Measurement issues

Today I want to discuss the so-called “Crazy/Hot Scale.”  Even though I do not watch the show regularly, I happened across this Scale on the CBS primetime comedy show How I Met Your Mother.  As I understand it, Neil Patrick Harris’s character is giving advice about relationships with women to a heterosexual friend.  The Scale plays off the notion that many (straight) women are both crazy and hot.  Since no one wants to date a crazy woman, men must find the maximum amount of crazy they can tolerate, in order to date the hottest woman possible… a problem the Scale illustrates.  Harris’s character draws a graph in the air with his finger, which is then illustrated on the screen for us, like this:

(Image from the Soffe Report)

Naturally, the goal is to date above the line, where you will obtain proportionally more hotness and less crazy.  I don’t know the meaning of the pink, shaded area, but I would imagine it is the zone in which you find yourself calling the police, a lot.

I’m doing all those parentheticals because the concept is playing off a set of stereotypes about women that I first experienced in college.  As far as I could tell, the women that were branded as “crazy” were likely to be feminists, drug addicts, the hypermaterialistic, those in love or likely to fall in love, or those with a direct manner about them (aka “Brassy”).  It seemed obvious to me at the time, and I trust my memory, that these crazy women simply shared the ability to threaten the men on campus, whose emerging sense of adult masculinity was understandably fragile.

As I discussed the issue with a friend the other day, she made an excellent point about measurement, that I’ll bring to you, today:

the funny thing is the line for hotness stays constant. it think this is a flaw in the graph. it’s been my experience that hotness either rises or falls in direct proportion to one’s response to the craziness (i.e. sometimes the craziness makes you crazy and increases their hotness, and sometimes it repulses you).

Basically, my friend is arguing that hotness and crazyness are not independent variables.  I find this to be an extremely interesting idea.  Here’s a question to get us going: isn’t it the case that hotness and crazyness are independent at the start of a relationship, and cease to be so at some later point in time?  Do we ever model relationships taking this into account?


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2 responses to “Measurement issues

  1. Too much in one post for me to comment on, really – the Barney angle, the interesting observation about the social construction of crazy, and the temporal variability of crazy/hot as a dynamic rather than static a priori set of variables.

    I’ll go for the third, though I’d add for the second that there was a special category for unconventional beauty combined with some kind of assertiveness. Like a version of crazy-hot, overlapping with crazy/hot.

    So, I think that what Barney wants to illustrate is the desire for hot and the willingness to accept some crazy to get it. There’s the vibe that a person becomes hotter/less hot the more you like or dislike them, so that the Bravo Channel’s Date my Ex woman becomes such an incredible turn-off that if you didn’t know her you might think she was attractive, but knowing her makes her ugly. I’m not sure that it’s crazy per se there, just personality. I’m not sure that my tolerance for crazy changes over time, though. I might get worn down, or believe that what is empirically crazy is not really crazy (she’s ‘quirky’, the way she gets me into bar fights with random other men when she drinks), but for me at least, it is more likely that her hotness (or my perception of it) will tend to wear off with the lousy personality.

    At the heart of it, are you trying to understand why person x is possibly dating person y, who is a total nutjob? Or are you just looking for excuses to put up photos of Barney?

  2. Jenn Lena

    Nice new avatar, m’dear.
    FWIW, I think Barney wants to illustrate the desire for crazy, and the need to have some hot to offset it, from time-to-time. He would say otherwise, but I know. Men obvs. like hot; (some) men also like crazy.
    I am interested in two problems, one of which I won’t address here. The problem for WITW is in thinking about variables that change the nature of their relationship to one another depending upon their value/level/strength. More than a curvilinear relationship, these are situations in which previously independent variables become invalid when measured as distinct entities. I am wondering, (1) Is this the right way to think about any co-variables? (2) If so, which? (3) How do we model this?

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