What’s the link between curly fries and intelligence?
This was one of the questions raised by a recent study that investigated how much it’s possible to predict about a person’s personality, intelligence, politics and sexual orientation by looking at the pages that he or she “liked” on Facebook (answer: a lot). Below you can play along, by matching the “likes” to the personal characteristics.
Fry-Q: Four of the pages below tend to be liked by people with high IQ, the other four by people with Low IQ. Can you work it out?
Curly Fries, Harley Davidson, I Love Being A Mom, Lord of the Rings, Morgan Freeman’s Voice, Sephora, The Godfather, Tyler Perry
I can’t get no…Four of these pages tend to be liked by people who claim to be satisfied with life, four dissatisfied. Flip The Switch.
Gorillaz, Indiana Jones, Ipod, Kickass, Pride and Prejudice, Sarah Palin, Stewie Griffin, Swimming,
Strictly Platonic: This one is easy. Here we have four predictors of people whose personality is “liberal and artistic”, four “conservative” (as measured by a personality questionnaire). An unexamined life is not worth living. So get examining.
ESPN2, Leonard Cohen, Monster-In-Law, NASCAR, Oklahoma State University, Oscar Wile, Plato, Sylvia Plath
OK, that one was pretty easy; but I’ve spared you one that would have been WAY too easy: Extraverts like Beerpong, Dancing, Modeling and Cheerleading. Introverts like Videogames, Programming, Role Playing Games and Terry Pratchet. Well, duh. Next!
I’ll be there for you: Four of these pages tend to be liked by people with lots of friends; four by people with few friends. Be a pal and help me out.
Biology, “Honey, Where’s My Supersuit?”, In ‘n’ Out Burger, Jennifer Lopez, Paid In Full, The Dark Knight, The Dollar You Are Holding Could’ve Been In A Stripper’s Butt Crack, Walking With Your Friend & Randomly Pushing Them Into Someone/Something
Disorientation: Four of these pages tend to be liked by straight men, four by gay men. Can you straighten them out (the pages!)?
Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps, Bruce Lee, Foot Locker, Human Rights Campaign, Kathy Griffin, Mac Cosmetics, Wicked The Musical, WWE
Now the same thing for women:
Did You Get A Haircut? No It Grew Shorter, I Just Realized Immature Spells “I’m Mature”, Inbox (1) Makes Me Nervous, Not Being Pregnant, Sometime I just Lay In Bed And Think About Life, Tegan And Sara, The L Word, Thinking Of Something And Laughing Alone
Drunk on love. You know the drill by now. Four of these are liked by drinkers, four by teetotalers. Down the hatch!
I Love It When In The Middle Of Our Kiss I Can Feel You Smiling, Getting A Text That Says I Miss You, I Hate When I Originally Pick The Right Answer Then Change It, I Like Watching Raindrops Race Across My Window And Silently Cheer For Them, Not Finishing A Sentence Because Your Laughing Too Hard About The Ending, That’s Going In My Status When I Get Home, Trying To Figure Out If It’s A Cop Car, Watching Karma Bite The Person You Hate Right In The Ass
The drugs don’t work: Drug-takers vs non-drug-takers. You know the score. Hit me up!
Austin, Texas; Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, I Like Lyrics That Actually Mean Something, Pushing Your Friends Into Random People In The Hallway, Sliding On Floors With Your Socks On, So What Animal Is Your Bracelet?, That Awkward Moment When You Get In The Van And There’s No Candy, Wouldn’t It Be Ironic If You Choked On A Life Saver?
Scroll down for the answers
Answers: OK here are the links between the “Likes” and the traits
High IQ: Curly Fries, The Godfather, Morgan Freeman’s Voice, Lord of the Rings
Low IQ: I Love Being A Mom, Harley Davidson, Tyler Perry, Sephora
So perhaps it’s not that surprising that intelligent people like long – some would say “difficult” – movies, as opposed to motorbikes and makeup. But what’s the link between intelligence and curly fries (personally, I’m not a fan, as they tend to have that weird seasoning)? We’ll save that one for later.
I can’t get no…
Satisfied: Sarah Palin, Swimming, Pride and Prejudice, Indiana Jones
Dissatisfied: Stewie Griffin, Ipod, Kickass, Gorillaz
Stewie Griffin certainly comes across as a spokesbaby for the dissatisfied, but Gorrilaz (a rubbish cartoon band from the tail-end of Britpop)? Meanwhile, the world’s most (?self-)satisfied person is a Republican who’s into swimming, classic literature and archeology.
Liberal and artistic: Plato, Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, Leonard Cohen
Conservative: NASCAR, Oklahoma State University, ESPN2, Monster-In-Law
Again, there are few surprises here. Liberals enjoy (or pretend to enjoy) weighty literature, whilst conservatives prefer CARS!, SPORTS!, ROM COMS! and…um… OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY.
I’ll be there for you
Lots of friends: Biology, Jennifer Lopez, Paid In Full, The Dollar You Are Holding Could’ve Been In A Stripper’s Butt Crack
Few friends: In ‘n’ Out Burger, The Dark Knight, “Honey, Where’s My Supersuit?”, Walking With Your Friend & Randomly Pushing Them Into Someone/Something
This one was much harder to guess, right? Who would have thought poor old In ‘n’ Out Burger was a refuge for the friendless? I guess I can see why “Randomly Pushing Them Into Someone/Something” is a good way to lose friends. But are we really to believe that the world’s most popular people like strip clubs, J-Lo and… Biology (maybe they mean the Girls Aloud song?).
Heterosexual Males: Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps, Foot Locker, Bruce Lee, WWE
Homosexual Males: Wicked The Musical, Mac Cosmetics, Human Rights Campaign, Kathy Griffin
Heterosexual Females: “Did You Get A Haircut? No It Grew Shorter”, Inbox (1) Makes Me Nervous, Thinking Of Something And Laughing Alone, I Just Realized Immature Spells “I’m Mature”
Homosexual Females: Not Being Pregnant, Sometime I just Lay In Bed And Think About Life, Tegan And Sara, The L Word
Yep, nothing says “I’m a straight man” like Being Confused After Waking Up From Naps.
Drunk on love
Drinks alchohol: I Love It When In The Middle Of Our Kiss I Can Feel You Smiling, Watching Karma Bite The Person You Hate Right In The Ass, Getting A Text That Says I Miss You, Trying To Figure Out If Its A Cop Car
Doesn’t drink alcohol: That’s Going In My Status When I Get Home, I Like Watching Raindrops Race Across My Window And Silently Cheer For Them, Not Finishing A Sentence Because Your Laughing Too Hard About The Ending, I Hate When I Originally Pick The Right Answer Then Change It.
One surprise is that you’d imagine that drunks would constitute the majority of late-night status-updaters – perhaps they’re too mashed to mash their keyboards. To be fair to the non-drinkers, most of their likes (e.g., “Watching Raindrops Race Across My Window And Silently Cheer For Them” and “Not Finishing A Sentence Because Your Laughing Too Hard About The Ending”) are probably things that you do when you’re too young to drink, rather than because you’re an adult teetotaler.
The drugs don’t work
Takes drugs: I Like Lyrics That Actually Mean Something, Pushing Your Friends Into Random People In The Hallway, That Awkward Moment When You Get In The Van And There’s No Candy, Austin Texas.
Doesn’t take drugs: So What Animal Is Your Bracelet?, Sliding On Floors With Your Socks On, Wouldn’t It Be Ironic If You Choked On A Life Saver, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.
So if you like randomly pushing your friend into someone/something, then you don’t have many friends. But if you specifically enjoy doing that in the hallway, then that marks you down as a drug fiend. Although it sounds glib, there probably is something in the idea that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is like drugs for people who don’t do drugs. Many psychological predictors of drug-taking (like a tendency for delay discounting) are also predictors of obesity (more on this in the book- plug, plug).
So what have we learned?
“Not much” you might think. We’ve learned that conservative people like conservative things, intelligent people like highbrow and/or geeky things, and gay men like musicals (I ‘ve spared you some of the even more obvious “findings”, like the one about Christians liking pages to do with Christianity).
But, for me, the interesting thing about the study is what we can learn from the correlations that don’t seem to make much sense: Intelligent people liking curly fries, straight men being confused after waking up from naps, and people with lots of friends liking biology.
Now, I don’t believe for a second that there is real-life relationship between – say – high intelligence and liking curly fries (by which I mean actually liking curly fries in the real world, not “liking” the Curly Fries page on Facebook). So why did one turn up in the study? Of course, some of the relationships could have just been due to chance (without the raw data I can’t assess this possibility statistically). But there is another, more interesting – and perhaps more likely – possibility. Perhaps the connection between high IQ and “liking” Curly Fries started out as one-off chance event, but rapidly became self-perpetuating.
Let’s suppose that whoever set up the Curly Fries page just so happened to be a highly intelligent person; a Harvard student, say. Who would have been the first people to like his page? Most likely, other Harvard students. So, now the fact that “Mr Clevercloggs likes Curly Fries” turns up in loads of other people’s Facebook feeds. What do these people do? Well those who are part of the gang – Mr Clevercloggs’ Ivy League chums – might just click that “Like” button as well. But those who aren’t part of the gang – childhood friends of Mr Clevercloggs who never went to university – are more likely to dismiss the whole thing as some college-boy in-joke that they aren’t in on. The self-perpetuating nature of this relationship means that we don’t need all of the Ivy Leaguers to “like” the Curly Fries page or all the high-school drop-outs to ignore it. If the former group are even ever-so-slightly more likely to “like” Curly Fries, then these small differences in IQ will add up as the chain reaction unfolds.
So while this study tells us almost nothing about the relationship between curly fries and intelligence, it’s a fascinating illustration of how tiny random differences at the start can lead to hugely different outcomes further down the line. Or, if you will (sorry)…
A butterfry effect
Source: Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(15), 5802-5805.
This is a sample chapter in the style of Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge, forthcoming from Profile Books (UK) and Penguin (US). For details click here