Skepchick Quickies 1.26

  • Working women say their marriage is richer for it – “While it’s widely believed that a woman’s financial independence increases her risk for divorce, divorce rates in the United States tell a different story: they have fallen as women have made economic gains.” From Ryan.
  • Mike Adams takes on skeptics – A bunch of you sent in Adams’ list of “things that skeptics REALLY believe.” Here’s Steve Novella’s response to that.
  • A pregnant woman does not look like an olive – “Replacing confusing language and icons on standard warnings labels for prescription medicine and listing only the most important warnings could make a big difference in how well patients understand the instructions that are critical to their health” From Steve.
  • Flattery will get you far – And I’m sure all of our readers will like this article, since you’re all gorgeous geniuses. From PrimevilKneivel.
  • This oldie but baddie was sent in by a bunch of people. It still makes me headdesk just as much as it did last year.


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. The working women thing doesn’t really surprise me. If anything, it bothers me that this wasn’t the expectation. The interesting thing to study, in my mind, is the effect on the marriage rate, as I would expect increased income equality to limit the number of marriage as (perceived) neccesary inequal social contract while enabling the more functional marriage as partnership case, which I would expect to lower the divorce rate.

    This, of course, is probably due to working from a somewhat nonstandard set of baseline assumptions.

    In defense of prescription labeling, some people’s babies do look a lot like Pimentos.

  2. I managed to find an example of the olive symbol here, along with two other symbols. Without reading the text, I’d interpret them as “take with olives”, “may cause incredible shrinking” and “may cause giant zits”, respectively. Also found more confusing prescription labels here and here.

  3. Per the labeling:

    I laughed and laughed and laughed while reading it. I’m a usability/accessibility consultant, and on one project I worked on several years ago, one member thought we should make icons for the four text-based buttons we had. Because, you know, icons are easier to understand…AND they’re so easy to design!

    He wouldn’t give it up, so I told him to go ahead and design some. He did and I did an informal user test – no one knew what the hell he meant. He said that our test subjects – all research scientists – were just stupid. Which leads me to…

    Per the flattery thing:

    I don’t know about flattery working even when you recognize it as flattery, but I admit I just dropped a pro-bono client, because the person they assigned to work with me was insulting me left and right.

    I don’t expect to be flattered all the time (actually, I distrust constant flattery – the side effect of once dating an honest-to-god sociopath) and I don’t claim to be the world’s best developer. But being told I’m stupid for asking legitimate development questions (like, oh, when can I expect the updated content) and pointing out major problems (like, say, the plan to promote a new blog for which they have no content or staff to update) isn’t the best way to treat someone who donates over $10,000 annually in billable hours and materials.

    It’s more about being able to catch more flies with honey than vinegar – this study just applies quantitative numbers to that. Why submit yourself to aggravation?

  4. @marilove:

    Trust me, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. For all the fuss kicked up about web accessibility for the blind, much less is kicked up about web accessibility for the deaf. The rise of user-created video content has made it exponentially worse.

  5. @Chasmosaur: I didn’t realize how awful it was until I met and became good friends with someone who was born completely deaf. Netflix is a huge offender — none of their streaming movies are captioned!

    However, Google and Youtube apparently just teamed up together to offer captioning on Youtube (and I assume Google Video). I’m not 100% sure what it all entails, as I haven’t had time to investigate, but I think it is user submitted or at least able to be edited by users. So that’s awesome.

    But it still amazes me how often videos are just not captioned, and how often requests for captions are ignored. Open Salon does this a LOT: Posts video, without captions. My friend has e-mailed them numerous times, and is always ignored. Same goes for anyone else he e-mails, requesting captions.

    I have actually been tempted, because of my mad typing skillz (110+ wpm), to volunteer my time to caption stuff. I should start looking into that… Hmm.

    @infinitemonkey: Why don’t they just say that? “Do not eat or drink.” SIMPLE!

  6. The bit about the labels for medication reminds me I should probably scrape off the “FOR VAGINAL USE ONLY” sticker an undergrad thought would be funny to place on a piece of laboratory equipment during the summer.

  7. From the marriage article:

    While it’s widely believed that a woman’s financial independence increases her risk for divorce, divorce rates in the United States tell a different story: they have fallen as women have made economic gains. The rate peaked at 23 divorces per 1,000 couples in the late 1970s, but has since dropped to fewer than 17 divorces per 1,000 couples.

    Is it just me or do those statistics sound WAY off. Hasn’t everyone kind of been under the impression lately that the divorce rates in this country are somewhere close to 50 percent or something equally ridiculous. I’ve certainly never heard of a 2 percent divorce rate.

  8. @FFFearlesss: 2% does seem low, though I recall a discussion about how the 50% rate was also untrue, or rather misleading. The 50% rate came from factoring in people with multiple divorces as separate cases. People entering their first marriage had a chance of divorcing something like 25% less than that, while a person entering their third marriage had a 75% or so chance of divorcing.

    So yeah, neither 2% nor 50% seems right!

  9. @FFFearlesss: 2% is an annual rate.
    50% is an old (and questionable) statstic based on marriages ending in divorce (as opposed to death, I suppose.)

    Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight) used divorces*2/married people and came up with a range of .96% (Massachusetts) to 3.61% (Nevada, a sizeable outlier) so 2% seems pretty reasonable.

  10. Adams is an idiot, and Dr. Novella’s response was brilliant, as usual.

    Divorce rate statistics are usually presented to look larger (and therefore scarier) than they actually are. 11 divorces in a year compared to 1000 married people is a 1% rate. Those same 11 divorces compared to 22 weddings that year is a 50% rate. That is because weddings and divorces are events, but “being married” is a attribute. To further muddy these waters, some stats are presented as “divorces per 1000 individuals” regardless of married status.

    Adams is a moron.

    Replacing word with symbols to make them more universally appealing really ticks me off. Maybe it’s just me, but I almost always don’t understand the symbols (and have to look them up), or invent some sort of mnemonic to help me remember them (which also defeats the point of using a symbol).

    Adams is a quack.

    Any color Ouija board is completely goofy. However, targeting the marketing of a device designed to facilitate talking to the dead at 8-12 year old children (regardless of gender) is truly repulsive. How is it that the religious nut jobs can get all indignant about a game like D&D (also from Hasbro), but not say a word about a toy designed to help children talk to the spirits of dead people?

    Adams is a frothy-mouthed spittle-flecked knuckle-dragging childish whining pathetic loser.

    Also, I don’t think much of that Adams fellow.

  11. You’d think the lengths it took just to design a symbol that would be universally recognized by all humans as meaning a place was dangerous and the inability to actually achieve such with just symbols would point towards not trying to communicate stuff like instructions for medicine through them.

    This Is Not a Place of Honor. Showing the extents taken to make a radioactive waste dump an unappealing place for any human being. Yucca Mountain went with plaques in various languages and attempts at communicating that it was dangerous to be there.

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant plans to use massive earthworks of a field of concrete spikes, or black tightly set concrete blocks to deter any possible intelligent life that attempts to live there. Because something as simple as “you will die here” is hard to communicate universally through a symbol.

    Given, the situation is much more extreme than trying to communicate “take with food” on a medicine bottle, but it’s the same concept that it’s hard to create symbols everyone will understand the same.

  12. @DataJack:

    How is it that the religious nut jobs can get all indignant about a game like D&D (also from Hasbro), but not say a word about a toy designed to help children talk to the spirits of dead people?

    I know plenty of religious nuts who think Ouija boards are evil, but it’s mostly because they think they’re real and they might attract a demon, not because they want their kids to be frugal and rational. FWIW, my first D&D DM was a Mormon who wouldn’t drink coffee and rarely ate red meat. He played because he was smart enough to know that magic isn’t real.

  13. @DataJack: I’d guess because speaking to the dead isn’t considered as dangerous and evil as playing a game where deities other than the One True God exist. Pelor and Ioun rate higher on the Christian Threat List than Uncle Danny speaking from beyond the grave.

    Which is kind of sad, in a way, that fictional gods and magic are considered threats by them.

  14. @DataJack: When I was a kid we were told the Ouija boards were gateways to the demon world and that by playing with them we opened ourselves up to demon possession. I also distinctly remember a story that our Bible teacher told us in school. When he was a kid he found a Ouija board in the trash and brought it home. His parents discovered it and threw it in the fire. He heard screams coming from the fire and saw black spirits rising out of it. I was pretty freaked out by that story as a kid and never touched a Ouija board.

  15. @James Fox: Could be. I also found this, from the “flattery” article, interesting:

    “As predicted, engaging in self-criticism amplified the effect of flattery on implicit attitudes while self-affirmation tempered this effect. In other words, those of us who could use a little pick-me up to begin with are particularly vulnerable to the message behind a smooth sales pitch.”

    This could explain why people with lower than average self-esteem seek out those who are intially critical of them, which a narcissist is more likely to be, rather than those who praise them unconditionally.

  16. @infinitemonkey:

    Well, depends what you mean by “internal”. Technically, all of the mucosal surfaces (airways, gut, genitals) are continuous with the outer surface of the body, and are considered external (in the same way the hole in a donut is external). The way it’s phrased to me would mean “don’t inject this”…

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