After public blowback over a CNN article about a study suggesting that women vote according to their menstrual cycle, one of the study's authors, and the journal itself, are standing behind the research--if not the actual CNN story that prompted the backlash in the first place. (That story has since been pulled, but you can still read it here.)
The thrust of the forthcoming study is that single women who are ovulating are supposedly more likely to vote for Barack Obama, while women who are married or in committed relationships are more likely to vote for Mitt Romney. That's by a pretty wide margin, too, the study suggests: as much as 26 percent. (The full study, "The Fluctuating Female Vote: Politcs, Religion, and the Ovulatory Cycle," is available here under "Selected Works.")
Such dramatic findings have raised questions about the validity of the study; some even wonder whether it should've been conducted at all. But perhaps the most controversial aspect are the conclusions the authors drew: "We believe that the key difference between these two groups is that the married/engaged women have more invested in their relationship, and therefore have considerably more to lose if their current relationship were endangered," they wrote. As the lead author, Kristina Durante, was quoted as saying in the CNN article: married/ engaged women are "overcompensating" for those feelings, then going ever-more-certainly for the safe, conservative candidate that represents traditional values. In short: Not only is ovulation causing changes in voting, but it's because of women's husbands. Double whammy controversy. It's the same for single women voting liberal: They're more open during their ovulation cycle, the authors argue, and not concerned about spousal feelings.
Durante, a University of Texas at San Antonio professor, didn't respond to request for comment, but one of the co-authors of the study did: Vladas Griskevicius, a professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Minnesota. He stands by the study, but doesn't feel the same about the CNN article.
CNN gives the most real estate to talking about the study, but is careful to distance itself (multiple times) from the study's conclusions. You might not have gotten that it if you didn't read past the headline: "Do hormones drive women's votes?" After that, it's mostly detailing the study and quoting multiple researchers who carefully plugged holes into the conclusions. The main conclusion to the answer in the headline seems to be: "Probably not, but one study says yes." The CNN author, Elizabeth Landau, later tweeted about the outcry.
— Elizabeth Landau (@lizlandau) October 24, 2012
For the record, I was reporting on a study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal & included skepticism. I did not conduct the study.
— Elizabeth Landau (@lizlandau) October 24, 2012
"It was taken into a media spin of the study," Griskevicius says. In the context of the article, he says, it looked like the study suggested, "whereas women vote with their hormones, men will vote with their brains." And that certainly was one of the concerns raised: Paul Kellstedt, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University, was quoted in the CNN article as saying, "The reader [of the study] may be left with the impression that women are unstable and moody in ways that extend to their political preferences, but that men are comparative Rocks of Gibraltar."
Griskevicius says there's plenty of literature to suggest men make behavioral decisions based on changes in hormones--testosterone, specifically--but that it wasn't what the study was about, and so it wasn't included. What it was about, he says, was answering a question: Do ovulation cycles have an effect on how women vote? The researchers found that the response was yes, he says, and so they can't be (or shouldn't be) held liable for the public outrage that results. It's "being published in a top peer-reviewed scientific journal," he says, and went through the normal vetting process for studies like it, so why the anger? "There's almost no way to stop it from being spun into the 'war against women' story," he says.
They could've, of course, included that existing body of research. As for skepticism about how much the cycle could actually influence voting, Griskevicius insists the study--which will be published in the next six to eight months--is sound. The researchers were surprised by the numbers the first time, too, then ran a second study to test them out and got the same results. Which doesn't really prove anything: That might make the findings less of an anomaly, but it wouldn't correct for potential problems with the study's methodology. Susan Carroll, a professor of political science and women's and gender studies at Rutgers University, is quoted in the CNN article--with some of the most vocal concerns about the study--and expanded in an email about the study's use of MTurk.
Eric Eich, the incoming editor of Psychological Science, directed questions to a spokesperson for a comment, who gave an official statement from the Association for Psychological Science, which publishes Psychological Science: "Whose comments about the research are hers alone"? Uh-oh. That doesn't sound particularly good for Durante, even if the journal does stand behind the facts in the study. A word on peer review: It's the best process we have for making sure only the most scientifically valid studies make it into publication, but they're emphatically not a full endorsement from the scientific community. There are plenty of other studies that make it through review--into other top journals, too--and still end up getting plenty of flak after publication (or, in this case, before it). In that sense, CNN probably doesn't deserve the heat it's getting, or the journal at least deserves to be getting more. CNN, for the record, didn't respond to requests for comment about why, exactly, the article got pulled. All we know on that end is what's pasted where the story used to be:
Eric Eich, the incoming editor of Psychological Science, directed questions to a spokesperson for a comment, who gave an official statement from the Association for Psychological Science, which publishes Psychological Science:
"Whose comments about the research are hers alone"? Uh-oh. That doesn't sound particularly good for Durante, even if the journal does stand behind the facts in the study.
A word on peer review: It's the best process we have for making sure only the most scientifically valid studies make it into publication, but they're emphatically not a full endorsement from the scientific community. There are plenty of other studies that make it through review--into other top journals, too--and still end up getting plenty of flak after publication (or, in this case, before it). In that sense, CNN probably doesn't deserve the heat it's getting, or the journal at least deserves to be getting more.
CNN, for the record, didn't respond to requests for comment about why, exactly, the article got pulled. All we know on that end is what's pasted where the story used to be:
Ok now... that article was pretty poor. Statistical significance is questionable, as is the explanations behind the disparity. Likely not causal.
But "Several political scientists saying these conclusions aren't valid." ? SERIOUSLY? Since when did Political "Scientists" gain the ability to discern the validity of tested hypotheses?
They're mixtures of economics and psychology majors who don't understand either. They fit under Social "studies" at best.
I find it interesting they couldn't find any real scientists to run this by. All the P.S. majors can tell you is the article is politically incorrect. Not whether its true. Their denouement of it makes me more inclined to believe the findings.
Why do you get to decide? And all of your comments are subjective. I happen to agree with the research, the logic and the rational thinking.
As I'm sure you might agree, most research into the humanities is often subjective depending upon the factors, the evidence and interpretation. And even in the "more exact" sciences of mathematics and the bio-sciences, studies are often proven wrong because of tainted experiments.
So it boils down to opinions and empirical evidence; we all have ours. Ask any man who's been married if he doesn't believe this study and you will find that in a high percentage of cases, he will.
In my view the article has been a long time coming and is most excellent!
Steve, you misunderstand me. That is precisely my point. This is a hard article to judge, and apart from the statistics, I'm not overly experienced in brain chemistry involved(just a few classes and an internship a few years ago).
And yet I'd be a better person to ask than a "political scientist." who say its "not valid".
brian144, cool you pulled one of the authors out to troll personally. Nice job, sir. (And I agree with what you said in your first post)
So why was this study reported on CNN if it wasn't published yet? Who pushed it? The authors, for some pre-release publicity, or CNN's editors, for their own reasons? It's an interesting study, but CNN's timing is not optimal; just a couple weeks before a national election.
And can we please bury the phony "war on women" conjured up by a desperate Democrat party? I guess if you're out of new ideas you roll out the straw men; pretend that your opponents are doing and saying nasty things to subjugate women, even though they aren't and can't because, well, it's against the law.
It is great to make decisions or vote for logical practical reasons, but the fact is both male and female have an emotional side that is important in making decisions. Sometimes in making a choice might not seem the logical thing to do, but it is the moral or emotional right thing to do. I can see it possible that woman might be influence by their hormones and I think this is great. We made are not isolated from our own hormones either. All these various perspectives are a good thing and offer a wider and better balance voting power to life choices. I like it!
I respect us humans for all our complexities, hormones and logic and all. This is a good thing!
"...We men are not isolated from our own hormones..."
Our emotional state (regardless of gender) definitely influences how we react in a sudden crisis. But voting in a national election is certainly not such an impulsive response.
We receive information, often over months and years and develop a reason what to vote for. Even if we can not always verbalize our preference. What is interesting is, if women constitute the majority of the voters, why do we have so few women in high political office?
Nothing can be worse than CNN! oh wait... never mind, forgot about Fox News.
Woman's hormones affect everything they do, especially during their monthly. So yes, everything a Woman does is affected by their hormones.
I think we should note that "peer review" is little more than scientific proofreading and is no way a validation of a studies findings.
All major scientific frauds and errors of the past century have pass peer review at some point. The primary purpose of peer review is to make sure that journal's editors don't get embarrassed by publishing obvious errors. It's primarily about protecting the reputation and bottom line of a journal than anything else.
The only real test of a study's findings is replication by independent researchers. I would be willing to bet that this study will pass this test. It is wholly uncontroversial within the biological sciences that hormones have great affect on human behavior both male and female. It is simply more noticeable in women because women's hormones fluctuate more quickly and often in a cyclic pattern driven by the body itself. Men's hormones by contrast fluctuate very slowly and more as responses to changes in environment e.g. getting a promotion. The influence of hormones on men is written off a just part of their character whereas it's obvious what is happening with women.
Even so, it's been shown than changes in testosterone levels even over the course of a day or following hormone supplementation changes masculine decision making.
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The "conclusions" drawn from such a study ignore some statistical facts. Women currently account for roughly 50% of the US voting population. But women accounted for far more than 50% of votes cast for Obama in 2008.
It's a biological fact that a woman's menstrual cycle lasts less than one week, or less than 25% of the days in each month. Plus, there is a significant percentage of older women voters who are post-menopausal, and thus not subject to these "hormonal influences". Thus, one can conclude that these hormonal influences would only affect the voting decisions of about 10-15 percent of women voters on election day.
My menstrual cycle reminds me I can get pregnant. Romney and Obama have vastly different ideas about the freedoms and rights of pregnant women. They have vastly different ideas about health coverage for pregnancies. I would be rational to vote for Obama in light of my potential to need a) health care for my pregnancy b) an abortion. Other times, well, I might vote for Romney since he'll lower taxes on the richest Americans.
Did I mention that lesbians are more likely to be "single"? Are lesbians rational to vote for Romney, who is not in support of gay marriage?