Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sexual Correlations

I have always enjoyed finding studies that demonstrate the fallacy of assuming causality from correlation.

A correlation is simply a mathematical dependency between two trends or tendencies. For example: young males tend to get in more car accidents; people who smoke are more likely to get lung cancer.

Causality is always harder to prove. Not only should there be a correlation, but it must then be demonstrated that one of the factors is actually responsible for the other. What is it about young males that causes them to get in more car accidents? Is it bad driving habits or just that they do more driving? What is the biological underpinning that connects smoking and cancer?

To which I add the following, a study showing that intelligent people tend to lose their virginities later in life:

Besides the amusing bar graph which indicates that the Studio Art Department at Wellesley apparently includes an Orgy class, the author's first conclusion in explaining this causality is the following:

"One reason we might guess that smarter people in high school, or in more challenging colleges or majors, delay their sexual debuts is because they are delaying gratification in expectation of future reward. Sexual behaviour (or at least the investment needed to procure a partner or sustain one) may compete with time/resources required for other goals, and intelligent people may have more demanding goals."

He goes on to say:
"Another idea is that smarter people are more risk averse, and delaying these activities is a byproduct of enhanced concerns about unwanted pregnancy and disease."

That's cute, really, and it's very sweet of him to think that. Either he wasn't very intelligent in high school and university, or he's very embarrassed about the lateness of his own "sexual debut".

But seriously. Is this guy nuts? Is he actually suggesting that all of the smart virgins in the world are doing it on purpose?

No. No, that wasn't it. Trust me.

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