7 PM liked by many college students in 20 countries

A recent multinational study finds that 7 PM may just be the most agreeable part of the day:

At 7 p.m., around the world, we all feel more or less the same about what we’re doing. That’s the finding from a massive study team, with 33 worldwide collaborators, led by psychologist Esther Guillaume of the University of California at Riverside. Sampling more than 5,400 individuals from 20 countries, the researchers found that people across countries (and within the same) made highly similar assessments of life at 7 p.m…

Across all 20 countries, participants gave very consistent RSQ ratings to life at 7 p.m. In general, people found whatever they were doing at that time to be “simple and clear-cut,” “social,” and “potentially enjoyable”; they also felt they were free to speak and feel a range of emotions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the lowest-rated descriptions made reference to abuse, physical or emotional threats, loss of freedom, or deception…

Obviously a study this vast will carry some caveats. The most glaring are that despite the high sample size, most study participants were college students, with a median age of 22 years old. The RSQ itself was developed by U.S. researchers, rather than a global research consortium, and this was its maiden cross-cultural voyage. Neuroskeptic has a smart take on the study’s limitations:

Overall this is a fascinating study and a rich dataset. But while the sample was drawn from five continents, the participants were not selected at random: all of them were students or ‘members of college communities’. What’s more, all of the participating nations were politically stable and at least middle-income. Is life so generally happy in Iraq, South Sudan, or Haiti?

It sounds like the study suffers from an sampling issue that many psychology face: they have WEIRD participants. That acronym stands for participants from “Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies.” Even if this finding may not be applicable worldwide, it is still interesting within this set of countries. What happens at this time of day?

1. It is around the end of the work day. Many of these societies separate home and work life so people are returning home and looking to relax after a full work day.

2. It is around dinner time (in some places more than others).

3. Depending on the time of year, it is not too long after getting dark or there is still some time for sunlight. Regardless, night is coming and this can be associated with entertainment or relaxation or sleep.

4. Television schedules and evening events start around this time.

In other words, people in these countries generally have more free time and can make choices for this themselves at this time of day.

Only 56% of Twitter accounts have ever sent a tweet

There are over 900 million Twitter accounts but not everyone is actually sending tweets:

A report from Twopcharts, a website that monitors Twitter account activity, states that about 44% of the 974 million existing Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet…

Twitter said it has 241 million monthly active users the last three months of 2013. Twitter defines a monthly active user as an account that logs in at least once a month. By Twitter’s standards, a person does not have to tweet to be considered a monthly active user…

But having engaged users–those who are active participants in the online conversation–are particularly valuable to Twitter. For one thing, activity tends to make users more inclined to continue using the service.

Secondly, user tweets, retweets, favorites and other actions help Twitter generate advertising revenue. Over the last year, the company has made it easier for users to do those things and introduced user-friendly features such as pictures into the timeline…

Moreover, the report highlights Twitter’s user retention issue. It estimates 542.1 million accounts have sent at least one tweet since they’ve been created, suggesting that more than half of the accounts in existence have actively tried out the service. But just 23% of those accounts have tweeted sometime in the last 30 days.

And how many of these accounts are fake?

All together, the number of people actively using Twitter – meaning they are tweeting themselves, retweeting, interacting with others – is still limited. If you read a lot of Internet stories from journalists and bloggers, it sounds like lots of people are on Twitter doing important things. But, these users are likely a limited part of the population: more educated, have regular access to smartphones and Internet connections, younger. This doesn’t mean Twitter is worthless but it does suggest it is not exactly representative of Americans.

Another composite measure: “the happiest person in America”

Happiness studies are a cottage industry unto themselves (see related posts here, here, and here for several examples) as are composite measures that tells us things like the mean population center of the United States or the world’s most typical face. Here is a new measure that gives us some information about the happiest person in America:

The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on.

Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year.

This may make for an interesting news story but I’m not sure it really tells us much. Composite measures like this take different pieces of information, such as differences in happiness by gender, age, race, income, and more, and then try to attach them to a “typical” person. Is it more helpful to see a “typical” person or to have a series of graphs that show the differing levels of average happiness by various demographic characteristics? Personally, I think it would be more helpful to have the series of graphs or tables – which are also included with this story (just need to click on the tables/maps on the left side).

Of course, this article goes a step farther by trying to actually to track down someone who fits this profile. And this N of 1 who says he is “a very happy person” shows or proves what exactly?

Study about drunk fans has a limited sample

A recently released study suggests that 8 percent of fans leave sporting events drunk. This may be an interesting finding – but the newspaper description of the sample suggests there may be issues:

University of Minnesota researchers tested the blood alcohol content of 362 people to see how much folks drink when they go to professional baseball and football games. In their study, released Tuesday, they determined that 40 percent of the participants had some alcohol in their system and 8 percent were drunk, meaning their blood alcohol content was .08 or higher.

“Given the number of attendees at these sporting events, we can be talking about thousands of people leaving a professional sporting event who are legally intoxicated,” lead author Darin Erickson said. The study did not address what percentage, if any, of those fans intended to drive.

To collect the data, research staff waited outside 13 Major League Baseball and three National Football League games and randomly approached fans as they left. Those who consented took a breath test and answered questions about when, where and how much they drank on game day.

So the researchers waited outside 16 sporting events. Across these 16 events, the researchers performed voluntary tests on 362 people. This averages out to 22.625 fans per event.

Let’s say the events average at least 30,000 fans – not an unreasonable expectation for MLB and NFL games. If they tested about 23 fans at each event, that is less than 1 percent of each fans at each game. How could these findings be considered generalizable? First, you would need to test more fans. Second, could there be something different about the fans who were willing to volunteer for this test after a game?

Another report on this study bumps the sample number up a bit to 382 people. This doesn’t change the averages too much. Also, this may be the first study to examine the particular phenomenon of drinking at sporting events. However, the sample still seems to be too small even as the research study is going to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.