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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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An examination of Linda Gottfredson’s “why g matters” and of its references, leaves several important questions unanswered. The most striking, in my mind, is “why are all these semi-literate people getting through graduate school”? The average person with a graduate degree is appearently closer to the average BA than the BA is to the average person with an associates degree. Average graduate degree holders just barely make the cut-off for NALS level 4, and are much (as in, by more points than the difference between themselves and holders of associates degrees) closer to the average high school graduate than they are to the people who can complete the most difficult listed tasks, yet none of the listed tasks are very difficult. They are all simply every-day instances of the sort of analysis that middle school students are supposedly taught to do.

This actually leaves me very confused. We all hear how difficult it is to get in to medical school. How is it that with such strong selection the medical schools are unable to attract students with elementary reasoning ability? No wonder medicine appears not to effect health. No wonder Buffet seems to be able to do what he does in spite of solid theories predicting efficient markets.

Might the problem be that an IQ in the low 120s combined with high conscientiousness is sufficient to identify the easy classes and get A’s in them?
Might admissions committees be offended by high MCAT scores, discouraging them from giving additional consideration to students with a few B’s and with MCATs better than the committee’s members? I don’t know. Further data indicating higher average wages for college dropouts with level 3 NALS literacy than for high school graduates with level 4 NALS literacy strongly suggests that credentialism dominated the determination of socio-economic status. At any rate, this data suggests to me that and IQ of 120-125 is basically a threshold for the highest levels of socio-economic success (remember the two recent presidential candidates, for instance) but is actually too low to make high level reasoning possible. It may be that IQ tests are not inaccurate when they place the average executive half way between the average Ivy League student (who generally can’t reason very well either, can’t complete a Wason selection task, and doesn’t know what causes the seasons) and the average cashier.

I am left with one important question. What is Le Griffe’s “Smart Fraction” actually doing? Relatedly, if the average engineer or chemist only has an IQ of 116, how does anything work? This question seriously confuses me. How is it possible to get a technical degree, using sciences that require calculus etc, and not be able to summarize a newspaper article, read a bus schedule, or calculate the gas milage a car is getting? Finally, how much weight should I give to the results of large government surveys which were carried out by such people?

Posted by michaelv at 11:38 AM

• Category: Science 
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The extreme localization of g strongly confirms that psychometric tests are measuring something real, but also strongly suggests that g is only an aspect of intelligence. After all, the rest of the brain is also doing information processing of a variety of types. This information processing is vital to goal accomplishment. Ultimately, this should not be new news. There are plenty of examples of people being severely cognitively impaired by brain damage without loosing IQ. Lobotomy patients are one of the more historically important examples of this. At any rate, how do those here interpret this. Is there simply not enough normal variability between people in how their non-g associated information processing works for it to have practical significance?

Posted by michaelv at 06:36 AM

• Category: Science 
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It occurs to me that many of the people interested in IQ would find it worth their time to investigate other psychometrics. Here (doc) and here would be a few places to start.

I would like to know how well major intellectual accomplishments can be predicted from the combined knowledge of IQ and big 5 personality metrics. I would guess that a good scientist needs high openness, conscientiousness, and low agreeableness almost as much as high IQ, but I could easily be wrong. The would would benefit immensely from a statistical technique that could seperate the Gell-Mans from the Maralyns, or from one which could give us a Harvard class capable of elementary formal reasoning such as is required to complete a Wason Selection task.

Posted by michaelv at 04:22 PM

• Category: Science 
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I would like to suggest that many of the people who argue against large genetic influences on behavior are actually doing so in good faith. They assert that environment influences behavior more than genes do because it is obvious that this is the case. It is, for instance, obvious that the difference between the behavior of the African American students and the European students in a typical urban school is trivial compared to the difference between the Franks and their genetic decendents the French, or even compared to the difference between Athens 700BC, Athens 200 BC and Athens 300 AD or between Rome in 0AD, Rome in 1000AD and Rome in 2000AD, or Scandinavia in 1600 and 1900. In a given century, the difference in violence between Columbia and Costa Rica (both Hispanic, 9-fold), between Japan (both East Asian 18-fold), or between Russia and Sweden (both European, 25-fold). By comparison, Linda Gottfredson asserts that intelligence accounts for a 7-fold difference in incarceration rate. If you have any familiarity with anthropology or with history then the evidence that culture matters immensely more than genetics is simply obvious.

The shocking thing which most people don’t realize is the underreported lack of measurable statistical consequences of parenting to the development of broad and predictively important measures of general ability or temprament. Obviously, parents can do much to encourage the development of expertise, from provision of a multi-lingual background to raising the Polgars or the Williamses, and expertise is far more impressive than sheer IQ in terms of the magnitude of the difference in ability it creates, and this also makes it seem that parents can obviously make their children smarter. They can do so, but a) in the vast majority of cases they don’t, and b) psychometrics are intentionally defined in such a manner as to be resilliant to cultural biases, training, etc. Importantly, defining psychometrics in such a manner as to define traits which are resistant to change does not leave us with predictively unimportant traits. Instead, these traits, which seem to almost entirely reflect genes and random developmental patterns are on a statistical level an extremely good predictor of life-outcomes.

Posted by michaelv at 04:17 PM

• Category: Science 
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The sources of America’s immigration problems—and a possible solution