Study Shows People Less Likely To Take Storm Seriously If It Has A Female Name

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People are really stupid

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (via The Washington Post) found that people are more likely to be killed by storms with a woman’s name than a man’s name because they don’t take them as seriously:

Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University examined six decades of hurricane death rates according to gender, spanning  1950 and 2012.  Of the 47 most damaging hurricanes, the female-named hurricanes produced an average of 45 deaths compared to 23 deaths in male-named storms, or almost double the number of fatalities.  (The study excluded Katrina and Audrey, outlier storms that would skew the model).

The difference in death rates between genders was even more pronounced when comparing strongly masculine names versus strongly feminine ones.

“[Our] model suggests that changing a severe hurricane’s name from Charley … to Eloise … could nearly triple its death toll,” the study says.

They also found that people would be less likely to take precautions if told a storm with a female name is coming as opposed to one with a male name:

“People imagining a ‘female’ hurricane were not as willing to seek shelter,” Shavitt said. “The stereotypes that underlie these judgments are subtle and not necessarily hostile toward women – they may involve viewing women as warmer and less aggressive than men.”

It sounds hard to believe that people would be so stupid as to fail to take shelter because of being told that Hurricane Charlotte is approaching as opposed to Hurricane Charlie. What if they were told Hurricane  Natasha Romanoff was coming after them?

National Geographic has more, including some criticism of the study.

In somewhat related news on the stupidity of Americans, Gallup found today that 42 percent  believe in creationism, consistent with previous polls. Previous polls have shown a greater likelihood for Republicans to believe in creationism. I wonder how much overlap there is between these people and those who would downplay the severity of a storm if it has a female name. There could be some evolutionary implications towards weeding out stupidity going on here which the victims wouldn’t even understand or believe in.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    David Lentz says:

    Storms did not get male names until 1979. So why study storms back to 1950?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    That is one of the faults in the study. The did separate out the storms since 1979, but this also might have made the sample size too small to be significant. Unfortunately the actual article is behind a pay wall so I’m limited to articles on the study as opposed to reviewing the actual study.

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