accepted method to defend social status, so from outside it look like video games make males aggressive.

Females compete for social status more on social media, and thus social gains and losses occur on their mobile phone. As a result it look like social media cause females to become aggressive (with the cultural methods of aggressiveness that is appropriate in a given society).

With this perspective we get the exact behavior that the article highlight with no difference in brains. Same brain pathways, same biological reaction, just two different social status competitions (females vs females, males vs males) and two different cultural accepted behaviors when it comes to defending social status.

Where do you think those differences in social status competitions originate from if not from brain differences?

If we take a look at the animal kingdom, females compete for social status over other females in order to get the best males, and males compete for social status over other males in order to get the best females. Both does this in order to get the best offspring as part of evolution and natural selection. You get differences when there is a difference in investment during the reproduction, like egg and sperm.

Looking at humans it obvious also that there is a strong cultural aspect to it. In one culture the apex male attribute to reach the top of the social status ladder would be to go into the jungle and kill a lion with nothing but a spear. In an other it is to have the title of CEO and have a high number listed in a bank account. Both is about a social status hierarchy, but with very different method for competition.

Going back to the article, a man gains social status if he display superiority over other males in a video game. Why? Video games represent physical games which represent competition of strength and skills. We can imagine a culture where that would not gain any social status and then any association with aggressiveness would go away. No brain surgery required.

>In one culture the apex male attribute to reach the top of the social status ladder would be to go into the jungle and kill a lion with nothing but a spear. In an other it is to have the title of CEO and have a high number listed in a bank account.

These are very similar from a behavioral perspective because they both involve aggression and risk-seeking.

No. Inheritance plays a larger role in becoming a successful CEO/"professional" than it would in hunting a lion. The biggest lie Americans tell themselves is that the wealthy got wealthy by "taking risks" and that they deserve their wealth.

What takes more risk: having large amounts of capital accumulate wealth over time due or switching between multiple jobs, working longer hours, and being more stressed as you try to keep your family alive?

The second might be more stressful, but the first is more risky - you risk capital to make money, but getting paid is a direct exchange of hours for dollars.

Indeed, and from what I know the same is true for those at the top on social media platforms. I would think any hierarchy with mobility in it has aggression, risk-seeking and manipulation as key traits in those reaching and staying at the top.

Cultural acceptance / expectations account for a lot of behaviors. I played soccer & baseball as a boy because that was what was expected of me, not because I have some natural inclination to do so.

Did you? You telling me you got no innate enjoyment out of those activities? No rush or thrill when you scored a goal or caught a pop fly?

I mean, like, I was happy that I did well and all, but I don't think I was intrinsically excited about that kind of thing as a child.

Given your tone, it sounds like you sincerely believe that I am more likely to have positive feelings about doing well in a game than a girl is for reasons that are not cultural / social.

That's the premise of the article but not the premise of what I'm saying. I think that enjoyment in sports and games in general is an innate part of human psychology. I suspect there are differences on average across a population in what types of games or sports they prefer and that may be more cultural. But the general pattern is there isn't a civilization existing or past that hasn't had some sort of sporting or gaming events, and "play" is also found in many other species.

You would have to score a goal or catch a pop fly in order to experience those things.

My attempts at team sports when young were full of experiences of being insufficent and bullying or ostracism by the more athletic team members. So I didn't ask to go back and didn't join them later on for school teams, and had minimal interest in even observing them. Learning the rulesets was fine, I can follow an american football game, but I can't bring myself to actually care about teams or players or the league itself.

A bit tangential to that comment, there is a fascinating biological aspect to watching and caring about sport.

When people gain social status they produce more hormones which regulates how much effort is spent on defending social status. When a person win in a competition like sport their hormone rises. The interesting part is that for sport fans, their bodies also react just as they have gain status. The body mimic what it perceive as an extension of itself.

This explain a finding that in sport riots it is usually the winning side that "starts" the fight, through a more fair description is that the winning side reacts more extremely when they perceive to be challenged.

Well that seems to follow from dominance hierarchies and we tend to gravitate towards activities we excel in or have a good chance of excelling in, because we get innate enjoyment from being better than average at various things. And that is deeply wired in our psychological system.

So sure, if you're not skilled or naturally gifted in sports, there are other paths for you to achieve excellence. And that's perfectly fine.

Truth is, the vast majority of the people bullying you eventually dropped out of sports as they tried to climb the hierarchy themselves, whether in high school, college, or later. Society can only have so many pro sports players and so it goes. At least you got a head start on finding yourself and alignment with your interests and better talents.

I joined the school hockey team just because all of my friends were there. I didn't really care about the competition, just wanted to hang out with people and run around a bit.

In a way I used the sports team as a kind of social media.

I would submit that the brain differences are actually a byproduct of a larger dynamic.

Historically, pregnant women and women with small children faced much more difficulty capturing and maintaining adequate resources on their own. Predation, lower upper-body strength, releasing a scent for one week per month, not to mention the metabolic and time constraints created by nursing and mothering small children in general, all created huge, difficult barriers to survival for women.

Historically, men were able to gather more resources from the environment than they needed (primarily through hunting, but later through farming), so they could share their resources with the women and children. However, men didn't want to share their resources with the genetic offspring of other men, so they wanted monogamy in return for support.

At a high level, men gathered resources from their environment, and shared them in exchange for monogamy and adequate care for their offspring, and women, historically, gathered resources from relationships (with both men, for food, shelter, and protection, and from women for child care and protection).

This is the main cause for differentiation between men and women. Because of this division of capabilities, the brains of men and women began to differentiate and evolve because they faced different challenges in their environment.

Men needed to be able to hunt, to work, to go without food for longer periods of time, and to work as a group to hunt large game. Testosterone helps all of those activities. Those who were more successful at these activities had more progeny that survived.

Women needed to be able to successfully raise children, gather local food, process furs, and cook food.

Men would all go hunting together in groups to reduce/eliminate opportunities for philandering, and women would stay in groups to protect each other and to help care for each other's young.

This all got flipped around and mixed up by the industrial revolution, the world wars, antibiotics, vaccines, and birth control. IMO, this is the battleground of the current culture war, because for most of human history, resources were scarce and infant mortality was high. These arrangements have been in place for hundreds of thousands of years.

The recent change in access (and abundance) to resources I listed above (among many others) has fundamentally changed access to resources. As an illustration, the most pressing problem facing the poor class in America is obesity. This is unprecedented, and no one has a good guide for how to move forward.

> Historically, pregnant women and women with small children

These characteristics would have predated humans. Maybe pull the terminology back to male and female hominids in the future?

The crux of the argument is still there, and the point is still clear. This just feels a bit nitpicky to me.

The original (more clicky baity) said "brain differences", which really isn't born out by the article. It seems highly likely that these preferences are socially constructed. I have two kids under the age of 10, and both play video games with the same fervor & intensity. Neither are allowed on social media yet. (yes, that's a sample size of 1, so it's hardly authoritative, just a case-in-point)

Also, at least some of the preference males have for videogames over females is that a majority are designed & marketed with a male audience in mind.

"It seems highly likely that these preferences are socially constructed."

People love to think this way, but study after study suggests that those preferences are at least partly biological. It's one of those cases where there is a disconnect between the scientific understanding and the beliefs of the general public (including policymakers).

See for example this research work: https://www.math.kth.se/matstat/gru/5b1501/F/sex.pdf:

"Results showed that the male infants showed a stronger interest in the physical-mechanical mobile while the female infants showed a stronger interest in the face. The results of this research clearly demonstrate that sex differences are in part biological in origin."

> two kids under the age of 10

I think puberty might have more of a splitting effect on the human mind than anyone is saying.

Also, food for thought, humanity as a whole is probably still way too primitive to have a greater nurture than nature ratio. If you look back, primitive people appear to be more nature than people now. Looking forwards, it's probably going to continue. Therefor, we must be somewhere in between, and I get the feeling we're still pretty green.

What do you think would be the origin of those particular social influences?

I can vaguely justify it for games - early programmers were men (for reasons) and they made games so early gamers were also men... if game companies picked up on that, the advertising could propagate that initial imbalance until present day.

What about social media? It only became popular in the past few years, seemingly out of nowhere... Maybe it was just filling a void (boys were playing games, girls had nothing to do so they spent time on social media) but this seems a bit forced argument...

And perhaps will change dramatically when puberty hits.

>"brain differences", which really isn't born out by the article. It seems highly likely that these preferences are socially constructed.

What we do and experience in our life shapes our brain. So anything that says "brain differences" without further detail is at best pop neurology.

For the downvoters, here's more on the topic: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/london-taxi-memor...


I'm female and I like playing city building games and puzzle games, like Tetris or match three games. My sons have introduced me to games like Master of Magic by saying "It's like your favorite: SimCity" and then helping me relate to it as a civilization building game, downplaying the fighty aspects.

Longer version of that anecdote here:


I think my point is that gendered expectations can be overcome to some degree, especially if you have allies who aren't invested in keeping you stuck in a particular role. Generally speaking, men who were romantically interested in me have failed to be that kind of ally.

Not how I wanted it, mind you.

You sort of have to be willfully ignorant to avoid acknowledging the things vs people dichotomy.

I know the mods hate when we complain about paywalls. But I fking hate paywalls.

A super uneducated guess here would be that boys choose more to participate in skills-based competition and girls gravitate more towards relationship-based communal activities?

aka things vs people?

What a weird study. I mean gaming is very social, a huge presence in many blocs of social medias

FWIW when I posted it 40 minutes ago I linked to an unpaywalled full-length version on http://archive.is/. Gotta be fast, I guess.

It's not ok to post a copy of an article from a completely unrelated domain; it's important that the site name that shows up next to the title be the original source.

If you have a link to another source, it's ok to post that in the comments.

Any version of this sans paywall?

Aren't the majority of gamers female anyway? [0]

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/52-per...

Could you please not post in the flamewar style to HN?

Also, going on about getting downvoted breaks the site guidelines. If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting here, we'd be grateful.

Alright I'll remove the snark. The question still stands though

This article should not be flagged: it's a good-faith article written by journalist that cites its sources (which include a number of peer-reviewed studies). It is careful to use conditional language in the title ("Might explain"). Even if you don't like the conclusion, if you are an honest person who truly believes that science can help us understand the nature of humanity and use it to explain our current situation, you should not flag the article.

It was posted on here 6 minutes ago and has already been flagged.

Make sure to vouch for it to cancel out the mass-flagging.

How do I do that?

Under the title, there should be a link that says "vouch".

I don't see such an option. I turned on "showdead", but that seems to be for "dead" posts, not "flagged" ones.

Well, either way, hopefully the mods will come by and recognize the legimitimacy of the post.

You likely need to have sufficient karma to vouch for an article. I don't know what that level might be, as I don't see that option either. Though dekhn's karma is higher that yours.

Eh...tedious...gotta login now.

But yeah, thanks for reminding.

The author should go to India and see the space program. Might offer a different perspective. I myself coming from an Asian country have seen many girl study engineering. It is considered a carier path and nothing more. There is no stigma attached.

In poorer countries there tend to be more female engineers because engineering is a good career for anyone (including women), and in poorer countries, having a good career is proportionally more important. The prevalence of female engineers in India is frequently used as support for the natural preference theory.

To add to this, in countries with low equality and weak social safety nets, having a lucrative career is far more important for survival. It's western countries where women are more free to choose a career based on interest.

This cannot be a correct assumption. In western countries also most Enginnering jobs pay well above what other female-dominated (medical care) jobs offer. Then why don't select these well-paying jobs over ones that don't pay as much?

Because their survival is not dependent on their career choice. Tech may pay more, but being a nurse is still perfectly fine. There are also more women entering the MD profession than men, and that pays better than tech, so there's even more room for people to move between fields based on a "natural" preference (if such a thing exists).

Is there a way to design the flag mechanism so that quality articles do not die even though they are polarizing?

In theory, the mods can whitelist those articles manually after seeing them repeatedly flagged and vouched for.

However, we know that the mods have already seen this article since the link was changed from the archive to the paywall URL. In addition, I believe they've said in the past that they want to discourage particularly controversial stories. And biology studies like this are unfortunately controversial to the general public these days.

We haven't said that in the past or in the present. Plenty of controversial stories appear on HN, as anyone who reads the site regularly would know. The issue is whether there is enough that is intellectually interesting and new in an article to support a substantive, unpredictable discussion. That's a simple consequence of intellectual curiosity being the core value of HN.


I agree with your assessment; I believe the site admins are intentionally not unflagging this article to avoid controversy. It would be nice if they could come out and say that directly.

Not true. I only just saw this and have turned off the flags. The main problem from my perspective is that the thread has filled up with completely off topic comments about flagging and a lot of inaccurate meta stuff.

> biology studies like this are unfortunately controversial to the general public these days.

...but this site is not catering to the general public but to self-proclaimed hackers, a species which used to pride itself on intellectual curiosity. I should know, being one of them and being as curious as I manage to find the time for. Knee-jerk flagging is definitely not something which goes together with this definition. This flagging response is akin to a politicised version of the 'Window$IsB0ll0cks/Leenucks-suckz' type of discourse found among juvenile 'script kiddies'.

Just because there's the word hacker here doesn't mean this is a hacker space for hackers now, and nor that it will ever trend in that direction...

Some people just want an emotionally calm place to discuss ongoing industry trends they have to keep up with, a superior Reddit with more serious chat. Which group will come to define the character of this place?

> Some people just want an emotionally calm place

In an emotionally calm place nothing of substance can be discussed as emotions tend to rise and fall with the importance of the subject matter. Whether it is vi vs Emacs (which is totally subjective), Linux vs Windows (which is a bit of everything), Free Software vs Open Source (which leans towards politics), Bare metal vs virtualisation (which is purely technical) or a discussion on the differences between men and women (which is biology), some hackles will be raised somewhere.

And yes, this being _Hacker news_ I do feel (which is an emotion) this place _should_ allow open and honest discussion of subjects like these. The mere fact that someone disagrees with you does not make that opinion any less valid or valuable. Where there is a diversity of opinions there _will_ be disagreement, and that is actually a good thing as there is not much less conducing to intellectual discourse than an echo chamber where everybody either agrees or keeps quiet.

Why is this flagged+dead?

Because people who say they believe in science have a really hard time accepting the cognitive dissonance that arises when science contradicts their beliefs. Windows shutdown sound plays and they flag it.

> Because people who say they believe in science have a really hard time accepting the cognitive dissonance that arises when science contradicts their beliefs

Exactly this. And it's fascinating and educational to observe. I wouldn't recommend to intervene though, just make an observation and move on.

Oh right, I forgot flagging is done by the community.

Addendum: I can kinda understand it though. While research like this might be correct and is definitely important, it can make it sound like "all men" or "all women" think this way, to some extent, making those who are different feel invalid. (Maybe a bit of a personal topic but I'm currently thinking a lot about my gender and identity and stuff like this is kinda making me scared.)

Additionally, to some this might make it seem like it's not worth welcoming diversity in tech. (Which is also not true IMO.)

> not worth welcoming diversity in tech.

It doesn’t even suggest that. It just suggests that, no matter how many initiatives you put into place, you’re never going to be able to achieve demographic “purity”.

I know. I'm saying it may sound like that to some people causing a knee jerk reaction of denial.

If something is true, but unwelcoming, should it be suppressed (I've heard multiple opinions on this; being a fan of free speech, I believe even unwelcoming and uncomfortable facts need to be heard)?

No, of course not. I'm not saying it's a good reaction but I can understand why some people might react like that to this topic.

Personally, I flag articles which provoke garbage conversations. It might be a great article, but if HN isn't mature enough to comment productively, it doesn't belong on HN.

I didn't flag this one, because the comments haven't derailed yet.

Wouldn't it be better to flag the people that make the discussion garbage, instead of the article? You can flag comments too

Garbage conversations often result when each side is saying reasonable things in isolation but are just talking at each other rather than actually conversing.

Let's see how long this stays online

Looks like it's already dead on HN.

Just landed on the front page

And deleted just as fast.


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