…who are the biggest bulls***ters in the Anglosphere?
In the April 30th, 2019 issue, The Economist reports a study [PDF] performed by three researchers and published by the Institute of Labor Economics of Bonn, Germany. The study surveyed 40,550 15-year old students from the English-speaking countries and regions Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States, and Wales. Sample sizes differed, but were adjusted by weighting factors to be comparable. The test evaluated mathematical knowledge via eight common tasks such as solving a linear equation, understanding graphs, and calculating price after a discount. In addition, the survey asked students to rank their familiarity on a five-point scale (from “never heard of it” to “know it well, understand the concept”) with sixteen mathematical concepts such as vector, polygon, and cosine. The table of concepts included three “ringers”: made-up items “proper number”, “subjunctive scaling”, and “declarative fraction”. The researchers then evaluated the likelihood of students from different regions to claim familiarity with these fake concepts. (See the research paper for the detailed analysis methodology.) The result can be interpreted as who, among the Anglosphere, are the best bulls***ters.
The North Americans win running away, with Canada scoring 0.30 and the United States 0.25. Australia comes in at 0.18, New Zealand at 0.14, and England at 0.09. Negative scores, indicating less inclination to bulls*** are posted by Ireland (−0.26), Northern Ireland (−0.27), and Scotland (−0.43).
Boys (+0.20) were more prone to bulls*** than girls (−0.20), and immigrants (+0.28) more prone than natives (−0.04) of each region.
I have to admit I’m a little surprised by the results. Anecdotal experience would lead me to guess, before reading the study, that Australians and Irish would score much higher than they did. I’m not surprised at the disparity between immigrants and natives: being an immigrant in any society involves a degree of bluffing familiarity with things you’re trying to learn as you struggle to fit in; bluffing and bulls*** are closely related.