fat = stupid?

October 15, 2006 at 8:05 pm | | crazy figure contest, literature

OK, this one wins the worst-figure contest:

fat_stupid.jpg

The authors of this paper (Cournot, M. et al.Relation between body mass index and cognitive function in healthy middle-aged men and women. Neurology 2006, 67, 1208–1214. or read the PDF: cournot_fat_stupid_neuro_2006.pdf) try to argue that there is a negative correlation between body-mass index (BMI) and cognative function (i.e. fat people are stupid). They report the correlations (such as -0.008 +/- 0.13) that are the equivalent of saying, “There are 3 people in this room … plus or minus 300.”

I swear to god, this is a quote from the paper describing that figure (this is not taken out of context, read it for yourself):

This cross-sectional association between BMI at baseline and cognitive scores persisted after adjustment for age, sex, educational level, physical activity, and region of residence and had a linear shape (figure).

Linear shape?!? Looks more like a big fat (pun intended) blob to me. Isn’t that awesome? The funniest part is that they worked so hard to adjust for all these different parameters, and still got a complete scatter. The authors must be fat, ’cause they’re pretty stupid. I can’t believe this stuff can get published! This is why people are starting to claim that most published research findings are false.

Too bad I already made the mugs for the Chemical Physics Journal Club this year, because that plot would have been perfect!

[I have to thank Spectroscope for bringing my attention to this travesty. I also have to thank Retrospectacle for reminding me why the softer sciences have a bad reputation; but my housemate thinks Shelley's hot, so I won't be too mean.]

27 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. away in a physical chemistry lab at Stanford. Here are a few humorous posts from his “best” post list: Laboratory “motivation” posters Worst figure ever (good? science): How to tell if your rabbit is dead Worst figure ever (definitely bad science): correlation between fatness and stupidity how to become a pretentious chemistry grad student

    Pingback by Quantum mechanic — May 19, 2007 #

  2. BTW, this is further proof that the French hate fat people.

    Comment by sam — October 15, 2006 #

  3. Obviously the data is linear. The authors have just chosen, for interest of academic integrity, to leave in all the outliers. When subtracted, I’m sure the remaining 5% of points will be perfectly linear.

    On a side note, imagine if you submitted a noise spectrum to Science and argued that at a 100% RSD level there is some magical signal. And stick to your guns, arguing vehemently that the signal is real.

    Comment by kendall — October 16, 2006 #

  4. I don’t know, looks good to me. Then again, at least one of my labmates has called me a bad chemist…

    Comment by charles — October 17, 2006 #

  5. Can’t stop laughing about -0.008 +/- 0.13.

    I think Shelley’s parrot is hot.

    Comment by Altay — October 30, 2006 #

  6. linear fit is tragic, but at least they should be able to do proper scaling for x and y axis. They’re off…

    Comment by nick — November 11, 2006 #

  7. [...] at Everyday Scientist i came across a nice post Apparently the athors clame to see a nice linear correlation in this perfect circle, with an error only 100 times greater as the measured effect … seems acceptable?! (according to the reviewers) [...]

    Pingback by Wimmelium » Archive du blog » Blob — November 30, 2006 #

  8. This paper made it into Runners World as evidence that people should run more so that they will be smarter. Now I don’t know whether I can trust anything that magazine tells me.

    Comment by david — March 7, 2007 #

  9. For what it’s worth, I am 6’1″, about 370lbs, which — according to some anorexic actuary — puts me at as much as 150 lbs overweight. I’m fat. I also have an IQ that’s been variously tested to be about 126 (from a college psych intern) to as high as 151 (from and online test); I favor the split at about 134-137 (from a licensed psychometric specialist).

    Egad… would losing all that weight make me smarter than Goethe (estimated IQ at over 200)?

    Comment by Tristan MacAvery — November 9, 2007 #

  10. if they had included you in the study instead of that one fat dumb person, i bet the trend would have gone the other way! :)

    Comment by sam — November 10, 2007 #

  11. This is BS. Being Fat does not equal being stupid.

    There may be some correlation, but that is probably more due to socioeconomic factors than anything.

    Comment by Mark Spencer — December 25, 2007 #

  12. [...] I read of another great correlation recently that said that fat people are stupid (I can’t make stuff like this up – look here).  [...]

    Pingback by investiledysfunction » Blog Archive » Political Spending DOES NOT Boost ROE - Straight From the Correlation Doesn’t Mean Causation File — May 27, 2008 #

  13. I will admit that I am overweight with a BMI of 28, if “Fat=Dumb”, then why did I earn straight As in school.

    Comment by Josh — June 19, 2008 #

  14. um, read the post. i am very critical of the conclusion that there is any correlation!

    Comment by sam — June 20, 2008 #

  15. again, read the post not just the title. is that how you got straight As in school?

    Comment by sam — June 20, 2008 #

  16. This study (I actually read the mind-numbingly boring thing) fails to take into account the social factors involved, to wit, negative stereotypes commonly associated with fat people. That is to say, fat people are generally portrayed in popular media as being stupid (which is probably where the authors got the idea for this paper from). It’s a well-documented psychological phenomenon that if you work to make people feel bad about themselves (e.g. You’re stupid! You’re lazy!), they will eventually indeed begin to believe it. Thus I submit that any results that fall in line with the authors expectations are due entirely to negative stereotypes being socially imposed and enforced on the test subjects. So there, too.

    Comment by John Roberts — March 15, 2009 #

  17. Nice linear correlation…

    But seriously, fat people are trash. It’s a proven fact that people think better when they eat healthy and exercise regularly- in other words when they keeps themselves thinner. People who are fat for reasons other than serious endocrine and other health problems are fools in that they’re consciously choosing to live for less time, feel worse, and perform less well. And why? Because they really like potato chips and big macs?

    Comment by JH — August 31, 2009 #

  18. hey man i got a bmi of 44.. im 326 lbs.. im only 22 i have a chest flutter and im probably gunna die soon form it..but the best part is.. that fuckbags like this one^^ dont realise that some of us are active..i play football and i workout at the gym.. i do an hour of cardio in the morning and i have practise right after school.. hey jh… i bet your a fuckin crackhead.. your a joke…its called having an addiction. and yes food is probably just as big as tobacco or alcohol. jh is trash..i bet he feels good when he smashes needles.how many stds you got freak?

    Comment by ab — December 2, 2009 #

  19. Yes. Yes it would. Shut your mouth you fat pig. Lose some weight and eat a carrot. You are obviously not that smart if you are fat. Fat = Dumb. Its scientifically proven.

    Comment by jerk. — January 23, 2010 #

  20. This is straight out of “The Bell Curve;” first, they say that Jews, Asians and whites are smarter than Blacks and Hispanics; and now we have these quacks saying that overweight people are stupid too.

    Way to go, Archie-Bunker scientists!

    Comment by Skinny Albert — April 20, 2010 #

  21. I think the hole hypothesis behind this is related to lean body mass. A whale has a much larger brain than a human, but is much less intelligent than one. So when thinking about it, you can say that since the whale has more muscles and more fat (a higher lean body mass) than humans, it actually takes a larger brain to control the body. So technically if two humans are taken, that have the same size brain, but one has more muscle/fat, then the one with less muscle/fat will be able to use more energy for thought than that of an obese, or “muscle-head”.

    Comment by Poston — August 1, 2010 #

  22. ab, you are one delusional fat fuck. I love how fat people think they’re “active”. If you were so active, you would be so fucking fat.

    Comment by Ben — August 28, 2010 #

  23. Fat people are stupid, some fat-arse tried to run his mouth off at me today, the dude is like 5’10″ and the same in girth, and easily over 300lbs with bigger tits than his crack-addict Mum, I’m 6’2″, 183lbs, a former 11x WAKF kickboxing champion, (2x black-belt 5th dan), and a 4x HCF wrestling champion….in what reality do you want to start a fight with me….and people like this buttnugget always have a glass jaw.

    So with him running his mouth off at me, he’s either very brave, or very stupid, and since the pillock is French; we can rule out brave.

    Comment by Stercus Tauri Francais — September 2, 2010 #

  24. Meant GCF, not HCF, not that anyone knows/cares, lol; clipped the H by mistake instead of the G and didn’t see it.

    Comment by Stercus Tauri Francais — September 2, 2010 #

  25. Stercus Tauri Francais, i honestly have no idea what you are rambling about.

    Comment by sam — September 2, 2010 #

  26. How do these things so often degenerate into badly-spelt abuse? If the information or the methodology is wrong, then point it out politely if firmly.

    Coming from a family of intelligent fatties I do, of course, have a certain bias here, but I did not bother reading this to confirm or deny my bias – I read it for INFORMATION.

    I can’t say I trust their data scatter much – it looks like a group of people have been throwing cakes off a high cliff. But as a person who slept through university statistics 25 years ago, I should state that others have more knowledge of statistical methods than I.

    To conclude, has anyone else noticed here that the abuse escalates as the spelling and writing ability disappears? Poor spelling and writing seems much more indicative of stupidity than fatness (to my tiny, biased mind) and, sadly, we see a correclation with aggression and intolerance.

    Sad.

    P B

    Comment by P Buddery — April 17, 2011 #

  27. YES YES THANK YOU! I AM VERY PROUD.. NOW I AM GOING TO KFC THE GET SOME EXTRA LARGE FRIES AND A SODA. I MIGHT WANT TO GET AN ICE CREAM. I AM GOING TO TROW AWAY MY VEGETABLE BECAUSE IT IS VERY HEATHY. I AM VERY PROUD! THANK YOU FOR THE COMPLEMENT! I APPRECIATE IT!

    MMMM… I AM EATING FOR THE 5th TIME TODAY! I CALL IT EXTRA EXTRA DINNER. OMG I AM 380 POUNDS… NOW

    THANK YOU!
    I WASNT JOKING. I AM REALLY FAT!
    CAN ANYONE GIVE ME A CUPON TO THE KFC?
    THANK YOU!

    Comment by I AM FAT AND I AM PROUD! — June 25, 2011 #

Leave a comment

thanks for the comment


9 − = six

Powered by WordPress, Theme Based on "Pool" by Borja Fernandez
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.
^Top^