Sex and Statistics or Heteroscedasticity is Hot

Ok Trends has another great post combining statistics, sex and even a little "game theory" (read that in whichever sense you prefer). The statisticians at OK Trends discovered that the number of messages a women receives varies widely even after conditioning on the women's attractiveness rating. Why do some 7's receive far more messages than other 7's? It turns out that it's much better to receive some 10's and some 1's than all 7's. Or as OK Trends beautifully expresses it:

A lot of this can be explained by a non-linear function of messages to attractiveness; that is if 2 men rate three women, A,B,C, as A:{0,10}, B:{5,5} and C:{10, 0} it's not that surprising that A and C each receive one message and B receives none.

But OK Trends argue that more is going on. In a regression of messages on number of rankings in each category (1 being lowest, 5 being highest) they find, not surprisingly, that more high rankings increase messages but also that more low rankings increase messages. That is they find that a ranking of {0,10} can be better than a ranking of {6,10}.  Ok Trends hypothesize the following explanation:

Suppose you're a man who's really into someone. If you suspect other men are uninterested, it means less competition. You therefore have an added incentive to send a message.

I have my doubts. Rather I think there are certain types of beauty that greatly attract some men but repel others. Analagously, some people will pay hundreds of dollars for an ounce of caviar that other people won't eat for free. The reason some people love caviar, however, is not that other people dislike it. Instead, it just so happens, that the thing that some people love is the very thing that repels others. We see the same phenomena in art, some people love John Cage, other people would rather listen to nothing at all. 😉

Now if we mix in this kind of beauty–beauty over which there are violent disagreements–with the kind that most people do agree upon (think Haagan-Dazs vanilla ice cream) then I suspect that it will appear that lower rankings increase messages. But what is really going on is that high rankings–conditional on their also being many low rankings–actually signal an extra strong attraction. Someone who tells you that John Cage is their favorite composer is telling you more than someone who says Aaron Copland is their favorite composer.

Note that even if rankings were not public this theory would predict that the same women would receive more messages than their (non-public) rankings would suggest. 

Which ever explanation holds, some advice follows: In the marriage market what you want is not so much to increase your attractiveness to the average person but rather to the one person who will  cherish your unique features. Thus–conditional on attracting a decent number of suitors from a reasonable pool etc.–what you want to do is accentuate your unique features even if doing so reduces your average ranking. In short, heteroscedasticity makes you hot.

FYI, OK Trends will analyze women's reactions to men in a future post.


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