A few days ago I received a call from a CNN reporter. This particular reporter had interviewed me previously, and she thought I might be able to help her out with a story she was producing. What follows is an abbreviated transcript of our conversation:
CNN reporter: I’m doing a story on how women in relationships tend to be colder than men, and how that affects relationships. Do you do any research that speaks to that finding?
Me: (doing my best to stifle a chuckle) No, I don’t do any work that is remotely related to that topic, and to be perfectly honest, I question the generalization.
CNN reporter: Well, it’s mostly anecdotal, but there was a study on it.
Me: (now a bit intrigued) Oh, really, what study was that?
CNN reporter: Thanks anyway. <click>
After getting off the phone, I dug around a bit on the internet and found that there had been some recent stories about differences in cold sensitivity between men and women (see here for one example).
As you’ll see, the story had NOTHING to do with women in relationships (or men for that matter). Rather, the reporter was doing her best to make up a story that might get some attention. The fact of the matter is that there are some women out there that would hear such a generalization and feel validated (because some women do feel colder than their partners). Granted, there are some men out there who would find the story unbelievable – because they tend to feel colder than their female partners! In other words, by chance some women will relate to the story despite the fact that it does not have any scientific basis whatsoever. What’s frustrating is that such a fabricated story supposedly based on ‘science’ would have been perceived as legitimate.
The moral of this story? Be careful not to take things you hear in the media and popular press at face value – even if they are presented as ‘fact’. Sometimes reporters make honest mistakes or have to overgeneralize given time constraints. Other times they just make things up.
Dr. Tim Loving – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Loving’s research addresses the mental and physical health impact of relationship transitions (e.g., falling in love, breaking up) and the role friends and family serve as we adapt to these transitions. He is an Associate Editor of Personal Relationships and his research has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.