The Science Is Settled…

…who are the biggest bulls***ters in the Anglosphere?

The Economist: “Call my Bluff”

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.

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

12 thoughts on “The Science Is Settled…”

  1. Haakon Dahl:
    I already knew this.

    That is because of gamma radiation fish oils taken by your great great grandmother. If you notice one leg is longer than the other, Haakon. Depending on the difference, it will increase your heterocred coefficient which is wonderful if you were the first born child with gonadualism.

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  2. John Walker:
    Anecdotal experience would lead me to guess, before reading the study, that Australians and Irish would score much higher than they did.

    Probably a bit complex.

    One issue is that Irish and Scottish culture likely value ignorance. Knowledge is for the English.

    Another is the impact of immigrants. How much would that left hand graph change if immigrants were excluded?

    To be continued…

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  3. John Walker:
    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.

    Also, I expect immigrants are more likely to confuse the made up terms for real ones. One could easily imagine an immigrant assuming that “proper number” is a local term for “real number”, “ordinal number”, “integer”…

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  4. “Wales has been excluded from this comparison; see Appendix A for further details.”

    Naturally, as the study is restricted to English-speaking countries.

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  5. ctlaw:

    John Walker:
    Anecdotal experience would lead me to guess, before reading the study, that Australians and Irish would score much higher than they did.

    Probably a bit complex.

    One issue is that Irish and Scottish culture likely value ignorance. Knowledge is for the English.

    Another is the impact of immigrants. How much would that left hand graph change if immigrants were excluded?

    To be continued…

    Did they account for blood alcohol levels during the testing?  I know for a fact that Canadian BS tendencies rise exponentially with each successive bottle of Kokanee.  I think it’s a secret ingredient.

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