January 25, 2014

Dirty jokes comprise much of famous sex study data

From the Cornell Chronicle:
Young 'pranksters' skewed landmark sexuality study 
By H. Roger Segelken 
The joke’s on a generation of human-sexuality researchers: Adolescent “pranksters” responding to the widely cited National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the mid-1990s may have faked “nonheterosexuality.”
Preliminary results from the landmark study – known as “Add Health” – stunned researchers, parents and educators alike, recalls Cornell’s Ritch C. Savin-Williams, professor of human development: “How could it be that 5 to 7 percent of our youth were homosexual or bisexual!” Previous estimates of homosexuality and bisexuality among high schoolers had been around 1 percent. 
So imagine the surprise and confusion when subsequent revisits to the same research subjects found more than 70 percent of the self-reported adolescent nonheterosexuals had somehow gone “straight” as older teens and young adults.
“We should have known something was amiss,” says Savin-Williams.  “One clue was that most of the kids who first claimed to have artificial limbs (in the physical-health assessment) miraculously regrew arms and legs when researchers came back to interview them.” 
Now Savin-Williams is the co-author (along with Kara Joyner of Bowling Green State University) of an invited essay in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior that was published online Dec. 24, "The Dubious Assessment of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Adolescents of Add Health." 
The Add Health study (with more than 14,000 participants in four “waves” between 1994 and 2009) was intended to “assess various social and familial contextual variables that influence health, well-being and health-related behaviors” of American young people. 
Over the years, analyzing Add Health’s sexual-orientation data became a cottage industry for scholars of human sexuality – Savin-Williams among them. “We offer this essay, with data, to forestall such wrongheaded scholarly work in the future,” Savin-Williams and Joyner wrote. 
They offered three hypotheses for the gay-gone-straight phenomenon: Perhaps many of the self-reporting nonheterosexuals went “back in the closet” as they aged. Maybe they misconstrued the researchers’ meaning when asked, rather euphemistically: “Have you ever had a romantic attraction to a male?” and “Have you ever had a romantic attraction to a female?” 
Or it could have been a sophomoric joke to claim, in the confidential survey, to be romantically attracted to the same sex. Most of the adolescents who revised their sexual orientation in subsequent surveys were boys – who might have found humor in pretending to be gay or bisexual. ...
“I can take a joke as well as the next academic,” says the Cornell professor, a licensed clinical psychologist, author and director of the university’s Sex and Gender Lab who has spent a lifetime studying adolescent development. 
Yet he is saddened that the Add Health data led researchers, clinicians and policymakers to an inflated sense that gay youth are more suicidal, depressed and psychologically ill than are straight youth. “We need to be careful,” Savin-Williams said, “when we do our research that our sexual-minority participants are representative of the gay youth population so that we can accurately and adequately represent their lives.”

I remember getting a sex survey handed to me in college in the late 1970s. I was having lunch with a coed with whom I never made any progress despite years of admiring her from afar. She took one look at it, said, "This is horrible," and then crumpled her copy and never gave it another thought.

So, the sample was biased because the more conservative students threw theirs away.

I then took my copy back to the dorm and gave it to my roommate, who filled it in with lewd double entendres that were self-contradictory. For example, while most of his answers consisted of implausible boasting about his heterosexual exploits derived mostly from old jokes about traveling salesmen and farmers' daughters, I recall that his answer to the question "What kind of contraception do you use?" was "100% oral: Girls always tell me "No."

So, some of the data in this survey was simply made up to be funny. I fear that did not dissuade the researchers from incorporating it in their databases.
  

57 comments:

Maxwell Power said...

You know, women usually or perhaps never understand why someone would give false answers to a political pollster or marketing survey, or write preposterous remarks on the review card they'd give you after attending a test screening of a movie (A: Because it's fun)

In the comments earlier was the assertion about "women being PC enforcers"--I don't necessarily concur with that, but women's perpetual failure to grok Internet trolling/sarcasm is the nearest thing to a stone Rule #1 of online discourse. Before the 90s computers were only for social rejects, and the meta-insincere nature of the old culture hasn't adapted well to this new influx of housewives

2013 said...

"If Comedy Has No Lady Problem Why Am I Getting So Many Rape Threats" (sheesh, sounds like the title of one of Ionesco's lesser works)

dearieme said...

Q: "Are you a virgin?"
A: "Not yet."

Daniel said...

Academics are so lame and gullible, yet, to a great extent, they influence our lives. . They (and we) could do with some old time, Motown folk wisdom: believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

SFG said...

Weren't you the one who suggested cultural anthropologists were getting a lot of similar stories from the people they interviewed?

"Hey, look, here's this weird-looking guy who dresses funny. He asked us where kids come from. I told him a woman's womb has to be opened by a mackerel spirit on the full moon..."

Anonymous said...

a coed with whom I never made any progress despite years of admiring her from afar

Oh fer Christ's sake:

@$$H0LE GAME FTW!!!

Erik said...

And pranksters is presumably the optimistic interpretation, because the alternative is mass changes in sexuality... I wonder how many of those there actually were?

Anonymous said...

http://theweek.com/article/index/255462/spike-jonzes-her-is-actually-a-terrible-movie

Anonymous said...

http://neilmcglone.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/my-interview-with-alexander-payne-in-sight-sound/

Anonymous said...

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/video/video-nebraska-premiere-alexander-payne-interview

Anonymous said...

Young ones might have thought it noble to a little homosexual due to indoctrination and propaganda.

People with one drop of Jewish blood claim to be Jewish.

One-drop homosexual rule?

If some guy found Tom Cruise cute in a movie once, maybe he thinks of himself as kind of bi-.

Anonymous said...

I remember high school drug use surveys being pranked back in the aryl 1970's which has left me dubious about all opinion surveys since..
"Check all of the above!".

Anonymous said...

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/feb/06/greatest-catastrophe-world-has-seen/?insrc=hpma

In truth, Germany waged war because Russia didn't allow homosexual cabarets and bathhouses.

David said...

Used to work for a marketing research firm as a telephone slave. Most of us slacked off, only pretending ti make calls (this was before monitoring was very rigorous). We made up most if the answers so we could meet our quota more quickly and go smoke.

JayMan said...

I tell people to take most research on human sexuality with a grain of salt. Virtually all of it is based on self-reported details of sexual behavior (and then mostly from WEIRD samples), which rely on the subjects to be honest about their sexual behavior. Well, as one Dr. Gregory House is known to remark, "everybody lies." Studies have noted that people are dishonest even in anonymous surveys (and then there's the issue of proper sampling as you note here). Unfortunately, it'll be awhile before we know certain truths about human sexuality.

Otto said...

Your last sentence is very insightful and i would like to know your reasons why you think that.
I have notice that socprogs from BOTH parties seem to be on a mission to make same-sex marriage legal.The numbers don't justify the push. I think it is deeper than same-sex marriage. I sense that that they want to just shove Christianity out of American ethos on any pretense because they have a deep seated hatred of it.

Anonymous said...

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/01/23/the-irs-political-bias-goes-hollywood-friends-of-abe-scandal/

Rather amusing when Commentary was on the side of Jennifer Rubin and William Kristol in purging the 'right-wing' of Jason Richwine and 'Arabists'.

But Friends of Abe Foxman gets its support.

Anonymous said...

Steve, come chill in MPC chat.

everybodyhatesscott said...

Clearly the solution is to make lying on random surveys illegal!

Anonymous said...

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/jan/21/brazilian-advert-smash-grab-video

Anonymous said...

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/norman-mailer-literary-hustler/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/02/norman-mailer-double-life-biography-lennon-review

Anonymous said...

http://chronicle.com/article/Chapel-Hill-Researcher-s/144169/

10 percent of UNC athletes are functionally illiterate -- cue point and sputter.

Anonymous said...

I was given a similar survey in college and it was a brief set of questions and it was filled out during class so everyone had to do it.

I raised my hand and asked how to spell chlamydia. Good bit.

agnostic said...

I wouldn't go that far. They could have answered sincerely and inaccurately. How?

If they had a more experimental mindset, and were trying to convince themselves and others that they were not straight in order to score coolness points.

What a way to try to be cool, I know, but that's the '90s for you.

These would be among the more unstable males desperate for attention that they'd harm their reputation just to get noticed. And if they were willing to harm their reputation, why not also their body by committing suicide?

There was a guy like that in our group of friends during 8th grade in '94-'95. Claimed to be bi. Left for another high school than ours, and word only got around later that he'd killed himself by jumping out a window.

He definitely would have given a non-heterosexual answer if he'd been interviewed for Add Health. But at the time, and looking back, I think he was just a very unstable, desperate attention-seeker who was willing to harm himself in whatever way it took in order to get noticed and have people swoop in to try to rescue him, or reassure him that he was a likable person.

This fad for faking fagginess didn't last very long, as the kids a couple years younger than the early adopters looked on and said, "I dunno, there's probably better ways to grab attention than pretending to be bi."

That's my take: mostly sincere answers from straight guys who sought to be hip and edgy through a non-hetero image.

ben tillman said...

“We should have known something was amiss,” says Savin-Williams. “One clue was that most of the kids who first claimed to have artificial limbs (in the physical-health assessment) miraculously regrew arms and legs when researchers came back to interview them.”

LOL!!!!!

agnostic said...

Now for some data. The General Social Survey is conducted face-to-face, so people are far less likely to goof around and lie. Having to face another person takes most of the fun out of being a smartass.

The GSS has two questions about the sex of your recent sex partners (SEXSEX and SEXSEX5). Restricting to males ages 18 to 29, they both show elevated levels in the mid-to-late '90s, with a peak in both in 1998. After that build up, it fell off for awhile, although there's another noticeable rise in 2010 and 2012.

So an even better nationally representative survey found a similar pattern of elevated non-hetero responses in the mid-to-late '90s, also around 5% or above.

Remember, that was when "genderqueer" Marilyn Manson was popular among a subset of teenagers (my probably-not-gay friend was way into Manson). And Manson was interviewed in Bowling for Columbine as someone who would've had his finger on the pulse of troubled, disturbed, non-normative adolescents.

Also the popularity of heroin chic in the mid-to-late '90s. It didn't promote gay behavior, but it's another example of trying to make dirty and weird stuff popular and cool.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/the-road-slaughter

Maybe this is just a scholarly book with no ulterior motive, but I find it curious that Russia would be cast as the bogeyman for WWI in the age of WWG and Russia's backing of Syria in the civil war.

Book says Russia's eyes were on the Near East during WWI. Today, Russia is reviled for its policies in the Middle East, rather amusing since US/Israel policy created the most havoc and mayhem.

Anonymous said...

OT, but here's a story you'll appreciate Steve, on our new "aristocracy".

http://freebeacon.com/love-in-the-time-of-obama/

"It is not every day that an article in Vogue magazine exposes the shaky foundations of democracy. But as I read “The Talk of the Town” for the second time I could not help noticing how these attractive, talented, up-and-coming thirty-somethings relied, again and again, on personal connections to get where they are today. Weisberg describes the couple’s success in terms of “personal intensity and random luck.” But the luck here is less random than he thinks. Kass and Wagner were lucky to be born to their parents, and if they have children their sons and daughters will be lucky to be born to them. They are members of a self-perpetuating milieu, a caste of right thinking yuppies whose position and wealth and patterns of consumption are the fruit of personal relationships spanning decades. There is income inequality, for sure, but there is also status inequality, and this latter form of inequality is a topic on which most bourgeois bohemians are silent."

Anonymous said...

Happens all the time in high school. Boys, in particular, love having fun with anonymous surveys. That's never going to change.

However, on the question of the mental health of gays--the gwas on homosexuality done by 23&me was accompanied by a questionnaire. The results were consistent with those found in studies of homosexuality by the Danes. Gays show a higher incidence of issues with depression, substance abuse, and bi-polar disorder. At least these questionnaires weren't filled out by kids.

Portlander said...

This is another example of Republicans being the stupid party. No doubt the Gov thinks he and Republicans will receive credit from these refugees. In reality they'll be thanking Obama. They'll all say Obama let them into the USA. Praise Obama.

Deke DaSilva said...

"Pranksters" probably had the same effect on drug use surveys. I remember receiving one in junior high school, and several kids would answer that they took LSD twice a week, used heroin, PCP, etc., just to mess around with the survey.

Svigor said...

"Have you tried not being gay?"

Anonymous said...

Kids say the darndest things!

Anonymous said...

No, really, this is hilarious. A bunch of grim social scientists actually thought that kids would take their questions seriously?

" “I can take a joke as well as the next academic,”

Which is to say, not at all. He can't take a joke, but he IS a joke.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we should never discount surveys about sexual assaults because women never lie.

countenance said...

Don't they know by now not to trust sociological research that is based on self-reporting?

Sequester Grundleplith said...

"I can take a joke as well as the next academic".

Now *that's* funny.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6SJNVb0GnPI

Race differences in intelligence.

Anomaly UK said...

Statistical techniques that were successful when used on data that was collected by enthusiasts the way philatelists collect stamps are being used on datasets that are amassed by the megabyte with little concern for data quality.

AnomalyUK 2009

Anonymous said...

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116333/bad-answers-about-evolution?utm

cherry tree said...

Anonymous: "Of course, we should never discount surveys about sexual assaults because women never lie."

well Anonymous, your points is going round about a bit. According to this study girls lie less than boys.

I would like to have seen a few studies on teen boys asked if they were ever sexually assaulted.

Anonymous said...

When I was in college I took a psychology course and one of the requirements was to take part in 3 psychology tests/experiments. I remember being pissed at this, it seemed Orwellian, so I deliberately bs'ed my responses.

If they aren't aware that this is what many of their subjects are doing, their the ones who need help.

Old fogey said...

I thought the "landmark study" referenced was the work published by Kinsey. All of that "data" was just as flawed.

Anonymous said...

Steve, come chill in MPC chat.

MPC is for goons. Come to Salo.

Anonymous said...

Grim social scientist who can take a joke as well as the next grim social scientist: "I don't understand why they wouldn't take my survey seriously...I take my self very seriously!"

Anonymous said...

That's my take: mostly sincere answers from straight guys who sought to be hip and edgy through a non-hetero image.

LOL. You must gay. I'm sorry to break it to you, but straight guys don't project a "non-hetero image" to be "hip and edgy". There's nothing "hip and edgy" about homosexuality. It's just gay. What straight guys do is joke about and make fun of gays and gayness. Which is what happened here.

charleskiddell said...

I had to check a bunch of boxes with, to me as a Canadian, irrelevant questions when I took the SATs at age 17. I chose Pacific Islander as my race, mortuary science as my intended major, and the American University of Beirut as my destination.

I was a computer nerd of Scots ancestry who wouldn't have been able to point to Beirut on a map. That is just how young people, young men anyway, are. Adults are funny to them, ask dumb and seemingly pointless questions and deserve dumb or silly answers. A couple years later, when we got a sex questionnaire in our dorm mailboxes we had a laugh riot filling them in.

Some very serious feminist womyn filled them in with all the lesbian detail, t's crossed and i's dotted, and the whole survey turned out to be a prank. Much ink was wasted raging in the student newspaper against all men after that.

Anonymous said...

In 11th grade, they gave all the students a national survey on sex, drugs, and alcohol use and told us to fill it out. They handed it to us like it was just another assignment.

I didn't like it because they never asked my permission for such personal questions, and it wasn't any of their business. Sooo ... I wrote in absolutely outrageous answers. From my responses on the survey, you would thought I was the biggest drug-addicted, alcoholic slut in the state. In reality, I was a virgin who had never tried drugs or alcohol, not even once.

I don't remember what the name of the survey was, but maybe it was the same one as this.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school in the mid-90's, one of my classes was selected to take one of these gov't surveys. IIRC, it was focused mainly on drugs rather than sex.

The part I remember that was that everyone reported smoking crack cocaine "more than 20 times" in the last month.

pat said...

Why do we even have surveys on homosexuality?

It is like having a paper and pencil self report survey of eye color - a characteristic that can be directly observed by the researcher. You don't have to rely on a self report.

You should be able to directly observe homosexuality through imaging the IAH3 nuclei in the hypothalamus. The size differences of these two nuclei in gays and straights have been known for twenty years. I think LeVey's original research was done at autopsy but we should have direct imaging through MRIs or CAT Scans by now.

Albertosaurus

Glossy said...

"Unfortunately, it'll be awhile before we know certain truths about human sexuality."

Well, the NSA already has all the data from which the truth about human sexuality and many other topics can be deduced. They just need some sociologists to process it.

Anonymous said...

"That's my take: mostly sincere answers from straight guys who sought to be hip and edgy through a non-hetero image."

LOL. You must gay. I'm sorry to break it to you, but straight guys don't project a "non-hetero image" to be "hip and edgy". There's nothing "hip and edgy" about homosexuality. It's just gay. What straight guys do is joke about and make fun of gays and gayness. Which is what happened here.


Agnostic's not gay, but he thinks too hard. He did have a bit of "jailbait" obsession for a while, but as far I can tell it's under control.

Anonymous said...

"I remember getting a sex survey handed to me in college in the late 1970s. I was having lunch with a coed with whom I never made any progress despite years of admiring her from afar. She took one look at it, said, 'This is horrible,' and then crumpled her copy and never gave it another thought."

ROTFL. Sailer's Bickle moment.

ben tillman said...

You know, women usually or perhaps never understand why someone would give false answers to a political pollster or marketing survey, or write preposterous remarks on the review card they'd give you after attending a test screening of a movie (A: Because it's fun)

I think you need to make an exception for Samoan girls talking to Margaret Mead.

Anonymous said...

You'd think by 1990 social scientists would know how to write a test with self consistency checks that weeds out liars. I mean, isn't that how the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory works? That's been around for decades.

Maxwell Power said...

Heh. I did forget those superfreak Samoans... Anyway jungle tribes are the exception to test the rule; always toying with the gullible researchers from New York, then the ancient curse gets loose, etc.

Julian O' said...

“I can take a joke as well as the next academic,”

Now THAT is hilarious.