Earlier this month, the popular magazine Psychology Today published an article by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” that was met, expectedly, with mass outrage. The article used data based on another study to make several claims such as “black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women” yet “subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others.”
After some attempted editing of the title, the magazine retracted the post from its website in its entirety. Kanazawa in turn is facing an investigation by the London School of Economics, where he is a professor, after a unanimous vote for his dismissal by the student union.
Contributing writers to Psychology Today moved quickly to do some damage control. Dr. Kaufman, in his blog for the magazine “Beautiful Minds,” wrote a post re-analyzing Kanazawa’s data.
We retrieved the data from Add Health on which Satoshi Kanazawa based his conclusions to see whether his results hold up to scrutiny… Kanazawa mentions several times that his data on attractiveness are scored “objectively”… [However] the low convergence of ratings finding suggests that in this very large and representative dataset, beauty is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Because raters differ strongly in terms of how they rate… this source of variation needs to be taken into account when testing for average race differences in ratings of attractiveness. Kanazawa does not indicate that he did so.
Moreover, Kaufman noted that “the majority of [Kanazawa’s] data were based on the ratings of attractiveness of the participants when they were teenagers.” When the data was stratified based on age, he concluded that “as adults, Black Women in North America are not rated less attractive by interviewers of the Add health study.”
In another post on magazine’s website, Dr. Stanton Peele leveled his criticism at the field of evolutionary psychology as a whole.
[T]he logic underlying [Kanazawa’s] racism is exactly that which drives the field — i.e., there are biological imperatives that determine social behavior, attitudes, and undeniable human reality… [But] the only inevitabilities are (a) in Kanazwa’s head and (b) ev psych’s fantasy version of the human species as the end result of a deterministic evolutionary process that makes people think and act in the ways they say people must — that is, according to their own preferred prejudices (like Kanazawa’s ideal woman — who is NOT African-American!).
However, many were still waiting for a direct response from the magazine, who, according to Stanton, “is probably the most popular PT blogger.” Considering the level of outrage, the apology was some time coming. Kaja Perina, the Editor-in-Chief, issued the following statement on Friday:
Last week, a blog post about race and appearance by Satoshi Kanazawa was published–and promptly removed–from this site. We deeply apologize for the pain and offense that this post caused. Psychology Today‘s mission is to inform the public, not to provide a platform for inflammatory and offensive material.Psychology Today does not tolerate racism or prejudice of any sort. The post was not approved byPsychology Today, but we take full responsibility for its publication on our site. We have taken measures to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. Again, we are deeply sorry for the hurt that this post caused.
However, there was no word on whether the magazine will continue to publish articles by Kanazawa. He has not published on entry on his blog since the one removed, although there is no indication that the blog will be terminated.