How Are Q Scores Calculated?

Kristian Dowling / Getty Images
Kristian Dowling / Getty Images

When celebrities go off the deep end, we’ll hear folks say they've “damaged their Q rating.” What does that really mean? What is a Q Score in the first place? Let’s take a look at the mysterious numbers.

How are Q Scores calculated?

The methodology behind the mysterious ratings is actually fairly straightforward. Marketing Evaluations, Inc. polls a representative national sample about performers, brands, TV shows, or some other property. First, it asks respondents if they’ve heard of the performer or show. If a respondent has heard of the relevant entity, the survey asks if they would rate it poor, fair, good, very good, or one of their favorites.

From there, calculating the Q Score is just a quick bit of division. Divide the percentage of people who peg a performer or show as one of their favorites by the percentage of people who have heard of the entity in the first place, drop the decimal points, and you’ve got your Q Score.

For example, according to a 1992 New York Times story, Jaleel White – yep, Steve Urkel – was the day’s top dog when it came to Q Score, narrowly edging out incumbent champ Bill Cosby. While only 53 percent of all respondents were familiar with White, 26 percent of all respondents listed White as one of their favorite performers, which racked up a stout Q Score of 49.

What does the Q stand for?

This simple division is also what gives the score its name. The “Q” stands for “quotient.”

Why do networks and advertisers care so much about favorites?

For all the reasons you’d guess. The Q Scores website explains that consumers or viewers who are exposed to one of their favorite performers or personalities are more likely to be attentive, will have higher recall, and will retain a more positive image of the brand, product, or show in question.

Is there just one Q Score?

Not even close. Marketing Evaluations, Inc. maintains several different Q Score databases, including ones for personalities (both living and dead), sports personalities, characters and licensed properties, TV shows, and consumer brands. There’s also a Cartoon Q that polls a nationwide group of 1800 kids every six months. These databases can be further sorted by age, income level, and similar variables.

Who uses these numbers?

Advertisers and media execs pay big cash for access to the Q Score database. Apparently the numbers can really come in handy when it’s time to cast a new show or sign a new spokesperson.

Any oddball firsts on the list of Q Scores?

Definitely. In August 2000 IBM announced that its chess-playing supercomputer Deep Blue had become the first computer to earn a Q Score. Interestingly, Deep Blue was still on the national radar even three years after the computer’s highly publicized victory over chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov. IBM’s press release announcing the score revealed that Deep Blue had earned a Q Score of 9, which put the computer in the same league as Larry King, Carmen Electra, Howard Stern, and Carson Daly. (Since we know you were wondering – that figure also put Deep Blue a tick ahead of Gilbert Gottfried and Count Chocula.)

Even better for IBM, Deep Blue’s score put the computer well ahead of the 6 rating earned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Sun Microsystems co-found Scott McNealy.

Who else has a particularly high Q Score?

CNN’s coverage of Deep Blue’s pioneering Q Score in 2000 listed a few other people and characters with particularly high ratings. At the time, Albert Einstein boasted a stout 56, Mickey Mouse was good for a 44, and Elvis’ Q Score was a decidedly not-dead 33.

What’s the best way to crater your Q Score?

Ask LeBron James. After the basketball star announced he was leaving Cleveland for Miami in his televised “The Decision” special last summer, his Q Score plummeted from 24 to 14. The good news for LeBron is that his Q Score has recovered slightly; reports from last month indicated that his score had crept its way back up to 17.

Why Are Barns Often Painted Red?

iStock/Ron and Patty Thomas
iStock/Ron and Patty Thomas

Beginning with the earliest American settlements and continuing into the 18th century, most barns weren't painted at all. Early American barn builders took sun exposure, temperature, moisture, wind, and water drainage patterns into account when placing and building barns, and they seasoned the wood (that is, they reduced the moisture content) accordingly. The right type of wood in the right environment held up fine without any paint.

Toward the end of the 1700s, these old-school methods of barn planning and building fell by the wayside. People sought a quicker, easier fix for preserving their barns—a way to coat and seal the wood to protect it from sunlight and moisture damage. Farmers began making their own coating from a mix of linseed oil (a tawny oil derived from the flax seeds), milk, and lime. It dried quickly and lasted a long time, but it didn't really protect the wood from mold and wasn't quite like the "barn red"we know today—it was more of a burnt orange, really.

Turning Red

The problem with mold is that it decays wood and, in large quantities, can pose health risks to people and animals. Rust, it turns out, kills mold and other types of fungi, so farmers began adding ferrous oxide (rusted iron) to the linseed oil mix. A little bit of rust went a long way in protecting the wood, and it gave the barn a nice red hue.

By the late 19th century, mass-produced paints made with chemical pigments became available to most people. Red was the least expensive color, so it remained the most popular for use on barns, except for a brief period when whitewash became cheaper and white barns started popping up. (White barns were also common on dairy farms in some parts of Pennsylvania, central Maryland, and the Shenandoah Valley, possibly because of the color's association with cleanliness and purity.)

Throughout Appalachia (a historically poorer region), many barns went unpainted for lack of money. In the tobacco regions of Kentucky and North Carolina, black and brown barns were the norm, since the dark colors helped heat the barn and cure tobacco.

Today, many barns are still painted the color traditionally used in a given region, with red still dominating the Northeast and Midwest.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This story was updated in 2019.

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER