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So today, I want us to reflect on the demise of guys. Guys are flaming out academically; they're wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women. Other than that, there's not much of a problem. So what's the data? So the data on dropping out is amazing. Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of school. In Canada, five boys drop out for every three girls. Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school to graduate school. There's a 10 percent differential between getting BA's and all graduate programs, with guys falling behind girls. Two-thirds of all students in special ed. remedial programs are guys. And as you all know, boys are five times more likely than girls to be labeled as having attention deficit disorder -- and therefore we drug them with Ritalin.
What's the evidence of wiping out? First, it's a new fear of intimacy. Intimacy means physical, emotional connection with somebody else -- and especially with somebody of the opposite sex who gives off ambiguous, contradictory, phosphorescent signals. (Laughter) And every year there's research done on self-reported shyness among college students. And we're seeing a steady increase among males. And this is two kinds. It's a social awkwardness. The old shyness was a fear of rejection. It's a social awkwardness like you're a stranger in a foreign land. They don't know what to say, they don't know what to do, especially one-on-one [with the] opposite sex. They don't know the language of face contact, the non-verbal and verbal set of rules that enable you to comfortably talk to somebody else, listen to somebody else.
There's something I'm developing here called social intensity syndrome, which tries to account for why guys really prefer male bonding over female mating. It turns out, from earliest childhood, boys, and then men, prefer the company of guys -- physical company. And there's actually a cortical arousal we're looking at, because guys have been with guys in teams, in clubs, in gangs, in fraternities, especially in the military, and then in pubs. And this peaks at Super Bowl Sunday when guys would rather be in a bar with strangers, watching a totally overdressed Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, rather than Jennifer Lopez totally naked in the bedroom. The problem is they now prefer [the] asynchronistic Internet world to the spontaneous interaction in social relationships.
What are the causes? Well, it's an unintended consequence. I think it's excessive Internet use in general, excessive video gaming, excessive new access to pornography. The problem is these are arousal addictions. Drug addiction, you simply want more. Arousal addiction, you want different. Drugs, you want more of the same -- different. So you need the novelty in order for the arousal to be sustained.
And the problem is the industry is supplying it. Jane McGonigal told us last year that by the time a boy is 21, he's played 10,000 hours of video games, most of that in isolation. As you remember, Cindy Gallop said men don't know the difference between making love and doing porn. The average boy now watches 50 porn video clips a week. And there's some guy watching a hundred, obviously. (Laughter) And the porn industry is the fastest growing industry in America -- 15 billion annually. For every 400 movies made in Hollywood, there are 11,000 now made porn videos.
So the effect, very quickly, is it's a new kind of arousal. Boys' brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way for change, novelty, excitement and constant arousal. That means they're totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, interactively passive. They're also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which build gradually and subtly.
But who should care? The only people who should care about this is parents of boys and girls, educators, gamers, filmmakers and women who would like a real man who they can talk to, who can dance, who can make love slowly and contribute to the evolutionary pressures to keep our species above banana slugs. No offense to banana slug owners. Thank you.
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Psychologist Philip Zimbardo asks, "Why are boys struggling?" He shares some stats (lower graduation rates, greater worries about intimacy and relationships) and suggests a few reasons -- and challenges the TED community to think about solutions.
Philip Zimbardo was the leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment -- and an expert witness at Abu Ghraib. His book The Lucifer Effect explores the nature of evil; now, in his new work, he studies the nature of heroism. Full bio »