Wednesday, 3 November 2010

So you're a Scorpio? Wow!

Some time ago ago I carried out a little survey to try to establish whether or not women, in general, taking it by and large, on the whole and with reservations, might be thought to be—or tend to be—more, perhaps marginally, superstitious than men. This was a frivolous exercise, and I did not imagine anyone would consider it tendentious or even take it seriously.

But I was wrong. My conclusion ("Yes, possibly") evidently festered in the mind of an acquaintance of mine until she could rein in her contempt no longer, and now, four years later, she has sent me an email expressing the view that what I had written was monstrously unreasonable, bigoted, mendacious and shameful, though supplying no evidence to support her contention that my conclusion was wrong.

This attack has hurt me deeply. While I am prepared to admit that such strictures could be applied with some truth to much of the content of OMF, I do not believe they can be levelled at the post in question, so over the past few days during which I had few major commitments (any fewer, and there would have been no need for me to get up in the mornings), I have gone to the trouble of repeating the enquiry using a larger sample.

It was based on the same premise as the earlier survey: that the desire to reveal your astrological sign to the world by noting it in your blog profile indicates a belief that this information says something interesting about you. There is no reason to believe this unless you think that there is something in astrology and that it is not just silly rubbish; in other words you have at least one superstitious belief.

So I looked at a hundred blogs which feature a personal profile, fifty written by women and fifty by men. Of these, 11 (22%) of the men and 36 (72%) of the women list their astrological sign.

This does not prove that women are more than three times as likely as men to be superstitious, of course: such a conclusion would be quite unwarranted.


outeast said...

I just ran a quick-and-dirty test via the General Social Survey, with the 'sex' variable against 'scitest3' ('Astrology has some scientific truth'). The data there definitely supports your own informal survey conclusions.

Obviously there's the possibility that astrology is not a good proxy for superstition overall. I've tried to test that, by running the data on other plausible proxies for superstition - belief in heaven, hell, religious miracles, the devil, an afterlife - and in every case women were more likely to believe (especially strongly), men more likely to believe weakly or to disbelieve.

Women are also significantly more likely to claim to consider themselves to be spiritual ('sprtprsn') and to think that a sick person should go to a spiritual or natural healer for help ('sphealer'). I really tried, but I could find no exceptions to the trend (though that's partly due to dataset limitations).

Of course, this is all US data; that is critical if (as I strongly suspect) this is primarily a cultural construct rather than anything innate.

Tony said...

Why, thank you, Outeast, for taking the trouble to test my hypothesis.

Of course I am delighted to learn that your serious research supported the tentative conclusion suggested by my little bit of fun.

outeast said...


Grumio said...

We just did a straw poll in Reginald's. I fear it may be inconclusive. Out of 11 of us (a busy night but would have been busier if the NUJ lot weren't out picketing at the Beeb) it went something like this:

4 ladies: 1 x "I'm a Scorpio", 1 x "Ooh, I bet you're a Pisces" and 2 "What, you mean like telescopes and that?"

6 chaps: 2 x "Star Trek? Yeah I believe in that, that man in last night had pointy ears, and all", 3 x "Pass the twiglets" and 1 x [EXPLETIVE DELETED]

1 Gareth (who knows): I'm Libra, cusp of Aquarius, Mercury rising, Jupiter waning, Year of the Rabbit".

Sorry, this may not help. Speaking for myself, well, actually, I was the Expletive Deleted.

Tony said...

Outeast: Ouch? Surely you mean 'Aw, shucks'?
A further post on this topic follows in a couple of days.

Grumio: The dissolute bunch who frequent Reginald's haven't changed a bit; and not a Virgo among them.
Quite right: it didn't help at all.