Bald assertions and search results

No, the ‘study’ does not show Prince William is the “world’s sexiest bald man”.

All that glitters is not gold. News websites claimed a study suggested Prince William is the “world’s sexiest bald man”. There were news articles on The Sun, Daily Mirror, and indy100 websites.

A cosmetics firm typed names of bald male celebrities and ‘sexy’ into Google. A person counted the number of search results.

The recent news articles increase the number of search engine results.

Despite this method, some news articles refer to it as a ‘Google study’. This is incorrect. Google neither commissioned nor conducted this study.

The measure — the number of search results — has no validity. It is not measuring how many times people have called a male celebrity “sexy”.

This is the second sentence from the article in The Sun:

The 38-year-old Duke has been described as “sexy” a whopping 17.6million times online in blogs, reports and pages found in Google searches, researchers found.

Search engines work by scouring the internet for pages with ‘crawlers’. ‘Crawlers’ report back to the search engine, storing and organising information about websites. That information becomes an index. The company then uses an algorithm to order indexed pages for relevance to a person’s search. Companies can intervene, and often have advertising space above the main results.

‘Spiders’ are another word to describe the monitoring process. (Image: DSM)

Your search query does not establish a particular relationship between the individual words. Searching a male celebrity’s name and “sexy” does not return only times someone called them sexy. Search engine queries return pages that have some connection to the inputted terms.

Moreover, the query could return results from before that person was bald. Aggregated news article come back as separate results.

Would searching “Duke of Cambridge” return different results? (Image: The Sun)

Here are some examples from searching for the term with “Prince William”:

Suffice to say, search engines do not work in this. Counting rounded numbers of search engine results does not measure attractiveness.

This is not a valid study of the sexiness of bald men. The high count for the Duke of Cambridge is likely due to interest in the Royal family.

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.

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