by Virgil Griffith      virgil at caltech dot edu

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See also Musicthatmakesyoudumb

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Ever read a book (required or otherwise) and upon finishing it thought to yourself, "Wow. That was terrible. I totally feel dumber after reading that."? I know I have. Well, like any good scientist, I decided to see how well my personal experience matches reality. How might one do this?

Well, here's one idea.

  1. Get a friend of yours to download, using Facebook, the ten most frequent "favorite books" at every college via that college's Network Statistics page on Facebook (manually -- as not to violate Facebook's ToS). These ten books are perhaps indicative of the overall intellectual milieu of that college.
  2. Download the average SAT/ACT score (from CollegeBoard) for students attending every college.
  3. Presto! We have a correlation between books and dumbitude (smartitude too)!
    Books <=> Colleges <=> Average SAT Scores
  4. Plot the average SAT of each book, discarding books with too few samples to have a reliable average.
  5. 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.

Facebook stopped providing Network Statistics pages. If you enjoy these kinds of analyses, yell at facebook to bring them back.

Update: I changed Lolita from 'Erotica' and 'Pride and Prejudice' from 'Chick Lit' to Classics. You literature majors all lack any sense of humor.

Average SAT (with standard error) for the 100 most popular books on facebook. The vertical axis doesn't mean anything.
The Books has details on the data plotted here. Curious how a particular book acquired its rating? See the bookdetails for that book, such as this one for Lolita.

big / huge
Graph also available sorted by genre

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Browsing the 100 most popular (out of 3,164) books from 1,352 schools. Mean SAT across the dataset is 1071 out of 1600.

Special thanks to Peter Burns and Brent Goldman