Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Christian Rudder searched the OK Cupid database for correlations that would answer the question:

What questions are easy to bring up, yet correlate to the deeper, unspeakable, issues people actually care about?

For example, according to the OK Cupid database, if you want to know if someone will have sex on the first date, the single most indicative thing to ask them is “do you like beer?”  If they do, you’re in.  If you want to know whether your date has long-term potential, ask them whether they like horror movies, whether they’ve travelled round another country alone or if they think it would be fun to chuck it all and live on a boat.  32% of successful couples covered by the data who met on OK Cupid agreed on all three questions,

It’s written in a funny and tongue in cheek style.  The author isn’t taking it particularly seriously, just reporting on what the stats say.  It’s interesting and it’s fun.

But then we get to stats that correlate religion with writing proficiency level.  The results are not surprising: atheists score higher.  In general, the more serious a person’s religious beliefs, the worse their writing is.

Again, it’s interesting and fun.

Now check out the comments.  They are jam packed with religious people saying how intelligent they are and therefore the statistics are wrong.  Leaving aside the irony, it’s interesting that they don’t dispute any of the other correlations, just the one they don’t like.  One person doesn’t dispute the correlation but says it somehow isn’t true anyway.  When someone offers a perfectly reasonable explanation for why the correlation might exist, this person answers “How can you make a valid point when you are writing in incomplete sentences?” (the person made a typo).  Obviously, the idea of the correlation struck a very raw nerve.

I expect this is because it deals with two deeply personal parts of their character: religion and intelligence.

I’ve often found that the subject of intelligence is somewhat taboo.  It’s fine to mention that you can run faster than another person or better at football, but it’s frowned upon to say you’re more intelligent than someone else, even if you are.  My feeling is that this is because our intelligence is so closely wrapped up with who we are.  If someone were no longer able to run, they’d still feel like the same person.  But if they were to lose some of her mental faculties, they probably wouldn’t feel like the same person.  Perhaps they wouldn’t be the same person. 

That’s just a guess, of course.  Anyway, it’s a fun article and some of the comments are hilarious.

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