Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Freakonomics

I am a sucker for drawing connections between things such as birth order and personality. Often, if I'm being frustrated by someone who seems to be acting blind to those around them, I'll think (or say) something like, "Only child, I bet." And, as I spend all day with a truly adorable little clown, who just happens to be the youngest of four children, I'm acutely aware of the ways in which he seems, day after day, to be more of a glutton for attention.

Other correlations, however, also really get my blood flowing. Once, in my dorm room, I made a group of friends sit through a reading of 200 adjectives. The words were all descriptors of the 12 zodiac signs, and I instructed my subjects to mark "agree" or "disagree" when I read each word. Consistently each one of them "agreed" with the words that described their sign more than any of the 11 other signs. Is this proof that your birth month directly affects your personality or just proof that if you grow up thinking that you're an Aries and so you're "daring" and "impetuous" you might, in a dorm room under duress, agree that you are both "daring" and "impetuous"? Who knows, maybe.

Or perhaps, the solution is even more obvious and unmystical.

If it is, one day it will appear in the NY Times' Freakonomics column. Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt are self proclaimed "rogue" economists who take seemingly mystical coincidences and, both in their bestselling book and their Times pulpit, reveal amazingly simple explanations. This week they tackled "The Birth-Month Soccer Anomaly", which, honestly, I'd never heard of before this article, but is fascinating nonetheless. Apparently, a huge percentage of elite European soccer (football) are born within the first three months of the calendar year.
On recent English teams, for instance, half of the elite teenage soccer players were born in January, February or March, with the other half spread out over the remaining 9 months. In Germany, 52 elite youth players were born in the first three months of the year, with just 4 players born in the last three.
Weird, huh? Does this mean if I eventually give birth to a bouncing baby in January I should shell out the big bucks at Models, but not bother if I pop one out in November?

Apparently, no.

As an explanation the Stev/phens site the work of Anders Ericsson, "a 58-year-old psychology professor at Florida State University" who began his career in "nuclear engineering until he realized he would have more opportunity to conduct his own research if he switched to psychology". I highly recommend you read the article, it's very interesting. For the purposes of brevity I will sum up Mr. Ericsson's work this way: Remember when your mom said you can do anything you put your mind to? Now there is scientific proof that she was correct.

Next month Ericsson & his colleague will publish a 900-page book that attempts to debunk the commonly accepted idea of talent. "Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. " The rogue economists are quick to point out
This is not to say that all people have equal potential. Michael Jordan, even if he hadn't spent countless hours in the gym, would still have been a better basketball player than most of us. But without those hours in the gym, he would never have become the player he was.


So what does all of this have to do with soccer players birthdays? It's so simple, it's almost funny. Youth soccer teams are organized in age brackets, and, especially in Europe, the age cut off for each bracket is December 31st.
So when a coach is assessing two players in the same age bracket, one who happened to have been born in January and the other in December, the player born in January is likely to be bigger, stronger, more mature. Guess which player the coach is more likely to pick? He may be mistaking maturity for ability, but he is making his selection nonetheless.
I love things like this. It's so obvious when you know it, so seemingly mystical when you don't.

2 Comments:

Blogger Alice said...

Wow. Freaky.

So there’s some truth behind all that zodiac gumf, huh?

;-)

Hey there N I N Y, just popped over from One Girl And Her Cats to thank you for your comment. Yeah, I know, that pathetic little person, whoever he or she is doesn’t in any way deserve to be shoved into the spotlight for whatever reason, but like I said, after reading about it, and seeing the way he/she acted, especially as he/she insulted a good Blogging friend of mine, I just could not resist it.

Anyhow, had a quick glance and I’m liking what I see. Mind if I link to you?

Hugs xxx

2:22 AM  
Blogger Nanny in New York said...

Wouldn't mind at all, would love it in fact!

Thanks Alice.

7:11 AM  

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