Chocolate makes smart

You always knew it, didn’t you? Now there is a study suggesting a correlation between chocolate consumption and winning Nobel prizes.

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While you are emptying that jar of Nutella, you may however want to consider why this study is bogus:

  • Correlation does not imply causation.
  • The average chocolate consumption in a country does not mean that the respective Nobel laureates personally eat as much or indeed any chocolate. With such a small sample size, the laureates themselves should have been questioned.
  • Nobel prizes are awarded to individuals or organizations, not to countries. How to contribute the many Nobel laureates who were born in one country, studied in another country and then moved to a third country? Surely, they didn’t suddenly become more intelligent by moving from a low-chocolate to a high-chocolate environment.
  • Nobel prizes are such rare and singular events (often awarded decades after the underlying work had been performed) that they are not even a good measure of a population’s intelligence.
  • Higher chocolate consumption per capita could indicate higher economic well-being, which might lead to more people studying and researching under better conditions than in countries that can’t even afford Milka.
  • Chocolate melts in heat. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if people in colder countries eat more of it. But the cold may also prompt people to spend more time at the library than at the beach, thus leading to more and better research in Estonia than in the Dominican Republic.
  • Or maybe those cold countries up north still benefit from not having been colonized in recent history? Or from decades of peace?
  • Or they are not as affected by drought, again leading to better nutrition overall?

So, I am sorry to say, the study doesn’t show anything. But it does serve as an example of how to dissect such findings (and I am sure many more points of criticism could be made). By the way, before you mention it, the same applies to all the studies according to which the consumption of red wine leads to a longer life. Think of all the people you know and who of them drinks red wine regularly. It’s not the worker in the coal mine or the boy living on the rubbish dump, is it? No, it’s the middle-class teacher and his sociologist wife. I’ll bet you a ton of chocolate that even without any sip of wine, they would live longer than manual laborers who get exposed to toxic fumes every day.

(Thanks to fellow chocolate and research fans Romeu and Mafalda for pointing me to this study!)

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About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Education, Food, Statistics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Chocolate makes smart

  1. Tim says:

    Yes its bogus. Maybe chocolate eating reduces the non-nobel population , so nobel prize rate is higher, lol.

  2. Miriam says:

    Mmm it’s interesting. Well, I’m a lover of both red wine and chocolate so where does that leave me but happy? 😊🍷

  3. I knew I’m smarter than is good for me!

  4. Pingback: Schokolade macht schlau | Der reisende Reporter

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