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The Psychology of Rate-me Sites

The BigHoeSmacka and I were discussing why it is that the average on the ‘rate the girls’ feature of AOL instant messenger comes out so much lower than the average rating on sites like hotornot.com.

For those of you unfamiliar, it works like this. Picture of ratee pops up, you click on rating 1-10, average presented on the next picture.

An attractive girl on AOL comes out on 7.0 on average whereas an attractive girl on hotornot.com comes out near the 10 mark. So what’s going on here? The fodder on both sites comes out roughly the same, amateur photography, non-professional lighting – the culprit has to be something psychological in the raters.

I think we’re seeing an interesting kick of the statistical self-selection bias - people go to hotornot.com who mentally have already decided that they WANT to see hot people. They consciously typed in ‘hotornot.com’ in their browser.

In efforts to make what they see match what they’ve mentally decided, they tend to rate higher.

Most people who see the rate a buddy want to do something else – namely use their IM client. The presentation of potential hotties or notties is something they feel neutral to lukewarm about. Further the sample size on AOL is larger.

Taken these together - and the size of the AIM population, I think the AOL rating is truer. That said, if a girl scores a 7 on AIM she should feel very flattered indeed.