Staff Reviews

The Demise of Social Science


The Demise of Guys (TED Books) is based on a talk by Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo that was tendentious and unpersuasive at four minutes and only suffers from being expanded into an ebook.

Zimbardo argues that "boys are struggling" in school and love because they play video games too much and watch too much porn. But he and his co-author, Nikita Duncan, never establish that boys are struggling more nowadays than they were when porn was harder to find and video games were limited to variations on Pong, let alone that and Call of Duty are retarding their social and academic abilities.

Instead Zimbardo and Duncan give us a series of sweeping generalizations backed up by little more than anecdotes and other people's sweeping generalizations. Their solutions to the problem they perceive range from banal (better male role models) to silly (safe-sex PSAs during Semen Demons 2). Still, they're right that "critical thinking" is important, for social scientists as well as schoolboys. —Jacob Sullum