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04/14/2005 Archived Entry: ""

Thanks to McBlog-affiliate Jeff B. for this vent against what passes for science in our culture, especially when tax funding is available...

Jeff writes, I try, I really try, not to be dismissive of social-science research, but when I see a story like this, it's hard for me to maintain my composure. From the article "Are unattractive kids loved less?":

"Harrell's team of observers followed parents and their two to five-year-old children around the grocery store for 10 minutes each, noting if the child was buckled into the grocery-cart seat, and how often the child wandered more than 10 feet away. Findings showed that 1.2 per cent of the least attractive children were buckled in, compared with 13.3 per cent of the most attractive youngsters. The observers also made judgments as to age, gender and attractiveness. Harrell figures that it's a Darwinian response: we're unconsciously more likely to lavish attention on attractive children simply because they're our best genetic material."

Jeff comments, Where do I even start? Perhaps by suggesting some alternative interpretations of the "data"... Parents have "ugly children" because they themselves are "poorer genetic material", and so it's natural that they behave as less fit parents. Parents who make more of a fuss over their child's "safety" are also more likely to make more of a fuss over their child's dress and grooming, thus making them more attractive. Researchers find children unattractive when they aren't sufficiently restrained. And, my personal favorite, as the father of a 4-year-old and a 2-year old: Because parents are likely to buckle their *youngest* child into a shopping cart (which has *only one seat*), having a younger sibling makes a child UGLIER! Can someone *please* explain to me what I'm missing that makes this actual science? Yeesh...

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