Marginal Revolution: Sex and Statistics or Heteroscedasticity is Hot

Alex Tabarrok mulls over the recent OkTrends post on the Mathematics of Beauty.

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.

Marginal Revolution: Sex and Statistics or Heteroscedasticity is Hot