Thursday, October 30, 2014
Halloween is tomorrow, so let's scare people by discussing lots of fears! Yesterday Ovo Energy issued a press release titled Top 40 bizarre British fears revealed. They had surveyed 2,000 people, and then reported separate Top 40 lists for women and men.
Just five fears were ranked exactly the same by women and men:
Going underwater (#2)
Birds of prey (#37)
Here is the full Top 40 List for women (including the corresponding rankings for men):
Spiders (#1, #1)
Going underwater (#2, #2)
Being trapped in a lift (#3, #17)
Underground tunnels (#4, #12)
Being pulled up for karaoke (#4, not on list)
Heights (#6, #3)
Wasps (#7, #10)
Debt (#8, #9)
Being singled out during stand-up comedy (#9, #13)
The dentist (#10, #7)
Ageing (#11, #11)
Being lonely (#12, not on list)
Take-off/landing in a plane (#13, #15)
Basements (#14, #27)
Rough sea (#15, #18)
Energy bills/prices (#16, #14)
The dark (#17, #23)
Rollercoasters (#18, not on list)
Mice (#19, #29)
Moths (#20, #30)
Driving in a storm (#21, #25)
Dogs off the lead #22, not on list)
Vomit (#23, #20)
Motorways (#24, not on list)
The tube (#25, #21)
Blood (#26, #26)
People who stare (#27, not on list)
Thunder and lightning (#28, #34)
Masks (#29, not on list)
Breaking up with partner (#30, #19)
Multi-storey car parks (#31, not on list)
Public toilets (#32, #35)
Octopus (#34, not on list)
Psychics/mediums (#35, #39)
Flushing toilets on planes (#36, not on list)
Birds of prey (#37, #37)
Simulation rides (#38, not on list)
Old embarrassing photos of yourself (#39, not on list)
Attics (#40, not on list)
15 fears listed by both sexes were ranked higher by women than men. Also, there were 11 fears listed by women that were not listed by men in their Top 40. Conversely, men had the following 14 fears that the women didn’t even list in their Top 40:
Public speaking (#5)
Lifelong injury (#6)
Crying in public (#22)
Being best man (#24)
Holding a baby (#28)
Getting married (#32)
Daughter getting a boyfriend (#33)
Seeing an ex-girlfriend (#36)
The mother-in-law (#40)
Note that clowns were only listed by women, and ghosts were only listed by men. Curiously neither zombies nor daleks were listed by either sex.
Why would a smaller energy firm do such a survey? They really were interesting in where Energy bills/prices (#16 for women, #14 for men) ranked. An article in the Sunday Express on November 13, 2013 discussed Switching on to smaller energy firms. Another article at This is MONEY on April 9, 2014 described An energy price war at last? Ovo is first firm to pledge (annual) bills below £1,000 as small firms throw down gauntlet to the Big Six.
Ovo Energy also reported the following list of Top 5 Scariest Situations:
1. Taking your driving test
2. Becoming a parent for the first time
3. Going on a first date
4. Asking the boss for a pay rise
5. Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.
The Halloween Scene came from here at Openclipart.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Halloween is coming up, so once again it’s time to talk about fears of ghosts and zombies, as shown above. Last Monday, October 20th, Chapman University issued a press release titled What Americans Fear Most - New Poll from Chapman University. It described results from the very interesting Chapman Survey on American Fears, and linked to another web page with a more detailed discussion and a link to the Complete Survey Results.
The survey covers fears, worries, and concerns. It is much broader than than typical surveys of 10 to 15 fears like the YouGov survey reported in March. The web survey was done between April 15th and 28th by GfK Group, and questioned a random sample of 1573 U. S. adults. It includes a section titled Phobias, which actually covers twelve things (specific and social fears) people really are just very afraid of.
Their general question was:
“How afraid are you of the following?”
with answers of:
Not Afraid At All
Refused (which includes don’t know)
for the following specifics which I’ve summarized [with the original longer question in square brackets]:
Animals or insects [Bugs, snakes, dogs, or any other animal/insect]
Blood or needles [Blood and/or needles]
Drowning [Drowning, water]
Enclosed spaces [Small enclosed spaces, such as caves, tunnels, closets and elevators]
Heights [High places like balconies, bridges, or roofs]
Percentages for the second level of fear, Afraid, are shown above in a second bar chart. Public Speaking (16.5%) was first, Heights (16.3%) was a very close second, Animals or Insects (14.9%) was third, Blood or Needles (12.3%) was fourth, and Enclosed Spaces (12.1%) was fifth. Drowning (11.8%) dropped to sixth. Ghosts (1.8%) was tenth, Zombies (5.3%) was eleventh, and Clowns (5.0%) was twelfth.
Percentages for the third level of fear, Somewhat Afraid, are shown above in a third bar chart. Now Animals or Insects (38.2%) was first, Strangers (36.9%) was second, Public Speaking (36.6%) was an extremely close third, Heights (36.0%) was fourth, and Enclosed Spaces (28.9%) was fifth. Drowning (28.5%) again was sixth. Again Ghosts (16.1%) was tenth, Zombies (9.3%) was eleventh, and Clowns (8.3%) was twelfth.
We also can add the percentages for the first and second levels of fear, Very Afraid and Afraid, to produce larger results as shown above in a fourth bar chart. Public Speaking (25.3%) was first, Heights (24.7%) was a close second, Animals or Insects (22.2%) was third, Drowning (19.3%) was fourth, and Blood or Needles (18.6%) was fifth. Enclosed Spaces (18.1%) was sixth. Zombies (8.9%) was ninth, Clowns (7.6%) was eleventh, and Ghosts (7.3%) was twelfth.
Finally, we can add the percentages for the first, second, and third levels of fear to produce the impressively large Sum of Fears results shown above in a fifth bar chart. Public Speaking (61.9%) was first, Heights (60.7%) was a close second, Animals or Insects (60.3%) was an extremely close third, Strangers (47.9%) was fourth, and Drowning (47.7%) was an extremely close fifth. Down at the bottom Ghosts (23.4%) was tenth, Zombies (18.2%) was eleventh, and Clowns (15.9%) was twelfth.
Zombies aren’t very terrifying now, which explains the popularity of TV shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead. We’ve gotten used to that idea. It’s quite a change from way back in 1968 when Night of the Living Dead (the original black and white film) came out.
The scary image was derived from a 1937 WPA Federal Art Project poster.
UPDATE - October 30, 2014
On October 30th Christopher Ingraham’s Wonkblog at The Washington Post was about how (based on inside information not in the Complete Survey Results I discussed above) Clowns are twice as scary to Democrats as they are to Republicans.
But, he only showed six of the twelve categories. Also, when you look on page 14 of the Chapman survey for political preferences, there are 31.4% who said they were Independent along with the 37.0% Democrat and 28.5% Republican.
It also would be interesting to compare fears based on Conservative versus Moderate versus Liberal.
I commented on his blog post.
UPDATE - October 31, 2014
Some time yesterday Mr. Ingraham wimped out and changed the headline for his post to America’s top fears: Public speaking, heights, and bugs. (Of course the link still contains his original title). That ranking matched his orange and black bar chart titled What are you so afraid of?, which really is for the sum of Very Afraid and Afraid, as shown above in my orange one.
Monday, October 27, 2014
What do the most Americans fear? The Chapman Survey on American Fears and the press release copying reflex
On October 20th Chapman University issued a press release titled What Americans Fear Most - New Poll from Chapman University. It described results from their very interesting Chapman Survey on American Fears, and linked to another web page with a more detailed discussion and a link to the Complete Survey Results.
The survey covers fears, worries, and concerns. It is much broader than than typical surveys of 10 to 15 fears (covering topics such as blood, clowns, darkness, heights, flying, and public speaking) like the YouGov survey reported in March. The web survey was done between April 15th and 28th by GfK Group, and questioned a random sample of 1573 U. S. adults.
That press release says:
“The survey shows that the top five things Americans fear the most are:
Walking alone at night
Becoming the victim of identity theft
Safety on the internet
Being the victim of a mass/random shooting
I downloaded and reviewed the complete survey results, and realized the press release was completely wrong about what the survey had measured. Really it was what the most Americans fear, since the results are reported as percentages. Measuring what Americans fear most would instead have required asking them to rank each fear on a scale (say from zero to five), which is something psychologists have been doing for decades with what are called Fear Survey Schedules.
It gets worse though. That top five list combines results for the top category from questions that were asked two different ways. One was:
“How safe do you feel [walking alone at night?] or [On the Internet]
with answers of:
Not At All Safe (reported as 20.3% for walking alone, and 11.3% for on the internet)
Refused (don’t know)
The other general question was:
“How afraid are you of the following?”
with answers of:
Not Afraid At All
Refused (don’t know)
for the following specifics (and an answer of Very Afraid):
Identity theft/credit card fraud (19.6%)
Being the victim of a mass/random shooting (8.9%)
Public speaking (8.8%)
That's like comparing bananas with blueberries.
How about the margin of error for a survey with a sample of 1573 people? It is about 2.5%, so 20.3% and 19.6%, or 8.9% and 8.8% aren’t really different at all.
It’s comical how many journalists didn’t think critically, and borrowed the title of the press release for their reporting about this survey. Perhaps that’s just a reflex, like when the doctor hits your knee with his little hammer.
On October 22nd, at the Huffington Post, Carolyn Gregoire used the title What americans fear most. At the Dallas Morning News Shannon Grigsby used New list of what Americans fear most doesn’t strike terror in my heart. CBS News used Fear factor: New study reveals what scares Americans most. At Yahoo Health Ryan Wallace went with The One Thing Americans Fear The Most, and then got fanciful about how that question was asked.
What has me excited is that in the Phobias section of the Chapman survey they not only included the usual fear of clowns, but also asked about both ghosts and zombies. Watch this blog for more.
The Cry and Reflex images both were derived from those at Openclipart.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Presumably a survery is a survey that is stored electronically on a surver (like the rack mount one shown above. Actually it’s a humorous typo that shows up occasionally, like in a blog post on April 15th from the Eliot Management Group titled Crafting a Customer Survery. It also popped up on February 10th in a news article on the web site for the Independent (Ireland) which noted:
“In a worldwide survery of 9,417 internet users from France, Germany, India, Singapore, the US and the UK, around 14pc of users in India said they spent 12 hours a day or more on the internet.”
Servery is a real word that refers to a room or area from which meals are served. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary more specifically says it is either a butler's pantry or:
“a service alcove with counter or buffet between dining room and kitchen.”
The related phony George Bush-ism, strategery, is shown in a brief YouTube video.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Today’s F Minus cartoon by Tony Carrillo shows a man sitting on the bench seat of a bus while wearing a sombrero with a very broad brim. Adjacent passengers are moving away, and the caption amusingly but incorrectly claims that:
“It’s called a sombrero. I believe that is Spanish for ‘personal space’.”
It made me chuckle, since I haven’t written about proxemics in a long time. Back on September 9, 2009 I blogged about Closeness, proxemics, and graphics. In that post I noted that there were four spaces or distances:
Public space - greater than 12 feet
Social space - 4 to 12 feet
Personal space - 1.5 to 4 feet
Intimate space - less than 1.5 feet
Perhaps Tony should have said intimate space.
The sombrero image was derived from this one at Wikimedia Commons.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
In the September 2014 issue of PLoS Computational Biology there is an excellent brief tutorial article titled Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures by Nicholas P. Rougier, Michael Droettboom, and Philip E. Bourne. You can read it here.
Their rules are:
1. Know Your Audience
2. Identify Your Message
3. Adapt the Figure to the Support Medium
4. Captions Are Not Optional
5. Do Not Trust The Defaults
6. Use Color Effectively
7. Do Not Mislead the Reader
8. Avoid “Chartjunk”
9. Message Trumps Beauty
10. Get the Right Tool
Their discussion on how to use color effectively references another article (Ref. 6) by Okabe and Ito titled Color Universal Design (CUD) - How to make figures and presentations that are friendly to colorblind people.
Before today I never had heard of PLoS Computational Biology. How did I find that article then? I went to the wonderful PubMed Central (PMC) full-text free magazine article database, and did a search on the key word storytelling. Then I changed the Display Settings to sort the results by Electronic Pub (publication) Date, and reveal the most recent articles.
The image of a drawing class in 1916 came from the photo collection at the Library of Congress.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Since Halloween is at the end of the month, magazines like to print scary articles in their October issues. In the back of Men’s Health (USA), on page 164, is one titled Sum of All Fears - we scare up the terrifying truth about what makes men afraid, very afraid. The version posted on their web site is titled The Truth About Fear.
They include the following Top 10 Fears List:
2. Being maimed
4. Dental treatments
7. Enclosed spaces
9. Sight of blood
Curiously it does not list any percentages, and it doesn’t include fear of public speaking. (However, there is a paragraph titled Stave Off Stage Fright).
Elsewhere on the page there are the following eleven percentages:
46% say seeing their doctor is enough to scare them silly
37% worry their hairline will vanish faster than a camp counselor in Friday the 13th
27% of men survived a health scare
26% who as boys slept with the lights on
19% of men have been so startled they felt they were having a heart attack
18% of fathers said the birth of their child was the scariest day of their life
14% of men say they’re in constant fear of unemployment
11% of men think no villain would be scarier to face than Chucky
10% find life so starling they take antianxiety meds
10% are afraid their six-pack (abs) will disappear
3% still want the lights on, perhaps hoping for wicked-good sex
There is no byline, and they don’t refer to where any of this stuff came from. I’d trust it only as far as I could throw that page (after tearing it out and folding it into a paper airplane).
For balance, elsewhere on the web site site is a web page with a list of 13 Things a Man Should Never Fear:
2. Having Her Drive
3. Black-and=White Movies
4. Superhero Cartoons
5. Small Dogs
7. French Cheese
8. Makeover Shows
11. Country Music
12. Street-Cart Food
13. Staying Home Alone on a Saturday Night
The image was derived from this one on the Library of Congress web site.