Sexist Psychobiologist Demonstrates Behavior Of Low Status Primate

Society for Neuroscience Conference 2012: “Where’s the babes?”

Dr. Dario Maestripieri, a researcher into “[n]euroendocrine, ecological and evolutionary aspects of social behavior in human and nonhuman primates,” and author of  ”Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World,” (University of Chicago Press, 2007) returned from a neuroscience meeting in New Orleans and posted to Facebook that he was disappointed with the

. . .unusually high concentrations of unattractive women. The super model types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone.*

We propose that Dr. Maestripieri’s remarks demonstrate  ”hostile sexism” and that is correlated with a social dominance orientation, not uncommon in human and non-human primates exhibiting Machiavellian (or Macachiavellian**) behavior.

* * *

Gender bias is alive and well. We’ve heard that the favored female Halloween costume this year  is to be a woman in a binder. (See this helpful DIY.)

In the sciences, both male and female scientist, when given identical resumes, favor the ones with the male names over those with female names. (Here).

This is 2012. Why the sexism?

Some report that this type of hostile sexism (as opposed to the presumably benevolent, protective type of sexism) is motivated by social dominance for the group. (Here.) And, social dominance orientation is associated with low agreeableness, and low openness to new experience.

In a meta-analysis*** of publications within framework of the Big Five personality dimensions (Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience), prejudice is associated with low agreeableness, and low openness to new experiences:

Personality Factor
Right Wing Authoritarianism
Social Dominance Orientation
Agreeableness Moderately associated with low agreeableness Low Agreeableness
Conscientiousness Weakly associated with High Conscientiousness
Openness to Experience Moderately associated with low Openness to Experience Weakly associated with low Openness to Experience Low Openness to Experience

We suspect that the Professor feels free to express “supermodel” entitlement because of social dominance orientation. And so, consistent with the primates he studies, Dr. Maestripieri exhibits his predilection toward a hierarchial social structure.

But, not all primates show Machiavellian social dominance. Macaque leaders are magnanimous and generous, while low status primates are selfish. (Here; our blog post here.) We interpret low agreeableness/low openness as selfishness and a sense of entitlement. If the Society for Neuroscience were a macaque group, Dr. M. would be exhibiting low status behavior.

Perhaps this remarkably discordant comment about “supermodels” at a neuroscience conference (Wha?) belies Dr. Maestripieri’s true fear: low social status among his primate group.

* Blogged about here, hereherehere, and here. Relatedly, seeAnti-Feminist Bingo“and “Anti-Feminist Bingo 2″ when reading the comments section from these blog posts.

** Macachiavellian seems to be distinct from Machiavellian and Dr. Maestripieri seems to be his own lexicographer in referring to non-human primates macaques. See, ”Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World,” (University of Chicago Press, 2007) at page 4. While Dr. Maestripieri may have reported in his book that macaques have strict social dominance orientation, a later report demonstrates that this is more nuanced. Leader macaques are generous and prefer to be loved. Low-dog macaques tend toward the obnoxious behavior. (Here; our blog post here.)

***From the Summary: . .Our analyses indicate that prejudice is predicted primarily by two dimensions of personality: low Openness to Experience and low agreeableness. These two personality dimensions also differentially predicted SDO [social dominance orientation] and RWA [right wing authoritarianism]. SDO [social dominance orientation], on one hand, was moderately associated with low Agreeableness but also significantly weakly associated with low Openness to Experience. RWA [right wing authoritarianism], on the other hand, was moderately associated with low Openness to Experience but also weakly associated with high Conscientiousness. These findings support the now well-established conclusion that SDO [social dominance orientation] and RWA [right wing authoritarianism] are derived from markedly different aspects of personality(Duckitt, 2001). . .

Picture credit: Wikimedia commons, via creator Yosemite: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License