LSE scholar admits race analysis was 'flawed'

Evolutionary psychologist issues mea culpa in wake of critical LSE inquiry. Jack Grove writes

September 15, 2011

A scholar who sparked an international row with his claim that data analysis showed that black women were uglier than those of other races has apologised for bringing his institution into disrepute.

Satoshi Kanazawa, reader in the department of management at the London School of Economics, caused uproar in May when he wrote a blog posting on the US-based website Psychology Today titled: "Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?"

The Japanese evolutionary psychologist based his findings on a survey in which white, Asian, black and Native American men and women were asked to rate each other's attractiveness based on photographs. Black women scored lowest, Asian women highest.

Dr Kanazawa, who has worked at the LSE since 2003, said this was because black women had higher testosterone levels than others and therefore more masculine features.

However, serious concerns were raised about his work. In a letter to Times Higher Education, 68 of his peers in the field of evolution and human behaviour accused him of poor-quality work and of failing to engage in scientific dialogue.

The LSE has now published the findings of an internal investigation into the affair, ruling that Dr Kanazawa had "brought the school into disrepute" and barring him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for a year.

The inquiry, details of which were released to staff on 15 September, also concludes that he had "ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence".

It found that "some of the arguments used...were flawed and not supported by evidence, that an error was made in publishing the blog post" and that Dr Kanazawa had not given "due consideration to his approach or audience".

In addition to the 12-month ban, he will not teach any compulsory courses this academic year.

In a letter to Judith Rees, director of the LSE, Dr Kanazawa says he "deeply regrets" the "unintended consequences" of the blog and accepts it was an "error" to publish it.

"In retrospect, I should have been more careful in selecting the title and the language that I used to express my ideas," he writes.

"In the aftermath of its publication, and from all the criticisms that I have received, I have learned that some of my arguments may have been flawed and not supported by the available evidence."

He adds: "In my blog post, I did not give due consideration to my approach to the interpretation of the data and my use of language."

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

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