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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 James Thompson Archive
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
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
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 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
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
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... 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... Read More
Jim Flynn once observed that no-one was funding research into the genetics of racial differences in intelligence because they feared they would find something. Here is my psychologist’s summary of where we are as regards the genetics of intelligence in general: 10%. That is to say, by poking about in the genetic code researchers can... Read More
My first experience with Raven’s Matrices was as a psychology student. We did the test as a group, and then the Alice Heim 5 test of high grade intelligence, and finally inexpertly attempted to give each other the Wechsler test of adult intelligence. As you will have noted, the concept of intelligence and the ways... 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 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
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
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. Those of... Read More
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 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
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
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
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
I am still settling in at 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. 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
Considering that I spent 7 years studying the cognitive effects of cortical lesions sustained in childhood, I should have been open to the possibility that brains might have increased in size over the last century. If I thought about it at all, I think I assumed that any such increase was too small to notice.... Read More
Every now and then a blockbuster paper comes along which, like the 1939 top grossing $1,640,602,400 movie “Gone with the Wind”, carries all before it. It may be that “Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies” byTinca Polderman, Beben Benyamin, Christiaan de Leeuw, Patrick Sullivan, Arjen van Bochoven,... Read More
Digit Span must be one of the simplest tests ever devised. The examiner says a short string of digits at the rate of one digit a second in a monotone voice, and then the examinee repeats them. The examiner then tries a string which is one digit longer, and continues in this fashion with longer... Read More
Now that we have some British politicians talking about IQ it seems the right time to rush out a summary I was slowly preparing about the lives and achievements of different intelligence bands. Please accept this as a general overview, subject to revision, to which more illustrative details and precise boundaries will be added at... Read More
Here is a snapshot from Ian Deary’s lecture “Ten Quite Interesting Things About Intelligence Test Scores” (Teaching Intelligence which aims to show the difference in the distribution of boy’s and girl’s intelligence scores. The point of interest is that even when boys and girls have exactly the same levels of intellect, differences in the... Read More
(This nostrum, attributed to St. Francis Xavier, also works for girls and women, though separate equations are required, because of interrupted careers). In popular culture, in academic debate, and in the nitty-gritty of medico-legal battles about the bright future which might otherwise have been enjoyed by a damaged child seeking compensation, there is much interest... 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.