SELF-RECOMMENDING!

SSC Survey Results 2019

Thanks to the 8,171 people who took the 2019 Slate Star Codex survey. Some of the links below will say 13,171 people took the survey, but that’s a bug – sometimes Google just adds 5,000 to things. You can:

See the questions for the SSC survey.

See the results from the SSC survey.

I’ll be publishing more complicated analyses over the course of the next year, hopefully starting later this week.

If you want to scoop me, or investigate the data yourself, you can download the answers of the 7000 people who agreed to have their responses shared publicly. The public datasets will not exactly match the full version, nor will they include some of the sensitive sections like illegal drug use and sexual partners.

Download the public data (.xlsx, .ods)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

346 Responses to SSC Survey Results 2019

  1. Missy18 says:

    Hello. I’ve read this site for years. I’ve never commented before, and never will again.

    I’m a transgender woman — a fact I usually prefer not to emphasize — and I’ve spent the last day thinking over what your survey results on this issue mean for me. So 1/3 of you are accepting, 1/6 of you are transphobic, and half of you are on the fence. But virtually all of you who aren’t really accepting are going to hide it in public. I think you’re probably a pretty good proxy for the attitudes of the broader rationalist community.

    Being unable to trust 2 out of 3 people in a community is a complete dealbreaker. I’m ceasing all public identification as a rationalist. I’ve spent time among the social justice left, and as a nerd I find them as frustrating as you do — but this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt which team I should play on. Social justice people are far from perfect, and some of them are also hiding transphobic or semi-transphobic attitudes. But I think I can pick out which ones, and they’re a minority. It’s not even close.

    What I’ve been pondering all day is why the seemingly more rational “Grey Tribe” of educated people should do much worse than the seemingly less rational “Blue Tribe”. But then I remember greater rationalist society has a fetish for aiming off the mark on all these social justice issues, going out of its way to jump to the most conservative possible position within the range of scientific possibility with an attraction that doesn’t make epistemological sense. The way the New Atheist intellectuals have massively obvious white guy biases of which they are absurdly self-unaware. Skeptic community sexism is a public scandal.

    The conclusion I’ve come to is that “the rationalist community” is not actually Team Reason. I’ve tended to look down on more emotionally reasoning people, and I’ve decided today that’s been a very serious mistake on my part. If they’re reliably outperforming “rationalists” on consequential issues, then they’re doing something right *as reasoners*. I think that thing is emotional introspection, a habit of listening to others, skill at perceiving the world from multiple perspectives, and an appreciation of how much one’s motives and experiences influence one’s framing.

    I often find myself in situations where I have to make snap judgments on people on limited evidence as a matter of personal safety. I learned awhile ago that when my conscious reasoning says everything is fine, but instincts say it’s not, my instincts are right Every. Single. Time. The “rationalist community” is like people whose rationality consists of cutting off your instincts *on principle*, except with other people’s safety on the line rather than your own.

    This is not particularly surprising human behavior. If the Blue Tribe’s blindness is an inability to see reality objectively through the dazzling halo of its shared morality, the Grey Tribe has the same problem with the glare of its own pure “reason”. To my mind, a basic lesson of human nature is to assume at least half of all high-minded proclamations are cover for biological and social survival. It’s obvious looking at other people. Rationality requires learning to see it in oneself.

    So, Scott, sincere thanks for publishing these statistics. It is better to know in advance which people will hurt you. You’ve changed my life, if likely not the way you intended.

    • Secretly French says:

      I am utterly disinterested in this matter, being neither trans nor identifying as a rationalist (and not even having completed the quiz), but I am quite arrested by the conclusion that someone can’t be trusted, and further will hurt you, based on their answer to the extraordinarily vague question of what they think transgender people are “deep down”. In fact the more I think about it the less the question makes sense, in the context of a rationalist blog like this one. It feels like a transparent compliance test: a question technically devoid of content but with a clear pious answer and heretical answer. Perhaps I’m overthinking it; maybe that’s all it’s supposed to be? I wouldn’t betray the trust of, or hurt, any of my friends who disagree with me on big culture-war questions, and I wouldn’t change my ideological beliefs to fit in with people who personally accepted me either. Maybe I can say that only because of my privileged position as a heterosexual cis-gendered native European man. In fact, since it is an explicit tenet of their political ideology, I’d say that the social justice left would obviously score much better than us on this question, only because they’re better primed to give the correct answer – and emphatically not because they’re any more likely to be trustworthy to, or loath to hurt, a transgendered friend – and indeed, in my personal experience, the SJ left are savage sadists whereas rationalists are meek intellectual types, so I know who I’d trust to handle a minority with the proper grace.

      I don’t want the conclusion here to be that we need to start lying in public to keep people on-side. Please crucify me now for my false assumptions, my crass ignorance, and my unchecked privilege.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      VERY IMPORTANT!!! PER SCOTT GOOGLE ADDS ~5,000 TO RANDOM VARIABLES. LOOK AT THE RAW DATA BEFORE DRAWING A CONCLUSION!!!

      ———————–
      I answered “it’s complicated” to question 1, and “treat them as they like to be treated” to question 2.

      I am not a rationalist.
      I am a leftist.
      Gender is a social construct, and I’m asocial.
      Sex is a biological, biochemical, and/or physical construct.
      I prefer to use He, She, and They to refer to sex instead of gender, since I’m asocial and have a profound problem with the concept of “gender” in general. I have absolutely zero problem using these sex terms for transsexuals as well as those born either sex or intersexed.
      All that said I do not want to be callously cruel to others, so will try to treat them as they want to be treated, regardless of who they are. I’d even give Trump a hug. (I used to have an author autographed copy of Dead Man Walking – we are all fallible humans)

      Take that for what’s it’s worth. I’m only about 0.012% of the answer.

    • John Schilling says:

      Being unable to trust 2 out of 3 people in a community is a complete dealbreaker.

      This is too vague to be useful. What is it that you need to trust us to do, exactly?

      If you need to e.g. trust us not to attack or ridicule you in social settings, then there’s at least 5/6ths of us who will do that, and probably a fair number of the transphobes who will at least be civil about it. If you need us to uncritically accept any extraordinary claim you make just because you are a member of the community the claim is being made about, then that probably only does get you to 1/3. If it’s something in between, and that’s really where all the interesting possibilities lie, then I don’t think the questions in Scott’s survey are sufficiently precise to pin that down.

  2. some fairy says:

    Are there any interesting differences between public and private respondents?

  3. Joshua Hedlund says:

    There have been some claims that“Generation Z” is the most “conservative” generation in X decades, which has been enthusiastically highlighted by some conservatives as a natural reaction by the younger generation to recent excesses of liberalism in the culture. I’m skeptical that the evidence for such claims is very strong. I would be interested in what if anything the SSC Survey data shows – It should be easy to plot results by age among any number of survey questions (including but not limited to the direct political axis question) that might yield interesting results.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I actually do suspect that in America, white Gen Z is in fact substantially more conservative than the prior generations, because whites have been becoming more conservative every generation due to the selection effect of conservatives having more kids.

      The counter-effect of education making you more liberal isn’t nearly as strong as that base rate increase.

      • Jesse E says:

        Except this isn’t true at all – the most liberal contingent of white voters are liberal ones.

        Hell, white 18-29 years old, which include yes, a lot of Millennial, also more and more members of Generation Z (especially as older Millennials such as myself age out), shifted from D+1 in 2016 to D+22 in 2018 and every bit of issue polling shows the liberal results coming from the youths (https://medium.com/@yghitza_48326/what-happened-last-tuesday-part-2-who-did-they-vote-for-e3a2a63a5ef2).

        Yes, there are still conservative people who are young. Indeed, they are popular enough to make people money on Patreon, give you a best seller book, and even give you a healthy amount of Youtube subscribers.

        But what people forget is the matter of scale – the truth is, for every 15 year old gamer turned right because of an anti-SJW Youtube page, there are a couple of 15 year old girls in Nebraska turned left by a black lesbian makeup blogger with 10x the subscribers of that anti-SJW Youtuber.

        Also, in general, teenage males are terrible people, apt to say terrible things, then back off those terrible things shortly afterward. There are a ton of people I know from high school who had no issues using gay slurs during middle school and high school who turned their Facebook profile rainbow when the gay marriage decision came down or ya’ know, later on, turned out to be gay themselves.

        Don’t depend on any opinions a 14 year olds have. You’ll end up with egg on your face.

        Again, I’m not even arguing the GOP or conservatism is doomed. But, I’m arguing that Gen Z is this secret conservative generation because of some odd polling questions and some popular Youtubers.

        • EchoChaos says:

          > Except this isn’t true at all – the most liberal contingent of white voters are liberal ones.

          I’m not sure exactly what you mean there.

          > Hell, white 18-29 years old, which include yes, a lot of Millennial, also more and more members of Generation Z (especially as older Millennials such as myself age out), shifted from D+1 in 2016 to D+22 in 2018 and every bit of issue polling shows the liberal results coming from the youths (https://medium.com/@yghitza_48326/what-happened-last-tuesday-part-2-who-did-they-vote-for-e3a2a63a5ef2).

          That poll just shows that young white voter percentage cratered in 2 years (9% of the electorate to 6%), but shifted 26 points to Democrat. That’s every bit as consistent with young conservatives not showing up as a generation suddenly going liberal. The big gains for Democrats in that polls are in the 30-45 range, which is late Gen X and Millennial.

          And again, I am not arguing there aren’t liberal Gen Z, and certainly all people get more conservative as they age, just pointing out a trend I’ve noticed.

          • Jesse E says:

            “I’m not sure exactly what you mean there.”

            When doing issue polling of white people, the most liberal results, especially on social issues, come from young white people. Again, outside of Twitter and Reddit, the vast majority of young white kids are pretty liberal on social issues, even immigration and other SJW things.

            “That poll just shows that young white voter percentage cratered in 2 years (9% of the electorate to 6%), but shifted 26 points to Democrat. ”

            This is nothing personal, but this is what happens when people who don’t know much about voter turnout opine on it.

            Voting numbers didn’t crash – the midterm vote in 2018 was indeed, higher than in decades for a midterm (https://www.npr.org/2018/11/08/665197690/a-boatload-of-ballots-midterm-voter-turnout-hit-50-year-high), and in general, younger voter turnout during midterms is usually even lower than it was this year.

            “And again, I am not arguing there aren’t liberal Gen Z, and certainly all people get more conservative as they age, just pointing out a trend I’ve noticed.”

            This also isn’t true – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/08/upshot/how-the-year-you-were-born-influences-your-politics.html

            Basically, the political times of your teenage and young adult years lock in your political ideas. I can’t find the study because I’m bad at Google searching, but basically if you vote for a party three times in that time period, you’re locked into that party.

            What’s happened recently isn’t that older people suddenly became more conservative. What happened is old people who grew up voting for FDR & Truman died off and were replaced by old people who voted for Nixon and Reagan. After all, if you were 30 in 1980, a fresh faced conservative voting for Ronnie, you’re 68 now.

    • Jesse E says:

      Putting aside the fact that SSC does not equal the general population, there is no evidence that Gen Z is conservative at all, aside from some weird polling questions (“kids like tattoos less then Millennials, so secret conservatives?”), and the recent 2018 midterms should show that more than anything else.

      • Plumber says:

        @Jesse E,

        I’d argue that polling data indicating that “Generation Z” is more conservative but voted for Democrats in 2018 just reflects that it is less white than previous generations.

        Being more conservative on social issues than whites on average yet voting for Democrats is consistent with older non-whites.

        The “Populist” (economic Left, social Right) posirion isn’t just non-college educated whites who vote Republican, non-whites tend to just put more stress on the economic axis (as more whites did in 2008) and vote Democratic Party.

        A four party system would show this clearly.

        • Jesse E says:

          Except, polling of younger non-white people show them just as, or even more liberal than younger white liberals, especially on newer social issues like BLM, immigration, etc.

          Yes, there are still old black grandmas and abuelas who are uncomfortable with gay people, but hate cuts to Medicaid more, but your average 30 year old African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic-American who votes Democrat has similar views on abortion, gay marriage, etc. than white 30 year olds.

          I agree, a four party system would show there’s a big taste for social conservatism with economic liberalism, but all the young voters of color would still largely vote for the socially and economically liberal party, even if their Grandpa might vote for the economically liberal and socially conservative party, if that party could become not racist.

          • Plumber says:

            @Jesse E

            “…..if that party could become not racist”

            Sadly it really does seem that the trend for the last fifty years is for the racial divide to be a partisan divide.

            I’d love to see a pan-racial repeat of the New Deal coalition but that doesn’t look likely.

  4. sentientbeings says:

    The SAT question (following IQ) appears to have turned out badly for the verbal/reading part. The question mentioned that the old section had been replaced by a new one, but what it didn’t mention was that the old verbal section was actually split into two parts (with one being more like the old test and better for comparison). I think some people (myself included) interpreted the phrasing as wanting only the new part that was the closer analogue, for the sake of comparing scores on the total 1600 scale. Others clearly listed the combined score (and some, bizarrely, seem to have included their math score in verbal section as well).

    The data might be salvageable since there will probably be a big gap right above 800 and the next score (in conjunction with expectation of high scores for SSC readers) but it will definitely be worth modifying the question in future surveys.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      There should have been a question about which SAT you took.

      • Plumber says:

        Oh that’s easy:

        Neither.

        Nor have I taken the ACT.

        I did take the free PSAT in 1984 or ’85 and IIRC my “verbal” score was higher than my “math” score, but what the exact numbers were I have no idea.

        Ironically my ability to do arithmetic quickly is what allowed me to pass the test to become an apprentice plumber in ’98 (plus some spatial relations, “mechanical aptitude”, and extremely basic physics test, i.e. “If this spins does the rope go up or down”) A kick count of how many others were in the auditorium told me that there were 250 to 300 taking the test with me, 40 of us got in.

    • johnmarkos says:

      People my age got different scores on the SAT, before the 1994 re-centering, when the median performance on each subtest was reset to 500. Because of this change, our scores are lower than the equivalent performance in the modern SAT. Before some time in the 1970s, I think the SAT was different from that version, too, but I don’t know the details.

  5. aashiq says:

    The advanced math vs corn correlation seems like bunk.

    Here are the results. I filtered out blanks. For the combinations, the second number is the expected proportion if math and corn are independent, ie P(analysis, spiral) = p(analysis) * p(spiral). The last number is the difference of the first two.

    Analysis: 39.1%
    Spiral: 35.9%
    Analysis/Spiral: 13.5% / 14% / -0.5%
    Analysis/Line: 25.5% / 25.1% / 0.4%
    Algebra/Spiral: 22.3% / 21.8% / 0.5%
    Algebra/Line: 38.7% / 39.1% / -0.4%

    The empirical results are very close to the independence assumption.

  6. Mark V Anderson says:

    Thank you Scott for the exciting new database!

    I said before I was very interested in the response to the breakdown of libertarianism. As I recall, my estimate of hard core libertarians is 10-20% of those who call them libertarians or lean libertarian in your average poll. So I figured this survey would be useful.

    First of all, I was a bit annoyed that >2000 people that did NOT identify themselves as libertarians answered the question of what kind of libertarian they are! I guess this measures something, but not the libertarian breakdown. So if you saw Scott’s pie chart on this you can ignore it, because 2000 people don’t belong in the survey.

    Luckily Scott provided the data itself, so I can just look at those who declared themselves as leaning towards libertarianism. That was 1561 people. This is the breakdown by type:
    Anarcho capitalism: 149 folks 10%
    Night watchman state: 371 folks 24%
    Status quo light: 913 folks 58%
    Not sure or blank: 128 folks 8%

    I think I can take this as kind of confirmation of my theory. Although I do think the first two categories are pretty hardcore, and that makes up 34%. But I do expect SSC to have a higher proportion of hard core libertarians than the general public, because the hard core ones like to argue more. 🙂 A lot of those leaning libertarian in the general public don’t really think about it too much, but vaguely agree that less government would be better. The 34% is still a bit higher than I expected, but I think I am pretty confirmed that at least a majority of libertarians are not looking for a much reduced state, just a slightly reduced one. Status quo lite, as Scott described it. OF course it is greatly up for interpretation what that means, but it is a start.

    • 10240 says:

      but I think I am pretty confirmed that at least a majority of libertarians are not looking for a much reduced state, just a slightly reduced one.

      That’s somewhat an overstatement. There is a lot of room between a small reduction and a night watchman state. All the year-to-year budgetary changes that often cause so much commotion rarely amount to more than a few percents of the GDP. Likewise, much political debate is about a few specific functions of the government, while countless others are assumed as a given and not debated. Reducing government spending in half (say, from 40% to 20%), and likewise eliminating half of the responsibilities of the government (by whatever metric) would be an enormous change — yet the result would still be way more than a night watchman state.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I included night watchman state in hardcore, that’s why I came up with 34%. The status quo light is easily a majority in SSC, and I think SSC will tend to have a higher percentage of hardcores.

        Yes, one cannot tell from the survey what level of state reduction is desired. I think it’s useful just knowing the people that want enough reduction that they consider themselves leaning libertarian. My guess is that would be at least a 10% reduction, probably 20%.

        • Plumber says:

          @Mark V Anderson

          “…one cannot tell from the survey what level of state reduction is desired”

          Well personally I don’t want any reduction in the number of public servants at all, I want more! 

          But mostly more at the municipal and county level.

          Except for checks written to old people, their physicians and nursing homes, the Coast Guard, and overseas military bases, there just isn’t much Federal government left, the big public works projects of the 20th century are no more, and the nearby Army and Navy bases were shuttered in the ’90’s, the State of California already runs the “Obamacare” exchanges, there’s Medi-Cal instead of Medi-Caid, and Cal-OSHA instead of the Feds, I’m not sure what the role of the Federal government is anymore, it seems to have dissolved itself. 

          Let the counties have the political independence that the States now have (why not, Los Angeles and San Francisco Counties both have more people than many States “back east”), and have municipalities be the “laboratories of democracy”.

          One of the joys of moving to a small town was having a city council canidates come to my door and ask me what I want government to do.

          That was awesome!

          Sacramento and especially D.C. are way too remote.

          I want more democracy, and I want it close at hand.

          • quaelegit says:

            Er, SF County itself (which is contiguous with the city) is only 880k — that’s more than 5 states and DC, but those 5 states are Montana, Dakotas, Wyoming, Alaska — not really what I’d call “back East” (although I guess except for Alaska they are further east than CA).

            Three bay area counties are in the 1~2million range (Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa) which are more populous than about 10 states.

    • Roxolan says:

      >2000 people that did NOT identify themselves as libertarians answered the question of what kind of libertarian they are!

      The identity question was “With which of these political descriptions do you most identify?”

      The libertarian questions were preceded with the disclaimers “please answer either if you identified as a libertarian on the earlier political ID question, or if you feel like you are libertarian enough that the question applies to you. Err on the side of answering” and “Please answer if you identify as at least somewhat libertarian”

      The discrepancy is as intended.

    • Urstoff says:

      I answered “Status quo light” because there was no option “I’m not sure, but reduce incrementally until satisfied”.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Thanks for doing this analysis – I was annoyed when I saw the pie chart because the “status quo lite” description is, uh, without trying getting into an argument with anybody, not particularly libertarian. It seemed to me (based on the very high percentage choosing that category) that something was off.

      Your breakdown makes more sense.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        The question is whether one is libertarian or LEANS libertarian. Leaning is what describes me. I think if we greatly simplified government so that voters and government workers alike actually knew what the government was doing, we would have a much more effective government, and a higher quality society. But I don’t believe in the NAP or that it will work to limit the government to just cops and an army. I think there is a significant group that more or less agrees with this, even though a long way from a majority. But most of the dialogue about minimalizing the state is from hard core libertarians who literally or close to that believe any government to be immoral. Maybe we need to better word for those who want less government than libertarians, but that’s what we’ve got.

        • sentientbeings says:

          I think I understand your description and though it doesn’t quite match my preferred description, it does convey a sensible interpretation that could make sense with the data from the survey. What bothered me about the raw results (pie chart without your analysis) was that 72.6% seems not to make sense within multiple reasonable interpretation-expectation pairings. That either meant that my expectations were wildly off for a couple interpretations, or the pie chart for the raw data was slightly misleading. Using the responses from the prior question implies the latter (for me).

      • david stone says:

        I’m one of the people who answered the survey question as being libertarian, but categorized myself as “status quo lite”, but I consider myself a dedicated, somewhat extreme libertarian, so I’d like to explain my answer.

        I think there are two philosophies of government that often get mixed together — anarchy and libertarianism — and I differentiate them by their primary goals.

        In my mind, anarchy has a goal of minimizing government, with the most extreme form being no government at all. I do not identify with this group.

        Libertarianism has a goal of maximizing liberty; this is much harder to predict and measure, so it’s no surprise that libertarianism is a big tent. My belief is that liberty can be limited by many sources: government is the source most libertarians focus on most, but monopolies, foreign governments, private citizens, and disease can all do the same. Therefore, reasonable libertarians can disagree on the extent to which we should have anti-trust regulations, military, police, and public healthcare.

        Factored into this is a sort of Chesterton’s fence style argument: the current level of government seems too high overall, but I would feel more comfortable with a gradual reduction so that we don’t accidentally let one of the other factors that can limit liberty grow too powerful, and to give everyone time to adjust (business is harmed by rapidly changing regulations, too). In general, I favor evolutionary change over revolutionary change, so the strongest I can commit to at this time would be “status quo lite”. If we were to reduce the size of federal government by, say, 40%, I would want to reevaluate whether we want to continue reducing. My ideal of maximizing liberty would remain the same (and I would still generally start with the assumption that less government is better), but government can act as a counterbalance to tyranny.

  7. Tenacious D says:

    Something that stood out to me in the results is that some of the responses to the fetish questions were higher than homosexual, trans, poly, and asexual responses. Yet you wouldn’t know it from the relative frequency that these aspects of sexuality are discussed. I wonder how far off these frequencies among SSC readers are from society at large, though?

    • Erl137 says:

      I think the frequencies are probably typical. General population surveys tend to show surprisingly high rates of nearly any fetish you care to ask about.

      Speaking as someone who’s done some organizing & advocacy in these areas, my hypothesis is that what drives public discussion of sexuality and gender topics is not their prevalence, but how the particular behavior relates to publicity.

      So, for example, people with non-heterosexual orientations have to be fairly public in order to integrate their partners into their lives; and similarly, trans folks pretty much have to be out in one way or another to have their gender recognized. On the other hand, if you want to perform some specific sexual fetish, there’s much less to be gained by going public, and it’s also much easier to avoid discussing the matter. I think that consideration changes the behavior of relevant communities, which in turn shapes discourse proportions.

  8. alcoraiden says:

    So the moral of the immigration question, is that people are fine with immigrants so long as they’re A) like them, and B) already skilled labor. Fuck people who need to be educated and are not of your demographic, huh?

    • It is moral to give away your own money but immoral to give away all the money of your neighbor. High class people importing low class people means deciding FOR the poor that they need more competition for jobs and land and that they need to learn to live with alien culture and customs. Why is that right?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is a warning; fewer posts like this, please. Please see comments policy for more detail.

      • alcoraiden says:

        “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates; At the first gate, ask yourself, is is true? At the second gate ask, is it necessary? At the third gate ask, is it kind?”

        I believe my words to be true, and necessary.

        But I will no longer comment here then. I clearly don’t have a good pulse on what you want.

    • Cliff says:

      Is this the same question as “People are fine with hiring employees that are well educated, intelligent and highly qualified. Fuck people who need to be trained, huh?” Or “People are fine with marrying well educated, intelligent people like them. Fuck people who need to be educated and are not of your demographic, huh?”, etc.?

    • Aapje says:

      @alcoraiden

      Other people may not share your view that the best way to help poor people in other nations is to have them migrate to a richer country. It actually seems that the least able to migrate are the lower class in the poorer nations. If you want to help them, you probably have to help them in their birth country.

      Note that migration of adult migrants doesn’t actually tend to result in the education of these migrants, but rather of their children. The adult migrants themselves usually work at shitty jobs requiring little education, often below their ability. They could’ve possibly used those skills in their own country to help it advance (more).

      Now, this is a hard and slow process, although it seems that most second/third world countries are actually advancing at a decent pace.

      PS. I voted less on all immigration questions.

      • 10240 says:

        It actually seems that the least able to migrate are the lower class in the poorer nations.

        That’s in large part because developed countries make it harder to immigrate for the less skilled, though.

        • Aapje says:

          Doubtful.

          Eastern European countries have free migration into Western Europe and yet the least skilled seem least likely to migrate.

          A big reason why migrants tend to outcompete the native least skilled is because the migrants are more skilled than them, yet are willing to work for low wages.

          The least skilled from the poorer nations don’t have this edge.

    • moscanarius says:

      Come on. “I don’t want X here” is not the same as “screw X”.

  9. JohnNV says:

    I was interested in the relationship between what state an American respondent lives in now versus their answer to the Albion’s Seed question, so I did some visualizations. The first thing I noticed is how many people can’t spell their own state, I count 9 separate unique spellings of Massachusetts. I was surprised that people’s heritage maps reasonably to their current state of residence. As a New Englander with strong Virigina/Cavalier roots, I’m realizing that moving regions isn’t as typical as I might have thought.

    The correct spelling of Massachusetts: https://imgur.com/3bme9L9 – mostly Puritans
    New York: https://imgur.com/a/C66UlAL – A balanced mix
    Tennessee: https://imgur.com/k0kB1SX – Almost all borderers

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know how many people really know how Puritan their ancestors were, vs. “I live in Massachussetts and I’m Anglo, must be Puritan.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        My wife has at least one ancestor who the Indians said was “FOB Mayflower”, which is pretty darned Puritan.

      • Plumber says:

        When I first read “Albion’s Seed” I assumed that my non-Austrian, German, Irish, or Polish ancestors must be Borderlanders, but this last year my mom showed my a big chart with a “John Babcock” coming from England to Massachusetts in the 17th century, so I put down Puritan as well.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s not uncommon for Americans to have some pretty comprehensive family trees lying around somewhere, especially in the era of Ancestry.com. Though even there it can be hard to tell — when you’re talking about ancestors at ten generations’ remove, there’s about a thousand of them to keep track of, and current family-tree and genetics software doesn’t make it any easier to sort them out.

        I’ve identified relatively many Puritan and Borderer ancestors in the relevant timeframe (along with a lot more who weren’t seeded from Albion), and relatively few Cavalier or Quaker, but I don’t have a clear idea what the proportions are.

    • EchoChaos says:

      As a Cavalier roots guy myself, I would have put Cavaliers as the most mobile, with perhaps Quakers next?

      My mobility came because my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather were military, so there was a lot of “plant yourself where you end up after the Army is done with you” that happened to us. Military is a more common Cavalier occupation in my head (does this map to reality?), so that makes sense.

    • Betty Cook says:

      How typical is it for Americans to stay in the area they grew up in? For three generations in my family one person has raised a family in the same state she grew up in, all the others moved; at this point my three siblings and I are spread across the four main US time zones, with my mother still where we grew up, halfway between my two sisters. On the other hand, when I lived in New Orleans I knew people who lived in the same district of the city their parents and grandparents lived in, and who expected to die there, and this was common enough that there were regional accents within the city. I’ve always assumed that more people in this country follow my family’s pattern, but I could well be wrong.

      • Plumber says:

        My mother and her mother were born in California where I’ve been for all but a couple of months in my life, all others of my ancestors came from other States or overseas.

        My one sibling moved to the State of Maryland.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        IIRC ~1/3 of Americans live in their childhood hometown, and ~1/2 within a couple hours of it

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      My sister did an ancestry chart back to all 16 great great grandparents. All in the US. States they were born in:
      PA 3
      OH 2
      VA 1
      WV 3 (presumably in what became WV)
      GA 4
      KY 2
      TN 1

      So what am I? Sounds mostly Borderer I suppose?

  10. Godbluff says:

    When compared with the general population, bisexuality (but not homosexuality) is over-represented in SSC by about a factor of 12. Does anyone have an idea why?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Openness? Homosexuality is mostly genetic, but having had some bisexual experiences or thoughts is probably a lot more flexible/cultural.

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        “Homosexuality is mostly genetic”

        I looked into this a few years ago, and at the time I wasn’t able to find any evidence for a genetic hypothesis. Is there some new evidence?

        A priori, it seems rather unlikely, given the fitness disadvantage. However sweet and helpful a homosexual uncle might be, he still only shares a quarter of your genes on your average.

        • Eponymous says:

          It’s not very heritable. Identical twins ~75% discordant.

          • The Big Red Scary says:

            “Identical twins ~75% discordant.”

            Do you mean that if I take a large sample of identical twins, and from that, take the pairs of twins in which at least one is homosexual, then only in about one quarter of those pairs both twins will be homosexual?

            How does that compare to other traits which are believed to have environmental causes? I don’t have an idea for how likely I should expect it to be for both of a pair of twins to be homosexual, under the hypothesis that homosexuality has an environmental cause.

          • Eponymous says:

            P(straight | MZ twin is gay) = 0.75. So yes.

            Since most MZ twins are raised together, this suggests relatively small effect of genes + shared environment.

            Don’t know more details offhand.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yeah this is hard to believe. Do you have a cite?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The Australian twin registry found for males an identical twin concordance of 20% and a fraternal twin concordance of 10%. For females 24 and 18%. (Kinsey 2+) The Swedish registry found 18 and 11% for males and 22 and 17% for females.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It’s important to recognize that monozygotic twins are not duplicates in two ways:

            1) It depends on when and how the zygote divides. A zygote always divides relatively early in gestation, but A) there’s still a lot of variability within this brief window, and B) this division does not equally divide the maternal and zygote constituents within the cells (e.g. mRNA), and the later the division occurs the more laterally fixed traits can be (see Dionne Quintuplets “All but Émilie were later discovered to be right-handed and all but Marie had a counter-clockwise whorl in their hair.”).

            2) Neurons change like mad.

          • Lambert says:

            > I take a large sample of identical twins, and from that, take the pairs of twins in which at least one is homosexual, then only in about one quarter of those pairs both twins will be homosexual?

            > P(straight | MZ twin is gay) = 0.75. So yes.

            I don’t think they’re equivalent.
            A gay twin and a straight twin is one gay person with a non-gay twin.
            Two gay twins is two gay people each with a gay twin.
            So one must be very careful about whether you’re counting pairs or people, lest gay twins get double or half counted.

          • Eponymous says:

            @Lambert

            You’re right. P(straight|gay twin) = d/(d+2*c) where c is # concordant pairs, and d is # discordant. So if 25% of pairs are concordant, then P(straight|gay twin) = 0.6, not 0.75.

      • L. says:

        I have long suspected – based on the abnormal number of bisexuals a in wide variety of sexual fringe groups – that bisexuality isn’t actually a sexual orientation in the same way that homosexuality or heterosexuality are, but is in fact an absence of one; an extreme openness in the sexual realm.
        So far I have seen statistics where bisexuality was overrepresented in everything from furries, to BDSM, to zoophilia, to bestiality, to pedophilia, to sex crimes in general.

      • rm0 says:

        I’d agree with this – I think there is a significant number of people who are “straight by default” and haven’t explored their feelings for one reason or another, and the ssc survey-takers are less influenced by these factors.

        • Statismagician says:

          Are you aware of any rigorous attempts at teasing this out?

          • rm0 says:

            This article aggregates a few statistics that support my hypothesis:

            Among young people aged between 16 and 24, 1.8% said they identified as bisexual – exceeding, for the first time, the 1.5% who identified as lesbian or gay. In total 3.3% of young people identified as LGB, a significantly higher proportion than the 1.7% of the general population who identified as such. (Just 0.6% of the over-65s did).

            This much is made clear by the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL), which has taken place every ten years since 1990 and is perhaps the most detailed picture we have of what people do (or don’t do) in bed. It suggests that the number of people who report same-sex experience is much higher than the number of people who identify as gay or bisexual.

            Laud Humphreys’ infamous 1970 book Tearoom Trade, a highly controversial ethnographic study of anonymous sex between men in public toilets, showed us that plenty of people who seek out and engage in same-sex sexual contact do not necessarily identify as exclusively gay or even bisexual – in fact, only a small minority of his respondents did.

            So there are more people identifying as bisexual than gay, while this did not used to be the case, and there are a bunch of people who aren’t Kinsey 0s identifying as straight.

            Anecdotal evidence: I interviewed a bunch of queer people in gay bars in China, and several of them said that there were not very many bisexual people, because of the stigma attached to same sex attraction. If you can pass as straight, why wouldn’t you? (There’s also a fascinating component that people are expected to have kids and continue the family, and that’s much easier with an opposite sex partner.)

    • Evan Þ says:

      It might also be significant that there was a prominent LW posts some time back about “bi-hacking,” intentionally making oneself bisexual (or at least trying to). IIRC Scott referenced it favorably in a few old posts, and a few commenters said they’d done it.

      • Statismagician says:

        As a potential-mate-supply hack?

      • Eponymous says:

        Huh. Another “other peoples’ psychologies are weirder than I thought” item to add to the list I guess.

        • Indeed. And how much would you bet those same kind of people would insist that gay conversion therapy can never ever ever work?

          I’d be interested to see the results of a survey on actual sexual behavior. How many of these bisexual men have actually slept with a man, as opposed to merely “appropriating” the identity? Sure, they might just be too shy or ugly, but I’d bet for a lot of them it’s just motivated reasoning; they’d never actually do it.

          • 10240 says:

            I’d be interested to see the results of a survey on actual sexual behavior. How many of these bisexual men have actually slept with a man, as opposed to merely “appropriating” the identity?

            Not many. I don’t know if, out of those who haven’t, any have actually “appropriated the identity” as you suggest.

        • ilikekittycat says:

          This may be the first time I’ve seen someone accuse people labelling themselves bisexuals of being secret straights that just can’t come to terms with what they really are.

          • Aapje says:

            Welcome to the weird part of the Internet 😛

          • quanta413 says:

            I think I’ve gotten comments both ways in real life. Both that I’m definitely totally heterosexual or actually in the closet but the door is open and everyone is looking.

            Whatever I am, in practice it’s easier to act straight than bi socially. But there were a couple years in college where I was in a social group where I felt comfortable acting on my attraction to men. It’s definitely much weaker than my attraction to women though.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’ve heard it before online.

    • caryatis says:

      People who identified as bisexual: how do you define it?

      • Roxolan says:

        I went with the “would 4chan call you gay” test, i.e. “do you encounter wo/men you find sexually attractive, have you enjoyed homosexual pornography or fantasies, do you feel at least neutral about the idea of performing homosexual acts”.

        I agree with Alexander Turok that this is a much lower bar than “have you actually slept with a wo/man, are you interested in doing so in the near future”. Tabooing the word “bisexual” would probably solve a fair number of pointless arguments.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      So far as I know, this is an Internet thing, not an SSC thing. See for instance this post on /r/SampleSize, which I found by going through their most popular posts and taking the first that asked about sexuality – a little over twice as many respondents were bi as were gay.

      My guess is that internet surveys accurately reflect the distribution in first-world liberal democracies, but IRL surveys of the general population sample from people without as much familiarity or who don’t know that being bisexual is a thing or don’t want to say such things to the person asking these questions and so round off to straight.

      I would bet at 95% odds that figures like 0.7% bisexual quoted in surveys like this are wildly off, and that more careful studies with better questions or information provided to survey-takers would see significant increases in that figure.

  11. Fakjbf says:

    Why is “Hawaii” a potential answer to Age?

    • Statismagician says:

      Kabbalistic reasons.

      • Lambert says:

        An online gematrion calculator gave Hawaii as 928 in Hebrew, which is pretty close to the 930 years of Adam’s life.
        But obviously internet kabbalah calculators tend not to care about the intricacies of Hebrew-Polynesian transliteration. I’m sure you could fiddle with it to get 930.
        Not sure where the best place to find out about rendering Polynesian place names in Hebrew orthography is, but the old Maori printing press at the catholic mission on the Bay of Islands is probably not a bad place to start.
        (Polynesian languages are probably some of the least suited to abjads, so good luck with that.)

        • Plumber says:

          @Lambert

          “An online gematrion calculator gave Hawaii as 928 in Hebrew, which is pretty close to the 930 years of Adam’s life”…

          I nominate this as best comment of the thread so far.

          • Lambert says:

            Thanks.
            In all seriousness, the mission is a nice little museum.

            Lots of different aspects to its history:
            The Order of Mary and their mission in the South Pacific,
            Russel, the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific’, a town of vice outside the laws of Maori and European alike
            The… somewhat less than Christian… interactions between the Marists and the Methodist mission.
            The industrial activities of the site: tanning, printing and bookbinding. The curator actually led us through the printing of a sheet of paper using a traditional printing press.
            The cultural significance of the printing press there during the time it was owned by the Maori Kingi and used to print Maori-language newspapers.

    • Aapje says:

      Especially since the Islands are between 28 million and 400,000 years old. Which one is it?!

  12. fr8train_ssc says:

    Prevalence of Major Depressive Episode Among Adults. … An estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.

    NIMH Major Depression Statistics

    Apparently an SSC survey-taker is 2.5x more likely to have a depression related disorder than a random American.

    Scott does has some psychiatry/mindhacking resources in the side-bar (Dr. Baur and Beeminder for example) as well as the usual fortnightly to monthly post analyzing various neurological/psychological pathologies and science.

    However maybe it’d be beneficial to readers to have the “Year 20XX Anxiety and Depression Resource Post,” considering so many people here either do have a diagnosis of those problems or think they could. At least more than the occasional “Hi, I’d like referrals” that sometimes happens during Open Threads.

  13. sty_silver says:

    Is there any way to replace pie charts with bar charts as the default visualization? Pie charts are superior in conveying information in about 0% of cases. At best they’re almost on the same level, like if there are only two possible answers. Otherwise, they’re worse. Often they’re much worse.

    • woah77 says:

      [Depicted: a pie chart of a single color]
      Legend: times when a pie chart is superior to a bar graph (some other color)
      Times when a bar graph is superior (aforementioned first color)

    • caryatis says:

      I actually skipped all the bar charts and just looked at pie charts. I find it a lot easier to see comparative sizes when they’re presented as slices of a circle.

      • Plumber says:

        Same here, the pie charts were quickly deciferable, unlike the bar graphs.

        • sty_silver says:

          Well, apologies for the blanket statement, I expected this to be uncontroversial. In my defense, a lecture I’ve been attending presented this basically as empirical fact (and it seems obviously true to me).

          Also, I admit that there’s at least one thing pie charts are better for, which is summing up two adjacent quantities.

          • quanta413 says:

            Pie charts make visualizing normalization easier as long as you don’t have too many possible answers. You can just display the normalized values on a bar chart, but I don’t think it has the same visual effect.

        • Wolpertinger says:

          Bar charts are useful to gauge distributions and related statistical properties in continua. For non-orderable values they can still be useful when there simply are too many categories for a pie chart.

          Pie charts can be useful when there are few categories, ordering isn’t imortant and some of them could be combined to supercategories.

  14. Anaxagoras says:

    There’s a bit of a privacy flaw in that some people have unique responses on externally observable fields, such as country of origin. I know of someone who gave a unique answer to country of origin, and so I was able to find their response in the public data you released.

    • I think there were only two people with my age, which is public information, and only one of them was in California, so I was pretty easily identifiable. Would work with any of the older people whose real identity is known.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I said on the original survey post that this might be true, giving country of origin as an example, and that people who were concerned should ask to be private. I haven’t gotten any complaints since.

  15. realitychemist says:

    So a bunch of people responded to the IQ question claiming to have an IQ of 180 or more. Now, I’m not saying they’re all lying, but…

    Assuming a mean of 100 and SD of 15 (which is specified in the question), 180 is 5 and 1/3 SD above the mean. Now, I did some quick math with WolframAlpha, so I might have messed something up, but it looks like there should be a total of about 16 people in the US with IQs that high. So, I filtered the dataset to include only people living in the US who answered the first checkpoint question. There were 1081 of these people. Of them, 7 claimed to have an IQ of 180 or greater. One person claimed an IQ of 200, which itself has a probability of like 1.3×10^-11, but I’ll ignore that and pretend the probability distribution for all numbers 180 and greater is flat.

    The probability of being above the mean by 5.33 SD (180 IQ) is 4.8×10^-8, so the odds of getting 7 people with an IQ that high out of the sample of 1081 is 2.77556×10^-14. It’s not the most unlikely thing in the universe, but the odds of this happening for real are similar to the odds of buying two jackpot lottery tickets in a row.

    So my guess is that, shockingly, people are lying on the internet O.O

    • woah77 says:

      I mean, you’re probably right, but your probabilities are neglecting the congregation effects of self selection. Smart people tend to cluster together. For the same reasons I never spend any time with a person who thinks that black people should still be slaves, high IQ people are likely to congregate together in like minded communities.

      • realitychemist says:

        This is definitely true and almost certainly skewing the results, but I have no idea how to factor it into any calculations, or even really any idea what sort of order-of-magnitude difference it would make to the probability. I would guess not more than maybe six orders, but that’s really just a gut feeling and I have no justification for it.

      • nerme'e sivni says:

        How about people who think that most people with short time horizons should be slaves?

        • woah77 says:

          I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I expect that such people would naturally congregate together too, especially online.

        • Statismagician says:

          It is not clear what you mean, just FYI.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I suspect he means that “People with such short time horizons would have more success in life (as judged by themselves retrospectively, perhaps?) if certain other people had the legal authority to make them do undesirable-in-the-moment tasks.”

            If you could find benevolent masters for them who would act in their best long-term interests – okay, I’d agree. But finding those would be difficult, and the risks of picking the wrong people would be huge, so in reality this policy would give very bad results.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Perhaps they’re lying, but I think it’s also possible that they’re credulously reporting the results of inaccurate tests (even though the question said to disregard the most inaccurate tests).

      • realitychemist says:

        After reading the rest of the comments on this thread I agree. I never knew there were so many different ways to get an official IQ score, and how different they could be from each other. My initial reaction that people were likely lying now seems uncharitable. I still don’t believe this group truly has such a high concentration of people over five SD above the mean, but I do now think that there wasn’t necessarily any lying involved.

    • sty_silver says:

      One mitigating factor is that IQ scores vary a lot between different times you test them (afaik). If everyone who measured several times choose the highest — and that would be a far more understandable crime — you could already shift the actual scores downward by, say, 10. Which is not enough to explain the numbers, and I agree that there must also be lying going on.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Is IQ normally distributed at the tails? I’d be surprised if it was. Even if IQ is normally distributed that far out, it is entirely possible that IQ test results wouldn’t be, right?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Most tests truncate the tails because they don’t understand them. What’s the point of reporting scores if you can’t calibrate them? Maybe it’s just noise. But one way that you could get this situation is if you take a test that is designed for one purpose and apply it to another demographic. In particular, SET has 12 year olds take the SAT. The SAT is well designed and well studied and has normal tails for age ~18. But for age 12, it isn’t normal. They have a pretty good calibration of what the 1/10k threshold is, and mainly that’s what they use. But in some papers they report numbers further out on the tails. They linearly transform the SAT scores according to the mean and standard deviation of the general population of 12 year olds. A fair number of children get 180 on this scale. But this format is not reported to the children, only in the papers, so this is not what is happening on the survey. (Rachael is probably correct.)

      • brad says:

        Is IQ normally distributed at the tails?

        I believe it is defined to be so. Assuming it exists, g may not be.

    • Rachael says:

      It turns out Mensa official invigilated/proctored tests give a result that’s not SD 15, and that’s really not obvious from the certificate. So a lot of people are probably honestly reporting their Mensa test result and not realising it doesn’t count. I did that in a previous year. This year I’ve reported a converted number.

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        Is taking a Mensa test common? I’m genuinely curious. I’ve been surrounded by physics/math/comp-sci Ph.D.s for the last twenty years of my life, and I don’t *think* I know anyone who had any dealings with Mensa. But it does come up occasionally online.

        • Rachael says:

          I don’t know (question for the next survey? Or a more general question about where your IQ score comes from?)
          Personally, I applied to Mensa as a teenager in the hope of meeting other people with high intelligence, because I didn’t really know any (this changed when I went to university).

          • The Big Red Scary says:

            I think a question on the source of the IQ score would be interesting. (I gave mine as an SAT equivalent.)

            Did you join Mensa? Did you like the people? I was mighty lonely before university, but all’s well that ends well.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I did this on a few of the old surveys. It didn’t make any difference (even people with very reputable-sounding IQ tests got weird scores) and it took enough questions to answer everybody’s objections that it just reinforced the accusation that we’re “obsessed with IQ”.

          • Rachael says:

            @Big Red Scary: I did join, but I hardly went to any meetings because I was a teenager in a rural area without my own transport, and Mensa didn’t have much of an internet presence back then. I subscribed to a few snail-mail-based special interest groups.

      • realitychemist says:

        Oh, that’s very interesting! Do you happen to know what the SD of Mensa-proctored tests is? If it was, say, 26, a Mensa 180 would only be like 3 SD off the mean (assuming the Mensa test still has a mean of 100), which is much more likely especially given the selection effect that woah77 mentioned.

    • Deiseach says:

      So a bunch of people responded to the IQ question claiming to have an IQ of 180 or more. Now, I’m not saying they’re all lying, but…

      Perennial problem with the survey. Bottled answer is that (a) people took/were given an IQ test as kids and that’s the score they know so they quote it, even though IQ measurements for kids and for adults are two different things (b) people took IQ equivalent tests and translated their scores as “score this much = IQ of so much” (c) yes there really are people that smart who participate here.

      Unless Scott or somebody arranges a proper online ‘no cheating’ monitored trustworthy test that we all do on the same day at the same time, nobody is ever going to get a satisfactory answer to that question.

      • eightieshair says:

        people took/were given an IQ test as kids and that’s the score they know so they quote it

        That’s how I answered. I was tracked into the “gifted” program in elementary school, and I’ve subsequently learned that in that district during those years entrance to the program was determined by an IQ test and the cutoff was 130. So the only thing I know about my IQ is that as a child I once scored 130 or more.

        Do they still use IQ tests for tracking people into the special “nerd” programs in schools?

        • bullseye says:

          That sounds like something that would vary by state. I was in a nerd program in Georgia in the 90s and never took an IQ test. I think it was just based on grades.

    • My guess is that the very high figures are from childhood tests, for which I don’t think the distribution works. The probability of a six year old who is as smart as the average twelve year old is low, but I don’t think it’s 1.3×10^-11.

      I spent a number of summers as a councilor at a camp for gifted children. One of the kids, probably about eleven, had an IQ of 201. He was very bright, and I wouldn’t be astonished if that was the real result from a test measuring mental age/physical age a few years earlier.

      The IQ question should specify whether the figure is from a test taken when a child.

      I should add that I know somebody whose IQ, as measured by a K-12 school run by the University of Chicago, was 183. I am confident the testing was done in whatever was considered the proper scientific method at the time, probably the late fifties. The subject would have been, at a guess, thirteen or fourteen when tested. So no lying required, just two different definitions of IQ.

    • brad says:

      The probability of being above the mean by 5.33 SD (180 IQ) is 4.8×10^-8, so the odds of getting 7 people with an IQ that high out of the sample of 1081 is 2.77556×10^-14. It’s not the most unlikely thing in the universe, but the odds of this happening for real are similar to the odds of buying two jackpot lottery tickets in a row.

      There’s a bigger problem than that–it’d be fantastically, prohibitively expensive to design and validate a test which could give a reliable score 5.33 standard deviations above the mean. First, you’d need to write a test with a ceiling that high, and it’d have to be culturally independent to get a big enough pool for the next step. Which is to calibrate and validate the mapping from raw scores to standard deviations–for that part you’d need to test hundreds of millions of people to be sure you are distinguishing between 4 in 10,000,000 (175) and 6 in 100,000,000 (180).

      Any kind of over-weighting argument runs into the convenience sample issue. Though I suppose the hundreds of millions of randomly selected people could be given a preliminary short form exam to figure out if they are outliers. You aren’t saving much though, this is still an exercise that costs significantly more than the census ($10B+).

      The choices here are: lying on the internet, fake internet IQ test, misremember/misunderstood, or reporting a childhood IQ (which is not commensurable). And given that we have a large number of responses which must suffer from these problems, they cast doubt on the rest of the data as well. In my opinion (worth exactly what you paid) the results of this question are worse than useless and it should be omitted going forward.

      • quanta413 says:

        The SAT data may be marginally more useful since each section has been out of 800 for a while, but that still leaves lying, misremembering, and IIRC the SAT has still varied somewhat across the big changes.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      IQ doesn’t follow a normal distribution at the tails.

      http://miyaguchi.4sigma.org/BloodyHistory/ratioiq.html
      http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/we_have_learned.htm

      Many tests that purport to rise to 180+ (SD 15 or 16) are not broad ability range.

    • shakeddown says:

      THIS IS WHY I KEEP ADVOCATING FOR A PENIS SIZE QUESTION

    • Thegnskald says:

      We have this discussion every year, I think.

      As a rule, if the number is higher than 145, they’re answering the wrong question. My childhood IQ was > 215, for reference, but that isn’t the number I wrote down, because it isn’t what the question is asking for.

      • realitychemist says:

        Yeah I’ve now realized that this seems to be something of a well known bug in the question. I only recently started reading comments at all (and this has been my first major contribution to the comments section). Sorry for rehashing what turns out the be the same old point yet again.

      • david stone says:

        That’s why I did not answer the question. I took an “official” test once under proper conditions (I think I was 16, but it was an adult test), and my score was “Cannot be determined by this test”, with the highest possible real score being 145.

  16. Eponymous says:

    I’ll just note again the extreme lack of mainstream conservatives compared to the general population.

    • Statismagician says:

      There’s conservatism and conservatives, and then there’s conservatism and conservatives. There are plenty of ideas in the general conservative idea cluster for which solid arguments can be made, and even more about which a real discussion can be had concerning appropriate definitions and assumptions. However, my experience is that most people who hold these ideas did not get there through rigorous self-examination. This isn’t surprising or necessarily a problem, but it does explain why both good* new ideas like not criminalizing homosexuality and bad* new ideas like social justice signalling games cluster very heavily on the left. Not in any way suggesting that all of the left got to its positions through careful reasoning; this is all in relative terms.

      That’s for legitimate coherent positions, right or wrong. Thanks to the U.S.’s stupid electoral system and media culture, there’s also a whole host of insane lizardman nonissues that are associated with either party. Obama was in fact a U.S. citizen, Trump is not in fact a Nazi in any meaningful sense, etc, and yet a huge amount of ink gets spilled on this sort of thing instead of actual fact-based discussion of things like what the minimum wage is for and, separately, what it should be set to. Since there’s absolutely nothing but blind partisanship to these, they approach if-and-only-if importance for defining political allegiances – see e.g. the large set of people who absolutely hate Obamacare, but strongly support the Affordable Care Act. These are not the kind of people likely to appreciate nuanced discussion of the statistical methodology underlying medical research. There are equivalently-stupid positions on the left, but mostly clustered in fuzzy pointless identity-politics stuff and less so in ‘no, really, literally all experts and basic logic agree you’re wrong about this’ territory.

      Arising from this, I suspect, though haven’t yet checked, that our conservative commenters/readers skew significantly higher on education/intelligence than the median conservative, while this is less- or not-true true for our liberal ones.

      *Personal perception, obviously.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yes and clearly different from the ratio of commenters. The survey showed what, 7% as conservative? I think for the regular commenters here it is more like 20%. Yeah, pulling out of my butt, but I think that’s close.

      And I see the left is even more prevalent here than last time. It looked like 2/3’s of the people were left of center on the survey. No way does that match commenters.

      I did pull the Excel list. I have now created a pivot table of political spectrum of heavy commenters:
      41 total
      51% range from 1 to 5 and of course 49% 6 to 10
      Highest proportions are 17% 3, 20% 4, and 17% 7. Ok that isn’t what I expected; it shows more on the left of even heavy commenters. People rate themselves funny.

      ok 1 more pivot table. heavy commenters on political orientation.
      22% conservative
      20% liberal
      27% libertarian
      17% social democratic
      ok this makes a little more sense

  17. Mazirian says:

    Answers to the question about commenting on SSC:

    * 76.9% Never; I only lurk

    * 19.9% Less than once a month

    And then the 3.2% who actually regularly contribute. This is well in line with the thesis that most of what you read online is written by crazy people 😀

    • EchoChaos says:

      But at least we’re entertainingly crazy.

    • ayegill says:

      If you sifted the crazy people out of the SSC commentariat, there’d be no reason to read the comments.

    • Deiseach says:

      This is well in line with the thesis that most of what you read online is written by crazy people 😀

      Looks at self:
      – consistently comments well above the average
      – yep I’m crazy

      Well, that checks out! 😀

    • The puzzle to me is why so few people comment. It’s an interesting conversation, it covers a range of topics some of which should be of interest to the random reader, and commenting is free.

      If everyone commented regularly the threads would become unreadably long, so I suppose I’m glad most people don’t, but I still find it puzzling.

      • Graveless says:

        As one of the people in those categories, it mostly comes down to two main factors.

        I’m typically browsing at work or while commuting. This is done either on a phone or without being able to focus on writing something meaningful and long form. I also won’t be able to reply within a reasonable time, so conversation is unlikely to happen, and I would also feel the need to make the response even more substantial in order to justify in that case. Considering the high bar set for standards of eloquence and thoroughness, this isn’t something that wins out over simply browsing.

        Related, I usually don’t have the mental energy to engage with the right-wing dogpile and massive number of citations needed if I ever posted about politics, which is when I’m most likely to want to comment. Beyond the time gap between responses, the amount of information needed to keep up with the number of responses or challenges is just too high. Hundreds of pages of reading, which seems to typically be required to understand the counter-points being made, pushes it from something that might be done on a whim to simply not happening.

        The second assumption comes from reading other threads and watching it happen to a number of different people.

      • Liface says:

        Registering for a WordPress account has a high barrier to entry. I’ve probably posted hundreds of comments on the slatestarcodex subreddit, because I already had a reddit account.

        It took me years of reading the blog to finally sign up for a WordPress account so I could post something.

      • Plumber says:

        Well I’m glad that you comment @DavidFriedman, you’re very interesting and a joy to verbally spar with.

      • mintrubber says:

        Commenting here is a bit intimidating. The reversed comment order helps though, a little.

        • Statismagician says:

          How so, if you don’t mind my asking? Either regarding commenting being intimidating or the reversed order helping.

          • RavenclawPrefect says:

            Not the parent comment, but the comment section on this blog is extremely high quality, more so than almost any other public forum on the internet. For me, and I imagine a lot of other people, my reservations about engaging with a discussion scale with how much I worry I will detract from the average quality of said discussion, so SSC is very intimidating in that respect. My first few comments were all proofread by at least one friend to make sure they weren’t going to be unworthy of this space.

          • Plumber says:

            Reverse order helps encourage comments by making new subthreads more visible which haven’t been had many response comments yet.

      • SEE says:

        Commenting isn’t free, it costs time and effort. And the usual feedback is either nothing or contradiction. People who regularly participate are absolutely going to be psychologically weird.

      • Icey says:

        There’s a few technical barriers that reduce participation. As Liface mentioned, needing to sign up for a WP account is the first barrier. That the signup (and login!) redirects you from the page (rather than being an inline/modal form) is another major barrier. I needed to open this page in a separate tab from my RSS reader to reply to this, then log in, then navigate back to the page to find your comment, to make this reply.

        Finally, the reply structure here lacks a lot of the helpful sugar that other sites like Reddit have that support longer conversations, so jumping in further than 3-4 levels down becomes rather cumbersome.

      • sentientbeings says:

        I frequently find that after I read the main post/comments and am considering an interesting reply, someone else has already said what I intended to post.

        Thankfully, people usually do a better job than I’d have done.

        Edit: Additionally, the remaining subset of topics on which I consider commenting (and sometimes do) are those for which I rate my competence or interest lower, or some negative factor (such as likelihood to provoke an uncivil response, or to phrase things in an uncivil way myself) higher. That means that to avoid making comments that are disproportionately inferior when compared against the whole set of what I’d like to say, I have to lower the the number of actual posts for the low-quality set.

      • david stone says:

        For me, it took a long time to get through the archives, and I wanted to understand before being understood. Now, I’m usually at least a week behind on reading posts and reading through the comments, so by that time it’s “1 comment since a couple of days ago” territory. I have less certainty that anyone will read or respond, so less personal motivation.

  18. caryatis says:

    Slight increase in cis female readers: 9.2% last year, 9.8% this one. I probably want to interpret that as more significant than it is.

  19. Walter says:

    It is interesting that the survey has a majority of liberals/progressives (Social Democrat and Liberal together make up 60% of the results), while the comments at times feel like the conservatives have the majority. Feels odd to me, you’d think the blog owner being a progressive and the majority readers being progressive would jointly make for a progressive commentariat.

    • This has been an ongoing question for a while. I’m still not sure whether it’s real or imagined, but I vaguely remember (SO DON’T QUOTE ME ON THIS) someone showing that right of center commenters made comments more often than left of center commenters, meaning more so that there are disproportionate amounts of right leaning comments more so than there being more right leaning commenters.

      I think the survey results might be more left wing this time than they were last time.

      • Eponymous says:

        From the 2017 survey:

        We know that SSC as a whole is very slightly liberal, but what about frequent commenters? Here are the numbers, again on a political spectrum where 1 is maximally liberal and 10 maximally conservative:

        1. Lurkers who never comment: 4.5
        2. People who comment less than once a month: 4.7
        3. People who comment at least once a month: 5.1
        4. People who comment at least once a week: 5.2
        5. People who comment many times a week: 6.3

        So there is a really interesting tendency for conservatives to comment more often than liberals

        So commenters are slightly more conservative than average, and high volume commenters much more.

      • noyann says:

        Maybe the next survey could ask “How many comments have you made in the last 2 weeks? (Please count, or at least give a best effort estimate.)”

      • fr8train_ssc says:

        I wonder if “Rage Toxoplasma” has something to do with it? My two hypothesis: First, of the Liberal or Leftist commenters that do comment, more are probably SWJ adjacent, and participate in opposition to Scott’s CW related articles. Second, these comments draw out more Conservative or Rightist commenters who come out not only to engage in the CW articles, but also to engage with Scott on non-CW but more liberal worldview articles.

        For the 2019 survey, maybe Scott can solicit a random sampling of survey responders who participate frequently to provide their username. This way Scott could analyze comment patterns?

    • Freddie deBoer says:

      I have always gotten the same impression.

    • Plumber says:

      @Walter

      “It is interesting that the survey has a majority of liberals/progressives (Social Democrat and Liberal together make up 60% of the results), while the comments at times feel like the conservatives have the majority. Feels odd to me, you’d think the blog owner being a progressive and the majority readers being progressive would jointly make for a progressive commentariat”

      The survey also has the vast majority of respondents describing themselves as “lurkers”.

      I infer that non-progressives are just more vocal. 

    • benjdenny says:

      I’ve often thought that it might be that people are more likely to comment on things they disagree with than they are to comment to signal approval or build further on the argument. That’s at least the case for me – I don’t slog around the internet finding moderate-right blogs to comment on, I just snipe at perceived intellectual dishonesty and such.

    • Quixote says:

      Yeah. There are a small number of conservatives who watch the comments like it’s their job and a large number of liberal / progressive people who stop by periodically in their spare time.

    • One possibility is that conservatives (and libertarians) are more interested in arguing with people who disagree with them than liberals or progressives.

  20. Quixote says:

    Also a note, I’m really struck by how many of the graphs look bi-modal. As if there are two separate and unrelated only loosely overlapping groups of people reading this blog. Any anyone with more stats chops wants to formally test the data-set for bi-modality I would award you honor and imaginary internet points.

    • 10240 says:

      The scales are often subjective. It may be that on some questions most people lean one way or another, even if slightly, and they are more likely to choose an option slightly away from the middle one way or another than the middle.

  21. Quixote says:

    I probably should have mentioned this in the initial design, but it might have been useful to break white down into sub categories for the European users. Americans may be homogenized enough that you can treat Irish Americans the same as Italian Americans, the same as Polish Americans, the same as English Americans, but that is certainly not true globally. Finland and Spain are very different places.

    And homogeneity might not even be true in the US. Boston has a distinctive culture because of its mix of old English and more recent heavily Irish heritage that’s different from a city like Charleston that doesn’t have so much Irish character. Likewise, Brooklyn’s culture is also shaped by the Italian and Jewish migrants who have arrived over the years.

    • kalki says:

      As someone from Charleston SC of Irish and German descent I think you’d be surprised. People move states for jobs all the time and most of Charleston counties growth has been from people moving in lately.

      • dodrian says:

        My wife and I have been thinking about moving to Charleston – any suggestions or advice?

        • kalki says:

          Eh, I can’t think of much advice that isn’t specific to a given situation. If you have/want kids and you care about school performance your options are going to be more limited. Check traffic data for the area, the average times google will give you can be way off if there’s an accident. Some areas can flood pretty badly (https://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/TheBattery/archives/2012/08/28/rafters-take-to-flooded-streets-in-kayaks-air-mattresses) during heavy rains and we get hurricanes regularly.
          I enjoy the area. There’s a decent night life and the Francis Marion national forest is a quick drive away. We’ve had quite a few breweries pop up in the area recently if that interests you. The waterways are amazing at times. Even if you never own a boat I recommend taking a ferry to some of the more remote islands, such as bulls.

  22. atreic says:

    Also kudos to the person who gave sleep hours to twelve significant figures. I <3 data quality…

  23. 5v6 says:

    The link to the .odf file seems to be broken.
    On that topic, the link at the bottom of all pages (“part of amazon affiliate program”) seems to be broken as well.

  24. atreic says:

    I like the person who is Hawaii years old. Sigh, even in the most well tended garden the lizard-men percentage is still high…

  25. fion says:

    Very interested to see such a high fraction of people identifying as social democratic. I know the question has been discussed plenty in the past, but I’d like to see how political affiliation relates to commenting frequency, since the impression from reading the comments is that everyone is pretty conservative/libertarian.

    • johan_larson says:

      Yes, there is a definite difference between the reading audience of this blog and the commenting audience.

      Also, the quiz turned up 13 neo-Nazis. That’s more than one in a thousand. I wonder what the actual rate in the population is.

      • Ttar says:

        Seems well within the Lizardman constant though.

        • johan_larson says:

          Sure, but the lizardman constant is pretty darn big. Plenty of groups that unquestionably exist are a smaller percentage of the American population than 4%: Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, and possibly homosexuals. We probably shouldn’t use it as a blanket filter for all improbably results.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            There appear to be more people who said that their mother was under 10 years old when they were born than identified as Nazis. I’m pretty comfortable with both being Lizardmen if we had to choose.

          • ayegill says:

            Reminds me of this

          • JG28 says:

            Sample size and selection effects give odd results here vs at the population level. Most of Nazi positives are almost definitely noise

          • johan_larson says:

            This would be an excellent time for a no-fooling neo-Nazi to wander by and leave a reply. Just sayin’.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I seem to remember a year or two back someone showed up in the threads making a determined attempt to persuade people to engage with their… unconventional views on the Holocaust. So that’s probably at least one.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m about 80% sure that guy was trolling. Or trying to bait out material for sneerclub or some such, which amounts to the same thing. Real Nazis don’t try that hard to signal that they’re just calmly raising some reasonable doubts about the conventional narrative. They’re ideologues; they sound angry, impassioned, resentful.

          • TheGreatCatsby says:

            Nornagest, this is the closest thing that came to mind to a “Real Nazi” “calmly raising some reasonable doubts”:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKSu0GduyNE&t=408

            johan_larson, I didn’t fill out the survey but I tend to select Neo-Nazi on things like this simply because I am an ethnonationalist, and I always suspect that that’s where the author of the survey would put me, even though as Ritter was saying in the linked interview, I feel about as much connection with Hitler or the NSDAP as I do with Napoleon; to wit, absolutely none.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Most of them give consistent responses to other questions, ie far-right politics (although a few don’t and might be misclicks or very strange people).

    • Plumber says:

      @fion

      “Very interested to see such a high fraction of people identifying as social democratic. I know the question has been discussed plenty in the past, but I’d like to see how political affiliation relates to commenting frequency, since the impression from reading the comments is that everyone is pretty conservative/libertarian”

      Well I used to be conservative, but now I’m reactionary (dictionary definitions), and that’s because I strongly support the 20th century welfare state, thus I chose “social democrat”, and I think I post fairly frequently

    • 10240 says:

      Commenting frequency is not enough, what matters is frequency of commenting about politics. If left-wing people don’t feel comfortable with the politics threads because of (what they see as) a right-wing dominance, it’s possible that they avoid those threads, but still comment in other threads.

  26. noyann says:

    Edit: meant to reply to chaosmage

    The onset of this perspective was probably psychotic

    Ken Wilber mentions somewhere that many (?) mystics went through a psychotic period at the beginning of their mystic consciousness. IIRC he gave neither numbers nor references. Related

  27. johan_larson says:

    Scott, some parts of the results that really could be shown as a plot or graph of some sort, such as IQ score, are just lists.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, it would have been way too hard for me to make all of the graphs myself, so I just copied Google’s default survey-data-report page. I don’t know why they do that and I don’t know how to change it.

      • johan_larson says:

        It might be a function of the way you accepted inputs. IQ scores can only be numbers, but if you set up the question with a free-form text field, the system doesn’t at some level know that the results are numbers, and so shows them as a list.

        Something to think about for next year.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I think it’s that Google converts anything with too many different responses into a list.

          IE if there are only 20 different IQs, it will graph them, but if there are 100, it will list them.

  28. Aapje says:

    Interesting to see that 1/3 of respondents would reduce work hours or quit their job with an UBI. That is quite high given that a little over 10% consider themselves working class or poor & those groups presumably would be far more eager to do so. I’d be interested in an analysis of how current class correlates with the UBI answers.

    • g says:

      I wouldn’t assume that poorer people are more eager to quit their job with an UBI. I have much more money and income now than I had 20 years ago and would be much more inclined to quit my job if a UBI were on offer than I was then — because doing so then would have left me with barely enough to live on, whereas doing so now would leave me quite comfortable.

      • If it’s “reduce hours” rather than quit, one can see a declining marginal utility of income argument for richer people being more willing than poorer.

      • Aapje says:

        @g

        The issue is that you lose more money when reducing work hours from a high salary than from a lower salary. There are also class-based expectations which require more money when you move up.

        Also, higher class people seem to enjoy their jobs more.

        Note that the proposed UBI is actually equal to the average salary of an experienced waitress/waiter, so such a person could quit their job with no loss in salary (and plausibly they will tend to have a decrease in expenses if they optimize their life for an UBI, rather than a job).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      % would quit their job for a UBI. This is including people who didn’t answer at all, so all percents are a bit too low in absolute terms but correct relative to each other:

      Poor: 20%
      Lower-middle: 12%
      Middle: 6%
      Upper-middle: 3%
      Rich: 2%

      • divalent says:

        Sort of makes sense: $25K to a rich person is not much, but to a poor person it might seem like they are now rich.

        And a poor person’s job might be pretty sucky: hard/risky labor and/or miserable working environment. $25K is equivalent to a $12.50/hr wage job. (I’d expect low income single parent women with young children would opt out of the job market, at least for a few years.)

        • Tarpitz says:

          And consider who the sample is. Poor SSC readers are probably even less typical of poor people than rich SSC readers are of rich people, very possibly in ways that would make them more likely to dislike their job.

      • Aapje says:

        @Scott Alexander

        How did you pick the $25k? It’s very high (more than half the median wage) and probably utterly unaffordable and/or causing immense deleterious effects.

        • Statismagician says:

          I don’t think I agree with this. Our existing welfare programs are insanely inefficient; e.g. we’re paying ~$7,500 annually per Medicaid recipient when commercially-available insurance plans average ~%3,900 (figures from casual Googling). Quite plausibly, the reduction in administrative overhead would pay for itself, or else there’s plenty of slack in the tax code (various loopholes, literally the entire tax preparation industry, etc.) to raise net revenue without doing anything to de jure tax rates.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I am one of those free market guys, and I don’t think there is any way you are getting elderly people insurance plans on the private market for $3900 a year. I think the evidence that government healthcare is more efficient is misleading, but proving the opposite is very difficult to do.

            The problem with “replace all welfare with UBI” is 1) it is a significant redistribution away from the poor who we are trying to help, and 2) we aren’t going to get rid of all those programs, because 2a) many UBI proponents want them kept, and 2b) it’s doubtful we have the intestinal fortitude to tell someone “you spent your UBI on beer instead of food? Tough luck, go die in the street.”

          • Cliff says:

            I think you math is way off. Eliminating Medicaid and all welfare couldn’t pay for half of the $25k UBI if I recall correctly

          • Statismagician says:

            @ Edward Scizorhands

            Largely fair; this is absolutely not a thing that would ever happen in any plausible political situation, and the quick figures I found definitely assume a constrained market. I don’t think I agree with UBI being a re-redistribution away from the poor; this could be trivially solved with an income threshold for UBI receipt, e.g.

            @ Cliff

            Clearly not, and I didn’t mean to claim it would. I was using Medicaid as an example of the set of programs which could be plausibly more efficient as simple cash transfers. I am not deeply committed to this idea, it’s just something which I think is less fiscally insane than it might appear at first glance.

    • I’m poor and I’d be willing to get a job if UBI were a thing.

    • MoebiusStreet says:

      I think there’s at least one other significant factor beyond income – age. As I get closer to retirement age, this would significantly change my equation. I could afford to retire right now pretty comfortably if I had something like UBI to cover me for the years that, within the status quo, I’d need to wait for social security to start up. So I’m one of those 1/3 that would reduce hours or quit.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I’m surprised that ONLY a third of people would cut their work hours, but I guess it depends on your life situation. If I was a single guy, I wouldn’t mind pissing away 40-50 hours a week in a corporate job. The UBI is just beer money. Time is cheap.

      I would like to have kids, and my wife makes more money than me. Depending on the UBI level, I would strongly consider dropping my hours so I could spend more time at home. This definitely would not be the case if I were the primary breadwinner.

      And last, if I were just out of college, and only shit jobs were available….I might take my time, milking the UBI, until I found a “good” job by whatever standards 22 year old me thought.

      • Aapje says:

        An issue is that salary and especially career opportunities go way down if you work less than a certain amount of hours, although this depends on the profession (but salary and career opportunities tend to correlate strongly with the professions that demand fairly high working hours).

        I can see people with good jobs cutting their working hours to the bottom of the accepted range, but rarely more than that.

        Also, in some places there is a strong competition for housing, schooling and such, so reducing work hours has repercussions is less feasible.

        And last, if I were just out of college, and only shit jobs were available….I might take my time, milking the UBI, until I found a “good” job by whatever standards 22 year old me thought.

        I think that this is one of the biggest risks of a UBI: that it prevents people from making the initial sacrifices to get over the hump.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Although it would be a big drop in pay for me (individually) to take the UBI, I put myself in the “maybe” category. If my wife would also be eligible, then we could find a low cost of living area and do whatever. I would try to find a low stress job with probably part time hours. If we had to live as a couple on $25k, then one of us would still work, likely full time, but maybe at a job that requires $25k worth of less effort.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I guess why bother working those intense industries when the UBI gives you a good chunk of salary? It depends on how much salary you make, but the theoretical $25k makes up a big enough chunk of my salary that it becomes quite attractive to work less. You might be able to flip industries, although a lot of people are going to be stuck in their current career path.

          The other issue is that the job market is dual-tier, and a lot of people are already working the 35-45 hour range to stay in the top tier. You can’t really cut your hours much without dropping into the bottom tier. Me, I wouldn’t give a crap, because I have a wife to serve as primary breadwinner. UBI for her, plus UBI for me, plus working 20 hours a week as a temp at $15/hour, is more than I make now. Obviously there are tax implications as well, but I’d probably just not even work the 20 hours if I could swing it, and just be a stay-at-home Dad.

          I’m much less interested in the rat race for housing and schooling if I have the flexibility to be SAHD. We only have to plan for a single commute, and I can provide enough attention to keep kids from falling too far behind. Kids are better off with a parent around than they are in a 10/10 school instead of a 7/10 school.

          Also, it should go without saying that I don’t derive much satisfaction from my job and I sure as hell have no ambition to work for other people, so I may not be representative of everyone here.

          • acymetric says:

            I feel like I’m in complete agreement with you, except that I found this bit surprising:

            The other issue is that the job market is dual-tier, and a lot of people are already working the 35-45 hour range to stay in the top tier.

            35-45 hours would seem typical. That certainly wouldn’t be the threshold to stay in the “top tier” of any [full time] industry I am aware of. I wonder how many people who said they would reduce hours are working 50, even 60 or 70 plus? Hours per week worked would have been a very useful question on the survey, and is particularly relevant here.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The dual-tier market is less regular office jobs vs. Investment Banking consultants, and more about regular office jobs vs. temps/retail/fast food. Michael Scott’s staff on the Office are in the Upper Tier of a dual-tire market: they have benefits, they have relatively high wages, and they generally aren’t treated like total crap.

            The cast of “Waiting” are in the lower tier.

            To work in the Office, you basically HAVE to work 35-45 hours a week. You can totally be a Stanley and not actually do anything, but you have to have your Butt in Chair. If you want to cut down to 30 hours or below, you get shoved into the “Waiting” category, which means losing out on benefits.

            The difference, at least in my factory:
            1. Full Time Employees: we want you to be happy, we want to develop you, you are part of the team
            2. Temps: “we don’t owe them shit” – verbatim

          • acymetric says:

            I totally missed the “dual-tier” part of that (despite quoting it) and mis-interpreted what you were saying as a result. Consider us in agreement on the hours, sorry about that.

            Having both been a temp and eventually being promoted to manage my department (where the employees were mostly temps) during my previous career at a factory, I especially agree with your last point there.

      • Eponymous says:

        Wonder what the correlation is between cutting hours with UBI, self-reported ambition, and BS job status.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          I consider myself fairly ambitious, so I would not sit around watching TV all day, but I would also probably not work at a stressful job for pay, but may work at a community service or charity function.

        • semioldguy says:

          Career and income are not the only channels for ambition.

          I consider myself to be ambitious, but work near to as few hours as I am able so that I can achieve and do all the other things I that actually care about. Even without the time constraints of a job there isn’t enough time in a week to get everything done that I’d like.

  29. sscta says:

    Everyone (>82%!) thinks they’re in the middle class, except for the extreme outliers who know they aren’t, one way or another.

    • ajakaja says:

      Perhaps they are?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Middle class implies some amount of prosperity. Maybe mortgage, but a house. Maybe college debt, but a well paid job. It’s not hard to imagine that some of us are not there yet, but they’re still identifying with middle class.

        • Randy M says:

          Oh, really? Shucks, guess I over-estimated.

        • Plumber says:


          @Radu Floricica

          “Middle class implies some amount of prosperity. Maybe mortgage, but a house. Maybe college debt, but a well paid job. It’s not hard to imagine that some of us are not there yet, but they’re still identifying with middle class”

          It does, and since the U.S. median isn’t all those things I really hate the term “middle class”, but I have far more loathing for the term “upper middle class” since almost always the term is used to describe folks in the upper third in income and wealth.

        • Tarpitz says:

          That is a very American way of thinking about class…

      • arlie says:

        By American definitions, if you aren’t homeless, and aren’t wealthy enough to feature in a “top x richest people in …” list, you are “middle class”.

        Or for those with slightly more nuance, if you aren’t either homeless or receiving public assistance, on the one side, and on the other side, if your income, before retirement age, isn’t both primarily unearned (investments) and large enough to put you well into the 1%.

        Put another way, in the US, the term is almost free of meaning, though somehow useful for rallying the troops in political discourse. (It’s an “us” for people to identify with.)

      • sscta says:

        I think it is a category that has lost any meaning. What does it mean to be “middle” when 82% of a population is in the middle?

    • rachetfoot says:

      How can one tell which class they are in, anyways? Middle class seems like the safe answer.

      • brad says:

        In America everyone considers himself middle class and backs into a definition necessary to make that happen. It’s quite astonishing how strong the effect is.

        (For the record I put upper class.)

        • Tarpitz says:

          To me, upper class pretty much implies hereditary aristocracy, or local equivalent thereof, or very close social proximity thereto. Another label is probably needed for truly fuck-off wealth, recently acquired.

          • brad says:

            I don’t think we are in need of any more terms. What we need is for rich people to recognize they are rich even though they don’t meet fantasy condition X that they just made up on the spot so they can say they aren’t rich.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What’s your realistic and not made up on the spot criterion for someone to be “rich”?

          • brad says:

            Either some single digit multiple of median income or some single digit percentile distance from the top would be fine with me. It’s the “no, you need to have a two homes”, “no, you need to be able to live in a fancy neighborhood on only the interest paid by a bank account” that are transparently post hoc and ridiculous.

          • johan_larson says:

            The definition I would like to use is, “Can live comfortably without having to work.”

            But that runs into three problems. First, comfortably by what standard? Second, what about retired people? Are you really upper class if you can afford comfortable idleness in advanced age after a lifetime of work? And finally, the ability to choose idleness is certainly wealth, but is that really the same as being upper class? Probably not.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’ve been using “can live well and don’t have to work for a living” as a definition (for “rich”, not “upper class”) for decades now, when my income was much lower. So it’s not post-hoc, even if you think non-income-based definitions are ridiculous.

            However, if you insist on your income-based measure, I pick 9x median household income, which works out to about $530k, which still puts most of those SSCers (alas including me) outside the range of ‘rich’.

          • sscta says:

            9x median income ($530k) is absurd. The 1st percentile starts at $300k in the US (2018), and that’s almost double that.

            My household is 3rd or 4th percentile income in an above-median income area — probably 1st percentile US wide. We are wealthy, especially in an age-adjusted sense, but also in absolute terms; I consider us rich. I think downplaying your own affluence is basically intellectually dishonest and is probably a mental trick to avoid feeling guilty about how much better off you are than poor people.

            Despite being in an extremely high percentile group, we don’t have anywhere close to $530k in income, we don’t have a second home or “upper middle class lifestyle,” and we don’t have enough savings to retire on in any sense. So I fully agree with brad that such post hoc definitions are more or less bullshit.

          • The Nybbler says:

            9x median income ($530k) is absurd. The 1st percentile starts at $300k in the US (2018), and that’s almost double that.

            It’s a single-digit multiplier of median income. Absurd or no, it was offered. BTW, first percentile for household income is more like $430k; $300k is for individual income.

            I consider us rich.

            If you (and/or your spouse) lost your job tomorrow with no prospect of getting a similar one in the near future, would you still be rich?

            I think downplaying your own affluence is basically intellectually dishonest and is probably a mental trick to avoid feeling guilty about how much better off you are than poor people.

            Nice thing about being a libertarian, I don’t have to feel guilty about being better off than poor people anyway.

            So I fully agree with brad that such post hoc definitions are more or less bullshit.

            “Post hoc” means “after the fact”. Not liking a definition does not make it “post hoc”.

          • acymetric says:

            @The Nybbler

            It’s a single-digit multiplier of median income. Absurd or no, it was offered. BTW, first percentile for household income is more like $430k; $300k is for individual income.

            Granted, but it was offered by one poster on this particular comment section. Certainly that doesn’t count as some kind of consensus definition.

            If you (and/or your spouse) lost your job tomorrow with no prospect of getting a similar one in the near future, would you still be rich?

            I don’t think “able to survive catastrophic loss and maintain lifestyle” is a good definition. Someone who is reasonably projected to make in the 7 figures over their lifetime at the time of the project is unquestionably rich. Should some circumstance change that, maybe they are no longer rich (this can happen), but they certainly were and could have continued being such.

          • brad says:

            My point was not that $530k is a totally reasonable threshold, but at least it is a fixed, objective threshold as opposed to an ever moving target whose only logic is ensure that whoever you are talking to is safely in the bosom of the middle class.

            I don’t even get the psychological tendency. I’m with Deng–致富光荣

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t think “able to survive catastrophic loss and maintain lifestyle” is a good definition.

            Losing your job isn’t a “catastrophic loss”. You haven’t lost anything but future income. I would agree that you’re still rich even if losing $X would make you not-rich, but job loss is about income and not wealth.

            Someone who is reasonably projected to make in the 7 figures over their lifetime at the time of the project is unquestionably rich.

            I don’t think you’re rich just because you can be projected to be rich in the future; you can’t spend projections. And if you mean 7 figures total (rather than having an income in the 7 figures)… well, anyone who has 20 years of work left at $50,000 has that.

          • acymetric says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I don’t think you’re rich just because you can be projected to be rich in the future; you can’t spend projections.

            Well that isn’t exactly true, a higher income makes it easier to get credit, which could be described loosely as spending projections. To the main point, I guess I thought some level of current upper level lifestyle is implied. I’m talking more of people with existing high levels of income (we can ignore the debate about what is “high” and just agree that we both have some threshold at which income is considered high even if it differs) that project to continue. So, someone (a college student?) making no money who projects based on their career to make $20 million somehow is not rich (yet). Someone who has made an average of $800k per year and projects to sustain or increase that amount over the duration of their remaining career is definitely rich, even if they have to work another 15 years before they can retire and continue living at their current lifestyle level.

            And if you mean 7 figures total (rather than having an income in the 7 figures)… well, anyone who has 20 years of work left at $50,000 has that.

            Sorry, that was a mistake on my part, I meant 8 figures (essentially 10 Mil or greater, maybe I should have just said that and avoided that mistake entirely).

          • @brad Calling yourself upper middle class isn’t a pretense of middleness or that you’re safely in the “bosom of the middle class”. It’s a pretense of upperness. It’s what people of Orwell’s set called themselves to convince themselves they were as good and cultured as any peer. In sociologies of class, upper middle is grouped with upper. The name is perhaps misleading, but the name is what it is because it’s a historical artifact.

          • brad says:

            I can believe that’s true in the UK, but in the US it’s the opposite. No one wants to be considered upper class. Bizarre, I agree.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Is it most in your self-interest for the economy to optimize in favor of:
        Maximization of wages? lower/working class.
        Maximization of benefits? middle class.
        Maximization of profits/dividends/rents/etc? upper class.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I asked about lower middle class, middle class, and upper middle class separately, so I’m guessing people were reluctant to say they were “upper class” instead of “upper middle class” unless they were really rich, and same on the poor side.

      • kalki says:

        Yep, for the growing up class question, I’m sure that some people had to do an average as their families income changed over time. It’s all relative though. If you’re actually upper middle class but live in an area of upper class people you’ll probably rate yourself lower.

      • It’s an artifact of terminology. First of all, identifying as “rich” is terribly declasse and brings to mind someone who made a lot of money owning car shops.

        Second of all, upper middle class in America is really two different ideas of upper middle class lumped into one term. If you’re an ordinary American, you consider the working class the middle class, so the upper middle class is the stably employed, somewhat educated white collar workers above that. In this view, the upper middle class is about the quintile from the 60th percentile to the 80th percentile.

        The second view exists because upper middle class as a term has been around for over a century, and usually referred to the minor nobility, usually the noblesse de robe. This term was most popularized by George Orwell in Road to Wigan Pier, though you might know of it from Fussell and other scholars of social class. (Bourdieu is another big influence on class scholars). These are salaried, white collar professionals who regular earn well into the six figures. Like you. They usually hesitate to identify as upper class because they often run into far wealthier people who do so and who police the identity. Putting yourself in the same social class as your CEO or the man who owns half the town is both presumptuous and inaccurate, even if you do meet and talk to each other. In this view, ordinary laborers are working class, the teacher is middle class, and bankers/doctors/etc are upper middle class, while oligarchs and national elites are upper class. To much of America, the upper middle class is the upper class. I would say they comprise the top 5 percentiles of SES, excluding the top… .1%? Some very small number.

        I used to scoff at Michael Church’s ladders for seperating the upper “gentry” and lower “elite”, but I think that what it actually captures is a mindset difference. Someone who claws their way up into the professional-managerial class sees the world differently from someone who has had a professional-managerial family for centuries.

        • eccdogg says:

          I used the second definition of upper middle when filling out the survey and I think that is how it is most often used.

          See this entry in wikipedia

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_middle_class

          In academic models, the term “upper middle class” applies to highly-educated, salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Many have postgraduate degrees, with educational attainment serving as the main distinguishing feature of this class. Household incomes commonly may exceed $100,000, with some smaller one-income earners earning incomes in the high five figures.[5] Typical professions for this class include lawyers, physicians, physician assistants, military officers, psychologists, nurse practitioners, certified public accountants, pharmacists, optometrists, financial planners, editors, dentists, engineers, professors, architects, school principals, urban planners, civil service executives, and civilian contractors

          Statistically that group probably includes anywhere from top 30% to a bit beyond the top 1% for household income.

          • acymetric says:

            Part of the problem is just the name. It feels counter-intuitive to label someone in the top 10%, let alone bordering on top 1%, as “middle” anything, but those people do probably have more in common with someone people at the 55th percentile than they do the small percentage of earners above them (the top .5 or .1 %).

          • eccdogg says:

            From Scott’s data

            If you sort by folks who self identified as “upper middle class” and “well into my career”

            Median income of that group was $140k, with 90% of the entries between 60k and 400k (5pct-95pct). But there were several folks making over 1 million who identified as upper middle class.

          • acymetric says:

            @eccdogg

            Thanks for pulling that. It is hard to figure out where to draw the line exactly, but 1 million is certainly over that bar. 400-500k would seem to be roughly where I would set the bar personally.

          • Yes, I use the second definition too.

            @acymetric The name can be counter-intuitive, but it arose during a breakdown of the Ancien Regime social order. And in America, the use of noble titles was literally illegal, though I doubt anyone would enforce it these days. A lot of things exist as basically cultural appendixes. The professionals are upper middles because you can’t call them the lower nobility/gentry anymore. Done deal.

            Fussell and Bourdieu group them with the uppers by culture and habitus. Someone like, say, Chuck Collins gets to be culturally closer to an oligarch than a commoner, since he grew up as an Oscar Meyer heir. And the work structure of modern professionals, as documented by historians of work in books like Moral Mazes and Cubed, is Patrimonial Bureaucracy, a structure inherited from the court politics of the Ancien Regime.

            On the other hand, most old fortunes are terribly… small, like Mr. Collin’s, which would only be a few million today. And people arriving at the professional elite from below usually don’t have a fortune. So economically, an upper middle’s life is more like the rest of America’s because it’s dominated by having to work.

            I think being able to retire and live like an upper middle crosses you over into the lower upper. At the heights of society, wealth matters over income.

          • acymetric says:

            @InelegantViceroy

            I guess the question, and it isn’t clear where you stand on this, is do you cross into lower-upper only after you actually retire, or is someone who clearly will be able to do so already lower-upper even while working? To me, if you project as someone who will be able to do so, then you are already in that upper group even before you actually retire.

          • @acymetric
            Why not a test of certainty? Most upper middles with prudence and good luck should be able to live such a lifestyle in old age, but it was never certain. It’s dependent on investments panning out and a career going smoothly.

            If you start million a year, you can probably coast to retirement on T-bills and cash. And if your job is more or less certain, that’s definitely lower upper. Is a doctor having a banner year an upper for that year? If they build that up into being an extraordinarily wealthy doctor, that changes their standing. But a banner year is just a banner year. A teacher or union worker may not live an extraordinarily better life than a lower middle class laborer. But they have security.

            So I’d say security and certainty is an element to it.

      • I wonder to what extent people interpret “class” as just income. In England a century ago, as I interpret the society, there were people who were upper class with income not much above, sometimes below, the median–university professors and clergymen, for instance.

        In the modern context, I don’t drive a Mercedes or equivalent, don’t fly first class on airlines, buy my clothing mostly mail order, go to local Chinese or Japanese restaurants not high end French restaurants, have probably never paid as much as a hundred dollars a person for a meal. So I don’t think of myself as upper class, although I might claim to be in terms of income and wealth at this point.

        • acymetric says:

          Would it be as simple as separating social class (your behaviors) from economic class (your income/assets)?

          I think you’re right, that some people use class to refer purely to economic class, some to just social class, and some to socioeconomic class. People probably even switch between definitions depending on context (not necessarily intentionally dishonestly).

          • crh says:

            For what it’s worth, the phrasing in the survey itself specifies “social class”. I identified as “middle class” but would have definitely given a different answer if asked about “economic class”, and probably even for “socioeconomic class.” It’s interesting to me how much the discussion in the comments here has focused on income.

        • The Nybbler says:

          England had (and has) a formal social class system, though, so you can tell the penniless peers from the ordinary paupers by the fact that the former have titles and the latter do not. Presumably the same goes for their somewhat better off aristocrats versus the financially equivalent gentry or commoners.

          In the US, there’s no titles, and buying leasing a Mercedes still doesn’t make you upper class. To some degree your social class is attached to your profession, to some degree your wealth, to some degree your consumption, to some degree your family, and to some degree who your friends are. Much slipperier.

          • Evan Þ says:

            So, if anyone was still using the old British definition today, they could justly say there are no upper-class people in the United States?

            (Or, at least, none outside Alan Greenspan Knight-Commander of the British Empire, and his peers.)

          • Tarpitz says:

            No, it definitely appears to me from across the pond that America has a social aristocracy – WASPy, multi-generation Ivy League families from the north-east. They may not have titles, but I don’t think that’s the important bit.

          • brad says:

            I don’t know. When I worked out of the London office for a little bit there were entire undercurrents that don’t exist in the US. Sure, maybe you can get an okay job in the front office of a bank because you are a member of a WASPy, multi-generation Ivy League families from the north-east but it doesn’t garner you any actual day to day status outside of your own clique. There are tells that other people in that subculture will instantly recognize but few others will.

            That’s entirely different from in the UK where everyone seems to instantly know what everyone else’s grandfather did for a living and it makes a difference in how they interact.

    • bullseye says:

      Many years ago I read a study that showed how much people make affects how they define the middle class. People who make less money set the bounds lower and people who make more money set the bounds higher, so you can have a pair of people who each think they’re middle class but don’t think the other is middle class.

      • acymetric says:

        I would guess there is a similar effect base on income level during childhood (someone who grew up in what others would call a lower middle class household might identify that same household as solidly middle class, and thus set the threshold for upper middle class lower as well).

    • Garrett says:

      This was a difficult question from me. By upbringing I’m probably snobbish lower-class (Mom was a teacher, Dad was a collage drop-out and the most senior manager who worked on an industrial mill floor). Financially, my income is around 80th percentile, which is just starting to get into the upper middle-class.

      FWIW, I don’t think that someone truly qualifies as “upper class” in the US unless their life and a trust fund overlap somehow.

      • MoebiusStreet says:

        I don’t think that someone truly qualifies as “upper class” in the US unless their life and a trust fund overlap somehow

        That’s more-or-less how I see it. If you were to just divide up into quintiles, I’m well into the top one. But in my mind, “upper class” kinda means “enough assets so work isn’t necessary for a rather comfortable life”, and I’m not quite there.

        • acymetric says:

          Which brings us back to how a person’s income influences how they define these economic classes (although top quintile is broad enough that people at the lower end probably more upper-middle than solidly upper class, of course I don’t know where you fall in that quintile and don’t expect you to share that here).

    • The Nybbler says:

      I put myself in the upper middle class. My working definition of “rich” is “upper middle class lifestyle without working for a living”. So I ain’t rich until I can quit.

      • Steve? says:

        Right. In my mind “upper-middle class” is mostly a matter of income, which “upper class/rich” is a matter of wealth.

        I think a useful definition would be to say if you earn at least X times the median income from sources other than labor, you qualify as rich. I’m not sure what to put X at, maybe 8?

      • @Nybbler:
        By your definition, anyone upper middle class who is retired counts as rich.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        My working definition of “rich” is “upper middle class lifestyle without working for a living”.

        This should be “theoretically able to maintain an”, not actually living it. It’s quite possible for a person to have a “rich” income, yet have no money in the bank because they’re spending it all on 300′ boats.

        My threshold is lower. “Lower rich class” can maintain a lower-middle class lifestyle without working anymore. For a couple with no children this is basically (after taxes) $1 million principal in stable investments + enough for a small house near any major city in the flyover states (e.g. an extra $100k).

        Your definition is closer to my threshold for the “middle rich class”.

    • yourinnerchild says:

      It’d be interesting to know how much cost of living plays into this–my hunch is that someone making 50k/yr in Redding, CA would identify as middle class, but someone making the same amount in SF would not. At the very least, correlating personal housing costs with income and class identification should be enlightening.

  30. Douglas Knight says:

    Not necessarily worth fixing, but … while the results web page has nice pie charts for some answers, but for free answer questions (eg, age) it just lists in order of popularity, with no counts or percentages.

  31. Mitch Lindgren says:

    How did you arrive at the number 8,171? I opened the XLS spreadsheet in Excel Online and I see 7,434 rows. That should only including public data, but since 91.9% of people agreed to have their data published, (7434 / 0.919) = 8089. Looking at the results generated by Google, though, many of the questions have >12,000 answers, and the charts appear to reflect this: e.g. Donald Trump approval has 13,000 answers with 8,282 voting 1, 2425 voting 2, 1285 voting 3, 789 voting 4, and 219 voting 5. This is very confusing.

  32. s_mcleod says:

    Over 13,000 results is pretty impressive, out of interest did you detect any repeat attempts or bots?

  33. Scott Alexander says:

    I’m interested in hearing more from the 497 of you (6.3% of respondents) who said they were enlightened in the literal Buddhist sense. This is well above Lizardman’s Constant and well above the percent of people who admitted to other rare categories (like being asexual). What makes you think you’re enlightened? What is it like?

    • chaosmage says:

      Mine isn’t exactly like the Buddhist descriptions of enlightenment, and more like the Advaita Vedanta ones. (I was unaware of those when I “got it”, but I had heard of the idea of the identity of Atman and Brahman and knew that was what was happening.) I basically feel I’m the entire universe, the body that types this is one of the masks that I wear and your body is another. That doesn’t actually entail any falsifiable predictions, it is purely a shift in perspective that helps optimize primarily for the benefit of the universe (which as far as this mind can see probably means something like intergalactic colonization) rather than for any more local variable. The onset of this perspective was probably psychotic, but after a period of disorientation it all turned out to be a livable paradigm.

      • mcpalenik says:

        Wow, Chaosmage, that sounds awful. I answered no to the enlightenment question, but I used to get flashes of feeling like that every once and a while (I still do occasionally if I really think about it, but I can’t do it on demand). I think you’re describing the same thing, anyway. It’s this feeling that it’s strange that I’ve only been one person my entire life, and that it doesn’t quite make sense that everyone has separate, independent experiences. I’m not quite describing it right. I’ve tried to explain this to other people before, but I don’t think anyone really seems to understand. It’s not unpleasant, but I can’t imagine feeling that way all the time.

        • chaosmage says:

          It isn’t all the time. I can be engrossed in a task, or preoccupied with very personal topics such as acute pain, and forget about being everybody and everything. I just go back there by default when I’m in a resting state.

          But I would like it to be all the time. Because it doesn’t feel awful at all, but rather serene, grand, clear and final. It is a background kind of feeling that leaves a lot of space for whatever needs momentary attention.

      • christopher hodge says:

        helps optimize primarily for the benefit of the universe (which as far as this mind can see probably means something like intergalactic colonization)

        I can’t help but comment that this is not my intuition at all and is actually rather a horrifying idea to me. I am arrested by visions of apes picking up bones and beating one another to death. Must the disease spread? Are we ‘progressing’ by filling this planet until there is no room for anything other than us and our machinery and our slaves, thereby to further progress by doing the same to every other planet in the galaxy? I’d sooner push the earth into the sun, but I don’t think I’ll have to wish for long, as we are thankfully turning Earth into Venus 2 at pace in any case. You may want something to colonise the stars; humans as we know them ain’t it.

        • Eponymous says:

          You may want something to colonise the stars; humans as we know them ain’t it.

          Compromise: we’ll improve humanity *and* colonize the stars, in some order.

          I am arrested by visions of apes picking up bones and beating one another to death.

          So you are engaging in moral thought. A peculiarly human activity. Surely that counts for something?

        • as we are thankfully turning Earth into Venus 2 at pace in any case.

          We are currently in an ice age–defined by geologists as a time when there is ice on at least one of the poles. For most of the history of life on Earth there wasn’t.

          • Eponymous says:

            True, but don’t current projections have us heading into uncharted territory pretty soon?

            And while life on Earth has lived in a warmer climate before, we haven’t.

            Plus rate of change matters as well as levels, and that’s an OOM higher than previous cases.

          • A1987dM says:

            True, but don’t current projections have us heading into uncharted territory pretty soon?

            No, even the most pessimistic IPCC predictions are cooler than Greenhouse Earth. (But your other two paragraphs are valid points.)

    • Razorback says:

      Maybe some of them were feeling a bit euphoric? Not because of any phony God’s blessing of course.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I am not sure what an off-handed disparagement of people who believe in a personal God accomplishes. I am especially confused when God wasn’t the topic of conversation in the first place.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It’s a meme from Reddit’s /r/atheism, not a personal attack.

          • Eponymous says:

            These are not non-overlapping categories.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            When this meme shows up, it’s an attack on atheists (or whoever is said to be euphoric), not on believers. It’s probably the most universally derided post in reddit’s history.

            (For the record: a teenager posted this as a “quote” he had made up himself: “In this moment, I am euphoric. Not because of any phoney God’s blessing. But because, I am enlightened by my intelligence.” This was too much even for r/atheism, and the poor guy deleted his account shortly afterwards.)

          • Razorback says:

            It was just some light ribbing at the improbable number of enlightened people in the survey. No offense meant to anyone.

    • richardkemp says:

      You should make a separate top-level post to seek responses. Since the site is currently set to newest-comment-first, very few readers will see this comment.

      • Aron Wall says:

        More generally, this applies to any commenter making a query ever, except that unlike Scott they don’t have the option to make top-level posts.

        The newest first comment system is terrible. Somehow, it makes the comment sections seem more disorganized and confusing to read, even when I login to look at them for the first time. (I noticed this before I even realized the change of ordering.) If you want to get rid of annoying “First Post!”-ing, just ban it.

    • VirgilKurkjian says:

      The one who depends on the Lord and is indifferent to pain and pleasure; to whom a clod, a stone, and gold are alike; to whom the dear and the unfriendly are alike; who is of firm mind; who is calm in censure and in praise;

      The one who is indifferent to honor and disgrace; who is the same to friend and foe; who has renounced the sense of doership; is said to have transcended the Gunas.

      — Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verses 24-25

    • Thegnskald says:

      It’s hard to tell for certain if I am enlightened. I believe so, but if so, the experience isn’t as amazing as people describe it, it’s just existence.

      What’s odd is I can observe my internal self’s response to the query “What’s it like to live there” as “That question makes no sense, live where?” – I feel almost like I am an observer of a consciousness with an independent existence, than I do like I am that consciousness itself. It’s an indescribable experience. And I don’t think I can really describe the experience of being outside it. Could you describe the experience of being inside it? I can’t explain it to myself, and I’m right here in the same head.

      I don’t remember being any other way, so descriptions of enlightenment both feel familiar – I think I know what they are referring to – and alien, because I can’t imagine what base case the description is comparing to. Like chaosmage’s description, alluded to above. A sense that “you” are an outside observer on your internal self, the set of thoughts and ideas and emotions which most people think of as themselves, which is more like a movie you’ve sat down to watch, and gotten engrossed in, rather than a description of “self” – which turns into a sense that you should, if you wanted to, be able to watch a different movie, because this one isn’t meaningfully you. It does provoke a certain kind of empathy-equivalent, a sense that all the movies matter just as much as this one. But I can’t imagine what it would feel like to -be- that internal self, rather than an observer, so I can’t tell if this is just my mechanism of experiencing experience, and they are describing something more profound, or if my default mode of existence is enlightenment. I kind of doubt the latter, because if so, I find the experience mundane, and ultimately basically unfulfilling, which is the complete opposite of how enlightenment is typically described. But for chaosmage, it seems that it is fulfilling.

      I tend to shorten the set of ideas to “Enlightenment is probably more a sense of experience than a specific state of mind”; it is the development of a new perspective, a new way of experiencing existence. For me, perhaps, enlightenment would be connecting with that internal self and learning to exist within it, which other people seem to enjoy? Because at a certain point, empathy for yourself is necessary to really have empathy for other people, whereas I have more of a universal… weak attachment, I guess. It’s just a movie, after all. I’m not particularly attached to anything in it; I have some preferences, but ultimately it won’t destroy me if none of them are fulfilled, because that’s all they really are, preferences for what kind of movie I watch.

      Which circles back to enlightenment, but again, other people describe the loss of attachment as fulfilling somehow, whereas I never had attachment in the sense they seem to mean, and it isn’t fulfilling, it just makes the movie kind of boring because there aren’t any real stakes.

      So no idea. Everything they describe, I can map onto my experience somewhere. But they seem excited about it? So maybe I’m mapping it onto the incorrect internal concepts, lacking the actual concepts they are trying to get me to pay attention to, and having no way of knowing that I am doing it wrong, since the translation is equally lossy the other direction, and I can’t know if any of the feedback I get is an accurate response, since it can be lossy once again coming back?

      • chaosmage says:

        Communication about such topics is indeed difficult, but your state sounds very different from mine. Yours sounds a lot like depersonalization. Chronic depersonalization is usually associated with pathology, you might want to check that out.

        Have you attempted meditation? Your nonstandard experience of self and the precision of your language leads me to guess Sam Harris’s “Waking Up” approach might suit you.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I will try Sam Harris; already tried meditation. Since my mind is quiet by default, however (and I can recall meditating a LOT as a child, although I didn’t know what it was then), it’s more of an exercise in turning the gain on my awareness up a notch than, as it seems to be with most people, turning my brain’s volume down. (My mind is a quiet place by default.) I think I can see the value for people whose minds are noisy, but I can turn on the same sort of awareness mode just by focusing on it in daily life. (It feels like turning off a tunnel vision which is more or less my default. I think this experience of total awareness is what some koans refer to, when they talk about things like enlightenment being the ability to remember details about where you put your shoes, something most people don’t pay attention to? But it’s kind of mentally exhausting and takes nearly my full conscious attention, which prohibits more complex thoughts)

          I’m not sure depersonalization quite fits. Like pretty much everything, it sounds almost familiar, but not quite. I have… room, in my mind; what I think of as “normal” consciousness is generally a small space in the corner, and when it wants my attention, I generally give it to it.

          Which sounds like depersonalization, I realize, but that part of me wasn’t ever me, in any meaningful sense. It’s the part that is talking to you right now, because it is the part that understands language, and it’s the part I think most people identify as their thoughts, but I think that might be because they are accustomed to identifying thoughts as a narrative stream made up of words.

          • chaosmage says:

            Fascinating. Thanks. I continue to enjoy the precision of your descriptions.

            You are right to assume that the beginner levels of meditation, including all books and apps I have seen, are geared towards people with typical noisy minds. The first skills that they teach appear to be already familiar to you. (Even Sam Harris might bore you – maybe skim the book rather than do the “novice speed” app.)

            Although those skills are what most people need to learn first, there’s more to meditation than that. I can’t tell if you already have the “deeper levels” (for lack of a better word), because they’re are even harder to verbalize than the beginner stuff. You well might, your lack of a “fulfilling” feeling (as you put it) does not rule that out.

            Even if you’re basically done enlightenment-wise, you might want to look at metta meditation or gratitude meditation to change the hue of your experience into something more pleasant, or find a degree of community among meditators. They at least have words for some of the things you don’t have words for.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I feel almost like I am an observer of a consciousness with an independent existence, than I do like I am that consciousness itself.

        But I can’t imagine what it would feel like to -be- that internal self, rather than an observer

        whereas I never had attachment in the sense they seem to mean, and it isn’t fulfilling, it just makes the movie kind of boring because there aren’t any real stakes.

        Enneagram type 5: Pathological detachment and the unenlightened buddha.

        I’ve seen Buddha himself often considered a type 5, yet one who was psychologically relatively highly functioning.

        So maybe I’m mapping it onto the incorrect internal concepts, lacking the actual concepts they are trying to get me to pay attention to, and having no way of knowing that I am doing it wrong, since the translation is equally lossy the other direction, and I can’t know if any of the feedback I get is an accurate response, since it can be lossy once again coming back?

        Yeah, this isn’t healthy for a 5. A relatively healthy 5 has little problem identifying what’s congruent and what isn’t congruent. Not because they’re always right, but because they’ve 1) observed enough of the world to be confident that they’re using the ideas of others correctly, and 2) they explicitly recognize where they may be wrong, and can account for this such that they can adapt if further evidence does indeed prove them to be wrong in their initial assessment.

        I’d recommend reading enneagram growth topics for type 5.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Yeah, this isn’t healthy for a 5. A relatively healthy 5 has little problem identifying what’s congruent and what isn’t congruent. Not because they’re always right, but because they’ve 1) observed enough of the world to be confident that they’re using the ideas of others correctly, and 2) they explicitly recognize where they may be wrong, and can account for this such that they can adapt if further evidence does indeed prove them to be wrong in their initial assessment.

          I feel like I am recognizing where I might be wrong, here?

          I used to feel like I understood the ideas of others correctly. Then I started noticing inconsistencies in the way they would use them, as opposed to the way I would use them, and as I grew more accustomed to this, started to figure out that other people don’t point at the same concept-clusters when they use words, merely similar-enough ones. And the more abstract a concept, the further it is away from an apple you can point to and agree is an apple (mostly, I guarantee there are people in some kind of apple-related community with deep disagreement over the precise edges of the definition of the concept of an apple, it’s just most people don’t notice that their concepts aren’t identical because they all have a central example to agree upon and aren’t focusing on the weird edge cases), the less a simple verbal agreement matters.

          As for enneagram type 5… sort of fits, sort of sounds alien, like everything else. Like the whole “self confidence” thing. I don’t have confidence issues. If anything, I maintain an air of humility I in no sense actually have, because I suspect my actual sense of godhood with respect to ordinary people would be incredibly off-putting if I actually expressed it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “Self confidence” is in the actions (plural), not in the thought (including thoughts of condescension toward others – that’s not “self-confidence”, that’s “other-cynicism”).

            What are you not doing in life that some time ago you planned or wished to do? What are you avoiding?

Leave a Reply