The Null Device

Books that make you dumb

A chap named Virgil Griffith has correlated the most popular books at every college in the US (as fetched from Facebook) with that school's average test score to find a correlation between intelligence and favourite books. According to Griffith's study, the book most correlated with high scores is Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and that with low scores is the Holy Bible (not to be confused with the Bible, which is around the middle, just below Harry Potter); other books correlated with high scores are Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, and Freakonomics, and books dumber than "I Dont Read" include various erotica and hip-hop/ghetto fiction, The Purpose Driven Life and Fahrenheit 451. Slightly smarter than not reading are the likes of Fight Club, Dan Brown and John Grisham, along with Shakespeare's Hamlet; sci-fi, fantasy and geek/fan-interest books like The Lord of the Rings, Dune and, umm, Eragon rate more highly. (Mind you, this is correlated to test scores, not cultural well-roundedness.)

It would be interesting to see one of these correlating a measure of intelligence (such as test scores) with other factors, such as favourite music (I imagine things that a lot of geeks listen to, like metal, industrial and prog rock would come out on top, and rap-metal/nu-metal and R&B would come out fairly low), movies, or even which Facebook groups/applications one has installed.

There are 3 comments on "Books that make you dumb":

Posted by: amby Sun Jan 27 05:55:00 2008

Looks godawfully dodgy. The causaton issues are quite apparent with Freakonomics, Ayn Rand and the Alchemist coming so high up. Those books are popular among the business school set and almost nobody else, so they are going to register a much larger effect. Fahrenheit 451 and The Colour Purple got a low score because they were required reading in high school, and those were probably the only books the underperforming ones read.

I suspect these correlations will disappear once you correct for majors and socioeconomic status, and the same goes for music.

Posted by: acb Sun Jan 27 10:41:02 2008

That and that the average SAT scores at colleges are undoubtedly correlated with socioeconomic status, meaning that it could be not so much "books that make you dumb" as "books that make you dumb and/or poor"

Posted by: mark Mon Jan 28 02:54:47 2008

Or books that you only read if you're rich ...

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