Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Books and IQ

Here's some research which correlates books with the IQs of their readers :-) Now you can check quantitatively whether you have highbrow or lowbrow taste! The method attempts to estimate the midpoint IQ of people who list a particular book as their favorite, using Facebook and university SAT data. It craps out at the really highbrow end, due to low statistics; see below.

Many of the books appearing at the center of the distribution are typically assigned as required reading (A Farewell to Arms, On the Road, A Tale of Two Cities, etc.), hence are likely to be mentioned by low-scoring students who don't read very many books. Their ranking here is probably deceptively low.

List of schools ranked by SAT (Caltech #1, of course), with links to 10 most frequent Facebook "favorite books" at that university. Click the image below for a bigger one.

Some notable results:

Harry Potter is the most popular book. The Bible is the second most popular book. At least among college students, Harry Potter is, like the Beatles, indeed bigger than Jesus. Harry Potter still wins even if you add "The Bible" and "The Holy Bible" together.

Although I had no idea at the beginning of this project, I was ever so pleased to discover that Caltech is the smartest school in the country (on average).

The smartest religious book is "The Book of Mormon". The dumbest religious book is "The Holy Bible". I'm sure this pleases the Mormons immensely.

The dumbest philosophy book is "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" and the smartest philosophy book is "Atlas Shrugged".

"Lolita" is the smartest book.

The top/bottom 20 books are remarkably stable. I tried 5 different weighting algorithms and their only variation was in the middle. The dumbest books were always at the bottom, and the smartest books were always on top. This is even further corroborated by the fact that the extremes change remarkably little with increasing m.

Do people with SAT >= 1400 just not read books? Yes, they do read books. Just look at those schools' facebook profiles! However, there often aren't enough schools with high SATs to have reliable statistics for these high-ringing books. So it goes.


Get a friend of yours to download, using Facebook, the ten most frequent "favorite books" at every college (manually -- as not to violate Facebook's ToS).

These ten books are indicative of the overall intellectual milieu of that college.

Download the average SAT/ACT score for students attending every college.

Presto! We have a correlation between books and dumbitude (smartitude too)!

Books <=> Colleges <=> Average SAT Scores

Plot the average SAT of each book, discarding books with too few samples to have a reliable average.

Post the results on your website, pondering what the Internet will think of it.

Yes, I'm aware correlation ≠ causation. The results are hilarity incarnate regardless of causality. You can stop sending me email about this distinction. Thanks.


Dave Bacon said...

Lisa Simpson (in awe): "Are you reading Gravity's Rainbow?"
College Girl (snidely): "Well, rereading."

Unknown said...

I wonder where books like "HTMW" by Steven Pinker, "Spent" by Geoffrey Miller, and "TFOA" by Sam Savage would rate. I mostly get my fiction fix from movies. I only read non-fiction books.

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