Is there a correlation between intelligence and taste?

(I am annoyed by the lack of bands between 1200 and 1350)
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De gustibus non disputandum est. — Confucius

We’re talking about foods, not whether you prefer Beethoven or Lil’ Wayne.

Certainly there are broad correlations between the foods people enjoy and their ethnicity/social class. If you know whether I chose fried okra, chicken feet, gefilte fish, escargot, or grasshoppers for dinner, you can make a pretty good guess about my background. (Actually, I have eaten all of these things. The grasshoppers were over-salted, but otherwise fine.) The world’s plethora of tasty (and not-so-tasty) cuisines is due primarily to regional variations in what grows well where (not a lot of chili peppers growing up in Nunavut, Canada,) and cost (the rich can always afford fancier fare than the poor,) with a side dish of seemingly random cultural taboos like “don’t eat pork” or “don’t eat cows” or “don’t eat grasshoppers.”

But do people vary in their experience of taste? Does intelligence influence how you perceive your meal, driving smarter (or less-smart) people to seek out particular flavor profiles or combinations? Or could there be other psychological or neurological factors at play n people’s eating decisions?

This post was inspired by a meal my husband, an older relative and I shared recently at McDonald’s. It had been a while since we’d last patronized McDonald’s, but older relative likes their burgers, so we went and ordered some new-to-us variety of meat-on-a-bun. As my husband and I sat there, deconstructing the novel taste experience and comparing it to other burgers, the older relative gave us this look of “Jeez, the idiots are discussing the flavor of a burger! Just eat it already!”

As we dined later that evening at my nemesis, Olive Garden, I began wondering whether we actually experienced the food the same way. Perhaps there is something in people that makes them prefer bland, predictable food. Perhaps some people are better at discerning different flavors, and the people who cannot discern them end up with worse food because they can’t tell?

Unfortunately, it appears that not a lot of people have studied whether there is any sort of correlation between IQ and taste (or smell.) There’s a fair amount of research on taste (and smell,) like “do relatives of schizophrenics have impaired senses of smell?” (More on Schizophrenics and their decreased ability to smell) or “can we get fat kids to eat more vegetables?” Oh, and apparently the nature of auditory hallucinations in epileptics varies with IQ (IIRC.) But not much that directly addresses the question.

I did find two references that, somewhat in passing, noted that they found no relationship between taste and IQ, but these weren’t studies designed to test for that. For example, in A Food Study of Monotony, published in 1958 (you know I am really looking for sources when I have to go back to 1958,) researchers restricted the diets of military personnel employed at an army hospital to only 4 menus to see how quickly and badly they’d get bored of the food. They found no correlation between boredom and IQ, but people employed at an army hospital are probably pre-selected for being pretty bright (and having certain personality traits in common, including ability to stand army food.)

Interestingly, three traits did correlate with (or against) boredom:

Fatter people got bored fastest (the authors speculate that they care the most about their food,) while depressed and feminine men (all subjects in the study were men) got bored the least. Depressed people are already disinterested in food, so it is hard to get less-interested, but no explanation was given of what they meant by “femininity” or how this might affect food preferences. (Also, the hypochondriacs got bored quickly.)

Some foods inspire boredom (or even disgust) quickly, while others are virtually immune. Milk and bread, for example, can be eaten every day without complaint (though you might get bored if bread were your only food.) Potted meat, by contrast, gets old fast.

Likewise, Personality Traits and Eating Habits (warning PDF) notes that:

Although self-reported eating practices were not associated with educational level, intelligence, nor various indices of psychopathology, they were related to the demographic variables of gender and age: older participants reported eating more fiber in their diets than did younger ones, and women reported more avoidance of fats from meats than did men.

Self-reported eating habits may not be all that reliable, though.

Autistic children do seem to be worse at distinguishing flavors (and smells) than non-autistic children, eg Olfaction and Taste Processing in Autism:

Participants with autism were significantly less accurate than control participants in identifying sour tastes and marginally less accurate for bitter tastes, but they were not different in identifying sweet and salty stimuli. … Olfactory identification was significantly worse among participants with autism. … True differences exist in taste and olfactory identification in autism. Impairment in taste identification with normal detection thresholds suggests cortical, rather than brainstem dysfunction.

(Another study of the eating habits of autistic kids found that the pickier ones were rated by their parents as more severely impaired than the less picky ones, but then severe food aversions are a form of life impairment. By the way, do not tell the parents of an autistic kid, “oh, he’ll eat when he’s hungry.” They will probably respond politely, but mentally they are stabbing you.)

On brainstem vs. cortical function–it appears that we do some of our basic flavor identification way down in the most instinctual part of the brain, as Facial Expressions in Response to Taste and Smell Stimulation explores. The authors found that pretty much everyone makes the same faces in response to sweet, sour, and bitter flavors–whites and blacks, old people and newborns, retarded people and blind people, even premature infants, blind infants, and infants born missing most of their brains. All of which is another point in favor of my theory that disgust is real. (And if that is not enough science of taste for you, I recommend Place and Taste Aversion Learning, in which animals with brain lesions lost their fear of new foods.)

Genetics obviously plays a role in taste. If you are one of the 14% or so of people who think cilantro tastes like soap (and I sympathize, because cilantro definitely tastes like soap,) then you’ve already discovered this in a very practical way. Genetics also obviously determine whether you continue producing the enzyme for milk digestion after infancy (lactase persistence). According to Why are you a picky eater? Blame genes, brains, and breastmilk:

In many cases, mom and dad have only themselves to blame for unwittingly passing on the genes that can govern finicky tastes. Studies show that genes play a major role in determining who becomes a picky eater, including recent research on a group of 4- to 7-year-old twins. Part of the pickiness can be attributed to specific genes that govern taste. Variants of the TAS2R38 gene, for example, have been found to encode for taste receptors that determine how strongly someone tastes bitter flavors.

Researchers at Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center, a scientific institute dedicated to the study of smell and taste, have found that this same gene also predicts the strength of sweet-tooth cravings among children. Kids who were more sensitive to bitterness preferred sugary foods and drinks. However, adults with the bitter receptor genes remained picky about bitter foods but did not prefer more sweets, the Monell study found. This suggests that sometimes age and experience can override genetics.

I suspect that there is actually a sound biological, evolutionary reason why kids crave sweets more than grownups, and this desire for sweets is somewhat “turned off” as we age.

Picture 10

From a review of Why some like it hot: Food, Genetics, and Cultural Diversity:

Ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan suggests that diet had a key role in human evolution, specifically, that human genetic diversity is predominately a product of regional differences in ancestral diets. Chemical compounds found within animals and plants varied depending on climate. These compounds induced changes in gene expression, which can vary depending on the amount within the particular food and its availability. The Agricultural Age led to further diet-based genetic diversity. Cultivation of foods led to the development of novel plants and animals that were not available in the ancestral environment. …

There are other fascinating examples of gene-diet interaction. Culturally specific recipes, semi-quantitative blending of locally available foods and herbs, and cooking directions needed in order to reduce toxins present in plants, emerged over time through a process of trial-and error and were transmitted through the ages. The effects on genes by foods can be extremely complex given the range of plant-derived compounds available within a given region. The advent of agriculture is suggested to have overridden natural selection by random changes in the environment. The results of human-driven selection can be highly unexpected. …

In sedentary herding societies, drinking water was frequently contaminated by livestock waste. The author suggests in order to avoid contaminated water, beverages made with fermented grains or fruit were drunk instead. Thus, alcohol resistance was selected for in populations that herded animals, such as Europeans. By contrast, those groups which did not practice herding, such as East Asians and Native Americans, did not need to utilize alcohol as a water substitute and are highly sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

Speaking of genetics:

(source?)
From Eating Green could be in your Genes

Indians and Africans are much more likely than Europeans and native South Americans to have an allele that lets them eat a vegetarian diet:

The vegetarian allele evolved in populations that have eaten a plant-based diet over hundreds of generations. The adaptation allows these people to efficiently process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and convert them into compounds essential for early brain development and controlling inflammation. In populations that live on plant-based diets, this genetic variation provided an advantage and was positively selected in those groups.

In Inuit populations of Greenland, the researchers uncovered that a previously identified adaptation is opposite to the one found in long-standing vegetarian populations: While the vegetarian allele has an insertion of 22 bases (a base is a building block of DNA) within the gene, this insertion was found to be deleted in the seafood allele.

Of course, this sort of thing inspires a wealth of pop-psych investigations like Dr. Hirsch’s What Flavor is your Personality?  (from a review:

Dr. Hirsh, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Chicago, stands by his book that is based on over 24 years of scientific study and tests on more than 18,000 people’s food choices and personalities.)

that nonetheless may have some basis in fact, eg: Personality may predict if you like spicy foods:

Byrnes assessed the group using the Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking (AISS), a test for the personality trait of sensation-seeking, defined as desiring novel and intense stimulation and presumed to contribute to risk preferences. Those in the group who score above the mean AISS score are considered more open to risks and new experiences, while those scoring below the mean are considered less open to those things.

The subjects were given 25 micrometers of capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, and asked to rate how much they liked a spicy meal as the burn from the capsaicin increased in intensity. Those in the group who fell below the mean AISS rapidly disliked the meal as the burn increased. People who were above the mean AISS had a consistently high liking of the meal even as the burn increased. Those in the mean group liked the meal less as the burn increased, but not nearly as rapidly as those below the mean.

And then there are the roughly 25% of us who are “supertasters“:

A supertaster is a person who experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than average. Women are more likely to be supertasters, as are those from Asia, South America and Africa.[1] The cause of this heightened response is unknown, although it is thought to be related to the presence of the TAS2R38 gene, the ability to taste PROP and PTC, and at least in part, due to an increased number of fungiform papillae.[2]

Perhaps the global distribution of supertasters is related to the distribution of vegetarian-friendly alleles. It’s not surprising that women are more likely to be supertasters, as they have a better sense of smell than men. What may be surprising is that supertasters tend not to be foodies who delight in flavoring their foods with all sorts of new spices, but instead tend toward more restricted, bland diets. Because their sense of taste is essentially on overdrive, flavors that taste “mild” to most people taste “overwhelming” on their tongues. As a result, they tend to prefer a much more subdued palette–which is, of course, perfectly tasty to them.

Picture 8A French study, Changes in Food Preferences and Food Neophobia during a Weight Reduction Session, measured kids’ ability to taste flavors, then the rate at which they became accustomed to new foods. The more sensitive the kids were to flavors, the less likely they were to adopt a new food; the less adept they were at tasting flavors, the more likely they were to start eating vegetables.

Speaking of pickiness again:

“During research back in the 1980s, we discovered that people are more reluctant to try new foods of animal origin than those of plant origin,” Pelchat says. “That’s ironic in two ways. As far as taste is concerned, the range of flavors in animal meat isn’t that large compared to plants, so there isn’t as much of a difference. And, of course, people are much more likely to be poisoned by eating plants than by animals, as long as the meat is properly cooked.” …

It’s also possible that reward mechanisms in our brain can drive changes in taste. Pelchat’s team once had test subjects sample tiny bits of unfamiliar food with no substantial nutritional value, and accompanied them with pills that contained either nothing or a potent cocktail of caloric sugar and fat. Subjects had no idea what was in the pills they swallowed. They learned to like the unfamiliar flavors more quickly when they were paired with a big caloric impact—suggesting that body and brain combined can alter tastes more easily when unappetizing foods deliver big benefits.

So trying to get people to adopt new foods while losing weight may not be the best idea.

(For all that people complain about kids’ pickiness, parents are much pickier. Kids will happily eat playdoh and crayons, but one stray chicken heart in your parents’ soup and suddenly it’s “no more eating at your house.”)

Of course, you can’t talk about food without encountering meddlers who are convinced that people should eat whatever they’re convinced is the perfect diet, like these probably well-meaning folks trying to get Latinos to eat fewer snacks:

Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the United States and bear a disproportionate burden of obesity related chronic disease. Despite national efforts to improve dietary habits and prevent obesity among Latinos, obesity rates remain high. …

there is a need for more targeted health promotion and nutrition education efforts on the risks associated with soda and energy-dense food consumption to help improve dietary habits and obesity levels in low-income Latino communities.

Never mind that Latinos are one of the healthiest groups in the country, with longer life expectancies than whites! We’d better make sure they know that their food ways are not approved of!

I have been saving this graph for just such an occasion.
Only now I feel bad because I forgot to write down who made this graph so I can properly credit them. If you know, please tell me!

(Just in case it is not clear already: different people are adapted to and will be healthy on different diets. There is no magical, one-size-fits-all diet.)

And finally, to bring this full circle, it’s hard to miss the folks claiming that Kids Who Eat Fast Food Have Lower IQs:

4,000 Scottish children aged 3-5 years old were examined to compare the intelligence dampening effects of fast food consumption versus  “from scratch”  fare prepared with only fresh ingredients.

Higher fast food consumption by the children was linked with lower intelligence and this was even after adjustments for wealth and social status were taken into account.

It’d be better if they controlled for parental IQ.

The conclusions of this study confirm previous research which shows long lasting effects on IQ from a child’s diet. An Australian study from the University of Adelaide published in August 2012 showed that toddlers who consume junk food grow less smart as they get older. In that study, 7000 children were examined at the age of 6 months, 15 months, 2 years to examine their diet.

When the children were examined again at age 8, children who were consuming the most unhealthy food had IQs up to 2 points lower than children eating a wholesome diet.

 

 

Cathedral Round Up #3

stanford cover

From Stanford Magazine’s feature article, A Hard Look at How We See Race:

“Jennifer Eberhardt’s research shows subconscious connections in people’s minds between black faces and crime, and how those links may pervert justice. Law enforcement officers across the country are taking note.

The first time Jennifer Eberhardt presented her research at a law enforcement conference, she braced for a cold shoulder. How much would streetwise cops care what a social psychology professor had to say about the hidden reaches of racial bias?

Instead, she heard gasps, the loudest after she described an experiment that showed how quickly people link black faces with crime or danger at a subconscious level. In the experiment, students looking at a screen were exposed to a subliminal flurry of black or white faces. The subjects were then asked to identify blurry images as they came into focus frame by frame.

The makeup of the facial prompts had little effect on how quickly people recognized mundane items like staplers or books. But with images of weapons, the difference was stark—subjects who had unknowingly seen black faces needed far fewer frames to identify a gun or a knife than those who had been shown white faces. For a profession dealing in split-second decisions, the implications were powerful. … “

This is actually quite interesting research, but it does not investigate why people might have become hyper-vigilant about danger around black people to start with. Given that crime victimization surveys consistently show that blacks actually commit crimes at rates similar to their rates of incarceration, Professor Eberhardt is capturing, at best, a miniscule effect. The effect of black people actually committing real crimes explains the vast, vast majority of black incarceration, and any research on the subject that doesn’t take this into account is ignorant at best.

Keep in mind:

shootinggraph

The police disproportionately shoot whites and Hispanics, not blacks, and even when they do shoot at blacks, they are mysteriously less likely to kill them. Police officers are actually less likely to use force against black suspects because they fear backlash:

Pistol-whipped detective says he didn’t shoot attacker because of headlines (article NOT from a university):

“A Birmingham, Alabama, police detective who was pistol-whipped unconscious said Friday that he hesitated to use force because he didn’t want to be accused of needlessly killing an unarmed man. …

“”We don’t want to be in the media,” he said. “It’s hard times right now for us.” …

“Adding insult to injury: several bystanders, instead of helping, took pictures of the bloodied officer as he was facedown on the concrete and posted the images on social media, where the officer was mocked. …

“”Pistol whipped his ass to sleep,” one user wrote, employing the hashtag #FckDaPolice. Another mockingly offered the officer milk and cookies for his “nap time.””

And it’s not just anecdote–here’s a study: Cops hesitate more, err less when shooting black suspects.

• Officers were less likely to erroneously shoot unarmed black suspects than they were unarmed whites — 25 times less likely, in fact
• And officers hesitated significantly longer before shooting armed suspects who were black, compared to armed subjects who were white or Hispanic

“In sum,” writes Dr. Lois James, a research assistant professor with the university’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology who headed the study, “this research found that participants displayed significant bias favoring Black suspects” in their shooting decisions.

Stanford Magazine closes with Ghosts of Mascots Past: Respect should transcend nostalgia:

“… I, too, am a Stanford Indian. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a proud Stanford alumna. But nothing about the caricature on that shirt represents me, my family, my community, or the hundreds of other Native students and alumni of the university.

Whenever the Stanford Indian resurfaces, I’m reminded that the Native members of the Stanford community still aren’t viewed as equals. …

Adrienne Keene, ’07, is a postdoctoral fellow in Native American studies at Brown University. She writes about Native representations on her blog, Native Appropriations.

If Indians don’t like being used as mascots, politeness dictates not using them as mascots.

However, the idea that you aren’t viewed as an equal at a university that is at least 50% non-white is really quite a stretch; the idea that the mascot has anything to do with it makes about as much sense as saying that the Irish aren’t viewed as equals at Notre Dame.

WOW JUST WOW THIS IS SERIOUSLY NOT OKAY
WOW JUST WOW. THIS IS SERIOUSLY NOT OKAY.

If anything, I’d think that attending a place like Stanford is rather akin to having the world handed to you on a big silver platter, and so maybe it looks bad to complain too much that your platter isn’t shiny enough or it wasn’t handed over with sufficient deference.

Next up, Harvard:

HARVxCV1x0915_1x

The text says, “From the Ground Up: Doing Business at the base of the pyramid

Let’s take a moment to look at these two covers. Stanford recently had a “Protest” cover, showing Stanford students shutting down a highway in support of Black Lives Matter; today’s cover is even starker.

Harvard’s cover also features black people, but more subtly, and these are black people who actually live in Africa, rather than America. The overall feeling I get when reading official (non-student run) Harvard publications is one of internationalism–here are pictures of our Ugandan law students, here’s what up with our European investments, here a story about a professor in China–while Stanford’s publications feels decidedly mired in common American problems.

This is not to say that Harvard students aren’t protesting in favor of Black Lives Matter–they definitely are. But the university’s official publications chose not to highlight this the way Stanford’s do. Harvard’s vision of itself is global; Standford’s is national.

Anyway, back to the article, a discussion of how difficult it is to be economically successful in Africa, because even though food grows perfectly well there, people haven’t figured out how to get it all to market before it rots. A country like Nigeria, therefore, is reduced to importing tomato paste while millions of tomatoes rot in the countryside. So some Harvard guys are trying to teach Nigerians how to efficiently preserve their tomatoes so they can actually get them to market before they rot. (Wouldn’t the most efficient solution be sun-dried tomatoes? I know plenty of African fishermen sun-dry their catches because it’s an easy and free way to preserve food in their environment.)

Unfortunately the whole process is impeded by Fulani tribesmen who like to herd their cattle through the tomato fields.

Open borders rule!

Then we get to the meat of the article:

Imagine a simple triangle diagram of the planet’s population. A fortunate couple of billion upper-income people—in the United States and Canada, much of Europe, Japan, Australia, and prospering urban centers in parts of Asia and Latin America—occupy the apex. The invisible hand of market capitalism supplies this prominent minority with bountiful goods and services. But that leaves a lot of people out. At the very bottom of the pyramid, a billion or more humans live in poverty (on less than $1.25 per person per day), often depending on government programs and charitable aid to subsist.

” … In a conversation, he compared the lives of these people, the base of the pyramid, with those at the top. Because they likely do not own property, and lack rent or tax receipts, they are not bankable, so they turn to exploitative money lenders for credit to stock a shop or start a small business. For medical care, they choose among local healers, vendors of patent nostrums, or queues at public clinics (where it may take a bribe to advance in line). Their labor, often interrupted by those queues or long bus trips to remit cash to a rural family, may be seasonal, itinerant, and legally unprotected. Functioning markets, he noted, imply a level playing field between consumers and producers, but most of these people aren’t getting a remotely fair deal. It is as if the broad base of the pyramid were an alternate universe where familiar rules don’t apply.

“Rangan quickly credited the late corporate strategist C.K. Prahalad, D.B.A. ’75, of the University of Michigan, for saying (most prominently in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, published in 2004) that the same rules ought to apply.”

As I have said over and over, societies are built by the people in them. At this point, invoking the Invisible Hand is tantamount to invoking Voodoo or the influence of Mercury retrograde in Taurus.

Countries where the people have high levels of trust, low levels of aggression, and low time-discounting end up with efficient, complex markets where they can do business with strangers without fear of being cheated or killed. In nice countries, like Japan, Finland, and even the US, the people depending on government aid and charitable programs to subsist do not have to bribe their way into medical care because people in those countries believe that bribery and line-jumping are immoral.

Nice countries are places where everyone agrees to cooperate in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Shitty ones are places where everyone is looking for a chance to defect–say, by running their cattle through a neighbor’s tomato fields.

“Philanthropic and development agencies tend not to scale or sustain themselves, he found, and public entities often fail to assure efficacy and efficiency. In contrast, “Through the ages, one actor has proven consistently able” to satisfy these criteria: competitive private industries.

“… Rangan applied his scholarly perspective to suggest inverting the telescope through which companies view prospective lower-income markets. “Typical marketing sells the organization to the customer,” he and research associate Arthur McCaffrey wrote a decade ago. (Need a car? We at GM/Mercedes/Toyota make good ones.) Within the base of the pyramid—devoid as it is of cash, roads, and gas stations—there are no such customers. But enormous demand exists for carts to ease the burden of hauling loads along muddy paths or cheap pumps to irrigate fields. Here, the proper paradigm is to “sell the customer to the organization.”

Long-term, I think making the opportunities to become successful available to people is actually a good strategy. The article is too long to continue quoting, but you can read it there if you’re interested in the opportunities/difficulties of investing in developing markets.

In Shedding Light through Social Science, Harvard’s President Faust, rated by Forbes as the 33rd most powerful woman in the world, descendant of Puritans, IVY league grads, Senators, and thoroughbred horse breeders, talks about the opportunities for Harvard to use its computing power to comb through Big Data in pursuit of the Great Informationing (my term, not hers):

“The nature of censorship in China, to give just one example, can be explored by monitoring the types of communication suppressed by the government, a project that relies on sifting through millions of social media posts.

“At the same time, real-world experiments can inform economic, political, and social theory. Are people more likely to save for retirement with the help of targeted brain stimulation? Can gender bias in hiring, promotions, and work assignments be overcome by evaluating candidates jointly rather than individually? How do malnutrition and sleep deprivation among low-income individuals influence economic outcomes? Faculty supported by cross-school research programs such as the Behavioral Insights Group and the Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative are answering these and other questions by undertaking discipline-spanning research that can shape everything from the decisions we make at the grocery store to the votes we cast in the ballot box.”

Personally, I think trying to electrocute people into having lower time preference is really scraping the bottom of the idea barrel; you might as well just throw in the towel and say that some people just aren’t very good at delaying gratification and there’s not much you can do about it. Faust continues:

“This is a time of remarkable promise for the social sciences. Yet short-sighted federal funding cuts are threatening our ability to answer questions that have the potential to inform and shape all of our lives. The last 51 of the United States’ recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics were supported by the research divisions of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, which may soon face a more than 50 percent reduction from current federal funding. If we hope to address complex and consequential issues such as climate change, global pandemics, and inequality and human rights, we cannot ignore unique insights into the human and behavioral that the social sciences alone can provide.”

Harvard has more money than god and could send a mission to Mars if it felt like, but more taxpayer dollars to investigate whether or not we can alter people’s brains to get them to save money is critical.

Harvard then turns to women’s issues, with a spotlight portrait of history Professor Catherine Brekus:

Catherine Brekus ’85 specializes in hearing the voices of America’s early female religious leaders, nearly lost to history …

” “I did not like studying history in high school,” the Warren professor of the history of religion at Harvard Divinity School confesses, smiling. “I was always good at it…but the idea is that you memorize a lot of facts, mostly about political history, and what happened when.” When she taught the subject to high-school students for two years, Brekus noticed that textbooks “have this narrative of political events…and then you have this little human-interest thing in a box. That was where the women would appear. My goal as a historian,” she adds, “is to get women out of those boxes and into the main texts.””

And she’s going to fix this by studying the lives of women whom no one cares about?

If you want more women in the history books, do (or encourage them to do) something worth recording in a history book.

In A Case for Women:

“When Nitin Nohria became Harvard Business School (HBS) dean in mid 2010, he detailed five priorities, ranging from innovation in education and internationalization to inclusion. In setting out the latter goal, he said in a recent conversation, he aimed not at numerical diversity, but at a broader objective: that every HBS student and teacher be enabled to thrive within the community.”

If you can’t “thrive” at HBS without the faculty making special sure to pander to your needs, you do not belong in business. The idea that women are special little wilting flowers who have to be coddled at every turn because they can’t take care of themselves, even at the highest levels of intelligence and achievement, is absolutely repulsive.

““I have launched an initiative that will focus…on the challenges facing women at the school,” Nohria wrote. He created an institutional home for the work—a senior associate deanship for culture and community—and appointed Wilson professor of business administration Robin J. Ely to the post: a logical choice, given her research on race and gender relations in organizations. …

“Just as M.B.A. cases have become increasingly global in the past decade, he aims for at least 20 percent to “feature a female” leader within the next three years. (And because HBS sells cases to schools worldwide, that shift will radiate far beyond Allston.) …

Ely recently recalled the concerns that prompted Nohria’s initial interest, including persistent underrepresentation of women among M.B.A. students earning highest academic honors.”

In other words, Nohria is making pity-jobs for women because they can’t hack it at HBS. Next time you look at the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, remember that college is now a make-work program for unemployable women.

Continuing the theme, “Not Holding out for a Hero” features an interview with the Asian Man now drawing Wonder Woman.

In Empathy and Imagination, author Ceridwen Dovey (now there’ a British name for you!) talks about how guilty she feels over apartheid in her childhood home of South Africa, a place she doesn’t actually bother to live in anymore, now that her political activist parents’ goal of racial harmony and integration have been achieved.

“Motherhood also played a role [in the writing of her new novel]: “It made me more grateful for the time I have to write,” she adds—and ultimately more creative, especially while finishing Only the Animals in 2013. The nature of pregnancy, nursing, and caring for a newborn intensified her kinship with “the whole family of mammals.”

“… Like Coetzee, Sax, an author and academic best known for his writings on animal-human relations, has influenced Dovey, who also admits to feeling “bewildered to the point of inaction in terms of the ethical responsibilities we have toward animals and the obligations we owe them as the dominant species on earth. We treat animals in the most appalling ways right now.” …

““I am very aware that we are all creatures who suffer together, and that existence is hard for us all,” Dovey reflects. “There is something, also, about the bond we have with animals, the care and connection that we don’t appreciate or see the magic in as much as we should.””

As Staffan points out, vegetarianism and Englishness (in this case, perhaps Welshness) are extremely correlated:

Map of self-reported English ancestry
Map of self-reported English ancestry (green)
Map showing the per capita distribution of vegetarian restaurants
Map of per capita distribution of vegetarian restaurants (green)
Graph of the correlation between vegetarianism and English ancestry
Graph of the correlation between vegetarianism and English ancestry

The English and their near kin are probably unique in the world in their ability to consistently extend their circle of concern not only to non-tribally related humans, but even to animals–even other whites do not share this trait:

Graph showing the much lower correlation between
Graph showing the much lower correlation between “whites” and vegetarianism

Since the English are included in whites, removing them from the graph would result in an even lower correlation.

Off-topic, here is a quick excerpt from an interesting letter to the editor:

“In those distant days, every Harvard and Radcliffe first- and second-year student was required to complete one full Gen Ed course in each of three broad areas: only 18 (not 574) two-semester courses qualified for “Humanities,” “Social Science,” or “Natural Science” credit, plus a two-semester Gen Ed A writing course required of virtually all entering freshmen.”

Hopefully I can get back to this in more depth later, but I suspect the massive increase in the sheer amount of media (books, movies, TV shows, etc.,) available to everyone over the past hundred years, while in many ways quite wonderful, has contributed to an intellectual fracturing where we no longer have a common set of ideas and metaphors at our disposal with which to communicate with others.

I was going to do Princeton and Yale, but Harvard gave me so much material that I’m just going to save them for next month.