MRI Claims 92% Accuracy Predicting Sexual “Orientation”. My Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ Beats It

MRI Claims 92% Accuracy Predicting Sexual “Orientation”. My Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ Beats It

The news, considered marvelous to some because it seems to confirm how good MRIs are at uncovering secrets of the brain, is that MRIs can predict “sexual orientation” with 92% accuracy.

The peer-reviewed paper is “Accurate machine learning prediction of sexual orientation based on brain morphology and intrinsic functional connectivity” in Cerebral Cortex by Benjamin Clemens and others.

They announce “We found an average accuracy of 62% (±6.72) for predicting sexual orientation based on [brain gray matter volume] and an average predictive accuracy of 92% (±9.89) using [resting-state functional connectivity].”

I, too, giggled at that “+ 9.89”, but let that pass. For now.

In any case, this 92% sounds like a big number. Is it?

I don’t have an MRI, but I do have the Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ (the deluxe chromium model). It is a special form of scanner that, like MRI, can judge people’s “sexual orientation”. The fantastic thing about it is that you don’t have to come to the scanner. It comes to you—remotely.

So good is the Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ that it doesn’t even have to know who it’s scanning. In fact, it’s even easier than this. It simply registers “Normal” for every scan.

That is, no matter who the Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ scans, it always and forever says “Normal”. For everybody.

Without reading further—do try this; don’t peek—what accuracy do you think the Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ scanner would have at guessing “sexual orientation”?

No peeking.

Did you peek?

The accuracy would be about 93%. Which is greater, of course, than 92%, which means our Schmengee Mediscan 3000™ scanner is better than the MRI.

It’s around 93% if Gallup’s survey is correct, that is. They say “LGBT Identification in U.S. Ticks Up to 7.1%“. If 7% are abnormal, that means 93% or so are normal. Which means a scanner that predicts normal for everybody would be accurate 93% of the time. It would only be wrong for those who “identify” as abnormal.

Given these facts, which machine would you rather use? The MRI or Schmengee Mediscan 3000™?

Why would you want to use an MRI when the Schmengee is better? Because the MRI is more expensive? Because it has all sorts of sciency theory behind it? Because it is wielded by Experts? Because even though it’s not as accurate it’s guesses are more scientific, in the sense the predictions it nailed were because of science, while those that it missed are because of science not yet perfected?

Now there is more to it than this. Unfortunately, I do not have the paper, but only the Abstract. (I hear the Sci-hub lady is on the run; they don’t have current papers anymore.) I did discover a popular article that referenced this study. That article said the MRI study correctly identified all 45 normals and 82.9% of 41 self-described homosexuals. That’s 92% overall. This is all we need.

Two points, the first easy.

This 92% appears to be the in-sample accuracy. How the model fit the data, that is. These are not independent predictions of data never seen or used before.

As regular readers should know by now it is possible to create a model that fits to whatever accuracy one desires. They could have got 100% if they wanted. This is always possible. No matter the kind of data. Which means we can’t trust any model just because, and only because it fits data well.

This means announcing accuracy of fit is not exactly worthless, but nearly. You will recall that the entire practice of classical statistics is centered around announcing model fit. P-values and Bayes factors, for instance. Which means the practice of classical statistics is ____________ (you fill in the blank).

Second, let’s take the in-sample accuracy statistics as a given, and pretend that they will apply to everybody. This will not be true. That is, the real-life accuracy of this MRI will be very much lower than 92% in practice (my guess is ~70–80%). But let’s suppose in practice it always guesses all normals correctly and all abnormals with 83% accuracy.

In any large sample we’ll have about 0.93 x N normals and 0.07 x N abnormals. That means the accuracy of predictions in large samples will be around (0.93 x N x 1 + 0.07 x N x 0.83) / N = 98.8% accuracy.

If that’s so, and the MRI really could reach that accuracy, then since 99% > 93% of the Schmengee, then the MRI model should be preferred.

But like I said, there is no chance the out-of-sample performance will be as good as the in-sample. Suppose the out-of-sample performance is 95% as good as the in-sample performance. This is incredibly generous, as any builder of models knows. Like I said parenthetically, something more like 70% is likely, or less. But suppose our scientists are much brighter than normal, and give them 95%.

Then the out-of-sample performance will be something like (0.93 x.95 + 0.07 x 0.83 x.95) = 93%.

In other words, the MRI model in real life is expected to be just as good as the Schmengee, and likely a lot worse. Which means we should prefer the Schmengee.

And which also means the MRI claims of being able to identify sexual “orientation” are likely not true.

What we have done today is called a skill test. It should always be applied to statistical models. It almost never is.

Late Addendum: It is not that is impossible MRIs might be able to identify “orientation”. Take broken legs, an injury. Machines can identify who has had one skillfully, but perhaps not perfectly, because the injury leaves traces. Only here the evidence is far from conclusive.

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  1. Gwyneth

    It’s odd. I have always had a 100% accuracy on determining the sexual orientation of someone when meeting them for the first time.

  2. So the next time I go to the doctor and he thinks I need a scan, will he refer to it as the “gaydar” instead of an “MRI”?

  3. Brian (bulaoren)

    Clearly, the best test would be autopsy.
    Dr. Quincy, call your office.

  4. Hagfish Bagpipe

    It’s not impossible, as Briggs notes, that the MRI is picking up on some brain abnormality, like a super kinky cortex, to identify kinky clients whose kinky behavior kinked the cortex. But his main point is the use of kinky statistical methods to arrive at kinky conclusions supporting the kinky agenda of the Overkinks, where girls will be boys and boys will be girls in a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola. La-la-la-la Lola.

  5. Cary D Cotterman

    Didn’t the Schmengee brothers used to have a polka show on Canadian tv?

  6. Darin Johnson

    Which machine to prefer depends on the decision you’re making. If false negative for “gay” is a costly mistake, then you might prefer the MRI. In fact, depending on the situation, it might be better to use the Schmengee Mediscan 3001, which says everyone is gay.

  7. Johnno

    I can plot a model that can calculate the Salvation Rate of everyone presently on Earth with 99.9% Accuracy.

    Let me tell you… it’s not looking good…

    And that’s adjusted for the current Mercy and Tolerance inflation rate.

  8. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Schmenge Mediscan 3000TM

    “Honey! — I’m just going in for my routine Schmenge Mediscan 3000TM exam, back in a bit!”

    “Okay luv, good luck under the death ray! — just kidding dear! And anyway the Schmenge Mediscan 3000TM exam is a walk in the park compared to the Schmegeggee Mediscan 666TM exam!!!”

  9. Incitadus

    I vaguely recall an East German study on post war homosexuality rates in Germany which were
    said to have increased significantly in the post war years. They attributed this to the unremitting stress
    the mothers had been subjected to during the war and in gestation the lowering, of the gonadotropin
    releasing hormone resulting in males forming ‘female differentiated brains’. This was later confirmed
    in rat studies at Stanford where the brain hemispheres of male offspring showed female brain characteristics
    in which both hemispheres are nearly equal in size, in heterosexual males the left hemisphere is between 8%
    & 10% larger. During gestation female rats were confined in a small box in which they could not move and
    subjected to 24/7 light to stress them. Brains of stressed and control group rats were sectioned and showed the
    hemispheric pattern described in a significant proportion of the stressed rats. The conclusion was that there is a
    a strong biological basis for homosexuality.

    I couldn’t find the original Humboldt Donner study online or the Stanford rat sectioning studies which were done
    back in the 50’s and 60’s but there is pretty good evidence they were on the right track. It’s hardly surprising
    this could be seen on MRI it’s very old news, but this sounds like they’re trying to pull more than one rabbit out of the hat.
    They’re presenting this like it’s some brand new insight and obviously trying hard to credit themselves with discovery.
    Perhaps their next move is to use MRI criteria for early childhood sex change surgery, hormone therapy, abortion, dress-up
    or God knows what.

    Gay brains structured like those of the opposite sex
    By Andy Coghlan

  10. Gespenst

    Did the Schmenge Brothers branch out from the music business to the medical diagnostic machine business?

    “Cabbage Rolls and Coffee”

  11. Incitadus

    That so called study got it exactly backwards it is the left hemisphere that is slightly
    larger in heterosexual males.

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