Psychology Today Publishes "Scientist" Who Claims Black Women Are Ugly

A lot of you have probably already seen this, but I feel compelled as an Angry Black Woman to add my own commentary. The story is this:

Yesterday (a Sunday), Psychology Today blog The Scientific Fundamentalist posted a piece that was originally titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” but is now magically re-titled “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?” I know the change happened because I saw the original a few hours ago. Google doesn’t have a cache of the page, but when I searched I saw the original title, as so:

Update: Psychology Today removed said article, but it lives on at the SomethingAwful forums and in this image screencap I made.

Anyway, things go downhill after the title:

Add Health measures the physical attractiveness of its respondents both objectively and subjectively.  At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the physical attractiveness of the respondent objectively on the following five-point scale:  1 = very unattractive, 2 = unattractive, 3 = about average, 4 = attractive, 5 = very attractive.  The physical attractiveness of each Add Health respondent is measured three times by three different interviewers over seven years.

From these three scores, I can compute the latent “physical attractiveness factor” by a statistical procedure called factor analysis.  Factor analysis has the added advantage of eliminating all random measurement errors that are inherent in any scientific measurement.  The latent physical attractiveness factor has a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1.

So, the first thing that popped into my mind was: what the hell is Add Health? Second: who are these mysterious ”interviewers”? Of what race are they? (Seems like that kind of thing would matter…) Also, how do you objectively measure attactiveness?

For a post on a supposedly scientific website/magazine, this shit is lacking a lot of footnotes, endnotes, explanations, and anything resembling scientific vigor. It might have been there in whatever study this dude is talking about, but he does not show it so we’re left with just his word.

You can guess how much that’s worth.

Then he gets to this part:

It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others.

Well how dare they!

Finally, the conclusion:

What accounts for the markedly lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women?

Enlighten me.

It’s not because we’re fat (though we are fat), and it’s not because we’re not smart (though we’re really not smart), it’s because we… (drumroll) looka likea man.

You think I’m playing:

The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone.  Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently.  …women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive.

I think I might just hit this person. Except, you know, that would be too testosterony.

There’s a lot wrong with this, obviously. I mean, the entire premise reeks of bullshit. And the conclusion also reeks of herteronormative bullshit.

But what I want to know is: what in Hera’s name is wrong with Psychology Today that they think it was okay to allow this on their site? This isn’t even the first crazypants from this guys. Oh yes, Mr. Satoshi Kanazawa has quite an impressive list of clips. To wit:

Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?

Why we are losing this war – All you need is hate. (A good response to 9/11? Nuclear bombs and racial hatred. You think I am making this up, click and see how I am not.)

If Barack Obama Is Christian, Michael Jackson Was White

I can’t even.

So, obviously Psychology Today is completely down with this guy since he’s had a blog there for years. Fine. I mean, I’ll consign them to the trasheap of history as a completely irrelevant den of stupidity instead of, say, writing an angry letter. They’ve probably had plenty of angry letters. The editor-in-chief either really buys what this guy is selling or he’s doing it for the pageviews. Either way, I want no part of it.

What I will do is this: I’m dedicating the Angry Black Woman to pictures of black women all week long. The best response to this yahoo is to show just how beautiful we sisters are. If he and “Add Health” disagree, what the fuck do we care? We’re looking at pictures of beautiful ladies!

Would you like to contribute? Place a link to an image in a comment on any picture post. I shall find it. Or, if you’re on Tumblr, you can submit a picture directly by going here.

Please include some basic information about the picture you submit. Who’s in it, who took it (if you know), where it was taken, when it was taken, and anything else you’d like folks to know.

But seriously, if I ever see this man on the street I’ll show him what too much testosterone leads to.

From The Angry Black Tumblr | Comment below or Reblog @ Tumblr

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43 Responses to Psychology Today Publishes "Scientist" Who Claims Black Women Are Ugly

  1. 1
    Denise says:

    Wow, really? When it comes to attractiveness, the opinions of people who aren’t black are “objective” whereas the opinions of black people are “subjective”?

    And what the fuck does it mean for someone to be objectively attractive?

  2. 2
    nm says:

    Perhaps the author was using “objective” in the sense of “as the object of scrutiny by others”? Or at least claiming to use the word that way?

  3. 3
    Sebastian says:

    But, but, but… You are talking about Psychology Today! This article’s level of scientific rigorousness and brilliant insight is par for the course, and has always been. This journal is a punchline. Frankly, you are wasting your time criticizing this pile of crap.

    {edit} My wife, who is a Cognitive Science researcher at CalTech, says that Satoshi Kanazawa is known as the “the great idiot of social science.”

  4. 4
    Clarissa says:

    I cannot believe that this kind of ultra-offensive, ridiculous, hateful, racist garbage still gets published. This is outrageous.

  5. 5
    Jeff Fecke says:

    @Sebastian —

    Agreed that Psychology Today is as scientific as National Enquirer, but this isn’t a waste of time. Sadly, Kanazawa has a reasonably large following, because he gives a scientific veneer to racist and sexist arguments. Leaving his work unchallenged gives the impression that his argument has actual merit, rather than being a grab-bag of racist assumptions prettied up with some graphs.

  6. 6
    Bema says:

    Wow, really? When it comes to attractiveness, the opinions of people who aren’t black are “objective” whereas the opinions of black people are “subjective”?

    Same argument they used against Vaughn Walker: he’s gay, so he obviously has no “objective” authority to rule on gay marriage. Anyway, this author is an idiot. Thankfully, no one takes him seriously as “Sebastian” stated.

  7. 7
    Tracey says:

    When is there going be an article titled: “Why are scientists compelled to explain their idiotic biases with made-up ‘facts’?”

  8. 8
    Phil says:

    I think one important thing to realize about “studies” like this that purport to be scientific measures of things like attractiveness, is that if a bad methodology leads to racist results, the methodology was flawed before it led to racist results.

    That is, it’s easy to read someone’s research and say, “God, this guy’s methods are a pile of crap! And/or he’s drawing conclusions that aren’t really supported by his data!”–and things like that. Such “research” gets so much more attention when the conclusions drawn are offensive. But bad research methods and sloppy techniques do not always lead to offensive conclusions.

    If it is impossible to objectively measure beauty, then it is always impossible to objectively measure beauty. Therefore, Kanazawa’s article would have been equally inept if he had concluded that “women of all races are equally attractive.”

  9. 9
    Harlequin says:

    Factor analysis has the added advantage of eliminating all random measurement errors that are inherent in any scientific measurement.

    I mean, just in case you needed any better evidence that this article is scientifically BS (in addition to all its other BS qualities), that sentence was physically painful to read. That’s a misunderstanding of the most basic underpinnings of science. Mathematical tools can’t magic away the real world, and the real world always has measurement errors. He basically just said, “My results are 100% perfect, and everyone who does this experiment in the future will get the same result I did to a huge number of decimal places, because I used a spreadsheet with an equation in it!”

    And, of course, he contradicts himself later, because all his plots have error bars on them. Those plots actually go to show just how racist he is. The brightly colored bars are red herrings: the actual result is in the lines going up and down from the tops of the bars–and from that you can see that the attractiveness scores for his Native American and Black categories overlap at less than two standard deviations, or greater than a 5% chance. Not huge, but still plausible. (By the way, that’s not much larger than the one- to two-standard-deviation overlap between the White and Native American categories on the men’s chart!) He highlights the differences by using colored bars from the mean and also by putting the lowest result in between the two high results. In other words, not only would his explanations be nonsense as an explanation for the effect he saw, he’s exaggerating the size of the effect, period.

  10. 10
    littlem says:

    The EIC (also Asian, though IDK if she and the author are the same nationality) really buys what this guy is selling. He thanks her profusely for “supporting his work” in another older one of his infamous (crap) articles.

    RT @socialitedreams: Don’t let @PsychToday pretend that the appalling article about Black Women didn’t happen! via @MoreAndAgain

  11. 12
    littlem says:

    @Doug – And you’d bring that trash article up because …?

  12. 13
    Doug S. says:

    @littlem: Primarily to show how awful the Psychology Today blog post is in comparison. To abuse a metaphor, if Steve Sailer’s article is trash, then Satoshi Kanazawa’s post is nuclear waste.

    On a side note, what about Steve Sailer’s article makes it “trash”? It seems to me as though it is reasonably well researched and argued.

  13. 14
    mythago says:

    Doug S. @13: Of all the blogs you could concern-troll about race on, why this one?

  14. 15
    littlem says:

    “On a side note, what about Steve Sailer’s article makes it “trash”?

    If you don’t know the answer to that, I really can’t help you.

    I leave it to Amp., Karnythia (whose eloquent tumblr post on the matter I’m suspecting you have yet to review … call it a hunch), and others with far more patience left than me.

    (There is part of me perched halfway between rage and horror that I am explaining something like this, that in a non-racist, non-sexist, civilized society would be completely self-evident, yet again — for someone whom I’m not sure is or isn’t pretending some sort of “I’m just debating this as an ‘objective’ issue” faux-innocence.)

    The primary problem is not with the methodology, heinous though it be, and as much as such a conclusion may astonish and astound you.

    The primary problem is with the subject matter.

    To paraphrase a phrase that’s overused only because so many millions apparently still patently refuse to “get it” on so many issues:

    “This is not some Devil’s-Advocate-BS ‘debate’ fodder. This is our lives.”

  15. 16
    littlem says:

    Or, what mythago said as I was earnestly typing away, semi-LOL.

    I would add to her comment, though, that this latest mess isn’t just racism. It’s gendered racism, or, if you prefer, racist misogyny — which provides the knife with an extra-special intersectional twist.

  16. 17
    Robert says:

    “This is not some Devil’s-Advocate-BS ‘debate’ fodder. This is our lives.”

    A sentiment which taken in any way seriously forecloses most of the social and human sciences.

  17. 18
    littlem says:

    *eyerolls at Robert*

    I … see the trolls are out in force on this one. They can’t even manage to stay on topic.


  18. 19
    Robert says:

    I don’t mean to troll, littlem. But I also reject the notion that because I’m Italian, I get to tell people talking about Italian-American issues that they have to shut up, or that members of other groups have similar veto power. Our words and experiences should certainly be heard, particularly in contexts where they have historically not been heard…but nobody is entitled to the “off” switch on the microphone.

    Data is data. If the data has racist/misogynistic implications, those implications will not disappear because we refuse to talk about the data. Quite possibly Professor Kanazawa’s data is immaterial because the poor method of its collection makes it irrelevant; I am no expert. Ditto for Sailer’s article, which for all I know is pure dingo’s kidneys, though it seems to deal with a subject matter much more subject to cold-eyed analysis (marriage rates are statistics, while “who’s hotter” is hopelessly personal).

    Either way, “you can’t talk about that because my life experience is the subject matter” is the battle cry of intellectual fascism. No, thanks. We can all talk about whatever we want to talk about – hopefully with due respect for the feelings of our fellow humans and for the ground rules of the venue where the discussion is being held.

    The alternative is political control over intellectual ideas – a system that should give any progressive with historical understanding of who used to maintain political control over which intellectual ideas, the absolute creeping horrors. My (living) grandmother was alive in a time period when trying to use science to prove the equality of the races was a good way of getting yourself beaten to death; so probably was yours.

    I believe we’re all much better off letting science explore what scientists are moved to explore, and letting the chips fall where they may.

  19. 20
    Ampersand says:

    This thread is for discussion of the Psychology Today piece. It’s not for discussion of Steve Sailor’s piece (which I thought was poorly argued and, despite the statistics quoted, not at all evidence based), nor other subjects that spring out of discussion of Steve Sailor’s piece.

    Discussion of the Steve Sailor piece, if it must exist, should please be moved to the Open Thread I posted earlier today.

  20. 21
    gin-and-whiskey says:



    I mean, seriously. What on earth is there to legitimately discuss? This isn’t even a high level college-thesis type of research study. It’s just crap.

    It would take more scientific analysis to explain the errors in the study than the author apparently spent to perform the study.

  21. 22
    mythago says:

    Either way, “you can’t talk about that because my life experience is the subject matter” is the battle cry of intellectual fascism.

    Good thing nobody actually said “you can’t talk about that”, then, isn’t it? But calling people intellectual fascists is certainly a more highfalutin’ STFU then simply telling them to STFU.

    The quote (and the piece it came from) do not say “you may not discuss these things”. It is about the selfish privilege of treating issues that affect other people as amusing subjects for nasty “intellectual” speculation – because a) they don’t affect me, so who cares? and b) the people I’m blathering about are beneath me, so who cares? And then, of course, about dressing it up as “devil’s advocate” or “satire” to pretend that the people angry that you were treating their lives as amusing pawns in your idle speculation are overreacting and hate free speech.

  22. 23
    lauren says:

    Except the quote

    “This is not some Devil’s-Advocate-BS ‘debate’ fodder. This is our lives.”

    does not come from an article arguing that some things should not be discussed because they are some peoples lived experiences. It comes from an article explaining why it is a asshole more to start a supposedly “objective” (which is itself flase, since , for example, men are no less subjective about questions of sexism than women) discussion about controversial issues and then protest when the people who happen to be directly, negatively affected by the issue in question refuse to pretend that the people playing “devil’s advocate” don’t have any agenda. That’s what it is about. Not outlawing discussion, but demanding that people accept the fact that these discussions deal with real world issues and can not be turned into merely intellectual discussion completely seperated from those realities- and the pain that they cause.

    ETA: or, what mythago said

  23. 24
    mythago says:

    gin-and-whiskey @21: There are legitimate things to discuss, but “did Kanazawa have a point?” is not one of them; the guy can’t logic his way out of a paper bag, forget the cringe-inducing badness of the ‘science’.

  24. 25
    B. Adu says:

    Thank you for the link to Karnythia’s beautiful post, it brought tears to my eyes.

  25. 26
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Of course. I didn’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t discuss the effect/motivation/whatever related to the study and its publication. Just that the actual “science” of the study was basically a load o’ BS and not worth talking about much.

  26. 27
    mythago says:

    gin-and-whiskey @26: I know what you meant. And you are very right about the fact that explaining how full of shit his methodology is would take more effort than he put into implementing that methodology, which appears to be limited to “Let me make some shit up because I think black women are ugly.”

    What should surprise me, but doesn’t, is how many people are Person B in this exchange:
    KANAZAWA: Here is some half-assed fake science I misapplied, along with some pulled-out-of-my-ass speculation which proves objectively that black women are the ugs.
    PERSON A: Dude, that is some racist shit right there.
    PERSON B: How can you be so politically correct? Science should be unlimited! We cannot shy away from where science leads! LAB FASCIST!

  27. 28
    littlem says:

    What should surprise me, but doesn’t, is how many people are Person B in this exchange:
    KANAZAWA: Here is some half-assed fake science I misapplied, along with some pulled-out-of-my-ass speculation which proves objectively that black women are the ugs.
    PERSON A: Dude, that is some racist shit right there.
    PERSON B: How can you be so politically correct? Science should be unlimited! We cannot shy away from where science leads! LAB FASCIST!

    This is nothing, mythago. You should have seen the Feministe derail over Pam Grier’s phenotype.

    (Sorry, I will not link. Tired. Emotionally and physically — because trying to discuss such inflammatory issues “rationally” and “politely” (another sub-issue in and of itself; see “tone argument” *sigh*) is literally physically exhausting when doing it for, say, the nine-hundredth time, even when one is attending Pilates regularly.)

    And the cherry on the irony sundae over there is that there were one or two reader-commenters who articulated what the center of that issue actually was (short summary — her phenotype could arguably have been East African as much as Caucasian, but what’s really at stake is who gets to make that distinction, in addition to the issue of her photo over other photos of BW to illustrate the ostensible point), but the tone and choices of the (white) main poster and various (white) commenters became the center of that discussion instead — because no one really wanted to talk about how such a filthy screed got to be featured on a purported “mainstream” site at all … or, even more to the point, what the precise steps should be to demand a formal apology from that egregiously out-of-line EIC instead of that sneaky retraction.


    Most people either just haven’t done the reading, or don’t have the emotional fortitude, to deal with the center of the issue.

    Which — I mean, h*ll — there are days, especially given the seemingly endless variants on the swirls of derailing dreck, that *I* don’t have the emotional fortitude to deal with the center of the issue.


  28. 29
    Doug S. says:

    Kanazawa is a fuckhead.

    It should at least be theoretically possible to talk about a study that finds that “people rated these photos of black women as less attractive than these photos of women of other races” without automatically ending up in the land of Epic Fail, but Kanazawa is clearly not capable of treating the subject with even the slightest bit of tact, instead choosing to do the pop-science equivalent of wearing KKK robes while giving a speech in the town square. Which is why he’s a fuckhead regardless of whether or not what he’s claiming has any basis in reality: he could be citing the the world’s most solid evidence ever and he’d still be a fuckhead, because he obviously doesn’t care about how people are going to be affected by what he says.

  29. 30
    lauren says:

    Looking around a bit, it seems that this isn’t actually a problem of bad methodology. Rather, the problem is that he took a study that by all accounts seems to be a good one (” Add Health” refers to this study) and then tried to use the results of the study to prove his own theory- even though the study never claimed to measure attractiveness, never mind to do so objectively.
    This post makes some awesome points.

    All of wich proves that looking at the methodology beyond just saying “obviously flawed” is important- it shows that this is not a case of “bad methods which were always going to give bad results and just happened to give racist bad results” but instead a case of “had a racist theory and cherry-picked completely unrelated data to fake-prove it”.

  30. 31
    mythago says:

    The methodology is bad, but it’s Kanazawa’s methodology, not the methodology of Add Health, that’s the probem.

  31. 32
    lauren says:

    That’s what I meant. The actual researchers who collected the data didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t ask anyone to “objectively” rate beauty, which is impossible. The way he cherry picked and then wrongfully extrapolated was of course garbage methodology. Wrong method of interpreting the data, not wrong method of collecting it.

  32. 33
    DaisyDeadhead says:

    This all reminds me of my friend in high school who wanted to do a “study” about how black people sing better than white people. The teacher told him he couldn’t, because it wasn’t a true “study”–and he answered, well, everybody I know thinks so! And then he dramatically ticked off a long list of singers’ names… starting with… Barry White! At least he ended the list with Al Green. (This was the 70s.)

    When I saw this, I thought, this is the exactly same kind of study! LOL

    As I said, though… that was high school.

  33. 34
    james says:

    God, this is so funny. Not only do none of you understand the method. You also don’t realise that it’s exactly the same technique that’s used in hundreds of feminist sexual victimisation surveys – including by Mary Koss in those thousands of interminable threads where we’re assured everything totally legit in the world of feminist survey research. I didn’t see much complaining there. Guess the method’s only crap when ev psych uses it. LOL.

  34. 35
    Kai Epic says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I am just an average young person, with a high school diploma, and an associate’s degree, so most of what you guys are talking about regarding psychology and theories escapes me. But I do feel compelled to comment anyway, as not being a studied learned person never stopped me from giving as educated opinion as possible. I read most of this Scientist’s article, and without having as much education as he obviously received, it is still common sense to me that there is no type of study that would say a certain race is less attractive than another. And if he is (later) updating his article to say that a study states why a certain race is labeled less attractive than other races, that is not a study, it is a survey. And the results are not scientific, they are OPINIONS. I am almost willing to bet my life that he surveyed non African Americans in this case.

    If you polled people and 75% of them were African Americans, you’d get different results. I just do not see the need for a survey like this. What does it do, who does it help. It does nothing but further divides America. Scientists are supposed to study things that will benefit mankind………………………………HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, who or what is this benefitting. African Americans do not care why other races may view them less attractive. This scientist knows how to get recognition. Write something that is going to get a reaction in a massive way. Your name will be mentioned, and any publicity is good publicity. I say we ignore him, and go after Psychology Today, and ignore this bozo. Do not give him any press.

  35. 36
    mythago says:

    james, do you have a macro for this?

  36. 37
    gin-and-whiskey says:


    It’s possible to reach some conclusions on average subjective attractiveness. In fact, it’s done all of the time: there are many studies in which, as part of the study, raters are asked to judge attractiveness (or some other quality) of a study subject.

    The problem is that attractiveness is subjective. My wife thinks I’m awesome. Other women who have turned me down for a date–though it’s been well over a decade since I tried–apparently don’t share her view.

    So studying attractiveness means both that (1) you have to account for what are known as “confounding factors” in your study, and (2) your results may be limited in application, due to those confounding factors and/or other study limitations.

    In other words, it’s the difference between saying “Cinderella is objectively attractive” versus “Table A shows the % of men and women who were exposed to the Disney Cinderella movie that believe that Cinderella is attractive, categorized by sex, race, sexual preference, and age of exposure to the movie. Statistically significant differences are marked as follows….”

    When Kai says “If you polled people and 75% of them were African Americans, you’d get different results” that’s precisely the point. If you’re looking at differences in subjective racial attractiveness, you’d have to be an utter idiot to then ignore the issue of whether the race of the rater is relevant to the rated attractiveness of the subject. I’d have known better as a college freshman.

    And FWIW, if you think that everyone on this board thinks all social feminist studies are A-OK, you haven’t been reading very well.

  37. Great blog post tearing up Psychology Today’s irresponsible, racist, hateful, violent just plain ignorant “article” (if you want to even call it that). I am so shocked by what I read in the PT article that I could barely finish- As if there isn’t enough hatred and division on the planet amongst human beings and Satoshi Kanazawa had to go and cause more suffering to people. I am so disgusted. There is no way to objectify attractiveness. I have Asperger’s Syndrome and a friend recently reminded me of something important: Love and attraction are not logical. I agree. They cannot be objectified. People are attractive because of how they exude and characterize the energy inside of them, their unique selves. I love the beauty and diversity of the World’s people; this article made me want to weep.

  38. 39
    ebneila says:

    For thousands of years, imperialist Whites have invaded and enslaved people of colour, then denigrated them as sub-human, thus, un-attractive physically. In this way, Whites have set themselves at the very top of the evolutionary food chain by fiat rather than actual proof. The very fact Whites have deemed themselves as the standard from which all physical beauty is judged, this contention is in itself a fallacy. Every race has features that are different from all others, which dictates, you cannot determine one is more attractive than another. As an example: You cannot say a blue bird is prettier than a red bird because each is too different from the other to compare. Many Blacks have been culturally brainwashed to believe the darker the skin, the more un-attractive a person is. This attitude seems prominent in other cultures/countries where there was once White dominance and also had a high influx of Black ancestry in the general populous; India, Arabia, Mediterreanean countries, i.e.
    Black women should go back to their natural hair styles rather than trying to look like something they are not. Black women are strong, wise and beautiful, just as are Black men. Just be yourself and be proud of who you are.

  39. 40
    ebneila says:

    On the subject of Psychology Today’s op-ed, they should have known there would be backlash headed their way. Reardless of how they attempted to walk back that inflammatory and racist piece, it did reflect an dominant opinion many feel about themselves and others. The article demonstrates just because a person is an academic of professor does not mean they are rational or even intelligent

  40. 41
    Dianne says:

    The data in the article were re-analyzed by someone without an agenda and they found-get ready for a shock here-no trend whatsoever! That’s right: if you look at the data without bias, it shows no average difference between the attractiveness of women of different races.

  41. 42
    ebneila says:

    Due to cultural bias, many people who are apparently Black (Negroid), with obvious Black features, often deny they are Black,– Cubans, Brazilians, Spaniards, i.e.. There has been so much cross-breeding between all races in America, attempting to determine where to draw the line between who is Black and who is White is clinically impossible. The only way to determine this accurately would be DNA testing which would still encounter the same paradox even considering by percentages genetic makeup. Results would be just as subject to interpretation and equally useless in the end

  42. 43
    Stefan says:

    Due to cultural bias, many people who are apparently Black (Negroid), with obvious Black features, often deny they are Black

    So what?!
    Who loses, and what, if someone with some “black” features doesn’t consider himself black ?
    When someone said that Mariah Carey is not white, I was like, “wtf ?”.