Given that it's been a while since the last survey (


It's now time to open the floor to suggestions of improvements to the last survey.  If you have a question you think should be on the survey (perhaps with reasons why, predictions as to the result, or other useful commentary about a survey question)


Alternatively questions that should not be included in the next survey, with similar reasons as to why...


survey is now up (2016-03-26)

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29 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:59 AM

My suggestion, as usual, is a Basilisk question.

And in light of recent events, it might be interesting to factor the cryonics survey question into two: whether cryonics works in principle, and whether cryonics as currently practiced by ALCOR/CI will work.

I'd like to repeat a suggested question from last year's question suggestion thread:

Do you like the cartoon, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic"?

  • Yes, and I consider myself a brony/pegasister

  • Yes

  • No


Include options 'never seen it' & 'indifferent'.

The high rate of depression among LW readers is significant and, well, depressing. We should dig deeper and ask questions such as "Were you frequently depressed as a child?", "Has either of your parents suffered from chronic depression?", "Is your depression probably caused by loneliness?" and ask the open ended questions "What if any depression treatments have you tried that have helped you?" and "What if any depression treatments have you tried that have not ended up helping you?"

See also suggestions from last year.

My suggestion good enough to repeat: have both the radio button "pick one of these political philsophies" with the same list as before, followed by ranking every political affiliation with a score from 1 to 7.

Thanks! not so easy to find this link

How about asking "What is the single most important change that would make you want to participate more frequently on Less Wrong?"

This question would probably not be useful for the census itself, but it seems like a great opportunity to brainstorm..

Elo, have you talked to Yvain (= Scott Alexander) about it? He may have a pile of ideas. (For that matter, for all I know he has an LW survey post just waiting for him to push the button. It would be a shame to duplicate effort.)

I sent him a message but have not heard from him yet. I would have no problem with him taking the lead. Given his existing experience.

I think the questions of the next survey should be a superset of those on the last survey. Maybe not strictly, but it's too interesting to track year-on-year changes to remove questions unless it's really unquestionably obvious that they're superfluous.

I have some slightly worried suspicions about a question for several reasons. That question is:
"How many close friends do you have?"

Another question I'd be interested in seeing:
"How often in the last year have you exercised the Virtue of Silence?"

In addition to the standard census questions I think it would be good to have an optional page two that asks for agreement with various statements about rationality. I think it would be very interesting to see how many different dimensions there are in our disaggrements.

One of the statements might be: It's useful to identify oneself as an aspiring rationalist.

Some people in our community like labels like that while other find them annoying.

From my Evernote tag for prospective census questions:

On average how many days do you eat meat per week? (Y/N)
Did you eat meat yesterday? (Y/N)

Having those two questions together is a test for self honesty. This is interesting because previous data suggest that moral philosophers do poorly on it.

I would prefer such question above the identity labels of vegetarian/vegan/paleo-eater. I could also be interesting to have it in addition.

Easy wins:
James Miller recently wrote:

Other easy wins: The Squatty Potty, magnesium supplements, meditation, and donating blood if you are male.

I would be interested in questions regarding those factors:

Is the toilet you use at your home the most a Squatty Potty? (Y/N)
Did you donate blood in the last year? (Y/N)

I'm not sure how to word questions for meditation and magnesium supplements. Squatty Potty/blood donations are the most interesting for me.

Better that X guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted. Solve for X.

When was the last time you read a scientific paper that was work related?
Last Week
Last Month
Last Year
Three Years ago
Longer than three years ago / Never

When was the last time you read a scientific paper that wasn't work related?
Last Week
Last Month
Last Year
Three Years ago
Longer than three years ago / Never

Quantified Self: Have you ever made an effort to record personal data for future analysis and stuck with it for >1 month? (Y/N)

I would again like to have a question measuring spaced repetition usage (I think there was a good one in the 2013 census.

Better that X guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted. Solve for X.

For me the answer depends on the ratio between the seriousness of the crime, and the seriousness of the punishment.

If the survey includes birth order, also ask about order among grandchildren. I'm not just first born, I'm first grandchild on both sides, and I wonder how common that is.

Good one! My wife and I are both first (of many) grandchildren and I'd love to see what correlates.

If there are many questions, put the most important ones on the first page, and make everything else optional.

Any question that requires more than 2 seconds to answer should be optional. (That obviously includes any question that requires clicking on a link to an external web page with a long explanation of some definition.)

I would propose to get rid of the question about the birth month. It doesn't provide useful data and it reduces the annonymity of the data relatively strongly because months of birth are often relatively easy to look up.


1.60% in America, 1.06% in the LessWrong survey population. There are at least 2 ''out'' LW contributors with schizotypal personality disorder. I don't know how many LWers there are in order to contrast this with the 3.9percent US prevalence.

There is frequent comment on the high prevalence of autism in our community. But there is less report of the opposite trend: It appears that LWers have quite a bit lower schizotypy than the general populations.

I would be interested in teasing this out more. I'd encourage deeper questioning on schizotypy. I'm not a psychiatric researcher or clinician so I would encourage someone else with greater experience to chime in on the next steps.

My intuitions are that questions about personality disorders such as schizotypal, avoidant and paranoid personality disorders, as well as various classes of anxiety disorder such as generalised anxiety disorder would be a good idea to look at claims that we're a rather worried, AI-paranoid, ill thinking bunch in context!

Last time I felt the lack of questions about multiculturalism. It often correlates with political affiliation, but I don't know how it holds in this community.

Two examples come to my mind:

  1. What is your opinion of the regulation of people from a country with a non-Western culture immigrating into countries with a western culture? (I specified it because it both seems that the overwhelming majority of the community lives in a Western country, and that the topic of multiculturalism is most hotly debated in such countries) There could be around 5 or 6 answers between (and including) the extremes of "let absolutely everyone in without any selection criteria or any upper limit at all" and "close all borders, don't let anyone in", with several in-between answers like "allow them in, but only in amounts which wouldn't completely change the ethnic and cultural majorities of the regions",or "allow them in, but based on some selection criteria regarding education, social class, etc."

  2. In the case of immigrants from a non-Western culture into a country with Western culture, how would you like for the people to culturally adjust?

Possible answers, going through the whole scale between the two extremes:

  • "The newcomers should completely embrace the culture of their new home"
  • "The newcomers should mostly adopt to the culture of their new homes, while the natives should make at least a few small steps to accommodate them"
  • "They both should move equal distances in the direction of each other"
  • "The natives should mostly adopt to the culture of the newcomers, while the newcomers should make at least a few small steps to become acquainted with the cultural history of their new home "
  • "The natives should completely embrace the culture of the newcomers, so that they can freely live as they used to live in their old home, without being forced to abandon any of their values"
  • (and to add an option outside of the scale of who should change:) "Neither should change anything in their culture, they should live in parallel societies among each other, each keeping their own cultural values and not interfering with the other"

"Non-Western" is too broad a term here. People who object to immigration on cultural grounds have something more specific in mind than "non-Western".

A valid concern. Do you have a better formulation in mind, which is still not too much specific?

Culture with radical disagreement on values?

Folks often make elaborate claims about their own cultures' values, and equally elaborate claims about the cultures of people they are afraid of.

These claims may not always be well-founded or intellectually honest.

The survey might get more honest answers by asking questions like, "Do you believe that immigration to your country threatens you, benefits you, or ...?"

"Do you believe that immigration to your country threatens you, benefits you, or ...?"

This question will not help much. Also, a very simple immigration-related question was included in the last survey, but it was just about "immigration" in general being good or not. And of course, most people here on LW, unless they want to identify themselves as some racist xenophobes, will answer to such a question with "yes, it's a good thing". There is a social pressure to answer like that, in case the word "immigration" is mentioned without being any more specific. So such a question will not get us any useful information about how the members of this community feel about the topic.

This is why it would be better to include a scale. Not just "immigration" but "how much immigration"?

No one but the utmost bigot will say that 5 people from a foreign culture coming to a town of 20000 will have negative consequences. However, no one but the most gullible would believe that 50000 people from a foreign culture coming to a town of 20000 in a very short time interval will not lead to any problems, or that they would integrate instead of forcing their own values on the population.

Also in light of recent events (big breakthroughs in accuracy of CRISPR editing, stem cell<->gametes<->embryo creation, & complex trait polygenic scores), I'd be interested in questions about embryo selection, iterated embryo selection (IES), and embryo editing. This would be similar to the other belief questions, I guess - maybe median date of first baby born with any CRISPR edits, median date of first IES procedure? (I don't see any point in asking for probabilities for CRISPR, at least; everyone knows it's a matter of when, not if.)

Also thanks for initiating this ELO; upvote for proactivity :)

I think there should be a "do not identify with a race" option under race like the "do not identify with a gender." Seems strictly parallel, and if anything, the "real" answer is less clear than the having or not of parts. I bet that while we can all successfully tic a box on a DMV form, I'm not the only person who really doesn't identify with a race, and I think it's different enough from "other." Just my $.02.

I'd suggest that the questions on sex, gender, and orientation be re-factored. One schema I've seen that may be worth starting with runs:

  • Gender role: masculine, feminine, non-binary
  • Gender identity: man, woman, non-binary, agender
  • Romantic orientation: heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, aromantic...
  • Sexual orientation: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual...
  • Sexual behaviour: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, celibate...
  • Sex: male, female, intersex

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