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“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
As readers of this blog will know, it is usually Woodley of Menie who darkens these pages with talk of genetic ruin, while James Flynn is the plucky New Zealander bringing tidings of comfort and joy about rising intelligence. Now, after my foolishly letting the two of them talk unhindered together for two hours over... Read More
Like her Royal Highness, The Queen, I have two birthdays, though only as a scribbler. The first is my “Psychological Comments” blogspot birthday, 22nd November 2012, and the second is 12 December 2016, when I joined Unz.com. My republican sentiments, in the French rather than American sense of that word, suggest that as a good... Read More
It is sad to hear from Chandra Chisala that our double act will no longer be available for hire, denying us both the prospect of a lecture tour, but if this really is his last word, that is a pity, because debates generally reveal new sources of data, and although personal positions rarely change immediately,... Read More
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 are now out, so I had a glance at it. They are claiming theirs is the best, because it covers 1000 research-intensive seats of higher learning, and because it was audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. What do accountants know about universities? I suppose they checked the figures on the... Read More
The demonic possession of low ability
By some oversight, or a lack of careers guidance, I have never become a world leader. I regret not having been able to pass a law forcing journalists to provide a link to the research findings they are reporting. I know that The Search for Truth is a minority interest, but what stops them from... Read More
An algorithm that learns, tabula rasa, superhuman proficiency in challenging domains.
It is usual to distinguish between biological and machine intelligence, and for good reason: organisms have interacted with the world for millennia and survived, machines are a recent human construction, and until recently there was no reason to consider them capable of intelligent behaviour. Computers changed the picture somewhat, but until very recently artificial intelligence... Read More
As is my usual custom, I wrote to the authors whose work I had commented upon in my previous post: I asked John Protzko how long the effects of intelligence boosting interventions lasted. He said that he thought this “fadeout” effect was likely to happen somewhere between 3 and 5 years after the intervention had... Read More
Stay even longer at school?
Although it is popular for people to claim that they don’t know what intelligence is, most people show an interest in boosting their intelligence. Funny, that. These schemes come around every few years: getting babies in the womb to listen to Mozart, taking vitamins and concentration enhancing drugs, counting backwards in the N back procedure:... Read More
A UK charity, The Sutton Trust, has urged universities to take in students with grades which are two levels below the usual entry requirements, arguing that some students are capable of doing well at university, but have low scholastic attainments because of environmental circumstances: being poor, being at a bad school, and having to look... Read More
Test results of 550,492 individuals in 123 countries
Few subjects arouse as much ire as national IQs. Questions are asked about the cultural appropriateness of the tests, whether they have sufficient scope to assess the different talents of racial and cultural groups, the representativeness and size of the samples, and even whether those results are reported correctly. National scholastic achievements, on the other... Read More
Though she is not a psychometrician, I was reminded of Nina Simone’s song by a recent paper on identifying gifted children, which found that an IQ test was better than the standard teacher referral systems at detecting bright black and hispanic kids. Good news I thought, and yet another vindication of intelligence testing. However, before... Read More
Some immigrants don’t contribute much: locals blamed.
Commenting on the findings shown on the Government website, the Prime Minister said: “What this audit shows is there isn't anywhere to hide. That's not just for Government, it's for society as a whole. Britain has come a long way in promoting equality and opportunity but what the data we've published today shows is that... Read More
Sex differences are in the news. A male Google employee reviewed some of the literature on the topic in the context of his workplace practices, and got sacked. A book questioning the role of testosterone in sex differences, and more generally the veracity of innate biological sex differences, got the Royal Society Science Book prize,... Read More
If people were crops, where would they be best planted? Like many people, I have read some books which have led me astray. They were plausible, and although I could see errors in them, I continued reading so as to learn new things. I am willing to accept that authors can be wrong about some... Read More
The Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific society, and is held in high regard. To be a Fellow of that society is a great accomplishment. I am glad to have friends who have achieved this status, including one of the few couples who are both Fellows. So, it is a considerable surprise to learn... Read More
Optimal prediction to the rescue.
The “missing heritability” problem: current genetic analysis cannot explain as much variance as that suggested by population heritability estimates. This has been a cue for “Down with twin studies” arguments, in which those of dramatic inclinations have chosen to imagine that heritability estimates were thereby disproved. Not so. I was never particularly worried about this... Read More
Longitudinal studies are a mixed blessing for any up-and-coming researcher. You have to wait so long that the world seems to pass you by, and when you finally publish, your results are often drowned out by more fashionable controversies. Worse, you might die before you actually get any interesting results. Yet, if you can last... Read More
In my last post “Even more genes for intelligence”, I alluded to the mysterious Hsu Boundary, and I encourage you to use this phrase as often as possible. Why should other researchers have a monopoly of jargon? The phrase should help you impress friends, and also to curtail tedious conversations with persons who have limited... Read More
The intelligence gene hunters have been stepping up their activities, and keep coming back with more trophies. Danielle Posthuma and colleagues are at it again, studying very large samples and finding further novel genes which load on brain tissues. I hope someone somewhere is keeping track of the overall picture, perhaps in a control room... Read More
In describing the Kaplan-Meier survival graphs in "Vita Brevis, Dignitatis Inutilis" I correctly described the findings in the Iveson et al. paper, but then went a step too far in equating a decrease in mortality risk with an identical increase in lifespan. I said: The second sentence should have read “So, at IQ 115 your... Read More
As if in a dream, I found the house. The winding path was overgrown, and the twisted, almost horizontal, vine trunks rose gradually to announce a sudden wall with a small door to a kitchen: a transition from messy overshadowing leaves to white-domed domesticity. From there, like servants, we entered the grander spaces. Every room... Read More
If bright people live longer, is it because of the good things that social status provides? This question may appear to be very hard to answer, because one thing leads to another, and bright people are clever enough to build themselves agreeable places in which to live. One approach is to “control” for this, on... Read More
Don't talk about the war
I don’t watch many movies, but made an exception for Dunkirk because it was touted as giving centrality to the experiences of those who were there, rather than the more usual mixture of military strategy, tactical skirmishes, and a few personal stories. The actual retreat was a complicated matter, from 28 May to 4 June... Read More
I doubt that having women per se in a business confers any advantage over and above having bright and diligent men and women chosen on the basis of their abilities. How would one test this this? Observational studies would be a start, looking to see whether the proportions of the sexes in different businesses, and... Read More
In my last post I said: I had no idea that my thesis would receive instant support the following day in a paper which begins with a stirring paragraph, worth quoting in full: Since its discovery in 1904, hundreds of studies have replicated the finding that around 40% of the variance in people’s test scores... Read More
My impression of Damore’s Google Memo is that it is a thoughtful and well-considered personal opinion about workplace differences in abilities and attitudes. The tone is reserved, measured, and reasonable, avoiding sweeping claims. For example, it restricts its scope to the particular office in which he worked, and not Google as a whole. It is... Read More
The picture shows that working memory for simple repetition (Forwards Digit Span, Forward Corsi Blocks) has increased slightly over 43 years, whilst working memory for the more complicated task of items in reverse order (Backwards Digit Span, Backwards Corsi Blocks) has fallen slightly. Digit span is a bombshell of a test. Despite being very brief... Read More
Simply because the immediate reaction to the Google Memo concentrated on sex differences I gathered together some posts on sex differences, showing that the sexes differ somewhat in their abilities: not very much, but enough to make a difference at the extremes, and it is the extremes which make a difference to technology based societies,... Read More
Since Google does not employ me, it cannot sack me, but I admit to feeling a little left out of the news recently. In a late bid for notoriety I have put together a series of my previous statements about sex differences, and if you will kindly circulate these as widely as possible someone may... Read More
France is a territory which lies to the south of the English Channel, and was largely managed by the English Crown till it fell under the sway of the local inhabitants, with mixed results. It is a large domain, blessed with ample resources and noble prospects, of which its azure Mediterranean coast is a treasured... Read More
The loathsome truth about psychology textbooks
I have a secret hope that one day one of my readers will write a psychology textbook, and that intelligence will be mentioned in an up-to-date and accurate manner. Years ago, when reading a new UK textbook that took an apologetic and partial view of racial differences in intelligence I planned to look at the... Read More
If solving problems doesn’t motivate you, what does?
One of the joys of attending a conference on intelligence, such as ISIR2017, is hearing people report the results of their detailed investigations into overblown claims in science reporting that one had oneself thought questionable. Will the proper researcher come to the same conclusions as you had in your own preliminary reactions? Years ago I... Read More
Things move fast here. No sooner do I give you the brief description of my visit to see the Big Brain than I can announce the movie of the same. Here is the Big Brain film, showing how it was put together, and what it is like to use. Here is the link to the... Read More
Finding the conference location was difficul. The best and most detailed instruction from conference staff was that it was “up the hill”. The hotel porter was more helpful. He said it was up the hill. He also gave me a road name, so I walked up the hill on that road, wondering what the Montreal... Read More
Strange place, Montreal. Many people persist in speaking French, even when there is absolutely no need to do so. They have even put it on their public signs. The repetition of banalities in two languages merely drives home the greater power and economy of the English language. Still, the buildings seem solid enough, and the... Read More
As loyal readers will know, getting to conferences is an intellectual challenge for me. Having worked out where and when they are to take place, the problems multiply. Travel must be arranged for both before and after the conference dates, which is difficult when the venue is in a different time zone, and even more... Read More
1.6% to 2.4%
There are two main approaches to understanding the evolution of intelligence. A) Study the differences in intelligence between genetic groups. B) Study the differences in intelligence within a genetic group. Approach A is currently not being funded, as far as I know, but please let me know if there are studies I should be commenting... Read More
I have always assumed that the Ancients were wiser than us, but I admit that my evaluation is subject to survivor bias: the best of their thinking has been passed on to us, the mediocre rest forgotten. The Ancients were not all at the level of Socrates, they also included the dullards that killed him.... Read More
Please retweet Yesterday I looked at a graph showing the number of users for the main social media, and was slightly hurt to see Twitter languishing towards the end of the pack. (Updated figures put Facebook above 2 billion). I enjoy Twitter, since it alerts me to what is being published and debated in my... Read More
Although the Bard warned against finding the mind’s construction in the face, we are apt to try. Can facial features show us the power of the brain behind the mask? Lee et al. (2017) think so. Unlike minor Scottish nobility planning regicide, they have made their judgments using the medium of facial photographs of twins... Read More
Ron has re-posted his July 2012 post on Lynn and Vanhanen, together with all the comments that it raised, and says: “It provoked an enormous outpouring of responses all across the Internet, perhaps 99% of those hostile, often intensely so, but after over a dozen follow-up columns and responses, I believe I was proven correct... Read More
Chanda Chisala and I post about each other so often that we should be employing the same agent. Properly managed, I might finally get onto a lecture tour circuit somewhere. The Shetlands, perhaps. Below is the post to which I am referring. My reply to Chisala’s post has hardly been prompt: one source of delay,... 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.