A handslide victory

If ever there was a scientific study destined for the Ig Nobel awards, this is it. The Economist reports on new research finding that searches for internet porn increased in US states that backed the winning party in an election.

The study was inspired by the ‘challenge hypothesis’ which states that competition and dominance raise testosterone levels in males with an increased interest in mating following soon after.

The hypothesis has largely been confirmed in animals, but psychologists Patrick and Charlotte Markey decided to see whether the effect could be seen in humans after elections:

To do this they first used a web service called WordTracker to identify the top ten search terms employed by people seeking pornography (“xvideos” was the politest among them). Then they asked a second service, Google Trends, to analyse how often those words were used in the week before and the week after an American election, broken down by state.

Their results, just published in Evolution and Human Behavior, were the same for all three of the elections they looked at—the 2004 and 2008 presidential contests, and the 2006 mid-terms (in which the Democrats made big gains in both houses of Congress). No matter which side won, searches for porn increased in states that had voted for the winners and decreased in those that had voted for the losers. The difference was not huge; it was a matter of one or two per cent. But it was consistent and statistically significant.

Less sophisticated people would make ‘hung like a donkey’ jokes at this point, but I’m far too refined as I’m sure regular readers are aware.

If you want to see the research without the fig leaf of the mainstream media, the full text of the scientific paper is available online as a pdf.

Link to Economist article ‘Rising to the occasion’.
Link to DOI entry and summary of paper.
pdf of full text of scientific paper.

3 thoughts on “A handslide victory”

  1. I never knew that competition led to arousal effects in males in the first place. I am curious to know if the same effects are as extreme or less extreme in homosexuals or not. If it is testosterone based and homosexuals have more of that I wonder how that would effect it. Good thing google was open minded to the study. Of course they would be. They are the internet duh…

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