Please Take The 2019 SSC Survey

Please take the 2019 Slate Star Codex Survey.

The survey helps me learn more about SSC readers and plan community events. But it also provides me with useful informal research data for questions I’m interested it, which I then turn into interesting posts. My favorite from last year was Fight Me, Psychologists: Birth Order Effects Exist And Are Very Strong, which I think made a real contribution to individual differences psychology and which could not have happened without your cooperation.

The survey is open to anyone who has ever read a post on this blog before December 27 2018. Please don’t avoid taking the survey just because you feel like you’re not enough of a “regular”. It will ask you how much of a “regular” you are, so there’s no risk you’ll “dilute” the results. The survey will stay open until mid-January, and I will probably be begging and harassing you to take it about once a week or so until then.

This year’s survey is in two parts. Part I asks the same basic questions as previous years and should take about ten minutes. Part II asks more questions on research topics I’m interested in and should take about fifteen minutes. It would be great if you could take both parts, but if 25 minutes sounds like too much surveying to you, you can also just take Part I.

As always, the survey is plagued by fundamental limitations, poor technology, and my own carelessness, but a couple of things to watch for:

– Once you click a box on a Google form, you cannot un-click it – i.e. you can change your answer but you can’t unanswer the question. If you click a box you didn’t mean to, please switch your answer to “Other” if available; if not, then choose the most boring inoffensive answer that is least likely to produce surprising results. I realize how bad this is but there is apparently no way around it.

– Some of the questions are America-centric, because I either have to learn everything about every culture or be something-centric, and America seemed like a good place to center around. Sorry to non-American readers. Feel free to skip any questions that don’t apply to you.

– By default, all responses will be included in a public dataset for anyone who wants to analyze them. Your responses will obviously not be attached to your name or any similarly blatant identifying information, but if you are the only 92 year old from Uruguay on SSC then someone could theoretically identify you. There is an option to make all your responses private; if identifiability bothers you, feel free to check it and you will not be included in the public dataset. There are a few sections of Part II, especially the ones on drugs and sex, which I figure need extra privacy protection; I will not be sharing these regardless of your answer to the privacy question.

– Due to poring over a 5000 entry spreadsheet not actually being that much fun, I am not up for changing your answers after you submit them. Please do not email me asking me to do this. This includes your answer to the privacy question. Please figure out whether you want privacy before taking the survey.

That having been said, you are all great, and I super-appreciate any survey-filling-out you are willing to do. If you can donate about a half-hour, I hope I can pay you back in interesting findings and useful crowd-sourced life advice. So:

Take the 2019 Slate Star Codex Survey here

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428 Responses to Please Take The 2019 SSC Survey

  1. kaakitwitaasota says:

    I accidentally gave feedback on the usefulness of the mental health system’s therapy sector, and there was no way to “unclick”, so I left it at a middle ground so as not to screw with the stats too much. I know it’s probably too late now, but for future surveys—-for those optional questions where you have to choose one of a number of options, there should be a way to unselect an option so that the results aren’t contaminated.

    I think you also forgot to include psilocybin in the “which drugs have you tried, even once?” question–IIRC even a single use of psilocybin can have long-lasting effects, n’est-ce pas?

    Re: familial age…should there maybe be an option for adopted vs. biological siblings?

    • noyann says:

      there should be a way to unselect an option so that the results aren’t contaminated.

      A dummy option “Click here to unclick the other options” could do that.

      • For many question types, such as scales, Google forms doesn’t allow adding another option like that. Adding a checkbox to disregard the answer below every question with no such option would work, but is incredibly annoying.

      • bullseye says:

        Couldn’t there just be an answer that says “No answer” but looks like a regular answer to the computer?

    • Selentelechia says:

      Seconding some way to indicate which relatives are adopted and which aren’t. In my case, all six siblings are adopted and my dad is not biologically related, but my mom is my biological parent. I did answer the mental health questions re: family with only my biological parents in mind. I don’t know if things like this will mess up the data or not.

      • Evan Þ says:

        If Scott’s expanding the question, I’d also like an option to indicate which biological siblings grew up with you and which didn’t (or greater specificity on which should count).

  2. B_Epstein says:

    New year, same problem. The “race you identify yourself with” question has been a source of criticism and confusion on every survey. I’m Jewish. Is that middle-eastern? White (non-Hispanic)? I imagine many others have been equally uncertain. FWIW, I answered white (non-Hispanic).

    Other than that, I note that this survey was for some reason easier to fill than the 2018 one. Also, the donation amount question shamed me into donating 200$ to the AMF on the spot, just so I could report a larger number.

    ETA: the question about SSC changing for better or for worse was interesting, but might it not benefit from an option to fill in one’s reasons for their answer?

    • johan_larson says:

      I don’t know how you think of yourself, but every Jew I have met has been white by my standards.

      • B_Epstein says:

        Well, I did state the way I think of myself, and it agrees with you. However, see link text for a threadful of of people unhappy with the choices offered.

      • entognatha says:

        It depends on the racial categories of the country you live in and also the type of Jew. If you do 23andme some Jews will come out “Ashkenazi” – this is a distinct population and generally of white appearance. The rest is typically assigned as “Middle Eastern / North African”. Usually it’s a mixture.

        In the U.S. this Arab / Middle Eastern is classified as white, so in the U.S. Jews are broadly speaking white. However, in the U.K. Middle Eastern / Arab ancestry would be classified as Asian.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Well, I’m genetically Jewish, and the alt-right ethnostate types hate me, so I don’t think I can identify as “White”. To be fair, modern progressives hate me too, and for being white no less; but they kinda hate all races for being white so that doesn’t really narrow it down.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I know an African American convert to Judaism.

      • I am Ashkenazi and think of myself as “white, non-Hispanic.” Describing myself as middle-eastern would be almost as inappropriate as all of us describing ourselves as African.

        • soreff says:

          Same situation, same default racial self-categorization.
          Come to think of it, the Albion’s Seed question should have had a constraint
          to those who are primarily from the British Isles…

        • brad says:

          Same here. Not sure how any anyone could think otherwise. If the category includes everything from Celts to Croats to Greeks to Finns, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t also include Ashkenazi. Inasmuch as there are any pure blooded Sephardi, they’d be white too. Mizrahi I’d call Middle Eastern / North African depending on country. Falasha, and so on are likewise easy.

          Where’s the confusion?

    • Deiseach says:

      Non-Jew here but I would imagine “What country did your nearest immigrant ancestors come from?” would indicate that; did your granny come from the Middle East or a little village in the former USSR? Are you pale-skinned with blue eyes and straight light-coloured hair? If you called yourself “Chauncey Boston-Bramin IV” could you get away with that?

      Then again, if it’s an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez type “I recently discovered I have Jewish ancestry” that’s complicated: in that case are you Middle Eastern, Hispanic- Sephardi, White Hispanic, Other? And that’s not even considering the whole “white is not the same as White” when it comes to privilege/oppressed class distinction. I do see how this is not as simple as ethnic versus religious versus skin colour identification.

      • B_Epstein says:

        Oooh boy is Israel ever the wrong country to go by that criterion! My spouse has one grandparent meeting your “small village from the USSR” description, another from Eastern Europe, a third one from Iran and the fourth and final a Kurd with Turkish roots. I, myself, am a simpler case with mostly Ukraine-based family tree – but what should our son answer?!

        The majority of my friends and co-workers either have similarly mixed origins or will force them on their offspring.

        • Deiseach says:

          what should our son answer?!

          Based on that ancestry, “Caucasian”. Whites (or whites) are all Caucasians, but not all Caucausians are White.

        • brad says:

          We have plenty of mixed race people in the US too. What race would you consider Barack Obama?

    • MawBTS says:

      Ashkenazi Jews are typically considered white – about 80% of their maternal ancestry originates within Europe, according to a recent paper.

    • A1987dM says:

      “White (non-Hispanic)” for Ashkenazim, “White (Hispanic)” for Sephardim (or any other Jews whose family has spent more than a couple generations in Latin America) and “Middle eastern” for Mizrahim?

    • moshez says:

      I’m Jewish — on one side, Ashkenazi (Poland) and on the other side, Sephardic (Ottoman empire). I usually answer “Middle-Eastern”, since that’s the closest: Ashkenazi Jews intermingled little with Europeans genetically, and the Ottoman empire is kinda Middle-Eastern (you can argue either way on Turkey, I guess?).

      “White” seems like a weird term to describe myself.

    • A good example of the ambiguity over whether Jews are White was provided by the HuffPost, which celebrated Bannon’s firing with the headline “Goy, Bye.” Many other Jews complained and it was changed to “White Flight:”

    • tossrock says:

      I think the question should be ‘Check all that apply’, also.

    • Tamar says:

      Am ethnically fully Ashkenazi, chose Middle Eastern as I more strongly identify myself with that ethnically. Jews are indigenous to the Levant and most Jewish communities including both indisputably Middle Eastern communities and Ashkenazim are more closely related to each other than to neighboring non-Jewish communities, though there has definitely been some admixture. And yeah, I guess second to that, I’m “White”. But if you’re going to count Middle Easterners as a category separate from White, I’m much more specifically that.

      • If you trace your ancestry back to the Middle-East on the basis of where your ancestors lived most of 2000 years ago, shouldn’t we all trace ancestry a bit farther back and report that we are African?

        • soreff says:

          Quoth from the Mikado:

          You will understand this
          when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial
          atomic globule.


    • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

      I too was shamed into throwing a few hundred bucks at EA charities to move on from that question without feeling like a hypocritical ass.

  3. Statismagician says:

    Probably there should have been a ‘how recently did you check your SAT scores / % confidence’ question. I for one had to go off memory.

    • albertborrow says:

      If you give the College Board website your name and address that you took the SAT under, they might have the data available, depending on when you took the test.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      I took an IQ test as a child and that’s the score I posted. I have since gotten the same score on multiple (better) online tests, and higher scores on crummier tests. I think I remember my SAT scores, but that’s been quite a while and I definitely don’t remember the breakdown between Verbal and Math. Being able to report how long ago would have been helpful.

    • Randy M says:

      Likewise. I remember the score being nice but not exceptional and ended in a 90. 1190? 1290? 1390? something like that. It was twenty years ago, so I left it blank rather than guess.

    • bullseye says:

      I remember my total score, but not my verbal and math scores separately, so I left it blank.

      Also, they’ve changed the SAT scale at least twice. Looking it up just now, they changed it in 2016 from a 600-2400 scale to a 400-1600 scale. And when I took it in 1998 or 1999 it was a 400-1600 scale, so since then they changed it and then changed it back.

      • zorbathut says:

        While this is true, the way they extended it to 600-2400 is by adding a 200-800 Writing segment, and the way they reduced it is by collapsing Writing into the old Verbal segment. If you ignore the standalone Writing, you can still get reasonable results by asking about Math and Verbal.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I took the ACT, not the SAT. And over 20 years ago.

  4. TracingWoodgrains says:

    The job question is oddly incomplete and has no “other” option. I’d rather not mention my profession for security reasons, but there was no close analogue available.

  5. johan_larson says:

    I took the whole survey and timed myself. 31 minutes.

  6. Deiseach says:

    Woo-hoo, survey time!

    Not bad at all, though I do have the perennial gripe over the political sorting; I am socially conservative but I would rather be staked out for crows to peck out my eyes than be identified with the UK Tory party (sigh), a category for “Other/Not this particular type” would help.

    Some questions I skipped as “not applicable/could answer but it’s really too personally embarassing”. For the sex and romance ones, a category of “Don’t have/don’t want” would be nice, but the survey does kind of cover that in a later question – though I suppose someone else might ask in addition for a “Don’t have/do want” option. Also had to skip the “how much did you donate to charity” as I don’t have a solid figure – it’s “whatever I get asked for on the day and have to spare”, I have one exact figure I could quote but that’s for a specific donation I do remember, I haven’t kept count of what others I did give money towards.

    The Gender Bias one was tough, since my workplace is very strongly unigender – there is a grand total of one (1) person of the opposite gender working there. Ditto the school question – over here, religious schools are public schools, so I didn’t attend a private fee-paying religious school (though we do have those as well). But these are mainly minor gripes, the political one is the big one for me.

    I will be interested to see the results when we get them!

    • SamChevre says:

      Similarly, I’m libertarian-leaning, but loathe the US Libertarian Party. I’m one of the “libertarianism as peace treaty that will lead to very traditional on-the-ground outcomes” (heroes: Buckley, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Hoppe), not one of the “libertarian as ethos” crowd like BHL and the Libertarian Party.

      • Deiseach says:

        The trouble is, Irish politics is very like this and that’s for both our major parties. The three of our major parties. Ah feck it, all our major parties and a few of the minor ones, too!

        A vote is a pint and a pint is a vote and that’s a guarantee
        A few pints of Guinness will surely win us the votes of the constituency
        ‘Cos Jim Mohammed Everyman is a great man for a pint,
        And Jim Mohammed Everyman is a great man for a pint

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I guffawed at ~”This campaign has always been about jobs, and if I’m elected, that will be one less person unemployed!”

          • Deiseach says:

            Not only that, Conrad, but his immediate family will all get jobs in the constituency office, Dáil office, and elsewhere, thus electing Jim Mohammed Everyman will mean a reduction in the total unemployment figures by several! 🙂

        • Plumber says:


          Not since Jimmy McMillan was a canidates have I wished I could vote elsewhere.

          Jim Mohammed Everyman is a winner!

    • colomon says:

      I’m still in the middle of the survey (or possibly just the beginning) but stopped to come over here and complain that it felt like the answers allowed were very low resolution in a way I don’t remember from previous years (but may have forgotten).

      For instance, autism. I have a family member who has formal diagnosis. I think I might have it as well. But I can only choose one of those things.

      (Added after completion: second half seemed much better about this.)

    • theredsheep says:

      I was raised liberal and still believe in persecuting the wealthy, but am increasingly socially conservative; I chose “liberal” because I’m really not into the free-market stuff and it was less inaccurate than other options.

      • stationarywaves says:

        Anti-market social conservatives are otherwise known as “populists” or “authoritarians.”

        • theredsheep says:

          Not really accurate; I really dislike Trump and the alt-right crowd. Really, I’d like an other/fill in the blank option.

          • stationarywaves says:

            I don’t like Hans-Hermann Hoppe, but I’m still a libertarian. Just because you’re a populist doesn’t mean you have a lot in common with everyone who was ever described by that word.

            Anyway, “populist” is the older term for social conservative + economic illiberals. Nowadays, the term is “authoritarian,” not because political scientists think you’re a jerk, but only because you believe in governmental authority over both social and economic areas of life. It’s intended to be a value-neutral word.

        • Plumber says:


          ‘Anti-market social conservatives are otherwise known as “populists” or “authoritarians.”’

          I’ll take those labels, you could also say “communitarian”.

          It occurs to me that the biggest organizational proponent of an “anti-market, social-conservative” point of may be the Roman Catholic church, albiet they’re pro more open borders.

  7. MawBTS says:

    When I take these, my answers always make me feel embarrassingly conservative and plain. I’m like the living embodiment of the Onion’s youth that already look like old men video.

    • Deiseach says:

      my answers always make me feel embarrassingly conservative and plain

      I know! “What traditional wild’n’wacky teenage hi-jinks did you get up to from this list?”

      Nothing. Nothing at all. Except for getting drunk once, that’s about as much as I have in common with the “everyone has done [pick mildly illegal/frowned upon by adults] thing”.

      And it’s not even that I’m particularly virtuous, just that a lot of the “fun” things are as appealing to me as chewing on soggy cardboard, and the vices I engage in are not mentioned (why is chocolate not included under “drugs” if alcohol and tobacco are there?)

      We will just have to resign ourselves to being fully paid-up members of the Dull, Boring, No-Fun Club (not Party because parties are fun) 😉

    • stationarywaves says:

      The survey does seem geared toward discovering unusual thoughts and behavior, rather than normal/typical ones. It’s better than nothing, but a far cry from something truly scientific. It seems designed to discover quirky stuff, as though Scott asked himself what quirky things might be true of his readership, and then set out to write enough questions to discover that something – anything – about his readership is unusual.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        We are a bunch of quirky readers. Makes sense he would try to take advantage of this. There are plenty of other surveys for the general population.

  8. Hoopyfreud says:

    It would have been nice to have a multidimensional childhood assessment; “supportive environment” and “difficulty” are correlated, but not especially well. I weighted difficulty more highly on this.

    Financial success was a tricky one – I think that the very richest people are Big Rich due to mostly luck, but the comfortable are there from mostly hard work. Put myself in the middle.

    Also, the “Hello World” question is in section 16, which I needed to skip. Nearly missed it.

    • Darwin says:

      Agree about childhood. I answered very good childhood because the descriptions on the measure seemed to be talking about parents mostly, and my parents were great; however I was suicidal for several years in middleschool and highschool due to various difficulties with peers, teachers, and my own mental issues.

    • Loriot says:

      What was the hello world question?

      I skipped most of part 2 because none of it applied to me.

  9. SolveIt says:

    The corn-eating question must be hopelessly confounded by everyone qualified to answer already having heard of it.

  10. TheMadMapmaker says:

    Survey taken ! As per tradition, give me upvotes ! … um.

    (so, no Big Five personality test this time ? That’s what took the most time last time …)

  11. melboiko says:

    Part 1: The political options have no alternative at all for anarchism, which is surprising. There are many socialists uncomfortable with communism.

    Part 2: A lot of the relationship questions are about “your most recent partner”. I’ve just started a new relationship, but I’m also poly and have a long-term partner. Somehow I get the impression that the stuff you asked in the singular may not necessarily be about the most recent partner? Like, do you really want me to put “two weeks” (most recent partner) as relationship time and not list “eight years” (other current partner) anywhere in the survey? It feels as if the questions about “the most recent” are singling out the most recent for no reason, or assuming most recent = only one ongoing.

    SSC better or worse? Do we mean the posts or the community/comments? The posts are still OK, the community much worse; so I didn’t know how to respond.

    • sty_silver says:

      In what way — and if it’s easy to answer, how — did the community get worse?

      • Mitch Lindgren says:

        I’ve whined about this enough that I feel I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but for an example of how I think the community has gotten worse, take a look at the comments on Trump: A Setback for Trumpism. Scott even noted it himself in the following open thread:

        Although I’m very happy with the quality of discussion here most of the time, I was disappointed with some comments on the Trump post. Part of this was my fault for going for a few jokes that made it more inflammatory than it had to be – but enough of it was your faults that I banned six people and probably should have banned more. Remember, if you see an immoderate comment that needs moderating, please report it using the report button in the corner.

        Of course, I can’t speak for OP, but that’s my take.

    • JulieK says:

      Didn’t it say at the beginning that if you are poly, answer according to your most important partner?

      • melboiko says:

        If it did, I must have overlooked it in favour of the “most recent” qualifier, which was prominent in the question texts themselves.

        Of course, phrasing like “most important” can be sensitive to poly people (it is to me). I’d be more comfortable with something more objective than “importance”, like “longest ongoing relationship”.

  12. oerpli says:

    Note: if you object to this question because “I am actually an imposter, it’s not a syndrome”, please select “almost all the time”

    Was this a common objection?

    • Redbot says:

      In my case, all the external validation I’ve received has been from sources that I consider biased, untrustworthy or incompetent. I imagine this is not too uncommon.

    • Anonymous says:

      I found it hilarious. But also plausible: If you can have a lifelong teaching career as an illiterate man, never being caught, there must be frauds all over the place. Some do get caught. Others while away in their cubicles, doing their best Wally impression.

    • Basil Elton says:

      At least for me this note was the defining point in what to answer.

  13. entognatha says:

    “Early Feelings
    Consider your most recent partner. What were your feelings when you first decided to ask them out?”

    Erm, this question seems to make a critical assumption here. My current partner asked me out. I think you’ll find that this is the case for most female respondents. I left it blank, which is what I assume is wanted, but if I considered answering it by reversing it (what were your feelings when you were first asked out) .

    • SamChevre says:

      It makes another one, which I guessed the most useful answer. I asked my wife out (for further conversation, not a date) the first time I met her, but solely because I enjoyed talking to her. We didn’t go on a first date until a year and a half later.

    • Eric Boesch says:

      Yeah, I ran into that issue too. (Technically, I asked for the date, but the question really seemed to deal with issues of showing interest first.) I got started answering the section anyhow, and somehow convinced myself I should finish it, since I couldn’t undo the answer.

      Like the other commenter, I was also shamed into donating more. Even though a cynic like me could seriously wonder how much keeping more people alive actually makes the world better compared to something to help prevent society from running off the rails. But that’s way off-topic and presumably discussed to death.

  14. Emperor Aristidus says:

    I think “Referral” is missing an “Other” category. In my case, I found “Slate Star Codex” after reading “Unsong”, to which I had been referred by TVtropes.

    I also find the political options somewhat limiting. The issue in my case is that I support multiculturalism for the U.S.A., but find it a poor fit for France; so my political affiliation would be different if I were in America than it is in here in France — making your resorting to mostly American parties/affiliations kind of problematic.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      I selected “other blog” but it was actually an opinion/news site that linked to one of Scott’s posts.

      Along the lines of your other issue, I wish there had been more granular responses on the immigration question. I am in favor of both more restrictions than current and more legal immigration. I don’t feel that there was any way to truly answer in that way. Open borders for more narrow filters doesn’t meet what I wanted there either, as “open borders” seems to leave too much to the imagination – is there a process?
      are visas required? etc. There were also no “enhance border security” or “build the wall” answers for someone so inclined.

    • Don P. says:

      Also missing: “Who remembers?”

  15. noyann says:

    For the next survey, I’d love to see a question about caffeine intake, to correlate it with episodes of psychiatric diseases.
    “Anxiety symptoms caused by caffeine are often mistaken for serious mental disorders including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, leaving patients medicated for the wrong issue.”(Wikipedia)

    • b_jonas says:

      There is a question that includes caffeine intake. Second page, “Which Drugs Regular. Please check off any of these drugs you have ever used regularly. Use whatever definition of “regularly” makes sense to you.” and one of the check boxes is Caffeine.

      • noyann says:

        Yes, but is doesn’t ask for quantities (even guessed), and “ever used regularly” and the questions about psychiatric diseases do not allow to make a guess about a correlation.

        • soreff says:

          “regularly” introduces ambiguities of its own…
          I consume caffeine daily and alcohol approximately annually (the New Years’ toast
          is coming up…). Both could be considered “regular”, but I dropped the alcohol from
          the regular answers, given the >2 order of magnitude difference in frequency…

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Tried estimating caffeine content – realized it’s harder than it looks. Takes a bit of research and googlin. Not likely a simple survey question would get good results. Maybe just a daily/weekly option?

          • noyann says:

            People are prone to grossly misestimate with self reported foods/drinks quantities. You’d have to break it down to detailed concrete counts to mitigate that somewhat. Like:

            In the last seven days (or: during a typical week of that disease episode) I had…
            [___] cups (nnn ml) of coffee
            [___] mugs (nnn ml) of coffee

            That means a long list of permutations (where realistic) of
            ” [ coffee | espresso | black tea | green tea | white tea | Coke/Pepsi/… | Red Bull/… | …] * [ cups (nnn ml) | mugs (nnn ml) | bottles (multiples of 1/2 l) | † | … ] ”

            † = List of Starbucks sizes, that, if used, switch an automatic adjustment for their higher caffeine levels

            To get a usable response rate, the question would have to be very well structured (“Coffees, Teas, Sodas, …”), and all number juggling above simple counts should be hidden from the user. An on-the-fly calculation of total weekly caffeine promised for right after the answer was recorded (not before, to avoid ‘corrections’) could add some extra motivation to answer.

            That question is too ambitious for this type of survey, I realize.

            (Edit: typos)

  16. FeepingCreature says:

    Bugs in the survey:

    – If you accidentally select an option, you cannot unselect it.

    – if you press F5 on page 2, for instance because you accidentally selected an option, the entire survey resets.

    Relatedly, there is a noticeable lack of an option to cause physical pain to the person who developed this survey software over the internet.

    • b_jonas says:

      Yes! Let’s start this year’s flood of complaints about the survey.

      > If you accidentally select an option, you cannot unselect it.

      You can’t, but us tech-savvy computer people do know how to unselect options.

      > lack of an option to cause physical pain to the person who developed this survey software over the internet.

      We are not allowed to discuss with commoners whether this option is available for us.

      • FeepingCreature says:

        > You can’t, but us tech-savvy computer people do know how to unselect options.

        I was unable to find a browser input that did it. I could probably have unset the option manually by futzing with the dom, but I’m not sure if that would have correctly triggered any potential js handler fuckery.

      • googolplexbyte says:

        >You can’t, but us tech-savvy computer people do know how to unselect options.

        Google-saavy people also.

        • Mitch Lindgren says:

          Google Forms doesn’t use standard form controls, so you can’t uncheck a response by editing the HTML – or at least, it doesn’t appear to be trivial to do so. Is there another method that works for Google Forms?

          I Googled it but I didn’t find anything.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Right-click on the radio button -> Inspect; go up a couple of levels in the HTML structure until you find a div with a whole bunch of attributes, one of which is aria-checked="true"; right-click -> Edit attribute; remove the entire attribute (or set its value to "false").

          • eh says:

            @Said: Messing with HTML accessibility attributes possibly won’t unset the option in your submitted results.

  17. alexschernyshev says:

    Re: income – Scott, please clarify if it should be pre-tax income or take-home income! Alternatively ask for both. Otherwise the numbers will be meaningless.

    • ashadyna says:

      Under income, were you looking for household income or individual income?

      I’m putting my individual income.

    • fion says:

      Asking for both seems best. As a PhD student, I am paid a tax-free stipend, which obviously makes it a bit tricky for me to say what my “before tax” income is. (But my guess is that that’s what most people will put…)

      • meh says:

        why does that make it tricky?

        after tax income = before tax income – taxes

        this holds even when taxes = 0.

        • fion says:

          True. However, if I appear under my before-tax income with lots of other people’s before-tax income, then I’ll be in a much lower percentile than if I appear under my after-tax income with other people’s after-tax income.

          • thedufer says:

            This is no more or less problematic than comparing between people under different tax regimes. I don’t think a tax-free stipend is really a special case.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      The best alternative would be to link to various income percentile calculators and ask people to derive their personal and/or household percentile.

      Same with the donation question: what percent of your income are you donating is probably a better question than absolute amount.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Also worth asking whether or not the number includes benefits. My job comes with about $20,000 in benefits, which is nothing to sneeze at.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        For a long time benefits were more standard and you could approximate between jobs of at least a similar level (manager to manager, clerk to clerk) such that it was a wash. I think we (as a society) are going to have to do a better job counting differences in benefits. Even discounting fringe benefits at places like Google, there’s still a huge difference in a basic medical plan that barely qualifies under the ACA and a Cadillac plan, even if both companies “offer insurance” to their employees.

  18. Dan says:


    – for “Moral Views”, I don’t know what any of the options mean, and there was no option for that
    – for “Psychiatric Commitment”, I wanted “support this but have no idea if we’re currently doing it well or not”
    – for “Censorship Change”, I think it has become more safe/acceptable to express “cops treat black people unfairly” and less safe/acceptable to express “we should kill all the Jews”. The question doesn’t seem to distinguish those (and asks about people in general, not specifically about expressing your own views)

    • fion says:

      I had the same thought on psychiatric commitment. I think I went for “status quo is fine”, but really I should have said “I am too ignorant to advocate to change the status quo”.

      And yeah, the censorship change question was a bit rubbish.

    • soreff says:

      – for “Censorship Change”, I think it has become more safe/acceptable to express “cops treat black people unfairly” and less safe/acceptable to express “we should kill all the Jews”. The question doesn’t seem to distinguish those (and asks about people in general, not specifically about expressing your own views)

      Also: safe/acceptable _where_? At one’s job? Among one’s neighbors?
      At one of many quite different online sites?

      • arlie says:

        Yeah. I went with less safe, because in recent years I find myself taking mild precautions to avoid internet flash mobs, which is something that would never have occurred to me 10 years ago.

        But either direction could be argued. The question is far too broad, even if (as I did), you add an implicit “for me”.

        Probably it measures mood/disposition better than it measures real trends – Eeyore will predictably say things are worse; Pollyanna will say they are better.

  19. Plumber says:

    I had taken an IQ test but was not told the result beyond “abour average” by my employer so I guessed my result was 100 which I put down in the survey, I have never taken the SAT so I left that blank.

    Since there were no options for “Found SSC through links from The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times” I couldn’t answer how I found SSC.

    The survey was fun, looking forward to the next one!

    • Plumber says:

      This was before I was a plumber, I was an “aide to the handicapped” which basically meant lifting people out of their wheelchairs and into their beds and vice versa plus feeding them, et cetera.
      No way could I do it now, my back is too bad, and I’m just not that strong.

  20. silver_swift says:

    On the question about political spectrum: Right/left relative to what? I live in Europe and I think I qualify as very slightly left leaning here, but as I understand it that means I completely fall of off the left end of the spectrum (at least on some topics) by American standards.

    I entered 2, assuming that the data would be more useful if everyone sticks to the same scale and American standards are a more obvious schelling point than European.

    • Deiseach says:

      I live in Europe and I think I qualify as very slightly left leaning here, but as I understand it that means I completely fall of off the left end of the spectrum (at least on some topics) by American standards.

      Oh yeah, that’s always fun: I do some online American political quizzes and generally come out as “Liberal” or centre-left, while I consider myself centre-right/right but not hard-core right wing.

  21. willbradshaw says:

    Comments / improvement requests:
    Feminism/SJ: I’m no fan at all of the modern SJ movement, but I identify fairly strongly as a feminist (I’m sure some people in the SJ movement would say I’m not a feminist unless I hold highly-controversial opinions XYZ, but that’s one of the reasons I don’t like them). I don’t think this is a particularly rare situation; feminism is much older and more ideologically diverse than SJ. So how should I answer “Do you identify as a feminist or a member of the social justice community?”?
    Income: probably a good idea to specify pre- or post-tax. Either makes sense depending on what you want to know, but if some people put one and some the other, it’s going to screw with your results. (I put pre-tax since that’s what I use to determine my charitable giving, so it’s the number I have on hand).
    Family members: I wasn’t really clear on what counts as “within two generations” for family members; do first cousins count? (I didn’t count cousins as they’re more distantly related than grandparents, which I think is the central “two generations” relationship.)
    – There wasn’t any feedback/general comments section; otherwise I would have put these here instead.

    And an observation: I notice on the “which of these countries do you think best realizes your vision of a good society” that my intuitive answer can be summarised as “well, definitely none of the countries I’ve lived in”, which makes me suspicious of my (and everyone else’s) answer to this one for near-vs-far-mode reasons.

    • Anonymous says:

      – Income: probably a good idea to specify pre- or post-tax. Either makes sense depending on what you want to know, but if some people put one and some the other, it’s going to screw with your results. (I put pre-tax since that’s what I use to determine my charitable giving, so it’s the number I have on hand).

      Yeah, and sometimes there are taxation optimization schemes that nominally yield zero or negative income, but de facto make you money.

    • Eponymous says:

      So how should I answer “Do you identify as a feminist or a member of the social justice community?”?

      I read as non-exclusive “or”, so you would say “yes”.

      Now I’m curious if anyone else strongly identifies as one of these and *not* the other. My guess is it’s rare.

      • willbradshaw says:

        I read as non-exclusive “or”, so you would say “yes”.

        That’s fair enough; I considered that, but in the end I went with “Sorta” which is probably good enough for Scott’s purposes here.

        Now I’m curious if anyone else strongly identifies as one of these and *not* the other. My guess is it’s rare.

        In my generation it’s probably fairly rare, though not vanishingly so (at least among the kind of demographics that read SSC). And it would probably become much more common if you include older cohorts: there’s no shortage of savage online fights between younger SJ activists and older, previous-wave feminists about all sorts of stuff. Lots of the older women I know are vehemently feminist but not at all involved in the current SJ movement and would probably disagree with it about lots of things.

        I’ll admit my identification as a feminist has waned somewhat as I’ve moved away from SJ, but I think it’s pretty easy to put together a feminist manifesto I’d get very strongly behind. I don’t think the things previous waves fought for stop being feminist because they’re no longer radical.

        I do think it’s possible to hold many or most of the opinions I hold and consistently identify as non-feminist, or even (just about) anti-feminist, depending on what your central concept of a feminist happens to be; I think this accounts for most of the difference between me and Scott on this issue, for example. That said, I think a central concept of feminist that excludes three or more generations of activism and anyone currently over the age of 35 is pretty inadequate.

    • bullseye says:

      I am also feminist but not SJ. I answered Yes. I get the impression that SJWs are all younger than me, but there are certainly feminists who are older.

    • arlie says:

      +1 re equating “feminism” with SJW. But that seems to be standard in this blog, at least in the CW-OK open threads 🙁

      Also, while I’m thinking about it – the question about siblings was tricky. I have half siblings on both sides of my family, and no full siblings – how many siblings *do* I have? (I answered based on those I was raised with. Answered the borth order question that way too.)

      • Tarpitz says:

        Yeah, that question definitely needs guidance on how to handle half-siblings, step-siblings, adopted siblings…

  22. Eri says:

    I’m a student, but also have some pre-significant income as a freelancer. Thus was slightly annoyed with “Work Status” question that didn’t allow me to choose both options. (I chose “student”.)

    Also wasn’t sure how to answer “How often do you comment on SSC?” – I have exactly one (fairly recent) comment before this one, and also feel like my comment frequency will increase in the near future. But, I guess, “Less than once a month” still covers this?

    “Vegetarian”: probably an additional option “No, but I compensate this choice of mine in some other way” could be added. (Quoting Scott himself: “Would I pay between $5 and $500 a year not to have to be a vegetarian? You bet”.)

    • Florent says:

      I try to eat less meat for ecological reasons (which is a subset of moral reasons, I suppose), but not for animal cruelty reasons as the answer seemed to imply.

  23. Anonymous1 says:

    Bummed to see no questions about melatonin usage as I began taking it due to your post (and believe others did too as I recall the linked product you shared selling out). Also imagine some folks adjusted their dosages as a result.

    Might you consider a follow-up survey a la the nighttime ventilation survey?

    • b_jonas says:

      There’s a question on the first page that covers that. “Benefits. Have you gotten any of the following benefits from reading SSC or participating in the SSC community?”. The relevant checkbox is “Helped me find useful mental health treatments”, at least if you believe that your sleep schedule affects your mental health.

  24. Randy M says:

    Survey seemed shorter this year.

    I think I get the prize for most boring person here.

    Also, I believe you told us to remember something last time, a five character string. I am slightly let down it as not requested.

    • fion says:

      I am slightly let down it as not requested.

      I, however, am relieved. 😛

    • cakoluchiam says:

      +1 for disappointment on both counts : (

      I got the feeling that almost every question was on last year’s, but only about 40% of last year’s survey was on this year’s.

  25. mintrubber says:

    I had difficulty answering the siblings question. I have 3 half-siblings (1 younger, 2 older, all of whom have other siblings). I only grew up with my younger sister, and I am my mother’s oldest, but I still answered “3” to that question. Suggestion: maybe clarify what kind of siblings count for whatever you are looking for?

    • fion says:

      Yeah, I think I’ve been inconsistent in how I’ve answered this question in different years. I have one sibling and one half-sibling. I don’t know whether to count the half.

      • Randy M says:

        Depends on the proposed mechanism for BO effects (heh) to manifest. If biological genetic/gestation related, it may matter whether they are maternal or paternal.

    • bulb5 says:

      As a twin, I also struggle with the siblings question. I was born first – do I count myself as oldest?

  26. Moriwen says:

    SSRI discontinuation: in the initial question you include “accidentally because I didn’t get a refill in time” as an option, but in the “results of discontinuation” question you don’t include “I got my refill and went back on it.”

    Romance: all your questions are framed as you asking your partner out; it’s unclear if people who were asked out should go ahead and answer, or skip those.

    Schooling: writing “home school” as two words is so twenty years ago.

  27. correlatedresiduals says:

    I was confused by the fetish question. None on the list appealed to me, but I was perfectly comfortable with the question. Should I have selected the last option? Or none of them?

    Glad to help by taking your survey!

    • bullseye says:

      IIRC, the last answer said that you *are* comfortable with the question, implying that someone not comfortable with the question would have skipped it entirely.

      • correlatedresiduals says:

        I could very well be misremembering but I thought the wording was “acknowledge that I read the question but … / too awkward”

        • eh says:

          The … was something along the lines of “acknowledge that I read the question and didn’t have anything to fill in, but not because it was too awkward”

    • Deiseach says:

      That was a difficult one too; “bondage”, for instance, covers a lot of territory. Mild tying-up? Don’t mind that if I see it (and shibari as an art form is interesting visually/aesthetically but I’m not at all interested in the power exchange/erotic elements). Spanking? Complete turn-off, I find it very boring and can’t understand why people think it’s spicy, fun or interesting. Harder than that? No thanks, not at all!

      So I had to chicken out with the “I read this, I’m not uncomfortable but not answering it” option 🙂

      • FeepingCreature says:

        Offhand, I can think of six reasons people might be into spanking. I’m sure there’s more.

        – pain can feel good, to some extent – idk how this works, bodies are weird, maybe it overcorrects for pain when it tries to suppress it?
        – analogously, adrenalin release and a sense of accomplishment
        – punishment-play, which can help with repressed guilt
        – hurt/comfort play, where the pain marks you as a victim deserving of care
        – “punch buggy”: “it’s pain but I’m okay” can be a liberating thought
        – submission: your dom can hurt you if they want, marking a kind of relinquishment of ownership
        – struggle play: exposure to an averse stimulus you can’t escape heightens feeling of vulnerability and helplessness.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, intellectually I can poke at it as to why some people find it fun, but it does not produce the “mmm, that might be fun to try” response on a gut level; what it does evoke is “this is punishment, punishment is not fun, it hurts physically and emotionally, you only get it when you’ve done something wrong, why would you want to be punished for fun???”

          My mind says “not seeing it”, the rest of me says “DO NOT WANT!” 😀

          • Thegnskald says:

            Can’t speak for others, but pain is just another experience. It has flavors, like food.

            And like spicy food, pain can get you seriously high.

  28. James Miller says:

    The beef jerky question was freaky. Both my son and I very much like SSC, and we both love beef jerky (it’s his favorite non-candy food). I assume that you asked the question because you noticed that lots of “our kind” like beef jerky. Anyone have a guess as to why this is so? Also, finding healthy foods my son likes is a challenge, so are there any other healthy foods our kind tends to like? Our favorite jerky is from NorthStar Bison.

    • Florent says:

      Wait, I took the beef jerky question as “one of those crazy things that Americans do”, but did that include charcuterie ? Wikipedia says that it might be a “nitrate cured meat”

      • Deiseach says:

        I answered it “yes” not for beef jerky but other nitrate-cured meats like bacon, corned beef and so on which I have and do consume.

        • Don P. says:

          I’d say that’s not right; “beef jerky” is a very specific product. It’s a precooked, dried sausage, typically packed in single-serve plastic wrappers. The other meats you mention aren’t like that at all.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m not sure that is the most common interpretation of beef jerky. Sounds more like slim jims/meat sticks. Jerky is more dried meat strips and is frequently sold in bags.

    • Mitch Lindgren says:

      I assumed this was a health-related question because nitrates/nitrites are thought to be unhealthy. Although I guess the jury is still out on that question, as it seems to be with many nutritional questions.

      • gwern says:

        If it was about nitrates, the wording was unfortunate. Meats like bacon are much more widely eaten than beef jerky sticks, but the wording appears to exclude that.

      • stationarywaves says:

        Nitrites are unambiguously carcinogenic. The jury is definitely in.

        Not all bacon and meat snacks are made with nitrites. In my part of the country, you can still get fresh beef jerky without any preservatives other than salt. So if the question is about nitrites then there are many, many caveats.

        But as for nitrites, they will definitely kill you if you eat them regularly.

        • psmith says:

          But as for nitrites, they will definitely kill you if you eat them regularly.

          Per a lazy search,

          Based on a review of seven previously published studies, Swedish researchers found the risk of pancreatic cancer was 19 percent higher among men and women who ate roughly 4 ounces of processed meat per day. That’s about one link of sausage or four pieces of bacon. The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer.

          “Right now, your lifetime risk of getting pancreatic cancer is 1.4 percent,” said ABC News senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. “If you have a serving of processed meat per day, your risk would go up to 1.7 percent; still very small.”

          Effect size != confidence interval, and almost nothing (not, for example, free fall from 33000 feet) will “definitely kill you”.

          • stationarywaves says:

            Fair warning, if you’re going to concentrate your argument on defeating the word “definitely,” then I am definitely not interested in the discussion.

            It’s odd to me that you chose to fixate on pancreatic cancer, which is extremely rare. I’ll point out, however, that pancreatic cancer is also perhaps the most deadly form of cancer. So the people who constituted that 0.3 percentage point differential almost surely died. Your odds may vary.

            Anyway, there are plenty of other kinds of cancer caused by nitrites, and here’s what people tend to discover about that:

            The summary relative risk of stomach cancer for the highest categories, compared with the lowest, was 0.80 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.69–0.93) for dietary nitrates intake, 1.31 (95% CI, 1.13–1.52) for nitrites, and 1.34 (95% CI, 1.02–1.76) for NDMA (p for heterogeneity was 0.015, 0.013 and <0.001, respectively). The study type was found as the main source of heterogeneity for nitrates and nitrites. The heterogeneity for NDMA could not be eliminated completely through stratified analysis. Although significant associations were all observed in case-control studies, the cohort studies still showed a slight trend. The dose-response analysis indicated similar results as well. High nitrates intake was associated with a weak but statistically significant reduced risk of gastric cancer. Whereas increased consumption of nitrites and NDMA seemed to be risk factors for cancer.

            Which is why the US government considers nitrites about as carcinogenic as cigarettes.

            And considering that the one and only function of nitrites added to meat is to preserve its pinkness, it seems like utter madness to me that anyone would willingly and knowingly eat the stuff.

            Just buy the non-nitrite version, for heaven’s sake. It’s about the same price and a bajillion times less cancerous.

          • psmith says:

            First, risk ratios are meaningless without effect sizes, as discussed below. (Indeed, I don’t usually wear a helmet while commuting by bicycle, and I would never say that “smoking cigarettes will [definitely] kill you”, though it would be perfectly reasonable to say that it increases the risk of certain kinds of cancer and other terribly unpleasant chronic diseases, all of which is to say that I don’t find either analogy persuasive.).

            Second, “nitrate-free” cured meat products nearly always have fine print saying “except for nitrates and nitrites naturally occurring in celery extract” or similar. In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, I suspect the level of nitrates/nitrites ingested per gram of product is about the same.

          • stationarywaves says:

            Note: I am only talking about nitrites. Nitrates are a whole other issue.

          • psmith says:

            Same deal, as far as I can tell. ctrl+F “during the curing process

            I have heard of jerky recipes that require, as you say, nothing but salt, but never heard of an equivalent for ham or sausage.

          • Statismagician says:

            Which is why the US government considers nitrites about as carcinogenic as cigarettes.

            What? The RR for cigarette smoking is between 15 and 30 for lung cancer alone; that’s at least a 1,500% increase in incidence compared to a ~18% increase in colorectal cancer incidence from eating a serving of processed meat every single day.

            I don’t even disagree with you on buying the non-nitratey-brands or food cosmetics being silly, but calm down.

        • Statismagician says:

          The jury is in, but notably heavy on marsupials. IARC classifies meat as probably and processed meat as definitely carcinogenic, but literally the only thing IARC unequivocally says isn’t carcinogenic is caprolactam, (used to make nylon; amusing, toxic when ingested or inhaled, just not carcinogenic). The real risk involved remains tiny; everyone in the world eating two servings of processed meat per day (~50g) would drive colorectal cancer incidence up to all of 54 cases per 100,000 population from ~39, for an individual risk of 0.054% annually. A 36% increased risk sounds bad, but base rates matter.

          I’m going to keep eating my salami, thanks.

          • stationarywaves says:

            I don’t ride my bicycle every day, but when I do, I refuse to wear a helmet. My daily risk of traumatic brain injury is really quite low, so it hardly matters that leaving my helmet home on the days I do ride it greatly increases my risk of head injury. I mean, just look at the base rates!

            Of course, wearing a helmet is a lot more cumbersome than just buying a different brand of salami, but you know…

          • Statismagician says:

            Unpredictable catastrophic risk concentrated among children and adolescents is different than cumulative risk concentrated among the elderly. Moreover, bicycle accidents are more than 4 times more common than colorectal cancer per capita among cyclists, and helmets are something like three times as strongly associated with reduced injury as processed meat intake is with colorectal cancer incidence.

            EDIT: double negatives.

          • cwillu says:

            There is literally someone a few comments above saying that he doesn’t wear one for that reason, that’s clearly not sarcastic:

            “First, risk ratios are meaningless without effect sizes, as discussed below. (Indeed, I don’t usually wear a helmet while commuting by bicycle, and I would never say that “smoking cigarettes will [definitely] kill you”,”

  29. A1987dM says:

    Country: “identify with” is really vague. I answered with the one I’m a citizen of rather than the one I’m a resident of, but I don’t know what I would have done if I were planning to live in the latter indefinitely.
    Work Status: as a post-doctoral researcher I picked “Academics (on the teaching side)” even though I’m not actually teaching any classes at my current job. Is that right?
    Religious Background: why “as of the last time your family practiced a religion” rather than “as of when you were growing up”? (though both would result in the same answer in my case)
    Subreddit, Subreddit Culture War Thread, Meetup: I’m taking “I don’t want to” to mean “I don’t want to now” rather than “I don’t want to ever” otherwise the answers wouldn’t be mutually exhaustive, but otherwise the latter would be the more natural interpretation for me.
    Immigration: do you mean de facto or de jure? Someone’s opinion can be that immigration law should be more permissive but more strictly enforced, or conversely (in principle) that fewer people should be legally allowed to immigrate but we should usually turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants so long as they behave themselves (not that I’ve ever heard anyone say this, but I think I’ve heard similar positions about e.g. marijuana). I answered with an average of my answers for de facto and de jure immigration.
    Gay Marriage: I’m pretending that instead of “Should be legally recognized” you had said “Should be legally treated the same way as straight marriage” because I guess that was the spirit of the question, but my opinion is that marriage (whether straight or gay) should almost always be irrelevant to how the law should treat a couple living together (or not) with a given number of children, ceteris paribus, so if I interpreted the answers literally I would have said 2 instead of 5.
    Basic Income: I mean an actual inconditional basic income, not the thing in my country which is called “citizenship income” in order to mislead people but is basically a variant of food stamps.
    Part 17: most answers seem to assume I first asked my partner out rather than vice versa (which may or may not be the case based on what exactly you would count as a date). Is this deliberate?
    Met Partner: “Friend of friend / friend of the family” isn’t actually mutually exclusive with the other ones — I met my girlfriend in a bar but she had been invited there by a mutual friend of ours.

    • fion says:

      as a post-doctoral researcher I picked “Academics (on the teaching side)”

      Yeah, I’m sure we complained about this last year but Scott hasn’t changed it. There should either just be one option for “Academic” or there should be “Academic (mostly teaching)” and “Academic (mostly research)”.

      why “as of the last time your family practiced a religion” rather than “as of when you were growing up”?

      My parents are atheists but my grandparents were religious. I guess Scott wants to know what religion my grandparents were but doesn’t care how many generations I had to go back to answer the question.

      I agree that an upbringing question would be useful too, though.

  30. Garrett says:

    I think it was last year you asked people to generate a random string for possible linkage to future years. I didn’t see that as an option this year. Was that intentional?

    Thoughts on additional questions/options:

    * Given your interest in SSRIs, I’m surprised that there was no related option/question for SNRIs which seem to be really popular these days (at least among the patients I encounter).
    * A couple of other option lists might be better as checkbox lists such as people who work full-time plus freelance, etc.
    * Combining “other” with “oops I didn’t mean to check this” in some cases might not give you enough resolution to know whether you should spend effort trying to flesh out the “other” in future surveys.
    * Birth order stuff: live births vs. miscarriages vs. abortions? Parental age at first live birth?

  31. Thecommexokid says:

    Do you read the r/slatestarcodex subreddit?

    * No, I don’t want to read it
    * No, I didn’t know it existed

    Missing option: No, but I would like to

    Gender Bias Work
    At your current job, do you feel like you are taken less seriously, or treated worse in any way, because of your gender?

    Missing question: At your current job, do you feel like you are taken more seriously, or treated better in any way, because of your gender?

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      Yeah, those things aren’t even mutually exclusive.

    • cakoluchiam says:

      Either you didn’t know it existed or reading it hasn’t passed threshold in your priority list, which is one way of describing not wanting to do something.

  32. fluorocarbon says:

    If we can recommend questions for the next survey, there’s one less serious one (like the corn on the cob question) that I think would actually be really interesting: “is a hot dog a sandwich?”

    While it does sound kind of stupid, PPP found some pretty interesting correlations.

    • googolplexbyte says:

      I imagine the answer to that question would strongly correlate with the meat/mayo substitute question.

      Also old people think hot dogs are sandwiches?

  33. fion says:

    Great fun. Thanks for putting it together. The vegetarian burger/mayo question felt like a bit of a scissor statement. I didn’t realise i had very strong feelings about it until I read the question and it pointed out that there’s a possibility somebody might have the indefensibly awful and wrong opinion on it.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Personally I didn’t really agree with either side of the dichotomy as posed. I think you oughta be allowed to label your meatless burger a “burger” and eggless mayo as “mayo” if and only if you also clearly label it “beef-free!” or “eggless!”. I see no reason why the producers wouldn’t want to tout that, assuming their target market is “vegetarians” and not “carnivores who don’t read labels closely”.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        Just Mayo has, in blind taste tests, been found to be indistinguishable from mayo with eggs in it, and in fact tastier than some brands of egg-containing mayo. However, there’s a bias against vegan food, because most vegan food doesn’t taste very good. So the makers of Just Mayo want to advertise it as, well, just mayo.

        Of course vegetarian companies want to sell to omnivores. They’re profit-maximizing corporations, and 100 omnivores reducing their animal consumption by 1% is exactly as good as one vegan, and may be easier to achieve.

        If a person is very concerned about the possibility of eating eggless mayo, they can of course read the ingredients, just like anyone else who is particularly concerned about the ingredients of things.

        Many foods one would not expect to be vegan are in fact vegan– my favorite example is that most store-brand buttercream frosting is vegan. So requiring all vegan things to be labeled would in fact be a major change from the status quo.

        • Randy M says:

          Of course vegetarian companies want to sell to omnivores. They’re profit-maximizing corporations, and 100 omnivores reducing their animal consumption by 1% is exactly as good as one vegan, and may be easier to achieve.

          Of course they want to sell to it, but that’s different from how they should advertise. If there are five other established brands of mayonnaise, maybe the only way they get market share is by taking the heretofore underserved vegan niche, which they’ll do with a splashy “Egg free! Tastes great!” logo.

          What will end up happening is that the large mayonnaise sellers will have multiple brands, with the vegan one advertised as such, another labeled “real mayo” featuring eggs, and the larger cheaper one that says whatever is legal and made with whatever is cheapest to make that still tastes remotely similar.

        • whateverfor says:

          But it’s not “just mayo” since it isn’t actually mayonnaise. I’m sure they’d like to advertise it as something it’s not, but “If we told the truth about our product, they won’t buy it!” is hardly a good argument. The packaging even has a giant egg on it as the only decal! With no mention that there’s no eggs in it. Hardly a surprise that the company has been wracked by scandal and fraud when their main product is a lie.

          I don’t have any beef with the Impossible Burger, its honestly advertised.

          • fion says:

            What’s wrong with checking the ingredients as Ozy says?

          • arlie says:

            @fion Well, in the US, the ingredients list is known not to be required to be complete. Lots of things some people want to avoid can be omitted ;-( Other things can be listed by several different names, so as not to use those names customers are known to be avoiding.

            I don’t see why the same laws that allow this, wouldn’t also allow “egg” to mean egg-or-egg-substitute-or-this-that-or-the-other by the same process of regulatory capture.

            So I favour stopping right at the main label, and requiring it to be accurate. Also, I’m getting old, and already find some ingredients lists printed in such a manner as to be essentially unreadable for me, and expect this trend to only continue to worsen.

            Last week, when I bought “half and half”, I had a choice of similar containers, all from the same brand. One admitted to *not* having some crucial ingredient — I think it was fat. It was non-obvious what was actually used, to produce a fat-free coffee whitener the vendor thought could be mistaken for actual dairy cream. More worryingly, I wasn’t able to figure out a good way to be sure that the *other* container actually contained 10-15% butterfat cream from a cow (not a goat, or an almond, or a soy bean, or a chemists’s lab.) The best I could do was read ingredients that listed only “milk” and “cream”… once I manged to find them. With fat plainly not part of the legal definition of “half and half”, it could have been skim milk + not-required-to-be-mentioned thickeners + 1 drop of cream, for all I could tell from the label.

          • whateverfor says:

            I don’t believe lying in the images and big print on the front but telling the truth in the small print on the back is ethical.

            This is my crusade against just mayo in particular. I don’t think we need new laws to cover this because almost all vegan substitutes are ethically marketed. Just Mayo is all the worst of Silicon Valley: the actual product is mostly marketing with no real technical advances. They are consistently transgressive and unethical in all their actual behavior but justify it with liberal political beliefs. Not just “growth hacking” by buying their own products to goose numbers, but Target yanked all their products because a whistleblower told them about food safety concerns. They were mislabeling products (including not listing ingredients correctly!) and covering up salmonella as well. It’s really not surprising that the company willing to lie on the front of the package would also lie on the back and cut corners elsewhere.

          • fion says:


            I sympathise with finding it difficult to tell what you’re eating, and agree that that’s important. However, the things you want to avoid are different to the things somebody else wants to avoid. You’d like for meat-free burgers to make it clear that they don’t contain meat; I’d like for cookies to make it clear whether or not they have palm oil in them. I’d love it if the name of the product was “cookies with palm oil” or “cookies without palm oil”, but at the end of the day there’s not very much room for clarifications and qualifications in the name of the product so I have to resort to reading ingredients lists.

            I agree that there’s a line that meat-free products can cross. For example, if something said “chicken fillets” on the packet with no other qualifiers but in fact contained no chicken then I think that’s clearly wrong. But if it says “mince” or “hamburger” then that’s neutral and I don’t care.

          • fion says:


            I’ll be honest; I’ve never heard of “just mayo”; I’m sure they’re a terrible company. Having a picture of an egg on a product that contains no egg sounds very wrong to me. But calling something “mayo” without specifying whether it’s egg-free or not is not lying.

          • arlie says:

            @fion I’m sure part of the problem is language change, and local usage.

            If I learned “hamburger” as meaning “ground beef” or “ground beef formed into patties” or “ground beef formed into patties and grilled” (all plausible meanings) I’m not going to be happy with “hamburger” that turns out to be pork, though likely OK with “pork hamburger” – and ditto if it’s soy.

            If I’ve moved somewhere where “hamburger” means any-old-patty or any-old-thing-suitable-for-shaping-into-patties, I’ll probably adapt. I’ll certainly start saying “beef hamburger” pretty fast, if that’s what I want to ask for.

            OTOH, if a bunch of people suddenly start using “hamburger” to mean “any old ground protein” etc. – without me moving – I’ll tend to regard them as deceptive, except perhaps if they are obvious newcomers.

            And then there’s ambiguity. Locally, “Chick’n” is used on labels to mean simulated chicken containing no meat. The first time I saw it, I thought it was deceptive advertising 😉 But it’s used consistently, and is distinctive enough to make someone unfamiliar with it to at least wonder why the cutesy spelling, and maybe stop and check the ingredients. So now I just accept it as a new coinage.

            I suppose “Just Mayo” – which is not mayonnaise – could be taken the same way, except that “mayo” is already in use to mean “mayonnaise”, and “just mayo” thus obviously says “pure mayonnaise, with no additives”. So it’s a harder sell for me than “Chick’n”. Call it M-O or something 😉

            In any case, I guess I’m beating a dead horse, probably because these trends annoy me. I’ll learn, but I’ll probably generalize it to “labels that say ‘mayonnaise’ or ‘mayo’ only mean some-damn-thing-used-vaguely-like-mayonnaise”. Possibly with a side order of – this manufacturer/brand introduced this misleading label first, so double check *anything* from them.

            Meanwhile, my housemate, who doesn’t eat eggs, probably will never think to try “Just Mayo”, unless I mention this thread, because she also knows that mayonnaise contains egg 🙁

            That mental note attached to mayo/mayonnaise/just mayo will, of course, wind up in the same category with “cherry juice” (might be 90% pineapple and/or apple and/or grape and/or … not sure if there’s a minimum amount of actual cherry juice required, but it does have to actually have some kind of fruit juice). Or “swai” – new name for an old fish; clearly intended to cause people who dislike the fish by the old name not to buy it; I have nothing against the actual fish, but avoid buying it under that name. Or “orange drink” – not only unlikely to contain any fruit products at all, but has been known to contain canola oil – which happens to cause my housemate to vomit. (*sigh* And “canola” itself is, of course “rape seed”, renamed to make it more saleable, but long enough ago that I don’t register it as deceptive).

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Honestly, I think it’s pretty weird that there’s this much outrage about Just Mayo but basically no outrage about store-brand buttercream frosting. Is it because the Just Mayo people are animal activists and the buttercream frosting people are just trying to make a quick buck? Or maybe people are used to the fact that store-brand buttercream frosting generally contains no dairy?

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            Huh? A “hamburger” is a specific kind of “burger”. So it’s some meat, some sauce, a bun. Maybe lettuce, if you’re being fancy about it.
            You can get it at McDonalds or Burger King. It’s the minimalist and very cheap option.
            If a “hamburger” is a kind of meat to you, what do you think is a “burger”?
            Is “hamburger” (the burger) a syncedouche for “burger” (the sandwich) containing just a “hamburger” (the meat), but not much more?
            And is “burger” (the sandwich) a pars pro toto for a sandwich containing a “hamburger” (the meat) and possibly other things?

            Guess now I finally begin to grasp what Chomsky meant with recursion being a natural language’s fundamental property…

          • acymetric says:


            I certainly expect “hamburger” to contain meat, at least in the USA. That is pretty ubiquitous, and if you sell me a hamburger with no caveats it is pretty reasonable for me to expect it to be a beef patty on a bun. This is mostly true for “burger”. I would want any other type of burger to be modified properly. Impossible Burger is pushing it but fine. Veggie-burger, bean-burger, turkey-burger are all perfectly acceptable.

            If someone wants to try to change this convention they are welcome to do so, as long as they give me my money back when I order a burger and get a bean patty (although some of the vegetarian burger patties are pretty tasty even though they taste nothing like an actual burger patty).

            The localization thing is important though. For example, if you open a restaurant in North Carolina and sell “BBQ”, it better damn well be pork. You can do like with the burgers and also sell “Chicken BBQ” or “BBQ Chicken” (two distinct dishes) as long as you clearly include the modifiers, but if someone orders a BBQ sandwich the expectation is pulled pork (we’ll not get into the sauce debate here).

            I’m actually a lot more bothered by “Chick’n” than by any burger or mayo labeling issues. Maybe its because of where I live (the south) but that looks like cutesy local branding than a declaration that “This Is Not Chicken!”

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            A decade ago I was on the other end of the burger thing when I ordered a “mushroom burger” at a restaurant and found out halfway through that it was a hamburger with mushrooms.

            They replaced for free, but that didn’t change the bad feeling.

          • acymetric says:


            It took you half a burger to realize it was beef and not a thick portobello?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I assumed it was like normal veggie burgers in that it was a patty made from minced mushrooms and other added ingredients. Combine that with the ketchup and other toppings, and yes, while I was verbally quizzical, I’m also a fast eater, and it took me about half the burger before the reassurances of my father (who is a meat eater) were overwhelmed by my quizzicalness enough to ask the waitress.

            At that point I was a decade into being a vegetarian. It’s not like I had a lot of recent experience on what beef tasted like. And some veggie burgers actually try to hit this taste anyway.

          • fion says:


            Huh? A “hamburger” is a specific kind of “burger”.

            Really? I’ve never heard that take before. I thought “burger” was just short for “hamburger”, which I always assumed was named after the city of Hamburg.

          • arlie says:


            Where I come from “a hamburger” is the thing in the bun, and “hamburger” is the raw meat you use to make it, also known as “ground beef”.

            Except without the “a” it’s a bit ambiguous – at a meal “what do you want?’ “Hamburger” doesn’t mean they want raw meat 🙁

          • quanta413 says:


            Honestly, I think it’s pretty weird that there’s this much outrage about Just Mayo but basically no outrage about store-brand buttercream frosting. Is it because the Just Mayo people are animal activists and the buttercream frosting people are just trying to make a quick buck? Or maybe people are used to the fact that store-brand buttercream frosting generally contains no dairy?

            Probably they weren’t aware the buttercream frosting had no dairy but now it feels like a lost cause.

            My guess though is it’s partly how much people consume each product. I can’t recall buying buttercream frosting (although my fiance bought it once; I found it kind of nasty), but I almost always have mayo in the fridge. I have no inherent problem with eggless mayonnaise myself and am not super interested in checking ingredients lists, but I understand that some people might.

          • Deiseach says:

            If a “hamburger” is a kind of meat to you, what do you think is a “burger”?

            Round here, we tend to say “beefburger” 🙂 So to me, “hamburger” would make me think “burger made of/with pork” (as in “ham”) not “ah yeah, product called after the city of Hamburg”. You can order off a takeaway menu a “bunburger” (plain hamburger i.e. burger patty made from beef), “cheeseburger” (beef burger patty with cheese), “quarterpounder with cheese/with bacon/with cheese and bacon”, “chicken burger”, “fish burger” or “veggie burger” (burger made from vegetable protein, no meat).

            “Burger” on its own would be “ground-up could be meat, could be veggie protein, maybe/probably has cereal and spices added, shaped into a patty shape” so calling it a “veggie burger” or even simply “Burger” on its own wouldn’t evoke “this is supposed to be meat“.

        • acymetric says:

          Maybe they should have partnered with the “I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter!” people to make an “I Can’t Believe Its Not Mayo!” brand.

          They seem to have no trouble finding a market and nobody is mad about fake butter as far as I can tell.

      • zarc says:

        I posted below, but I also didn’t really see this as a dichotomy. “Mayo” is both a category referring to how something looks and tastes, and also generally (though I guess not “universally”) understood to be a product made from eggs!

      • Dan says:

        So do you think peanut butter should have to be labeled “dairy-free”? (Since it contains no actual butter, in case the logic of that question wasn’t obvious.)

    • Randy M says:

      I wonder if this question correlates with the one on gay marriage.

    • bullseye says:

      A veggie “burger” clearly labeled as non-meat is fine. Non-meat deceptively sold as meat is fraud, but I wasn’t aware that anyone other than Taco Bell did that. Meat companies complaining about veggie burgers sounds like excessive lawyerism to me.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m not convinced most people know that mayonnaise usually includes eggs.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        I think most people wouldn’t necessarily know, but if asked to guess would come up with that. What else is white, except milk and flour after all?
        It’s obviously not flour, because mayo is not flakey.
        And people know, that mayo is not considered a kind of cheese,
        and cheese is made out of milk.

        EDIT: Not on the spot, but I’m assuming, if you offer enough money for guessing the correct answer, anyway. And isn’t that a kind of knowing?

        • acymetric says:

          I mean, cheese is not the only thing made out of milk, so I’m not sure that rules out dairy.

          I’m not surprised there are eggs in mayo, but I certainly didn’t know it and I’m not sure how many ingredients I would have guessed before I said “umm…eggs?” uncertainly. Of course, I also don’t really like mayo outside of a few specific applications so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask.

          As far as “Just Mayo”, I’m a lot more bothered by putting an egg on the label when it is eggless than by labeling it mayo. As far as labeling it as mayo, I guess I’m personally uncertain how essential egg is to mayonnaise. If it tastes and functions similar to mayo with egg as an ingredient I’m not sure I see a problem. Then again, if a non-dairy product marketed itself as cheese I would probably want that to be clear, so this is maybe this is my anti-mayo bias talking and if I loved mayonnaise on everything it would be a big deal to me.

          I think I’m actually more bothered by the Chick’n brand faux chicken mentioned upthread than anything else.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Kraft has made “genuine imitation cheese-food-stuff” for quite a few years. Hilarity of the description aside, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone complain that it’s not “real cheese.” (This includes stuff like Cheez-whiz and sliced cheese, the sliced cheese sold in the same spot as “real” cheese.)

          • acymetric says:

            Sure, but it is pretty clear that those things are cheese-imitation and not real cheese. I would expect imitation cheese to be sold in the same place as regular cheese (where else would it be?).

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I think it’s more of an issue of people simply not thinking about it. It’s like the Special Sauce, sure it’s made of something but if you don’t examine it you just know if you like the taste or not.

          The fact that Just Mayo exists and is apparently a strong substitute for mayo proves the point. You don’t need eggs to make “mayo” unless you define mayo as only that which is made from eggs. At the level of a shopper going through a store looking for “mayo” it’s almost certainly the taste and texture, and not the egg content, that people care about.

          • acymetric says:

            The question (that I don’t know the answer to) is how well does it substitute for cooking recipes that call for mayo (as opposed to just serving as a condiment/sandwich spread). If Just Mayo ruined my casserole or whatever because it didn’t bake in the same way I might be justified in being a little miffed about the bad labeling. I don’t know enough about Just Mayo or cooking with mayonnaise to say if that is/could be an issue though.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Ack – I just learned that people apparently cook with mayo

            Well, I guess that’s a bit different and would be more of an issue.

          • Deiseach says:

            The irony would be if someone were looking for vegan mayonnaise and rejected Just Mayo because “picture of egg on front label, must mean it contains eggs” 🙂

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I can’t stand mayo, so never bothered with the ingredients, and also can’t stand sour cream, and assumed they were variations on the same idea. Years ago I guessed dairy and was corrected.

          Just Mayo isn’t calling itself by the full name Mayonnaise, when every mayonnaise brand does. Are the people in this thread overlooking that, or do you think it doesn’t matter?

          • acymetric says:

            Mayo is short for mayonnaise, my first guess would be some trendy new mayonnaise brand using shorthand, not a different product.

            Also, are you sure every brand does that? Without looking to hard, Kraft’s mayonnaise is branded as “Mayo” and I’m sure there are others.

            Also note that “Miracle Whip” which tends to be considered a mayo alternative does not use the word mayonnaise because it doesn’t qualify as mayonnaise, Just Mayo possibly should have followed suit with their alternative.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Okay, I just googled Hellman’s brand before making that statement, so thanks for the correction.

        • March says:

          Mayo contains egg YOLK, though, not egg white. So it doesn’t get its color from the egg.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve had someone (not Jewish, I think) ask about whether mayonnaise with meat would be un-kosher. (This was so long ago I have no idea how they phrased it. They probably didn’t say trefe.)

          Fortunately, I knew that there’s no dairy in mayonnaise, so I could give an accurate answer.

          I knew about eggs in mayonnaise because of a book called _Chicken Every Sunday_, which has a little about cooking.

      • Evan Þ says:

        FWIW, until I heard about the “Just Mayo” controversy, I had no idea mayonnaise (typically) contains eggs. But then, I’m probably not the best one to ask about mayonnaise – my mother considers it too high-fat and unhealthy, so we literally never had it in the house while I was growing up.

  34. googolplexbyte says:

    Aw, no optical illusions?

  35. Well... says:

    Re-posting here from the hidden OT, as it’s relevant and I haven’t gotten much response there:

    From time to time, Scott and others use this blog to recruit participants for research. Presumably that research is typically conducted online. [E.g. the SSC survey!] I sense there is no ethical problem with this, even when the research is not done in affiliation with any recognized research institution or under the eye of an ERB, but I could be wrong. After all, any of us could actually be minors, or otherwise not who we purport to be and so on.

    What makes this kind of research “officially” OK from an ethics standpoint? What are the specific guidelines around this kind of thing? Does research conducted from SSC recruiting ever get published?

    • stationarywaves says:

      My limited exposure to this kind of research tells me that this kind of research is okay if (a) it’s voluntary, (b) it doesn’t cause harm, (c) it’s not used for financial gain without the participants’ consent, and (d) the findings are shared with the participants directly.

      I think only (c) is questionable in this case. I don’t think Scott profits from the survey, but surely it is one thing that makes his blog professionally worthwhile. (I think he’s in the clear, but I recognize that the matter is reasonably debatable.)

      • Well... says:

        I think (c) is murky anyway; suppose Scott conducts this research via his blog survey and, directly because of that experience, learns new things that benefit him in his career and thus financially.

        Or suppose there’s a ton of interest in this research and so he gets paid to be the keynote speaker at a bunch of conferences (i.e. his speaking fees more than cover his travel and accommodations).

        Both of those situations would be him using this research for financial gain, but neither seem like something anyone ought to have an ethical problem with.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      No idea whether any of this would hold up to anyone’s official ethical guidelines, but from my personal ethical viewpoint:
      Everyone who participates in this survey does so voluntarily. Scott makes it clear how the data will be used, and even gives an option to withhold your data from the publicly available dataset. Except for what I would think is an extremely unlikely case of someone being personally tracked down from the public data, there aren’t any risks of taking an online survey (and Scott does warn of the possible risk of identification.)

    • Well... says:

      I might as well come out and say I’m asking because I had an idea to do some research on my own without any affiliation with a recognized institution, via email correspondence with participants recruited from an online forum similar to this one, and to eventually try to get the work published (with just my own name as the author, without an affiliation).

      Then a trusted friend and professional researcher told me I shouldn’t do that, that it’s unethical because there’s no way to verify the identities of the participants, that it could be potentially career-ending, etc.

      I want to see if maybe I just didn’t explain it to my friend right.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      Oh, Scott Alexander is an official IRB study investigator, because he watched a lot of Nazi movies and then promised not to be a Nazi (read that a long time ago, details somewhat hazy). That makes his actions officially ethical.

      On a more serious note… I guess Scott doesn’t worry about it, because he’s not publishing under his own real name?

      • Well... says:

        I guess Scott doesn’t worry about it, because he’s not publishing under his own real name?

        Is that really why? Scott doesn’t seem like the type to do unethical things just because he can get away with it by being pseudonymous. Also, the risk of being found out (i.e. the pseudonym becoming publicly associated with your real name) seems sufficiently both high and severe that it doesn’t seem like the type of thing Scott would do.

  36. stationarywaves says:

    Many of the questions have a “none” or an “other” option, but no option for “both” or “more than one of the above.”

  37. googolplexbyte says:

    Is there a co-worker gender pay gap? Do women who work mostly with men have a smaller pay gap?

    • Randy M says:

      I think it depends on whether salaried or not. There’s some talk about how part of the pay gap comes from men negotiating salary more aggressively.

      Which if true is kinda sad for me personally because I’ve never really tried to negotiate at all and am probably leaving some money on the table.

      • pjs says:

        I think this makes you like most men. I worked in an company once where effective negotiation (which is an ongoing process – e.g. periodically make it known you are talking to other firms) could ultimately earn you a huge (perhaps multi-hundred thousand dollar) premium vs similarly capable workers. (To be fair, I can’t guess what the premium in expectation might be; it’s biased when I think just about when the iterated negotiation succeeds.)

        I bet in this company there would be a significant male vs female wage gap for this reason alone. But that’s entirely the wrong way to look at things. If 5% of men play the game well, and 1% of women do (numbers pulled out of my rear, but about this company I think these would be in the ballpark), you get the gap – but there’s simply nothing moral or effective you can do by thinking of it as a gender issue. Most men, by far, are in the same bucket as most women; you simply can’t help most women – as regards this issue – without unjustifiably harming most men unless your ‘help’ is gender neutral.

        (N.b. IMO ‘helping more normal people to negotiate better’ would be a horrible answer, even to the extent you – like I – view this as a problem to be solved.)

        • Deiseach says:

          periodically make it known you are talking to other firms

          Did you ever get the answer “well we’d be sad to see you go but if you can improve your career by leaving we won’t hold you back?” because that has to be a possibility if you’re asking “more money and/or a promotion or else I leave for the great new job I interviewed for last week” 🙂

    • stationarywaves says:

      This would surprise me, if true! I thought the whole theory behind the gender pay gap was that women in male-dominated workforces receive less for the same work.

      Imagine how many people would have to adjust their priors if it turned out that women made less money the more they dominated their workplace.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        This is literally true, though. Women make almost exactly the same as men when working at the same jobs for the same company. Women end up making less for a variety of reasons, most notably working in different industries with lower pay and in relation to working less hours. Women tend to take primary roles in childcare and elder care, so they choose jobs with more flexibility (often with less pay) and less overtime requirements. For hourly positions, the reduced overtime results in significantly reduced pay. For other positions, the reduced hours generally results in less promotions and less prestigious work being assigned to them.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve seen a fairly common claim that pay drops in a field if women become more common in it.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I’ve seen a fairly common claim that pay drops in a field if women become more common in it.

          That is true, but there are a lot of confounders.

          More people moving into a field should (logically, not morally) reduce wages. More supply and all that. Also, if women have a preference for reduced hours and more flexibility, then once they reach a critical mass in an industry, the industry would have to reconfigure in such a way as to accommodate that, verses a coal mine telling women to work the hours or get fired. Having more employees who require flexibility is an inefficiency compared to fewer workers killing themselves with hours, so we would expect wages to go down and total employment to go up. We also don’t know if it is currently part of a big sorting process, or if this is something that may happen beyond the initial waves of women entering the workforce (i.e. if women start picking up programming like they are being encouraged, would that tank programmer wages?).

          There are also well-paid professions dominated by women (Psychology, Nursing) and low-paid professions dominated by men (lots of manual labor), so it’s not clear cut or universal.

          • stationarywaves says:

            I would wager that the average nurse makes less than the average electrician. I think those are high-status versus low-status positions, which is another question, but highly related. I do think that women tend to pursue high-status professions moreso than equally qualified men. I think more women want to be doctors and lawyers than do men.

            But I agree with your over-arching point. There are a lot of confounding factors. It’s strange that there haven’t been any good analyses accounting for all this. It seems as though public service salary data, which in many countries is available by freedom-of-information-type-requests, would be sufficient to get a handle on the current state of the problem.

          • Eponymous says:

            It’s strange that there haven’t been any good analyses accounting for all this.

            Here you go.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            I would wager that the average nurse makes less than the average electrician.

            Some quick googling shows the average nurse makes $68,000, while the average electrician makes $52,000. Nursing really is a great profession if you are okay with the type of work. The ceiling on nurse pay is also much higher, as they can specialize into areas like nurse anesthetist that make significantly more money.

            How are you defining “high status” here? I don’t think nursing is considered high status, for instance. Doctor and lawyer might be becoming more female (especially lawyer), but similarly prestigious professions with even more money, like Finance and Business Management, are still heavily male. My take on it is that the type of work is the more relevant factor. Women tend to like working with people, while men tend to like working with objects. Certainly those are not universal, but I think explain better than “high status” verses “low status” – unless I miss your meaning?

          • stationarywaves says:

            Thanks, Eponymous. That was great.

            Mr. Doolittle,

            Some quick googling shows the average nurse makes $68,000, while the average electrician makes $52,000.

            I admit, I’m surprised. I checked this for jobs in my own city, and the gap was even wider, in favor of nurses.

            How are you defining “high status” here? I don’t think nursing is considered high status, for instance.

            I only meant it in a relative sense. Nursing and psychology require more schooling and more initial investment than most manual labor fields. I know a lot of people who seem highly concerned about status (I myself have an abnormal ambivalence toward it, but I concede that I am unusual), and most of the people I know would feel more comfortable being at a nurse’s dinner party than a drywaller’s. And I have the sense that there is more to it than salary alone, since many of my tradesman friends are quite wealthy.

            As for type of work, I think you’re basically correct. I might refine the notion as follows: Women prefer people-oriented workplaces, while men prefer object-oriented workplaces. That’s why I think there are so many women who study biology and pharmacy; not because they’re interested in people, but because these fields track to people-oriented workplaces. My sense is that my fellow men don’t much care about the nature of th work itself, but care a lot about being left alone to do their work rather than wade knee-deep into the Game of Thrones of the office.

          • acymetric says:

            @Mr. Doolittle

            I’m guessing some form of “respect” status (so more social status than economic status). People respect nurses, ditto for teachers. This is less universal for welders, or the assistant manager at the Penske rental place.

            They aren’t high-status the same way a Fortune 500 CEO or a Hollywood movie star are high status, but nurses and teachers have “appreciation days” which are fairly widely recognized even by those outside the industry, which conveys some kind of status. The kind of work people thank you for doing when they find out you do it (as opposed to our electrician, who will probably be thanked by his specific customer but not some random person at the park who finds out they are an electrician).

          • Nornagest says:

            How are you defining “high status” here? I don’t think nursing is considered high status, for instance.

            Status is subjective, but my heuristic is “would my Berkeley Brahmin grandmother, vague non-denominational spiritual principle rest her soul, have looked down her nose at me if I showed up to Thanksgiving dinner with this person?”

            I think a nurse would have passed muster on the same level as an engineer, or an architect, or an accountant: respectable, but not really impressive. An electrician would not. A doctor would have been impressive to her, and a well-known writer or journalist would have been really impressive.

        • stationarywaves says:

          @ Nancy – I’ve never heard that claim, but I believe that it’s been made. Are there any numbers behind the claim?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I phrased it the way I did because I didn’t have more specific information.

          • Anthony says:

            Secretaries and teachers used to make more relative to skilled trades when they were all-male, but a) women moving into the field increased the supply of labor for those jobs, b) general increase in the number of people with sufficient education to do those jobs well has also increased, further increasing the supply of labor for those jobs, and c) that was a long time ago.

      • Eponymous says:

        Well, male uber drivers earn more than female, so that’s one example.

        • stationarywaves says:

          Well… I’m not sure that’s a great example, since:

          We completely explain this gap and show that it can be entirely attributed to three factors: experience on the platform (learning-by-doing), preferences over where to work (driven largely by where drivers live and, to a lesser extent, safety), and preferences for driving speed.

          • Aapje says:

            That case is consistent with other research which shows that the majority of the pay gap is probably due to women not doing the same work (note that this doesn’t mean that the rest of the pay gap is due to gender discrimination).

      • Aapje says:


        Research has already fairly conclusively proven that 2/3rds to 3/4th of the pay gap is not due to women being underpaid for the same work*. This research looks at various work-related measurements and checks how much men and women get paid more or less for scoring higher of lower at the measurement.

        For example, if both men and women get paid more per hour if they work overtime, but men more often work overtime, then part of the pay gap is due to men more often working overtime.

        My theory, which seems to logically follow from the very boring and generally accepted claim that men are pushed more to provide and women more to care, is that men get more rewards from their environment for sacrificing for work, while women get more rewards from their environment for sacrificing for their children. This then logically produces a pay gap, as men and women respond to these incentives. This is especially true since some things that employers reward financially harm the ability to care for children.

        An employee that refuses to work overtime can then reliably pick up their kid from school. However, employers will tend to reward the employee that will finish an important job after normal work hours. After all, employers have their own incentives…

        * Note that this doesn’t mean that the rest is due to discrimination.

        Note that a problem with the gender pay gap as commonly calculated, is that it is calculated in a way that makes the gap seem the largest (not intentionally, but due to how data is most easily and consistently collected).

        Women seem to get relatively more non-monetary compensation per hour worked, but the pay gap measurements only look at the salary component of the compensation package. Furthermore, from the perspective of the employee, (s)he really gets paid for all the hours spend for the job, not just on the job. A 40 hour work week with 10 hours of commuting is really a 50 hour work week from the perspective of the employee, with 10 hours uncompensated.

        Men get more of these ‘uncompensated’ hours due to their longer commutes (which do result in higher salaries, so they are actually compensated indirectly). If you’d calculate the pay per hour of this gross work week, which I would argue is a better way to calculate the actual compensation per hour spent for work, the pay gap would already be smaller.

        Imagine how many people would have to adjust their priors if it turned out that women made less money the more they dominated their workplace.

        People who are convinced that the pay gap is due to discrimination typically blame lower compensation in female-dominated workplaces on jobs being devalued when women dominate. I’ve never seen any solid evidence for this mechanism, however, nor a logical explanation of why employers would do this.

        As noted by someone else, it’s quite likely that the female choices and behaviors that tend to reduce the income of women in male-dominated jobs have an even bigger impact if women are dominant in a workplace and employers then respond to these (average) female preferences. This also explains why men then tend to flee those workplaces, as their preferences and/or what they need to successfully conform to the male gender role will increasingly get ignored.

        • Eponymous says:

          Not to mention that if women are paid less than men for equivalent work, then employers are leaving an awful lot of money on the table. Why hire a man for a job when a woman would be cheaper?

          It’s not impossible. James Heckman argues this really was the case in the South in the 1950s: blacks really did face labor market discrimination, so you really could make money hiring them. Apparently this was met by skepticism in Chicago, but they were wrong: money focuses the mind, but human stupidity is strong stuff.

          Is this the case with women today? Doubt it, but it’s easy to test, and you could make a fortune while you’re at it. Start a company, preferably in a male-dominated field (to maximize your competitive advantage). Undercut the competition. Easy enough if the theory is right.

        • stationarywaves says:

          This isn’t a bad theory, but it’s too complicated for me.

          I’d be interested to see what the expected pay gap would be between the following two people:

          (a) The average man, who experiences the average level of tenure with the average company, and draws the average amount of medical leave;

          (b) A man who is like the first man in every way, except that he is expected to take (3 months’ medical leave multiplied by the average number of babies had by working-age people; and whose average tenure is adjusted by an increased probability of quitting.

          I suspect (a) out-earns (b), and I suspect the number something close to 85 cents to the dollar.

          • Aapje says:

            There is actually a study that found that MBA men get penalized far more than MBA women for taking time off:

            The wage penalty for men, using our standardized career interruption at six years out, is 45 log points, whereas that for women is 26 log points. Taking any time out appears more harmful for men (26 log points) than for women (11 log points).

            However, as the paper notes, women who come back from a career interruption tend to decrease their work hours substantially, while men do that to a lesser extent. So that gives an additional wage penalty for women.

            Note that another study in Sweden also found that men get a greater penalty for taking parental leave than women for doing the same.

            Anyway, because the actual gender gap between men and women is not just caused by career interruptions or risk of quitting, I don’t expect the penalty for just those to be 85 cents to the dollar for either men or women. Given this study, and the expected time off to be 6 months or so (3 months x 1.8 babies), I’d expect up to 90 cents to the dollar for a man and up to 95 cents to the dollar for a woman, for just two 3 month career interruptions with no significant impact on hours worked.

            But this is informed guesswork, so caveat emptor.

  38. Mazirian says:

    How much do you generally enjoy science fiction and fantasy books?

    Questions of the format, “Do you enjoy both of these completely different things?” are not ideal. 😉

    • Well... says:

      I think in an OT a long time ago I asked why these two genres so often got lumped together as one super-genre. I don’t remember what the answer was.

      • Eponymous says:

        Isn’t there a high empirical correlation though?

        Ooh, maybe Scott can test that next year!

        • Well... says:

          “Stuff happens in the book that can’t actually happen in real life”?

          Only in one case it’s “stuff that could happen in real life if one or more plausible things also happened” and in the other case it’s “stuff that will positively never happen outside of the human imagination”.

          • stationarywaves says:

            It’s comical to me that, on some cultural level, most of us understand that there is a major similarity between a laser gun and a sword that shoots magic, and yet when tasked to explain why these things are similar, it’s really hard to say.

            Maybe we should go meta, and call it “literature that decreases your chances of dating anyone except other consumers of that literature.” It’s actually a sub-genre of a wider category called “literature in which all characters are imagined to have vaguely British accents.”

          • Nornagest says:

            I think the distinction might just be between people who enjoy worldbuilding in their literature and people who don’t. Eighty years ago escapism would have been a better criterion — while Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard were pioneering space opera and heroic fantasy, they were also writing Westerns and adventure and detective stories for the same audiences — but a lot of older escapist pulp genres basically don’t exist anymore, and a lot of the remaining ones have lost most of their historical overlap with the spec-fic audience. Plus, a lot of hard SF isn’t that escapist.

      • theredsheep says:

        Literature rooted in organized counterfactual universes. Star Wars and Star Trek both combine obvious elements of both SF and Fantasy, and it’s easy enough to switch tropes between the two. Put an orc in space and call him a Klingon, replace the exotic land with an exotic planet, take away the magic sword and give your hero an ancient alien artifact. There are some subgenres that belong distinctively to one and not the other, but they’re much more similar than, say, magical realism is to either.

      • A number of authors are very good at both–Cherryh and Bujold for two modern examples. A lot of readers like both. SF conventions generally focus on both.

        I think the differences within sf and within fantasy are larger than the differences between the two. I just finished reading (and enjoying) Kings of the Wyld–which is much farther from Tolkien than Curse of Chalion is from the Vorkosigon books.

  39. zarc says:

    For the vegetarian labeling question, I thought both options were true, and also don’t see any contradiction in this. I checked “Other”

    There were a few questions (Work Status comes to mind) where I wanted to select multiple options.

    Also this is not a complaint, but I identified as someone who never comments, and yet here I am, posting a comment.

  40. anonymousskimmer says:

    When I was about 6 years old I asked my father (who smoked) what a cigarette was like. He let me try a puff, and I have never smoked since. But yes to the question on whether I’ve used nicotine.

  41. An Fírinne says:

    Suggestions: Allow us to remove our votes if we accidently click an answer. There was one question I accidentally answered and could not remove an answer.

    Also Scott that USSR question is flawed. Different leaderships had very different policies.

  42. Aging Loser says:

    Didn’t go beyond the question preceding “What sex were you assigned at birth?” You’re going to get very skewed results if many others are as reluctant to pay that “assigned” game as I am. And I noticed that the next question took the sex-gender distinction seriously, forcing anyone who answers it to take the distinction seriously. Hmm … maybe I could have skipped those questions? Probably didn’t read the directions carefully enough.

    • fion says:

      I don’t understand your point here. What’s the “assigned” game?

      Whether or not you believe in transgender people, or in the difference between sex and gender, or anything else, if you prefer the traditional terminology of just being “male” or “female” and that’s that, it’s still literally true that you were assigned that sex at birth. And it’s also literally true that you identify with that gender now. It seems like the height of pedantry to object to the question on that basis.

      • Aging Loser says:

        You wanna call me a pedant? That’s cool with you?

        You think there’s no significant difference between asked what sex you are and what sex you were “assigned”, like it’s a decision someone made? You think that someone asking you “What sex were you assigned at birth?” rather than “Are you male or female?” isn’t making you play a very obvious political game? It’s pedantry to refuse to play this very obvious political game?

        You called me a pedant. Shall I call you some name or other? Various names come to mind. No, I won’t call you any names.

        But Scott should consider the possibility that he’s producing worthless “data” by forcing participants to accept the Creed.

        • theredsheep says:

          If you understand what the question means–and accept that he can’t have a separate-but-equal designation for everybody’s preferred terminology–it seems pointless to make a fuss about it. I guess he could have put “the sex on your birth certificate,” but he used the standard jargon employed by people discussing transgender stuff in this one question out of the dozens of questions he asked. I don’t believe you can significantly influence someone’s opinion about a larger issue just by changing the wording, nor that he intended to do so here.

          (For full disclosure, I have no idea what the deuce is going on with transgender people, personally, but suspect the science is getting hinked around by politics somehow)

          • Deiseach says:

            the standard jargon employed by people discussing transgender stuff in this one question

            Which is the entire kernel of the matter. I don’t care one way or the other about how this question is phrased, but Aging Loser is right that the phrasing has more to do with the current activist political state of play than anything else. Using or not using a preferred term is making a statement, even if it’s only “I have to put it this way or the ideologues where I live/work will haul me out for a public hanging”.

            It’s Scott’s survey, he can phrase questions how he likes (if he wanted to ask “are you a stupid superstitious blind sheeple sky-fairy believer” for the religion one, that’s his perogative) but please don’t pretend that “hey this is a routine meaningless way of asking just like asking ‘married or single’ and you’re making a mountain out of a molehill” about the currently vexed question of gender/sex.

        • pjs says:

          You are being silly; Scott’s used as reasonable a phrase as one could imagine without him spending hours of analysis seeking a least-objectionable question (which would probably be an essay long). And he’s asking for an objective fact!

          He could not (and you perhaps would not want him to) ask “what gender _were_ you at birth” since then someone could answer on the basis of “really, I’ve _always_ being a girl, even if my body didn’t seem to agree.”) And ‘assigned’ also takes care of real, albeit rare, intersex conditions. “Assigned”: what gender did a medical professional, not knowing anything your personality or preferences or anything other than your physical state upon birth, think your gender is? This asks for an objective fact, probably the right one for Scott’s purpose, and I don’t see a better way to ask it.

          What’s your proposed alternative that would meet Scott’s purpose, but without the political insinuations? Would “did you have a penis at birth” be better? (Would it be practically any different?). Perhaps a better question would be ‘what
          gender was on your original birth certificate?’ but this is techically the _same_
          as Scott’s and you need to go seeking disagreements to argue (yes you can
          load ‘assigned’ with more baggage, but it’s not _always_ there; sometimes
          a word is just what it means).

          • Aging Loser says:

            “seeking disagreements”? no, it’s like suddenly realizing that one’s in a cell with a rapidly shrinking sphincter-door and small apertures in the walls through which soul-chewers are wriggling inward on all sides.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Assigned”: what gender did a medical professional, not knowing anything your personality or preferences or anything other than your physical state upon birth, think your gender is?

            If you think a ten-minute old baby has a personality or preferences then this is a sensible question. Otherwise, “what was your gender at birth/what is your gender now” is as good as any.

            We can split the difference and ask “what was your sex at birth” if you like, since if gender is a personal preference and felt identity, a newborn has neither of those, so it’s an irrelevant question. I may, after decades of life in a socially constructed role, have a gender now, but at birth I only had a sex.

            If you give in on “what was your sex at birth”, I’ll give in on “what is your preferred/identified gender now”. Happy?

          • ksvanhorn says:

            “Scott’s used as reasonable a phrase as one could imagine”

            Only if one is not trying very hard. “What is your biological sex?” is the obvious way to phrase the question. One avoids denying biological reality while at the same time implicitly allowing for non-biological notions of gender.

          • acymetric says:


            But if you’ve undergone reassignment then it would be reasonable to answer with your current gender, not your original gender.

            I don’t see why this is so hard for anyone. I answered male for both and feel satisfied that I answered correctly and wasn’t forced to conform to any agenda. There are other ways to word this, but to get the information Scott wants (about the trans population on this blog) any alternate wording would be just as objectionable to the people objecting here.

            If you don’t want to be somewhere that trans issues are discussed openly then ummm…is this the right place for you?

          • ksvanhorn says:

            @acymetric, sex-reassignment surgery doesn’t actually change biological sex. It’s just the best cosmetic approximation we can offer to someone unhappy with their biological sex.

          • anonymousskimmer says:


            Biology covers a lot of territory. Genetic is a more precise term for your statement. This covers 5-alpha-reductase intersexed people who are mostly genetically male, but are biochemically female and have varying external phenotypes ranging from the apparently female to the apparently male.

          • “What is your biological sex?” is the obvious way to phrase the question.

            Both that and “what is your genetic sex” are ambiguous, although only in fairly uncommon cases.

            What is the biological sex of someone with male genotype and female phenotype? What is the genetic sex of someone who is XXY? A m/f chimera?

            Scott’s question avoids those problems.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            @DavidFriedman, including some sort of “it’s complicated” option avoids the problems you bring up without endorsing the ridiculous notion that sex is just “assigned” at birth.

        • ilikekittycat says:

          Once you consider the situation of intersex babies, or children born with indeterminate genitals, it becomes obvious that there is a point where a judgment about one thing or other has been indisputably “assigned” and how the world is going to socially identify that individual (going forward) without that individual’s input.

          That this assignment matches exactly what the individual eventually identifies with and how everyone in the world identifies them in over 99% of cases does not change the nature of the assignment being a “map” of the actual “territory” of physical genetic distinction and not the natural spectrum itself

          It’s not promoting any “Creed” to say that nature produces individuals in more than 2 categories that social convention very strongly wants to assign into 2 categories

          • Deiseach says:

            Once you consider the situation of intersex babies, or children born with indeterminate genitals

            Who are indeed fringe or edge cases, who do indeed have the right to talk about being assigned one gender rather than another at birth, and who make up a tiny part of the already very small trans grouping, the vast majority of whom are not intersex or possessing indeterminate genitals but have perfectly ordinary and functional male or female characteristics and biology.

            This question is not for the intersex persons out there alone, it’s for “are you trans” people who were born with female or male genitalia and may or may not decide to have surgery/hormone therapy to change that state of affairs. If there are intersex people answering this survey then I fully support their right to answer this “I was assigned male at birth in error but am actually female” or vice versa because those are the actual physical facts. For everyone else, they are male or female at birth, however they grow, develop and identify psychologically comes along much later.

            Unlike Aging Loser this is not a question I am going to live or die on, I’ll answer it however it’s phrased, but I am also not going to pretend it’s a simple change of phraseology and nothing more.

            It’s not promoting any “Creed” to say that nature produces individuals in more than 2 categories that social convention very strongly wants to assign into 2 categories

            Excellent! So when do we get the polydactly question about “how many fingers were you assigned at birth?” Because that is another case where Nature produces individuals in categories outside of social convention. If you think this is an absurd question, it’s no more absurd than the “but intersex!” coverage trotted out by trans activists as a “hit me now with the child in my arms” cover when talking about how terribly oppressive current society is towards their needs. After all, intersex people exist, have definitely not adopted or chosen their condition, need and are entitled to surgical and other reassignment to their actual or identified gender – so how oh how can you be mean about trans people, are you so cruel you would force intersex people to live wrong lives? If not, then you must also give trans people the same choices!

            Incidence of polydactyly:

            This condition is one of the most common congenital hand defects, affecting about one out of every 500 to 1,000 babies.

            Note that polydactyly is routinely surgically corrected shortly after birth or while the child is still quite young, so we’re getting “surgical reassignment” as corrective surgery there with no question. Someone may well have been born with six fingers but as a newborn have been operated on to have five fingers.

            Incidence of intersex:

            If you ask experts at medical centers how often a child is born so noticeably atypical in terms of genitalia that a specialist in sex differentiation is called in, the number comes out to about 1 in 1500 to 1 in 2000 births.

            Ergo, a survey question about “assigned dactyly at birth” is more likely to be relevant than “assigned gender at birth” if you are going to insist on using intersex people as a cover to sneak in transness.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            Even if trans* had never become a social movement, and we still lived by 19th Century mores today, “assignment” would still be correct; even if you think trans people are not one thing in a different body, and not the same category as intersexed/indeterminate/hermaphroditic., all of us including 100% non-dysphoric normies are still “assigned” – “assignment” is an independent variable separately occuring from any individual’s take on the “modern trans* issue.” Every person (at least in our modern hospital/health system) has a medical professional render a judgment, a thing that goes on a birth certificate, etc. that a person cannot be consulted about by definition, a designation has been made, The State Requires A Verdict. “Assignment” does not only describe the cases where surgical alteration had to be made, where later the individual objects, etc.

            As to polydactyly, I couldn’t follow your objection there, but I am not opposed to future surveys prioritizing a question about polydactyly-at-birth (or circumsicion, or any other more-common-than-transness after-birth alteration made due to social pressure) before the question about gender-at-birth

        • fion says:

          I apologise for accusing you of pedantry. I should have stuck to discussing the issue rather than putting a not-very-nice word to it.

          You think that someone asking you “What sex were you assigned at birth?” rather than “Are you male or female?” isn’t making you play a very obvious political game?

          Yes, I do (think it isn’t, that is…). I accept that there is a lot of politics wrapped up in what words we use to talk about gender, but Scott’s choice, as well as being that favoured by ‘the other side’, also happens to be very logically broad.

          By logically broad I mean that the type of answer he’s asking for follows logically from the type of answer you’d like to give, but not vice-versa. You would like to be asked a question “are you male or female” and answer “male”*. However, if it is the case that you are male, then it is *also* the case that you were “assigned male at birth”. (Obviously you were; it’s what you are! Why would you be assigned anything different?) And if it is the case that you are male, then it is *also* the case that you “primarily identify with the male gender”. (Obviously you do; it’s what you are! Why would you identify with anything different?)

          Scott’s choice of words still leaves room for you to give answers that are correct. A choice of words that would have suited your preferences better would not have left room for some other people to give answers that they consider to be correct.

          *I think this is right; I’m not 100% sure I’ve heard you say. But if I’ve got it wrong, it’s trivial for you to translate my argument for “female”.

          • Aging Loser says:

            I was male when I was a single-celled zygote, and there was nothing there prior to this maleness to which maleness could have been “assigned.”

            You might say that God MADE me male if you’re theologically inclined.

            This isn’t a verbal issue. Suppose Scott had asked “Did God make you male or female?” Would an atheist cheerfully accept those terms?

          • Deiseach says:

            Obviously you were; it’s what you are! Why would you be assigned anything different?

            For the same reason nobody asks “were you assigned human at birth?” even though in the context of abortion politics that’s a very relevant question, with the argument that the foetus up to the point of delivery is potentially but not actually human, but achieves/is granted the status of personhood after delivery/once at the point of viability.

            “Were you assigned male or female?” is the same verbal game as asking “Were you assigned human?” If you are male or female, there is no “assigned” about it, anymore than there is “assigned” human at birth. If you are “assigned” male but are “actually” female, there’s a possiblity of error – that’s the whole point of the trans activism around this terminology. Plainly you can’t be “assigned” human in error but “actually” be something else (unless you are going to give otherkin the same rights as trans about identity), but the trickery of the “this is only a harmless logically broad inclusive question” revolves on exactly the coerced admission that there can be disjunct between “assigned” and “actual” gender.

            Since this is the entire crux of the debate, giving in on “okay I’ll allow the ‘assigned at birth’ usage” is in fact giving in on the central point; there is no objective gender, there’s only perceived biological sex which has nothing to do with it, constructed social roles which again have nothing to do with objective gender, and the sacred infallible “feelings” or dysmorphia where the trans person says “I am and have always been female”.

            Or have you never seen the “this is a female body, because it’s the body of a woman it has always been a female body, it’s never been male, so they were never ‘born in the wrong body’ or ‘born male’ don’t use that offensive terminology” postings of the admittedly very zealous allies out there?

          • Caf1815 says:

            I think the whole problem hinges on the term “assigned”. The statement “object A was assigned property x” strongly implies that object A did not possess property x prior to the act of assignment; in this case, it suggests that sex is not an inherent property of a person. Maybe a turn of phrase such as “what sex/gender were you declared to be at birth” would be more neutral, and thus acceptable to both sides of the debate?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The statement “object A was assigned property x” strongly implies that object A did not possess property x prior to the act of assignment

            That’s one meaning. But the statement “object A was assigned to category X” does not imply that Object A did not possess the properties associated with category X before the assignment, only that it was not recognized as such. So there’s a difference in whether you consider sex a category or a property.

            I object to the “assigned” terminology for non-intersex people because I think it’s an attempt to sneak in either the assumption that the categories are arbitrary, or that the assignment is often mistaken. But that’s more connotation than denotation; at least in a legal sense we are “assigned” a sex at birth.

          • fion says:


            Yes, I think you’ve identified the key point. Thanks for explaining it clearly. I think I was interpreting the word “assigned” a bit more like “declared”, but you’re right that the real meaning is a bit different.

            On reflection I think “declared” is a much better word than “assigned”.

            @Aging Loser, @Deiseach, do your objections apply to Caf1815’s suggestion as well, or is it satisfactory?

            (Also, @Aging Loser, just to answer your hypothetical, since I am an atheist… If Scott had asked “Did God make you male or female?” I would indeed find that annoying. I would still answer the question and complete the survey, but I would certainly take to the comments afterwards and complain about the wording.)

            EDIT: ninja’d by The Nybbler… and now I’m back on the fence re: “assigned”…

          • ilikekittycat says:

            @Caf1815: I object – “assigned” is clear and neutral in the question, as-is, and reject this euphemism treadmill. It’s not a neologism, it’s not even stretching the common-sense meaning of the word, it’s not a long and tedious bit of verbiage, it is not going out of the way to use an annoying out-of-context sounding word. I object that “declared” is not even free of the issues of sometimes implying the subject did not possess property x prior to the act of assignment that “assigned” runs into – “On that day, ‎July 4, 1776, a new nation, conceived upon liberty and not upon monarchy, was declared,” for instance. The Declaration of Independence is noting that a novel “property X” of “not subordinate to the British metropole” has been instantiated in the American colonies. “Germany declares war on France” is noting that the previously not-applicable property X of “such and such nations/peoples Y are kill-on-sight” has been invoked.

            We must simply accept, in the context of mortal men (doctors) making a judgment about a social construct, that it is obvious that “assigned” or “declared” is not talking about the Fundamental Eternal Essence or God’s Honest Truth about the subject, since mortal men cannot probe those properties. All such discussion is clearly and inherently limited in context by nature of being a discussion of the social conventions of one weird ape frequently compelled to assert things that are erroneous

      • Aapje says:


        I don’t understand your point here. What’s the “assigned” game?

        One conflict in the culture war is whether trans people who were born with a penis were already female at birth or not.

        This is part of the fight over the definition of ‘male’ and ‘female.’ Does that refer to your genes (in which case a transitioned trans woman is still a man), to your genitals (in which case a transitioned trans woman becomes a woman during surgery), to your gender presentation (in which case a trans woman becomes a woman as soon as she starts dressing up and acting according to the female gender role) or merely due to your self-identification (in which case a person who everyone would judge as 100% male-presenting, also because of a beard, can be female)?

        People who favor the latter, most individualist option where the individual gets to define their own sex and/or gender, generally dislike other people telling them what sex/gender they are or were & the gender role expectations that attach to that. So ‘assigned’ then implies that the doctor is part of an oppressive system who forced the baby into a certain mold.

        However, those who look at sex/gender differently tend to see this as an attempt for people to get their way by manipulating definitions. Hence them getting pissed off by questions that are phrased like this.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You forgot biochemical as an option in the second paragraph.

        • fion says:

          I was with you up until “So ‘assigned’ then implies that the doctor is part of an oppressive system who forced the baby into a certain mold.”

          Part of a doctor’s job is to say whether the baby is male or female. There’s nothing oppressive or wrong about this, but for some people the doctor’s assignment turns out not to match their gender identity.

          Now, I don’t ‘get’ transgender people at all. I have no idea why anybody cares at all about their gender identity and why people aren’t just happy to be themselves and go with it but some people do care a lot about their gender identity, and some of those people’s gender identity does not match what the doctor said they were at birth. I don’t give a damn what the “real” gender is and I don’t have much time for people who do (on either side), but it is literally true that the doctor said “this baby is male” or “this baby is female”. The question “what sex were you assigned at birth?” is simply asking “which did the doctor say?”

          I genuinely believe that Scott is not “playing games” or trying to force us to “play games”. He is asking a simple question in a clear and relatively unobjectionable way.

          • Aapje says:


            but it is literally true that the doctor said “this baby is male” or “this baby is female”.

            Only if your definition of male and female is based on genitalia. My point is that there is a group of people who don’t think that a penis necessarily makes you male or a vulva makes you female.

            So from their perspective the doctor cannot reliably tell whether the baby is male or female, even if the genitalia are fully formed. So these people would disagree with your claim that the doctor is just pointing out the obvious.

            The word ‘assigned’ implies that the doctor merely makes a semi-informed guess that is regularly wrong and then harms people.

            I genuinely believe that Scott is not “playing games” or trying to force us to “play games”. He is asking a simple question in a clear and relatively unobjectionable way.

            I never said that Scott intended to play games. I tried to explain why he was accused of doing so.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I genuinely believe that Scott is not “playing games” or trying to force us to “play games”. He is asking a simple question in a clear and relatively unobjectionable way.

            These are two completely different claims. If Scott wasn’t being a petty word-nazi, that doesn’t mean his choice of words was perfect.

            And you can’t be *assigned* as a mammal, or classified a reserved parking spot outside your workplace. The word isn’t taxonomical, to assign something, e.g. a role, resource or responsibility, means to place it in someone’s hands, not to recognise a pre-existing state of affairs. (In fact, I think specifically not. I can’t assign you something you already have)

            Assign fits in with words like appoint, allocate, and allot. They indicate a thing has been moved, bought to reside with a certain entity.

            words like “categorise” and “classify” could indicate an effort has been made to recognised the nature of something. (taxonomical)

            [words] like “declare” and “reported as” might be good for indicating nothing except that a statement was made. (verbal)

          • fion says:


            Only if your definition of male and female is based on genitalia.

            No, that’s irrelevant. It is literally true that the doctor said “this baby is male” or “this baby is female”. I’m not saying whether the doctor was right or wrong, and it doesn’t matter whether you believe male/female is based solely on genitalia.

            would disagree with your claim that the doctor is just pointing out the obvious.

            I am not claiming that the doctor is pointing out the obvious. In fact I said that sometimes what the doctor says turns out not to match the person’s gender identity. Never mind whether it’s “wrong” or “right” – all that matters is that it doesn’t match, which is why Scott asked both questions.

            The word ‘assigned’ implies that the doctor merely makes a semi-informed guess that is regularly wrong and then harms people.

            Not at all! The doctor’s assignment could be very well informed and could be “wrong” only one in a million times and it would still be an assignment. The word ‘assigned’ makes no judgement on how well-informed the doctor was nor how likely it is to be “wrong” or cause harm.

            I never said that Scott intended to play games. I tried to explain why he was accused of doing so.

            I am making the case that the accusation was unfair. If you agree with me, you’re welcome to do so; if you disagree, you’re welcome to do that too.


            If Scott wasn’t being a petty word-nazi, that doesn’t mean his choice of words was perfect.

            Agreed. But “being a petty word-nazi” is a different claim to “playing games” and “perfect choice of words” is a different claim to “clear and relatively unobjectionable choice of words”. For the record, though, I agree that my two claims were different, which is why I felt the need to type them both out. I also maintain that both of my claims are true.

            As for your distinctions between “assigned” and “classified” etc., I believe that is being discussed in more detail in the subthread just before this, by Caf, The Nybbler, me and ilikekittycat. I’m not terribly interested in wading into the difference between connotation and denotation, but I will say that I would be happy if we said any of the following:
            “what sex were you assigned at birth?”
            “what sex were you declared to be at birth?”
            “what sex does it say on your birth certificate?”
            “how was your sex reported at birth?”
            “which sex were you classified as at birth?”
            and probably a hundred more ways of saying almost exactly the same thing. To care more than a little bit about which one of these is best is, in my opinion, pedantry.

            (I have already offended somebody this thread by accusing him of pedantry, so let me say that I am not calling you a pedant, nor anybody else in this thread. Pedantry is an innocent mistake that we all make from time to time. I do not use it as an insult.)

          • carvenvisage says:


            It’s not a question of connotation or implication, assign *means* what I explained.

            The word isn’t taxonomical. to assign something, e.g. a role, resource or responsibility, means to place it in someone’s hands, not to recognise a pre-existing state of affairs. (In fact, I think specifically not.

            Like, look it up. (


            Agreed. But “being a petty word-nazi” is a different claim to “playing games”

            Forcing people to use words that support a stance they are against, in hopes of humiliating or confusing them, would certainly be both petty and cartoonist evil. If I do say so myself, it’s a great characterisation.

            “perfect choice of words” is a different claim to “clear and relatively unobjectionable choice of words”.

            lets not be pedantic. It was an exageration, the good intentions which we can take for granted don’t have anything to do with how we should evaluate the accuracy of the words chosen, which is by those words.

            For the record, though, I agree that my two claims were different, which is why I felt the need to type them both out.

            I don’t assume you intended it as such, but rhetorically speaking, following an unobjectionable claim with a controversial one is going to have a predictable effect of leading the reader.

            Now, I doubt the accusation was even meant in serious or cold blood, but if it was, it would be very hostile, a “truth is a defence” sort of thing to say, and outlandish in the case of scott- with his unusual persuasive ability and rhetorical scrupulousness.

            But in any case, the original statement was

            if many others are as reluctant to pay that “assigned” game..

            which characterises use of “assigned” as some sort of game, but doesn’t go out of its way to accuse scott in particular, and is consistent with him just repeating the “game” without special thought. The next post, where “aging loser” confesses some temptation to start flinging pique-ish notions around, is a little more suggestive, but still doesn’t make any outright proclamations to that effect.

            It seems to me that if we’re going to object to people being pedants, -i.e. insisting on the technically correct meaning of words when good grace would suggest they let it pass by, then by the same token we should by object to insisting on the most hostile interpretations of people’s words.

            I hope no one will deny that “aging loser” [sic] ‘s choice of words was at least a little curmudgeonly, but the idea that they were making a serious accusation towards scott seems more ‘pedantic’ to me, in the underlying sense of insisting on oblique notions that basic generosity would suggest we let pass by, than anything else in this thread.

            Are we to assume every curmudgeonly stylistic flourish from such a pen is put forth with ruthless and pedantic sobriety? I don’t think that’s sensible. Far more likely, I feel, and at any case more easygoing and generous, is to assume something like they’ve carried an exaggerated stance of “as far as I’m concerned, it’s a political game” a bit too far.

            (I have already offended somebody this thread by accusing him of pedantry, so let me say that I am not calling you a pedant, nor anybody else in this thread. Pedantry is an innocent mistake that we all make from time to time. I do not use it as an insult.)

            That’s a rather subtle distinction, but naturally I accept it.

            In any case, I am a pedant. I’m just not having to exercise any powers of fine distinction in this case, because it happens to be so much clearer than I’d like.

            Non-essential points:

            As for your distinctions between “assigned” and “classified” etc., I believe that is being discussed in more detail in the subthread just before this, by Caf, The Nybbler, me and ilikekittycat.

            I read that thread before I made my first post. Nybbler is simply mistaken, and in any case agrees there is a political implication there, kittycat says

            All such discussion is clearly and inherently limited in context by nature of being a discussion of the social conventions of one weird ape frequently compelled to assert things that are erroneous

            [sic] – ..which is perhaps true in a technical sense, but tends to cast doubt on their interest in ferreting out the “true meanings” (..if such can even exist) of words, and you you were swayed hither and thither like a weathervane, so there’s no real dissent in that thread.

            The question “what sex were you assigned at birth?” is simply asking “which did the doctor say?”

            Even if that was true, “what did the doctor say” (/put) would be a good bit simpler.

            and probably a hundred more ways of saying almost exactly the same thing. To care more than a little bit about which one of these is best is, in my opinion, pedantry.

            Just to prove that I prefer a more stickler-y level of linguistic dispute: the whole disagreement being had is whether it’s “almost exactly the same thing”, so this construction amounts to question begging.

          • fion says:


            I’ll admit that I have little interest in word definition arguments. I certainly don’t care to respond to your very thorough analysis of the wording in my previous comment. (Also, bear in mind that my position is essentially one of shrugging and saying “it doesn’t matter very much”. It’s hard to get very enthusiastic about an argument that one doesn’t think matters very much.)

            However, since it’s what brought us here: I think you are mistaken about the definition of “assign” and your wiktionary link proves it. One of the definitions is “to sort something into categories”. That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. ‘Assign’ is not an incorrect word to use, even if you believe that sex is god-given and immutable.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      The choice I always choose is to answer the question and then complain about it verbosely, or vice versa.

      This is what I did with the socially biased prompts on the analytical writing portion of the GREs (and probably hurt my AW score as a result, as I spent 40% of the allocated time complaining about the bias, and the remaining 60% wasn’t enough time to finish writing about the prompt).

      • Statismagician says:

        It’s been a while since I took it; which prompts were those?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          The analytical portion used to be multiple choice like the rest of the GRE, then sometime in the 2000s they changed it to a writing section like the new SAT writing writing section. You’re given I think two or three separately timed questions, each consisting of two prompts, and have to write an essay about one of the prompts (e.g. the standard 1-3-1 make-and-support-a-claim essay).

          The two particular prompts I got for the longest timed essay were both socially biased in my opinion. I don’t remember the one not chosen, but the other one was the least socially biased, and was on being an “expert”, which is typically considered a social phenomenon, as expertise is most frequently seen as relative to others with greater or lesser skill (or in relation to various social credentials). I believe I ended up with a partial essay talking about expertise through time with the comparison to how one does now versus earlier, and references to objective reality (being able to do what one sets out to do), and no references to other’s skill — though my recollection is very hazy.

          • Statismagician says:

            I admit I’m not sure what’s objectionable there on the face of it – the point of the GRE is to determine fitness for advanced education; making people who are by definition about to try and become experts in something think about what exactly expertise is and isn’t seems reasonable. This is obviously less true if the prompt was something like ‘list all the ways in which systematic expertise is inferior to the lived experience of historically-disadvantaged groups’ but even with something that silly there’s the glimmer of a point (cf Seeing Like a State).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I had a background in personality theory prior to taking the GREs, and had become used to the concept of “expert” as a social phenomenon.

            Grad school itself is, sure, a social phenomenon (as well as interpersonal phenomenon, given it’s hybridization of the interpersonal apprenticeship, and the social guild).

            From my particular asocial point of view I have never, ever made the connection between expertise and graduate education, until you stated it now. More knowledge, yes, some practice, yes, but I habitually do not consider freshly minted Ph.D.s to be experts, and consider new grad school students as neophytes. I’m sure those who are asocial vary, and some would see it that way, but I certainly did not.

            My familial background doesn’t go beyond post-grad certificates though, and I didn’t really interact with my professors through the majority of schooling. How the heck am I expected to see grad school as creating an expert when everyone knows it’s time on the actual job that develops specific skill?

            The primary purpose of grad school is to credential someone as a person who is officially allowed to now start learning on their own.

            And all this said, why would anyone ever call someone an expert is beyond me. They’re just more knowledgeable, or more practiced, than others. Doesn’t mean they know why the heck they are doing anything, or the underlying reasons for why what they are doing works.

            All an expert is in my mind is someone with the chutzpah to call themselves such.

          • Statismagician says:

            Ah, I see; I thought we were discussing a very different question.

            Confidence is not a guarantee of ability, but neither is modesty, and of course all things are relative. A new PhD in, say, biology ought to know he doesn’t know more about the mechanics of genetic mutation than his advisor does, or than he will in twenty years, but equally he ought to know that he does indeed know more about that subject, and probably most other biological questions, than most people around him.

            Technical expertise (what you call ‘specific skill) and theoretical expertise (what I was talking about above) are also different. This is non-obvious to a disturbing number of people; I’m glad you’re not one of them – if I want to insert some edited DNA into a mouse for an experiment, then the person I want running the machine is the lab tech who’s been doing it for 15 years and could manage it flawlessly while half-asleep, blindfolded, and upside down, but I still want the person with broad knowledge of the field setting up the experiment and analyzing the results.

            I don’t disagree that a PhD is ‘just’ somebody with the credentials to direct his own learning. I merely think that’s very impressive rather than pedestrian; this is somebody who either knows or can be trusted to figure out if needed everything already understood about their field, who has made at least one novel contribution to it, and who can be expected to do more in the future.

            Obviously, the is and the ought can vary enormously across people, institutions, and disciplines, but part of real expertise (of either sort) is being able to recognize it or its lack in others.

            Doesn’t mean they know why the heck they are doing anything, or the underlying reasons for why what they are doing works.

            I cannot disagree strongly enough with this. There absolutely are people who know what they’re doing, why, and how those reasons relate to other fields/subfields at a deep level. It’s unfortunate that you haven’t come across such a person in your field, and I hope that changes for you soon and that you can learn a lot from them.

            With that said, I should note that obviously there isn’t some general expertise coefficient ‘e’ that applies across all fields equally; all the biology expertise in the world doesn’t tell me much about astronomy, and a lifetime of practice in CRISPR editing techniques won’t make me a better nuclear power plant technician. Organic chemistry and medical diagnostics (respectively and e.g.; I’m not specifically committed to either), though, ought to see at least some synergy.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I cannot disagree strongly enough with this. There absolutely are people who know what they’re doing, why, and how those reasons relate to other fields/subfields at a deep level.

            I have come across these people, and even work with them. But they are rarer than a Post-Doc with experience.

            I also had experience working in industry with a person who never went past a B.S. who was given the responsibility of designing and following through on his own experiments. And this was before I took the GREs. It is also quite common, at least in biology, for lab managers and technicians to be assigned their own experiments and otherwise participate in the lab’s science. It’s typical for experienced BSers to do actual science on their own, after sufficient years of practice, and typical for PhDers to do technical work as part of their jobs or training. What a PhD seems to grant to me is exposure to analytical techniques, and yes, hopefully the theoretical background as to why and when to use those techniques (*cough* p-hacking *cough*), as well as experience publishing, reading, data mining, and grant work. All of that is very important, but expert?, you’ve done one long-term project, likely not of your own choosing or initial design, and likely under direction.

            this is somebody who either knows or can be trusted to figure out if needed everything already understood about their field, who has made at least one novel contribution to it, and who can be expected to do more in the future.

            I’m far more jaded about it having dropped out of school on multiple occasions due to badness of fit instead of intellectual ability. I’m also jaded about it having found very, very basic errors in a published “note” signed off by three authors that completely negated the claim (what the heck biochemists think they’re doing publishing about improved protein expression via DNA construction techniques I have no idea).

            The rest of your points, and those above, I generally acknowledge. I just hope you can see why I’d have difficulty with a writing prompt about expertise or being an expert, or whatever it specifically was.

          • Protagoras says:

            Insofar as it is impossible to come anywhere near knowing everything one needs, and it is very rarely practical to do so much as take a survey and consult the wisdom of the crowds, it is sometimes necessary to defer to the opinions of experts. Identifying who they are and when to defer to them is of great epistemic importance.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Protagoras –

            Hard disagree.

            The necessity of knowledge scales precisely with the necessity of knowledge. The degree to which you need to know something is also the degree to which you cannot afford to not know it.

    • doremitard says:

      I did a medical genetics course in the 90s and they taught us the distinction between sex and gender. If you don’t think there’s a distinction, you need to learn more about human genetics.

  43. SurveyThrowaway says:

    Ugh, I think I mis-entered the SAT scores in a way that makes them invalid. Like, I think I added 800 to them, taking them outside the actual possible range of SAT scores. Because I remembered them as max-n, but then misremembered max as 1600, when of course we’re talking about individual sections so in fact max=800. Uhhh. Would it be possible to clean that up in my response? I hope you’ll at least filter out such clearly invalid answers if not…

  44. phoenixy says:

    I found the medical history questions confusing. I don’t know what within two generations means (do nieces and nephews count, eg)? And I didn’t know how to answer if I thought I might have a condition and I also had a family history of it since you can only pick one. Or if I thought I had a family history but wasn’t sure (eg a relative who showed symptoms of mental illness but I have no idea about an official diagnosis)

    • arlie says:

      Yeah – I have two relatives who were diagnosed with everything but the kitchen sink, much of which they probably didn’t have. One of them also looked like she actually had a couple of other psych conditions, for which I don’t think she was ever diagnosed. Net result – my family history has *everything* based on this question, and I think thart’s a bit bogus.

  45. arlie says:

    One more comment – the ability to visualize question is bad too.

    I can clearly imagine just about anything other than an image. I don’t think in pictures either.

    I.e. I can imagine smell, touch, taste, kinesthetics, and sound. With those listed first easier and clearer than those listed later.

    You phrased it as specifically about images, so I answered “no”, but conclusions about imagination etc. based on this seem likely to be bogus.

    • sty_silver says:

      The question clearly measures something real, which is the ability of people to think in pictures. Whatever makes you think that it’s going to be misinterpreted?

      • arlie says:

        It might not be. But I’ve seen people who presumably think in pictures use questions about visual phenomena as proxies for all forms of imagination, sometimes even for creativity in general.

        We’ll see how Scott uses it.

        • soreff says:

          Interesting discussion….

          Even within images, there is an ambiguity:
          2D or 3D? When I read that question, I paused,
          visualized a cube, answered yes, and continued on…

          I’ll be interested in whether Scott sees an age correlation on this:
          For me, it certainly _felt_ harder than doing the same thing decades ago…

    • cakoluchiam says:

      I’m surprised the survey left it up to personal belief, rather than a more objective test like mental Boggle or something. I’m used to having to to do more self-evaluative work for these surveys.

  46. arlie says:

    Hmm – my first answer comment seems to have been lost.

    It was long, and I can’t easily reconstruct it. It concerned a new-to-me way of saying “care about genetic differences ***between races*** without using the R word. At any rate, it felt like a lousy question to me, but taught me a new euphemism/dog whistle/potential disingenuous-style bad faith argument to watch out for.

    The first version was more tactful, but having the comment lost has annoyed me, so this version is less tactful.

    • soreff says:

      Yup, I was peeved at that question too.
      Now, I’d be quite surprised if genetic differences between people with, say,
      different alleles for say, important neurotransmitter receptors turned out to be
      uniformly insignificant… But that is a rather different way of grouping people than by race!

  47. Guy in TN says:

    I appreciate the expanded political affiliation categories, compared to the last survey. There will always be people along the lines of “ah, but what about Georgist Anarcho-monarchism, hmm?”, but seriously, this looks about right to me.

  48. Zenos says:

    Last year there was a study option for soft studies I think. This year there’s only “social science” which does not describe my soft science. And “alt-right” is still a terrible option for non-Americans (no, France’s National Front, nowadays National Rally is not “alt-right” but nationalist/nativist.) Maybe you could have the option as “alt-right/nationalist” next year? I would also prefer age ranges instead of exact age for greater anonymity.

  49. TDB says:

    I don’t remember if I took the survey before. I’ve seen it, but I may’ve skipped it.

    Where do you think you fall on a classic political spectrum? I think the classic political spectrum is useless and meaningless distraction.

    On a scale from 1 (not interested at all) to 5 (extremely interested), how would you describe your level of interest in politics? I am very interested in political theory or metapolitics. I am not that interested in formal electoral politics or the details of what politicians are doing.

    Anarcho-capitalism: no government, not even for basic policing and defense are privatized: Just saying ancap is probably unambiguous enough, but it would be clearer to say Anarcho-capitalism: no government, even basic policing and defense are privatized.

    Libertarians: Ethics
    Please answer if you identify as at least somewhat libertarian: which of these do you consider more important as an ethical justification for your libertarianism?
    Deontological: big government is inherently evil because it violates rights
    Consequentialist: big government is a bad idea because it leads to worse societies

    JC Lester would answer “both”. I would quibble with “big government”, maybe go with “involuntary interaction”. And then I would also answer “both”.
    A more interesting question: Does the respondent know what the ideal government (or anarchy) would look like, or just have an idea about how to explore the state space in search of preferred options? Libertarianism is closest to my speculation about what would turn out best if we had to build something from scratch. But building something from scratch is highly speculative and risky. Better to have some control groups doing nothing, and a lot of experimental groups trying different options and see how they actually work. All experimental subjects should give informed consent, of course. Is this meta-libertarianism?

    Religious views:
    Atheist but spiritual
    Atheist and not spiritual

    None of the above? What does spiritual mean? I identify as atheist and I meditate and I am not currently particularly hostile toward theists or theism. Does that make me spiritual? Does the fact that I don’t think I know what “spiritual” means indicate I am not spiritual? I definitely know of some “spiritual” people whose attitudes are different from mine, does that mean I’m not spiritual?

    • theredsheep says:

      Probably not spiritual. I guess “spiritual atheist” could indicate either participation in a non-theistic religion like Theravada Buddhism, or else participation in rituals with no intended religious significance because you think it’s good for you as a human being to partake in them. I knew a guy once who said he liked to commune with nature somehow in spite of being an atheist; I didn’t see the point of it, personally, but apparently it did something for him.

      • TDB says:

        Why would atheism affect one’s desire to commune with nature one way or the other?

        Are non-theistic religions spiritual?

        I just did a web search on spiritual atheist, it was not encouraging. Why is spiritual atheist a category on the survey? Are there a lot here? Guess I’ll have to await the survey results.

        • theredsheep says:

          Beats me, I’m not an atheist. Just throwing out possibilities. I meant that the guy in question brought up communing with nature as his alternative to going to church because it brought him in touch with his inner primal man or something. Maybe that’s “spiritual.”

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Nature is all we’ve (atheists) got.

          I alternate between reporting the “spiritual atheist” and “non-spiritual atheist”, as I have in the past saluted the constellation Orion and have gotten something feeling-wise from this act. I’m not sure what this feeling indicates — part of the universe; fellow-feeling to those long dead who looked at the stars and saw patterns in them; the desire for greatness in a universe which cannot recognize us; whatever. But “spiritual” seems to fit that emotional draw.

        • adder says:

          I answered spiritual atheist and a non-theistic religion in the next question. Made the most sense to me. I think spiritual atheist could cover lots of things, Buddhists, Taoists, Jains, Wiccans, other new-agey folk, pantheists maybe, maybe people have a Deistic tendency to see the universe as ordered.

    • cakoluchiam says:

      There are different ways to interpret “spiritual” that I expect would get different answers.

      First, and what I expect is more what this question was going for, is whether or not you perform rituals that could be mistaken for religion, such as going to church, meditating, casting spells, or otherwise speaking to creatures or objects that a non-spiritual person would not expect to understand (trees or hamsters, as opposed to dogs and babies).

      Second, how strong your belief is in your preferred answer to unknowable questions such as free will vs determinism.

      Third, whether you believe in some manner of post-corporeal consciousness.

      Fourth, how you interpret the nature of consciousness itself-do you live in a world, or does the world live in you, etc.

      All of these might have different answers, but I think a “positive” answer to any should carry a positive answer to the aggregate question of whether you are spiritual.

      I seem to recall previous years’ surveys getting more granular on this.

  50. Anna says:

    On the Depression question: Does “I went to my primary care provider, said I thought I was depressed, and she prescribed me an SSRI and therapy” count as an official diagnosis, even though my primary is an NP, not a psychiatrist (or even an MD)?

    Also, the “Have I ever been to an SSC meetup” question really needs the option: “I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t worked up the courage yet.”

    • Deiseach says:

      My version of that is “I went to my primary care provider, said I thought I was depressed, and she refused me medication but prescribed me therapy which in the end, for various reasons, never happened past the initial interview session” so I put that down as a “not formally diagnosed”.

      Though recently I did read that wanting to be dead does not mean you’re suicidal, so I may indeed not be depressed, it’s just mood swings. I have no idea. No diagnosis, no prospect of one, easiest thing is to say “no” because self-diagnosis/doing online tests is not anything useful or correct.

  51. Incandenza says:

    Had some trouble with the “which nation has the best society” question, or whatever it was. It was contextualized by political views, so seemed to be asking about which country had the best policy regime, and accordingly I was waffling between Sweden and Germany, but if the question was really “which is the best society” I would want to say the United States, which is a much more interesting and diverse and weirder place than Germany or Sweden.

    • PedroS says:

      I think this question is very flawed, since it relies on the respondent’s perception of each country, rather than on their reality. Can a “regular” SSC reader faithfully describe the main features of German, French, Swedish, Singaporean British and American society, what their strengths and weaknesses are? I strongly doubt that.

      The same flaw exists in the questions regarding immigration, since people are invited to voice their opinion on the reasonableness of their countries’ immigration level but are nowhere invited to compare their “perceived immigration levels” with the real immigration numbers.

  52. fortybot says:

    I eat my corn by eating one complete teeth-width ring around the cob, and then moving a teeth-width over and doing it again. This does not appear to fall under either “typewriter” or “spiral.”

    • Tarpitz says:

      Same, except from alternating ends, finishing in the middle.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Yes, I called this spiral as the best approximate. It limits the amount of moist corn in the nose.

    • Eri says:

      I’m that kind of person as well. Also, I chose “typewriter”, because it does look like straight lines in corn surface projection (they just go parallel to other axis); probably I messed up this one, I’m not sure.

  53. siduri says:

    I took the SAT in 1994, which as I understand was just before a “rebalancing” of scores took place that would (I think?) change the approximation to IQ. It looks like your question asking about SAT scores is trying to approximate IQ. Should I specify the date when giving my scores or is that just gonna munge up your data?

    • siduri says:

      (And just as a funny side note, from little crumbs you’ve dropped here and there, I think my scores were the exact same as yours. [800 verbal and 650 math?] Does this make us star psychic twins?)

  54. SkyBlu says:

    I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m complaining about the fact that my preferred higher maths is discrete maths yet that wasn’t an option on this survey 🙁

    • Eri says:

      That was my first thought, too. After some pondering I chose analysis, since I somewhat prefer it over algebra.
      Since my way of corn-eating also wasn’t mentioned in the survey, I wonder whether these are correlated as well, and people eating corn in rings often like discrete math?

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t eat corn on the cob and I hate maths (it has always by a long shot been my weakest subject) – is this correlation, causation, or simply good taste on my part? 😀

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I was going to ask about the math question, so I’ll just ask here. What does algebra vs analysis mean? Maybe one approach is using math as a tool and another is analyzing math as a discipline? I have taken half a dozen college math classes (although decades ago), but I didn’t understand the difference, so I took the third choice. Is this difference just something math majors know, but if that is the case, how does Scott know?

      • SamChevre says:

        Yes, it’s a math majors only sort of a question. Once you get past basic math (calculus, linear algebra, probability, sorting and counting algorithms) there are three basic divisions: algebra (properties of sets), analysis (properties of equations), and topology (properties of shapes). Those descriptions are probably sort-of wrong, because I was only a math minor, but that’s how I think of the fields.

        • joker3 says:

          It’s very hard to give succinct descriptions of broad areas of mathematics, but the way I think about it is like this:

          In all three cases, you have some collection of objects with properties/operations defined on their elements. Algebraists are primarily interested in maps between objects that preserve whatever properties/operations there are, geometers are primarily interested in properties that are preserved by maps from objects to themselves, and analysts are interested in maps from those objects to R or C and what the behavior of limits in the codomain can tell you about the objects themselves.

          Geometry/topology should definitely be added as a third option to the question. It’s too fundamental to fall under “other”.

  55. Viliam says:

    The question about BS jobs made me wonder what actually counts as a “BS job”:

    You do a thing that doesn’t make sense at all — obvious BS. Management makes a stupid decision, people do the BS work, problems appear, and now you fix them by doing what should have been done in the first place — your part is not BS, but in a sane world it wouldn’t be necessary. Government makes a stupid decision and creates extra work, you do the required work — your part is not BS, but the system as a whole is.

    I think I would prefer a scale “how much your work is BS: 0% 25% 50% 75% 100%”, because sometimes jobs have both BS and non-BS components. You can work on multiple projects, some BS, some non-BS. You can do meaningful work, and also attend a lot of meaningless meetings.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yes that would have been useful. Presumably those answering yes are generally thinking > 50%?

  56. molicious says:

    Looking forward to seeing the results! Thanks for all your hard work putting this together and then crunching the numbers. However, it would have been nice to have the option to include some qualitative comments in some of my answers. There were certain questions I answered based on how I feel or live my life currently, but I have not always felt or lived my life similarly. However, the questions seemed to imply that these are static qualities of a person. Also, some questions did not include any answer option I felt really encompassed my views, so I chose the best fit I could but I’m not sure how useful the data that come out of that will be. I’m always a bit skeptical especially of these numerical scale-type survey questions because each individual’s personal scale is so different and it doesn’t get to the root cause of folks’ reasons for answering as they do–which is the more interesting information, as well as the information that creates actionable data. If someone’s answer is “7,” that’s fine and all, but what you really want to know is *why* is it a 7, rather than a 10 or a 3?

    Also, I’m sure you know that a number of the questions are subject to some pretty strong recall bias. Unavoidable in this type of survey but of course means the data created from the answers to those questions need to be taken with a good-sized grain of salt.

  57. PeterDonis says:

    For the political spectrum question, I think there should be an option along the lines of “I don’t fit anywhere on this spectrum”, or “I don’t think anywhere on this spectrum reflects my political views”.

    Also, it would be nice to have an option on the “how interested are you in politics question” along the lines of “I’m not interested in politics, but I know politics is interested in me so I can’t just ignore it”.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      “I’m not interested in politics, but I know politics is interested in me so I can’t just ignore it”.

      I’m another vote for this answer.

      • soreff says:

        “I’m not interested in politics, but I know politics is interested in me so I can’t just ignore it”.


        I look at politics from the point of view of “what is the likeliest damage that I need to
        brace for from the current crop of crooks”, not from the point of view of tracking which
        of them is likeliest to win the next horse-race (horse’s ass race?).

    • arlie says:

      Yes. I’m watching politics I really don’t want to know about, because I live in the US, and it’s conceivable things may get unpleasant enough there that I’d prefer to live elsewhere. Not likely, but I’m the kind of person who buys insurance, which in this case is staying aware enough that I can leave as a controlled planned relocation, if that should become desirable. I don’t have a vote here, so there’s no direct point in me being aware of politics, except to the extent it might affect me.

    • TDB says:

      Plus one. The political spectrum is a single dimension, politics is multidimensional. Of course projecting multiple dimensions onto a single one will lose information. And that’s true even if everyone uses the same algorithm to create the projection, which no one does. It’s only virtue is actually a vice, which is that it maps well onto red team vs. blue team.

      Okay, there is some correlation among issues among the population. But should there be? Abortion and gun control really depend on the same social facts?

      When something annoys me as much as this does, maybe it should set off my “oops I am fallible maybe I’m wrong here” alarm. But where are the wise ones who use this abstraction effectively and appropriately? Who could I study to learn the true way?

  58. Amry says:

    What happens to twins in birth-order studies? I ended up answering that I was the oldest, but also that the gap between me and my next-youngest sibling was 0 years, on account of it being about 10 minutes. As the gap between us and the youngest is 7 years, that’s a hell of a difference depending on whether we both count as oldest, or the younger twin counts as a middle child. (For the recond, I feel like my (fraternal) twin and I settled very solidly into first- and middle-child patterns, despite being identical in age.)

    Always fun to do the survey! And kind of exciting to be the irritating outlier for once.

  59. EchoChaos says:

    As someone who can trace my family line to colonial Virginia gentry, I’m really curious how many more Cavalier scions there are on this website and how similar we are politically.

    I am looking forward to the Albion’s Seed answers most of all. I realize the non-Americans are less interested in that, but it’s fascinating to me.

    My wife is Borderer and can trace her descent back to West Virginia in the same era.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      That was a tough question, and I suspect lots of us had difficulty with that question (the non-US people for sure, but even those of us that have been in the US for generations may have difficulty determining this). I put down Puritan because I sense that is the sort of ethic most prevalent in my family. IS that what I was supposed to do it? I actually have a family history going back to all 16 great great grandparents. They were all in the US, but they moved all over the place.

      • theredsheep says:

        My Dad’s New England family is probably Puritan and/or Quaker; my mother’s family is from Pittsburgh and her maiden name was Schroeder, so the question is a total non-starter for that side. My wife, OTOH, is overwhelmingly Borderer/Reaver/Voldemort by ancestry.

  60. Izaak says:

    I’m aware this probably fucked up some of the data, but I started my job halfway through the year, so I put my current yearly salary, but the amount I donated was the actual amount. I’m not sure if I should have put my salary halved, because that’s what I received this year, or if I should have prorated my donation. Thoughts?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      approximate annual income

      I started a second job midway through the year and annualized the total (so gave ~$100k instead of the ~$80k it actually was). Though darnit I think I habitually included a comma.

  61. aNeopuritan says:

    RavenclawPrefect: is this still standing?

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      It is! You can find the mega Frankensurvey here.

      Warning: Very long, very detailed, contains exceptions and specifications to a perhaps ridiculous extent in the pursuit of exhaustiveness. Please please please invest any survey-taking effort in the main survey before starting on this one, and feel free to skip as much of it as you like. Because of this potential offset of responses from the main survey, I deliberately held off posting it here for a while so as not to detract from primary response rates.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        You said “everything in this thread” – it’s not.

        • RavenclawPrefect says:

          I made a few compromises on excessively detailed options or things I didn’t myself understand well enough to include, but I think I got at least 90% coverage of the suggestions. I initially had 7 questions for the political leaning dimensions, but running the survey by some initial test-takers suggested that they might take up too much space and time, and I couldn’t figure out a nice non-clunky way to set them up that avoided making things inconvenient for at least one of [people who took the actual test] and [people who are eyeballing it]. Upon further consideration, this was probably overly conservative, and I’ve added them back in; you should see them if you refresh the survey.

  62. ksvanhorn says:

    The phrasing of the question “What sex were you assigned at birth?” is ridiculous. With the rare exceptions of intersex individuals and those with AIS, nobody is “assigned” a sex at birth. It’s determined by their genes. I’m all for treating transgender individuals with compassion and not adding to their troubles, but this fad of pretending that people are “assigned” a sex at birth is a delusional denial of reality.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      If you want to join this argument the best place is in the replies to this comment:

    • With the rare exceptions of intersex individuals and those with AIS, nobody is “assigned” a sex at birth. It’s determined by their genes.

      It is supposed to be determined by their anatomy, which has a very high correlation with their genotype. But even aside from your exceptions, you could be unambiguously male and be assigned female because the doctor was drunk or accidentally checked the wrong box.

      Given that Scott wants an unambiguous answer, his question, roughly equivalent to “what sex was on your birth certificate,” looks like a pretty good way of getting one, while avoiding a variety of complications about which people disagree.

  63. metacelsus says:

    I think modafinil should have been included on the list of drugs.

  64. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    My quibble is that there’s no answer regarding mental illnesses “I have a formal diagnosis of this disorder but don’t think I actually have it”. Relevant for ADHD in my case and I suspect many others.

  65. sadtoot says:

    in the question on UBI, “if you were given UBI, would you quit your job?” i felt some imprecision between my answer “i would leave my current job, but continue to work elsewhere, perhaps full-time” and the best answer available “maybe / might work part time”. i guess you could interpret “would you quit your job” literally or idiomatically.

  66. A couple of minor problems:

    What counts as a scientific measure of IQ? I know what my high school records show as my IQ, and the high school and associated elementary school were run by the University of Chicago, called the Laboratory School, and I am sure used whatever were considered scientific methods. But the testing would probably have been done when I was between ten and fifteen, so presumably using the ratio of mental age to biological age definition, so would not necessarily have had the same standard deviation as the standard adult test.

    I gave the figure, since it is what I have and is not from a professional test, but don’t know if that is what you want.

    Another problem was locating myself on a left/right spectrum. As an anarcho-capitalist, I think the most appropriate point is on the far right, since I intuit right/left in terms of individual freedom vs government. But that isn’t the way I would expect most other people to interpret far right, so I left that one blank.

    The family religious background question might have been clearer. I interpreted it as asking me to go up the family tree until I got to a generation which followed a religion, which takes me to my (Jewish) grandparents. But I don’t think of them as “my family,” since they are not the family I was reared in.

    I was also not sure what counted as a therapist/not psychiatrist. After my first marriage broke up I briefly saw a psychologist but I didn’t think of it as therapy, or as having much effect on me or giving me much basis for judging the profession, so left that blank. Part of the problem may be that I am older than most taking the poll, so the modern terminology for such things may have taken form after my experiences of them.

    • correction to typo in the above–is from a professional test, is not from an online test.

    • fion says:

      Don’t know if you’re interested in external opinions, but I would have said you’re a long way towards the right end of a left/right political spectrum, but you’re not “far right”, which of course means something different.

      • “far right means something different” is the problem.

        Suppose we were ranking Muslims according to how orthodox they were. It would make a substantial difference whether we counted terrorists as the most orthodox.

        Similarly here. If you define Nazis as far right, that implies that they differ from the center the same way I do, just more so, which is not merely wrong, it is wrong in a way designed to provide illegitimate support to one ideological position over another.

        • fion says:

          not merely wrong, it is wrong in a way designed to provide illegitimate support to one ideological position over another.

          I disagree. I think it is merely wrong. Very wrong, mind you. One-dimensional political spectrums are inadequate for discussing politics, so there will always be people in the same part of the spectrum with utterly different views. But I would also argue that “far-right” has become a thing in itself, and does not refer to the part of the political spectrum that is furthest to the right. It’s a stupid use of words, but I think it’s the dominant convention.

          • It’s the dominant convention, but it is a convention that implies a false claim about ideology.

            To see the way in which the convention is politically loaded, consider the arguments over whether the Nazis were right or left. One can make a case for either–they called themselves National Socialists after all. But which case you make largely depends on which side of the political spectrum you are trying to make look bad by linking with Nazis.

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  68. Mark Atwood says:

    I was caught in the fork between “I think I have this condition” and “A family member within two generations does have this condition”. They don’t have an obvious priority order.

    Similarly for SSRIs, which to check if had multiple symptoms? Could have allowed “check all that apply”.

  69. Selentelechia says:

    To make sure I’m not just leaving criticism: I love these and I understand that there is always something to nitpick. But I always get value from your surveys, so thank you!

  70. adder says:

    The employment stuff was hard for me to sort out, living a 501d income-sharing community, where I do a number of part-time jobs. It makes me realize that it’s probably tricky for anyone who has multiple work engagements. If one works part time in two different places and stay home with the kids some days, how does one fill it out?

    Wished there was an anarchist option in the political identity. I noticed there was a “something like anarchism on a national scale” option later, but not a great corresponding political identity.

  71. I’m in three long-running poly relationships and skipped a lot of the relationship questions because I didn’t know which partner to comment on. Even where you explicitly asked about my ‘most recent’ partner, I baulked at this – my most recent partner has been with me for several years, so I preferred not to answer. Sorry about that!

    I also picked the ‘polycule’ option for what relationship style I’m in, as it was the closest to what’s important to me (the more closed nature of these relationships). A bit surprised ‘closed poly relationships’ wasn’t just a straight option. 🙂 On reflection, I guess I should have picked ‘other’; hoping that didn’t muddy the water too much!

    Thanks for making this. Looking forward to your thoughts on the results!

  72. ovid75 says:

    The political preference question really needs changing: I couldn’t click on anything – they are all horrible and I can’t be the only reader who feels that. Ordoliberal would be a nice addition (Scott himself expressed an interest a while back) or just ‘Other’. I feel my own views are an ugly hybrid of Social Democrat (horizontal solidarity via redistribution), Marxist (capitalism as unstable non linear system), alt right (horizontal solidarity via borders) and neo reactionary (pervasive moral hazards in modernity).

    • Nornagest says:

      I just left that one blank.

    • theredsheep says:

      I didn’t know “ordoliberal” was a thing. The Wiki entry for it sounds cool. Thanks for bringing it up.

    • Jacobethan says:

      I never really find my political preferences particularly closely described by any of the survey options, so I’m sympathetic to this complaint. OTOH, there are obvious problems with trying to offer an option for every conceivable subvariant and crossover. In a US context at least, any listing that’s granular enough to include “ordoliberal” is going to be a pretty long menu.

      Maybe the best solution is to have a separate question asking about degree of identification with the answer chosen under political preference. I.e., from 1 being “I take [e.g.] ‘conservative’ as defined here to be a near-exact description of my political orientation” to 5 being “‘Conservative’ seems like marginally the least misleading choice among the options given, but I’m not at all comfortable with the label and my own self-description would be very different.”

    • Guy in TN says:

      Serious non-rhetorical question: In what ways does the ideology of ordoliberalism differ from the anti-trust wing of the U.S. Democratic party? (e.g. Elizabeth Warren)

  73. Anaxagoras says:

    (I thought I posted this earlier. It’s possible it got eaten or deliberately deleted.)

    When I opened the survey, the first thing I did was search for “the the”. I found one in the third-to-last question of part eight (the topic of which I referred to by name in my previous attempt at posting this, which may be why it didn’t appear). There weren’t any questions about “the the”, however — was this a holdover of a previous iteration?

  74. Darwin says:

    Regarding the ‘has SSC gotten better or worse over time’ question, I put ‘no change’, but wanted to explain my logic some.

    SSC feels to me like it has gotten worse, but I 100% know that this is heavily influenced by two big factors.

    1. Archival reading vs.subscription reading. When I started I was reading through the whole archives rapidly, focusing on the top posts and things that interested me, skimming or skipping things that didn’t interest me, reading as much as I wanted at my own pace, etc. Of course this experience feels much better than waiting around for new posts to come out, both in terms of selectively remembering the best posts from the archives and in terms of having enough new content available to be satisfying and engaging every time I visit.

    2. I’ve already consumed and integrated a lot of the novelty of Scott’s thought process, writing style, opinions, etc. by reading the entire archive, so each new post is less likely to contain highly novel and surprising things, from my perspective. I’m hugely addicted to novelty – I think most humans are – so of course the new stuff doesn’t hit me as hard as my memories of coming to the blog for the first time.

    Both of these are factors which would make it feel like the blog is getting worse, even if it was staying the same or getting better. And they’re factors I would expect to apply to a lot of people. So, we may want to keep these factors in mind when analyzing the data from that question; I would predict a strong nostalgia bias, even if the actual quality has remained constant or improved.

  75. JEA says:

    Now that I had dinner I feel happier and would answer some questions differently. Should I take it again?

  76. kboon says:

    I assumed the in familiy up to two generations questions were about siblings, parents and grandparents? My extended family is huge. I have 17 (I think, I always lose count) aunts and uncles biologically related to me.

    Also my BMI hasn’t changed from about 27.5 (overweight) but a year ago I coulndt do 10 full sit ups, and now I can do 250. Seems like a stange metric to me.

    • fion says:

      Yeah, I would have enjoyed doing more health-related questions.

    • arlie says:

      BMI is generally known to be a poor indicator. I treat relying on it as a sign of overall bogosity.

      It might be useful in a statistical sense, as a lossy proxy for things that are harder to measure.

      But as soon as I get counselling (e.g. from a company health insurance plan) that “because my BMI is X, I should ….”) I tune out *everything* from that source. It almost certainly means I know more about relevant areas of medicine than the people reading the scripts at me.

      • Nornagest says:

        BMI’s biggest advantage is that it’s easy to measure. It’s not very precise at the best of times. But it’s not that bad, either. It has some well-known flaws — it doesn’t work well on very tall or very short people, and muscle mass is invisible to it — but if you’re reasonably close to average height, not a bodybuilder or pro athlete, and not wheelchair-bound or subject to some other problem that’d make you more than usually sedentary, it’s probably actionable, even on a personal rather than a statistical level.

  77. b_jonas says:

    I really like the addition of the questions about parental age. These have the potential to be useful for Scott investigating birth order effects. I hope Scott has figured out properly what statistics to use in advance, so that he can mesure his pre-committed hypothesis once all the data is in. I would be sad to see such an opportunity wasted by careless practice of mathematics.

    I personally haven’t entered my parents’ ages. I can be identified from the data I entered, and I think that my parent’s age is their sensitive personal details, and I’m more cautious about volunteering anyone else’s personal details without their permission than I am about my own. However, I think that enough readers will give meaningful answers, even restricted to readers who haven’t filled last year’s surveys.

    I have a question. When will the survey close?

  78. I grew up as an Episcopalian which means I was theoretically both Protestant and Catholic. I put down Protestant on the survey, understanding it to mean Roman Catholic.

    My opinion on open plan offices strongly hinges on how far apart the desks are and whether there are meeting rooms that people use. The best office I’ve worked in was open plan with people 20 feet apart and lots of tine soundproofed meeting rooms for chats or taking calls. The worst had people packed in like sardines.

    For the Albion’s seed question half my great-grandparents were born in Europe, another 2 I’m not sure about, 2 were from New England but not really far enough back to be Puritans.

  79. oncomer says:

    Sibling birth order is confused if the respondent is a twin or triplet.

  80. jooyous says:

    Question I’ve always wanted you to ask on a survey: do they have one username that they use over most of their internet presence, or do they make a new username every time? I feel like the answer should correlate somewhat with other psychological phenomena.

    • Nornagest says:

      This is the one I use most widely; it’s for nerdy Internet stuff, broadly defined, and it’s the handle I came up with for the MUD I used to run. For job-related stuff, I just use my name (my surname’s rare enough that I rarely run into namespace collisions with it), and I have a few other handles that I use for smaller niches.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’ve got this low-security one, plus some real-name ones e.g. for work. The existence or nonexistence of any others is not to be disclosed.

    • SamChevre says:

      I have been SamChevre/Sam Chevre on the internet since I had an internet presence. I used my real name in a few contexts years ago, but I have never had another handle.

      I do use different usernames for secure stuff, like insurance and bank-account log-ins.

  81. Charles Kinbote says:

    I like the (imputed) thought behind the Albion’s Seed question but I’m not sure it’s going to work out with anything usable. My background is mixed. Only 1 of my 8 great-grandparents had ancestors in the US before 1850. But that ancestry fits solidly into Fischer’s “Puritan” folkway. Of course, they were Episcopalians by then, as was most of the WASP establishment. And Unitarians before that. But that’s how the Puritan folkway played out. In any case, I chose that option because it was the most salient in my childhood, and the tradition with which I most closely identify. But it’s a judgment call, for sure.

    The majority of people answering the question may come from a similar mixed background. Others will of course answer based on their geography rather than their ancestry. I’m trying to think of categories of modern-day Americans that fit snugly into any of the categories on a purely ancestral basis. Borderers are easiest–because they tend to be more rural, less mobile, and of lower social status, there are plenty of people of pure Borderer ancestry and culture, however it’s transmuted on its way to 2018.

    Puritans: Mormons, Swamp Yankees (i.e., Mainers), the rare Northeastern/West coast establishmentarian who hasn’t intermarried.

    I don’t think you’re going to get much for Quakers and Cavaliers, but I could be wrong. Many newly middle class Southerners adopted a sort of Cavalier identity. But the Tidewater planter class was so small that it’s unlikely many people alive today are purely or even mostly descended from that group. It’s more something people lay claim to.

    • bullseye says:

      The Cavaliers didn’t come alone; they brought servants, and those servants were most of the white population of Cavalier country. Maybe the question should have been clear about whether the servants should be lumped in with their masters.

      Either way, my answer is Other/Mixed. My mother is about half Borderer and half Cavaliers’ servants, plus a little Quaker and a little non-British. My father is entirely non-British.

      • Charles Kinbote says:

        That’s a good point. I couldn’t remember if Fischer lumped the servants in with their masters, but it’d make sense they’d mimic the culture. I’d guess they’re often difficult to disentangle from other southern groups, especially in the Piedmont and Tennessee, where they tended to mingle with borderers and the descendants of 18th-century German immigrants (a very influential group Fischer doesn’t account for). The average southerner today is probably some mix of those three groups.

  82. Acedia says:

    Political alignment question really needs an option for socially conservative + fiscally leftist. There are a lot of us.

  83. danjelski says:

    I’m half German-Jewish and half Swedish-Lutheran.

    My daughter is half Filipino-Catholic, one-quarter German-Jewish and one quarter Swedish-Lutheran.

    My grandson is half Korean-Presbyterian, one-quarter Filipino-Catholic, one-eighth German-Jewish, and one-eighth Swedish-Lutheran.

    As my grandson comes of age, I shall have to instruct him on how to answer Scott’s questions. Please advise.

  84. Matt says:

    Oops. Accidentally clicked the last (other – definitely some SSRI) option on the first SSRI question when I’ve never taken any SSRIs. Maybe that should be obvious since I skipped all the other SSRI questions.

  85. Reasoner says:

    Like last year, I chose “N, for example Singapore: prosperity, technology, and stability more important than democratic process” as my political orientation. However, I don’t really consider myself a N. I do think prosperity, technology, and stability are more important than democratic process, but I’m not sure we have a good way of reliably achieving them outside of democratic process. I went ahead and selected “N” because Scott indicated that just viewing them as more important was a sufficient condition for the label.

    Prosperity, technology, and stability are terminal goals. Democratic process is at best an instrumental one, in my opinion.

  86. Mark V Anderson says:

    I was really happy to see the sub-questions about libertarians. I have long thought that hard core libertarians that strongly follow the NAP and believe in very little government are only about 5-10% of those that label themselves as leaning libertarian. I will be very curious to see the results for this. Also the communist/socialist sub-questions looked interesting, although I have no priors on how those will turn out.

    I did think that the response of social democrat to the main political spectrum quiz wasn’t quite right, because it described Scandinavian countries as highly regulated market economies. The latest I’ve heard is that Scandinavian economies are mostly LESS regulated than the US economy, but simply more highly taxed. I suppose this is a minor thing, as it pretty much gets to the folks who do want a more regulated economy, as well as though who want a bigger government, since generally those are the same people.

    • orangecat says:

      Yeah. I chose “Libertarian” but that’s not quite right; I wanted an option like “lightly regulated markets to maximize wealth generation, with some redistribution so that everyone has their basic needs met”.

    • Guy in TN says:

      If you are thinking of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, there are some strong reasons not to take it too seriously. The only criteria it measures are related to the cost and time of constructing, opening, and closing a business, and obtaining electricity. That’s it.

      Things it doesn’t measure include: occupational safety regulation, labor regulation, environmental regulation, consumer product regulation, or taxation in general (which most people, I think, would consider a “regulation” on free trade).

      • enoriverbend says:

        For details on what the Heritage Foundation’s index covers, see here:

        It’s more than Guy in TN says, at the very least.

      • Guy in TN says:

        I should clarify, that I meant to refer to what the index measures in regards to their regulation section (which was Mark V Anderson’s claim), not what the index measures as “Economic Freedom” in general (which includes things like “government corruption”, rather outside the scope of the question IMO).

        I retract that they do not include some labor laws and taxation in their analysis. This was my mistake.

        Still, much is missing (environmental law, consumer law, union law), and irrelevant material is included (e.g. public trust in politicians, judicial independence).

  87. eliza says:

    I am from Eastern Europe and that was the first time anyone asked me about my race.

    While taking the survey, before I could give “correct” and rational answer, all collective emotions take control and I checked “other”. Maybe there are races, but I listened carefully when my grandma told me about her life in times of the II world war and about all the deeds of that übermensch folk, and I simply don’t want to consider myself as a member of some race, especially so-called white race, since as I probably have as much slavic as jewish as tatar blood, and, to put it simple, I suppose that great majority of my ancestors, especially from last milion years, were all humans. But that’s only my impressions, I acknowledge that in medicine and in psychiatry there is a reason for asking about that, but I think it is also good to always give some opposition and protest against any shade of suggestion that there is some kind of important divide between us on the basis of birth.

    Love you all, you semi rational naked apes! Thanks for your work, Scott.

    • L. says:

      Whether you acknowledge it or not, and regardless of what nature do you think it is, the divide is there and choosing to voice your protest in an honest attempt to gather data is a dick move.

  88. tristram says:

    The USSR question is inadequate, to give you an idea why:

    “If someone said they believed that the Russian Revolution had been defeated in 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, or 1936, or 1953, one had a pretty good sense of what they would think on just about every other political question in the world: the nature of the Soviet Union, of China, the nature of the world CPs, the nature of Social Democracy, the nature of trade unions, the United Front, the Popular Front, national liberation movements, aesthetics and philosophy, the relationship of party and class, the significance of soviets and workers’ councils, and whether Luxemburg or Bukharin was right about imperialism.”

  89. Pingback: Rational Newsletter | Issue #40

  90. Fossegrimen says:

    I want the atheist option on the ancestral religion question too. I live in a nominally protestant country so I would assume that at some point in history there would have been a protestant ancestor (and I checked that box), but the oldest person I have met (my great granddad, born 1887) was a definite atheist.
    Given the rationalist community’s view on rebellion against religion, I would think that atheist-by-default is a relevant position.

  91. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I was thinking about BMI as pretty useless as a measure of health, and I was wondering what health means and whether there’s any good way to capture something like health in a reasonably small number of questions.

    Tentative categories: Energy level, amount of pain. Need for medical maintenance, effectiveness of medical maintenance. What else?

    • soreff says:

      Tentative categories: Energy level, amount of pain. Need for medical maintenance, effectiveness of medical maintenance. What else?

      Good categories!

      One other general class of damage to health that is orthogonal to these
      are body subsystems that have outright failed, but aren’t life-critical,
      and aren’t causing pain. E.g. blindness, amputations…

    • SamChevre says:

      There’s a trade-off between easy to measure and valuable.

      Probably the best measure of general health/fitness is VO2max–how much oxygen your body can absorb and use. It is not easy to measure accurately, although there are reasonable estimations techniques.

      At the low end, the tests for frailty are very useful: a good list is on page 15 of this paper from the SOA.

  92. Anthony says:

    Before I’ve read any of the other comments, suggested changes, for next time:

    Since you’re asking US state as a write-in, ask non-USians their province/department/Land/etc.

    Race: There’s identification and there’s biology. I’m 1/8 Native American, and my mother is from Latin America, but for all intents and purposes, I’m white, not hispanic. Perhaps a separate question for racial composition, perhaps only if you’ve done 23andMe or similar, where you can check multiple boxes?

    For bisexuals and homosexuals, an “are you closeted” type of question?

    Religious background should allow multiple choices for people of mixed backgrounds. (My background is Catholic and Orthodox. There are probably many Jewish and something else among your readers.)

    SAT – when did you take it? This could be three buckets for the two big renormings.

    Autism – include an estimate of severity. Maybe also for the other mental health issues? (Alcoholism has some interesting categories.)

    Romance/Sex life -perhaps split by same gender vs opposite gender parnters, etc? Especially in conjunction with the previously suggested “cloested” question.

    Dates/Sex – With current partner, or your typical experience, how many dates before sex? (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, many)

    Polyamory – are you in more than one current ongoing relationship (this is not quite the same as “stable polycule”.)? If so, all the questions about current/primary relationship for secondary partner.

    Gender bias work: add question: Do you think people of the opposite gender to you at your workplace are taken less seriously or otherwise less-well-treated because of their gender?

  93. everythingisoptional says:

    “Quit for UBI” should have an option for “Yes, I would quit and switch to a different job”. This is what I would have answered (in my case, I would switch to a lower-pay, higher-fun job), but instead I just answered maybe.

  94. Ryan Beren says:

    My answers probably look inconsistent:
    * I chose “unemployed” since I’m not currently working-for-pay and not currently anyone’s employee. But I do have a boss and coworkers, and answered correspondingly for those.
    * Similarly I reported a very low individual income, but also that I’m financially secure — because of my spouse’s income). Maybe edit future questions to specify individual income versus shared household income.

  95. brad says:

    Thanks for not including those optical illusion questions this year!

  96. Dan L says:

    Financial success is…
    [1-5 scale]

    Really disappointed to see this question formatted this way, when Scott’s the one who wrote my preferred answer to it (5.2.1).