Monday, May 29, 2017

Viral Science in the Age of Social Media: THIS ARTICLE AGREES WITH MY WORLDVIEW SO IT'S TRUE. *Shares on Facebook*

There is a whole oil slick of questionable websites making the rounds on social media at the moment claiming that people who curse, are messy, and stay up late are more intelligent or have a higher IQ than those who don’t. The same websites often make some pretty sensationalist claims, sometimes taking research out of context and other times just making stuff up (see link at the bottom of the page). There are two studies (and one questionable article) involved when you dig into the subject. There may be more, but here are the two that keep coming up.

Let’s address language first. The actual article is “Taboo word fluency and knowledge of slurs and general pejoratives: deconstructing the poverty-of-vocabulary myth,” published in Language Sciences Volume 52, November 2015, Pages 251–259. It addresses the long-held myth that people who swear are less intelligent or do so because they cannot find better words to use. It argues that there is no real correlation between a wide range of swearing and a lower intelligence. It never mentions that people who swear more or have a wider range of curse word vocabulary have a higher IQ or are more intelligent. It dispels the idea that they are inferior. There are a few related articles once you find this one, and they mostly seem to agree with this research. Taboo words (AKA “swear words”) are only taboo because for cultural reasons. They are not mandated to be bad words. They are words used by people, and do not indicate a single thing about intelligence.

Now let’s address messiness. The actual article is “Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits,” published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. It says that while a clean desk may promote behaviors like eating healthy, generosity, and conventionality, a messy desk may promote creativity and new ideas. It does not say that people who live in messy environments are more intelligent or have a higher IQ than people who keep their environments clean.

Now for staying up late. The actual article is “Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent Than Morning Larks,” Published in Psychology Today in the Scientific Fundamentalist blog by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics. This article does claim that people who stay up later are more intelligent than others. He is famous for an article in this same publication about why black women are allegedly not as attractive as white women, using the opinions of interviewees as the “unbiased” control for this study ( That article has since been pulled and the London School of Economics prohibited him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for a year. Take what you want from that one. I’m still trying to figure it out myself.

A final note: I swear a lot. My apartment is messy. I have been known to stay up until 7AM at 32 years old. This does not always make someone more intelligent in my opinion, because I know plenty of people who do the same things and are complete idiots. For all I know, I may be one of them.

The fact that so many people take all this research out of context and use it justify things that no one needs to justify like swearing and messiness and staying up late is ridiculous. Live how you live, folks. You don’t need to answer to anyone. I get a lot of flack for my apparent “conservative values” and my “Christian upbringing.” Well, whatever. I can respect that, but I would also like to point out that I am an atheist, because a Christian upbringing means nothing, and “conservative” is a relative word, depending on who you talk to.

My point is, even though these studies exist, they do not exist in the capacity or context that the people reposting this kind of clickbait would like to believe. But no one cares to do the research, so no one knows any better. We have made science a huge thing, praised well-known scientists, made them our heroes, but most of us would still rather not look into anything. We find something that agrees with our worldview, we like it, we share it. We spread the ignorance.

Oh well. We're all on a big, dying ball of dirt floating in a soundless void. What do facts matter, when you can have... SENSATIONALISM? :D


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