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 James Thompson ArchiveBlogview
After the slaughter of innocents, the ritual of abnegation. While parents pleaded for news about the pieces of their children, the citizens of Manchester met in a public show of solidarity, in an all faith meeting to show that “the bombers would not win”. We have plenty of experience of organizing those. Commendable, very Christian,... Read More
No sooner do I return from my own intelligence conference, about which more later, than I note, courtesy of another scholar, a fascinating new paper showing that 40% of the variance in IQ can be accounted for by a new measure of brain networks. This is strong stuff, so with a spinning head I tried... Read More
There is nothing like sex differences in intelligence to put you on the wrong side of half the population. The story so far is that the standard academic opinion on sex differences in intelligence is that there aren’t any, or that they are small, or that the few that exist counterbalance each other. Women are... Read More
My attitude to exercise was best summed up by cartoonist Paul Terry: However, I am not deaf to the cacophony of advisers recommending that people should keep active, particularly the over 50s. The notion seems to be that the elderly serve some undefined but useful purpose which could be prolonged by physical exertion. I find... Read More
Brain size and intelligence
Here is a very interesting paper on sex differences in brain size and intelligence, notable for linking people’s brain scans with their detailed intelligence test results. It has been accepted for publication in Intelligence. Sex differences in brain size and general intelligence (g) Dimitri van der Linden, Curtis S. Dunkel, Guy Madison Abstract Utilizing MRI... Read More
There was a time when boys played games of marbles following strict playground rules: contestants had to stand a prescribed distance away from the little pyramid of marbles, and chuck only marbles of the prescribed size. Rules ruled. Piaget was intrigued by the explanations children gave for moral judgements, and the playground is the arena... Read More
It is in the spirit of human intercourse, untrammelled by paywalls and anonymous peer reviews, to freely exchange ideas and reflect on life. In that light I reproduce here, for greater public attention, comment No 41 on my post "Intelligence and General Knowledge". Good books have been based on less. “This is true in my... Read More
It is a measure of the quality of British life that one of its longest running TV programs is “University Challenge”, a quiz show for university students. Yes, it has always been a minority interest, but it is a showcase of talent, an astounding example of what bright young people can get to know in... Read More
Estimating blogger productivity
This is not about baseball, but about blogging, but times are hard for some columnists, so I needed to get your attention. Steve Sailer has put up his March statistics (More records for iSteve, April 3) showing that last month his posts generated 19,707 comments containing a total of 1,485,295 words. By any standards, this... Read More
Lead poisoning reduces social mobility
There are still many people who believe that intelligence does not exist or that it cannot be measured, particularly if the summary result is given as a single figure. The argument seems to be that single figure cannot possibly represent their myriad abilities. Quite so. What are they to make of a recent finding by... Read More
I can claim to have been assaulted by micro-aggressions. I find myself profoundly hurt when people in my presence say “Intelligence – whatever that is”. They do it to vex me, which is beastly of them. Other aggressive behaviours include people in conversation denouncing anyone who holds a particular political opinion, without considering that I... Read More
Earth has not anything to show more foul
As these things go, it was not too bad. One idiot in a car murdered 3 people, with 7 more in a critical condition who may die, at least 40 with terrible injuries, and many more people traumatized. Crowds of tourists ran away from the place of slaughter at Westminster Bridge. Earth has not anything... Read More
It has been dryly observed that many people involved in the Northern Ireland peace process did so without having been terrorists first. Perversely, a terrorist who changes course when murder proves unfruitful as a sole strategy is seen as having made a greater contribution than those who were always whole-heartedly in favour of peaceful politics.... Read More
tsiname-tribe
Saturday is a relative slow day in my household, so it felt somewhat of a rebuke to read on the BBC that the Tsimané people have an ideal lifestyle, walking some 17,000 steps a day, as compared to the lethargic wealthy West, who aim for 10,000 daily steps but rarely take them. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39292389 Those of... Read More
eye-pupil
Despite being interested in intelligence, I am also on guard against judging the mind from the face (there's no art to find the mind's construction in the face) while probably doing just that all the time. I assume that I judge mental ability by conversations which go beyond pleasantries. Indeed, perhaps measuring how quickly people... Read More
blade-runner
Blade Runner had an impact on me, both as a film and because it was an introduction to the writings of Philip K Dick, whose whimsical work was based on wondering what it meant to be human. Are we as individuals merely constructions of fundamental genetic coding mechanisms, which create treasured but probably false memories... Read More
Although I cannot claim to be in the mainstream of contemporary culture, even I have heard of the Oscar error. I should immediately state that I have no specialist knowledge about Oscar ceremonies, because I have never watched one, though I have seen many brief highlights of acceptance speeches (a maudlin art form in their... Read More
Smart groups are (simply) groups of smart people.
Few things attract more attention in the business world than new ways of making groups work well. As any fool knows, groups are a pain. They argue, dither, drift off course, waste time and resources, and produce loads of rubbish. Worse, all those participants draw salaries, so treasure is wasted. Surely, bosses think, any technique... Read More
Personally, after reading the above description, I have Linda in my mind’s eye, and I can just see her lecturing me on what sort of yoghurt I should eat. If I ever met her, I would not dream of admitting that I drive a diesel car, and that I have very recently taken up sketching... Read More
Add fertilizer and yields are boosted, up to a plateau; ignore the quality of the seed and yields slowly decline.
Everyone knows about the Flynn Effect, but very few about the Woodley Effect. When Woodley was working on his paper in 2013 “Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time” I wrote to Charles Murray about his findings, and in his... Read More
cognitive-capitalism-sinc-800-bc
It is good that people are discussing IQ. Fred Reed’s post has drawn many comments, too many for me to answer individually. Here I outline the main heads of his argument as I see them, and some of the relevant research. My summary of Reed’s post is: Intelligence is important; intelligence research is important and... Read More
  Steve Sailer posted an item on Freud, and my short comment in reply grew too long, so here it is as a very brief post. Here are some quick reflections. I think that commentator Discordiax is right that the First World War is part of the explanation for the rise of Freudianism. "Thoughts for... Read More
No story about the brain is simple; no one study is definitive; and it takes many years to sort out conflicting and inconsistent findings and establish a weight of evidence. It is a fundamental truth that any researcher who can put a person in a scanner can publish a paper. Any researcher able to talk... Read More
  I have never played Scrabble. I may have tried once, but certainly gave up very quickly, before even finishing the game. I like words, but I don’t particularly like games. I can’t see the point of Scrabble, and would prefer to read a book, in which the words are assembled to convey meaning. Unscrabble.... Read More
I do not have a regular place on the unz.com home page, but you can adapt your version of that page so as to provide one for me. Go to the central column of the home page, click on my name: And drag it to the top of the list of columnists. Promotion.
    It is possibly somewhat unusual for a columnist at unz.com to be taking orders for marihuana, but I am always open to new income streams, and the brave move of Uruguay on 10th December 2013 to become the first country to legalize marihuana should not go unrewarded. For those of you who have... Read More
What is the use of Psychology? Surely knowing some psychology should confer an advantage? I mean a real advantage, over and above being able to give complicated post-event commentaries? How about this? If survival means avoiding premature death, then living is perpetual problem solving, and the better the solutions to problems, the better the standard... Read More
Flynn Effect background explanations.
    The Flynn Effect is important to understand; it is better understood now than ever before, but there is more to research; and it is probably more limited in its real-world consequences than people imagine, though the long-term consequences are still being debated. Say you take any test of ability, and as an example... Read More
  The Flynn Effect was originally noted by Rundquist (1936) and Lynn (1982) and then Flynn (1984). Credit should probably go to Runquist, but a happy compromise is to call it the FLynn effect, in honour of the two major researchers. The history has been described by Lynn, in part of a Special Issue on... Read More
As is the habit of my tribe, as Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees said when queried about attending Trinity College Chapel, to the village church on a warm December day, the valley lazily misted, the cars parked in the adjoining field sufficient to judge the size of the congregation: a village affair, with no visiting... Read More
shutterstock_537571162
I am still settling in at unz.com so please forgive me if I forget my lines and bump into the furniture, because the stage is much larger than my former small theatre. Not only that, but the cast is enormous, and the commentating audience ten times larger than usual, and rowdier. No country for an... Read More
Things move fast. A published paper comes to the attention of Steve Sailer and suddenly a section of a puzzle gets completed. http://www.unz.com/isteve/school-test-scores-in-africa/ Better still, the boundaries of ignorance get pushed backwards, which is always a good idea, and a fine Christmas present. From the isolation of my study, and from the depths of my... Read More
Thank you to the 5018 readers who looked in on “Psychological Comments” yesterday. Why? Not complaining, just curious. For the previous highest daily total see: http://www.unz.com/jthompson/der-tag-2/
One of the delights of being a member of a community of researchers in the modern age is the speed with which colleagues can come together to answer a question and scope out a solution to a problem. Steve Sailer has looked at the most recent PISA results, which he has been discussing generically for... Read More
If you are of sensitive disposition, and certainly if you are over 60 years of age, look away now. Age is not good news for the thinking person. The results can be summarised in one word: decline. If you protest that I have been too brief, I can triple the word count: decline and fall.... Read More
In my day, intelligence and personality required completely different lectures. Indeed, the subject areas did not overlap at all and each had a very different tone: intelligence involved intelligence tests, in which it was possible to do badly, which was certainly a disappointment to many in the class, and a source of much anti-IQ resentment.... Read More
A blogger is a harmless drudge, a filter paper between a sack of coffee beans and a small expresso. On the positive side, there is a sack of information to be read in the torrent of publications on intelligence. On the negative side, there is an even greater Sargasso Sea of mangled misunderstanding about human... Read More
Writing a blog can be fun. Post something up one day, get someone writing in with a good tip about another subject for the next day. The notion that immigrants are criminal has been described as a stereotype. As you know, a stereotype is a preliminary insight, the first step in noticing differences and encapsulating... Read More
Are immigrants more likely to claim benefits, or is this a stereotype? A stereotype is a preliminary insight. A stereotype can be true, the first step in noticing differences. For conceptual economy, stereotypes encapsulate the characteristics most people have noticed. Not all heuristics are false. Here is a relevant paper from Denmark. Emil O. W.... Read More
A few hours ago I posted up a commentary on a paper: Brad Verhulst, Lindon J. Eaves, Peter K. Hatemi. Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies. Am J Pol Sci. 2012; 56(1): 34–51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3809096/ Somewhat warily I added: Sure enough, a single paper is an insufficient basis for a comment,... Read More
Losing an election is no fun. Hopes are dashed, and at least 4 years must pass (5 in the UK) before electors get a chance to vote the other lot out. Deferred gratification is a test of character. It is natural for the losing side to feel incredulous when their side is defeated, particularly if... Read More
Last night I went to bed expecting a Clinton victory, because although opinion polls can be wrong, the margin of Democrat advantage exceeded the apparent margin of polling error. To further confirm my ineptitude at forecasting, I had also thought Remain would win over Leave in the Brexit referendum, for the same reason. Today I... Read More
Whilst the US election is still being decided, I have jumped the gun over all other commentators, and got my wise post-election explanations in first. After every election commentators aver that “the country is split” and then explain how a massive fault line runs between the winners and the losers. This is interesting, but it... Read More
Some people think it is not worth voting because their individual vote is insignificant when compared to the total electorate. For example, the total US electorate is estimated to be 226 million, against which most individuals would consider themselves to be insignificant. The basis of that particular argument is what I call the metric shift... Read More
As you know, I don’t do policy, but I am aware that there is an election happening in the US, and it is a particular feature of this election that each side is accusing the other side of being very stupid. You may feel that one side does it more than another, but that is... Read More
I am slowly learning the perverse art of headline writing, but retain an inherent allegiance to telling the truth: I am sure that there are the usual sex differences in Romanian men and women, as indicated in the traditional costumes above, but apparently no consistent differences in intelligence. A null result is as important as... Read More
Despite having spent much of my professional life dealing with post-traumatic reactions, I rarely blog about it. One interpretation is that it arouses painful memories, but in fact most of my memories are positive ones of patients recovering, even if for some they were only partial recoveries. Mostly I speak about it less because others... Read More
If you have anything to do with a university, you are probably above such childish things as university rankings. Just to explain to my esteemed readers what other less refined people get up to: university rankings attempt to assess universities according to the quality of their research and, if desperate, by the quality of their... Read More
Sex differences fascinate, but would be easier to understand if only they would stand still for a moment! Reported sex differences vary in magnitude, 3 to 1, or 4 to 1, or 7 to 1. As usual, it depends on the representativeness of samples, the abilities being measured, and also how far out on the... Read More
In a wish to show I am capable of building up dramatic tension, here is one slide from a talk by Prof Heiner Rindermann which shows the correlations between cognitive ability, institutions and the wealth of nations, arranged in a Structural Equation Model. The loadings have been removed just to make the picture clearer, but... Read More
James Thompson
About James Thompson

James Thompson has lectured in Psychology at the University of London all his working life. His first publication and conference presentation was a critique of Jensen’s 1969 paper, with Arthur Jensen in the audience. He also taught Arthur how to use an English public telephone. Many topics have taken up his attention since then, but mostly he comments on intelligence research.