Friday, February 27, 2009
Margaret HairMargaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not having the longest attention span, I've never been much for scanning the Internet to find random quizzes or tests. But at least a few of my friends or co-workers do, which is how I landed on a chart called "Music That Makes You Dumb."
The chart is compiled by Virgil Griffith - the same computer systems graduate student who created "Books That Make You Dumb" and WikiScanner, which traces the source of encyclopedia entry edits on the user-edited Web site Wikipedia.
(Note: Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of Griffith before reading this. I hadn't heard of him before writing it. And I feel OK about that.)
"Music That Makes You Dumb" uses the social networking site Facebook to measure the musicians listed most often in a user's "favorite music" category against the average SAT score for the school that user attended.
Is this calculation necessary? No. Do I want to know if liking Lil Wayne makes me dumb? Yes.
Well, according to blog posts about the chart (the link to a full version wasn't working on Griffith's Web site), liking Lil Wayne makes me as dumb, as this calculation goes. But I also like Beethoven, which apparently makes me smart. Not enjoying either artist enough to list him in my "favorite music" list - well, Griffith's chart doesn't give an answer for that.
Curious to know where your tastes fall? Here are a few standouts from "Music That Makes You Dumb," with an average SAT score for each artist. According to Griffith's original Web post, he used data from 1,352 schools, with a mean SAT score of 1071 out of 1600:
¤ Counting Crows: about 1250
¤ Radiohead: about 1200
¤ Ben Folds: just below Radiohead
¤ Bob Dylan: falls on the 1196 line on the chart
¤ Phish: spans 1100 to just below 1200
¤ Outkast: also has a wider range than most artists, from 1050 to 1150
¤ Rage Against the Machine: falls in the same area as Outkast, with a smaller range, from about 1060 to 1130
¤ Kanye West: has a median right around 1050
¤ Kelly Clarkson: has a median just above 1010
¤ Ludacris: falls on the 996 line on the chart
¤ Beyonce: has a range from just below 900 to just above 950
What does this say about the correlation between what kind of music you listen to and how smart you are? Well, nothing really. There are more people who listen to Ludacris than there are people who listen to Radiohead - it's a matter of exposure, accessibility and airplay. Listening to both is evidence of a broad taste in music, not of an occasional lapse in intellect.
Because really, what college student lists Beethoven as his or her favorite artist? Answer: One who goes to a music conservatory. Music conservatories generally have pretty steep entry requirements on SAT scores. Solved.
Besides, Lil Wayne's lyrics are at least 10 times as clever as Ben Folds', regardless of his average fan's SAT score.
Look for the full chart at http://musicthatmakesyoudumb.virgil.gr.