In an earlier blog I focused on reports of declining penis size in human males, declining sperm count, and even increases in brain size and changes in head shape. A follow-up blog explored reports that men are falling behind in a variety of areas including academic achievement, careers, and even parental choice of newborn gender–a possible change to preferring girl babies.
I had expected to close this small series out with some reflections on what all this might mean. However, I made the mistake of digging a little deeper into the research on sperm count and penis size and found a sea (or maybe it is a swamp) of related research. This blog was designed to focus on temperament, but I hope that interested readers will bear with some biology today. Next week I will follow up on the various ways that all of this might be related to temperament and personality at least in men.
The first major study of sperm health reported that sperm counts in healthy males had dropped in those surveyed by over 50%, from 1938 to 1990, going from 113 million sperm per milliliter in 1940 to 66 million in 1990.* This might still sound like overkill in the sperm department, but it is not. A great many sperm in any sample are damaged or dysfunctional and thus unable to impregnate. (This problem is thought to be increasing also.) For this and other reasons, a count below twenty million/milliliter is considered to be somewhere between subfertile and effectively sterile. (It apparently takes an enormous number of strivers to produce one winner.) Continue reading
Part I: Men/women and more odd findings
Last December I blogged about three odd research findings, mostly related to men: Shrinking penis size, shrinking sperm counts, and increasing head/brain/skull size. There is nothing new to tie the growing head size to the shrinking genital size/count; it is a dead end there for the moment. However, I went back and reviewed Hanna Rosin’s book on The End of Men and the Rise of Women* and gave some thought to what she found so ominous in the recent behavior of boys and men. In an article published prior to the book** she noted that a long time sperm expert was finding that couples were more frequently asking for girls than for boys and quoted him as saying “Women live longer than men. They do better in this economy. More of them graduate from college. They go into space and do everything men do, and sometimes they do it a whole lot better. I mean, hell, get out of the way–these females are going to leave us males in the dust.”
Rosin’s book seems to agree with this assessment and go beyond it. She says, for example, that preference for sons is not only changing in the United States, but is completely disappearing in South Korea, and rapidly falling in such surprising places as China and India. She notes that “Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women [in the US], who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs…..Women dominate in today’s colleges and professional schools–for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same.” Later, she comments that “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs–up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and held about half of all banking and insurance jobs and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45% of associates in all law firms. Continue reading
Several fascinating but perplexing science reports have turned up in 2012, mostly concerning men. A September 19th report indicated that an Italian study had found a 10% shrinkage in “the average male penis” in the past 50 years.* This threw American radio commentator, Rush Limbaugh into a minor (for him) fit, in which he said, “I think it’s feminism…If it’s tied to the last 50 years–the average size of [a male’s] member is 10% smaller than 50 years–it has to be the feminazis, the chickification and everything else.” The researchers suggest weight gain, smoking, stress, and environmental pollutants. Then again, the social expectations for male behavior have changed a great deal in the last 50 years, so that would be one form of stress! Continue reading
Since we are just days away from the presidential elections in the US, I did some googling about temperament and presidents. Overall there was more information on Obama, but more agreement on Romney, among the 2012 comments. A brief blog from Psychology Today commented on Romney that “he’s probably an ENTJ…a forceful type that often assumes a leadership role. Another blogger also suggests that Romney is an ENTJ. For an estimate of validity, compare this with the same blogger’s report that both Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken the MBTI and came out as ENFP and INTJ respectively. ENFP seems like a perfect fit for Bill Clinton, and I would not be surprised if Hillary is accurately an INTJ.
Returning to Romney, Michael Melcher at the Huffington Post has Romney as ENTJ also. * One blogger at Personality Pathways thinks that both Obama and Romney are introverts and notes that Keirsey had rated Obama as extraverted in 2008 but shifted to an introversion rating in 2012. T and J seem to be generally agreed upon and just one source that I found suggested that Romney would be a practical sensing S rather than an intuitive N. I would sum up the small consensus as Romney either as ENTJ or INTJ. Based on his seeming reserve, and desire to keep his family life private, I would tend to agree with INTJ. Many people in public life, from politicians to entertainers, develop good extraversion skills without being at heart extraverts. Continue reading
Guilt proneness is the subject of an article just published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The guilt proneness scale has some correlations with the Big Five and the HEXACO scales so it is of interest in the temperament world
There are a few nice surprises about this. One is that it seems to be a pretty healthy characteristic. It is defined as “a personality trait indicative of a predisposition to experience negative feelings about personal wrongdoing, even when the wrongdoing is private.”* Fascinatingly, it is measured by a scale with the acronym GASP. Here you have to imagine yourself in a series of four situations in which you have done something morally wrong, and then rate how likely you would be to experience a sense of guilt on a scale of 1 to 7 (guilt as defined above, where nobody will ever know but you). A maximal score of 28 is possible, with 20 or less suggesting low guilt-proneness, 21-24, medium proneness and 25-28, high guilt proneness.
One of the very interesting findings is that it has good correlations with the Honesty/Humility scale of the HEXACO–the six factor personality test that parallels the Big Five. (See previous blogs for more information on the HEXACO). These correlations average about .50. It also correlates with two Big Five factors–Agreeableness and Conscientiousness at slightly lesser values of .30 to .40. Taken together, since both HEXACO and the Big Five assume their traits are very substantially genetic, this suggests that guilt-proneness as a sub-trait also has a genetic basis. Perhaps surprisingly, the remaining Big Five factors– Extraversion, Stability-Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience show little or no correlation with guilt-proneness, and the lessor traits of self-esteem and rumination are unrelated. Rumination, in particular, (which is a term borrowed from the process in which cattle digest and redigest their food, is a decidedly unhealthy need to go over and over situations and feelings that are distressing. The person’s mind plays like a broken record, endlessly reviewing past mistakes or injustices, and possible causes, without ever reaching a solution. One might think that the guilt prone might ruminate. Continue reading