Impending Survey Discussion Thread

Sorry, decreased blogging this week because of Thanksgiving.

But I am going to post a new SSC survey in a few weeks. Feel free to use this thread to tell me what you want – from questions you want to see, to methodology issues that bothered you on past surveys, to whatever.

Keep in mind I will probably have to ignore the overwhelming majority of suggestions here.

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294 Responses to Impending Survey Discussion Thread

  1. Mjreard says:

    Ask about meat/egg consumption or even opinions on the ethics of chicken vs. beef etc.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good idea!

      “How many times per week do you consume meat of ruminant animals?”

      “How many times per week do you consume fish?”

      “What percentage of your diet, calorie-wise, comes from animal products?”

      “Do you generally follow the recommendations of the Standard American Diet?”

      “Are you currently on a low-carbohydrate diet?”

      “Are you currently on a ketogenic diet?”

      “Are you currently on a carnivorous diet?”

      “How long have you been following the diet you are currently on?”

      • Deiseach says:

        You realise I had to Google “are pigs ruminants?” to make doubly sure, right?

        (1) no idea, it depends, don’t eat meat every day

        (2) sometimes twice, sometimes not at all

        (3) no idea – how many calories in “some/quite a bit” (e.g. am I drinking tea with milk or not)?

        (4) if I knew what it was, I might – or might not

        (5) no

        (6) no

        (7) yes

        (8) since I started eating solid food

        • Anonymous says:

          While you may be technically correct, in that a hypocarnivore is still a carnivore, a carnivorous diet in this context is a diet composed entirely of meat (some people extend that to dairy and/or eggs, but definitely no plants). It’s definitely a low-carbohydrate diet (necessarily) and often a ketogenic diet (though not necessarily, depending on protein content). The normie way of eating would be better described as ‘omnivorous’ than ‘carnivorous’.

          If you are not eating meat every day, and you’re not on low-carb or keto, then I suspect that you are largely in line with the Standard American Diet. If you’ve ever seen a ‘food pyramid’ in the hospital, that’s basically that.

          • chridd says:

            Might want to clarify that, then; I’m pretty sure I’ve heard “carnivore” used to mean “not vegetarian” at some point.

          • Anonymous says:


            Yes, I suppose it would help if a brief definition were given for all the mentioned dietary plans. What with the instant miscommunication here.

          • Deiseach says:

            What chridd said, I was taking “carnivore” in the hysterical vegan accusation meaning (bloodmouth carnist!) and not a particular unique diet.

    • dionisos says:

      It could be interesting to also have question about how people would like to eat, and not only how they eat.

  2. EricN says:

    Ask about your readers’ age gaps relative to their siblings. Perhaps that will let you refine your analysis of the birth order effect.

    • fion says:

      +1 for this and also anything else you can think of to explore this further

    • John Schilling says:

      Yes, please. The evidence of a birth order effect may be the most broadly interesting and useful thing to come out of these surveys. Looking back over that thread, I think two additions would be helpful in the next survey. First, age gap between the next-older and next-lower sibling.

      Second, for older siblings, whether they lived with other non-sibling children between birth and age 2 or 4. Or maybe just ask the same birth order / age gap question twice, once for genetic siblings and once for all children raised in the same communal environment, to sort out genetic and maternal-age effects from social or environmental ones.

    • JohnNV says:

      Also maternal/paternal age at birth? I’d be interested to disaggregate the effect of maternal/paternal age from birth order, given that the first born is also necessarily the one with the youngest parents at birth of a given set of siblings.

    • Rachael says:

      Agreed (and agreed with John Schilling; the birth order effects in previous SSC surveys are striking and potentially a genuine and fairly major contribution to human knowledge).

  3. Mitch Lindgren says:

    I think you’ve previously asked whether people perceive the comments here to be more skewed to the right or to the left. If it’s not already a question, I’d like to see the same thing asked of the subreddit and the CW thread in particular.

  4. skybrian says:

    It might be interesting to have a way for survey-takers to flag each question as ambiguous or confusing. I would still ask people to answer questions they thought were ambiguous, but it would be interesting to see how many people thought there was something wrong with each question, and how that affected their answers.

    • Somethatname says:

      I like this idea

    • Allan53 says:

      I find this suggestion confusing and ambiguous.

    • chridd says:

      For me, I think some sort of “none of the answers apply” option might be useful for some questions… or a “this is the closest, but it’s not quite right in some way”.

      And/or an “I don’t know, this is my best guess” option.

    • b_jonas says:

      I don’t think there’s a point. Most questions will have people who find it confusing or ambiguous, but that information or even the number of people won’t help you. What may help is people giving specific comments on why they found questions ambiguous, but people already post those in the forum thread. And even in that case, for many questions, you won’t be able to make a useful list of crystal clear answers so that everyone feels that one matches them exactly. At worst you’ll just have a hundred different answers to the same question and no way to evaluate the results.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        People who find a question confusing or ambiguous may answer statistically differently than those who don’t. This would allow the equivalent of control and experimental groups in the statistical analyses of the questions.

        • brmic says:

          If you want to take care of ambiguity:
          – Re-use questions that you have feedback on from previous surveys.
          – Do a dedicated beta trial with feedback from known and trusted sources.
          – Generally err on the side of having an ‘other’ option. Especially given this is a recurring survey: Questions with lots of other answers can be expanded in later iterations.

          Based on my experience, separate analyses for people who found the question confusing is usually not a good idea:
          – Their number is often limited, so little can be learned from/about them.
          – It’s frequently next to impossible to tease apart the components that make a question confusing: Characteristics of the question (phrasing, word choice, answer formats etc.) interact with dispositions of the survey taker (oddballs, highly scrupulous people etc.) and their position on the issue the question addresses (ideosyncratic, contingent on unmentioned, unknown, unknowable etc. facts), some survey effects (order, phrasing of adjacent items, what previous items evoked) and luck. One can take a swing at untangling that, but generally that either involves assumptions at least as speculative as the assumption everyone ‘got’ the question and sample sizes so small one doesn’t care about them.
          – I’ve literally seen dozens of survey designers fret over this issue, include expanisve options against advice, painstakingly transcribe and categorize unusual reactions and then ultimately throw the data away because they couldn’t get more than ‘sometimes some people find some questions confusing’ out of it. Unless one is looking for a specific failure mode, I recommend against it.

    • Bruce Beegle says:

      Twice I started an SSC survey, and quickly found a question (probably among the first 3) that to me was completely ambiguous. I didn’t know how to answer, and wouldn’t learn anything from other people’s answers, so I stopped. If others had similar reactions the number of completed surveys may have been significantly lower.

    • sentientbeings says:

      I was going to suggest this idea as well. The meta-survey could end up more interested than the survey.

    • googolplexbyte says:

      How about a confidence score?

      On a scale of 0-10, 0 being least confident, 10 being most confident, how confident are you in your answer?

    • phisheep says:

      Yes, good idea.

      I’m still mildly cross about that palindrome question last time round, and in particular Scott’s leap from age effects in the answers to potential cognitive decline among those of us who are a bit older. Would have been nice to be able to explain the logic of my answer at the time rather than in comments afterwards.

  5. Jay Searson says:

    I’ve never finished any of them except the first one. Make it shorter.

    • fraza077 says:

      I disagree with this, but it is an interesting selection effect.

      Perhaps do something villainous which compels people who start the survey to finish it.

    • Callum G says:

      Or have the survey in sections, with the highest priority at the beginning. This creates a potential analysis group of those who finished the survey and those who didn’t.

    • johan_larson says:

      Yes, I seem to remember the time estimates for the full version of the last quiz were way low. Half an hour is probably pushing it, which suggests the author should be able to complete the quiz in something like ten minutes.

      • Aapje says:

        My experience is that time estimates are almost always low, as they are usually created by the person who created the survey, who has already considered the questions extensively while creating the survey. So for them, running through the survey consists of marking the answers they already have, while people new to the survey still have to come up with their answers.

    • b_jonas says:

      I don’t finish the survey, but I have no problem with that: the questions are already ordered such that starting to fill them in order still helps.

    • David Speyer says:

      If you randomized (or just rotated) question order, then for each question you could compare “people who got this question first, answered it and then quit” to “people who slogged through dozens of questions to get to this one”.

      • fion says:

        I like the sound of this idea.

      • RavenclawPrefect says:

        AFAIK this isn’t possible to do with google forms, at least not without really convoluted mechanisms like “go to and choose a corresponding next section from the following list”, which defeats the whole point of testing things among users who want to avoid extra hassle. And switching from google forms imposes significant costs, since it offers lots of survey design tools, ease of use by survey-takers (who’ve all seen the layout before), and lets you export data freely and easily to a spreadsheet.

    • Anonymous says:


    • b_jonas says:

      Some people complain that the survey is too long, other people mention new questions that really should be added, or questions that should be fixed; but nobody ever dares to mention specific questions that should be removed from the survey. It’s starting to sound like the university, where people agreed that we were teaching way too much material in the mathematics course to electric engineers, and everyone had their favourite topic that we really should teach, but nobody could give even a candidate of what we are currently teaching but is useless and should be skipped.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Agree. I completed the ones I started, but only because I didn’t want to mess up the results by dropping out part way.

      edit: I don’t remember if the surveys had it in the past, but I hate when a long online form (survey, job application, test, whatever) gives no indication of its total length or how far through I am. I find it very frustrating.

  6. LesHapablap says:

    OKCupid has combed their databases to determine the three questions to ask on a first date that most determine compatibility link text

    Do you like horror movies?

    Have you ever traveled around another country alone?

    Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

    • SuiJuris says:

      I’m slightly surprised that “do you like the taste of beer?” hasn’t become a euphemistic phrase for “will you have sex with me?” (Perhaps it has and I just don’t go on enough dates none.)

    • chridd says:

      “Do you prefer the people in your life to be simple or complex?” might be interesting if there are political questions, or seeing if SSC readers have a different tendency than the average population (except I don’t think it says what the typical answer is there; is there any way to find it?).

      (Edit to add: Also, I don’t actually know how I’d answer that question.)

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m old enough that “simple” would be the preference, “complex” generally shakes out to mean “self-involved drama magnet who routinely makes a mountain out of a molehill and soaks up all your psychic energy dealing with them”.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      Seems like these three questions are just proxies for measuring openness to experience; ironically, I consistently score very highly on the metric (and agree with that assessement) but would answer no to all three of these. (Jump scares suck and all horror movies resort to them, would like to but haven’t yet, I’ve been on enough boats to know the slime and salt and confined space would get old real fast.)

      One thing that I find interesting in OKCupid’s question database that this article didn’t cover is their IQ test type questions (what’s next in this sequence of integers, which hand does an inside-out right hand glove fit onto, complete the analogy, etc.) – anyone know if they’ve done interesting analyses on how those questions play into dating?

      • LesHapablap says:

        I also wonder if these questions were analyzed properly, or if they just trolled the database for the three questions that predicted the most. Surely they checked them against a subset of the data.

      • Ketil says:

        There was a TED talk by a psychologist about compatibility (sorry, to lazy to dig up the link). Kinda quasi-scientific, but if I recall correctly, the essence was that people should be different in assertiveness/dominance/empathy and alike in openness to experience/adventureous.

        The key question was: if you had to choose, would you have a friend who was loyal, or a friend who was interesting.

        Okay, so I did look it up after all. Here it is, along with a quote – make of it what you will:

        So, it began to occur to me that maybe your biology pulls you towards some people rather than another. And I have concocted a questionnaire to see to what degree you express dopamine, serotonin, estrogen and testosterone. I think we’ve evolved four very broad personality types associated with the ratios of these four chemicals in the brain. And on this dating site that I have created, called, I ask you first a series of questions to see to what degree you express these chemicals, and I’m watching who chooses who to love.

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you like horror movies?

      Yes, but I don’t consider the splatter/torture porn stuff proper “horror”, so if we’re talking “Saw” thenno

      Have you ever traveled around another country alone?


      Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

      Probably not, unless you mean “sailboat” as in “Gilded Age private yachts where they went for short coastal jaunts while the crew did all the work of sailing” (and seemingly you can arrange the entire package for a taste of the lifestyle back then).

  7. shakeddown says:

    can you post a control question (say, asking for guys’ penis size) to see how much people exaggerate on the IQ score answer? Inspired by this comic – we always get implausibly high numbers for IQs in the survey, and we might be able to approximate how exaggerated they are if we know how much people exaggerate on something that’s probably independent of blog readership.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      The average of 135 doesn’t strike me as totally unrealistic. Also, the kind of people who exaggerate on IQ, may not be the people who exaggerate on penis size.

      One could instead add a short IQ test, like word-sum.

      • shakeddown says:

        There’s a bunch of biases involved (e.g. in terms of who remembers theirs). I suspect the bias for iq (among people here) would be significantly larger than the bias for penis size, but it’d be good to at least establish that a bias exists (and have a lower bound estimate).

        • There is also the problem that reported IQ may be based on either an adult test or a childhood test. I believe the spread is considerably larger on the latter where, as I understand it, the definition is in terms of mental age over physical age rather than number of standard deviations from the mean.

          • Deiseach says:

            For an IQ question, I think it would really help if there were an option for “was this taken as a child/adult?” because as noted, some people took one as kids and have been quoting that result ever since, some people have taken several, and some people never took one and may be estimating from the online “if you got this grade/result in our test you have an IQ of this much”.

          • Ketil says:

            And selection bias. I know at least one person who did an IQ test (probably some online thing or MENSA recruitment), got a really high score, and swears never to take another.

            Perhaps people who take IQ tests take multiple tests and either stop when they get a good result, or forget about the bad ones?

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I suspect a lot of IQ-exaggeration may come from people accurately citing their scores on low-standard online IQ tests that have a vested interest in returning high numbers, not from people making up numbers. I wouldn’t expect a similar effect for penis size, unless someone out there is selling ego-boosting rulers with smaller inches than usual…

      • fion says:

        I believe the survey explicitly asks people not to enter IQ results from free online IQ tests. I can’t remember the wording, but I’m sure I never put in my IQ for this reason.

        (Of course, even if I have remembered correctly what you say could still very easily be true if people ignore it…)

        • RavenclawPrefect says:

          An additional barrier could be requesting that people specify exactly which kind of IQ test it was; people who ignore the alt-text and just type in whatever told them probably won’t go to the effort of lying and claiming it was Stanford-Binet. (This might have the added benefit of renormalizing 15SD vs 16SD scales.)

          (Might not work for childhood IQ tests – I don’t know what I was administered in second grade – but that could be exempted if David Friedman’s suggestion is taken into account as well.)

          • One way in which one can get a partial check on a childhood IQ is to compare it to the IQ implied by your SAT scores.

          • Error says:

            I’m pretty sure one of the previous surveys tried both of those — that is, filtering out low-validity tests and cross-checking against SAT scores. I’m also pretty sure they held up. Can’t remember if that was on SSC or LW though.

      • albatross11 says:

        Inches, cm, it’s all the same, right?

    • sty_silver says:

      That suggestion strikes me as mildly sexist.

      • shakeddown says:

        I genuinely can’t think of a good female or unisex equivalent (for example as the XKCD link shows, self-reported breast size skew is a lot less straightforwards). And we have enough cis straight men in our sample that the sample size error is small compared to the structural errors anyway, so the fact that we have to exclude some of our sample isn’t a huge deal.

        • attir says:

          Those aren’t self reports. Those are queries. The people who think they are a size C don’t feel like asking about it, apparently. And nobody wants to ask about having a 13 inch penis.

          The searches index worry, as well as and more than they index belief in having state. They also index anticipation – what would it be like if I had 12 girlfriends, or, what can I find on the internet by typing ‘I have 12 girlfriends’, for example.

        • Deiseach says:

          For female equivalent I was first thinking breast size but then how you could you distinguish who was inflating (ahem) their answer from those generously endowed by Mother Nature?

          I’d say dress size (though UK/US/European are all different); if every female-identifying person replies that they are a perfect size eight (or US equivalent), then you know somebody is telling porkie-pies 🙂

        • phoenixy says:

          What about height?

          Women don’t lie about their height as much as men do but something like 90% of SSC readers are men anyway, and you could analyze the heights separately for men and women.

    • Brad says:

      Given that childhood IQ tests don’t well predict adult IQ and adult IQ tests under clinically valid circumstances are vanishingly rare, I think the IQ question is probably never going to produce useful data and is best simply left out*.

      In the US the SAT (/GMAT/LSAT) questions are a decent substitute, with ceilings not much different than what IQ tests can accurately claim (which is different from what they *do* claim). Not sure what, if anything, is similarly well validated and in widespread use ex-US.

      * though perhaps the IQ question itself is a good “penis size” test for the rest of the survey. We can just eliminate all responses that have an implusbily high IQ as from either from liars or people that aren’t reading the questions carefully.

    • phisheep says:

      As we discovered in discussing the results last time around there were a bunch of us – me among them – who posted inflated IQ scores under the mistaken impression that the MENSA test had a 15 SD, when actually it has a 25 SD (I think those are the correct numbers). Assuming that people are mostly not lying, just putting a reminder of this in the question would probably sort things out.

      • Anonymous says:

        the mistaken impression that the MENSA test had a 15 SD, when actually it has a 25 SD

        Which MENSA test? AFAIK, they don’t use any particular standard; each chapter is different. The one I did had SD 15, and it even says so on the certificate.

      • Rachael says:

        @phisheep Yes, this. I’m another one who put an IQ score from an official invigilated Mensa test, mistakenly thinking it was a valid SD-15 measure. (There’s nothing on the certificate to say otherwise. It doesn’t say what kind of IQ test it was, and it says “This gives a true IQ”.) It would be helpful if the rubric in the question said that Mensa tests weren’t (or weren’t necessarily) valid.

        Relatedly, if the IQ attached to my survey identifier string drops 20 points between last year and this year, it’s because of the above, not because I’m making up the numbers.

    • Plumber says:

      Since I don’t know where to take an “official” IQ test that’s not on-line, nor am I inclined to pay for one, and I have never taken the SAT I would just put “100” for IQ based on an employer administered “IQ” test “for practice” in which I was told my result was “About average”, and I’d leave SAT blank (I did take a PSAT and I remember the verbal was good and the arithmetic wasn’t, which is ironic because my current job required an arithmetic test to apply, but what those exact scores were I don’t remember, nor do I know how to find).

      If the survey has a link to a free test I’ll take it, but without that no go.

  8. Nevin says:

    I am curious about the correlates to correctly predicting what social scientific studies will replicate. To that end, you could put in a question with a link to this quiz: Ask people who have not already taken the quiz or previously read the results of this replication study to take the quiz, and then write down their score (out of 42) on the survey.

  9. Levantine says:

    I would like a greater degree of privacy than is made possible by Google.
    Now this privacy issue seems irrelevant, but in the long run, who knows.

    Keep in mind I will probably have to ignore the overwhelming majority of suggestions here.


    • AGIDev says:

      I concur with the privacy concerns, beyond that I have several issues with using Google besides privacy. I’ll be unabe to take the survey if Google Forms is used.

      That said, I understand survey-makers might prefer the convenience of using a known tool to an extra 1% in survey responses. To that end I actually tested all surveys listed here and I highly recommend LimeSurvey. It’s open-source, can be hosted on SSC itself, has lots of nice features (question randomization, skip-logic, branching, dynamic questions, anonymization, several others). If you don’t want to pay it’ll have to be hosted on SSC. Installation guide is here.

      Issues such as “too many questions” could be solved with branching (for each question block you could ask whether the user wishes to continue, in which case you show the next block). Exports to R, Excel, Word, Strata, .csv, and more.

      • AGIDev says:

        With dynamic questions you can also ask for country at the beggining and use that to show values in either the Metric or Imperial systems.

  10. spentgladiator says:

    I hope to finally see the employment question go into more detail about blue and pink collar jobs. Either this division or something about skilled and unskilled subcategories, but please, give us at least two options.

    • Deiseach says:

      Either this division or something about skilled and unskilled subcategories, but please, give us at least two options.

      I’m laughing because yes, I’d like questions that didn’t assume of course I went to university and of course I walked into a Big Job with fantastic pay and conditions afterwards, so don’t take it amiss if I visualise this breaking down into “are you a Normal Person or one of the quaint exotic specimens of which we have heard that don’t have even a basic four year degree and earn less than the minimum necessary for a barely acceptable standard of living two hundred and fifty thousand a year, can you imagine?” 🙂

      Me, Plumber and perhaps you, by the sounds of it!

      • Plumber says:

        Yeah, among the career choices available in the 2017 survey I would be “other” as would most people I know face-to-face.

      • spentgladiator says:

        Yes, that’s basically how I felt with this question up until now. What made it even better were the 3 (!) subcategories for computer-related jobs listed over the infamous “other” option.

        Just to clarify, by “skilled/unskilled” I actually meant the difference between e.g. plumbers, chefs, and carpenters, so professionals in the “other” category, and let’s say waiters and cleaners, most of whom did not do more than a week of education for the job. I think it’s a useful one, even if contributing to the Normal Person/Exotic Specimen divide.

        • Deiseach says:

          What made it even better were the 3 (!) subcategories for computer-related jobs listed over the infamous “other” option.

          Well, that is the emphasis of this community, I suppose. Found it very funny that it made the world sound like “People who do This With Computers, People who do That With Computers and People who do The Other With Computers, oh and everybody else who can all be lumped together” 🙂

          Hey, even for “waiters and cleaners”, there’s a lot of Continuing Education. The janitor/maintenance man/general dogsbody where I work complains about all the constant short courses (usually one-day affairs) he has to do for things like “how to use a sprayer correctly” and get the piece of paper certifying ‘yes indeed you did sit through three hours on using a sprayer’ afterwards, but from the insurance viewpoint I can see why (suppose he later claims that he got sick from using weedkiller, the centre can counter-claim ‘well it’s not our fault, we sent him for training on how to do it safely’). It’s all CYA but the way things are going it’s necessary.

          EDIT: To be fair, with things like the recent “throw out your romaine lettuce and leafy salad greens and don’t eat any anywhere” in several US states and Canada linked to Californian-grown romaine lettuce (not to be confused with the multistate outbreak linked to Californian-grown romaine lettuce in June of this year), HACCP training for kitchen staff and anyone handling food at all does make sense, even if it seems overly bureaucratic. Though that doesn’t much help with the preparation of raw food where the infection is caused by the manure spreading and/or irrigation using contaminated water (this recent outbreak seems to be tracked down to using water, from an irrigation canal likely contaminated with slurry run-off, to dilute pesticides then sprayed onto the crops).

          • spentgladiator says:

            Ah, good to know! I never got extra training beyond the first week of any of my waitress nor cleaning jobs, thus my false assumption.

            (Fun fact: In Germany we do a separate How Not To Cause Epidemics Certifications before we can go work in gastronomy. It’s basically just watching a 20-minute-long video and I always found it weird in comparison to Poland, where the equivalent certification obtained after a stool sample test for e.g. salmonella. The Polish version always made more sense to me and now I kind of want to read some studies comparing the two systems.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, good to know! I never got extra training beyond the first week of any of my waitress nor cleaning jobs, thus my false assumption.

            That is an interesting point as I actually don’t know about waiting staff; I do know kitchen staff/workers on deli counters in supermarkets/anyone who handles food that is then consumed by the public (e.g. feeding meals to kids in preschools) has to have the HAACP certification training, but do waiters/waitresses? No idea!

      • gleamingecho says:

        fantastic pay and conditions

        I’ve had jobs with fantastic pay and fantastic conditions, but never both at the same time.

  11. noyann says:

    Do a pilot run with volunteers to weed out questions that are not clear enough for everybody.
    Ideally, its participants could either get an individual token to allow them to (re)answer new or changed questions, so they would not have to answer the whole survey again.

    • johan_larson says:


      • RavenclawPrefect says:

        +1; I enjoy survey-taking and especially SSC survey-taking so would happily run through drafts of this if useful. Considering the reader population, I imagine other such volunteers would be easy to find.

        • gleamingecho says:

          I enjoy survey-taking

          I didn’t know there were other weirdos like me who enjoy survey-taking. I’m part of the NLSY79 study and can’t wait to get their call every other year.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Intriguing. I too enjoy survey taking–how do I get involved in this. Although now I’m starting to worry that surveys may bias toward the kind of person who enjoys taking surveys.

          • RavenclawPrefect says:

            /r/SampleSize on Reddit is a good source for these things if you’re looking for more!

  12. tailcalled says:

    I’d like to see some question about autogynephilia/autoandrophilia (especially if you repeat the “gender thoughts” question), perhaps something like “In how many of your sexual fantasies do you picture yourself as the opposite sex?” with response options none/a few/some/most/almost all/all.

    (Trans people should be asked how often they pictured themselves as their transitioned-to sex in sexual fantasies before consciously identifying as trans.)

    The rationalist community *seems* much more likely to be AGP/AAP than the population baseline but confirming it in the SSC survey would make me more confident, since it is more representative.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      Seconded, I’m in favor of anything that allows for more weird correlations in genderspace. If this does get included, you probably want exceptions for both people who don’t experience sexual fantasies (or whose sexual fantasies don’t feature themselves as a POV character) and people who transitioned in childhood.

    • holyninjaemail says:

      Your suggestion on reddit of the alternate format

      Picture a beautiful feminine woman. How sexually arousing would you find it to imagine being her?
      [] Not at all; [] A little; [] Moderately; [] Quite; [] Very
      Picture a handsome masculine man. How sexually arousing would you find it to imagine being him?
      [] Not at all; [] A little; [] Moderately; [] Quite; [] Very

      is much better. The question as you first phrased it gives little to no useful data, because the biggest complaint about the concept of AGP/AAP is that cis people experience it to. This actually considers that objection by making it possible to compare trans answers to cis answers.

      • chridd says:

        Seconded on asking everyone about both imagining themselves as a man and imagining themselves as a woman. However, otherwise the questions are asking different things; the “how sexually arousing…” question would include people who, when told to imagine that situation, would think “Yeah, that would be sexy” but wouldn’t imagine it on their own; the original phrasing, on the other hand, would include people who imagine themselves as a particular sex but not in a way that has anything to do with attraction to themselves.

        • tailcalled says:

          Another potentially-valid approach would be to ask something along the lines of

          How sexually arousing would you find the following?
          * Picturing yourself with a nude female body?
          * (possibly other AGP-related things)
          * Picturing yourself with a nude male body?
          * (possibly other AAP-related things)
          * (possibly other paraphilias and/or sex fantasies)

          There is one survey (not run by me) which has provided evidence for the validity of this approach. However, the context that the survey asked it in makes me somewhat uncertain about whether it holds in other contexts.

          • chridd says:

            I don’t think that really addresses my first objection, since it still doesn’t distinguish between someone who would consider a thing sexy when prompted and someone who actively seeks it out or fantasizes about it unprompted (I’d expect people with fetishes to be in the latter category). It sort of addresses my second objection; people still might find picturing themselves with a nude ${sex} body arousing for reasons unrelated to attraction, but at least there’s a control group to try to account for that.

    • googolplexbyte says:

      Before that ask how capable people are of picturing things to ensure you can identify where they respondent is on the aphantasiac spectrum.

      The ease of visualising would have a huge impact on the answer to that question.

    • chridd says:

      I’d be curious how many people here believe Blanchard’s ideas.

    • rm0 says:

      I find it odd that these theories keep being brought up here. It’s pretty bad science.

      The best resource I have is “The Case Against Autogynephilia” by Julia Serano.

      Links to more information in this Reddit post.

  13. Chalid says:

    Your questions about race really should include a way to specify multiple races, or at least a “multiracial” option.

    • KG says:

      I agree with this, and maybe recommend checkboxes for races. I mean, I guess it depends on what one intends to learn from the answerer’s race(s)?

      Like for instance, I’m part Asian and Hispanic, and both those categories are sometimes important to survey-givers for different reasons, but that data is lost if I just answer “multiracial”.

    • Garrett says:

      It might also be interesting to get racial categories used (if any) from other countries with a lot of SSC readers. The US terms are … something. But it would be interesting to see what people do when prompted with other options.

  14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    This illusion gets very varied reactions– it may be too complex for a survey, but it might correlate with something interesting.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      …It’s a sphere nestled into a hyperboloid, “rotating” toward each other, in front of a flat background “moving” to the right. What do other people see?

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        That’s what I see too. By focusing on the hyperboloid, I can invert it so that the sphere becomes a hole, but it quickly reverts back.

      • A1987dM says:

        Certain people say the objects don’t look like they’re spinning to them.

        To me, they rotate “by default” but I can make them stand still by concentrating on fixing my stare on one point. I’ve also been able to make the sphere spin but not the hyperboloid or vice versa, but I can’t reliably do that on command.

      • chridd says:

        If I just look at it, it doesn’t seem to move, but it does seem to move slightly each time I move my eyes (the thing in the middle seems to rotate the opposite direction of my eye movement).

  15. janrandom says:

    There was an of controversial Twitter discussion around Scott Adams hypothesis that reading more fiction makes you lean liberal.

    > The hypothesis is that reading fiction wires you differently than non-fiction. Scientists read both. Liberal arts majors might read mostly fiction, and would lean Democrat.

    Apparently at least one part of this checks out: Reading fiction makes you more emphathetic:

    Might be interesting to ask much fiction and non-fiction people read and look for correlations with party affiliation and other questions.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      Not disputing that the correlation exists, but surely this is a manifestation of your average fiction writer’s political leanings more than anything intrinsic to the art form, no? I didn’t really understand just how ubiquitous the liberal worldview was in fiction until I read Atlas Shrugged a few months ago. The average effects of fiction would be substantially different if the typical narrative was pushing that worldview.

      (Which is not to comment on the quality of Atlas Shrugged, whether fiction should be deliberately pushing worldviews in the first place, or anything else. It was just mentally destabilizing to realize that fiction could be used to place emotional punch behind any philosophical argument one could make.)

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I tried reading The Fountainhead in high school as a scholarship competition was recommended to me by my English teacher, and couldn’t get past the first few pages (my dad was into Neotech at the time, perhaps she got the idea that I’d be objectivist-inclined from him). It was a visceral dislike similar to my visceral dislike of Heinlein’s novels (though I did manage to finish some of them).

        I would question how much the books influence people to be liberal/conservative, and how much the books are chosen due to the preexisting moral philosophy biases of the readers.

        PS. Liberal though I am, I like Lawrence Watt-Evans’ novels. His books often have a market-oriented perspective in them. Two examples which highlight this would be his light fantasy book The Spriggan Mirror, and his hardboiled, space-travel cyberpunk novel Nightside City.

        • What what you disliked in Heinlein and Rand the implied political views or something about the style?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Rand – basically political. I think it was the attitude of the characters. It was orthogonal to my attitude (I have a natural “helper” attitude – though I don’t usually volunteer, often when someone asks I help if I can, and expect and prefer nothing in return except a personal [not public] thanks). I couldn’t even close to get into the mindset of the characters, either hero or antagonist.

            With Heinlein – stylistic – the only thing worse than his protagonists were his antagonists. Heinlein was an extroverted thinker in the Jungian sense, and was very “my way is right way” in his writings, this is the rational and right way of doing things and I will justify it, and every character both had that sort of attitude and acknowledged it in the other characters. Man, at least the extroverted thinker Terry Pratchett had differently motivated characters throughout his novels (and I mean differently motivated, not merely having different motivationals). Even when I couldn’t necessarily identify with any of the characters, I could at least identify people I knew and liked with some of them, and could identify traits I shared or admired with them. Not so with Heinlein.

            I can handle an author imprinting their personality across all of their characters, because it’s nearly impossible not to, but not Heinlein, as we deviate from each other too much.

            Stranger in a Strange land was weird. Farnham’s Freehold I wanted to kill everyone (the world isn’t big enough for me and any of them). I don’t remember The Cat Who Walked Through Walls or Number of the Beast, but I think I had the same sort of attitude as to “why the hell are these people acting this way?”. There was one novel I can’t recall the name of that I think was Heinlein’s where some sort of princess ended up on a backwater planet and pregnant(no, it was a regular woman who was being used, unknown to herself, as an incubator for a princess, who ended up on a backwater, bearing the princess, raising her as a normal kid, and the princess ended up as a teen mother and everyone was happy with it) – okay, have a nice life, I wouldn’t want to be you, or anyone else in your stories.

          • The Heinlein stories you mention are all very late ones. Did you have similar reactions to the earlier books and short stories?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I may not have read them.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I may not have read them.

            Heinlein had a definite split in writing books. Starting with Stranger in a Strange Land, he started writing books with eccentric characters and ideological views, who talked A LOT about these views (much like Rand, actually, so I see why you would compare the two). I liked Stranger in a Strange Land, but not one of his books after that, but I loved his books before that.

            By the way, I loved several of Watt-Evans’ books also. I remember nothing political about them, but they were good tales.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks Mark, I may try some of Heinlein’s earlier work at some point.

            I guess MasteringTheClassics‘s larger point may be accurate when you avoid polemics loosely dressed up as fiction.

            Or perhaps the more broadly read conservative fiction writers come off poorly compared to liberal fiction writers, and thus help bias the readership against their POV.

          • JulieK says:

            @anonymousskimmer: You may be thinking of Friday, though the ending up pregnant bit doesn’t happen until the end.

    • googolplexbyte says:

      I think you’d find a strong correlation if you break up liberal into moral foundations. I predict it most impacts the moral foundation of harm.

    • Aapje says:


      It seems more likely to me that the causation is the other way, where those who are more interested in people like reading fiction more, while those who are system-oriented like non-fiction more.

      • JulieK says:

        There’s a correlation between education level and political leanings. I’d like to know how significant reading preferences are when looking at people with the same amount of education.

        (Also, this reminds me of the article that noted that Harry Potter fans tended to vote Democrat, which supposedly proved that reading Harry Potter made people more tolerant, but did not mention that younger people are both more likely to have read HP and to vote D.)

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve read a lot of fiction and I wouldn’t describe myself as liberal-leaning. I think MastertingTheClassics is right and it depends on the kind of fiction you’ve read or are reading; someone raised on a diet of YA books from the past twenty to thirty years is likely to be more influenced that way, especially if they continue with mainstream literary fiction (though even genre fiction is not immune, note the whole Sad and Rabid Puppies tussle).

    • Plumber says:

      I’ve read a lot of “right leaning” science fiction and fantasy writers (Poul Anderson, early Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle) but I usually vote for Democrats (of course my growing up in Berkeley and Oakland, California means that the Democratic Party is often considered “Right” where I’ve mostly lived).

      I’ve also read John Steinbeck so maybe that balanced it out.

  16. BillyZoom says:

    I’d be most interested in knowing how many, if any, other people depend on the survey taker. How many dependent children or family members, how many direct reports at work, how many people in the organization under the respondent’s reasonably-direct control.

    I understand that a lot of this is going to be the wet sidewalk based in other factors, but I also think it’s a two-way street (sidewalk). Having people who directly depend on you really does change your outlook I think.

    • incstrat says:

      I’m just curious about what you think of this and what expectations you have. I haven’t ever thought about this before and don’t have any dependants but it makes a lot of sense to me.

  17. MarginalCost says:

    Every year the “detailed” political leaning question contains options for every possible combination of {traditional vs. permissive on sociocultural morality} and {high vs. low economic regulation/redistribution}, EXCEPT for an option for traditional morality and high economic redistribution. Response volume might be low, but I’d bet it’d be higher than the alt-right which you already include.

    The tough question is what short label to give it. The traditional libertarian diamond label for it is often either 1) authoritarianism, but that would be almost never used by any of its actual adherents, or 2) populism, but that term has taken on a different meaning since Trump’s rise. I’d prefer “Christian left”, though that might be overly restrictive. My understanding is “Christian Democrat” in Europe can point in this direction, though with regional variation, and is probably the best option overall. It might confuse US readers for whom the term as a whole doesn’t have much meaning, but the individual terms in isolation do – though it might pickup some of its actual adherents in this way anyway. You could also reference the American Solidarity Party, which made some noise in 2016, especially in the circles of people who subscribed to this philosophy.

    • noyann says:

      Every year the “detailed” political leaning question contains options for every possible combination of [ … ] , EXCEPT …

      Why not leave pre-set combinations altogether and ask independent scales, of e.g., minimal to maximal redistribution, high economic regulation to full economic liberalism, etc.? This would allow for any combination that may exist out there, and, if charged labels are omitted, take out some of the heat associated with them.

      Basically, 5- or 7-point radio-button scales would do for each, if possible on a line to avoid the subconscious connotations of higher vs lower that a vertical arrangement would elicit.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The problem with this is that the rubber does not meet the road, so to speak.

        Willingness to identify with a label that captures the whole is more indicative of actual behavior than answering questions that can be perceived in the same manner as “Do you like puppies?” Asking if someone would identify themself as a dog owner tells you more.

        • gleamingecho says:

          Maybe ask the political questions both ways to see how closely people’s answers to the issues-based questions align with their answers to the “what tribe do you identify with” questions.

    • Plumber says:

      Yeah, to me among the post 1960’s changes I least like are the cultural acceptance of parents being divorced and the increase in income and wealth inequality.

      I think the former puts me on the “cultural right” and the latter on thr “economic left”, so a way to reflect that what be nice.

      Also, on most “hot button cultural issues” (abortion, guns, marriage) my default is “decide by city or county plebiscite, never on a large State or National level”, so a way to express that would be nice.

      • aristides says:

        I agree with noyann, keeping them separate would be better. I am in the traditional morals, economic redistribution camp, but I vote Republican more often than not. It used to be called compassionate conservatism, not Christian left, but both terms are problematic in this environment. Better to decouple it from right or left.

        Also, what might work for Plumer’s question, “How strongly do you support Federalism?” That question usually varies based on who controls the federal government, but it’s still useful.

      • Deiseach says:

        I generally go with “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” but again, that covers a lot of ground- for example, Plumber’s “eh, let them decide state-by-state for themselves on abortion” isn’t my view (but I’ve accepted defeat in our abortion referendum, so there you go. I don’t think it was a good decision and I think there’s going to be a whole lot of new problems down the line that the activists deliberately glossed over and ignored and that the mass of the general public who vaguely want to be up to date and liberal because it was sold to them as being compassionate and nice to vote for it never even contemplated, but that fight is over and it’s just sitting back and watching what happens next now).

  18. benjdenny says:

    I’m not sure how you’d word the questions to be fair, but I’d love to see some questions about people’s level of trust in science at this point, considering politics seeping in to both the scientists and their funding, replication crisises, etc.

    • fion says:

      I agree this could be interesting. I think even if you couldn’t think of a sophisticated way to word it, even the results of “rate your trust in science on a scale from 1-10” could be interesting.

      • “Trust in science” is too vague–someone who is very skeptical about (say) AGW might feel that he trust science, he just doesn’t think AGW is scientific. After all, few of us would interpret skepticism of the claims of Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science as skepticism of science.

        What about something more like:

        For each of these sources of information, how confident would you be that what it said was true if you knew nothing about the subject? If you started with the opposite belief?

        An article in a popular publication or website describing the result of some scientific research

        A published, peer reviewed article in a respectable scientific journal

        A claim that appears to be accepted by most in the field, judged by articles, textbooks, and the like.

        • benjdenny says:

          I think that’s a pretty fair set and wording.

        • fion says:

          I accept your criticism of my suggestion, but vague doesn’t always mean completely pointless.

          As for yours, I take issue with “If you started with the opposite belief?” In every case it depends on my confidence level in the opposite belief. If I started with a prior of 51% then all three of those would be enough to tip me over to the other side. If I started with 99% then probably none would. I think what you’re getting at is trying to quantify the Bayesian evidence people assign to each of those examples, but (a) I think people without a mathematical background would struggle with this and (b) I don’t know how interesting the results would be. I think at that point you’re more getting at “how persuadable people are” and “which pieces of evidence are weighted highly relative to each other” and not anything to do with people’s level of trust in science.

        • A1987dM says:

          A published, peer reviewed article in a respectable scientific journal

          My answer would be “it depends” — if it reported p = 0.04 and the statistics looked questionable my posterior beliefs would be hardly different from my prior ones; if it reported a 6.0σ effect and there were no obvious place in which a mistake could have been made I would become fully convinced of its claim, unless it was extremely implausible (e.g. the 2011 superluminal neutrino thing — and even then I’d become willing to at least take in consideration the possibility that claim is correct).

          (Is there someone for whom this isn’t the case? I.e. someone for whom the fraction of “Yes” answers they’d give to would be either close to 0% or close to 100%?)

        • Aapje says:


          For each of these sources of information, how confident would you be that what it said was true if you knew nothing about the subject? If you started with the opposite belief?

          How can I truly have no knowledge of the subject if I have the opposite belief? At the minimum, my belief is probably based on what others accept, which is indirect knowledge about the subject.

          A published, peer reviewed article in a respectable scientific journal

          This is already smuggling in a judgment through the use of the subjective “respectable.”

          Of course I think that an article in a journal that I consider respectable is going to be fairly good, but what you consider respectable, I may consider poor.

          Perhaps the question should be about an actual known journal, like Nature (which is fairly mediocre, IMO, but well known).

          • How can I truly have no knowledge of the subject if I have the opposite belief?

            Those were two different alternatives.

            1. The effect if you know nothing about the subject.
            2. The effect if you start out with the opposite belief.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          A published, peer reviewed article in a respectable scientific journal

          An annoyance about things published in scientific journals is that they aren’t all peer-reviewed, even in the high quality journals.

          Letters aren’t peer-reviewed, Notes aren’t peer-reviewed, Reports may not be peer-reviewed, etc…. Yet people, even scientists, seem to assume that they are.

        • Furslid says:

          This doesn’t really capture my read on distrust of science. Most science rejection comes from intersections with politics or other areas. People are more likely to reject scientific claims with policy implications they oppose. Reporting is more likely to be shoddy or deliberately misleading when it relates to an agenda.

          I don’t think I or anyone else would answer the same way to those three questions for a story they were inclined to agree with policy wise, one they oppose, and one with no policy implications.

    • Anonymous says:

      “For a given isolated study, what do you estimate the chance is that the findings are correct?”

      FWIW, I currently put it at about 20%.

      • fion says:

        Too field-dependent in my opinion. For social sciences I might agree with your 20%, but for physical sciences I’d put it closer to 50%. (Unless, of course, the study is published in Nature, in which case it drops back down to the 20% region.)

      • Aapje says:


        It depends heavily on the result. Given how p-hacking works, a non-significant finding is much more likely to be correct than a significant finding.

        • adder says:


          I’m curious. Can you explain why that is?

          • Pattern says:

            There are incentives to p-hack to significance, the reverse, not so much.

          • albatross11 says:

            Even if no individual is p-hacking, the community of scientists as a whole is doing so, because only the successful-looking experiments with interesting effects get published.

          • Aapje says:


            Everyone has a bias in favor of ‘results’. Scientists, publishers, scientific decision makers, readers, journalists, politicians, etc.

            This results in biased behavior, including damaging feedback loops. For example, papers with significant findings get more cites, because scientists have a bias to cite ‘significant’ papers. This in turn results in ‘significant’ papers having a higher citation impact. This in turn makes these papers more attractive to journals, since the impact of a journal depends largely on its citation impact. So journals are incentivized to be biased to ‘significant’ papers even more than just the natural human bias.

            So scientists who publish more ‘significant’ papers are more likely to get their papers in good journals, to have papers with a high citation impact, etc. So they are more likely to be promoted, to not lose their job, etc. So shitty scientists get promoted and good scientists get kicked out for not getting results.

            The logical result is p-hacking behaviors:
            – abandoning research that has non-significant outcomes rather than publishing it
            – trying new approaches if the initial approach doesn’t result in significant outcomes, but not trying new approaches if the initial approach found something significant
            – Fudging with parameters
            – Doing a great many (sub) experiments and only reporting the significant results
            – etc

            Incentives to p-hack to non-significant outcomes do exist for certain politically charged topics, but then mainly for replications. After all, scientists tend to research things they want to be true, not the things they want to be false (another bias).

    • eyeballfrog says:

      You might want to break this down by field. Something like “How skeptical are you of the current scientific consensus in the following fields:”. Not sure which fields to include, but it should probably include a couple that are nearly unassailable, like quantum field theory or organic chemistry.

  19. Jeffery Mewtamer says:

    These are less about the questions and more about the format, but:

    Ensure the alt text/label on every radio button and checkbox matches the text next to it.
    Ensure that the radio button/check box corresponding to the first option for a question also includes the question itself in its alt text/label.
    Ensure that the alt text/label on every texbox matches the question to be answer by typing there.
    Ensure that form elements have the correct tab ordering.
    In general, ensure the survey can be completed using only the keyboard.
    Avoid JavaScript in the creation of the web form if at all possible.
    Warn survey takers of any rich web features they’ll need to enable prior to starting the survey.
    Make it easy to skip questions with a visual element.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the only blind reader of this blog(I’m almost always the token blindman outside of contexts where blind people gather), but when I tried taking last year’s survey, I gave up just a few questions in because of how malformed the web form was, which is doubly annoying because I know that web forms can be made screen reader friendly without much trouble.

    As for actual questions to ask:
    Perhaps expand on the optical illusions with some auditory illusions.

    Don’t know if anyone would be interested in such, but maybe questions on how good each sense is or knowledge of senses beyond the familiar five? If you ask about vision, perhaps some viable options would include:
    Can drive without glasses
    Need glasses to drive
    Can’t drive even with glasses but still has functional vision.
    Has functional vision but hampers other visual tasks.
    Functionally/Totally blind.

    With perhaps a checkbox for color blindness(which is a very different beast from reduced acuity/periphery).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There was something I don’t quite remember going wrong where hitting return(?) would change one’s answer rather than going on to the next question.

    • b_jonas says:

      > Can drive without glasses
      > Need glasses to drive

      I’m not sure why the distinction between those two is meaningful, or how I would even determine that. I am myopic and wear corrective eyeglasses. Should I try to take off my glasses when driving and see if I hit a pedestrian? Should I perform that experiment in broad daylight, in the morning or evening with the sun glaring from the front, at dusk or dawn, or at night? (I don’t actually drive, but still.)

      • In my case, my drivers’ license says I need glasses.

        According to my optometrist, it isn’t true. I was near sighted and as you age your eyes tend to get more far sighted–he thinks if I were tested today the requirement would be lifted.

      • arlie says:

        Depending on what was done with this information, you might have confounders like me – required glasses to drive from 16 to 50-ish, and now do not.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have mild shortsightedness (less than 1 point). I *can* drive without glasses, and sometimes forget them and do. But the law says I should not.

      • Jeffery Mewtamer says:

        Okay, clearly I didn’t give enough thought to this, but here is some of my reasoning:

        1. Ideallya survey on vision would ask for visual acuity and perhaps peripherary with check boxes for things like color blindness, light perception only, and total blindness.
        2. I assume that most people don’t have their vision tested on a regular basis unless their vision is far enough from average to impact their daily life, and that even people who do have their vision tested regularly probably can’t quote their visual acuity from their last eye exam. Even as someone born with a sever visual impairment into a family were pretty much everyone is visually impaired to some extent, wore glasses from the time he was a toddler until some point in highschool and went blind in his min-20s, I tend to only see an eye doctor when needed to document my disability and the only visual acuity reading I can remember is around the time I decided glasses weren’t worth the money was something like 20/100 without correction and 20/25 through a pocket telescope in my one then usable eye.
        3. While I’ve never qualified for a driver’s license, I was under the impression that vision test the DMV uses when issuing/renewing licenses was the most common situation for the average person’s vision to be tested, and that it was routine for licenses to be marked “restricted to glasses” or something similar if they can only past the vision test while wearing glasses. That said, it completely slipped my mind that there are probably non-US and even non-Anglosphere readers of this blog, that foreign countries might handle that driving is a highly visual skill quite differently, and that there might be extreme variation even within the US.

        • b_jonas says:

          > even people who do have their vision tested regularly probably can’t quote their visual acuity from their last eye exam

          Hahahaha! Yes, well, I’m unusual. I care about my vision problems, and act pretentious about them.

          I spend a lot of money on glasses, because I insist on expensive glass lenses with 1.8 refraction index by a well-renowned manufacturer, and treat my eyeglasses as tools I use every day and replace every year rather than precious expensive objects to be stored safely and kept away from physical damage. I am myopic. I wear glasses that have -10 diopters spherical on my left eye and -9 diopters spherical on my right eye, plus -2 diopters cylindrical on both eyes, in the notation systems where the cylindrical and spherical corrections have the same sign – you won’t believe how many different notation systems lens manufacturers use –, though I can’t quote the angles of the cylindrical correction by heart. I have what is called full visual acucity in glasses, but without glasses, I can’t see the “42” on the top of the test board, but can tell how many fingers the annoying assistent holds up if she is kind enough to hold them in front of the bright wall surface rather than a dark background. I only know this because I have to go through this stupid test (plus a computerised eye parameter measurement) every year before I’m admitted to the ophtalmologist who examines my eye, despite that nobody ever cares about the results of these tests. I don’t know what that translates to in that foreign system with the solidus. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 9 years old, had the same order of magnitude of myopia since I’m 15 years old, and had the exact same correction parameters in the last four or five years. I have normal color vision, no prism correction on my eyeglasses. I started to have some difficulties with my binocular vision about seven years ago – it used to be perfect before that – but this has improved since when I figured out that I should be using 1.8 refraction index lenses rather than 1.9 refraction index ones, and I got somewhat used to my left eye having a diopter more than my right eye and thus seeing a smaller image with glasses. I had tried contact lenses for some periods twice in my earlier life, and trying them for the third time now, this time only for occasional use rather than regular daily use. I don’t have a result to report yet. The technology for contact lenses has improved since the last two times I tried, but my eyes haven’t. Thus I will probably still have serious difficulties wearing contacts, but they will improve the quality of visual image to even harder to imagine awesomesauce levels than the last two times I tried. It is a bit of a pity that myopic people, who need contacts the most, are the ones who are the least likely to be able to wear them at the same time. I come from a family where everyone wears glasses, and my brother has married into another such family, so just a few weeks ago I had the good fortune to visit my five month old niece’s first ophtalmologist’s visit. (She’s fine, for now. Don’t worry, she’ll get her myopic glasses as a teenager too, if not sooner.)

          Answering the driving question more seriously, without glasses, I can very slowly read a book with one eye at a time only by holding the book very close to it, and could go home safely in any lighting condition from familiar places in the city. But if my glasses ever break while I’m skiing, then I will definitely put on my spare glasses and head back to the apartment skiing in a very safe way, because I sure as hell don’t want to get stuck on an unfamiliar mountain in snowfall without glasses. However, I have almost no actual experience of what I can and cannot do without glasses, simply because glasses improve my vision so much that apart from when I’m swimming or taking a bath or sleeping, I have no reason to ever not wear them. For the same reason, I would never dare to drive without glasses, but because I have very little experience with driving at all too, I really can’t predict what would happen if I tried. Yes, my driving license technically says that I’m not allowed to drive without glasses, but that’s just a token marking that nobody really cares about, and you shouldn’t drive in a state where you can’t see clearly regardless of what’s actually written in your license.

          > vision test the DMV uses when issuing/renewing licenses was the most common situation for the average person’s vision to be tested

          That is possible. For the median person at least, because they aren’t wearing glasses yet, but give it a few more centuries and the lack of selective evolution pressure against it will do its course. The main reason for that exam is to formally ban elderly people who keep driving despite the eye acucity problems caused by far-sightedness or cataracts. However, under the age of 50 years, people only have to renew their driving license every ten years, and even then they don’t always get the proper eye examination they should. Nevertheless, older people with a driving license do get their eyes examined often for renewing their driving license, and you are right that this can be a useful data source, since 330 people claimed an age of 55 years or higher in the 2018 SSC survey.

          • Tarpitz says:

            If we’re going to be asked about visual acuity, there should probably be a “have you had laser corrective surgery?” element. I have excellent vision without the need for glasses or contacts, but as far as my genes are concerned I’m extremely short-sighted (like my father and all five of my brothers), and my childhood experience was that of a bespectacled nerd.

            Incidentally, if laser surgery is an option for you, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Best money I’ve ever spent.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Same for me. I have had very bad eyes for most of my life, but haven’t worn glasses for the last 15 years because of Lazik (except for night driving and reading small print, but I am old now which might account for that).

            I also agree it was the best money I ever spent.

    • A1987dM says:

      I would never drive without glasses but my driver’s licence says I can for silly legal reasons.

      (My right eye is OK. My left eye is moderately myopic, and I wear glasses for that. I have strabismus, and in my country it’s complicated for people with strabismus to get a driver’s licence, but not for one-eyed people — so the doctor pretended my left eye was fully blind to make things easier.)

    • Aapje says:

      @Jeffery Mewtamer

      Scott is using a tool for his survey, which means that many of those things are outside of his control.

  20. apaperperday says:

    You should run a copy of the survey on mturk — that would give you population estimates for things, which you could compare your readers to.

  21. James Miller says:

    What is your opinion of cryonics? Why have you not signed up?

    • sty_silver says:

      I’d be extremely interested in seeing results on this.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Why have you not signed up?

      My second existential crisis was as a 10 year old, and it was that there wasn’t enough time in an average human lifespan to learn everything I wanted to learn and do everything I wanted to do.

      I’m now 40, and I’ve come to terms with this. I love, and would not want an eternity without that which I love. I dream (and subordinate myself to those dreams), but I see that my dreams are not unique to me, so the dreams can carry on without me. But the only realistic shot the dreams do have of carrying on require particular things such as sustainability, and the valuing of other life above mere convenience or wealth.

      At this point in our technological progress as a species the resources needed for cryonics (and heck, for most research toward long-term cryonics revival) are a net resource sink against the research needed to pursue my dreams, and the foundations/prerequisites needed for those dreams.

      You’re fine to pursue it, but I doubt I’ll join.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems odd that this should be true. I’m far outside my expertise here, but it seems like the technology we’d need to do cryonic preservation well (aka being able to bring them back) would involve technology that would also be more broadly useful for dealing with brain injuries, reperfusion injury, etc. And also that cryonics would be useful for medical preservation and long space voyages, if it worked.

        I mean, at some level, every time I buy an ice cream cone, I’m taking resources away from some other goal. But I wouldn’t think of cryonics research as being incompatible with most goals/dreams in ways that all kinds of other research is not.

      • Orpheus says:

        My second existential crisis was as a 10 year old

        What was the first?

    • AndyMcKenzie says:


      In case you want to use a similar format, here’s what we used in our 2015 BPF survey on Mechanical Turk (and what we will probably use if we re-do it in the future as we plan to).

      We asked participants two questions:

      1) What is the main reason that you would not elect brain preservation? and

      2) What are other reasons that you would not elect brain preservation?

      Based on preliminary data, we gave the following options for each:

      – It is too expensive (cryonics currently costs between $30,000 – $200,000) (coded as “Expensive”)
      – Long-term instability of the brain preservation organization (“Instability”)
      – I don’t know of any scientific validation that the procedure will preserve neural features currently associated with long-term memory and identity (“Procedure”)
      – It is a logistical hassle (“Logistics”)
      – It is selfish (for example, due to overpopulation) (“Selfish”)
      – I am worried about being socially unaccepted/ostracized due to my decision (“Ostracism”)
      – I am worried about being revived in an unfavorable condition/state (“Unfavorable”)
      – Religious reasons (“Religion”)
      – Other/Unsure (“Other”)

  22. RavenclawPrefect says:

    If there are any questions which you’d like more answers to even if the sample were biased, you could toss lots of this stuff in an additional survey which those us who just really like taking surveys could still complete; I imagine a blog consisting of people who read 5,000 words on conflicting preschool studies for fun contains a lot of us.

    (I’d be more than willing to make such a survey with everything in this thread, actually; would anyone else be interested / likely to participate in something like this?)

    • fion says:

      Yep. Fuckin’ love a good survey, me.

      (EDIT: of course, the people reading the comments (and making comments) in the “pre-survey survey discussion thread” are much more likely to be survey lovers than the SSC general readership.)

    • Tarpitz says:


    • phisheep says:

      Count me in this too. Seems a good way of roughing out things that might eventually turn into “proper” survey questions. Could throw up lots of interesting stuff.

      Also, make the final question on the survey “what additional question would you like to see on this survey?” and propogate it forward.

  23. strangepoop says:

    Which of the following “easy” hard questions do you consider completely solved/dissolved? (tick all that apply)

    – Why do I think I have free will?
    – What is the correct interpretation of QM?
    – Is morality subjective or objective?
    – Do p-zombies exist?
    – Can a giant lookup-table be conscious?
    – Should I vote?
    – Can I step into the teleporter?
    – How should utility be aggregated?
    – Why am I not a Boltzman brain?
    – What is a probability?
    – Why is it so quiet out there?
    – Are we in a simulation?
    – What breathes fire into equations?
    – Do infinite sets exist?
    – Can wireheading be done right?
    – Is it okay to get Pascal-mugged?
    – Does Bayesian reasoning have limits?

    (this is obviously better suited for a LessWrong survey, since LW claims to have dissolved about half of them. I’d love to know whether the diaspora agrees)

    • dionisos says:

      I really like these questions. I propose some changes :

      Why do I think I have free will?

      It is assuming the person think that, maybe “Why do some person think they have free will ?”

      Can I step into the teleporter?

      “Will it be me after the teleportation” ?
      And maybe adding the question
      “Will it be me even without the teleportation” ?

      Can wireheading be done right?

      I don’t understand this one.

      • Plumber says:

        “Wireheads” were a type of far future addicts in the 1970’s science fiction stories of author Larry Niven in which electric current were delivered to the pleasure centers of the addicts brains (or something like that, it’s been decades since I read the stories).

        • dionisos says:

          Thanks for the explanation 🙂

          To be clearer I know what wireheading mean, but I am unsure of what is the meaning of the entire sentence.

          If the question was about if it is good or not, I assume he would have say “is right” or “is morally right”, and not “done right”.
          I don’t think he is either speaking about doing wireheading without society collapsing or something akin (It is much more a complex question of social organization, than a philosophical question, and all the other questions were philosophical)

          Maybe he is questioning if it is possible to do a really complete wireheading (true happiness, diversity of experiences, etc…), or if something will make it impossible even in theory. Ie it will logically or metaphysically lack something.

          Or maybe it is about something I never thought of.

          • strangepoop says:

            It’s sort of a mix of these questions. As Emilsson says over at Qualia Computing, the “concept of wireheading tends to be a conversation stopper, and is frequently used as a reductio-ad-absurdum”. See the link for details.

            The idea is that if it’s not clear what the question means, you just skip it. Only someone who’s aware of the existing discussion and has picked a side/unasked the question to their satisfaction ticks the box. It might sound unfair (“what if I wouldn’t be confused by it, but I just don’t understand which question exactly you’re referring to?”), but then you probably wouldn’t be able to pass an ideological turing test for someone who’s confused/on the opposite side anyway. It’s a survey, not a test, so I think this attitude makes more sense. I’d be open to arguments for having it be narrowed down, but the point is only to get them to answer ‘are the usual “open” philosophical problems in this subfield I’m gesturing at really open?’.

          • dionisos says:

            Thanks, the link seems interesting 🙂

            I like the idea, anyway the risk with too much ambiguity isn’t only that someone can’t choose between a set of meanings with different answer for each.
            The risk is also that someone pick the wrong meanings (maybe without seeing the other one) and answer to this.

            Imagine someone without any knowledge of classic philosophical questions on identity , seeing this question :

            Can I step into the teleporter?

            He could easily imagine the question is asking if teleporting something is physically possible, stuff about speed of light or something like that. (and I am assuming it isn’t at all what you wanted to gesture at here)

            So at the end it will be unclear what proportion will think it is dissolved or not, for each possible interpretation of the question.

      • b_jonas says:

        I interpret the wireheading question as one about an individual, or at least a small group of individuals, not about a society. Assume that for a while, only very few people will be wireheaded, so there is no significant consequence on the level of the society. The question is whether an individual person can be wireheaded in such a way that the wireheading won’t destroy his life as thoroughly as some addictive drugs do with many people. In particular, if the wireheading puts them in a state where they completely forget of their bodily needs and starve in a week, then the wireheading wasn’t done right. If their dependent child starves, then also the wireheading wasn’t done right. At the same time, the wireheading must have some significant positive effect on some of the people, so in the end they don’t all think they went through with the whole experiment for no gain.

        • albatross11 says:

          Right, the interesting question is whether the wireheaders:

          a. Continue to function normally, but just in a constant state of extreme contentment/happiness.

          b. Sit in a chair and drool as long as the current remains turned on, and violently attack anyone who looks about to turn the current off.

          Nobody really knows the answer, right? There are people who have long productive lives despite some addiction; there are also people who have their lives eaten by the addiction. That’s true for legal things (alcohol) and illegal ones (heroin).

          Wireheading as usually conceived doesn’t require buying anything from anyone once the wire is implanted. So assuming it’s not illegal, there’s no reason you couldn’t just go about your life with the wire in there jolting your pleasure center. It kinda seems like that would screw up your motivations or personality or something, but I think that still requires experimental verification.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      There are ambiguities in a lot of these.

      (1) – why in terms of mechanism or in terms of cause?

      (3) should refer to moral axioms

      (4) I assume should be “can” rather than “do,” and is equivalent to (5)

      (6) on what?

      (7) what, like physically? Psychologically? And be the same person when I come out?

      (8) demands you accept utility

      (15) “right” as in?

      (16) ok to do to someone? Ok to be vulnerable to? Ok in the universe?

      • strangepoop says:

        Good catch with (4), should be a ‘can’. Whether that’s equivalent to (5) is possibly up for debate. For example, in GAZP vs GLUT, Eliezer who literally wrote a book denying zombies, says: “But suppose someone actually did reach into a GLUT-bin and by genuinely pure chance pulled out a GLUT that wrote philosophy papers? Well, then it wouldn’t be conscious. IMHO.”

        (6) is about decision theory and the voter’s paradox, where the specifics don’t really matter. I think the consensus among those who understand logical decision theory is “voting can be (and in most real cases, probably is) rational for selfish agents”, but not so among classical decision theorists.

        (8) is legitimate, but I hope someone disagreeing with its premise has read about coherence/complete class theorems and the like and still has what feels like a valid objection.

        By (16), I meant whether you should bite the bullet and accept straighforward expected value calculations. In your language, “okay to be vulnerable to”.

        IMO, the other ambiguities are fine – some of the questions are just plain terrible! Properly phrasing the question is most or all of the work. See my answer to dionsos above (also for (15)). This applies to at least (1), (3), and certain framings of (7), of the ones you’ve mentioned.

        Also this awesome dialogue about questions about identity (regarding (7)).

    • arlie says:

      Better either define these terms, or include a “huh; what’s xyzzy anyway” choice, where “zyzzy” can be replaced by whatever term of art is relevant. I guesses QM was quantum mechanics, didn’t recognize p-zombies, and went on from there. I suspect there’s at least one where I have an opinion on the answer, but don’t recognize the question – jargon seems to change over time. And in any case “not solved acct I don’t know what it is” should be seperated from “not solved because I’m not convinced by whatever arguments”. Also, of course, there may be partisans of multipel difefrent “solutions”.

    • chridd says:

      Does something like “this question doesn’t make sense”/”this question depends on an incorrect assumption” count as solved? What about “it depends on how you interpret the question, but every reasonable interpretation is solved”? Or “this is unanswerable and there’s no point trying to find an answer”?

      • strangepoop says:

        Yes! That is, you should tick it if you believe the question is just confused and you think you can unpack why people fall for it.That’s exactly what it means to dissolve a question [you’ll have to google ‘Dissolving the Question lesswrong’, can’t link]. If the question is included, it makes sense to clarify this.

        I don’t know about “no point trying to find an answer”, unless you’re talking about its futility in the sense of the article I linked (I think Eliezer called this “naive philosophical realism”, which is like essentialism). If instead you mean you can’t imagine why it’d be useful or interesting (as in “Was Mary’s hat pointing North or West at 6pm on Feb 3rd?” – who cares?), then that’s probably a sign that you’re not engaging with the question. Which is fine, but don’t check the box.

    • dionisos says:

      If questions like that are included, I think it would be good to also ask if they think it is true or false.

      It could be good to know in itself, but I also think having the two questions reduce the risk that you answer the actual question (if you lost focus of the goal), and not if you think it is solved or not.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      LW claims to have dissolved about half of them

      Another reason I stay away from LW. They tend to be hilariously overconfident.

  24. EricN says:

    Ask some questions with objectively correct answers and ask how confident people are in their answers. It would be interesting to see what sorts of people are well-calinrated.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Alternatively, a section on predictions about the future, then in a year you get to grade them and compare how different groups do in their predictions!

    • fion says:

      I love the idea, but I feel as though the number of questions you’d need to start to build up an idea of how well-calibrated an individual was would be prohibitively large. Same for LesHapablap’s idea.

  25. LesHapablap says:

    “Would you go / have you been skydiving?”
    “Are you afraid of flying?”
    “How afraid are you of public speaking?”
    “Do you like parties?”

    I am curious about physical vs. social fear and anxiety. I suspect they aren’t correlated that well.

    • arlie says:

      “Do you like parties” – there are more reasons to dislike parties than social anxiety.

      • A1987dM says:

        And conversely, I used to be very shy when in small groups but I’ve never experienced any stage fright at all.

        (Edit: OK, except that one time I went on TV at the age of 14, but I’ve never experienced stage fright as an adult, and never experienced stage fright when all of the audience was there in person.)

      • dionisos says:

        And it is also possible to like parties where there are a lot of alcohol/drug, because it is the only moment you could be with others without social anxiety (because of the disinhibiting drug).

    • A1987dM says:

      I’ve never been afraid of flying at all and actually I find flying pretty relaxing (as in, I sometimes find it easier to sleep on a plane than in bed) but there are plenty of other situations which I find (or used to find) very scary (I mean emotionally, regardless of how likely I actually think they are).

  26. tailcalled says:

    Also – how about some sort of social desirability bias scale, like the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Reporting? This might be useful to confirm/disconfirm suspicions of inaccurate responses.

  27. Plumber says:

    Maybe some questions of your parents educations and marital status, and whether you had step parents.

    • anthropicprincipal says:

      Yes, I would be happy to see more background questions. Here are my favorites in descending order.

      “What is the highest level of education your mother has completed? (1) less than high school (2) high school (3) four year college degree (4) graduate degree” This is my favorite proxy for class in the US. It’s well-defined for most people, people know it (in a way they often don’t know their parents’ incomes), and it’s stable over their lifetimes in a way that their own level of education is not.

      “What city and country did you go to high school in? If you have not started high school or are currently in high school, where do you live now?”

      “Who did your father vote for in the last national election in your country? (1) Left-of-center candidate (Clinton in the US) (2) Right-of-center candidate (Trump in the US) (3) Other (4) Don’t know who he voted for (5) Have zero or more than one father” (…and similar for mother)

      • Why is mother’s education a better proxy for class than father’s education?

        • anthropicprincipal says:

          Both are good proxies. But if someone is not raised by two opposite-sex birth parents, they are more likely to have a single person they think of as their mother than to have a single person they think of as their father, and for that person to be heavily involved in raising them.

          • I’m old fashioned–it didn’t occur to me that you were trying to cover single parents. But for doing that, wouldn’t it make more sense to ask about whichever parent actually reared someone?

            I’m also old fashioned in imagining the situation of high status man marrying attractive lower status woman as being considerably more common than the other way around. And in that situation I would think it was the status of the father that most mattered.

        • Plumber says:


          “Why is mother’s education a better proxy for class than father’s education?”

          I thought I remember reading that the more education one’s mother has the more likely you are to be a “liberal”, but I haven’t been able to find a link.

      • Garrett says:

        It’s funny because my father was the breadwinner in the house, but he was a college drop-out and my mother had a STEM degree and made very little money.

      • A1987dM says:

        What is the highest level of education your mother has completed?

        As of when I was born or as of now?

      • phisheep says:

        I’ve had to answer the “father’s education” question a ton of times, and I always end up having a row with whoever set the form, because in my case it is a rotten proxy. Yes, my father did have a college degree, but also I was the first in my family to have a college education, because my father went to college in his 50s, way after I had graduated. this always seems to confuse them.

        • brmic says:

          From a survey designers perspective: Nobody cares.
          The meta-reason is that if a researcher decides to do a survey instead of e.g. in-depth oberservations and in-depth interviews, they already decided that they’ll trade atomized proxies that work over large samples for detail. In this case, a parent with a degree is a proxy both for inherited smarts (and other traits useful for getting through college) and for an intellectually enriched environment and a middle class upbringing. It’s rare that all of these apply to any particular individual, but collectively, over large samples, the question is predictive.
          The particular reason in this case is that your father’s late college degree signals some of the same qualities an earlier college degree would have signalled. If there’s only one of you, it doesn’t matter either way. If there were 100 people like you, most of them would be just as similar to the prototypical ‘child of a college graduate’ as e.g. the child of an early college graduate who suffered from depression and was on disability, with all the social and economic consequences of that. That is, just like most ‘graduate children’, they have some of the overall class features, but not all, and it’s quite possible, even guaranteed with large sample sizes, that there will be respondents with a typical overall ‘graduate experience’ whose parents nonetheless never had or got a degree and that there will be lots of ‘graduate children’ with unusual experiences. The important point is that overall (a) ‘graduate children’ have sufficient similarities and (b) that overall, this is predictive of something else.

          In practical terms, please ask yourself (a) am I really that unusual (i.e. is my difference from the category substantial or mere nitpicking) and (b) are there likely to be very many people like me. If your answer to both is ‘yes’, rest assured someone else with better social skills will alert the survey designers to the problem. There is no need for you to ‘get in a row’ with them.

  28. Eugene Dawn says:

    I’d be interested to see a finer breakdown of geography than just by country,especially since the overwhelming majority of readers are American: maybe ask for city or state as well?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I think he does ask for state. I would very much like to know the survey responses to this, but I presume he leaves that out because it makes it too easy to discern who is responding.

      I think it asked for state. Am I mis-remembering?

  29. untimelyreflections says:

    The result from the Kavanagh case was interesting – among SSC readers / survey fillers political affiliation was the dominant factor determine who people believed and usually with high confidence.

    What other opinions are held with high confidence and are determined largely by political affiliation?

    So ask about political affiliation and correlate with answers. And maybe other things that may affect opinions strongly.

    • Deiseach says:

      The result from the Kavanagh case was interesting – among SSC readers / survey fillers political affiliation was the dominant factor determine who people believed and usually with high confidence.

      Yeah, I’m going to push back on this a little. Yes, political affiliation (as in “conservative”) did have an effect on my beliefs in the case, primarily because beforehand one side had been having fits of the vapours over perceived possible threat to the right to abortion should he be confirmed, making it seem awfully convenient that a derailing scandal should pop up just at the right time and initiated by the same side that had been so exercised over the threat to abortion. At the same time, I don’t think it was a Democrat conspiracy or that Senator Feinstein deliberately held back the accusation until peak publicity could be achieved.

      But primarily and mostly, as I’ve repeated here and elsewhere, because I have seen this circus play out before right here on my very own doorstep, with so very much of the same rhetoric and emotional appeals on the “believe the accuser” side. And for all the “why would women lie about such a thing?”, well that got answered in the case I mention: the accuser was mentally ill and the alleged witness who backed up her story held a grudge against one of the accused and wanted to get back at them.

      So I saw someone I was acquainted with from years back get hit with a lurid allegation of rape, get pilloried by everyone in society, had the media go to town with excited and excitable headlines about Evil Monsters, get convicted and have the judge deliver a lecture about the unique awfulness of their alleged crime, and only be exonerated due to a series of coincidences (because the police and prosecution service had been sitting on their thumbs from a combination of not wanting to be insensitive when questioning a rape victim and not wanting to go against the very strongly expressed public outrage towards the accused, so even when holes in the story emerged during the investigation they let her change her ‘recollections’ of when it happened).

      All the same tears in the lift stuff happened on the “any accusation must be true, to express any doubt is to rape this woman all over again” side, and it all turned out to be lies.

      So that’s why, unlike some persons, I did not place high credence in the likes of Swetnick’s “high school drug rape gang leader” fabulations, not to mention all the things I only heard about afterwards like Jane Doe of Oceanside (that Kavanaugh was still forced to defend and deny, and then people mocked him for being emotional and not perfectly calm at the televised hearing after months of this kind of fake crap?)

  30. Scott says:

    I’d be interested in an extensive “fun” question portion on personality and lifestyle. Things like OCEAN scores, drug use, exercise habits, dietary preferences, sexual history, religious service attendance, etc.

  31. chridd says:

    Have there been questions about dissociation yet?

  32. LesHapablap says:

    “Have you contributed to Scott Alexander’s patreon?”

  33. Yair says:

    – A question on Nootropics use.
    – What is your chess rating?
    – Favorite podcasts.
    – Favourite computer game.

    • dokh says:

      To go with nootropics, I suggest also asking about PEDs.

      (And when you ask, include both past use and current use.)

  34. aNeopuritan says:

    For political leanings, direct people to; if you want a time-saving alternative, ask people to self-rate on the 7 (!) dimensions it uses: cosmopolitan-nationalistic, communistic-capitalistic, anarchistic-authoritarian, visionary-reactionary, secular-fundamentalist, pacifist-militaristic, ecological-anthropocentric.

    IIRC you directed people to a Big 5 test. You’re the one that understands psychology here, not me, but HEXACO (e.g. seems superior to me. … ?

    … ask people’s opinions on Jordan Peterson? Ask people whether they run or lift?

    • Anonymous says:

      IIRC you directed people to a Big 5 test. You’re the one that understands psychology here, not me, but HEXACO (e.g. seems superior to me. … ?

      HEXACO is newer and has one more dimension, but it’s to a large extent similar to OCEAN. Still, probably better.

    • fion says:

      I just checked out because I was curious, and I would now disrecommend it. The wording of many of the questions annoyed me greatly. Sometimes I guessed what they were getting at and agreed with the sentiment but disagreed with the question as worded (or vice versa). Also, I got the impression the English version was translated from another language, because often the language wasn’t quite right.

      • sty_silver says:

        I was going to say pretty much the same thing, minus the translation part. For example, the question that made me abort answering was “the nuclear arms race effectively prevented a conventional war”. This is a) not a question of values, so it probably shouldn’t be asked, and b) just because the answer is obviously yes doesn’t mean having nukes is even remotely a good idea.

        • dokh says:

          A lot of seemingly-straightforward facts are points of some contention between the left and the right, despite having objectively true answers.

          For example: “The Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred.” “George Zimmerman acted in self-defense.” “Giving homes to the homeless costs more money than existing US welfare programs.” “Sacco and Vanzetti were framed.” Those are all questions of fact (I do not believe myself to be in possession of definite answers to all of them) – and yet, people will answer them differently. This is not rational, obviously; whether you support anarchism has nothing to do with whether a specific murder was committed by specific suspects.

          Also, in this case the answer is obviously no. The world’s main nuclear powers have been involved in conventional wars for most of the time nuclear weapons have existed, usually against forces directly receiving military support from other nuclear powers. I dunno what you think preventing a war looks like, but I think it should involve not being at war.

          • This is not rational, obviously; whether you support anarchism has nothing to do with whether a specific murder was committed by specific suspects.

            I don’t agree. It doesn’t determine it, but it does affect a rational calculation of the odds.

            Suppose I believe that the sort of anarchism that Sacco and Vanzetti supported is a good idea, the sort of thing that intelligent and benevolent people believe in. If the crime is the sort that intelligent and benevolent people wouldn’t commit, that lowers my subjective probability that they are guilty–and should.

            Someone is accused of sabotaging a pipeline or refinery or tanker for environmentalist reasons. If I believe that climate catastrophe is very likely and very bad, I may conclude that that’s the sort of crime I would have committed if I had the guts and the opportunity, hence that it is likely that someone else, who did have them, committed it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:


            Bias priors are not rational, they’re priors to rationality.

          • The bit I was responding to was:

            and yet, people will answer them differently. This is not rational

            It is rational to incorporate your priors into your calculation of subjective probability. Those priors may or may not themselves be based on reason and evidence.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks, I get it.

      • Deiseach says:

        I came out as Social Democrat, which is perhaps a shade more to the left than I am, but at least it didn’t classify me as Democratic Socialist! 😀

        Definitely a few of the questions seemed translated from another language or with another concept in mind (what the heck did the “public authorities should not pay their debts” mean?) and I don’t think it’s any better – if not any worse – than all the other political compass quizzes floating around on the Internet. Though I think the “secular-fundamentalist” dichotomy is badly phrased, there are gradations in between “literalist Bible-basher or atheist”!

      • aNeopuritan says:

        Whatever the problems with (I actually agree – and if you look at other parts of the site, it becomes clear it was translated from German – but don’t think it matters as much as you do, though it does matter), it hugely beats what was done in the SSC survey I answered, and so would self-rating using the same 7 dimensions. For comparison to “any other Internet test”, I never saw (another) one that classified better than the Right-Libertarian-proposed square, that is, atrociously; do you know any?

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t know any tests that I would consider good; the ones I’ve seen, it’s been easy to tell the biases of the question-setter. Same with this one – I answered honestly, but had I wanted – for whatever reason – to game the results, it was clear what kinds of answers would get a particular inclination to one or another side of the political scale.

          Something a little less blunt than “do you enjoy drinking the tears of orphans while evicting widows into the cold snowy night after foreclosing on the local small business of hard-working family men? Answer (a) what else is life for? (b) one of my guilty pleasures (c) duty must be done regardless of personal feeling (d) I don’t, actually (e) seize the means of production, comrade!” (or the equivalent for the “free market capitalism is the one true and only workable system” quizzes) questions would be good, but I’ve never seen one that did.

          • Plumber says:

            Sounds like you got a better result than me (but I was leaving many questions “neutral” as the language was opaque) had me as “You are a patriotic and authoritarian socialist”.

            As far as I know 1942 to 1945 were the only years any Americans were in that category.


            “…. “do you enjoy drinking the tears of orphans while evicting widows into the cold snowy night after foreclosing on the local small business of hard-working family men? Answer (a) what else is life for? (b) one of my guilty pleasures (c) duty must be done regardless of personal feeling (d) I don’t, actually (e) seize the means of production, comrade!”…”

            sounds like a way more fun quiz!

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Ask people whether they run or lift?

      I prefer lifting to running (though I don’t do nearly enough of it). I have lower calf insertions ( ).

      I prefer rollerblading to either, but my wife asked me to stop given too many bad accidents (frankly it’s a good idea). I may take up again at a roller rink (much safer, though much, much costlier).

  35. Anonymous says:

    “If given the option of choosing your own work hours, without affecting your monthly salary, how many hours per week would you prefer to work?”

    “In the situation above, would you prefer your work be spread out across the week to work short days, or concentrated in a few days, so you could have more off days?”

    “How many times per day do you eat? Snacks and caloric drinks included.”

    “What is the time of your first meal of the day? Snacks and caloric drinks included.”

    “What is the time of your last meal of the day? Snacks and caloric drinks included.”

    “What is your bodyfat percentage, computed using the US Navy method (‘choke and rope’)?”

  36. googolplexbyte says:

    I don’t think it’s been done before since Aphantasia is such a new term, but I’d like you to put the respondents on some kind of aphatansiac spectrum from completely unable to imagine any visuals to able to create incredibly rich visual images that could pass as real.

    I’m also curious how well people can imagine other things like sounds, smell, touch, etc.

    I can imagine sound well enough it could nearly pass as an echo of the real thing, but visually I can imagine things like shape well, but struggle with colour and texture.

    • awalrus says:

      Strongly seconded, I especially would love to see how mental imagery correlates with how often one reads fiction/novels.

      • RavenclawPrefect says:

        Thirded; I find this phenomenon super interesting and have my own hypotheses about correlations with it based on some anecdata.

  37. Majuscule says:

    I’m always eager to see more questions about family influence. From what I’ve seen (not all that much) the oft-discussed topic of birth order seldom mentions the ages of the parents, their educational attainment and employment history. I’d also like to see something along the lines of “How important is proximity to family to you when choosing a place to live?”

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Also, “How frequently do you talk with family members other than your spouse [s.o.] and children?” or something in that vein.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        A good personality quiz would be a proxy for these questions.

        “How important is proximity to family to you when choosing a place to live?”
        “How frequently do you talk with family members other than your spouse [s.o.] and children?”

        • gleamingecho says:

          Disagree. Many introverts go out of their way to avoid talking to people, but live close to family members and talk to them often out of a sense of duty, etc.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            And a good personality quiz would differentiate between introversion/extraversion and affiliation.

            But yeah, you’re probably right, such quizzes are long.

  38. deciusbrutus says:

    Ask people about their opinions on whether being credibly accused of sexual misconduct makes Clarance Thomas a bad member of the Supreme Court, and if it made William Clinton or John Adams bad presidents.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I find this a very interesting question, as I think I believe differently from most (it makes zero difference). But I think a broader question might make more sense. I think one question asking if any of these several questions have a significant effect on who ones votes for:
      1) Sexual vices
      2) Truth telling
      3) Loyalty to party / church / nation / family
      4) Charisma
      5) Emotional affect.

      Actually, I think a very good question would be to ask who voted in the last election. Or maybe who voted in the last election for national level candidates.

  39. arlie says:

    Frequency of experiences where lethal force would have been an appropriate response. I see a lot of people talking about acquiring guns for self defence, and my personal experience is that situations where it would be justified to use them are extremely rare. (Once in 61 years, in my case.) I’m curious whether those on the pro-gun side of the culture wars – and particularly those actually keeping guns for that purpose – have more such experiences, etc. etc.

  40. bkennedy99 says:

    Ask about the “Call of the Void” phenomenon, in which typical people idly wonder what it might be like to plow their car into oncoming traffic, jump off a cliff, or whatever horrible thing would rapidly end them. Do these thoughts arise, and how frequent/strong are they? There might be some interesting correlations here

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Primarily obsessional OCD is likely a proxy for this.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Oh I do have thoughts like this. I don’t think it makes me OCD. Also thoughts are not the same as actions — I wouldn’t do such things.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Okay, then sufficiently abstracted this question may be a proxy for the Primarily obsessional OCD spectrum.

  41. Denis says:

    Please ask the anonymity question at the end, not at the beginning. I agreed to the sharing of my data not knowing what that data would be, which may have made me less candid in some sections of the survey.

  42. AArgot says:

    I made a post on /r/slatestarcodex recently and was given a temporary ban for it along with deletion of the post. The post was a declaration of war upon the human species. The thread was reposted and then some silliness engaged upon in another thread in response to the ban. The threads in question are:


    There is speculation that I’m the poster “YOU-FUCKING-CUNT”, and while I have no way to prove the fact that I’m not, I will say that I find some of the evalutations of that character to be not off the remark in many respects. As for the flattery or mockery, I disregard that. The point is to see the world from a state of mind where the psychology of the human ape is seen for what it is – machinery with a currently undetermined code. And this machinery is taken with high opinion by the human species – so much so that many delusions have arisen as to its nature, and when these delusions are threatened, the brain retaliates – aside from the chaos the delusions themselves cause. This – all of it – is just information for study and tool creation. Why does the brain do any of this at all, and what are the long-term consequences? What levers are there to be pushed?

    I’d like to ask that Scott Alexander read the posts and discuss what he thinks of the community’s response. I’d also like to offer to discuss what I meant in “person” – Zoom, Skype, etc. Why would he spend his time doing this? There is indeed a war against the human species. It’s just not something that can be explained easily. No obvious interpretation is correct – such is “this guy wants to take himself out along with all of humanity”. This has nothing to do with what I mean. I mean something very specific. I don’t have the technical skill to formalize what I mean, but I know the formalization exists – it’s inherent to the mathematics of the Universe itself. It’s a question of what intelligence can decode the formalization – and how it’d be used.

  43. blacktrance says:

    Assuming we still can’t have checkboxes, it would be nice to have an instruction like “If multiple answer options apply to you, choose the one that’s listed first”, and then sort the answers accordingly.

  44. Subb4k says:

    If the the the the the the the survey has another trick like the the past two years, I predict I will 100% fall for it again and then proceed to burn down everything.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I constantly fall for the the trick. Mostly because I don’t care if it’s a mistake or on purpose, so I spend no energy on avoiding it. I remember reading a poster in some restaurant with many many mis-spellings, showing that people can read stuff even if it is far from grammatically correct. I think it’s a good thing that our brains automatically ignore irrelevant mistakes.

  45. Kevin Graham says:

    “Do you support a universal basic income?”

    “Do you think the education system is a waste of time and money?”


    “On a scale of 1 to 10, how right do you think Bryan Caplan is about the education system?”

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I really like your latter question. I am very curious what the average SSCer thinks of these ideas. Although I think it needs a one sentence introduction, since many will have no idea what this is.

      Maybe a question such as “Bryan Caplan estimates that 80% of the education benefit to college students on average are signalling (messaging to potential employers that one is smart, tenacious and conforming). He thinks only 20% on average is an increase in human capital (knowledge or skills increases that benefit workplace). 10 is complete agreement and 1 is complete disagreement.

      In general, I like the idea of asking about political issues on a 1 to 10 scale. If nothing else, it would fascinating to correlate with one’s self identification of political position.

    • Plumber says:

      @Kevin Graham

      “On a scale of 1 to 10, how right do you think Bryan Caplan is about the education system?”

      How about “Without looking it up do have you any memory of who in Hell Bryan Caplan is?”, the answer in my case is no, I don’t know who he is, or was, and why his opinions on education are (presumably) significant.

  46. fr8train_ssc says:

    Some control questions or at least some type of hidden question to better sieve trolls and improve the reliability of a massive online survey

    • Furslid says:

      I agree on the desirability of control/calibration questions.

      “Arrange the following animals from smallest to largest. Horses. Mice. Humans. Hippos.”

      This tests how many trolls and misunderstandings of obvious questions.

      “Pick a number 1-10”
      After a gap of several questions.
      “Enter the last digit of the time on the computer you are taking this survey on.”

      If people are generally following the rules on the survey, the second question should give a flat distribution. If people are making up answers, the distribution of both answers should match.

      • Eri says:

        It can be also interesting to add some ‘signaling’ control question suggesting an obviously false statement (like Antichrist-Obama in the mentioned SSC article, but probably somehow related to the rationalist community instead).

        Additionaly, it might be interesting to add a question which says “Please answer ‘no’ to this question” and compare the number of people that answered “yes” to the number of those who failed the control question.

  47. Furslid says:

    I’d also like to see some questions in politics echoed in terms of social respectability.

    What political party are you?
    In your social circle which party affiliation is highest status?
    In society at large, which party affiliation is highest status?

    It would be interesting to see which answers match and which vary.

  48. Yaleocon says:

    Come up with a list of possibilities for the year to come, and have people rank their likelihood. (Essentially, make people do a small set of your end-of-year predictions.)

    When you present the results of the survey, there might be interesting correlations between those predictions and political tribe, gender, non/autistic status, etc. And at the end of 2019, you would be in a position to further ask what kind of people (if anyone) made the best predictions. So, some of the payoff would be delayed; but there would be some sooner, too, and I’m really curious to see what patterns might crop up.

  49. blacktrance says:

    On the moral views question, the “other/no answer” option should be replaced with “accept/lean towards more than one of the above”, “accept/lean towards an option not listed here”, “none”, and “no answer”.

  50. JulieK says:

    What other adults live in your household (check all that apply):
    _Spouse/romantic partner
    _Adult Children
    _Other blood relatives

  51. honoredb says:

    I’d be interested in readers’ impressions of the moral character of cardiologists (among other professions discussed on the blog, maybe).

  52. algekalipso says:

    I would love it if the survey included a section about psychedelics and/or dissociatives. I would be happy with even just one question: “How many times have you tripped on any drug in the following list, not counting microdosing? (LSD, DMT, Mescaline, Psilocybin, 2C-B)”.

    • JulieK says:

      Asking about drug use would definitely be worthwhile, but it might need to be in a separate survey, not linked to other identifying information.

  53. Rachael says:

    I’d be interested in a question about whether you have a verbal train of thought, and seeing whether it correlates with introversion and/or aphantasia.

  54. Nick says:

    Please solve the question of whether / how many kids to have by thinking up some survey questions relating to actual eventual happiness / satisfaction with decisions to reproduce.

  55. Drain says:

    I’d like to see a question about the number of citations or papers people have published (maybe also binned by STEM vs. non-STEM), and the number of patents they’ve acquired. (Basically all the questions from the SMPY study, except laypeople would actually be able to analyze the data lol.) I’m really curious about the relationship between intelligence and researcher productivity (in particular whether it’s linear or a more exciting shape.)

  56. Rachael says:

    Oh, another one: maybe a question about how strongly, or how soon after eating, people experience hunger. There was a person on the self-starvation thread who said “I have always found being mildly hungry (that is, ~16-36 hours without food) as pretty enjoyable”, which gave me one of those typical-mind-blowing moments, because I feel *extremely* hungry if a meal is a couple of hours late, have never gone 36 hours without food, and the one time I tried going nearly 24 hours without food I felt so weak and dizzy I couldn’t get up off the floor. (I don’t have diabetes or anything like that.) Clearly there’s massive variation here, and I wonder what, if anything, it correlates with.
    There might be an interesting link with autism. I would speculate that the hunger patterns for autistic people might be bimodal, with some feeling extreme hunger due to sensory over-sensitivities, and some at the other extreme due to sensory under-sensitivities / poor interoception. (I may or may not be on the autistic spectrum: have some traits, have an immediate family member with a diagnosis, never been tested myself.)

  57. JulieK says:

    Are you more/less sensitive than average to lights/noise/scents?
    Are you better/worse than average at recognizing faces?