Evolutionary Entertainment

Exploring the evolutionary foundations of popular culture.

Why Do Pols Want to Police Dick & Jane's Private Parts?

Politicians with genitalia-laden names seem fixated on gonads.

Disclaimer: My tongue was planted firmly in cheek when writing this cheeky piece. Hold the hate mail, please.   

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The U.S. news cycle has been overrun with stories of how aspiring Republican nominees for President want to control when we can mate, with whom we can mate, and precisely how we are allowed to mate. Rarely a day passes when a means of curbing funding or access to marriage, contraception, or abortion isn't proffered by a prominent GOP politician. Why are Republican gentlemen who preach "smaller government" so fixated on getting the legislature all up in a lady's lady business? Why do so many Dicks focus on controlling Dick and Jane's gonads instead of shrinking the government?

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Maybe social psychology can shed light on this paradox. In the aptly titled, "Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions," Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones (2002) found that people are drawn to things that are connected to "the self" such as the letters and words in their first or last names. Statistically speaking, for example, people are disproportionately likely to live in places and to choose careers whose names and titles resemble their names. Folks named Louis are overrepresented in St. Louis. Many a Dennis menaces us as dentists. According to implicit egotism theory, people focus on things that they associate with themselves, even something as banal to the self as the self's name (see Pelham, Carvallo, & Jones, 2005). This would surprise Shakespeare's Juliet who opined that one's name was meaningless.

      O, be some other name!     
      What's in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet;
      So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd
      Retain that dear perfection which he owes
      Without that title.
~Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

But research doth dare contradict the star-crossed Juliet, as one's name appears to influence major life decisions. Might a process of implicit egotism explain the paradox of past and present prominent Republicans prying into our private lives? Probably not, but it sure is fascinating to take note of the bevy of genitalia-laden names among those hyper-focused on our genitals: Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon, Richard "Dick" Cheney, Richard "Dick" Armey, Richard "Dick" Luger, Richard "Dick" Perry, and most notably, Richard "Dick" Santorum. And that's to say nothing of the many Bushes. (Or John Boehner, depending on your pronunciation). It's almost as if implicit egotism has rendered a focus on women's reproductive rights and people's genitalia their birth(name)rights.

And what of William "Slick Willy" Clinton, you ask? Why didn't he focus on controlling when, with whom, and how we mated? Well, he was too busy navigating his own mating realms to be bothered with ours. His focus on women's sexuality involved his privates, not the public's health at large. If the tendency toward implicit egotism holds true, then the old English proverb that "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me" may prove faulty if Republicans baring slang names for genitals have their way with women's private parts.

 

References

Pelham, B. W., Carvallo, M., & Jones, J. T. (2005). Implicit egoism. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 106-110.doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00344.x

Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Jones, J. T. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 469-487. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.82.4.469

See also "Conservatism as a Mental Illness: Republicans have exhibited ten telltale signs of mental illness this past year"

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Copyright © 2012 Barry X. Kuhle. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of Psychology Today and the University of Scranton, or my friends, family, probation officer, gut bacteria, darkest thoughts, and personal mohel.

Barry X. Kuhle, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Scranton.

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