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The Science Behind Male Idiot Theory

A new study outlines the perilously stupid behavior of men

The Science Behind Male Idiot Theory

Photo by Paul Stevenson via Flickr

A study published in the British Medical Journal yesterday hypothesizes that dudes are just doomed to be dunces. Men will likely be banging their heads against the wall in fury at the results of the tongue-in-cheek survey, which examined the “winners” of the Darwin Awards, granted to those who, by contributing to their own fittingly stupid deaths, do humanity the service of removing themselves from the gene pool. A 2004 winner, for example, was the victim of an exploding lava lamp, which he heated on his stovetop in an effort to speed its sweet psychedelic throbbing. In the study, BMJ, a venerated medical journal, puts forth ample evidence that guys are wild-eyed, self-destructive adrenaline junkies that do really stupid stuff. Men apparently make up 88.7 percent of Darwin Award winners, and though the study concedes, “it is conceivable that the sex difference is attributable to sociobehavioural differences in alcohol use,” the gender gap is pronounced enough to underwrite the authors’ conceptual brainchild: Male Idiot Theory, or MIT. The journal explains:


There is a class of risk—the “idiotic” risk—that is qualitatively different from those associated with, say, contact sports or adventure pursuits such as parachuting. Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and often final.

According to “male idiot theory” (MIT) many of the differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things. There are anecdotal data supporting MIT, but to date there has been no systematic analysis of sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. In this paper we present evidence in support of this hypothesis using data on idiotic behaviours demonstrated by winners of the Darwin Award.

The paper was part of the British Medical Journal’s annual Christmas edition, which trolls researchers and the media with rigorous, peer reviewed takes on zany, cockeyed scientific theories. This year’s theme is “Going to Extremes.”

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