And today's final category is . . . Gender Differences.
The answer: They regularly trounce women at trivia games, consistently displaying the superior ability to collect, collate and retrieve vast stores of useless, context-free facts.
The correct question: What are men?
Yes, Alex. Men whup women at trivia.
We know this because we see it every day on television. Ten bonus points in the lightning round if you can answer this: How many women rank among the top 75 all-time money-winners on "Jeopardy!"? Answer: 15. Only one woman ranks among the top 10 College Tournament money-winners on the show. A whopping three made it into the top 10 among the Teen Tournament champs.
Who won big on the recent hit summer game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Mainly, it was people with names like Larry and John. Of the 18 people who actually competed on the air for money, 16 were men. Selection bias, you say. Maybe some, but not enough to explain 16 to 2. Women were in the candidate pool and contested for a spot in the money round. They just didn't answer fast enough.
We can see this, too, in our own dens and living rooms. Quick: Whose team did you want to be on the last time someone suggested playing Trivial Pursuit? Mom's? Sis's? More likely, it was Uncle Jack's team. Uncle Jack, the guy who knows whom Bolivia was named after (1), the guy who can identify the third-longest river in the world. (2)
This is not to suggest that men are, ipso facto, smarter or more intelligent than women. We're not even sure how to define intelligence, but we know it doesn't involve knowing the answer to "What year was 'Born to Run' released?" (3)
This is to suggest that the male brain is a better magnet for publicly available facts, such as the name of the first Oscar winner for Best Picture (4) (caution: trick question), or the Mets' opponent in the 1969 World Series. (5)
Yes, publicly available facts, widely known scraps of data, the kind that have only one practical use: winning trivia contests.
Granted, most women I know have far better mental CPUs for personal details--stuff like birthdays and anniversaries, clothing sizes or the names of their children.
For this disparity, we can blame a cultural bias so profound, so deeply entrenched in custom and practice that it surely must have a genetic root.
Men, more so than women, grow up in a culture that abides and encourages the collection of stray data. Every male passes through a stage of socio-cognitive development that might be called the "I Know More Than You" phase. This is the passage of childhood when one's peers--almost always one's male peers--are engaged in aggressive competition involving obnoxious displays of comparative knowledge.
In other words, a boy learns that he can gain status by being able to memorize and recite Sammy Sosa's on-base percentage, various advertising jingles, and the names of all the Pokemon characters. Boys obsess on games and hobbies that feed gratuitous info-retention. There are analogous girl obsessions, but they involve far less factual complexity and demand little instant recall. I mean, what is there to remember about Barbie?
As they pass through adolescence, boys broaden their trivia horizons. Soon, there are Top 40 record lists to absorb, car makes and models, TV shows and movies, historical dates and names, world capitals. By college age, the list expands to include brands of beer.
For men, trivia is interpersonal grease, an all-purpose icebreaker and conversation stimulant ("Say, did you know that women blink almost twice as often as men during the course of a day?"). Men can hold entire conversations based on nothing but dueling trivia facts ("Why, no, but I was just thinking that the Verrazano Bridge is the longest vehicular suspension bridge in the U.S."). And so, we come full circle, returning to boyhood (perhaps never leaving it), fueled by the same sublimated aggression and status competition born on the playground.
Forgive us, ladies. It is because of our strangled inarticulateness, our hopeless superficiality, our incurable testosterone madness that we love this stuff. Besides, without it, we'd have to talk about our feelings.
4--"Wings" (which won for Best Picture, Production; "Sunrise" also won in a parallel category, Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production).