Quicklink: OKCupid’s ‘statistical distinctness’ analysis

The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’:

What is it that makes a culture unique? How are whites, blacks, Asians, or whoever different from everybody else? What tastes, interests, and concepts define an ethnic group? And is there any way to make fun of other races in public and get away with it?

The logo for OKTrends, "original research and insights from OkCupid"These are big questions, and here’s how we answered them.

We selected 526,000 OkCupid users at random and divided them into groups by their (self-stated) race. We then took all these people’s profile essays (280 million words in total!) and isolated the words and phrases that made each racial group’s essays statistically distinct from the others’.

There’s a lot to parse in this, and I’m not recovered enough to do it properly (although the antibiotics are doing good things, progress is still a bit slow on hastigtogstoppedcoughingandsneezing? front). Briefly: given that people’s profiles on OKCupid are all about presenting themselves in order to attract partners into relationships (either casual or serious, but relationships of one sort or another are the goal), then obviously people’s profiles will exaggerate/downplay some of their preferences/beliefs based on what they believe other people want/like. That is several layers of self-censoring, self-aggrandising, self-doubting, etc meta-description of oneself going on in the dance of the profile essay right there, but it’s an interesting look into a slice of people’s self-presentation nonetheless. I’m not sure about the jokes though – to my White eyes they don’t appear particularly offensive to anyone, but neither are they particularly strong, and I don’t think they add much to the piece.

Thoughts?

P.S. the article doesn’t say, but I think it makes a huge difference to interpretation of these results whether they looked at US profiles only, or whether the sampling was worldwide. US residents would dominate in a worldwide sample anyway, but there would be quite a few confounders for various ethnic groups coming from other nations in terms of these self-descriptors, don’t you think?



Categories: relationships, Science, Sociology

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2 replies

  1. In economic terms (as I mentioned over at our place), it shows stated preferences, not revealed preferences. Don’t get me wrong, this data is interesting, but economists have always (and with good reason) been more interested in what people do, rather than what they say they want to do.

    • Don’t get me wrong, this data is interesting, but economists have always (and with good reason) been more interested in what people do, rather than what they say they want to do.

      My own reservations in a nutshell.
      As many other commentors over at OKTrends itself noted, there wasn’t nearly enough extra classification information given either.

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