Home > News > Books that make you dumb
45 views 39 sec 0 Comment

Books that make you dumb

- January 30, 2008

From Virgil Griffith, a graduate student in Computation and Neural Systems at Caltech, comes this really cool graphic.


The graph plots the mean college entrance score of the schools at which a given book is on the “Top Ten” list. Hence the light-hearted title, “Books that make you dumb,” which reverses the presumed causal flow from “smartness” to reading better books.

To construct this figure, Griffith followed these steps:

1. Download from Facebook the ten most popular books at every college. These ten books are indicative of the overall intellectual milieu of that college.

2. Download the average SAT/ACT score for students attending every college.

3. Plot the average SAT of each book, discarding books with too few entries to have a reliable average.

Read from left to right to see the mean SAT/ACT score for each book; the width of an entry indicates the standard deviation. (The vertical dimension doesn’t mean anything.)

For more information and other visualizations of these data, click here.

Forthcoming from Griffith is this graph’s musical counterpart, titled, inevitably, “Music that makes you dumb.” Stay tuned for that.

[Via Scott McLemee at my favorite (except, of course, for “The Monkey Cage”) blog, Crooked Timber]

Topics on this page