a discipline of anecdotes?

I was just taking a break and cruising through the Psychology Today website and I ran into this little quote:

“Science never ends with an anecdote; otherwise, it would be sociology.”

This was the lead sentence in Satoshi Kanazawa’s piece “Are Asians More Nocturnal than Others?“.

Curiously, Kanazawa, although appointed in Management at the London School of Economics and primarily publishes as a evolutionary psychologist, has apparently used anecdotal publication outlets himself, including Social Psychology Quarterly, Rationality and Society, The Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Theory, Social Forces, and even the American Sociological Review! CV here.

14 thoughts on “a discipline of anecdotes?”

  1. My response to that post begins with an anecdote, also from shopping, where I discovered this. But I don’t stop there. Scientifically, I count all the objects in the image, multiply the total by the proportion of them that are bologna, and then draw my conclusion. That’s some selection of bologna.


  2. My department includes a number of rational choice theorists and functionalists- and even a couple (large L) Libertarians. Beyond the spirited discussions and confusions about why these folks ended up in our discipline, I remain amused/confused with their affinity for this particular scholar. He includes in his ‘intellectual lineage’ Merton and Hechter- but seems to spend a fair amount of time (both within the academy and without) taking cheap shots at very notion that structures and interactions are meaningful in general and dismissing the value and validity of the discipline in particular. I notice that, given his work and his assumptions, Herbert Spencer is conspicuously absent from that lineage. So too are his more modern (and perhaps even more controversial) intellectual cohorts such as Rushton and Lynn.

    It would be easy to dismiss him (as I am inclined to do) along with the rest of the eugenicists, intelligence testers and Pioneer Fund grantees, but I am afraid that we find ourselves in an era in which these ideas are again emergent. Smartass misanthrope as though he may be (or certainly is)- we’d be best served by attending to the issues he raises. That is, if our discipline was at all as serious an enterprise as is his, apparently.


  3. Not only has Satoshi Kanazawa published in sociology outlets, and as Hoosierbluesman points out, identifies sociologists as his intellectual ancestors (http://personal.lse.ac.uk/Kanazawa/Intellectual_lineage.htm), he has taught in sociology departments (sociology at Indiana University in Pennsylvania).

    In light of Kanazawa’s disdain for methodological approaches that differ from his, it might be of relevance to see what others have said about Kanazawa’s research methods:

    Andrew Gelman on Kanazawa’s research on the effects of parental characteristics on their children’s sex: http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/published/kanazawa.pdf

    Thomas Volscho on Kanazawa’s research on sex differences in the effect of income on sex lives: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

    Scatterplot’s own Jeremy Freese on Kanazawa’s methods purporting to support the Trivers-Willard hypothesis http://www.jeremyfreese.com/docs/FreesePowell%20-%20making%20love%20out%20of%20nothing%20at%20all.pdf

    Martin and Shieh on Kanazawa’s analysis of voter turn-out http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088906


  4. Sour grapes. Kanazawa began his career in Cornell’s sociology department, but his contract wasn’t renewed. This wasn’t because his work was too rigorous.


  5. What is perhaps most troubling about SK is that he sees offending others as his chief intellectual duty (as demonstrated by the Latin phrase prominently featured at the top of his website).

    SK’s entire academic enterprise seems bent on insulting whoever he can – religious people, Asians, Africans, people from the Middle-East, women. As a woman of color myself, I fear this troubled soul and am shocked that Psychology Today gives him space to spew his hatred on their website.


    1. Psychology Today is full of crude, especially sexist, sociobiology. They often lead with the kind of scientific-sounding, just-so stories that make the status quo seem inevitable — exactly the ones that give sociobiology and evolutionary psychology their bad reputation with sociologists. It does not surprise me in the least that they host his blog.

      Kanazawa may be a source for the worst of it.
      For instance blondes don’t just have more fun they are in fact superior to swarthier women:


  6. “An Evolutionary Psychologist is making fun of sociologists??”

    Yet they are the ones getting all the press. I can’t remember the last time I saw a sociologist featured on the news… well, I can. It was like ten years ago.


    1. As far as I tell from skim-reading Gelman, Freese and the others cited above, sociology never begins or ends with a robust finding by Satoshi Kanazawa.


  7. Hello everyone! Some of you may remember me as being more active around these parts a year or so ago. I still check in once in a while, and I happened to notice this post mentioning Satoshi Kanazawa making a disparaging comment about sociology. This guy has angered me mightily in the past. I cannot believe he somehow passes for a professional academic. Please, I encourage you all, go skim through this man’s blog where he uses “science” to support misogyny. It’s about as sensible as tea party rhetoric.


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