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Breakfast: The Most Important Data of the Day

We’ve managed to do a lot of fun analysis with our library of vote data, but one thing we’ve learned to watch out for is selection bias. If a particular list gets a LOT more votes than the average list in its vertical, it can start to really skew results.
For example, take a look at this list of Most Popular Breakfast Cereals.

Photo by Hajime NAKANO

It has a lot of votes. We have a bunch of other popular lists of foods that get a lot of votes (like Best Candy and Favorite Light Beers), but with over 500 voters so far, Breakfast Cereals looks like it will get a lot of participation.
This means that, when we look at the big-picture data, cereals will show up an inordinate amount of time. This isn’t because Ranker users love cereal more than any other type of food (although who doesn’t?) It just means that a lot more Ranker users have told us about their favorite cereals than, say, their favorite kinds of cheese. They might love cheese even more than cereal; they just didn’t happen to find that list during their time on Ranker.
Once we’ve realized this is happening, it’s easy enough to work around. For example, let’s say I was interested to find out what kinds of food fans of particular celebrities liked. (So if you like Harrison Ford, are you more likely to want pasta for dinner, or a nice steak?)
Looking at Ford’s food results, I can just ignore any cereals that come up (there are 2) and tell you that you probably like pineapple if you’re a big Indiana Jones/Han Solo/Guy From Mosquito Coast fan.

His name’s Allie Fox. Obvs.
The alternative would just be to compare cereal-to-cereal. So you can sleep comfortably tonight, secure in the knowledge that Harrison Ford fans prefer Chex to Cap’n Crunch, while Adam Sandler fans love Cookie Crisp but hate Raisin Bran.
Interestingly enough, despite the selection bias in favor of cereal, one celebrity we looked up had NO fans who voted in favor of any cereals… Frank Zappa. Zappa fans love Stone Brewery IPAs and candy corn. But they are NOT digging on this complete breakfast.
One more thing to add about breakfast cereals – because so many people have told us which ones they love and hate, they make great data points to compare against. So we know “Friends” and “Cheers” are the two most popular shows among Frosted Flakes fans. Lucky Charms fans prefer “Arrested Development” and “The Daily Show.” So perhaps they skew a big younger? Or Frosted Flakes eaters hit the town a lot on Thursday nights in the ’90s. One of those.