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 James Thompson Archive
  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
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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: I have scrabbled around for some guidance on this (personality and political... 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
Cultural lag is the polite term for habits and hypotheses that never die. They become immune to refutation by virtue of constant repetition. One such meme, due to Lewontin (1972), asserts that there is more genetic variation within genetic groups than between them, and therefore that…… er, ….there is no difference between the groups/there is... Read More
That is the striking headline in The Telegraph, with all the makings of a modern horror story. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/10/widow-of-scientist-stabbed-to-death-by-mentally-ill-illegal-immi/ The Daily Mail likewise: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3830357/Widow-Islington-stab-victim-Dr-Jeroen-Ensink-speak-sentencing-Femi-Nandap.html The Guardian is more circumspect, but equally informative
Intelligence is the ability to perform well across a wide range of tasks. Intuition is inexpressible implicit knowledge. Creativity is synthesizing knowledge to produce novel ideas. One day my daughter came back from school, very excited. Nothing particular in that: she enjoyed education. But this time it was more than a class discussion, a maths... Read More
Whereas there are many very well funded projects which study national and international scholastic ability without mentioning intelligence, there is one database for the national intelligence of the countries of the world, and that was put together by one person, unfunded, working in his study. Prof Richard Lynn gathered together the very disparate studies which... Read More
One flight to Edinburgh and I could get an education:   R programming: so I could crunch data again without SPSS. It might drive me mad, but I am told that thereafter all is serene and pure, like Chapman’s Homer. Cognitive Genetics: so I could read results with more insight, and spot any errors or... Read More
The received wisdom about lonely hearts ads is that men advertise their status and wealth, women their looks. It is a simple trade. More nuanced approaches suggest that successful relationships will depend on similarities of character, interests and ambitions. More prosaically, that men and women will stay together when they do things together, because they... Read More
Traditionally, British Sundays were a day of repose, dedicated to the minority who wished to go to church, on whose behalf the godless majority forswore pleasure, and dedicated themselves to uplifting literature and improving healthy walks. Mostly, it rained, and Monday was a relief. For your proper entertainment, here is Emil himself, in full flow.... Read More
Journalists, being fed news of some dreadful event, are prone to ask their studio guests: “Can I have a quick reaction?” Almost always the Talking Head comes up with an off-the-cuff reaction, also known as an opinion, as to whether the event is the end of: a dictator/a government/a country/low cost oil/Western civilization/the planet. I... Read More
Here are the contact details for Julius E-mail: juliusdb.science@gmail.com Twitter: @Julius_d_b Here is the link to his lecture slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1fgiUu3puQILhLw7FoLswz-y-3yQ4AC1Q9rYTgZHVebE/edit?usp=sharing For the complete lecture, see the previous post.
Here is an intelligence test which takes about 15 minutes, and is free. The link to the original project and 16 item test is given here. https://icar-project.com/ This talk is about the testing of the 5 item instrument with Danish schoolchildren, and it contains many interesting findings, out of which I will select one: one... Read More
I find this a useful picture. Can anyone let me know who put it together, so I can acknowledge it properly?
Judgments about the wisdom of the German government giving effective citizenship to over a million Syrians (more correctly people from the Muslim world who say that they are Syrians) should be informed by looking at the achievements of Turks in Germany. They began immigrating to Germany in October 1961, by invitation, to join the labour... Read More
Recently I posted some findings about sex differences in the public understanding of science. I criticized the Pew quiz for having items which were far too easy, and proposed a few harder items, on vaccinations and the expanding universe. http://www.unz.com/?p=75065 Before I could refine questions on those two subjects, a reader reminded me of a... Read More
Some people refer to intelligent persons as “big brains”. They imagine those with bigger brains are more intelligent, a simple idea which is very probably right. School children, who are able to observe how the entire class deal with the same problems they are set, soon work out which children are “brainy”. The general principle... Read More
In terms of information theory, communication is the reduction of uncertainty. Transmitter, channel and receiver are part of a system communicating Shannon bits: in-guessable knowledge. Equi-probable coin tosses are the most informative, because they are hard to guess. The more predictable dross is more easily guessable and therefore less informative. So communications to you should... Read More
Stuart Ritchie (as in Intelligence: All that Matters) has done a guest post on the British Psychological Society Research Digest. This has wide readership among psychologists, so that it is very good news that they will be getting an update on contemporary research by an active researcher. I hope that they will consider the inheritance... Read More
Last year Pew Research announced the results of a science quiz they conducted in 2014 on a nationally representative US sample of adults. Here is their account of their findings, from which the above chart is drawn: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/10/what-the-public-knows-and-does-not-know-about-science/ Please take the test yourself right now, even if you have done so before, just to remind... Read More
I watch the news go by like traffic on a motorway seen at a distance: speeding vehicles of uncertain purpose and unknown destination. In the news this morning, a charity calls upon the Prime Minister to take action on wealth inequality, saying that the United Kingdom is very “unequal”. Their data are drawn from the... Read More
Perhaps I should not be too sensitive, but I still get irritated by the “intelligence, whatever that is” brigade, who disparage any attempt to measure ability and strongly oppose any decisions being made on the basis of those assessments. My irritation is compounded by the confidence with which they make their pronouncements, uncluttered by any... Read More
For reasons of neighbourhood activism, I get lots of mail from nightclubs. They affect a keen interest in my well-being, and assure me that they are respectable operations, not the sorts of rowdy places from which drunkards disgorge in the small hours of the morning, vomiting, slamming car doors and occasionally knifing similarly inebriated revellers.... Read More
I am grateful to Prof Lilienfeld for responding to my blog post of 7th August. http://www.unz.com/?p=75036 Correct information about mental illness is an important matter, and worth debating, so it was good to be able post up his “Author replies”. Debate is the essence of empirical enquiry, so that arguments can be tested. I often... Read More
My first ever proper job was as a research assistant at Guy’s Hospital Medical School, on a project which led to my PhD thesis: “Cognitive effects of cortical lesions sustained in childhood”. After 7 long years I finished it, the largest sample of people with brain injuries in childhood who had been followed and fully... Read More
You may recall a previous post about myths regarding mental illness and violence. http://www.unz.com/?p=75036 All authors get immediate right of reply, so I am grateful to get Prof Lilienfeld’s comments in reply which I post below:   A colleague alerted me to this blog post and Dr. Thompson kindly informed me about it as well,... 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.