1. Mindcoolness = Low Mental Noise
Let us being by defining mindcoolness as mental tranquility. In a state of mindcoolness, you can reliably process information because you are not distracted by frantic thoughts and adverse emotions. The cooler your mind, the clearer you can think—less noise disturbs your thinking process. Mindcoolness as mental tranquility is a lack of mental noise.
In cognitive science, the term “mental noise” describes a decreased reliability of information processing. The noisier your mind, the less effective you are in your thinking, decision making, action taking, and goal achieving. Mental noise prevents you from doing your True Will and thus from being free.
We can objectively measure mental noise as reaction time variability. Imagine a simple computer task where you have to press buttons to categorize words, arrows, or digits as fast as possible. Typically, cognitive performance on such tasks is measured as accuracy (correct categorization) and speed (reaction time). But we can also calculate a third measure called “reaction time variability.” If you press the button sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, you have a higher reaction time variability than someone who reacts either always fast or always not so fast. The more your reaction time varies, the more mental noise you have—something interferes with your thinking.
Mental noise has been linked to sleep deprivation, frontal lobe damage, mind wandering, attention disorders, and executive dysfunction, indicating impaired self-control (Ode et al., 2011). Do you see how it all fits together? Strong willpower = high executive functioning = low reaction time variability = low mental noise = mindcoolness. Hence, mindcoolness = willpower.
Now, let us look at the second piece of the puzzle: linking mental noise to neuroticism.
2. Low Mental Noise = Emotional Stability
Neurotic people are relatively
- emotionally unstable,
- easily overwhelmed by stress,
- likely to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, sadness, depression, and loneliness,
- prone to mental disorders such as social anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and
- bad at regulating their emotions to achieve goals and controlling urges to delay gratification.
Conversely, emotionally stable people remain relatively cool, calm, grounded, and strong-willed even in times of stress, adversity, and temptation.
In three experimental studies (Robinson & Tamir, 2005; not replicated by Colom & Quiroga, 2009), more neurotic participants had significantly noisier minds, measured as higher reaction time variability, than emotionally stable participants, independent of intelligence and no matter what specific cognitive task they performed.
Three further studies (Ode et al., 2011) produced similar results. Healthy participants with higher levels of mental noise had
- higher levels of negative emotion,
- more depression and anxiety symptoms, and
- particularly negative emotional experiences on days when their attention and mindfulness levels were low.
If you find the concept of reaction time variability too abstract and complicated, you can also think of mental noise as intrusive thoughts, including all kinds of recurrent and obsessive thinking.
For example, the heartache after a brutal breakup and the depression after a brutal failure are common sources of intrusive thoughts called rumination. Similarly, the anxiety of approaching hot women and the fear of public speaking are common sources of intrusive thoughts called worry.
Intrusive thoughts amount to distractive mental noise that mediates the link between neuroticism and poor cognitive performance (Munoz et al., 2013).
Concisely, mental noise is a matter of emotional instability, which, as I will explain now, is a feminine quality.
3. Emotional Stability = Masculine
As I have found in my own research and as numerous psychological studies have consistently shown (e.g., Weisberg et al., 2011; Schmitt et al., 2008), women are, on average, significantly more neurotic than men. By implication, emotional stability is a masculine trait.
It makes sense from a biological perspective, too. Our male ancestors had to be cool, clear-thinking, and self-controlled if they wanted to be successful hunters and tribe protectors. For females, by contrast, it was an evolutionary advantage to be quick to fear and worry if they wanted their offspring to be safe and surviving. A healthy neurotic warmth was more adaptive for them than detached coolness. We must be emotionally open to our children we seek to nurture, though not to wild animals we seek to kill.
This is not just random speculation. It is supported by the fact that women are more neurotic than men across cultures (e.g., Kajonius & Giolla, 2017). In fact, this sex difference is even larger in cultures with more gender equality (Costa et al., 2001).
Of course, research on personality is mostly based on self-report (filling in questionnaires), which is biased by cultural stereotypes (“the rational man vs. the emotional woman”) and social desirability (evaluating oneself in a way that makes one look more attractive). However, this does not mean that sex differences in human personality are mere social constructs:
- Self-report studies actually deflate absolute mean sex differences since people tend to rate themselves in relation to members of their own sex (Del Giudice et al., 2012). Accordingly, sex differences are larger in gender-egalitarian cultures where subjects rate themselves more in relation to people in general.
- Observational studies, which are more objective, typically confirm the results found in self-report studies.
- All human traits result from complex nature-nurture interactions. Neuroticism vs. emotional stability and femininity vs. masculinity are no exceptions. While social roles and cultural stereotypes undeniably influence those traits, they are also clearly rooted in biology, as are the gender roles and stereotypes themselves.
In sum, we have psychological research, cultural knowledge, and an evolutionary rationale to believe that neuroticism and emotional stability are feminine and masculine qualities, respectively.
4. Mindcoolness = Masculine
We can now conclude the argument:
- Mindcoolness is a tranquil state of mind indexed by low mental noise.
- Low mental noise marks emotional stability, which is a masculine quality.
- Therefore, mindcoolness is a masculine state of mind.