A survey on genes, behavior, etc.

By Razib Khan | August 16, 2012 11:39 pm

First, a minor note. People have repeatedly mentioned my Pinboard in the comments. This surprised me, as the kind of things I bookmark for later are very diverse and…interesting I suppose. Out of curiosity I checked to see how many people had used Google Reader to subscribe, and it was 27! Anyway, if you want to see what I’m bookmarking every day, then here’s the RSS (and if you like that, subscribe to Jason Malloy’s Delicious feed).

Second, I want some reader feedback on a survey design. I normally ask questions on reader surveys about attitudes toward things like sex differences. I want to do something similar, but in more in-depth. I’d also like to ask readers about genetically modified organisms and other such things. The reason I’m putting this post up is that I always get complaints about the wording of questions no matter how precise I try to be. So enter in questions, and demographic variables, that you think might be interesting. I’m not a patient person, so I’ll probably put up the survey next week.

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  • http://twitter.com/theogonia31 M87

    I few things I wouldn’t mind learning about the readers.

    – Subjects/Areas/Issues on this blog that readers are least interested in.
    (It would be interesting to see what people generally care the least about in terms of content)

    – IQ/General intelligence and it’s relationship with Life Satisfaction or tendencies towards neuroticism/mental disorders/Personality disorders etc. (this is not looking for a diagnostic data, but what people perceive their own tendencies towards these problems are.)

    – Forced choice question: If you could only choose one pursuit that necessarily compromised other pursuit in a significant way, what would you choose? The pursuit of pure knowledge or Action/impact oriented living that creates value for many in the present or immediate future. (btw, I know that one affects the other but scientists will tell you that not everyone working in the field of research or innovation is motivated by the same primary instincts. For example, people are in fundamental physics are curious to know how the universe works rather than it’s ultimate effects on society like PET scans or radiation therapy or giant magnetoresistance leading to hard diks)

  • http://www.facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew Selvarasa

    I’m one of your RSS followers!

    I’m one of your many virgin readers, which I wasn’t too surprised about to be honest. :P This was revealed during one of your previous surveys.

    – I’d like to know which people here believe in race.

    – Furthermore, I’d like to know who believes that blacks are genetically destined (regardless of environment) to have an IQ of ~85 and Ashkenazis ~110. I’d be interested to know how many of your readers subscribe to that line of thought.

    – Who believes races are predisposed to certain temperaments?

    – Who believes straight men and gay women are better at math and spacial reasoning, and straight women and gay men are better at verbal fluency? And all other gender-specific predispositions we hear about, pretty much.

    – Do they believe women more empathic than men, or is that hogwash?

    – I’d like to know how many people here have Asperger’s/autism. Diagnosed? Self-diagnosed?

    – Who has depression? Social anxiety disorder? Bipolarism? Schizophrenia?

    – Introverted or extroverted?

    – How many readers have cheated on a partner? How many feel remorse?

    – Pro-life/pro-choice and under what circumstances?

    – One that REALLY interests me: how many people here believe non-human animals are sentient and capable of feeling pain.

    – Would they marry interracially?
    (I’d like to see the correlation of this question with:
    — those believing in race.
    — those believing races are genetically destined to have a set average IQ regardless of environment.
    — those believing races are predisposed to certain temperaments.)

    – Gay or straight?

    – Omnivore or herbivore?

    – Free will? Determinism? Compatibalist?

  • Merm

    - Do you think forms of discrimination (e.g. governmental, employer and general societal discrimination) are inevitable consequences of belief in differences?

    – Do you think many well-known scientists who support the idea of sex differences want discrimination?

    – Do you think science in the US is biased towards the political views of the majority of scientists?

    – Do you think it is realistic that education standards in the US be increased?

  • Google Reader

    I subscribe to your blog via Google Reader, but I have subscribed to the feed for all of Discover Blogs, and not just GNXP. I don’t know if that counts towards your 27.

    EDIT: Sorry, I misunderstood. I did not realize 27 was for your pinboard.

    One thing I want to know, since you bring up politics often, is how many of your readers are libertarians or anarchists

  • Brel

    “One that REALLY interests me: how many people here believe non-human animals are sentient and capable of feeling pain.”

    Who DOESN’T believe that these days?

  • Karl Zimmerman

    4 –

    Indeed. AFAIK, neuroscience has shown that at least all vertebrates seem to feel pain – they have identical nerve signals which go to the brain when injured, and even a fish will attempt to avoid using an injured fin and stop it from rubbing up against objects.

    Sentience is a more complicated issue which is difficult to determine. Understanding evolution, one cannot believe that sentience somehow magically sprung forth in some random generation on the way to humans. There must be degrees of sentience, with some animals having levels of consciousness close to our own (but lacking language our our advanced cognitive abilities), and others having much more limited levels of consciousness.

  • Grey

    “- Do you think forms of discrimination (e.g. governmental, employer and general societal discrimination) are inevitable consequences of belief in differences?”

    Do you think that if differences exist then imposing a level playing field despite the facts inevitably discriminates against individuals from the lower scoring end of the higher scoring group?

  • Anthony

    I’m curious how many other readers, like myself, have no idea what the Gene Expression blog is about.

    I really like it though.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #8, genes & other stuff. my interests vary over the years, but genes are always a fixed parameter….

  • http://www.facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew Selvarasa

    #5 and #6: Oh my god you guys, you wouldn’t believe how many people believe that only humans are self-aware and capable of feeling pain. I studied Microbiology & Molecular Genetics for my undergrad, and most of my classmates would dismiss my claims due to me being a vegan animal rights hippie. I believe most deniers do so out of guilt for eating meat; the proverbial “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU, BRO!”

    Then you have the philoso-heads who turn it into a discussion of philosophy, disregarding science and plain common sense.

    And the religious who believe in Genesis or whatever (“dominion over animals”).

  • Carnivore4lyfe

    Andrew,
    I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t believe animals are sentient on some level or can’t feel pain. People wouldn’t keep useless dogs and cats as pets if they thought their animals were just organic robots. Were your classmates really dismissing your claims, or your radical political statements?
    For example, I know animals are sentient but I just don’t really care, I will eat them anyway. I also tend to resent vegans who feel the need to get in my face and denounce my bambi-eating sins when there are starving humans in parts of the world they could be expending their energies on. These same vegans often wear leather shoes and belts, interestingly enough. And after humans switch to lab-grown meat, I assume the vegans will begin proselytizing its benefits to lions, tigers, and bears, an endeavor I would encourage, though not for the same reasons.

    To stay on topic,
    I would like to see questions on how seriously people take the singularity/transhumanism movement, and predictive questions like “By what year should we have strong AI?”
    Also, ethical questions on that subject matter. AI rights, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew Selvarasa

    11. Nice name. And no, I’m not one of “those” vegans; I mentioned it to explain why I’m requesting that question be on the survey. I do meet people who fit the description I gave above, whenever the topic happens to wander to that area. They honestly believe that non-human animals merely react to “stimuli”, and do not feel pain the way humans do. It is frustrating and discouraging beyond belief.

  • Brel

    “It is frustrating and discouraging beyond belief.”

    Before we bother answering them, which of your other questions are veiled condemnations? All of them, or just the ones about race?

  • I_Affe

    -Do you follow any particular diet (Paleo, Atkins, Vegan, Vegetarian, South Beach, etc)?

    -How often do you drink alcohol (never, ~1/wk, 2-4/wk, >5/wk)?

    -What type of alcohol do you drink? (Beer, wine, hard liquor (could break down into whisky/vodka/scotch/etc.)) Fill in the blank.

    -Do you smoke?

    -How much time do you spend online outside of work related activities?

  • http://www.facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew Selvarasa

    13. I’m actually just genuinely curious what people around here think. Nothing’s veiled. And I am discouraged that MANY people [outside this blog] don’t believe non-human animals feel pain, because it shows a lack of common sense and basic biological knowledge, among other things.

    How deeply can we understand the average Gene Expression reader? That’s all I’m interested in.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #15, average around here doesn’t tell u as much as elsewhere, does it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew Selvarasa

    Nope, I realized that as I was typing my last message. :$

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Andrew –

    I don’t know if it’s still the case, but AFAIK, the belief that animals were automatons tended to be closely linked with “blank slate” social science.

    Basically the idea was that “instinct” described actions under no conscious control at all. Animals therefore operated on instinct, but humans (with the exception of a few things like pain reflexes) did not because they were conscious and able to control impulse.

    In addition, it was popular in some quarters because assuming all animals lacked consciousness meant we were ensuring we weren’t falling for “anthropocentrism” – where we describe apparently analogous animal behavior to known human emotional and mental states. Thus it’s “bias” if we make an assumption that a frightened-appearing gorilla is actually experiencing fear.

    FWIW, despite being a vegan for 16 years now, I don’t believe in animal rights. Something which can’t testify in court doesn’t have rights. To claim otherwise just makes it a pawn in the agenda of others. It doesn’t mean should be mistreated though.

  • Isabel

    “-Do you smoke? ”

    If so, cannabis or tobacco?

    Would you consider yourself a feminist?

  • Jenn Troxler

    Razib, my interests in the data from the survey would tend towards finding out which other Discovery blogs gnxp readers routinely read, which blogs outside of the Kalmbach universe are also read, and from which life sciences (or other) backgrounds readers are from.

    BTW, does the move by Kalmbach to move Discover magazine from New York to Wisconsin have any implications for you or other bloggers here?

    Finally, off-topic, would you please ask the technical team to fix the CSS for the comments here (and in every other Discovery blog) so that it uses a single style for all comments, rather than the highly unusual uniquely-named style for _each_ comment.

  • Jason Malloy

    I’d like to know who believes that blacks are genetically destined (regardless of environment) to have an IQ of ~85

    Not non-hereditarian thinkers, and not hereditarian thinkers who understand concepts like norm of reaction. So very few I hope. But getting the wording right is important, and quite tricky, on questions like this.

  • Jason Malloy

    Questions that assess “eugenic” mindsets might be interesting. How would eugenic mindset be associated with politics or religiousness?

    1) You and your wife/husband are planning on having your first child. How important is it to screen for prenatal diseases?

    2) Prenatal screening shows a 90% chance of Down Syndrome. Would you choose to abort?

    3) Let’s pretend scientists have discovered hundreds of genes that affect intelligence test performance. Many couples are now starting to use embryo screening and in vitro fertilisation in order to have children with high intellectual abilities. How likely are you to use this method as well?

    (same question for attractiveness or political orientation)

    4) Prenatal screening shows there is a 90% chance of an IQ of 80. Would you choose to abort?

  • Jason Malloy

    Do you believe that foods should be labeled to indicate that they have been genetically engineered or contain ingredients that have been genetically engineered?

    “When asked if they wanted genetically engineered foods to be labeled, about 9 in 10 Americans said that they did, according to a 2010 Thomson Reuters-NPR poll. “

  • Jason Malloy

    Have you used methylphenidate (Ritalin), modafinil (Provigil), or other drugs non-medically in order to stimulate focus, clarity, or memory?

  • Garvan

    1) A fun topic that recurs from time to time in this blog is your addiction to habaneros. It has inspired me to try making my own chilli sauce! In the same spirit, ask visitors how often they have chilli’s with their meals (times per day, or days per week, days per month, etc.).

    2) Nationality of respondents. (you must have an idea of this from the web log?)

  • http://econstudentlog.wordpress.com US

    Like others I’d also be interested to know the answers to a few lifestyle-type questions:
    Alcohol- and smoking habits?
    BMI?
    ‘Are you currently married/in a LTR/in a STR/single but looking/single, not looking?’ (+perhaps some option to deal with people in non-monogamous relationships)
    Number of children?

    Also, I know I’m stating the obvious but Razib is incredibly erudite. So are probably most of the regular commenters. But there are a lot more ‘regular readers’ than there are ‘people who comment regularly’ and it’s at times like these that they (/we) come out of the woodwork. What about reader erudition in general? I’m very curious about this variable, but I have no idea how best to ask about this. Hours/week spent reading non-fiction not related to your (/primary) field? Number of textbooks you’ve read dealing with topics unrelated to your (/primary) field? I don’t know which is the best way to ask the question, but I’d love to know how people answer it..

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    does the move by Kalmbach to move Discover magazine from New York to Wisconsin have any implications for you or other bloggers here?

    u know as much as me.

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Gene Expression

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 http://www.razib.com

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