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Old April 23 2012, 03:24 AM   #64
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Re: Heads up! MYTHBUSTERS season premiere tonight at 9 Eastern!

Men vs. women: I'm not sure they were doing enough to debunk the myth of gender difference here, because there were a number of underlying myths they fell prey to themselves, like failing to distinguish between intrinsic and culturally influenced differences and talking about differences between the averages of male and female performance as if they were differences between all men and all women.

It particularly puzzles me that they treated the difference in the driving ability test (about 7 points out of 78) as significant enough to say the men came out ahead, but treated the difference in the grilling ability test (about 4 points out of 40-something) to be close enough to declare it a tie. Those are both about the same degree of variation, the women's score about 90 percent or more of the men's score, so if it's a tie in one case, it should be a tie in both cases.

I guess what's interesting about the grilling test is that it seemed there'd be a culturally learned advantage for the men, but the results were actually too close to call. On the whole, all the results were either too close to call or a very narrow margin of "victory." I wish they'd shown the total statistics sets for the tests instead of just giving us the averages, but they showed us enough of the individual variations within the men and within the women that I think we can safely say that the alleged differences between the sexes are totally swamped by the variations within either sex.

Specific comments:

On the driving test, I wonder how much the heavy suits and goggles and gloves and such impaired performance. Probably the impairment was equal for both sexes and cancelled out, but it would've been nice if they'd done a control test -- drivers of both sexes with the concealment gear and without it -- to confirm that.

I wonder if the website will let us take the emotion-reading test ourselves. I'd like to try that. I got the first couple right away, even though they said the men tended to need more time to decide. (Although when I saw Kari's "angry" eyes, my initial reaction was to read it as a seductive, come-hither look. Wishful thinking, I guess.)

I wonder if Jamie was really sincere about having no emotional expression. I suspect that he and the other hosts have a tendency to play up the personas the fans expect of them, so that as Mythbusters they're kind of caricatures of who they are in real life. Then again, have we ever seen Jamie really show emotion before? We've seen him get irritated at Adam, but without much change in expression or tone.

It figures that the test subjects would find map reading harder in this day and age when most people just use GPS. I wonder if that cliche has become too irrelevant to be worth testing, although I suppose there's value in testing myths from the past (some of their best myths have been the historical inventions and such). Anyway, they did have a couple of rather nice-looking female test subjects for this one. Maybe the editors chose to focus more on them than on others.

In the car-packing test, I wonder how clear Adam made it to the test subjects that the doll in the child seat should be treated as if it were a live baby rather than an inanimate object. Not that it had any effect on the results, but I'd like to know to what extent that demonstrated a problem with following/comprehending instructions, as opposed to Adam just failing to spell it out clearly.

On the whole, it was nice to see a topic that involved the two teams of Mythbusters working together, mixing and matching. We see that too rarely these days; usually it's more like there are two completely independent Mythbusters shows, one starring Adam and Jamie and one starring Kari, Grant, and Tory, that are being intercut. I'm not crazy about their approach to these tests, but I wouldn't mind seeing more battle-of-the-sexes episodes if it means more full-cast teamups like this.
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage
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