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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 twins... 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
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
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.