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 BlogviewJames Thompson Archive

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In the great cultural war which surrounds race and intelligence, James Flynn is on the side of the angels. I know this because he told me so. Happily, I know him well enough to know he was joking: he was admitting that he was well aware that his mostly environmentalist perspective was far more acceptable... Read More
I think there is a rule in the application of science in medical settings: the first big step is taken by the person least suitable to take it. Consider, for example, the first heart transplant. It was carried out by a showman surgeon who jumped the gun and did the operation before the problem of... Read More
ggose: generalist genes of small effect
Robert Plomin. Blueprint. Allen Lane, London. 2018 Plomin has written the book that summarizes his career, the one that he previously avoided writing because of what he describes as his own cowardice. Harsh judgement, but investigators into the genetics of intelligence are given a rough ride in contemporary academia, where genetics generates a hostility not... Read More
"Scientific Racism" is an oxymoron. The truth cannot be racist, and lies cannot be science. If you say something truthful about a racial difference then that is true, not a lie, and not racism. If you say something about racial groups which is untrue, then that is not science, it is false, and science has... Read More
No conferring
A bit of back history: I started learning about intelligence and intelligence tests when I was an undergraduate in 1964-1968. This included taking group intelligence tests at the beginning of my psychology course, and giving face to face Wechsler tests in my final year. I then started my first research project leading to my PhD:... Read More
Disinviting is an awkward word for a disagreeable act: inviting someone, and then once they have accepted, withdrawing the invitation. Naturally, this is more hurtful than not being invited at all. I have not been invited to many things, and ignorance is bliss. To have been invited, and gone through the process of preparing for... Read More
After the furore, farrago and stramash of Prof Alessandro Strumia talking about sex differences, I went back to the BBC last night to read about other news. Of course, my eye was caught by a story entitled: The Women standing up for Science There were 3 interviews with women university researchers, apparently selected because they... Read More
The closest I have ever been to Big Physics was the Stanford Linear Accelerator, in the company of Prof Theodore Postol, who felt it would be a good antidote to my jet lag, as we discussed anti-ballistic missile defence strategy. Postol also went down the corridor to see if I could meet Amos Tversky, but... Read More
Linda Gottfredson, author of the most supported and cited statement on intelligence, and the researcher who has done most to explain what intelligence means in everyday life, in terms of specific tasks, training needs, and occupational choices and achievements (https://www1.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997whygmatters.pdf) has just been dis-invited from an occupational conference in Sweden where she had been invited... Read More
I want to explain, once again, my arguments on the question of weight, obesity, diet and dieting. I’d like to make some suggestions as well, if only to counter the impression some readers got that I did not realize how difficult many find it to change their diet, and also the impression that I would... Read More
Prof Zhang, Economist, Peking University says, regarding the results in his paper about the effects of pollution: We are also puzzled by the difference in math and verbal tests as well as the gender difference. Prof. Chew of National University of Singapore found similar results for college students, greater impact on male than on female... Read More
News has come in from China that air pollution has a large and cumulatively damaging effect on intelligence, particularly on older people with less education. Perplexingly, the effect is on Vocabulary, but not Maths. Even more specifically, the verbal decrement hits men harder than women. What is going on? How could bad air have such... Read More
I intended to tell you about this paper some days ago, but for some reason didn’t get around to it. It was not procrastination on my part. Nothing so energetic as that. Why is procrastination so prevalent? Why is it that I, of course not you, tend to postpone tasks, even on matters which are... Read More
You may remember my dictum: If you are fatter than you want to be, eat less. That post led to an outpouring of deeply lived personal experience, of almost French complexity, extolling the virtues of eating particular food types in particular combinations at particular times, and not paying too much attention to calories. Fine. If... Read More
This play is about James Stagg who was in overall charge of predicting the weather for the D-Day landings. He had four days in which to provide his advice, and was up against a successful American forecaster, who already had the ear of the Supreme Commander, Dwight Eisenhower. You may quail at the thought of... Read More
I think I started with “In a Free State” (1971) which captivated me. Then “The Loss of El Dorado” (1969),“The Enigma of Arrival” (1987) and many of his essays. There must have been some others, perhaps even the early novels. Some of those books must be kicking around in the cottage somewhere. That’s enough to... Read More
You may wonder why I have stooped to the filthy practice of ripping off the gullible public. Although described as gullible, they are bright enough to know that there is advantage to being brighter, and are willing to pay for intelligence boosting techniques. Their gullibility, such as it is, is based on believing that most... Read More
It is usual to bemoan the way newspapers report science, but that criticism is amply justified when they make major errors. You may have heard of Carl Zimmer’s “She has her mother’s laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity”, and probably read some reviews. Greg Cochran did one for Quillette. The book has now... Read More
Brain training, mindset, grit, deliberate practice and bilingualism.
I hesitate to suggest that my readers might ever have felt the need to improve their mental abilities by conducting specific mental exercises, but you may have a friend who wants to dabble in these practices, so this little note is for your friend. Overstating the Role of Environmental Factors in Success: A Cautionary Note... Read More
It is a great pleasure to see that a massive new study on intelligence has just been published, after years of work and also months of publication delays. Anything which can be done to speed up the publication of results is to be welcomed. Research has now moved to an international dimension, with disparate groups... Read More
If you or a family member, beset by a clinical or neurological problem, are given a face-to-face intelligence test, it is likely to be a Wechsler. It is considered the gold standard, and the Full Scale IQ result, the consequence of spending over an hour doing the 10 subtests, is like doing the decathlon: you... Read More
Edinburgh was rightly chosen for the ISIR conference this year, since it must now rank as the world leader in intelligence research. 120 delegates gathered in the grand surroundings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, bathed in the almost perpetual Northern sunlight of this noble city, to start at the beginning, which was 530 million... Read More
From time to time some commentators say that there is no agreement on what constitutes intelligence. In fact, there is a widely agreed statement drawn up by Linda Gottfredson, which you can read below. Many people have added variants. I will be going to the International Society for Intelligence Research meeting at Edinburgh University next... Read More
Publisher: Cambridge University Press Online publication date: January 2018 Print publication year: 2018 Online ISBN: 9781316817049 I do not wish to quote myself too often, but in my 2013 review of Sternberg’s Handbook of Intelligence I raised an eyebrow about how often he quoted himself, and by means of an internal citation count questioned whether... Read More
I have good memories of 1975. I got my first secure job, a Lectureship in Psychology at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, part of the University of London. It was a glorious summer, followed the next year by an even better and drier one, and I finally finished my PhD. Little did I realise that... Read More
Who? Whom? versus "What? When? Why? How?
The argument from authority is of questionable merit. Yes, some people know far more than others, but how does one establish that? Happily, there are publication and citation metrics available to help us, and a reasonable case can be made that experts exist. That does not preclude the possibility that they are all wrong. One... Read More
I have held off talking about the Press attacks on the London Conference earlier this year. Triggered by journalist and educationalist Toby Young’s appointment to a UK Governmental education committee, rival journalists fired off a salvo of accusations in a “guilt by association” spoiling operation. I was simply collateral damage, accused of keeping bad company... Read More
Newspaper reports are still discussing the story about the numbers of Africans admitted to Oxbridge, but I have not seen any giving the numbers of AAA students available, or any that mention intelligence. I doubt that Admissions Officers read my blog, or indeed that they would survive in post if they were ever caught doing... Read More
It is that time of year when Oxford and Cambridge universities are in the doghouse again, accused of being biased against black students. A politician, Mr David Lammy, has called for special measures to be taken to boost the numbers of Africans at those universities. Calls like this seem to be accepted at face value,... Read More
118 cm3
Pity the poor blogger’s lot: there are more interesting papers being published every week than any essayist, however diligent, can possibly cope with. And there will be more, as the vast genetic databases give up their secrets. No sooner does one team scoop the others with a savage novelty than their rivals counter-attack with their... Read More
The ISIR July 2017 meeting in Montreal seems a long time ago, and that feeling is entirely explicable by it being 10 months since I heard the lecture in question. I was chairing the session, which normally diminishes attention to the actual content, but this talk was the exception. It came up with a counter-intuitive... Read More
Mankind’s IQ is 84-88. Becker May 2018 update The London Conference on Intelligence began, as is now traditional, with an update on the project to produce a public database of the world’s IQ. It is hard to get academics to agree to anything, even when they are under bombardment, but this is one point of... Read More
Like many others, I first heard about the work of the late Hans Rosling through his TED lectures, in which his animated bubbles (nations over the decades shown as bubbles proportional to population size, rising or falling against some criterion, such as lifespan) revealed the mostly good news about human progress across the world. The... Read More
Text is a refined type of talking. It involves an extra level of complexity, since reading and writing require some 7 years for a child to master, what with learning alphabets, reading, writing, and the composition of sentences, paragraphs and proper essays. The payoff from this investment is that written messages are compact, efficient, skippable,... Read More
In June 2017 I declared open season on Davide Piffer, inviting criticisms of his findings: The official response to Piffer is: “publish, and then we will give you our comments in reply.” This will take time, but it is the traditional way of doing things. The unofficial response is to encourage more criticism right now,... Read More
Detailed definitions of data and results tables here: https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/hsw/psychologie/professuren/entwpsy/team/rindermann/pdfs/RindermannCogCapAppendix.pdf
The concept of “cognitive capitalism” was used by Yann Boutang in 2008 (modern economies are becoming more knowledge based), but I first heard it used by Heiner Rindermann in a somewhat different sense: cognitive ability is the cause of wealth. Heiner’s earliest mention of it in the title of a paper is one which we... Read More
By now you will know that I have often been sceptical about the view that we are becoming less intelligent. Estimating these matters is problematical. For example, can we judge where Stephen Hawkings will stand in the canon of theoretical physicists? I think it would be premature to judge, particularly when at the moment we... Read More
Is honesty the best policy? In fact, in situations where people believe they will not be caught, it appears that honesty is considered a costly strategy. Many find that cheating pays, and judicious cheating seems sensible, particularly when it is enough to obtain advantage, without it being too obvious. Crafty. Do the citizens of some... Read More
Things are moving so fast in genetic research on intelligence that one cannot take a coffee break without missing important announcements. By way of small compensation, even the biggest breakthroughs are based on previous breakthroughs, so most stories in science are about a pattern of results rather than a single paper, and that pattern eventually... Read More
Evaluating Hawking’s work is beyond me, so why do I feel so sad about his death? A simple explanation is that a bright and kind media star becomes a friend, in the digital sense, so no wonder so many of us mourn him. I think that for me and many others it was because of... Read More
Will sex differences never end? Sometimes they seem to go one way, sometimes the other, with the gaps closing or staying resolutely the same, but this is the March of Science, as different schools contend, and as new results are added to the old. We should be glad that researchers delve into these matters, particularly... Read More
“History is on every occasion the record of that which one age finds worthy of note in another.” ―Jacob Burckhardt What is one to make of “Darkest Hour”? Is it only yet another chance to bathe in nostalgia for the Second World War, and to dredge up an old story, out of which the British... Read More
Is sleep the balm of hurt minds? It should be. Happily, sleep usually comes easily to me. There are some exceptions: the night before having to wake early for a long plane flight being one, but these events are few and far between. Many people complain of insomnia, and this is a private disorder, in... Read More
Do you live life close to the edge? Climb mountains free-style, jump off bridges with small gliding parachutes, have unprotected sex with strangers, or even discuss genetic differences in public meetings? Further, have you been so busy living in the vivid present that you have no savings and no pension, and expect others, who are... Read More
I did not expect that my previous post would prove so contentious and would lead to such a wide range of comments. Thank you for those, and for the detailed points made, and the references to published work. I must admit that I sometimes experienced an Alice in Wonderland effect: the discussion has veered away... Read More
At a time when some people may be wishing to set a New Year’s resolution, after some festive eating and drinking, it is apposite to look at a recent very striking headline: 'I beat type 2 diabetes with 200-calorie drinks' It describes what is said to be a very promising treatment for the treatment of... Read More
To the 12th Century Church of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, as is my custom, not for Nine Carols but for the Christmas Day service, on a blowy, very wet warm day, the small stone refuge almost full, the candles lit, and as the plain text service wended its way through the Offices the wind... Read More
Michael Shayer says: At my request he send me three of his papers central to his research finding, which I list below.
I am not neurotic, but I occasionally worry that dreadful things will happen, caused by a lamentable oversight on my part, such as an un-returned Christmas greeting provoking justifiable depression in a former acquaintance who then turns to drink, and crashes his car into a pedestrian who happens to be the only person capable of... 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.