Experimental philosophy: crisps first or chocolate first?

In an earlier post, I raised the question whether, in a situation in which one is to eat crisps (US: chips) and chocolate (including US: some candy), one ought to start with the crisps or rather the chocolate. Although it seemed to me obvious that there must exist a determinately correct answer to the question, I expressed uncertainty about whether the answer is accessible to us and, if it is, how we might discover it. Chris Lawton (Edge Hill University) suggested a smaller question that might bear on the larger issue: Is there a correlation between self-identification with either Continental or Analytic philosophy and preference for one or another ordering? On the basis of his suggestion, together with extended reflection, a methodology was developed for pursuing the sub-question. We’ve now begun to collect relevant data and here present some provisional results.


Our method was to develop and circulate a survey, collate responses to the survey, and then organise the results of the survey in the form of a table. The survey questions were the following:

Q1. Are you (a) a continental philosopher, (b) an analytic philosopher, (c) both, or (d) neither?

Q2. Would you prefer to eat crisps before chocolate or chocolate before crisps?

Predictably, given the natures of the survey participants, few were able simply to answer the questions as posed. Some curve-fitting was therefore required in tabulating the results of the survey. In future work we propose to worry about controls.


Continental Analytic Both Neither
Crisps first 0 11 5 5
Chocolate first 0 1 1 1
Other 3 2 10 5

(The results here are provisional and may be updated on receipt of further returns.)


As things stand, there appears to be a correlation between self-identifying as an analytic philosopher and being a crisps first theorist. Further work is required in order properly to assess the results of the experiment. It is to be expected that further surveys will be required in order to address the question, what follows? However, it seems clear that progress has been made.

  1. As things stand, there appears to be a correlation between self-identifying as an analytic philosopher and being a crisps first theorist.

    Oi! Where’s yer statistical analysis, mate? Whot’s yer significance factor? Whot’s yer null hypothesis? Call that experimental philosophy, I ask yer?

    • Thanks. Lots of issues to think about there. It seems that science is really quite complicated!

    • Alon said:

      Easy-peasy: we can use the Freeman-Halton extension of Fisher’s exact test to compute the (two-tailed) probability of obtaining a distribution of values. The non-philosopher data in column 4 were ignored*; the resulting 3×3 contingency table yields a p value of 0.007, for a clearly significant result by social science standards. This calls for a publication!

      * the values for non-philosophers were ignored not for any principled reason, but because the only online Fisher calculator I could find did not offer a 3×4 version, and I’m too lazy to program one.

  2. cathyby said:

    That shatterer of paradigms, that bar which embodies the excluded middle, that Irish invention which could shake philosophy categorisation to its foundations, that…okay, I’ll stop. The Tayto chocolate is in the post. Enjoy!

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