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Mrs Dunbar called
April 19, 2012 7:36 AM   Subscribe

A study of mobile phone records shows according to Professor Robin Dunbar (of Dunbar's Number), that women drive romance, that they phone their spouses most until their daughters are old enough to have children, and that we may be heading for a renewed matriarchy.
posted by Segundus (33 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Most people would consider romance to be what happens before marriage.
posted by chiffonade at 7:39 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is Romance a stick or an automatic?
posted by spicynuts at 7:41 AM on April 19, 2012


Most people would consider romance to be what happens before marriage.

Most people?
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2012


I don't understand how a mobile phone record shows who is "driving romance". If my wife calls me to say we need milk and I buy milk but also spinach (because I love her and know she forgot to check it) and she gives me a thank you kiss, who just "drove romance"?
posted by DU at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


We here use data from a large mobile phone dataset to demonstrate striking sex differences in the gender-bias of preferred relationships that reflect the way the reproductive investment strategies of both sexes change across the lifespan, i.e. women's shifting patterns of investment in reproduction and parental care. These results suggest that human social strategies may have more complex dynamics than previously assumed and a life-history perspective is crucial for understanding them.

I'm sorry - you needed mobile phone data to tell you this? Was this really a question that no one had asked before?
posted by rtha at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2012


Ah, they just do it based on volume. That's a big fail. My wife's best friends are the ones who call her LEAST. Because a) she hates the phone and b) they are going to distract her from whatever she's doing.
posted by DU at 7:49 AM on April 19, 2012


Renewed matriarchy sounds good, but is that the kind of thing you can determine from mobile-phone records?
posted by box at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2012


We here use data from a large mobile phone dataset to demonstrate striking sex differences in the gender-bias of preferred relationships that reflect the way the reproductive investment strategies of both sexes change across the lifespan.

Whoever wrote this needs to get laid.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is Romance a stick or an automatic?

It's a carrot.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I for one welcome our matriarchal overlords.
posted by Splunge at 7:53 AM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]



It's a carrot.


Sometimes it's a cucumber.
posted by spicynuts at 7:55 AM on April 19, 2012


Metafilter: sounds good, but is that the kind of thing you can determine from mobile-phone records?
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:56 AM on April 19, 2012


Daughters being old enough to have children coincides with daughters leaving the house, so it hardly surprises me that phone calls to the child they no longer live with supplant phone calls to the man they likely still live with. Interesting that, compared to their male 'best friends', women prefer calling their female children more than their male children, but not terribly surprising either.
posted by NathanBoy at 7:57 AM on April 19, 2012


Wait, calling volume determines intimacy? So most people's most intimate relationship is with their credit agency, then.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:57 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


No. They just like phones.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 AM on April 19, 2012


I would like to see an explanation for why there are 400k more men in this study than women. To me, that suggests that this cohort might not be representative of the general population at large. Whether or not that affects the study depends on why that is.
posted by NathanBoy at 8:00 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Renewed matriarchy? Wait, what ever happened to it? I thought it was pretty much universally recognized that they were holding all the, um, cards?
posted by resurrexit at 8:01 AM on April 19, 2012


Ah the timeless romance of the English: "It's they [women] who make the decision and once they have made their mind up, they just go for the poor bloke until he keels over and gives in!"
posted by nickrussell at 8:06 AM on April 19, 2012


These results suggest that human social strategies may have more complex dynamics than previously assumed...

What a stupid statement.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:10 AM on April 19, 2012


I don't understand how a mobile phone record shows who is "driving romance". If my wife calls me to say we need milk and I buy milk but also spinach (because I love her and know she forgot to check it) and she gives me a thank you kiss, who just "drove romance"?

Those guides to "the language of flowers" somehow never seem to get around to spinach.
posted by yoink at 8:12 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


We here use data from a large mobile phone dataset to demonstrate striking sex differences in the gender-bias of preferred relationships that reflect the way the reproductive investment strategies of both sexes change across the lifespan, i.e. women's shifting patterns of investment in reproduction and parental care.

Well that explains everything... the Finns funded this thing.
posted by infini at 8:23 AM on April 19, 2012


These conclusions seem strange to make from this data. My husband and I absolutely call each other the most, especially using the cell phones, because we have small children (busy lives) so it's always practical stuff - when are you done at work tonight? did you remember to do X this morning? don't forget you have to call Z by 5 PM. can you pick up Y while you're out? did you want me to get the blueberry waffles or the cinnamon? are we out of milk? have you already given [the preschooler] a dose of Advil this afternoon? I need you home right away, the baby has been crying for half an hour and won't stop.

I wonder what this professor is assuming, does he think these women-calling-their-husband phone calls are, what, I miss you sooooo much even though we just shared a morning-breath kiss three hours ago! Also did you know I am wearing purple underpants today? You live with your spouse, why would you be calling them all the time for romantic reasons when you could just, you know, show 'em your romance in person every day and night if you are so inclined? Talking on the phone for romantic purposes is what you do if you can't be around each other so much in person, like teenagers, or a long-distance relationship.

I do talk on the phone with my mother a lot more now that I have children, because having support is important, and if you have a decent relationship with your mother then she's invested in your children and wants to know about them, offer you advice, commiserate with you, etc. Why daughters in particular? - well, women grow up socializing differently than men, and making connections for women rests in large part on conversation.

The "renewed matriarchy" thing is weird - women are more likely societally to be concerned with the details of raising children and family issues & women are more likely to do the societal connecting and maintaining relationships, because that's what we've been socialized to perceive as our role. I don't know that we can jump to a evolutionary/biological reasoning for this, and using mobile phone data to make these presumptions is not persuasive - after all, my husband uses his cell phone most to make calls and handle emails for work. This study's results seem too facile and full of projection on the part of the researcher.
posted by flex at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


So most people's most intimate relationship is with their credit agency, then
Now you are equating F**cking to making Love...
posted by mrgroweler at 8:34 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on the "recent calls" list on my phone, I must be romantically involved in equal parts with my product manager, my mother, and the pizza place down the street.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:03 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading that first link was pretty painful. The "best friend" lingo was bizarre. And it seems to me the second link is stressing something completely different than the first- what I mainly took away was not that women initiate romance, but that mother-daughter bonding is an extremely important, possibly underestimated part of the way families work.

And that men only get serious about marriage when they turn 30 and only for the first seven years. Which, lol.
posted by quincunx at 9:44 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most people would consider romance to be what happens before marriage.

OK, Mr. Roper. We know the trope.

I thought it was an interesting study and that the use of mobile-phone data isn't such a bad metric at all.

If my wife calls me to say we need milk and I buy milk but also spinach (because I love her and know she forgot to check it) and she gives me a thank you kiss, who just "drove romance"?

You both did.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:04 AM on April 19, 2012


and I buy milk but also spinach (because I love her and know she forgot to check it) and she gives me a thank you kiss, who just "drove romance"?

mmmm... hopefully we're driving a creamy saag dish next.

So I see the study examines changing patterns of investment via phone records over time in a relationship, but from my skimming, it doesn't seem to mention whether relationships are changing as a whole over the entire culture. That would lend evidence to us "heading for a renewed matriarchy". Otherwise we don't know if these changing investment strategies have always been practiced (my likely guess in Western cultures) or are actually a new development.
posted by formless at 10:12 AM on April 19, 2012


Quoting from the article:
We define the “best friend” of a given subscriber i as the alter that i is most frequently in contact with, counting both the number of calls and text messages;
Wait a minute, what if the person I call/text the most is a worker/coworker/boss, for business reasons? The frequentist approach (more calls -> more closer) ( "On the assumption that mobile phone communication represents the most of important relationships of subscribers and that the strength of communication reflects the level of emotional closeness") is not unreasonable per se, but how does one account for the fact I and possibly many others don't necessarily call the people we are emotionally closer to as much as we call people we are in business with?
posted by elpapacito at 11:10 AM on April 19, 2012


I, for one, welcome our renewed matriarchy -- it's over, lords.
posted by chavenet at 11:17 AM on April 19, 2012


how does one account for the fact I and possibly many others don't necessarily call the people we are emotionally closer to as much as we call people we are in business with?

I guess one would determine the number of you and "possibly many others" ...

I don't know if the study adequately addressed the efficacy of monitoring mobile-phone communications, but it does address it:

"Several studies have demonstrated that frequency of contact is a reliable index of emotional closeness in relationships [9, 10] and these datasets confirm that frequency of contact by telephone and other digital media (text, email) correlates significantly with frequency of face-to-face contact."

Those 9 and 10 references don't really address that question, though, and of course, they are studies from the same author of this study.

9. Roberts, S. B. G. & Dunbar, R. I. M. Communication in social networks: effects of kinship, network size and emotional closeness. Pers. Relationships 18, 439–452 (2010).

10. Roberts, S. B. G., Dunbar, R. I. M., Pollet, T. & Kuppens, T. Exploring variations in active network size: constraints and ego characteristics. Social Networks 31, 138–146 (2009).

posted by mrgrimm at 12:16 PM on April 19, 2012


"Scientist" takes a bunch of data, stirs in a package of statistics, bakes in a paper, and - voila! - releases dramatically overreaching soundbite to press.

...which does nothing to further actual knowledge of the topics claimed in the press release.

News at 11 never. Up next: the Kardashians' toilet paper choices!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I for one welcome our matriarchal overlords (Splunge)

Ahem. Matriarchal overladies, please.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:53 PM on April 19, 2012


Would menopausal olderlady do?
posted by infini at 2:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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