Summer 2011 Gene Expression Reader Survey

By Razib Khan | July 14, 2011 11:13 pm

I’ve been taking surveys of the readership of this weblog since 2004. Here is my last one, from the summer of 2010. Before I moved to Discover I also did one in the winter of 2010. Here’s a reader survey from the winter of 2009. Another from 2005.

I set up a survey with a new service this time. I did integrate some of the suggestions of commenters as well. One difference between this survey and previous ones is that I have a lot more free-form text boxes with numeric answers. So you give your specific age or income, instead of selecting from a category. The survey shouldn’t take more than ~5 minutes, as many of the questions are yes/no, or very simple, such as your highest education attained.

I’ll post the first results within 24 hours, and probably post the raw files at some point in the near future if you want to crunch them yourself. I set it up so it goes from banal demographic questions in the beginning to more detailed and somewhat esoteric queries by the end. None of the questions are mandatory.

You can complete the survey at this link:

Update: Might as well point you to the early results (the “open-ended” results aren’t there, I’ll have to format that for later).


Comments (10)

  1. marcel

    Some comments on the survey, which I just filled out.

    1) The series of questions about biologically determined behavior. This is poorly worded, though I’m not sure how to correct this. I answered 3 questions (which I could not then change to no answer without abandoning the survey), and then realized that I was reading “Biologically determined” as “genetically determined”. Once I realized this, and also realized that I could not change the filled answers to blanks, I was stymied.

    1a) Sleep is a biological phenomenon, and heavily determines behavior, not just the difference in behavior between periods of being awake and being asleep. When awake, behavior depends on the quality of sleep, the need for sleep, whether there is a possibility of napping soon, etc.

    1b) More to the point: hunger is a biological phenomenon, both short term (I’m hungry NOW; feed me!) and long term (famine) heavily influence behavior (in re its short term effects: my wife gets phenomenally crabby when hungry but is generally otherwise very sweet and well behaved). Both types of hunger are also social phenomenon: short term due to, e.g., fads about dieting: long term due to all the sorts of things that Amartya Sen has identified about modern famines (at least since the 19thC Irish famine) being due less to total availability of food and more to its distribution and allocation.

    1c) In its biochemical aspects, stress is a biological phenomenon. Parenting is generally considered a social phenomenon, but it can have consequences for how stress is experienced, especially by the child but also the parent.

    1d) From b & c, we see that social phenomena become biological phenomena…

    1d) This is more generally true of a variety of social phenomena, essentially genes mediating environment. I’m pretty confident that you have expressed this POV, although I doubt I could quickly find it in your posts.

    1e) I believe that the questions could have been better worded so that those taking the survey could determine what you were getting at, and then be sure of correctly answering about their opinion on that position. As it is, I think you will get some heterogeneity in the answers as to what respondents thought they were being asked about. Yeah, this is true about most opinion surveys, people are responding to widely used phrases without the surveyors being sure that all or even most are attributing similar meaning to the phrases, but this is generally considered a bug, not a feature (except perhaps in marketing, where all you care about is the emotional resonance of the phrase).

    2) A combination of my answers to 2 of the questions is atheist/Judaism, along the lines of the atheist parent responding to his* kid came home from a Jewish summer camp complaining about the religious ritual there, “You should know exactly which god it is that you don’t believe in!”

    *Yes, his. In my experience, fathers feel and express similar sentiments much more often than mothers.

  2. Ketil Tveiten

    You might want to clarify the question about economic liberalism. Does ‘liberal’ there mean ‘leftist’, i.e. favour restrictive policies, or does it mean ‘liberalist’, i.e. lassez-faire?

  3. Weiss

    Just on the first page – can you expand the possible sexual orientations? You’ve been pretty exclusive with just those three.

  4. DK

    So far an interesting result in answers: a mode for “biologically derived behavioral differences within a coherent population (e.g., Chinese) is “somewhat significant” yet a mode for “biologically derived behavioral differences between the human races (e.g., East Asian vs. European)” is “very modest”. That, and the fact that a modal readership has PhD degree 🙂

  5. skatr

    I agree that the choice of the term “liberal” to describe economic ideology is ambiguous. Many in Europe, and current Marxists in their disparagement of “neo-liberalism” still use the term in its 19th century “classical” liberalism sense to describe non-mercantilist free market policies whereas in the United States it connotes active government participation in directing the economy.

  6. Polynices

    Odd early results. Only 20% have taken an intro calculus class but tons of doctorates and college degrees.

  7. pconroy

    #6, I expect some people checked ONLY their highest level attained, rather then everything they had studied…

  8. jaakkeli

    Let me guess, your typical reader is a 180 IQ INTJ Finn who edits Wikipedia and doesn’t exercise

  9. i think paul has to be right. i should have made it more explicit?

    #5, you’re right. though most people understood it when i checked by crossing with tax rates.

    a mode for “biologically derived behavioral differences within a coherent population (e.g., Chinese) is “somewhat significant” yet a mode for “biologically derived behavioral differences between the human races (e.g., East Asian vs. European)” is “very modest”.

    intra vs. inter population variance. is the variation in shyness greater amongst chinese or between chinese and europeans?

  10. Clark

    Wow. Left a lot blank this year. Do people really remember their Myers-Briggs personality type?

    I missed the genetic vs. biological distinction too that (1) mentioned. I should have caught that.


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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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