🧠 Subliminal error variables in forms – Could it effect the result?


I had a teacher during junior high (högstadiet) who always said, “let’s move on before Moa starts thinking”. And now I’m on it again, I don’t say my thinking makes sense, but I’m putting it out into the world anyway.

I like my job, I feel highly stimulated and challenged by it, creating the reality of ideas and theories. And I think that is a luxury not so many people have. But sometimes I get so bloody tired of stepping out of bed, I don’t mind the work, but it’s just the mondaine movement of doing the same thing over and over again. I’m a routine person. I like it and like most human beings it is healthy to have routines, but sometimes it just exhausts me. So what, everyone feels like this, right?

The boxes of limitation

Ok so I have some crazy theories from time to time. I call this one the boxes of limitations.

The biggest box of limitations is the box of physical laws. We are created and we live our lives limited by gravitation and how the universe has formed us to survive as human beings. How our brain works, how our body moves, the fact that we can’t fly and the fact that our body and gravitation is limiting us from surviving a fall from 50m and so on. But when we’re dreaming we’re stripped away from the laws of physics, it feels like we’re running against the wind or that we’re swimming in sirap But what if the dreams are a little sneak peek into our life in a parallel universe where there are different kind physical laws. It’s frustrating right? To be in a dream and running doesn’t feel like it “should”, but what if running in a dream is the closest thing we get to actually live outside the box of physical limitations.

The inner boxes

So the box of physical limitation is the box further from us, but in my theory we have several more of them. We have boxes containing limitations as a human being, as a member of the world, as a member of the european union, as Swede, as a woman, as a person living on the south side of Stockholm and so on. To be honest I don’t feel that limited by most of these things, I just want to play around with the thought.

I read about a study in the book “Subliminal”.

Several asian women were faced to do a complicated and complex math test. Asian being stereotyped as being good at math and women being stereotyped as being bad as math, the woman got divided into three different groups. The three groups got to answer three different sruverys before the math test. One survey focusing on the woman being asian, one focusing on them being women and the third regular questions, such as age and stuff. And as you might have guessed, the group who got questions empathizing on being asians got a better result than the group who got questions focusing on them being women, and the third group ended up in the middle. So what is the conclusion to this? Well in the study they focused on the importance for us as human beings belonging to a group and identifying as x or y. This is called Stereotype susceptibility.

Stereotype susceptibility is a phenomenon in which awareness of stereotypes about a person’s in-group and other out-groups affects a person’s behavior and performance on tasks related to the stereotype” (Shih, Pittinsky, & Ambady, 1999).


Well could it be harmful for the result of a survey to ask whether you’re a woman or a man? I personally don’t really care, but we’re talking about what happens subliminal when we identify as one thing or the other, something that we can’t control.

Why not ask “Do you have a lady garden or a gentleman sausage” instead of “are you a woman, man or something else” and why is this so important to know? I mean focusing on the biological gender is fair game (I guess we were created this way to be able to reproduce, and I that’s all good), but I guess the problem is the values we have put on being a woman or man, maybe we should just ask “are you human, cat or dog” because of your dog it’s gonna be really hard for you to continue filling out this form, but if you’re a human feel free to continue (sorry for offending the people identifying as a dog, but come on). So I call this the box of norm limitations, that the norms we have created for different groups is one of the biggest and hardest box to get out of. What is expected from us?

So can it actually be harmful to ask about gender in a form, can it affect the way we answer due to our own created norms on different groupings. And what does it actually bring to the result asking for it. When I send out surveys and doing studies I’m just curious about behaviour in general, related to product development, and I create segments based on certain behaviour or how they feel and what they do. Don’t get me wrong here, I see no problem in having two genders or whatever suits you, I’m just curious based on this study if it actually could affect the answers whether you identify yourself belonging to one group or another, because of norms. Because it’s such an infected discussion these days, it might be best to not ask it at all. And what more questions could have this effect on the result in a survey? What if asking gender or any other group-related question have affected test results for people around the world? Just look at the SAT test, where they ask a ridiculous amount of personal questions, could those questions affect how well you do on a test due to the fact that you start identifying to a specific group where the norm and values connected to that group make you perform better or worse. And could it affect the person who is correcting the test, maybe not actively but on a subliminal level.

So if you need to ask questions which you think could affect the result due to this error variable, why not ask it at the end of the test? And why not make a little experiment of it, half of the group get to answer these kinds of questions before the test and the rest after the test and then compare the results.  

Maybe we will be able to step outside the box of physical laws before we step outside the box of norms. I’m, not sure.