In no other fields can we ask such amazing questions and, through rigorous experimentation, get the answers.
Answers like this:
A study commissioned by a phallically named insurance company proves beyond all doubt that the unbridled roar of an Italian supercar turns women on but the soft purr of a fuel-efficient econobox doesn’t stimulate anyone’s MPG-spot.
David Moxon subjected 40 men and women to the sounds of a Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari, then measured the amount of testosterone in their saliva. He found everyone had higher levels of the stuff — a measure of their arousal — after hearing the revving exotics, but the amount the women had was off the charts.
The econobox, however, left everyone colder than a January day in Nome.
But what, pray tell, was the methodology? Let’s see:
To test the theory that high-performance cars get people hot, Moxon had 40 men and women listen to recordings of the three Italian exotics and a Volkswagen Polo. Everyone had significantly more testosterone after hearing the exotics, and all of the women were turned on by the Maserati. The guys, on the other hand, were drawn to the Lamborghini.
“We saw significant peaks in the amount of testosterone in the body, particularly in women,” Maxon says, noting that even women who said they had no interest in cars were turned on. “Testosterone is indicative of positive arousal in the human body so we can confidently conclude from the results out today that the roar of a luxury car engine actually does cause a primeval physiological response.”
As for the Polo? Everyone had less testosterone after listening to it. That means the acceleratus interruptus of a Prius going all-electric in traffic is automotive equivalent of skin flicks starring previous secretaries of state, despite General Motors’ claim that nearly nine out of 10 women would rather talk to a guy in a hybrid than a Porsche.
I do have to quibble about the methodology here. One has to wonder if the study was at least single-blinded, so that the subjects didn’t know what sound came from what car. Actually, the study should have been double-blinded, so that the investigators running the testosterone assays don’t know what group of subjects each sample came from. There’s also the question of whether investigators rotated the order in which the subjects listened to the sounds, to see if that made a difference, or the question of whether the sound system used to play the recordings was carefully calibrated to match the volume for each car. After all, it’s possible that volume or depth alone mattered and that a VW microbus without a muffler could produce a similar boost in testosterone. Also this study was commissioned by an insurance company, not a granting agency like the NIH or other agencies that subject their grant applications to rigorous peer review. I’m not expecting Science or Nature material her, especially since its results were announced in a press release rather than in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
I guess the question here is whether this study, crap or not, is a “well, duh!” study (i.e., it tells us something we didn’t already have a good reason to suspect to be true) or whether it adds to our body of knowledge in a useful way. Either way, it’s amusing. What I want to know is: How do I get funded to do studies like this? This study cries out for a followup study to investigate the implications of its findings.