Mythbusters 5/29 (battle of sexes part 2)

I was really disappointed in last night’s Mythbusters. It had 4 segments, comparing men and women in 4 cliched areas:
-Asking for directions
-Parallel Parking
-Multitasking
-Throws like a girl

I’ll take them one by one:
-Asking for directions: This was the most interesting and least objectionable one, and in fact I thought it was generally pretty well set up. My only real issue with it was that it did seem like the first guy who didn’t ask for directions was at least somewhat influenced by thinking that he was already being tested in some way, so maybe had he just been out for a drive under normal circumstances he would have been more willing to stop. But that’s a minor issue, and it was certainly an interesting result (9/10 men and 9/10 women asked for directions, the men on average actually asking sooner)

-Parallel parking: Not terrible, and I actually would have thought that the cliche would have been that women were worse parkers. Again, my only minor complaint being one of observational interference. Did the fact that the people knew they were being judged cause them to park differently than they otherwise would have? In particluar, were the men rushing and trying to show off for the camera? They could easily have done this one much like the previous one… give people directions to go to a certain address, where there’s deliberately only one parking space anywhere nearby, and record them parking secretly. Result: nearly a tie on average, with the women having a much higher variance of scores (ie, men were all adequate, women were either very good or very bad).

-Throws like a girl: kind of interesting, except that there was a comically inadequate sample size, particularly ironic given that they specifically mentioned the importance of sample size for some of the other experiments. I would also like to have seen something trying to correct for experience… ie, try to get boys and girls of the same age who have been playing team sports for equivalent numbers of years, etc. Also, when the showed the female softball pitcher and claimed that her form was just like the male baseball pitcher, it patently wasn’t, not at all surprising given that softball pitching is underhand. There are (not many, but some) serious female baseball players, they could have found one of those. So some interesting stuff to watch, but in no way demonstrating anything at all.

-Multitasking: This one pissed me off by far the most, because they chose tasks which, at least in the past, have had heavy gender bias. They could have chosen a variety of tasks that no one had any experience with at all. Or, even better, if they’re really trying to test multitasking, had each person do the tasks in serial first with no distractions, and then while trying to multitask, and seen how efficiently they could multitask them. Furthermore, they first edited it to make it look like almost all the women were great at it and almost all the men were humorous Mr.-Mom-style clods, and then the final averages were pretty close (72 to 64?), and then they acted as if that was some huge and significant data point. All in all, badly thought out from beginning to end.
Granted, the relationship between Mythbusters and actual science is often purely symbolic, but I’ve rarely found it to be this lacking.

Well, back in the day, half of the guys worked at the local gas stations during HS & College. And, they told me that when a dude asked for direction, the guys thought it hilarious to send him off on a wild goose chase, but they’d never do that to a woman.

So, there is that reason why guys don’t like to ask for directions.

But yes, I agree, “Multitasking” had a heavy gender bias in some of the tasks chosen. Also the men were trying to show off as to how fast they could do it.

I agree it was a bit disappointing…so far this season has been a bit of a disappointment overall, as it seems like the show is running out of steam. Last year was the same. Sad, since I really like the show and the people who do it.

Agreed. Was thinking much the same at the time. Also, the women seemed flustered with Torry and Kari making comments to them while they were trying to park. Didn’t seem a very valid experiment, certainly not one you could draw any sort of meaningful conclusion.

Agree with you about the sample size, disagree with some of the rest. They did attempt to correct for experience by making them all throw left handed at the end, and the results were that they pretty much all threw roughly the same. The female pitcher was throwing overhand, and she had much the same form as the male, though he’s obviously a professional pitcher. Basically, it showed that it’s training that makes the form, something boys generally have more of as little boys are more encouraged to play sports like baseball than girls.

Yeah, this was the big disappointment and again I don’t see how they could draw any sort of meaningful conclusions from the results. All it really showed was the women were better at multitasking at traditional female stereotypes than males are, which wasn’t really very surprising. I think the point of this was to demonstrate that men and women think differently, and solve problems differently, which, again, is militantly unsurprising. That, and it was humorous to see the guys bumbling along while the women looked cool and in control I guess. :stuck_out_tongue:

Besides, multitasking is not a good thing. You may accomplish more things quicker, but you’re probably doing them all poorly. This is scientifically proven.

Yeah, I’m only watching because of inertia at this point, having watched since the beginning. So, when is the Breaking Bad episode? That’s the one I’m looking forward to.

I agree with a lot of your general complaints here, but I didn’t that this mattered here. The Mythbusters constantly acknowledge that they don’t get huge sample sizes for their experiments. It’s one of the constraints of their budget and production schedule. When I hear the phrase “throws like a girl” I don’t think of someone who throws poorly. I think of a particular throwing motion - and we’ve had plenty of threads about this - and they were able to break that down and make some observations about how men and women tend to throw. And I thought making everybody throw lefthanded at the end was brilliant.

I did find myself wondering about this, too (although they came back to address it). Given the differences between baseball and softball I’m not sure a relevant comparison could be made.

I thought it looked close until I did the math and saw it’s a 12.5-percent difference. That’s not that close. But I agree that the setup itself was bad.

Anyone else try to figure out where they were doing the “Ask Directions While Lost?” myth. I found it…

Search for Cordilleras Ave & Emerald Ave in San Carlos, CA

I thought it was kind of a “meh” episode when it came on, but I continued to watch it and wound up enjoying it. And any episode where they don’t resort to blowing up crap is a plus for me. Seriously, I was really getting tired of their dependence on explosions.

You’re right about the sample size. If they could only (or only had time for) find one person from each group, they should have just given up on that one. I honestly can’t understand why they did that. I’ve seen them do 30 or 40 samples and sit there and log the data.
Also, I would have liked to see them have the pro baseball pitcher throw left handed, just to see what would happen.
Also, and I know this is a bit sexist (that’s the wrong word, but it probably works), when they showed the females pitching and they talked about how they didn’t lean into the pitch and gave a bunch of possible reasons for it, in my head I kept thinking “It’s almost like they just don’t care, like they just want to come in, throw the ball and get out of there, I’ll be they wouldn’t put their purse down if someone didn’t tell them to”. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it just looked that way, like maybe if someone told them what the myth was or if they found some athletic girls (even if they had never thrown a baseball before) it would have been different, but as it was, it just looked like they were ‘throwing like girls’ because they weren’t trying to pitch like an MLB pitcher, they were just trying to hit the target. (But I suppose that’s the myth).

Right, there was again the question of motivation… maybe if you tell girls “hit the target” with cameras on them vs telling boys that they make different assumptions for some cultural reasons about what they should be aiming to maximize.

If they’re going to judge based on both speed and accuracy, and then compare them between individuals, why not say “OK, throw this one as accurately as possible” and then “OK, now throw this one as hard as possible”.

I mean, if boys are told “hit the target” and they assume that they are being judged on how hard they can throw, whereas girls don’t, that’s certainly something interesting about boys’ vs. girls’ motivations, but it doesn’t necessarily prove anything about throwing, per se.
And while the throwing left-handed was an interesting gimmick, I’d like some more evidence that it eliminates all advantage from training and conditioning. I mean, I’m not very good playing racquetball left handed, but I’m sure as heck better than I was before I started playing racquetball at all.

WRT parallel parking, something that bugged me with that was that they were supposed to be equidistant to the two cars they were parking between. I consider myself a good parallel parker, but I’ve never worked on honing those skills so I don’t think that’s fair.
Also, I noticed quite a few of the people seemed to think they did great after tapping the other cars and I’ve heard that in some places/cities it’s considered okay to lightly tap the cars in front of and behind you when parallel parking. If they were in an area where it’s not a big deal to do that and testing people that have been doing that all their lives it might be hard for them to not do it that way.

Of course, it should also be noted that some of the guys (especially the first one) bragged about how fast they could do it and then proceeded to do it as fast as they could even after being told they could take as long as needed.

Overall, I enjoyed the premise, and the fact they could do one without explosions. But I had similar observations about these set ups.

Basically the same opinion. The first guy made a poor assumption. But everyone else was given the same instructions, and I’m not sure how they could control for that. In the end. Even a 1/zip comparison would have essentially invalidated the claim that men don’t ask for directions. Certainly the time put the kabosh on it.

I wondered about it, too. Though I probably wouldn’t try to park in that narrow of a spot. But I’m not a city driver used to parallel parking. It’s not a frequent thing I have to do. Suburbs, baby! When I don have to parallel park, I would probably have more resets, and look for a larger space. I guess I’m weird, I don’t think nudging the neighboring cars is acceptable.

It was amusing that the men were fairly consistent okay parkers with a bit of nudging, whereas women varied more with high and low performances, averaging about the same.

I think speed parking might have influenced the men to be less careful on the nudges, but I don’t know.

This did bug me. I’m not sure what you expect to get on age level performance differences with one of each at each age group. Yeah, trying for no official training is important to make them even, but boys are sort of more expected to play catch with various forms of balls. Even if it is just playground activity.

That might have been useful for comparing how training effects outcome, whether there are inherent differences in style.

She was pitching overhand. Her style was similar to his, though perhaps with slightly less lean, but they did say that the essential difference was due to the guy being taller and leaner, thus having longer reach and motion. I think it did reveal that training removes differences. Her style certainly looked nothing like the littlest girl, who hurled the ball overhead without much lean at all.

And swapping to left hand did help. I would argue that if someone did have some training, they might realize the instructions on how to throw better even if they don’t have the physical coordination aspects. But since these were largely untrained, it makes sense they wouldn’t instinctively know how to mirror the process that helps them throw better on the other side.

Yes, the tasks chosen did seem gender biased. How many of those women go through essentially that list of activities a day, or have experience monitoring a child and doing other things, vs how many men? How many men iron their shirt in the morning, or bother to make the bed? How many men make their own lunch?

I imagine it depends on what you are multitasking. That study explicitly looked at people who multitask electronic media. That’s a bit different than multitasking a rote physical activity and a mental one.

Though I would concede it is likely multitaskers are doing both a bit less well than if they did them separately, there is room for a slight reduction in quality made up for by the speed/efficiency of dual activity.

It’s not clear what that phrase is supposed to mean - general lack of quality, a physical motion, or what? It kinda fits into the generic stereotype of “hits like a girl”, i.e. weak. I know there is a perception of girls throwing from the elbow rather than the shoulder, which we really didn’t see in any of these samples. The little girl in particular threw overhead, rather than from shoulder height.

xkcd on the topic of science in Mythbusters

That was one reason I was glad they looked at both the throwing motion and the accuracy and speed. But yes, I noticed that none of the women threw that way. I wonder if they had trouble or expected trouble finding volunteers who didn’t have much experience with baseball.

Actually, I think one of the boys threw that way left handed.