Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Books That Make You Dumb?

Via Crooked Timber. Books that Make You Dumb did some calculations on Facebook and did some cross analysis between most popular "favorite books" by school and the average SAT scores. The creator of the site acknowledges that this is more of a correlation than a causation, but says that nonetheless, "The results are awesome."

Before we get into how smart people are who read One Hundred Years of Solitude and how dumb people who read The Holy Bible are, I'd argue that again, this isn't really a study into how smart people are. SAT scores aren't the ultimate measure of intelligence. They're one arbitrary measure of how well you, um, take the SAT. What's more, those that even take the SAT are skewed toward white, upper and upper middle class people. There are plenty of people (myself included) that didn't take the SAT.

Additionally, the biggest reason people read books is because their friends recommend them. This has more to do with the social structure of how people choose books they read. Some of the schools with lower SAT scores could require different reading than those with high SAT scores. It also has to do with how much reading was emphasized in households where these people grew up. Furthermore, as Jill noted yesterday, leisure reading is on the decline among Americans, especially among the college age group.

Granted, this site seems to be just for fun and more or less a way for certain people to affirm that they're smarter than everyone else, but with the distasteful IQ race analysis lately, I'd rather not see stuff like this be in the limelight.

Cross-posted at


Zorro said...


I just stopped by to see if you'd written anything abominable recently... which is pretty much the same as stopping by to see if you've written anything at all recently...

I see that you have.



Noumenon said...

Additionally, the biggest reason people read books is because their friends recommend them.

That's a good point! Next time I read that kind of article I'll look for that confounding factor.

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