So even if you only read USA Today you may have heard about yet another variation of the how-often-men-think-of-sleep study. Where (naturally, it's always strongly implied) almost all men think about sex more often than almost all women do. Lassoing popular press accounts and bringing them back to earth, Emily Nagoski passes along the following five points.
My favorite part is on page two of the Psychology Today article, where Brian talks about problems in the media’s coverage of the study, which parallels my thinking on mainstream journalism reporting science:
1. Writers were either confused or deliberately choosing the more extreme, less representative central tendency (the mean rather than the median) to report.
2. Writers emphasized the central tendency, to the exclusion of standard deviation, when one of the most compelling results of the study was the wide variability among subjects.
3. Writers also emphasized the sex part, paying inadequate attention to the fact that thoughts about sleep and food were as frequent as thoughts about sex.
4. Writers emphasized population-level differences between men and women, neglecting to clarify that there was lots of overlap so that, even though the men on average reported more thoughts about sex (and food and sleep), many of the individual women had more thoughts about sex (and food and sleep) than many of the individual men.
5. Writers generalized the results to All People, rather than recognizing the delimitations of the population studied: college students, who are likely to be WEIRD.
What can we really conclude about frequency of thoughts about sex? We think about sex about as often as we think about food and sex, and we vary a great deal from each other in all three topics.
Source: Emily Nagoski :: sex nerd ::
Perfect. Nagoski says the actual paper's legit (within its constraints) and I'm inclined to agree.
Other than that I've got one question and one observation. First of all, why do I remember reading about an almost identical study a year or so ago (same basic shape: men think about sex more, but also think more about food and sleep.) Is this one a new study or is the old one just making the rounds again?
Second, I'm not sure who mentioned it last week, but someone referring to this same study pointed out that men don't actually think about sex every seven minutes. As I said I can't find the original source but I got that similar link via Em & Lo.
Anyway, bottom line. The study shows that men tend to think about bodily functions more often than women do; there's considerable overlap not only within sexes but between them. As always, good to know.