Sunday, March 15, 2015
A foggy discussion on fear by the Daily Mirror
On March 10, 2015 the online edition of a British tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mirror, had a foggy article titled How WEIRD are your biggest fears? They did an online survey, and then foolishly compared the results with those shown in an October 31, 2014 (Halloween) blog post at FiveThirtyEight.com.
It was foolish because the Mirror asked an OR question (where the two answers had to add to 100%), while the surveys discussed last Halloween instead just asked whether people had that fear or phobia (or not). That’s like comparing apples to oranges. Results are shown in the following five tables (with their online survey percentages for today):
In their discussion of the first question comparing dating with public speaking they claimed:
“In a series of social anxiety surveys, people in the developed world said they were far more scared of speaking in public than of dating. 21.2% of people are afraid of public speaking, compared to 11.5% who are terrified by dating.”
But, they never really referenced ANY data from that magazine article. The 21.2% and 11.5% are fears from Ruscio et al for U.S. adults in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication NCS-(R).
Actually it’s even worse. For the questions about dentists and heights they compared results for fears with those by Stinson et al for phobias, so it’s like comparing apples with potatoes. See my blog post on What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?
For the last question on fears of clowns versus witches they mention but do not link to a YouGov survey. The 13% for clowns is sum of A Little Afraid and Very Afraid from a 2014 US survey that I blogged about. So, that’s like comparing apples with bananas. Also, rather than “witches didn’t even place” on the YouGov poll, they didn’t ask a question about them. Why didn’t they refer instead to the YouGov British survey?
The image of a woman with a hand mirror is from OpenClipArt.