Are vs Have – results!

Incoming results  from my Are vs. Have poll seemed to pretty much stop once I hit 128, so at that point I started sorting through them to see if I found anything interesting. Well – I did! At least, it’s interesting to me. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting too. ^_^

A note on categories

When I was sorting through them, I just tried to categorize them as best I could. The types of answers were, in some cases, very different, so the categories will be different too. There was some fuzziness between some of the categories, and sometimes it was a bit of a toss-up whether any given thing would be best in this category or that category. Nonetheless, I did my best to put them all in an order that made sense to me. I’m just intending to share some numbers – just understand that some of them could be shuffled around a wee bit.

Ok! Numbers! Take a look:

When asked to name what we are, the types of results were as follows:

Things we do: 41
Gender: 11
Nationality/ethnicity: 11
Physical trait: 22
Relationships: 17
Things we like: 6
Personality: 35
Neurology: 12
Couldn’t figure out how to categorize: 3

When asked to name what we have, this is what I found:

Physical trait: 46
Health matters: 12
Objects: 9
Skills/Achievements: 25
Relationships: 13
Neurology: 15
Likes/wants: 7
Personality: 9
Couldn’t figure out how to categorize: 5
Didn’t fit within the context of a thing one has: 2
And finally, one assertion from someone who apparently does not describe themself that way.

And now I blather

So to state the obvious – we clearly define ourselves, overwhelmingly, by what we do, and various personality characteristics. Physical traits trailed behind in third.

Of the 17 responses based on relationships with others, 8 of them were some variant of “mom.” Nearly half!

At first I had tried to have separate categories for jobs and hobbies, but that proved untenable. With no context for the answers, there were many that I could not figure out where exactly they should go, and probably would have needed to create yet another category, even fuzzier than jobs and hobbies, that I would call “things we care about” or something. In the end, “things we do” proved to be an excellent, and interesting, category. Whether it’s a hobby or a job or activism or nervous habits or whatever, what we do is, apparently, who we are.

As for the haves, physical traits definitely dominated the field here. It seems that, by and large, our bodies are things that we have, far more than things that we are.

Answers related to health were entirely matters of illness or health issues in general. Not a single person put “good health” or anything of the like. Similarly, there were a number of answers that I categorized as neurology in both the ares and the haves, but not a single one was “neurotypical” or anything related. Which tells me that as much as we may be trying to get away from the word “normal,” the concept of normalcy seems to be very much around.

Interestingly, many of the neurology results were similar between the two. Depression, anxiety, and the autism spectrum all featured highly, but we seem to be split in terms of whether they are something we have or something we are.

There were some similarities between some of the skills and achievements in the haves, and some of the things we do in the ares. There were several answers of “job” in terms of what we have, but actual job titles were always things we are. So for instance, a person may have a job, but they are an engineer.

Not one single person put gender as a thing they have. The same goes for nationality or ethnicity. While they were both in the minority of responses of ares, they were only ares.

There is, of course, some bias in these results. Some from where I got my responses (almost all of my responses were either from people related to the autism community in some way, and people from Ravelry who were kind enough to let me impose on them), some from my own interpretations of the results, and there is probably a factor of ease of language in terms of how we self-describe. Even with all that, though, I found the sorts of answers given really quite fascinating.

I am currently still undecided about publishing the results, as I worry someone will be offended if I do. I can promise that even published, all answers will remain entirely anonymous. Even I have no way of tracking who answered what, in any way.

So I put it to you: what do you think of the results I got?

Would anyone like to see the answers themselves, and maybe even take a crack at doing your own sorting?

Or, conversely, would anyone strongly prefer that I not publish the results?

In the end, 128 responses is a small sample size, but for this blog it isn’t bad. Maybe someday when I’m famous (heh) I could do this again and see what the population at large has to say about themselves. (of course, in the meantime the poll is still open, so you can go put your answer in if you want)


Filed under ponder

3 responses to “Are vs Have – results!

  1. I can’t see why anyone would be offended. Offended about what in particular?

    I think there is another problem, which you’re also briefly mentioning; that the sampling is very biased and therefore, the numbers (how many say X VS Y) don’t represent a (known) population. Both for the reasons you mention but also because there is no way to know the response rate (so how many and what kind of people chose to not participate, given and noticing the option).The sample size is too small like you mention, but it won’t help to increase the samplesize if the sampling is still biased (it is a problem that applies to most or all Internet surveys of course). So it is still interesting to see what people come up with, but out of principle the answers aren’t suitable for numerical processing, only for qualitative reflections (so not how many / which percentaged answered X, but what interesting stuff came up).

    It is of course interesting too to hear how many answered X, but people are extremely prone to perceive the freqency or percentage of each answer as representative of a population trend, as if the sample was representative of the overall population … and on a whim, the proportions of answers are assumed to represent “everybody”, or all of a certain sub population, and discussed on that basis, caveats or not. So publishing Internet surveys like this tend to act as a kind of unintentional misinformation if not adding very thorough caveats about the limitations and how to interpret the results. Even when caveats are properly explored and communicated, the numerical conclusions tend to be remembered and passed on uncritically if they sound interesting, whereas the caveats quickly fall out of peoples’ minds. If you publish the survey, I’m pretty sure that is what will happen*.

    On the other hand, distorted perceptions of numbers/proportions will most likely not directly hurt anyone, and publishing the survey would quite likely inspire interesting and useful qualitative conversations about “having” vs “being” characteristics.

    Those are my reflections… They are more about the survey itself than the actual outcomes.

    * That is why I think Theoretical Statistics should be mandatory in primary school, except the teaching methods need an overhaul first, otherwise a lot of kids would absolutely hate it and be very stressed trying to learn it.

  2. Interesting… I was actually rather surprised that the neurology things were similar. I was expecting autism to be more ‘are’ and depression/anxiety to be more ‘have’. I’d be curious to see why people chose to classify things the way they did, actually. And how did people turn anxiety into an adjective? Depressed, autistic… those can be adjectives fairly easily, but anxiety? Anxiety-disordered is about the only way I can think of to do that; anxious doesn’t really mean the same thing.
    And I would love to see the answers themselves and maybe take a crack at sorting them, although as Mados pointed out… it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Still, I’d like to see what conclusions we can draw about our community of 128.

  3. Possum

    Two possible reasons for nobody including neurotypical. 1) For the same reason nobody thought to include “good health”. As you said, “normalcy” tends to be invisible. 2) Also as you brought up, the place it was posted. I forwarded this to a few people but I wasn’t clear if the survey was specifically intended for people on the autistic spectrum or if it was for the general population, so I only forwarded it to the former.

    One thing I realized with my own answers, well after I took the survey, was my ambivalence around the word “disabled”. I answered “are” for face-blind” because I think it has shaped who I am as much as being on the autism spectrum does but I put “have” for learning disabilities, which have pretty much the same influence. I decided that the difference is in the word, disabled.
    I will own something framed as a characteristic as being an intrinsic part of me but not something framed as a limitation. Which, to me, underscores the power of language.