Bryan Caplan  

Subjective Age

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I just turned 36. But it seems like I was celebrating my 35th birthday three months ago - and asking everyone I knew how old they felt inside. Two universal patterns:

1. Every male I asked feels a lot younger than he really is. I feel about 25. Friends in their fifties and sixties feel like they're in their thirties or forties. (Same goes for David Friedman).

2. No woman was willing to answer the question, making me suspect that they feel about as old as they are, if not older. (Only known counter-example: Jane Galt feels "18-25.")

This brought to mind two folk sayings:

1. "Men get married hoping their wives won't change; women get married hoping that their husbands will change. They're both generally disappointed."

2. "The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."

I suspect there's a good evolutionary story here; anyone want to spell it out?


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The author at Economic Investigations in a related article titled Subjective Age writes:
    It’s been a hot topic lately: Bryan Caplan, David Friedman, Jane Galt. I’m 24, or so I’m told, and I feel like 13. Or, I feel like I felt at 13. How I explain this in my case… well, I’m a loser and an underachiever so I av... [Tracked on April 13, 2007 12:08 PM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Matt writes:

Every year a man ages, his dating pool expands. Every year a woman ages, her dating pool shrinks.

Barkley Rosser writes:

I just turned 59 today. I think I have gotten used to the idea of being in my 50s, but the idea that a year from now I shall be 60 really does not compute in my head, not yet anyway.

Happy birthday, Bryan, :-).

Bruce K. Britton writes:

Bryan, there is, as you say, a good evolutionary story here. In fact, there are a number of quite different evolutionary stories here, just as there are a number of stories about how the leopard got his spots. Such stories we might call 'just-so stories,' as Kipling did. But Kipling knew he was writing fiction.

Do those whom you ask to come up with the evolutionary stories which you seek, do they believe they are writing non-fiction? Are they justified in believing that they are writing non-fiction?

The evidence for the evolutionary stories which you seek would be in the form of genetic evidence, because we can now read genes to some extent, and because we can do twin and other genetic studies. Or is there is there some other form of probative evidence for evolutionary stories, besides genetic evidence? Will your story tellers provide genetic evidence? Would it bother you if they did not?

Are you willing to accept 'economic stories' with the same quality of evidence as you are willing to accept for 'evolutionary stories?' Or do you have lower standards for evolutionary stories? Is that justified?

james wilson writes:

Evolution is only creative destruction, just as in humans, error is the discipline through which we advance. Ergo, there is a lot of error in evolution. For example, women age faster than men, and live longer. Was was God thinking, or is he a committee? And, women are multi-orgasmic, while men are not. Unacceptable. Homo-Sapien is a bad construction project, with too few engineers, or too many.

Responding to Bryan's invitation ("I suspect there's a good evolutionary story here; anyone want to spell it out?"),
see my paper "Men and Women Differ in Political Values: Theory and Implications".

Ezra writes:

For what it's worth, I'm 22 and generally feel somewhere in the neighborhood of 37.

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