TIME psychology

Why Men Are More Narcissistic Than Women

Men sitting on bench wearing colourful socks
Noel Hendrickson—Getty Images

Narcissism has long afflicted more men than women — but that could be changing

If there’s one thing you can say for craziness, it’s that it’s not sexist. Across entire populations, males and females face a pretty equal lifetime risk of coming unhinged. Within conditions, however, there may be differences. Women are twice as likely as men, for example, to develop depression. Anxiety disorders such as OCD and phobias also hit women a bit harder.

Narcissism, however, goes the other way. Research has long suggested that if you’re looking for someone who’s preening, strutting, self-absorbed, arrogant, exhibitionistic, conceited, insensitive and entitled, you’ll find more of them in the boys’ camp than you will in the girls’. So it comes as, well, almost no news at all that a new study — hold your applause till the end, please — found exactly that!

The research, in fairness, was sweeping: a meta-analysis of 355 journal articles and other studies going back 31 years. In the behavioral sciences, which lack the tidy, 1+1=2 certainty of fields like chemistry and physics and math, meta-analyses are often the best way to lock down a hypothesis. The paper did that, but it did more too — not just establishing the gender disparity but explaining why it exists.

In my 2014 book, The Narcissist Next Door, I wrestled with the question of narcissism and gender, and came to the conclusion that our still patriarchal society is far likelier to tolerate — even encourage — narcissistic swagger and aggressiveness in men than it is in women. It was hardly a theory I developed de novo, but rather is one many researchers had voiced — thought not yet proved. The researchers in the new study — led by Emily Grijalva, an assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management — broke down their metadata in ways that highlighted three of the multiple categories of narcissistic behavior: grandiosity and exhibitionism; leadership and authority; and entitlement.

Men ran away with the entitlement category (we’re looking at you, John Edwards, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen), and led by a narrower gap in the leadership and authority category. “Compared with women,” Grijalva said in a statement that accompanied the study, “men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power.” That too is consistent with a culture in which men don’t merely hold more positions in government and high finance, but seek those positions more as well.

But when it comes to exhibitionism — the basic table stakes for boys and girls dreaming of growing up to achieve their true full narcissistic potential — the sexes start off pretty much equally. As happens so often in a sexist world, however, that potential — O.K., pathological potential — is squelched in girls while it’s encouraged in boys.

“Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations,” Grijalva said. “In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for [them] to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior.”

Gender equality, of course, is a surpassing good, and the arc of history is inevitably bending its way. It will, alas, almost certainly mean narcissistic equality too. Let’s hope that the growing ranks of female narcissists conduct themselves better than the boys have.

TIME space

Mars Probably Had More Water Than the Arctic Ocean, Study Says

INDIA-SPACE-SCIENCE-MARS
ISRO/AFP/Getty Images Mars is seen in an image taken by the ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft released on Sept. 30, 2014.

The size of the Martian ocean is significantly larger than previously thought

Mars likely had a body of water larger than the Arctic Ocean, according to a new study by NASA scientists.

The size of the Martian ocean is significantly larger than previously thought and provides further evidence that the planet may have once had the ability to support life. The body of water would have been large enough to cover the planet’s entire surface in 450-feet deep water, according to the study published in the journal Science, though it was likely concentrated in smaller areas.

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, a NASA scientist and study author. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

The scientists analyzed water on Mars today and compared it to water from a 4.5-billion-year-old Mars meteorite to determine how much water was likely lost in the past four billion years.

Still, questions remain about what happened to the large body of water. “With Mars losing that much water, the planet was very likely wet for a longer period of time than was previously thought, suggesting it might have been habitable for longer,” said Michael Mumma, a NASA scientist and study co-author.

TIME Environment

El Niño Arrival Too Late for California Drought

"Too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California"

El Niño has finally arrived, but the precipitation brought by the weather event is unlikely to alleviate California’s severe drought, officials said Thursday.

“After many months of watching, El Niño has formed,” said Mike Halpert, an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “Unfortunately, this El Niño is likely too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California as California’s rainy season is winding down.”

El Niño, a cyclical phenomenon that lasts several years, begins with warming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and eventually affects weather around the world. In the United States, it can lead to storms along the West Coast and affect hurricanes and other tropical storms. Tropical storm activity could be reduced due to El Niño, but it’s too soon to know for certain, the NOAA said.

Forecasters have been waiting to declare the start of El Niño for nearly a year. The late arrival may make El Niño-related storms “weak in strength” with “fairly low influence on weather inclement,” Halpert said.

TIME sexuality

No Ben Carson, Homosexuality Is Not a Choice

Pointing the wrong way: Carson is just plain wrong on the science
Richard Ellis; Getty Images Pointing the wrong way: Carson is just plain wrong on the science

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A presidential hopeful (and a doctor) gets the science all wrong—and makes things worse when he tries to explain himself

If you’re a candidate dreaming of the White House with virtually no chance of actually winding up there, it sometimes helps to say something ridiculous—if only to get your name-recognition numbers up. That is the very best and most charitable explanation for comments by Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, on CNN, arguing that homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice. His evidence? Prison.

“A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay,” he said. “So did something happen while they were in there?”

Prison, of course, is the worst of all possible examples Carson could have chosen—conflating sexuality with circumstance. Men confined together for years without women remain sexual beings and may take whatever outlet is available to them. Something similar was true in a less enlightened era of gay men and women who were forced to marry people of the opposite sex, and who dutifully produced children and tried to satisfy their partners despite the fact that they were getting little satisfaction themselves.

Carson, who was blowtorched in both social and mainstream media for his remarks, quickly walked them back, issuing a statement that, in some ways, only made things worse. “I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world,” he wrote. “Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality.”

That statement could indeed have the virtue of being true—provided it was issued in 1990. But since then, there’s been a steady accumulation of evidence that sexuality—like eye color, nose size, blood type and more—is baked in long before birth. The first great breakthrough was the 1991 study by neuroscientist Simon LeVay finding that a region in the hypothalamus related to sexuality known as INAH3 is smaller in gay men and women than it is in straight men. The following year, investigators at UCLA found that another brain region associated with sexuality, the midsagittal plane of the anterior commissure, is 18% larger in gay men than in straight women and 34% larger than in straight men.

One cause of the differences could be genetic. In 1993, one small study suggested a connection between sexual orientation and a section on the X chromosome called Xq28, which could predispose men toward homosexuality. The small size of the study—only 38 pairs of gay brothers—made it less than entirely reliable. But a study released just last year expanded the sample group to 409 pairs of brothers and reached similar conclusions.

Genes are not the only biological roots for homosexuality. Womb environment is thought to play a significant role too, since part of what determines development of a fetus is the level and mix of hormones to which it is exposed during gestation. In 2006, psychologist Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Canada looked into the never-explained phenomenon of birth order appearing to shape sexuality, with gay males tending to have more older brothers than straight males. Working with a sample group of 944 homosexual and heterosexual males, Bogaert found that indeed, a first born male has about a 3% chance of being gay, a number that goes up 1% at a time for each subsequent boy until it doubles to 6% for a fourth son.

The explanation likely involves the mother’s immune system. Any baby, male or female, is initially treated as an invader by the mother’s body, but multiple mechanisms engage to prevent her system from rejecting the fetus. Male babies, with their male proteins, are perceived as slightly more alien than females, so the mother’s body produces more gender-specific antibodies against them. Over multiple pregnancies with male babies, the womb becomes more “feminized,” and that can shape sexuality.

A range of other physical differences among gay men and lesbians also argue against Carson’s thinking—finger length for instance. In heterosexual men, the index finger is significantly shorter than the ring finger. In straight women, the index and ring fingers are close to the same length. Lesbian finger length is often more similar to that of straight males. This, too, had been informally observed for a long time, but in 2000 a study at the University of California, Berkeley, seemed to validate it.

Lesbians also seem to have differences in the inner ear—of all unlikely places. In all people, sound not only enters the ear but leaves it, in the form of what are known as otoacoustic emissions—vibrations that are produced by the interaction of the cochlea and eardrum and can be detected by instruments. Heterosexual women tend to have higher frequency otoacoustic emissions than men, but gay women don’t. Still other studies have explored a link between homosexuality and handedness (with gays having a greater likelihood of being left-handed or ambidextrous) as well as hair whorl (with the hair at the crown of gay men’s heads tending to grow counterclockwise), though there are differing views on these last two.

Clearly, none of us choose our genetics or finger length or birth order or ear structure, and none of us choose our sexuality either. As with so many cases of politicians saying scientifically block-headed things, Carson either doesn’t know any of this (and as a doctor, he certainly should) or he does know it and is pretending he doesn’t. Neither answer reflects well on his fitness for political office.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Why the Circus Is Saying Goodbye to Elephants

The social nature of elephants makes captivity for them a "living death"

On Thursday, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced they would phase out their iconic elephant acts by 2018. The decision was spurred by public concern about the treatment of elephants in circuses, and perhaps a growing understanding that being kept as an entertainment spectacle is emotionally damaging to the sensitive, intelligent animals.

Elephants are social creatures in the wild with close-knit family units. They even perform funeral rituals and spend weeks mourning their dead. So those that have long been in circuses and zoos can come to exhibit symptoms of depression, aggression or post-traumatic stress disorder, most likely as a result of the confinement and isolation.

In 2006, the New York Times article described the trauma elephants undergo in captivity: “Being kept in relative confinement and isolation [is] a kind of living death for an animal as socially developed and dependent as we now know elephants to be,” author Charles Siebert wrote.

There have been many reports of elephants in captivity experiencing abuse by their handlers. In 2011, Mother Jones published a year-long investigation into Ringling Bros.’ treatment of its elephants. Among its claims:

Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants. They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity.

Feld Entertainment, owner of Ringling Bros, said that its elephants were in fact “pampered performers” who “are trained through positive reinforcement, a system of repetition and reward that encourages an animal to show off its innate athletic abilities.”

But apparently Ringling is slowly coming to understand that keeping elephants in bondage, animals with a highly developed emotional intelligence, places an uncomfortable mirror on humanity. The New York Times article describes a former circus elephant who had turned violent: “She and the others have suffered, we now understand, not simply because of us, but because they are, by and large, us.”

TIME Behind the Photos

Get Up Close and Personal with Beautiful Snowflakes

Photographer Michael Peres takes microscopic photos of snow

He speaks to TIME LightBox about his process.

TIME LightBox: Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in photography.

Michael Peres: When I was in a high school I was planning to go to college to become a doctor. But in my senior year, I was the sports editor for my school yearbook and the kid taking the pictures was someone I didn’t know well but he knew much about photography — so I went with him on the photo shoots. From the moment we developed the photos, I was hooked. The polarity in my wiring changed and I thought that it was the coolest thing.

 

 

TIME LightBox: How did this work start? Did you always do microscopic photography?

Michael Peres: Not always. When I went to university to study biology, I often took pictures of my dissections and of petri dishes. I loved science, but I loved taking pictures more. After graduating in 1978, I tried to get a job but I was a biologist and getting a job as a medical photographer was not on the cards. Later, I went back to school at the Rochester Institute of Technology and I got a degree in biomedical photography. It was then that I learned about using microscopes.

 

 

TIME LightBox: What do you use to take these photos?

Michael Peres: I use my own microscopes and my Nikon DSLR camera — I actually use several microscopes, some for photographing opaque objects, and some for semi-transparent objects. I sometimes bring secondary lights in. The microscopes become an optical extension of the camera.

 

 

TIME LightBox: It can’t be easy to take such close up shots of something as fleeting a snowflake, though?

Michael Peres: Yeah, I kind of feel like a fisherman but instead of going for fish, I am going to catch snowflakes — you never know what results are going to be! I can’t predict when or how much it will snow, or when it will snow, or even if it’s the right kind of snow. Rochester can get over a 100 inches of snow every year, but much of the snow looks like salt and it doesn’t have the kind of flake almost everybody imagine is snow. Not all flakes are transparent, for example.

 

 

TIME LightBox: You’ve been sharing these images on Instagram. Why?

Michael Peres: I had avoided social media for several years, but in March 2014 our school started its own Instagram account and each week a different student or alumni is a guest poster. It came to my turn — so I joined! I decided that instead of just being a lurker, I should cultivate my own following– what did I have to lose? As a photographer, if you keep your pictures on your hard drive then nobody sees them, and that’s not the kind of photographer I wanted to be.

 

 

TIME LightBox: What do you think viewers see when they see these images?

Michael Peres: Well I never diminish the science when I photograph and I hope the reason why my work is interesting to some people is that they are science facts, not science fiction. But they are photographed in ways where you can enjoy them and their natural elegant design is emphasized..

 

 

Michael Peres is a photography professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Follow him on Instagram @michael_peres

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox. Follow him on Instagram @richconway

TIME intelligence

Former CIA Chief Petraeus to Plead Guilty to Mishandling Classified Materials

Former CIA Director David Petraeus Speaks At USC Dinner For Veterans And ROTC Students
Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images Former CIA director and retired four-star general General David Petraeus makes a public speech at the University of Southern California dinner for students Veterans and ROTC students on March 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Stunning downfall for America's former top general

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — The U.S. Department of Justice says former CIA Director David Patraeus has agreed to plead guilty to mishandling classified materials.

A Justice Department statement says a plea agreement has been filed in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Associated Press was not immediately able to access the documents.

The agency says the former top Army general was charged with one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. The statement says Petraeus had signed an agreement pleading guilty to the single criminal count.

Petraeus’ lawyers David Kendall and Robert Barnett in Washington declined to comment.

The case was filed in Charlotte, the hometown of Paula Broadwell, the general’s biographer and former mistress.

TIME human behavior

The Weird Reason Humans Shake Hands as a Greeting

It's to smell each other

It may not be as undignified as two dogs greeting each other but a handshake may amount to the same thing, according to a new study.

Researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science found that people use the traditional greeting of shaking hands to surreptitiously smell each other.

The researchers secretly filmed subjects to see how frequently they touched their own faces, and if that number changed significantly after shaking someone’s hand. When people received a handshake from someone of the same gender, face-touching with the right hand increased by more than 100 percent.

Nasal catheters were fitted to subjects to measure airflow, which proved they weren’t just touching their hands to their faces. They were sniffing them.

“It is well-known that we emit odors that influence the behaviour and perception of others but, unlike other mammals, we don’t sample those odors from each other overtly,” Professor Noam Sobel, Chair of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said in a press release.

Interestingly, hand-sniffing only increased on the right hand, used for the hand shake, among subjects of the same gender. When people shook hands with someone of the opposite sex, they were more likely to smell their left hand.

 

TIME Research

Humans Are Genetically More Similar to Their Fathers, Study Finds

Sorry mom

Every parent wants their child to be just like them, but new research shows that dads may have an advantage at least from a genetic standpoint.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine and published in the journal Nature Genetics, mammals use more DNA from the father than the mother when undergoing mutations — the genetic process that makes us who we are.

The researchers, led by genetics professor and senior author Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, tested the genetic mutations of specially crossbred mice to see which mutations altered gene expression. Of the 80% that did, several hundred genes showed a “genome-wide expression imbalance in favor of the dad,” first author James Crowley told Science Daily. “This imbalance resulted in offspring whose brain-gene expression was significantly more like their father’s.”

The authors believe a similar bias would exist for human subjects. Pardo-Manuel de Villena called the results “an exceptional new research finding that opens the door to an entirely new area of exploration in human genetics.”

[Science Daily]

TIME archeology

The Fabled ‘City of the Monkey God’ Has Been Found in the Honduran Rain Forest

Evidence of an ancient settlement was found in the most inaccessible forest in Central America

An ancient lost city from a mysterious culture has been discovered in the eastern Honduran rain forest.

Legend speaks of a “White City” or “City of the Monkey God” so remote that no one has ever found it, reports National Geographic.

That is until a team of American and Honduran archaeologists returned from deep within the Central American nation’s jungle last week.

The scientists found evidence of settlements and remnants of an unknown civilization that thrived thousands of years ago.

Stone sculptures, ceremonial seats, carved vessels decorated with snakes and other animals made up a cache of 52 artifacts that lay on the surface. Archaeologists believe much more lies below the ground.

Read more at National Geographic.

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