Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vox Populi

photo taken in the women's bathroom in the Rideau Street Chapter's in Ottawa, just down the street from Parliament Hill. The most positive bathroom graffiti I have ever read.

Sir Francis Galton’s paper, "Vox Populi", (or Voice of the People) opens with his reason for his interest in the weight of an ox: “In these democratic days, any investigation into the trustworthiness and peculiarities of popular judgments is of interest,”* basically meaning he’s curious as to how trustworthy the voters are.

Some interesting points brought up in his paper are that he didn’t actually conduct the experiment, but he borrowed the votes from a contest in which people paid a fee to guess how much the meat, on an ox, would weigh after it had been killed and prepared for market. The fee and promise of a prize ensured the people would do their best. Another point is that he didn’t average out the votes, but looked instead at the middle vote, where fifty percent of the votes are higher, and fifty percent of the votes are lower. The middle vote was only nine pounds off, and Sir Francis found this extraordinary because that means there is less then one percent difference between the middle number and the actual weight of the ox.

The bulk of the paper is Galton trying to explain the math he used, but his final conclusion is that “the trustworthiness of a democratic judgment”* is more credible then he had thought it would be.


*Vox Populi

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for educating me a bit this morning Sinead! Sue P.