Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Exploring the impact of money on men’s self-reported markers of masculinity: Men thought that their erect penis size was at least 21.1% above the population mean, but those rewarded with money were more realistic

Smaller prize, bigger size? Exploring the impact of money on men’s self-reported markers of masculinity. Jacob Dalgaard Christensen, Tobias Otterbring and Carl-Johan Lagerkvist. Front. Psychol., February 1 2023, Volume 14 - 2023.

Abstract: Bodily markers, often self-reported, are frequently used in research to predict a variety of outcomes. The present study examined whether men, at the aggregate level, would overestimate certain bodily markers linked to masculinity, and if so, to what extent. Furthermore, the study explored whether the amount of monetary rewards distributed to male participants would influence the obtained data quality. Men from two participant pools were asked to self-report a series of bodily measures. All self-report measures except weight were consistently found to be above the population mean (height and penis size) or the scale midpoint (athleticism). Additionally, the participant pool that received the lower (vs. higher) monetary reward showed a particularly powerful deviation from the population mean in penis size and were significantly more likely to report their erect and flaccid penis size to be larger than the claimed but not verified world record of 34 cm. These findings indicate that studies relying on men’s self-reported measures of certain body parts should be interpreted with great caution, but that higher monetary rewards seem to improve data quality slightly for such measures.

4. Discussion

The present study shows that men seem to self-report their physical attributes in a self-view-bolstering way, although not for weight, consistent with earlier findings (Neermark et al., 2019). Specifically, at the aggregate level, men reported being marginally more athletic compared to the scale midpoint, claimed to be significantly taller compared to the Danish mean for individuals of similar ages, and stated that their erect penis size was several centimeters longer than the available Danish population mean. The finding that participants do not seem to have over-reported their weight but likely exaggerated their height slightly also implies that they sought to present themselves as more physically fit. Together, these results indicate that, when interested in bodily variables important to men’s self-view and identity, such variables should not be done through self-report; especially not if they concern private bodily measures linked to masculinity (i.e., penis size). Indeed, men deviated substantially more in their reporting of private (vs. publicly visible) body measures, as the overall sample mean in erect penis size was at least 21.1% above the Danish population mean, while only 1% above the Danish mean in height among men of similar ages and roughly equal to the population mean in weight.

Interestingly, giving participants a higher (vs. lower) monetary reward reduced the average self-reported estimate of both erect and flaccid penis size, but had no impact on the more publicly visible measures. To underscore the point that participants in the low monetary reward group provided less accurate self-report estimates, we further found participants in this group to be significantly more likely to report that their erect and flaccid penis size was larger than the claimed world record of 34 cm (Kimmel et al., 2014Kim, 2016Zane, 2021). However, the means of erect penis size were still significantly above the available Danish population mean for both the low and high payment groups. As such, even with the higher monetary reward, our results regarding private self-report data do not appear to be trustworthy.

While our results indicate that men may have exaggerated their penis size and, to a lesser extent, their height and athleticism in a self-view-bolstering way, it is important to note that extreme values based on self-report can be the result not only of deliberate exaggerations but also of measurement error. We find a measurement error account unlikely to be the main driver of our results for several reasons. First, regarding penis size, the deviation of more than 20% (upward) from the stated Danish population mean is too extreme to realistically have occurred simply due to measurement error, and a measurement error account should arguably stipulate both under- and over-reporting, which is not congruent with the current results. Second, self-reported penis size has previously been found to correlate positively with social desirability scores (King et al., 2019), suggesting that some men deliberately exaggerate their penis size. Still, our study would have been strengthened by asking participants to also measure other body parts with the ruler that are not commonly connected to masculinity (e.g., their forearms). Such instructions would have allowed us to more explicitly test whether, as we believe, men strategically exaggerate only those bodily cues that are linked to masculinity or, alternatively, whether they over-report all bodily measures, irrespective of their “macho” meaning. It is possible that men, on average, are more inclined to lie about their penis size than their height, weight, or athleticism, considering that the penis is typically concealed and hence easier to lie about without getting caught in everyday interactions, whereas people cannot easily hide their height, weight, and body shape.

In conclusion, our results suggest that private data related to bodily cues of masculinity can only be reliably collected in the lab, where conditions can be fully controlled. Given our findings, scientific studies with self-report data concerning penis size should be interpreted with great caution. However, one remedy to reduce exaggerated response patterns seems to be higher monetary rewards given to participants. Indeed, one study found monetary incentives to be the top priority for online panel participants, and further revealed that data quality can be positively related to monetary compensation (Litman et al., 2015), supporting our argument that increased payments may be important for accessing high-quality data on the private (penis) measures investigated herein. It is possible that participants who received the larger monetary payment, on average, were less inclined to exaggerate the size of their penis because they felt a stronger need to reply (more) honestly. In contrast, those who received the smaller monetary payment may have been more motivated to exaggerate their penis size due to anger for the low payment coupled with the activation of self-threat when receiving questions about male markers of masculinity. Indeed, self-threat has been shown to magnify the self-serving bias (Campbell and Sedikides, 1999) and participants receiving the low monetary reward might have been more prone to engage in (extreme) protest responses—as our Chi-square analyses indicate—due to psychological reactance following the low payment (MacKenzie and Podsakoff, 2012).

Future research could examine, for instance, whether oath scripts or the implementation of interactive survey techniques, with direct feedback to participants when their responses exceed certain probability thresholds, may reduce exaggerated response patterns in studies with self-report measures (Kemper et al., 2020). Before such studies are conducted, the most telling take-away message based on the current results—regarding the aggregate “believability” in men’s self-reported penis size—is perhaps best captured by a quote from the New York Times bestselling author Darynda Jones: “Never trust a man with a penis.”

What features make teddy bears comforting? Because the emotional bonds outweigh the bear’s physical characteristics.

What makes a teddy bear comforting? A participatory study reveals the prevalence of sensory characteristics and emotional bonds in the perception of comforting teddy bears. Anne-Sophie Tribot,Nathalie Blanc,Thierry Brassac,Fran├žois Guilhaumon,Nicolas Casajus &Nicolas Mouquet. The Journal of Positive Psychology, Jan 30 2023.

Abstract: Considered as a transitional object, the comforting power of the teddy bear has often been asserted in many past studies without knowing its underlying determinants. Through a participatory study conducted during the European Researchers’ Night, this study aims to identify characteristics of teddy bears that influence their comforting power, including visual, olfactory and kinesthetic properties. We also tested the effect of ownership on comforting power. Our study revealed that the emotional bond shared with a teddy bear is a predominant factor. However, we identified characteristics that play a significant role in the perception of comfort, which lies in a combination of visual, olfactory, and especially kinesthetic characteristics. Through these results, our study identifies the determinants spontaneously taken into account in the attribution of teddy bears’ capacity to provide comfort. These results were independent of participants’ age, reminiscent of the teddy bear’s ability to provide comfort at all stages of life.