If It’s Raining, You Might Want to Reschedule That Interview

It is no secret that weather affects mood, and even behavior. The Bagel Man we wrote about in Freakonomics, who ran an honor-system business, received lower payments during foul weather. Now along come Donald Redelmeier and Simon D. Baxter from the University of Toronto with an interesting question: do applicants to medical school suffer if they happen to be interviewed on a rainy day? Redelmeier and Baxter looked at the data for nearly 3,000 applicants over a six-year period. The result:

Overall, those interviewed on rainy days received about a 1 percent lower score than those interviewed on sunny days (average score 16.31 v. 16.49, p = 0.042). This pattern was consistent for both senior interviewers (16.39 v. 16.55, p = 0.08) and junior interviewers (16.23 v. 16.42, p = 0.041). We next used logistic regression to analyze subsequent admission decisions. The difference in scores was equivalent to about a 10 percent lower total mark on the Medical College Admission Test.

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  1. DanielJ says:

    Classic freakonomics.

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  2. Caliphilosopher says:

    That isn’t helpful. It’s also not enough to just test the interviewers; perhaps the interviewees were worse at their interview because the weather affected their moods.

    This study doesn’t do enough to get rid of confounding factors. We should probably leave studies about external factors and moods to social psychologists, NOT economists.

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  3. DrS says:

    Does that hold within each month that they are interviewing?

    It could be that those graduating in 4 years, on time, are more likely to be interviewed during a sunny May day, rather than in the winter after graduating in December, or after taking time off to get their head together, or retake the MCATs multiple times.

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  4. Phil says:

    Is it more likely the interviewer or interviewee who is affected by the weather?

    But it’s the University of Toronto, and there is a high correlation between weather on consecutive days. So maybe the crappy weather the day before influenced the Maple Leafs to lose, and that put everyone in a bad mood?

    Nah. The Leafs suck in all kinds of weather, so that’s probably not it.

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  5. JH says:

    Oh, please, Caliphilosopher. It’s not like there aren’t holes in this material in general. But studies are what they are — if you wait during study design to eliminate every confounding factor, nothing will ever be studied.

    Of course the results shouldn’t be taken as more than slightly intriguing and anecdotal (pretty much a universal for anything in their writing), but why impute a conclusion greater than the one given?

    And by the way, what makes social psychologists more able to perform (or analyze) basic statistical research than economists?

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  6. Michael Giberson says:

    Did they analyze the effects on ratings for applicants that reschedule at the last minute due to rain? I think your conclusion is not, strictly speaking, supported by the analysis.

    And if a little rain discourages the applicant from showing up at a job interview, how much confidence will the interviewer have that the applicant would show up for work under rainy or snowy conditions?

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  7. noah says:

    @Caliphilosopher

    It doesn’t matter whether the interviewer or interviewee or both performed worse. Rain correlates to lower score, period, so you’re better off interviewing on a sunny day. It doesn’t matter if you’ll do better because it improves your mood or because it improves the interviewer’s mood. Something is improved on a sunny day that gets you a better score, and that is useful information.

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  8. Marton says:

    Caliphilosopher: the study was done by a doctor from a Toronto hospital and one of his med school students, not by economists. It was published in this blog by a journalist, not an economist.

    While you do have a point in your comment, you do seem to have some preconceived notions against economists that might impair your neutrality…

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