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May, Could and the 'Male Warrior Effect'

The conclusions from way too many research studies, especially studies of gender, are so far removed from the results that you might start to wonder what substances these people have been ingesting. The latest example comes from the University of Kent in England. Researchers gave college students small sums of money which the students could either keep or invest in a common fund that would be doubled and equally divided. When the groups were told they were competing against other universities, the males were more eager to invest while the number of women investing remained the same.

So what did the researchers conclude from this? Well author Mark van Vugt said that this finding "could explain why war is almost exclusively a male business." Huh—what did I miss here? Well whatever I missed CNN didn't; they picked up the story, put it in the (big sigh on my part) science section and titled it Researchers identify 'male warrior effect'

And then the other night, I heard on the national news that "girls' 11 point average advantage over boys on the new SAT writing test may be because girls' brains are hard wired that way." Yes it may be an explanation and then again it may not be.

FairerScience readers could do well to watch out for conclusions using the words "may" or "could". They "may" be correct or they "could" be wrong. Who knows? Not the researchers and certainly not the reader.