Clear Language, Clear Mind

April 3, 2017

Criticism of me and my research on SlateStarCodex’s subreddit

Most of it seems to be just rewritten stuff from RationalWiki’s collection of inaccuracies.

I repost my reply below here for prosperity, and also for those too lazy to read Reddit.


I’m Emil Kirkegaard, and it seems in order to make some general remarks as well as rebut some of the worse claims.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that Emil Kirkegaard posted here in the past few days. For context, Emil Kirkegaard is a complete unknown among most in genetics. The few that have heard of him consider him a complete laughingstock. He has no academic qualifications commensurate whatsoever with publishing behavioral genetics research and no association with any institutions of repute to booth.

I am an unknown among people in genetics, especially for unsurprising the reason that I don’t generally do much standard genetics research. In fact, I have published little research on behavioral genetics too, mainly for the reason that the datasets — twins etc. — needed to do this are heavily guarded and thus outside of my reach as an independent (at least, until recently). My published research is mainly in differential psychology and the intersection with sociology. A large number of people in this area evidently do know me given that they frequently have mutual interactions with me on Twitter as well as it conferences etc.

In general, it seems like a not too well thought out idea to criticize someone based on their lack of credentials in a community full of autodidacts. I’ve never seen anyone criticize Gwern for this or Scott for that matter. Scott is a doctor-psychiatrist, yet he writes interesting stuff on all kinds of topics such as psychology, behavioral genetics, philosophy and politics. I don’t know what Gwern’s formal background is, but it seems unlikely that he holds advanced degrees in every topic he writes about.

Most of his research is published in two non-peer reviewed “journals” that he edits.

OpenPsych journals do have peer review. In fact, they have open peer review meaning that literally anyone can see the review of any paper. For instance, look in the post-publication forum for the reviews of all published papers. I think this is a much better and certainly more transparent review than journals ordinarily practice. My status as editor has little impact on this system, since editors do not have rejection powers in these journals. Nor can they select reviewers at whim. Rather all in-house reviewers can review any paper they desire. The role of the editor is mainly to smooth things by asking reviewers whether they have time to review this or that submission.

This claim about no review seems to originate from RationalWiki, so it seems that OP just read that source and decided to re-write it for SSC subreddit.

Indeed, he is most famous for pulling a bunch of data from OKCupid, without the consent of the company or the people whose data he used, and throwing it online without anonymizing the data, in clear violation of every single ethical standard set by IRBs anywhere, which could reveal the identities of basically all of the people in the dataset.

Did you ever actually look at the data? It’s already anonymous because people use pseudonyms on OKCupid.

In general, this criticism makes no sense given that the information in the dataset is much less than what’s available on the website. If someone actually wanted to identify gays in Iran, they would go to the website and search for gays in Iran and locate all of them with photos etc. They wouldn’t download an incomplete version of the website with no photos to search. If one really wanted to make this argument, one should make it against OKCupid for making it possible to locate gays etc. in Islamic countries in the first place.

I don’t think scraping dating sites for research is unethical. Scraping websites for research purposes is fairly common, and indeed commonly taught in data science classes. A number of other people scraped this website before and published their datasets, where nothing happened.

A large number of academics wrote to me in private in support, offering among other things legal assistance if there came to be a court case.

His prior research basically looks at whether immigrants are disproportionately criminals with lower IQs and whether negative stereotypes about Muslims were true, using techniques nobody of repute in the field uses (which, unsurprisingly, ends up showing that Muslims and immigrants are criminals with low IQs).

The stereotype study used the exact same methods other studies into stereotype accuracy have used. I know this because I got them from Lee Jussim’s book (Jussim is the world’s top expert in this field). I also sent my paper to Jussim for comment and he was trilled about it. It doesn’t appear that it used bizarre methods to reach non-standard results. In fact, it basically found the same thing virtually every other study into stereotype accuracy have found: stereotypes about demographic groups are quite accurate. It is also the first such study to be pre-registered and use a large-ish nationally representative sample.

As for the immigrant performance studies, the main method used here is the Pearson correlation, perhaps the most widely used method in all of social science. The data are usually (always I think?) from official sources, so they are pretty hard to deny. In fact, I bought the Danish data directly from the Danish statistics agency. The original files are public on OSF, so anyone can verify their veracity.

Do note that not all immigrants groups are more criminal than the host population. Indeed, a consistent finding has been that East Asians are less criminal, often starkly so. This is totally in line with mainstream findings on the crime rates of East Asians in the USA, Canada etc. Muslim immigrants are generally found to do very poorly, something that has often been noted by others, but not systematically studied as far as I know.

Incorporating country of origin data into models is somewhat unusual, but mainstream research do this too. Here’s a 2017 study.

His post cherry picked data to show that race-mixing is bad for offspring. The only pushback he received was about how he probably doesn’t control for how many multi-racial children grow up in single parent households, which was not encouraging.

There was no cherry picking which several people can verify. The r/hapas subreddit has a list of “hard data” and I simply clicked their links, and discarded the ones that weren’t scientific reports (mostly press releases). This gave me a total of 2 studies I examined that were based on decent samples, and both of which I reported in my post. If you search scholar for citing articles, you will find that there are many such papers, so these two don’t seem to be outliers.

The criticism for not controlling for single-parenthood makes no sense at all. I did not do these studies. How would I control for X confounder? I can’t, I can only report what I found. Besides, controlling for such confounders is a sociologist fallacy.

You seem to be under the idea that my post was advocating the outbreeding depression hypothesis. Whereas in fact I considered it unlikely given the lack of effects for other mixed populations (e.g. African Americans) and the small amount of genetic variation between human populations compared to e.g. dogs that don’t show obvious outbreeding depression effects. My position is simply that these four hypotheses are worth investigating.

For what it’s worth, if the outbreeding depression hypothesis turns out to be mainly true, then no specific social policy follows. One might regard government meddling into the affairs of who mates with who as unacceptable, even if there are increased chances of some problems. The state does not generally prevent other people with bad genetics from mating either. Furthermore, if outbreeding depression is real, then it’s due to epistasis — gene by gene interaction. This means that if we can figure out which gene combinations cause this effect, one can screen embryos for bad combinations and avoid the problem. This is however only possible if one identifies the genetic causes, making it important to research the question. My personal stance is that the government should not apply coercive eugenics even if this effect turns out to be real.

May 29, 2016

Personal freedom and cognitive ability: OKCupid dataset replication

Noah Carl has been investigating the relationship between cognitive ability and political opinions aside from the usual confused 1-axis left-right model. Specifically, looking at the economic freedom and personal freedom axes (á la this test). He did this in two datasets so far, covering the UK and the US:

OKCupid does not have that many questions on economic freedom (but there are some), but it has a lot of questions on personal freedom. I identified 18 in my search of which 17 had a sufficient sample size.

Questions

The questions are the following:

q175 q218 q219 q340 q341 q868 q7204 q13054 q30455 q36357 q45158 q49714 q52503 q54450 q55344 q61830 q82734 q85583 q91207

For each question, the order was changed so that later options were more in favor of freedom. If necessary, some options were removed (recoded to NA), such as those refusing to say how they would vote (for assisted suicide/q45168). In the case of child limits/q49714, more freedom was coded as anyone not answering “Yes”. And so on for other questions.

Correlations

The latent correlations (estimated Pearson correlations if the variables had been measured as normally distributed continuous variables) were:

CA flag burning freedom of religion prostitution child limits child test gay marriage cigarettes smoking bars cannabis illegal drugs illegal drugs2 illegal drugs religious weapons motorcycles seatbelts mandatory voting assisted suicide
CA 1.00 0.40 0.12 0.28 0.06 0.14 0.35 0.12 -0.04 0.24 0.20 0.23 0.02 0.05 -0.11 0.12 0.01 0.31
flag burning 0.40 1.00 -0.04 0.43 0.08 0.12 0.43 0.16 -0.03 0.46 0.45 0.44 0.14 0.16 -0.10 0.32 -0.16 0.40
freedom of religion 0.12 -0.04 1.00 0.12 0.19 0.05 0.00 0.04 0.08 -0.06 0.01 0.07 0.10 0.04 0.21 -0.03 -0.06 0.02
prostitution 0.28 0.43 0.12 1.00 0.02 0.01 0.46 0.25 0.25 0.56 0.50 0.49 0.18 -0.12 -0.06 0.36 0.03 0.58
child limits 0.06 0.08 0.19 0.02 1.00 0.59 -0.19 0.14 -0.07 0.06 0.05 -0.13 0.00 -0.06 0.11 0.01 0.12 -0.21
child test 0.14 0.12 0.05 0.01 0.59 1.00 -0.22 0.12 -0.07 -0.05 0.15 -0.05 -0.08 -0.01 0.19 0.09 0.13 -0.24
gay marriage 0.35 0.43 0.00 0.46 -0.19 -0.22 1.00 0.08 -0.14 0.58 0.31 0.47 0.46 0.13 -0.62 -0.06 0.00 0.73
cigarettes 0.12 0.16 0.04 0.25 0.14 0.12 0.08 1.00 0.55 0.41 0.41 0.38 0.40 -0.14 0.11 0.27 0.10 0.32
smoking bars -0.04 -0.03 0.08 0.25 -0.07 -0.07 -0.14 0.55 1.00 0.13 0.41 0.31 0.09 -0.27 0.55 0.48 0.04 0.16
cannabis 0.24 0.46 -0.06 0.56 0.06 -0.05 0.58 0.41 0.13 1.00 0.78 0.78 0.64 -0.13 -0.50 0.27 0.17 0.68
illegal drugs 0.20 0.45 0.01 0.50 0.05 0.15 0.31 0.41 0.41 0.78 1.00 0.54 0.38 -0.08 -0.04 0.34 0.05 0.47
illegal drugs2 0.23 0.44 0.07 0.49 -0.13 -0.05 0.47 0.38 0.31 0.78 0.54 1.00 0.49 -0.12 -0.19 0.21 -0.04 0.52
illegal drugs religious 0.02 0.14 0.10 0.18 0.00 -0.08 0.46 0.40 0.09 0.64 0.38 0.49 1.00 -0.19 -0.50 0.14 0.05 0.45
weapons 0.05 0.16 0.04 -0.12 -0.06 -0.01 0.13 -0.14 -0.27 -0.13 -0.08 -0.12 -0.19 1.00 -0.07 -0.39 -0.15 -0.03
motorcycles -0.11 -0.10 0.21 -0.06 0.11 0.19 -0.62 0.11 0.55 -0.50 -0.04 -0.19 -0.50 -0.07 1.00 0.11 -0.45 -0.50
seatbelts 0.12 0.32 -0.03 0.36 0.01 0.09 -0.06 0.27 0.48 0.27 0.34 0.21 0.14 -0.39 0.11 1.00 0.34 0.28
mandatory voting 0.01 -0.16 -0.06 0.03 0.12 0.13 0.00 0.10 0.04 0.17 0.05 -0.04 0.05 -0.15 -0.45 0.34 1.00 0.18
assisted suicide 0.31 0.40 0.02 0.58 -0.21 -0.24 0.73 0.32 0.16 0.68 0.47 0.52 0.45 -0.03 -0.50 0.28 0.18 1.00

 

CA = cognitive ability.

The distribution of correlations among the personal freedom measures was this:

intercors

So, it leaned towards positive but not overwhelmingly so. People are not that consistent on the personal freedom axis. The negative correlations mostly come from the motorcycle question: apparently many people who want to ban motorcycles also support e.g. gay marriage (r = -.62).

The mean intercorrelations by item were:

Variable Mean cor with others
flag burning 0.20
freedom of religion 0.05
prostitution 0.25
child limits 0.04
child test 0.05
gay marriage 0.15
cigarettes 0.23
smoking bars 0.15
cannabis 0.30
illegal drugs 0.29
illegal drugs2 0.26
illegal drugs religious 0.17
weapons -0.09
motorcycles -0.11
seatbelts 0.17
mandatory voting 0.02
assisted suicide 0.24

 

Item response theory factor analysis

Altho some (mostly te Nijenhuis and his co-authors, and previously myself) have been analyzing item-level data using classical test theory measures, this approach is inappropriate because Pearson correlations are influenced by the difficulty of the items (proportion who gets them right).

The proper method is to use item response theory factor analysis (I use the version in the psych package, irt.fa). The item plot was this:

item_info

So, we see that many items were not very good measures (Y axis = discrimination ≈ factor loading, but not standardized to max of 1) of the assumed single underlying factor. This is in part because the factor structure is more complex than a single factor. Most items were too far on the left side, meaning that they could not distinguish well between the people on the right side (various sorts of libertarians, presumably). One would have to include more extreme questions, such as perhaps getting rid of FDA approval for drugs (the hardcore libertarians will say that the market solves this too, assuming perfect rationality…).

Still, suppose we ignore the factor structure problem and calculate factor scores anyway, then they look like this:

pf_dist

And again we see the problem: both ceiling and floor effects. Some people wanted to ban everything (left end) and many wanted to ban nothing (right end). One would have to introduce more questions to remove these effects, if that is even possible. Alternatively, some of the scores may be due to missing data for these persons. Most persons did not have data for all questions, so the scoring function tried to estimate scores the best it could from the available data.

Still, we can correlate the scores with cognitive ability (based on up to 14 items, see the OKCupid dataset release paper), and we get this:

CA_PF CA_PF_2

There is indeed a positive correlation of .24 (N≈50k, but many cases are estimated with missing data). Obviously, the distribution is not normal, so Pearson correlation is a somewhat biased measure. Spearman’s correlation gave the same result, however. The strength of the relationship is around what previous studies found (.20 to .30).

The second plot is a more fancy plot which shows the density at each area. Lighter = more persons. So we see that the highest density of points is in the top-right quadrant explaining the positive correlation.

Jensen’s method

It is possible to use Jensen’s method (method of correlated vectors) using item response theory results, but one must use the discrimination scores (from the item plot) and the latent correlations (from the first table). If one does, one gets this:

jensens_method_CA_PF

And the result is positive as expected. We can also see that there are only two things that smarter people support banning more than less smart people: smoking in bars and motorcycles. The second one sounds pretty odd to me.

So, hopefully, someone will write this into a real paper and submit to ODP or OQSPS. At least, if I’m a co-author. If not, then submit to Intelligence or PAID, I guess.

May 28, 2016

Aarhus University’s reply to SJW letter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 11:04

In the fallout of the OKCupid dataset release, some people wrote a complaint letter to Aarhus University. I haven’t read the letter, but Aarhus University has now replied to it: Reply to Oliver Keyes et al Basically, the letter affirms everything I’ve already said, namely:

  • University was not involved, so:
  • Their ethics rules do not apply.
  • I can put the university on my name because I’m a student there, and this does not imply that I’m claiming to be working there. (Indeed, this is normal practice for Master’s students.)

A bonus statement is:

  • “We are sure that EK has not learned his methods and ethical standards of research at our university, and he is clearly not representative of the about 38,000
    students at AU.”

The last one is funny because it can be interpreted two ways. While they presumably mean it in a negative sense, I see it as positive: I managed teach myself statistics, programming, data science and psychology, and put those skills to use to gather this dataset. The university cannot claim much credit for these accomplishments. ;) Indeed, their only deed was having a linguistics program so easy that I could pass classes by spending perhaps a few days on each class at the end of each semester. The Danish state then provides the funds for living.

For those wondering who Oliver Keyes is, basically he is such as annoying SJW that even Encyclopedia Dramatica has a page on him. One can also find info from more serious sites such as this one, or this one.

May 5, 2016

Who prefers to date people of their own race?

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics — Tags: , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 22:25

Data from the OKCupid project.

In light of a recent paper examining who prefers to date within their own religion, I recalled that there was a question about this in the OKCupid dataset, except that it is for race: “Would you strongly prefer to go out with someone of your own skin color / racial background?” It’s a dichotomous outcome, where yes = 1, so I used a logistic model. I added the usual predictors. Results:

$coefs
                                            Beta   SE CI.lower CI.upper
age                                         0.03 0.01     0.00     0.06
gender: Man                                 0.00   NA       NA       NA
gender: Other                              -1.85 0.59    -3.01    -0.70
gender: Woman                               0.12 0.03     0.06     0.19
race: White                                 0.00   NA       NA       NA
race: Mixed                                -1.15 0.06    -1.27    -1.03
race: Asian                                -0.66 0.07    -0.80    -0.52
race: Hispanic / Latin                     -1.40 0.09    -1.57    -1.22
race: Black                                -1.49 0.09    -1.67    -1.31
race: Other                                -2.06 0.15    -2.36    -1.76
race: Indian                               -0.60 0.15    -0.89    -0.31
race: Middle Eastern                       -1.30 0.24    -1.78    -0.82
race: Native American                      -0.28 0.26    -0.78     0.22
race: Pacific Islander                     -2.93 0.72    -4.35    -1.52
CA                                         -0.41 0.02    -0.44    -0.38
ideology: Liberal / Left-wing               0.00   NA       NA       NA
ideology: Centrist                          0.74 0.04     0.66     0.82
ideology: Conservative / Right-wing         1.49 0.05     1.39     1.60
ideology: Other                             0.76 0.04     0.69     0.83
religion_seriousness: Not at all important  0.00   NA       NA       NA
religion_seriousness: Not very important    0.42 0.04     0.35     0.49
religion_seriousness: Somewhat important   -0.18 0.03    -0.25    -0.12
religion_seriousness: Extremely important  -0.09 0.03    -0.15    -0.04

$meta
        N pseudo-R2  deviance       AIC 
 34519.00      0.12  30143.27  30183.27
$meta N pseudo-R2 deviance AIC 34519.00 0.12 30143.27 30183.27

The betas are standardized. CA = cognitive ability. Measured from an ad hoc collection of 14 items.

Some conclusions:

  • Women are slightly more ethnocentric.
  • All non-White races are less ethnocentric.
  • Smarter people are less ethnocentric.
  • Non-liberals and particularly conservatives/right-wingers are more ethnocentric.
  • Religion has a non-linear relationship in that the somewhat religious are more ethnocentric, but the more strongly religious are less ethnocentric.

See also: heritability of ethnocentrism and related traits (sorry egalitarians, racists were born that way!)

R code: https://gist.github.com/Deleetdk/a64dcfa8ae93e5b918b2f64024f6bdf4


Previously I found that religiousness predicted ethnocentrism fairly linearly, but I can’t reproduce the result — even using the same code! No idea what caused this result.

April 28, 2016

Cognitive dysgenics in the OKCupid dataset: a few simple analyses

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics,intelligence / IQ / cognitive ability — Tags: , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 17:20

OKCupid dataset (not public right now, contact me if you want the password). Draft paper: https://osf.io/p9ixw/

I looked at whether there was evidence for cognitive dysgenics in the OKCupid dataset. The unrepresentativeness of the dataset is not much of a problem here: indeed we are very much interested in younger people looking to date since these are the parents of the next generation and some are already parents of course.

The cognitive test is made of an ad hoc collection of 14 items. It seems to work fairly well. The items were scored using item response theory.

There are a couple of questions related to fertility, either desired or actual. The relationships to cognitive ability looks like this:

q105 q979 q80041

These are the raw relationships. One may wonder if they are confounded with, e.g. race or age. So one could try a multiple regression. Unfortunately, since the outcomes are ordinal data, standard multiple regression results in a large downward bias. Still, results look like this:

$coefs
                        Beta   SE CI.lower CI.upper
CA                     -0.07 0.01    -0.08    -0.06
d_age                  -0.10 0.01    -0.11    -0.09
gender: Other          -0.69 0.09    -0.86    -0.52
gender: Woman           0.01 0.01    -0.02     0.03
race: Mixed             0.13 0.02     0.09     0.17
race: Asian             0.16 0.03     0.11     0.22
race: Hispanic / Latin  0.12 0.03     0.07     0.18
race: Black             0.29 0.03     0.23     0.34
race: Other             0.06 0.03    -0.01     0.12
race: Indian            0.07 0.06    -0.05     0.18
race: Middle Eastern    0.11 0.08    -0.06     0.27
race: Native American   0.21 0.12    -0.03     0.45
race: Pacific Islander  0.40 0.12     0.16     0.64

$meta
       N       R2  R2 adj. 
32537.00     0.03     0.03

The dependent variable was the question above about the number of desired children. Still, we see a small negative coefficient as expected. The size is similar to other studies. Since the cognitive measure was not optimal, it is probably somewhat larger.

Analysis code is in the OSF repository in the adhoc.R file.

March 31, 2016

US state IQs cannot be estimated from OKCupid data

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics,intelligence / IQ / cognitive ability — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 23:27

In the interest of publishing null findings: I tried estimating US state IQs from the mean cognitive ability for users in the OKCupid dataset. However, this did not work out. This was a far shot to begin with due to massive self-selection and somewhat non-random sampling.

Actually, what I really wanted was another way to estimate county-level IQs, since Add Health refuses to share that data. But before I could do that, I needed to validate the estimates for something else. The scatterplot can be seen below. The NAEP is from Admixture in the Americas, so it is based on a few years of NAEP data.

state_IQ

R code

This assumes you have loaded the OKCupid data as d_main and have already calculated the cognitive ability scores.

### VALIDATE STATE-LEVEL IQs

# subset data -------------------------------------------------------------
v_2chars = d_main$d_country %>% str_length() < 3
v_notUK = !d_main$d_country %in% c("UK", "GU", "13", NA)
d_states = d_main[v_2chars & v_notUK, ]

#mean score by 
d_states = ddply(d_states, .(d_country), .fun = plyr::summarize, IQ = mean(CA, na.rm = T))
rownames(d_states) = d_states$d_country

# load comparison data ----------------------------------------------------
#read
d_admix = read.csv("data/Data_All.csv", row.names = 1)

#subset USA
d_admix = d_admix[str_detect(rownames(d_admix), pattern = "USA_"), ]

#rownames
rownames(d_admix) = str_sub(rownames(d_admix), start = 5)

#merge
d_states = merge_datasets2(d_states, d_admix)

# plot --------------------------------------------------------------------
GG_scatter(d_states, "MeisenbergOCT2014ACH", "IQ") + xlab("NAEP") + ylab("OKCupid IQ")
ggsave("figures/state_IQ.png")

November 8, 2015

Cognitive ability and tattoos and piercings

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics,intelligence / IQ / cognitive ability — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 10:42

Openness to Experience – That Liberal Je Ne Sais Quoi

Tattoos and piercing. I haven’t found any evidence that this relates to intelligence or even creativity. On the other hand, what underlying factor of openness would it be an indication of?

I have. A long time ago, I tried to find a study of this. The only meaningful study I found was a small study of Croatian veterans:

Pozgain, I., Barkic, J., Filakovic, P., & Koic, O. (2004). Tattoo and personality traits in Croatian veterans. Yonsei medical journal, 45, 300-305.

The study has N≈100 and found a difference in IQ scores of about 5 IQ. Not very convincing.

OKCupid data

In a still unpublished project, we scraped public data from OKCupid. We did this over several months, so the dataset has about N=70k. The dataset contains the public questions and users’ public answers to them, as well as profile information. Each question is multiple choice with 2 to 4 options.

Some of the questions can be used to make a rudimentary cognitive test. with 3-5 items that has reasonable sample size. This can then be used to calculate a mean cognitive score by answer category to all questions. Plots of the relevant questions are shown below. For interpretation, the SD of cognitive score is about 1, so the differences can be thought of as d values. There is some selection for cognitive ability (OKCupid is a more serious dating site mainly used by college students and graduates), so probably population-wide results would be a bit stronger in general. Worse, this selection gets stronger as the sample size decreases because smarter people tend to answer more questions. The effect is fairly small tho.

Tattoo results

plot_106

plot_175

plot_367

plot_959

Piercing results

plot_301

plot_469

plot_672

plot_1713

 

September 28, 2014

Review: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) (Christian Rudder)

Filed under: Psychology,Sociology — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 13:59

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21480734-dataclysm

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=9d2c0744b6bcce6ec9e67625125244a8

This good is based on the popular but discontinued OKTrends blog, but now apparently active again becus of the book release. There is some more info in the book than can be found on the blog, but overall there is much more on the blog. The book is short (300 pp) and written in non-academic style with no statistical jargon. Read it if u think big data about humans is interesting. The author is generally negative about it, so if u are skeptical about it, u may like this book.

March 11, 2012

Sex difference in hygiene

Filed under: Psychology — Tags: , , , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 22:49

A friend of mine recently showed me a blog of one of her friends. Since it has an absurd amount of posts (like my blogs, but even more!), i tried just looking at posts tagged with something that interests me and began reading there (chose “Academia”, yes, im a dirt elitist). Here is the post in question.

“Besides possible comparative advantage in doing housework (a suggestion that, bizarrely but predictably, got denounced as “deeply misandrist”), another reason that might explain why women do more housework than men is that they are more fastidious, or have higher standards of hygiene. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find studies on this (note: studies, not rhetoric, or baseless popular magazine articles).”

I actually wrote something about this recently, altho i didnt publish it. It was meant for my autobiografy for the year 2012. I have never done any research on this, but here were my thoughts: It is a problem with co-operation that i call frequency/threshold disagreement. When people live together they almost always share some chores, typically cleaning. If they agree to take turns, for instance, with the condition that it must be done whenever “it is necessary” (“empty the trash can when it is full” etc.). This opens up problems with different opinions about when it is necessary (i.e. a threshold disagreement). Alternatively, one can agree that the kitchen floor needs cleaning but disagree about how often (frequency disagreement).

If there is a sex difference in hygiene (and that is not restricted to personal hygiene)/fastidiousness, then there will be more of such frequency/threshold disagreements when the sexes try to co-operate about household chores, i.e. in heterosexual relationships where they live together. Eventually, the women may just get tired of the man ‘not doing his part’, and then simply do it herself. Alternatively, they can simply choose to do it themselves because in that way they can avoid confrontation (i think there is a sex difference there as well!) and do it so that it suits their thresholds for dirtiness. Then they can tell the man to do something else becus of fairness (like doing the lawn/car reparation).

So, are there any studies about sex differences in hygiene? Yes. I did a quick google search and found a couple.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-consumericus/201110/sex-differences-in-hand-washing-rates-after-using-public-restroom (As a side note: even tho it is probably not statistically significant, notice how the sign made men LESS likely to wash their hands. :P Defiant to the end, huh?)

Here is a sample study (not mentioned in the above link). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18538703 Gender and ethnic differences in hand hygiene practices among college students It has a dodgy method but the difference is so large that i dont think it is a result of a bad method. It is also consistent with other similar studies.

Proposal for an internet based study – very cheap – needs a programmer

I have also come up with another way to do a huge study on this without having to ask people. It only requires some spider-scripting/coding. Dating sites such as OKCupid ask users to answer all kinds of questions, some of which are about hygiene (and most people do so publicly making it possible to collect their answers). There is both a question about how often one bathes and how often one brushes one’s teeth. There are probably some more. I wud bet that these are good proxies for general fastidiousness. Since the data are publicly available, all one needs to do is make a script that pulls the data along with other relevant info from the profile such as gender, age and location.

It is actually possible to do much a more sofisticated analysis becus there are so many other personal info available. I think someone shud definitely do a study like this. I wud also guess that the owners of OKCupid are willing to help out, since they like to analyze their own data and share their analyses. And ofc, for great science!

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