A Helpful New Social-Science Metric

by Michael Potemra


I am not really gung-ho for social science, chiefly for a reason I imbibed from my Aristotelian and Thomistic masters: A science must not strive for a level of exactness that is foreign to its subject matter. But I have at last discovered a social-science metric that can explain some very puzzling phenomena in my own life and experience. Take, for example, the fact that I simultaneously love England and its culture, and yet do not like Anglophiles. The best explanation I could ever come up with for this is that I am perhaps a “self-hating Anglophile.” But Calvin Trillin, over on Slate, offers a helpful scientific way to approach this and similar problems: 

Three men who were sitting at the other end of the room had begun discussing wine in voices that seemed intended to enlighten oenophiles who were strolling past Rockefeller Center.

The man at the end of the bar nodded in their direction and said, “Among people who think of themselves as wine connoisseurs there’s a 61 percent ACI.”

I was puzzled. “What’s an ACI?” I asked.

He lowered his voice a bit, as if he was about to use somewhat offensive language and wanted to make certain no women (he would have said “ladies”) were in ear-shot. “A*****e Correlation Index,” he said.

I said, “You mean that 61 percent of people who talk a lot about wine are—”

“Correct,” he said, before I could finish. “That’s not even particularly high, as these things go. That means that nearly 40 percent of people who think of themselves as wine connoisseurs are people who have learned a lot about wine for one legitimate reason or another and are not pretentious about it. Those guys over there are in the other 61 percent, I’d wager. When they get through analyzing a few pinot noirs that they wouldn’t actually be able to tell apart, they’ll probably turn to cigars or single malt scotch. People who spend a lot of time discussing both cigars and single malt scotch, by the way, have a 78 percent ACI. That’s high — much higher than connoisseurs of either one singly. . . 

Trillin’s piece is worth reading in its entirety.

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