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I don’t know for sure that Palo Alto, CA, the home of the venture capital industry and next door to Stanford U., is really the highest IQ town in America. The highest test score public schools in America are in Lexington, MA, a suburb preferred by Boston area college professors. And I imagine tiny, rich municipalities like Atherton, CA might have higher average IQ residents than sprawling Palo Alto with its pretty middle class housing stock.

But still … the average home price in Palo Alto is $2.5 million, which is kind of a lot considering the average home is a nothing special ranch style house. Palo Alto houses average $1,471 per square foot, so a 3,000 square foot house would cost $4.4 million.

So if you took the average IQ of the people who live in Palo Alto and the people who work in Palo Alto, it would be awfully high.

Historically, that’s not a coincidence. As I pointed out in Taki’s Magazine in 2012, Palo Alto has been as central to the story of IQ science in America as it has been to the story of electronics in America. Just before WWI, Lee de Forrest invented an important version of the vacuum tube in Palo Alto, while Stanford professor Lewis Terman published America’s first major IQ test, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales in 1916.

As I wrote in my history of Silicon Valley’s ongoing obsession with intelligence:

In 1921, Terman began his landmark study of gifted children with IQs of 135 and above, which continues even today to track its dwindling band of aged subjects. (Ironically, the young William Shockley was nominated for inclusion in Lewis Terman’s study, but his test score fell just short of the cutoff.) To the public’s surprise, “Terman’s Termites” showed that highly intelligent children were not particularly likely to grow up to be misfits like the much publicized prodigy/bad example William James Sidis. Indeed, the higher the IQ, the better the outcome. Terman’s study was an early landmark in Nerd Liberation, one of the 20th century’s most important social developments.

Hewlett, Packard, F. Terman

Lewis’s son Fred Terman, dean of engineering at Stanford, pretty much invented the distinctive aspects of the Silicon Valley educational-industrial complex, such as by encouraging his students Hewlett & Packard to go into business for themselves.

The other main candidate for Father of Silicon Valley, William Shockley, was a good friend of Terman’s. During WWII, they’d been in charge of mirror image R&D projects for the military in terms of electronic warfare over Germany. Stanford missed out on the federal lucre during WWII, and Terman resolved for Stanford to be ready when the Cold War cranked up. (See Steve Blank’s lecture Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret History of Silicon Valley for the fascinating back story.)

But Palo Alto wants to stay at the forefront of the growing fad for damnatio memoriae, by rewriting its history to eliminate the names of its now politically inappropriate founding fathers.

From Palo Alto Online:

School board majority supports renaming schools

One trustee worries renaming will distract from deeper issues

by Elena Kadvany / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Mar 8, 2017, 9:15 am

A majority of the school board agreed on Tuesday that two of the school district’s middle schools should be renamed in light of their namesakes’ leadership roles in the eugenics movement.

Recognizing an opposing view in the community — that to rename these schools would be to sever generations of alumni’s ties to tradition and history — most board members said that in a public school district in 2017, however, schools cannot carry the names of men who actively advocated for policies grounded in a belief that people of certain races and disabilities were inferior to others.

All five trustees said they support a majority recommendation from a district committee, convened last year to study and make recommendations on the renaming issue, to give David Starr Jordan Middle School a new name, and a majority said they also believe Terman Middle School should be renamed.

David Starr Jordan was the first president of Stanford U. He was an anti-imperialist who wrote a famous anti-war treatise pointing out that war was dysgenic: the morally best young men would get gunned down in vast numbers, while the sleazier would be more likely to avoid such a fate.

Terman’s fate is slightly more complicated given its naming history, trustees said Tuesday. Terman was first named after Lewis Terman, a prominent Stanford University psychologist, when the school opened in 1958. When the school later closed and then reopened in 2001, it was named to honor both Lewis and his son, Frederick, an accomplished Stanford electrical engineer. There is no clear evidence, committee members said Tuesday, that Frederick played an active role in or supported the eugenics movement, as Lewis did.

Eh … As I wrote in 2012 about Fred:

His son inherited Lewis’s biases: Fred Terman’s wife of 47 years, who had been one of his father’s grad students, said he only became serious about courting her after he went to the Psych Department and looked up her IQ score.

Back to the Palo Alto Weekly:

One committee member recommended retaining the Terman name, but making clear that it honors the son, not the father. A majority of the committee recommended against this, arguing that “retaining the surname will not effectively disconnect the school from Lewis and does not effectively disavow his eugenics legacy,” committee member and parent Sara Armstrong said Tuesday.

It’s almost as if the anti-eugenics witch-hunters believe that Fred Terman, the primary founder of Silicon Valley, inherited the sins of the father, IQ scientist Lewis Terman, via ideological Corruption of Blood.

Ofelia Prado said as a Mexican mother of a Jordan seventh-grader, it was “negative and shameful and degrading” to hear that her child’s school was named after a eugenicist. (In Jordan’s writings, he called Mexicans “ignorant, superstitious, with little self control and no conception of industry or thrift” and also wrote that “to say that one race is superior to another is merely to confirm the common observation of every intelligent citizen.”)

They should rename Jordan the Angelo Mozilo School, because at least Angelo didn’t believe the wrong things. Angelo put your money where his mouth was when it came to believing that Mexican were good bets to pay back their mortgages.

… Some board members said the estimated cost of renaming — about $200,000 to cover both schools — is a secondary consideration that would not stop them from voting in support. …

The board will vote on the renaming proposals at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 14. …

Many parents urged the board Tuesday night to seize the opportunity to take a visible stand for the values it so often cites: equality, diversity and inclusion.

After all, there’s nothing that screams equality, diversity, and inclusion than Palo Alto’s NIMBY policies that keep the average house selling for $2.5 million.

By the way, Stanford is running a project to make school district average test scores comparable across the country. As I pointed out in Taki’s Magazine last spring, the worst white-black test score gap in the country was found in violently liberal Berkeley, CA. The next four least equal school districts were Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC; Shaker Heights, OH; Asheville, NC; and Evanston, IL.

Other liberal college towns with massive white-black gaps include Madison (U. of Wisconsin), Iowa City (U. of Iowa), Charlottesville (U. of Virginia), Austin (U. of Texas), Bernie Sanders’ Burlington (U. of Vermont), Durham (Duke U.), and Ann Arbor (U. of Michigan). Palo Alto, next door to Stanford U., the sponsor of this research project, also has an intense white-black gap, but not enough blacks can afford to live in Palo Alto for it to make my sample-size cutoff for reliability.

Now that’s what I call equality, diversity and inclusion!

By the way, I’m reminded of this conversation between Russ Roberts and Yale psychologist Paul Bloom:

Screenshot 2017-03-09 03.00.02

I’ve met Pinker and Murray, and they really are noticeably smarter than I am.

Back in 2010 it occurred to me that I ought to write about a book explaining why it isn’t the end of the world that some people are smarter than other people. That would be my great contribution if I could explain why, just as it’s not a global crisis that all the medalists in the next Olympic men’s 100m dash will be black, the fact that some races tend to be smarter than others doesn’t mean we should dig up Hitler’s DNA and elect him President.

But, you’ll notice, I haven’t written that book yet.

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Monsieur Hulot ponders office cubicles of the future

I finally got around to watching a couple of movies by the great French comedian / director Jacques Tati, 1959′s Mon Oncle and 1967′s Play Time.

Home sweet home for M. Hulot

Tati, a successor to Chaplin and Keaton, made post-silent comedies without much plot or dialogue but with a lot of sound effects and visual gags.

Tati liked the eccentric, traditional Paris and aimed his satire at the coming wave of rationalized, Americanized modernism.

These films star his standard character, a tall, amiable pipe-smoking duffer named Monsieur Hulot who grapples, not particularly effectually, with the modern world.

Monsieur Hulot is a man well suited for life in the picturesque and extremely French working class neighborhoods of Paris.

His nine-year-old nephew, who lives in an expensive all-white modernist mansion where he is bored silly, is entranced by his opportunities to visit his uncle in his downscale French world of motorbikes, horse-drawn carts, and dubiously added-on apartment buildings.

Here’s a photo from 1966 of my father and I trying to recreate the famous poster shot from Mon Oncle on my dad’s new Honda 90:

For decades, this photo and the uncharacteristically carefree expression on my worrywart dad’s face were vaguely associated in my mind with the words “French comedian.” So I’m very happy to have finally watched the movie (even though, it turns out, we were going the wrong direction).

But Monsieur Hulot is more than a little lost when he must venture into modern International Style districts.

In fact, Play Time is set in a steel and glass skyscraper district of Paris that didn’t exist yet.

Tati went broke building a set that looked like Sixth Avenue in New York City.

One running joke are the travel posters inviting you to visit destinations such as London, Hawaii, Mexico, and Stockholm by showing the same International Style skyscraper in each:

Watching Mon Oncle and Play Time got me thinking about the Flynn Effect of rising raw scores on IQ tests.

The Flynn Effect is one of the more unexpected and interesting social science discoveries of the later 20th Century.

The Flynn Effect has been strongest on IQ subtests that are least affected by local cultures and that most resemble having to deal with electronic machine logic.

The futuristic Raven’s Matrices tend to be less culturally biased than other IQ tests but has had a very large Flynn Effect of about 3 points per decade, or a standard deviation per half-century.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first American IQ test, Louis Terman’s Stanford-Binet, emerged in what’s now Silicon Valley and that Louis’s son Fred Terman, Stanford’s Dean of Engineering, has perhaps the best claim to be the father of Silicon Valley. My general hunch is that one cause of the Flynn Effect is that early IQ test designers had a pretty good sense of the direction in which the world would be moving: away from tacit, locally idiosyncratic patterns of behavior and toward machine logic ways of thinking, a shift in which Silicon Valley has led the world.

Much of the joke of the Monsieur Hulot movies is that Monsieur Hulot is a pre-Modernist man. He is accustomed to the Paris of the first half of the 20th Century, which in Tati’s view is about as good as human life gets. But, despite, being a curious fellow open to new things, Monsieur Hulot can’t seem to become accustomed to the global culture of the second half of the 20th Century.

In this scene from Play Time, Monsieur Hulot has ventured to a new skyscraper to take care of some business. A 75-year-old messenger boy tries to notify the man Hulot has come to see via a new message machine that’s like a Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices IQ test:

In Mon Oncle (1959), Monsieur Hulot investigates his wealthy sister’s ultra-modern kitchen (my apologies for the sound on this clip being slightly out of sync — Tati movies need the sound effects to be perfectly synced with the action):

Tati was a rich kid who was a gentleman rugby player before he got into comedy. He started out in show biz doing impressions of rugby players, so I imagine that’s what he’s doing bouncing the plastic coffee pot.

And here’s a link to a classic scene in Mon Oncle in which Monsieur Hulot’s upwardly-mobile in-laws try out their new automated garage door with the electric eye trigger that their dachshund can’t open for them when they get trapped in the garage because he feels guilty, although he doesn’t know why, and thus isn’t wagging his tail.

This is the saddest scene ever.

And then they call their maid to set off the electric eye, but she’s afraid of electricity.

• Tags: Flynn Effect, IQ, Movies 
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From ESPN:

Using data to predict arrest rates of NFL draft picks

Kevin Seifert

A group of college professors and researchers has studied that question as part of a paper on off-duty deviance in professional settings. Their peer-reviewed work was published this month in the American Journal of Applied Psychology.

There were two NFL draft-related results. First, that between 2001 and 2012, players with publicly-documented pre-draft arrests were nearly twice as likely to be arrested after reaching the NFL than those who had not been arrested. The second, which is perhaps less obvious and more valuable, was that there was a small but clear correlation between arrests and Wonderlic tests scores. Players who scored below the mean in the researchers’ sample were also about twice as likely to be arrested in the NFL as those who scored above it.

“The effects are relatively small,” said author Brian Hoffman, an associate professor and chair of the industrial-organizational program at the University of Georgia. “But it’s important here because when making multimillion-dollar decisions, a small effect can be very meaningful. A player’s getting a four-game suspension can be a big deal, competitively and financially.”

By the way, I’ve always been interested in the flip side of this question: how much does athletic talent help youths stay out of career-disastrous entanglements with the law?

I would hypothesize that high athletic potential black youths are less likely to land in prison, either because they have more legal opportunities and thus avoid joining criminal gangs, or better role models such as coaches rather than pimps, or because important adults pull strings for them (e.g., paying off the coed accusing them of rape) or hiring them a good lawyer (who was, say, a fraternity brother of the judge in their case).

One way to study this might be with prison and arrest records by height. My hypothesis would be that very tall black men are underrepresented in prison relative to their share of the population.

This would be a tricky analysis to carry out because you’d need two big sample sizes of heights, one of the general population and the other of the in-trouble population, to find enough potential NBA height individuals. But if anybody ever stumbles upon two such databases, it could be a pretty interesting nature-nurture study of individuals who enjoy very positive nurture due to a semi-random nature factor (height).

• Tags: Football, Height, IQ 
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The Flynn Effect of rising raw scores on IQ tests is one of the most interesting phenomena in all the human sciences. It was first noticed in the 1940s, but for a long time little attention was paid to the fact that IQ test publishers had to renorm their tests periodically because people kept doing better on them. This pattern began to be explored by political philosopher James Flynn from around 1979 onward, and the phrase “Flynn Effect” was coined in his honor in 1994′s The Bell Curve.

One interesting aspect of the Flynn Effect is that it tends to be larger on the less culturally biased tests, such as the outer space-looking Raven’s Progressive Matrices:

Historically, much effort was put into the obvious challenge of developing IQ tests that are stable across space, from culture to culture. In contrast, nobody until Flynn paid all that much attention to the question of IQ tests being stable across time.

For example, the alien-looking Raven’s Matrices IQ test that was introduced in the 1930s in the hope of being more culture-free than previous IQ tests has seen a huge Flynn Effect of around 3 points per decade, or a standard deviation (15 points) in a half century. A score on the Raven’s that would put you at the 50th percentile a half century ago would only put you at the 16th percentile today.

The more human-seeming Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) saw a still-substantial Flynn Effect of about two points per decade, but that’s less than the Raven’s.

Screenshot 2015-10-17 00.15.05

Importantly, the size of the Flynn Effect from 1947-2002 differed sharply amongst the subtests on the WISC as shown above, from only 2 points over the 55 years on the “Information” and “Arithmetic” subtests to 22 points on “Picture Arrangement” and 24 points on “Similarities.” (In the table above, the Flynn Effect column is taken from my 2007 review in VDARE of Flynn’s book What Is Intelligence? )

The kind of cognitive facilities that come up in normal conversation, such as vocabulary, arithmetic and general knowledge, have only seen small Flynn Effects, which is why the Flynn Effect isn’t easily noticeable in much of daily life (although I’ll point out below where it can be seen).

Recently, James Thompson’s Psychological Comments had a table of the “cultural load” of each WISC subtest from a 2013 paper:

Kees-Jan Kan, Jelte M. Wicherts, Conor V. Dolan, and Han L. J. van der Maas. “On the Nature and Nurture of Intelligence and Specific Cognitive Abilities: The More Heritable, the More Culture Dependent.” Psychological Science 24(12) 2420–2428

… Cultural load was operationalized as the average proportion of items that were adjusted in each subtest of the WAIS-III when the scale was adapted for use in 13 countries.

I presume that means adjustments in questions beyond simple translation. IQ test publishers validate new editions of their tests in each country in which they intend to sell them, and that lets them notice proposed questions that don’t work well due to local idiosyncrasies. (In contrast, the PISA international school achievement tests have a “we’ll fix it in post-production” philosophy of dropping poorly designed questions after the PISA test is given. But in either case, it’s important to figure out at some point which questions just don’t work the same across space and which ones work well around the world with just simple translations.)

Wicherts et al have noticed that heritability is strongest on the most culture loaded subtests, which is very important. But I want to focus today upon the potential implications of their data (the Cultural Load column in my table above) for better understanding of the Flynn Effect.

My table above combines the two sets of figures for Weschler substests. (Note the oranges to tangerines comparison of WISC [Flynn Effect] to WAIS [Cultural Load] — there are a ton of technical issues here, such as the Digit Span subtest being missing from Flynn’s data, but I’m just going to blunder onward.)

Eyeballing my table, it looks like there’s a moderate negative correlation between the size of the Flynn Effect and the size of the Cultural Load. The correlation is -0.44.

This overall pattern shouldn’t be surprising because it’s in line with the general difference between the Raven’s and the Wechsler’s: the more a Wechsler subtest is like the Raven’s, the higher the Flynn Effect. Conversely, the more culture-dependent a Wechsler subtest is, the lower the Flynn Effect.

For example, “vocabulary” is the most culturally sensitive Wechsler subtest, not surprisingly, and it’s got a quite small Flynn Effect. Interestingly, vocabulary’s also a really good subtest of overall intelligence. For instance, the ongoing General Social Survey includes a 10 word vocabulary test and that has proven to be a surprisingly decent proxy for IQ.

If we leave out the “Similarities” outlier, the correlation is -0.74.

My best theory for what’s going on with the Flynn Effect besides obvious ones like better nutrition is that the world has seen a major cultural / environmental shift that has been going on in most cultures around the world at a fairly steady pace that makes young people better at certain subtests, typically on Performance IQ subtests, but doesn’t do them much good on Verbal IQ subtests except for “Similarities.”

As I wrote in 2007 about “Similarities:”

Finally, the fastest rising subtest on the WISC, Similarities, rewards abstract scientific thinking, what Flynn calls viewing the world through “scientific spectacles.”

A child gets a maximum score for replying that dogs and rabbits are “mammals.” A kid in 1947 who had never seen a nature documentary on TV would likely have said “They have four legs” or something else more concrete than the Linnaean category “mammals.”

In 1947 a child in the hollers of Kentucky would probably know more concrete things about dogs and rabbits than an urban child today. But IQ tests have tended to anticipate the direction in which global culture has evolved, away from the concrete and toward the abstract and two-dimensional, toward what can be represented on a piece of paper or a screen.

Whatever this change is, it’s reminiscent of Moore’s Law in its endurance and steady pace. As you know, around 1968 Gordon Moore of Intel, the famous Silicon Valley silicon chip firm descended from Shockley Semiconductor, pointed out that Intel had been able to double the number of transistors on a standard size piece of silicon every year or two throughout the 1960s, and he believed that the industry would be able to keep up this pace for some time into the future. This more or less proved true for at least four decades, with world changing consequences, such as the coining of the term “Silicon Valley” in 1971 and the rise of Silicon Valley to immense economic importance.

I don’t know if Moore’s Law is still in effect (the laptop I bought in 2015 is only trivially faster than the one I bought in 2012, the first time in my personal computer owning career, which goes back to 1984, that a new computer wasn’t tangibly faster). Similarly, I don’t know if the Flynn Effect is still operating everywhere. (I haven’t really been following the data in this decade.)

But Moore’s Law has been kind of like the Flynn Effect in that it has been relatively incremental, decade after decade, rather than erratic, and the effects have been felt globally even though its heartland has been Silicon Valley, kind of like how IQ testing’s heartland has been Silicon Valley ever since Lewis Terman released America’s first IQ test, the Stanford-Binet, a century ago.

Moreover, Moore’s Law (in the sense of higher performance in general) has had multiple causes. For example, when clock speeds on CPU chips topped out, the chip companies were able to regroup and keep Moore’s Law progressing for a number of years further by doing other things. Similarly, it’s likely that better nutrition both contributed to the Flynn Effect (the U.S. added micronutrient supplementation of both iodine and iron to staples between WWI and WWII) in the past, but improved nutrition has been less of a contributor to the Flynn Effect in some countries in recent years as nutrition has gotten about as good as it’s going to get. But other more mysterious factors apparently stepped in to keep the Flynn Effect going a while longer.

So, Moore’s Law is an informative analogy for the Flynn Effect.

But I would go further and suggest, somewhat hand-wavingly, that one of the driving forces of the Flynn Effect has been Moore’s Law, or, to be both more precise and more vague, some kind of superset of a direction to technological change of which Moore’s Law is a subset.

One of the big changes in daily life over recent centuries has been the growth of what I might call humans having to deal with “machine logic.” People today deal far more often each day than in the past with semi-intelligent machines who can only be dealt with in a certain way according to their own logic. You deal with the ATM rather than with a bank teller, with a gasoline pump rather than with a pump jockey, with elevator buttons rather than with elevator operators. You can’t wave your hands around with these machines until they figure out what you want done. You have to follow a precise logical series of steps.

(This trend may not continue forever. For example, searching the Internet using Google today requires users to use less logic than searching the Internet using Alta Vista in 1998 required. The term “Boolean operators” was useful to understand to get more out of Alta Vista, while Google is so smart today that you don’t have to be as smart.)

This trend toward people having to interface more each decade with machine logic hasn’t just been happening since the silicon chip was invented. Before the silicon chip was the transistor, perfected by William Shockley, and before that the vacuum tube, which Lee de Forest made significant progress upon in Palo Alto around the time Lewis Terman of Stanford was adopting Binet’s pioneering IQ test for the American market.

Granted, I’m waving my hands around in making this argument in the hopes that you’ll grasp what I’m trying to get across. I don’t have this reduced to a precise series of steps that a machine intelligence could understand, but I do think I’m onto something: that the high Flynn Effect, low Culture Load IQ subtests are a kind of like mastering dealing with information technologies, and kids these days get more practice in that than we did and we got more practice than our parents did.

In contrast, kids these days likely have less practice dealing with complex 3-d entities, such as repairing automobile engines. Instead, they are used to dealing with 2-d paper and, ever increasingly, 2-d screens. But IQ tests tend to shy away from much in the way of 3-d testing, other than some blocks subtests on the WISC and other children’s IQ tests, largely for reasons of economy. Asking and answering questions in a 2-d format, whether on paper or on a computer screen, is cheap.

But because 2-d is cheap, the real world has also moved in the 2-d direction that IQ tests anticipated.


One thing that seems pretty likely is that in each person’s life, he has a window where it’s easy and fun to learn to communicate logically with a new set of systems, and over time that window closes. For example, when I was in the marketing research industry, I jumped all over the coming of the personal computer in 1984 and the Internet in 1996.

More senior executives at the information company where I worked back then tended to find the new personal information technologies difficult to master. They were used to issuing orders to intelligent human beings, such as their secretaries, who wouldn’t take everything quite so literally. The founders of the company where I worked were superbly intelligent at dealing with human psychology, but they found arbitrary machine logic daunting.

But similar information technology developments in this century have not struck me as fun at all to learn about. On Twitter, for example, I’m basically clueless about whether I’m replying to one person or to thousands. Today, I feel like the Vice Chairman of my employer back in 1984 when he gave me his $9,000 IBM PC XT with the coveted 10-meg hard disk because he was too old to learn to type.

Generation after generation, children grow up in an environment ever denser with the kind of systems logic that the more Flynn Effected-Wechsler subtests ask about. Growing up, kids these days get more practice with the kind of thinking tested on the Raven’s and on some of the Wechsler subtexts. And they legitimately are better at it.

The Flynn Effect is a side effect of the developers of the IQ test being on “the right side of history.” We’re used to hearing progressives denounce IQ tests as obsolete pseudoscience on the wrong side of history, but, in reality, IQ testing in the United States has some amusing organic ties to the triumph of Silicon Valley. Louis Terman’s son Fred Terman (1900-1982), a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, was the perhaps the single most important figure in the rise of Silicon Valley. The mentor of Hewlett and Packard, he largely invented the model of Stanford grad students like Larry Page and Sergey Brin starting up high tech firms like Google.

You are supposed to believe that the Termans were all wrong, but it sure looks like we’re living in the world the Terman family anticipated.

• Category: Science • Tags: Flynn Effect, IQ, Moore's Law, Robots, Silicon Valley 
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My 2012 MacBook Air recently gave up the ghost and so I replaced it with a 2015 MacBook Air. In the past, a new laptop was a fun thing because it was so obviously better than the previous one. But this time, even though I paid for doubling the RAM from 4 gig to 8 gig, eh … This is not say that there are no improvements, but they tend to be harder to notice ones, like if in the past I could go 4 to 10 days between rebooting, now I can go to 6 to 15. Or something. Which is great, but less than galvanizing. Basically, the laptop computer now works really, really well for what I use it for, so my complaints are extremely marginal.

Still, Moore’s Law is getting old and less vigorous. From the NYT:

In recent years, however, the acceleration predicted by Moore’s Law has slipped. Chip speeds stopped increasing almost a decade ago, the time between new generations is stretching out, and the cost of individual transistors has plateaued.

Technologists now believe that new generations of chips will come more slowly, perhaps every two and a half to three years. And by the middle of the next decade, they fear, there could be a reckoning, when the laws of physics dictate that transistors, by then composed of just a handful of molecules, will not function reliably. Then Moore’s Law will come to an end, unless a new technological breakthrough occurs.

To put the condition of Moore’s Law in anthropomorphic terms, “It’s graying, it’s aging,” said Henry Samueli, chief technology officer for Broadcom, a maker of communications chips. “It’s not dead, but you’re going to have to sign Moore’s Law up for AARP.”

In 1995, Dr. Moore revised the doubling rate to two-year intervals. Still, he remains impressed by the longevity of his forecast: “The original prediction was to look at 10 years, which I thought was a stretch,” he said recently at a San Francisco event held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law.

But the ominous question is what will happen if that magic combination of improving speeds, collapsing electricity demand and lower prices cannot be sustained.

Moore’s Law probably offers some useful perspectives on IQ testing and the Flynn Effect. First, just as Dr. Moore was amazed by how much longer his forecast lasted than he had expected, it’s amazing that IQ tests are now in their second century and still more or less working. An incredible amount has changed from the early 20th Century — how many stand-up comedy routines from back then are funny today? — but the basics of cognitive performance testing have been pretty stable at least from the 1930s onward.

I don’t think that’s guaranteed to endure another century. For example, the Tiger Mothering / Test Prep phenomenon suggests that massive cultural effort can be used to if not beat, then at least bend high stakes tests.

The Flynn Effect of steadily rising raw tests scores on many (but not quite all) types of IQ tests is reminiscent of Moore’s Law in that it doesn’t seem to have any single cause. Moore’s Law represents a fairly steady trend, but one achieved over a half century due less to any single cause but to a wide variety of small advances. Similarly, improved nutrition may have played a big role in the Flynn Effect in the past, but less so in more recent years.

Moreover, I think a lot of the cultural change in the world in recent decades in what children learn is important to be able to deal with drives Flynn Effects, and is in turn driven by Moore’s Law. Today’s children, for example, find it natural to interface logically with machine intelligences through 2-dimensional interfaces.

That’s a cultural construct, to some extent. If you time-transported Peak Shakespeare from opening night of “Hamlet” to a modern street and told him to figure out how to pay the computerized parking meter with a credit card, the Bard probably wouldn’t be able to deal, judging by the number of middle-aged people I see staring worriedly at the new parking meters and poking them uncertainly. Shakespeare’s vast resources of eloquence, erudition, human cunning, and psychological acuity would be useless in dealing with the stupid parking meter.

A theory I have is that early IQ researchers, such as Stanford’s Louis Terman a century ago, had an intuition about which way the world would evolve, and both for reasons of foresight (a reasonable case can be made that Terman’s son Fred Terman was the Father of Silicon Valley; the other usual candidate for the title is Fred’s pal William Shockley — notice a pattern?) and reasons of convenience (dealing with 2-dimensional pieces of paper or 2-dimensional screens is cheaper than dealing with 3-dimensional objects), they came up with tests that gave a foretaste of what a lot of work is like today: you deal, through 2-dimensional interfaces, with machines that only accept logic.

• Tags: Flynn Effect, IQ 
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There has been much discussion lately of the “Replication Crisis” in psychology, especially since the publication of a recent study attempting to replicate 100 well-known psychology experiments. From The Guardian:

Study delivers bleak verdict on validity of psychology experiment results

Of 100 studies published in top-ranking journals in 2008, 75% of social psychology experiments and half of cognitive studies failed the replication test

For more analysis, see Scott Alexander at SlateStarCodex: “If you can’t make predictions, you’re still in a crisis.”

(By the way, some fields in psychology, most notably psychometrics, don’t seem to have a replication crisis. Their PR problem is the opposite one: they keep making the same old predictions, which keep coming true, and everybody who is anybody therefore hates them for it, kill-the-messenger style. For example, around the turn of the century, Ian Deary’s team tracked down a large number of elderly individuals who had taken the IQ test given to every 11-year-old in Scotland in 1932 to see how their lives had turned out. They found that their 1932 IQ score was a fairly good predictor. Similarly, much of The Bell Curve was based on the lives of the huge National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 sample up through 1990. We now have another quarter a century of data with which to prove that The Bell Curve doesn’t replicate. And we even have data on thousands of the children of women in the original Bell Curve sample. This trove of data is fairly freely available to academic researchers, but you don’t hear much about findings in The Bell Curve failing to replicate.)

Now there are a lot of reasons for these embarrassing failures, but I’d like to emphasize a fairly fundamental one that will continue to plague fields like social psychology even if most of the needed methodological reforms are enacted.

Consider the distinction between short-term and long-term predictions by pointing out two different fields that use scientific methods but come up with very different types of results.

At one end of the continuum are physics and astronomy. They tend to be useful at making very long term predictions: we know to the minute when the sun will come up tomorrow and when it will come up in a million years. The predictions of physics tend to work over very large spatial ranges, as well. As our astronomical instruments improve, we’ll be able to make similarly long term sunrise forecasts for other planetary systems.

Why? Because physicists really have discovered some Laws of the Universe.

At the other end of the continuum is the marketing research industry, which uses scientific methods to make short-term, localized predictions. In fact, the marketing research industry doesn’t want its predictions to be assumed to be permanent and universal because then it would go out of business.

For example, “Dear Jello Pudding Brand Manager: As your test marketer, it is our sad duty to report that your proposed new TV commercials nostalgically bringing back Bill Cosby to endorse your product again have tested very poorly in our test market experiment, with the test group who saw the new commercials going on to buy far less Jello Pudding over the subsequent six months than the control group that didn’t see Mr. Cosby endorsing your product. We recommend against rolling your new spots out nationally in the U.S. However, we do have some good news. The Cosby commercials tested remarkably well in our new test markets in China, where there has been far less coverage of Mr. Cosby’s recent public relations travails.”

I ran these kind of huge laboratory-quality test markets over 30 years ago in places like Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Pittsfield, MA. (We didn’t have Chinese test markets, of course.) The scientific accuracy was amazing, even way back then.

But while our marketing research test market laboratories were run on highly scientific principles, that didn’t necessarily make our results Science, at least not in the sense of discovering Permanent Laws of the Entire Universe. I vaguely recall that other people in our company did a highly scientific test involving Bill Cosby’s pudding ads, and I believe Cosby’s ads tested well in the early 1980s.

But that doesn’t mean we discovered a permanent law of the universe: Have Bill Cosby Endorse Your Product.

In fact, most people wouldn’t call marketing research a science, although it employs many people who studied sciences in college and more than a few who have graduate degrees in science, especially in psychology.

Marketing Research doesn’t have a Replication Crisis. Clients don’t expect marketing research experiments from the 1990s to replicate with the same results in the 2010s.

Where does psychology fall along this continuum between physics and marketing research?

Most would agree it falls in the middle somewhere.

My impression is that economic incentives push academic psychologists more toward interfacing closely with marketing research, which is corporate funded. For example, there are a lot of “priming” studies by psychologists of ways to manipulate people. “Priming” would be kind of like the active ingredient of “marketing.”

Malcolm Gladwell discovered a goldmine in recounting to corporate audiences findings from social sciences. People in the marketing world like the prestige of Science and the assumption that Scientists are coming up with Permanent Laws of the Universe that will make their jobs easier because once they learn these secret laws, they won’t have to work so hard coming up with new stuff as customers get bored with old marketing campaigns.

That kind of marketing money pushes psychologists toward experiments in how to manipulate behavior, making them more like marketing researchers. But everybody still expects psychological scientists to come up with Permanent Laws of the Universe even though marketing researchers seldom do. Psychologists don’t want to disabuse marketers of this delusion because then they would lose the prestige of Science!

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A cornerstone of the conventional wisdom is that All We Have to Do is to spend a lot more money cognitively stimulating poor black children pre-K and that will close The Gap.

But down through history, it’s been assumed that better teachers should work with higher, not lower potential students: Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle, and so forth. Rather than pour extra resources into lower potential students, most cultures have allotted them to higher potential young people

So what if spending money on the conventional wisdom’s pre-K initiatives actually widens The Gap?

From the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Parental Incentives and Early Childhood Achievement: A Field Experiment in Chicago Heights

Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Steven D. Levitt, John A. List

NBER Working Paper No. 21477
Issued in August 2015

This article describes a randomized field experiment in which parents were provided financial incentives to engage in behaviors designed to increase early childhood cognitive and executive function skills through a parent academy. Parents were rewarded for attendance at early childhood sessions, completing homework assignments with their children, and for their child’s demonstration of mastery on interim assessments. This intervention had large and statistically significant positive impacts on both cognitive and non-cognitive test scores of Hispanics and Whites, but no impact on Blacks. These differential outcomes across races are not attributable to differences in observable characteristics (e.g. family size, mother’s age, mother’s education) or to the intensity of engagement with the program. Children with above median (pre-treatment) non cognitive scores accrue the most benefits from treatment.

Here’s the full paper.

For years I’ve argued that rather than obsess over boosting school achievement among blacks and Hispanics by roughly one standard deviations while not allowing whites and Asians to get better, we should try as a society to boost all groups by half a standard deviation.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Education, Freakonomics, IQ 
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Charles Murray writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’
A lot of the apparent income effect on standardized tests is owed to parental IQ—a fact that needs addressing.

March 24, 2015 7:11 p.m. ET

… The results are always the same: The richer the parents, the higher the children’s SAT scores. This has led some to view the SAT as merely another weapon in the inequality wars, and to suggest that SAT should actually stand for “Student Affluence Test.”

It’s a bum rap. All high-quality academic tests look as if they’re affluence tests. It’s inevitable. Parental IQ is correlated with children’s IQ everywhere. In all advanced societies, income is correlated with IQ. Scores on academic achievement tests are always correlated with the test-takers’ IQ. Those three correlations guarantee that every standardized academic-achievement test shows higher average test scores as parental income increases.

But those correlations also mean that a lot of the apparent income effect is actually owed to parental IQ. The SAT doesn’t have IQ information on the parents. But the widely used National Longitudinal Survey of Youth contains thousands of cases with data on family income, the mother’s IQ, and her children’s performance on the math and reading tests of the Peabody Individual Achievement Test battery, which test the same skills as the math and reading tests of the SAT.

For the SAT, shifting to more than $200,000 of family income from less than $20,000 moved the average score on the combined math and reading tests to the 74th percentile from the 31st—a jump of 43 percentiles. The same income shift moved the average PIAT score to the 82nd percentile from the 30th—a jump of 52 percentiles.

Now let’s look at the income effect in the PIAT when the mother’s IQ is statistically held constant at the national average of 100. Going to a $200,000 family income from a $1,000 family income raises the score only to the 76th percentile from the 50th—an increase of 26 percentiles. More important, almost all of the effect occurs for people making less than $125,000. Going to $200,000 from $125,000 moves the PIAT score only to the 76th percentile from the 73rd—a trivial change. Beyond $200,000, PIAT scores go down as income increases.

In assessing the meaning of this, it is important to be realistic about the financial position of families making $125,000 who are also raising children. They were in the top quartile of income distribution in 2013, but they probably live in an unremarkable home in a middle-class neighborhood and send their children to public schools. And yet, given mothers with equal IQs, the child whose parents make $125,000 has only a trivial disadvantage, if any, when competing with children from families who are far more wealthy.

Why should almost all of the income effect be concentrated in the first hundred thousand dollars or so? The money itself may help, but another plausible explanation is that the parents making, say, $60,000 are likely to be regularly employed, with all the things that regular employment says about a family. The parents are likely to be conveying advantages other than IQ such as self-discipline, determination and resilience—“grit,” as this cluster of hard-to-measure qualities is starting to be called in the technical literature.

Families with an income of, say, $15,000 are much more likely to be irregularly employed or subsisting on welfare, with negative implications for that same bundle of attributes. Somewhere near $100,000 the marginal increments in grit associated with greater income taper off, and further increases in income make little difference.

Let’s throw parental education into the analysis so that we can examine the classic indictment of the SAT: the advantage a child of a well-educated and wealthy family (Sebastian, I will call him) has over the child of a modestly educated working-class family (Jane). Sebastian’s parents are part of the fabled 1%, with $400,000 in income, and his mother has a college degree. But her IQ is only average. Jane’s family has an income of just $40,000 and mom has only a high-school diploma. But mom’s IQ is 135, putting her in the top 1% of the IQ distribution.

Which child is likely to test higher? Sebastian is predicted to be at the 68th percentile on the PIAT. Jane is predicted to be at the 78th percentile. If you want high test scores, “choose” a smart but poor mother over a rich but dumb one—or over a rich and merely ungifted one.

One way of analyzing the effect of “privilege” — wealth and parental investment — on test scores and outcomes as adults would be to check how much an only child is advantaged relative to a child in a larger family.

For example, consider my wife v. myself. Harvard social scientist Robert D. Putnam’s new book Our Kids uses a super-simplified definition of class based solely on parents’ educational levels. By Putnam’s standards, my wife, whose mother and father both had masters degrees, would have grown up upper middle class. In contrast, my father had a junior college 2-year diploma and my mother had only a high school diploma, so I’d be lower middle class, I guess.

On the other hand, I was an only child, while my wife has three siblings. So, growing up, I never felt terribly strapped for money nor, especially, for parental time and energy, while my wife’s upbringing was more exigent.

Although you don’t hear about it much now that small families are the norm, back in my Baby Boom childhood, the privileged nature of being an only child — only children were widely said to be spoiled — was a frequent subject of conversation. This was especially true since I went to Catholic schools for 12 years, where very large families were common. For example, one friend, the class clown and best singer (his rendition of “MacNamara’s Band” in 4th grade remains a vivid memory), had eight siblings in his Irish family.

How privileged was I by being one of a family of three rather than one of a family of eleven?

My friend from the huge family has had a long, successful career as a TV sportscaster, along with some TV and movie credits as a comic actor. If you live in L.A., you’ve seen him on TV dozens of times over the last 30 years. So, growing up in a huge family didn’t ruin his life.On the other hand, if he’d been an only child with a real stage mother for a mom, I could imagine somebody with that much presence (his affect is reminiscent of that of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman or of a straight Nathan Lane) becoming a semi-famous character actor with maybe one or two Best Supporting Actor nominations.

Back during my more egalitarian childhood, people didn’t think that much about tutoring and Tiger Mothering, but, to some extent it works.

For example, I have had a pleasant life, but looking back I can see wasted opportunities. After my freshman year at Rice I came home and got a summer job at Burger King. After my sophomore year, I repaired dental equipment. Finally, after my junior year I worked as the assistant to the Chief Financial Officer of a big weedwacker manufacturing company. But what did the Burger King and repair jobs do for me other than teach me not to be a fry cook or repairman? These days I would have plotted to get internships in Silicon Valley or D.C. or Wall Street and had my parents pay my rent.

So, yes, I do think I was privileged to have the extra resources I was afforded by being an only child, even if I didn’t exploit my privileges as cunningly as I could have.

Quantifying how big a privilege that was seems challenging but doable. In fact, I’m sure somebody has done it already, and I invite commenters to link to studies.

It seems to me that measuring the effects of being an only child ought to be the first thing we do when we decide to theorize about Privilege.

By the way, however, there are other factors that may matter more in determining how Privileged you are. For example, my parents happened to turn out to be winners in the Great American Random Lottery of choosing a neighborhood to buy a home in during the 1950s — the demographics of their neighborhood have barely changed since the 1950s.

In contrast, my in-laws had the bad luck to draw what nightmarishly turned out to be one of the shortest straws in America: the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. It was almost all white until Martin Luther King came to Chicago in 1966 to demand integration. Being good liberals, my in-laws joined a pro-integration group of neighbors who all swore to not engage in white flight. But after three years and three felonies against their small children, my in-laws were pretty much financially wiped out by trying to make integration work in Austin. And thus after they finally sold out at a massive loss, they wound up living in a farmhouse without running water for the next two years.

Bizarrely, while the once-pleasant street where my wife grew up in Austin looks nowadays like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a couple of miles to the west is Superior Street in Oak Park, IL where my father grew up in the 1920s. It looks like an outdoor Frank Lloyd Wright museum today. The Wright district was saved by Oak Park’s secret, illegal, and quite effective “black-a-block” racial quota system imposed on realtors to keep Oak Park mostly white (and, these days, heavily gay).

So a not insignificant fraction of White Privilege in 2015 actually consists of whether or not the Eye of Sauron turned upon your parents’ neighborhood or not.

• Category: Economics, Ideology • Tags: Charles Murray, College Admission, IQ, SAT 
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The darker the tint the better the 8th graders

Audacious Epigone has posted his table of white IQ estimates by state, using NAEP scores for 8th graders (public and private), ranging from 108.0 in Washington D.C. (which isn’t a state) and 104.4 in Massachusetts and 103.5 in New Jersey to 97.7 in Oklahoma, 97.5 in Alabama and a hurting 95.1 in West Virginia.

Thus, New Jersey whites (who, Bruce Springsteen songs to the contrary, are a notably intelligent and well-educated white population) scores 0.4 standard deviations higher than Alabama whites. That’s not a huge gap. On the other hand, the 0.86 s.d. gap between Washington D.C. whites and nearby West Virginia whites is substantial, and may subtly color a lot of media discourse.

Moynihan’s Law of the Canadian Border is still vaguely visible, but is much less strong for whites only than for total populations (which is of course most of the joke). Texas of course stands out sharply from the central southern states.

Of course, some of the differences in test scores don’t reflect underlying IQ but are instead reflections of different effectivenesses at educations and, presumably, at how hard different states get their students to try on the NAEP.

You can read his whole table there.

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This century’s most talked-about—but least written-about —book of underground social science has been IQ and the Wealth of Nations, by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen. (Click here for my review and here for J. Philippe Rushton’s.)

The two veteran scholars dredged through decades of psychometric literature to find 184 studies providing estimates of average IQ for 81 countries. They then showed that average IQ and per capita Gross Domestic Product [GDP] correlated—at the kind of high level that social scientists mostly only dream of finding.

Obviously, this is interesting and important information. Yet more than two years after publication, the only mention of the book in any widely-distributed print publication in the U.S. was when The Economistcited it as the source for the claim that Democrats are smarter than Republicans—data that I showed were a hoax.

The intellectual cowardice of the press in America is, of course, contemptible. But at least the police here aren’t looking into levying criminal charges against the authors.

They have in Finland. Recently, Vanhanen, who is an emeritus professor of political science at two different Finnish universities and, for that matter, the father of Finland’s prime minister, gave an interview to a Finnish newspaper explaining the content of the book. Result: as the Washington Times reported:

“Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation is considering whether to start a criminal investigation into comments made by former political science professor emeritus Tatu Vanhanen, father of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen.”Finnish Premier apologizes for father Helsinki, Finland, Aug. 12 (UPI)

Fortunately, no charges were filed.

The heart of IQ And The Wealth Of Nations is its Appendix 1, which describes each of the 184 studies.

Lynn and Vanhanen’s summary listing of mean IQ scores for the 81 countries has been available on the web for some time. (Here, on Lynn’s website is his list. And here are other copies of the summary list: wordIQ, sq.4mg, Griffe, Nuenke.)

Unfortunately, everything on the web heretofore has made Lynn and Vanhanen’s results look like a black box. This has had two bad effects.

  • First, the impenetrability of the numbers on the web make them easy to dismiss by those who want to reject the findings without due consideration.


  • Second (and opposite), some people take every estimate in the summary table too credulously.

If you’ve actually studied Appendix 1, and seen the methodological hurdles Lynn and Vanhanen have had to deal with, you’re not likely to say things like, “L&V showed that Sweden’s IQ is higher than Norway’s.” Sure, they came up with a 100 estimate for Sweden and a 98 estimate for Norway. But the reality that’s apparent in Appendix 1 is that there’s way too much noise in the data for fine distinctions like that to be trustworthy.

To open up the black box, I’ve created a table displaying virtually all the information Lynn and Vanhanen provide on each IQ study they used—not just the overall the national results you’ve seen so far.

This should prove highly useful to future researchers.

Skeptics are likely to be surprised by how robust and consistent the findings tend to be.

A large number of the studies were done by professional psychometricians “standardizing” well-known IQ tests, typically culture-fair nonverbal ones like the Raven Progressive Matrices on nationally representative samples. By attaining an accurate national average, they allow local school psychologists to determine how bright their students were compared to their peers within the country.

Just by eyeballing the data in the table, you can see that there is a relatively high degree of internal consistency within countries.

For example, there are three studies for Switzerland, for example. They came out to 101, 99, and 102.

Sometimes, the competing studies disagree significantly. For example, the two Polish studies are 14 points apart and the two Portuguese studies are 13 points apart. But those kinds of divergences are rare.

By disaggregating the data, I’ve found that the overall estimates are reasonably reliable.

For example, for countries where L&V found more than one analysis, the average difference between studies and the national average was plus or minus 2.5 points. In other words, if L&V reported the average for the country, based on two studies, was 100, this would typically be based on studies reporting IQs of 97.5 and 102.5.

That’s quite consistent for most useful purposes. But of course it’s not sensitive enough to determine bragging rights between nearby countries.

Some national estimates are necessarily less trustworthy than others. For example, Lynn and Vanhanen’s estimate of Colombia’s mean IQ as 89 is barely more than guesswork. They found a single study of exactly 50 teenage white boys, who averaged an (adjusted) 95. Then they developed an estimate for the whole country based on an almanac’s description of the racial makeup of the country, combined with IQ scores for mestizos in other countries. It’s logical, but not much more.

On the other hand, L&V’s estimate of 107 for the highest scoring country, Hong Kong, appears to be quite solid. They have five studies, three with sample sizes of 4,500 or more, with average adjusted scores of 103, 110, 109, 107, 107—on a scale where Britain is 100 and the U.S. is 98.

Overall, the data when grouped into regions or races seems quite consistent. For example, among Northeast Asians (Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese), 24 of the 26 studies they uncovered reported scores between 100 and 110.

Across 65 studies countries populated by Europeans or of the European community within multiracial countries like South Africa, scores ranged from 87 to 107, with 49 of the 65 falling between 94 and 103.

The very low scores seen in black countries are often criticized as impossibly low by those with little familiarity with the subject. But the 33 studies cited are depressingly similar: five in the 75 to 80 range, and 28 below that. (African-Americans average higher, in the mid-80s.)

In an important and lively article in called Solving The African IQ Conundrum: ‘Winning Personality’ Masks Low Scores,” Phil Rushton recently addressed the riddle of how Africans can score so poorly, yet have such bright, lively personalities—but, then again, perform as badly as their IQ scores predict on real-world challenges like engineering and management.

Rushton cited a wonderful Muhammad Ali-Howard Cosell exchange to show the black gift for coming up with subjectively delightfully unstandardized answers—a talent that objective standardized tests, by their very nature, can’t measure:

“’I’m gonna whoop him, Howard. You just watch!’ Cosell responded, ‘You’re feeling very truculent today, Muhammad.’ Without batting an eye (or opening a dictionary), Ali uttered one of his trademark retorts, ‘Truculent? If that’s good, I’m it!’”

Ali was one of the most fun personalities of the 20th Century.

Yet, while he was still young and un-punchdrunk, he recorded an IQ of 78 on the military’s entrance exam. He denied intentionally trying to score low. Gerald Early, the prominent black studies professo r and boxing historian who edited the Muhammad Ali Reader, commented,“He hadn’t a single idea in his head, really … I think the score was an honest reflection of Ali’s mental abilities.”

Yet, Early notes correctly, “He was intuitive, glib, richly gregarious, and intensely creative, like an artist.”

Unfortunately, Ali’s winning personality couldn’t fully compensate for his low IQ. Despite coming from an artsy, middle class home, he was also, more or less, illiterate. In a poignant scene in the documentary We Were Kings about his epic 1974 fight with George Foreman, Ali says his biggest regret was not learning how to read.

While IQ tests can’t measure black interpersonal social competence adequately, they are not racially biased in predicting most levels of accomplishment related to abstract, impersonal thinking.

Lynn and Vanhanen made a variety of adjustments to the reported scores to make them more consistent. Notably, they adjusted for the phenomenon that raw test scores rose throughout much of the 20th century at a rate of a few points per decade. When tests like the Progressive Matrices were restandardized in Britain every few decades, the creators would raise the number of right answers required to score a 100.

This phenomenon was first noticed in the 1940s, but Lynn was one of the first researchers to call lasting attention to it. Later, New Zealand political scientist James Flynn did important work on the subject. It is now usually called the Lynn-Flynn Effect or simply (and somewhat unfairly to Lynn) the Flynn Effect.

Lynn and Vanhanen assumed the Effect is real and that it happens in all countries at the same rate (2 points per decade for Matrices-type test and 3 points per decade for a Wechsler-type test). So they fine-tuned scores based on when the test was taken relative to its restandardization in Britain or America.

This technical adjustment appears to make the results slightly more internally consistent, so it seems sensible.

Race-deniers, however, have far more ambitious hopes for the Lynn-Flynn Effect. They assume that it will cause racial gaps in IQ to converge out of existence.

The logic behind this argument is not implausible: if IQs are being depressed by poor nutrition, poor health, inadequate primary education, and so forth, then poor countries should catch up faster in IQ—because rich countries with plenty of food, medicine, and schooling should run into diminishing marginal returns to improvements in standards of living first.

To cite a seemingly relevant analogy, as East Asian countries emerge from poverty into affluence, the average height of their young people has been growing faster than in the already prosperous United States.

On the other hand, we don’t know for sure what causes this rise in raw scores. So this rationale might not apply.

Fortunately, we can look at Lynn and Vanhanen’s findings to see if there has been any convergence of IQs among the races. Or, have the smart gotten smarter?

I’ve plotted on this graph the average scores found in 124 studies ranging from 1914 to 1998.

In European’s countries (blue dots), scores have stayed quite stable over several generations. Likewise, in black’s countries (black triangles), average IQs have not gone up, and may have slightly declined. Thus, the white-black gap hasn’t changed much over the decades.

My conclusion: there is no evidence that the Lynn-Flynn Effect is narrowing the white-black disparity. (Similarly, it hasn’t narrowed it in the U.S.)

Which doesn’t mean that a certain amount of convergence might not happen some day. I recently pointed out in that enriching commodities like salt and bread with crucial micronutrients could raise IQs in the Third World. If African countries became better governed, they should be able to help their people get smarter.

But there is a tragic chicken or egg conundrum at work in Africa: if the people from whom the governments are drawn aren’t currently very smart, so it’s hard to assemble a competent government.

In contrast, the scores of the highest scoring group, Northeast Asians (yellow triangles), may have gone up slightly relative to whites and blacks over the last half century. There’s a lot of noise in the data, so it’s not proof that Northeast Asians are getting smarter. But considering how much conditions have improved in that region over that time, it would be hardly surprising.

Interestingly, the one outlying data point among the NE Asian studies—a 92.5 average IQ in China in 1986—was found for a sample of adults, most of whom had lived through the terrible famine of the early 1960s and the anti-intellectual chaos of the Cultural Revolution. But when researchers also gave the same test at the same time to a few thousand Chinese children, who had enjoyed eight years of more sane government beginning with Deng’s pro-market reforms in 1978, they averaged 100.

In other words, it appears that over the last half century, the global racial gaps in IQ did not converge. Indeed, they have grown.

But we won’t know what’s going on in this or any other area of IQ research unless we can discuss the matter frankly and honestly.

Police investigations—and promiscuous accusations of “hate”—don’t help.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: IQ, VDare Archives 
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Here’s a graph from an interesting article comparing IQ scores (although the dread letters “IQ” don’t appear in the article) to school achievement test scores, especially in five in-demand Boston charter schools:

What Effective Schools Do: Stretching the cognitive limits on achievement

By Martin R. West, Christopher F. O. Gabrieli, Amy S. Finn, Matthew A. Kraft and John D.E. Gabrieli


Arguably, the most important development in K–12 education over the past decade has been the emergence of a growing number of urban schools that have been convincingly shown to have dramatic positive effects on the achievement of disadvantaged students. Those with the strongest evidence of success are oversubscribed charter schools. These schools hold admissions lotteries, which enable researchers to compare the subsequent test-score performance of students who enroll to that of similar students not given the same opportunity. Through careful study of the most effective of these charter schools, researchers have identified common practices—a longer school day and year, regular coaching to improve teacher performance, routine use of data to inform instruction, a culture of high expectations—that have yielded promising results when replicated in district schools.

ednext_XIV_4_west_img01We have only a limited understanding of how these practices translate into higher academic achievement, however. It may be that attending a school that employs them enhances those basic cognitive skills—such as processing speed, working memory, and reasoning—that research in psychological science has shown contribute to success in the classroom and later in life. Do schools that succeed in raising test scores do so by improving their students’ underlying cognitive capacities? Or do effective schools help their students achieve at higher levels than would be predicted based on measures of cognitive ability alone?

To address this question, we draw on unique data from a sample of more than 1,300 8th graders attending 32 public schools in Boston, including traditional public schools, exam schools that admit only the city’s most academically talented students, and charter schools. In addition to the state test scores typically used by education researchers, we also gathered several measures of the cognitive abilities psychologists refer to as fluid cognitive skills. Our data confirm that the latter are powerful predictors of students’ academic performance as measured by standardized tests.

Yet while the schools in our sample vary widely in their success in raising test scores, with oversubscribed charter schools in particular demonstrating clear positive results, we find that attending a school that produces strong test-score gains does not improve students’ fluid cognitive skills. Put differently, our evidence indicates that effective schools help their students achieve at higher levels than expected based on their fluid cognitive skills. It also suggests that developing school-based strategies to raise those skills could be an important next step in helping schools to provide even greater benefits for their students.

Crystallized Knowledge and Fluid Cognitive Skills

Despite decades of relying on standardized test scores to assess and guide education policy and practice, surprisingly little work has been done to connect these measures of learning with the measures developed over a century of research by cognitive psychologists studying individual differences in cognition. Psychologists now consider cognitive ability (few dare say “intelligence” anymore) to have two primary components: crystallized knowledge and fluid cognitive skills.

Obviously, the authors are IQ scholars. What better illustrates Jonathan Haidt’s argument about the intensity of ideological bias in the field of psychology that IQ experts don’t “dare” mention the name of their subject anymore?

Crystallized knowledge comprises acquired knowledge such as vocabulary and arithmetic, while fluid skills are the abstract-reasoning capabilities needed to solve novel problems (such as the ability to identify patterns and make extrapolations) independent of how much factual knowledge has been acquired. The terms were coined by the late psychologist Raymond Cattell, who first distinguished two types of intelligence. Cattell noted that one “has the ‘fluid’ quality of being directable at almost any problem,” while the other “is invested in particular areas of crystallized skills which can be upset individually without affecting others.”

Hundreds of studies show that, at any point in time, the two are highly correlated: people with strong fluid cognitive skills are at an advantage when it comes to accumulating the kinds of crystallized knowledge assessed by most standardized tests.

That these capabilities are nonetheless distinct is best illustrated by the fact that fluid cognitive skills decline with age starting even in one’s twenties, while crystallized knowledge tends to rise over the decades, in some cases peaking as late as one’s seventies. In an influential 2002 study involving people ages 20 to 92, University of Texas at Dallas psychologist Denise Park and colleagues found that the fluid cognitive skills of participants in their twenties exceeded those of participants in their seventies by as much as 1.5 standard deviations.

For example, my working memory for random information is shot. Back in the 1980s, I could look at a 7-digit phone number and remember it long enough to write it down. Now 10 digit phone numbers require three glances.

Of course, we don’t know how much of the achievement test scores seen above are due to short-term test prep or cheating. But let’s assume for the moment that they are valid.

The graph above is consistent with my long-held view that while it’s difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to boost adult IQ through schooling, schools could generally be doing better with the IQs that students bring to the table. Thus, I’ve argued that rather than try to Close the Gap of about 1 standard deviation between Non-Asian Minorities and Asians and whites, our national goal should instead be to boost each group’s average performance by one-half standard deviation over current levels. That would have about the same total national improvement in test scores, and is far more feasible due to diminishing returns as you try to move from +0.5 sd to +1.0 sd.

KIPP charters are basically militaristic boot camps for hard-working kids with IQs probably averaging in the 90s. The idea is to get them away from the layabouts and troublemakers in regular schools and then drill them intensively in the basics. This isn’t going to turn them into the next John Updikes, but it likely will mean they will be employable in positions like, say, assistant managers of Walmarts and other jobs better than, say, hauling pallets around Walmarts, which is all they’ll be qualified for if they don’t learn to read and figure.

(I recently visited a prosperous small town with few illegal immigrants. While shopping at the local Walmart, I learned not to ask pallet-haulers where items in the cavernous store were. They’d have to bring their heavily laden carts to a stop, then think for 15 seconds, then tell me they don’t know but I could ask somebody else, then get their loads moving again. In other words, in this town far from the Mexican border, Walmart employs borderline retarded Americans, which is a good thing.)

You’ll notice from the graph that the gains in test scores are more than twice as large in math as in reading. Math is something that few kids do outside of school or tutor sessions, while those who get good at reading do a lot of reading on their own.

There is quite a bit of evidence that America is doing a somewhat better job of teaching math than in the Fast Times at Ridgemont High era. But as Education Realist has argued, verbal skills such as reading comprehension are probably more important overall for our economy and society than math skills. And we’re not making as much progress with that.

Finally, the gains in IQ subcomponents, while small, shouldn’t be wholly dismissed. Maybe there is nothing that can be done about working memory, but the other gains could add up over time. Of course, that’s a huge question: do they keep going up a little year after year, or do they soon plateau?

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: IQ 
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Last month, psychologist James Thompson hosted a scientific conference for researchers interested in IQ and human biodiversity topics at an undisclosed location in Europe. I advised him last year to keep arrangements non-public because a somewhat similar conference a decade-and-a-half ago was broken up by a mob of anti-science fanatics.

I would have liked to have attended, but I can’t afford trips to Europe.

James has now posted a few of the abstracts of presented papers on his Psychological Comments blog.
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Psychologist James Thompson has graphed one bit of the new survey of psychometricians by Rindermann, Coyle and Becker:
Now, obviously, iSteve is #1 relative only to a rather short list of mostly well-known outlets. In my blogroll, I link to specialist sites that are significantly better than mine at covering this difficult field, some of which even publish their own new research.

One reason that New York Times coverage of testing isn’t very good these days (barely over a 4 on a 1 to 9 scale, while I scored about a 7) is because it’s generally not assigned to the Science and Medicine staffs, which have a lot of solid veteran reporters. It seems like the beat is usually covered by a combination of Education, National, Opinion, Business, Legal, and Local writers, few of whom know much about this complex subject.

The Local kindergarten IQ test stories are probably consistently the best testing coverage that the NYT does, because subscribers want the straight scoop on how to get their kids into a $40,000 per year kindergarten.

On most else, however, subscribers just seem to want to know what the right kind of people think so that they can think the same thing too. Knowing what you are supposed to think makes conversations go much more smoothly at fundraising receptions for parents of toddlers who got into expensive kindergartens that use the Wechsler IQ test for admissions.

Beyond all that, there’s the issue of mastery. Personally, I find cognitive testing to be cognitively challenging to understand. I’m just barely intelligent enough to write about intelligence. It takes a lot of work to move from the point where you have to rely upon fluid intelligence to where you can skate by on crystallized intelligence. It’s not surprising that people who drop in on the subject briefly during their quick stint at the Education desk seem particularly baffled. 

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Jennifer Rubin, who scribes the pro-immigration “Right Turn” column in the Washington Post, denounces Jason Richwine for the high crime of Noticing Things:

Heritage stumbles, again and again

Posted by Jennifer Rubin on May 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm

It’s been a tough go of it for Heritage ever since it released its study asserting immigration reform would cost trillions. It was roundly criticized by both liberal and conservative analysts. Then today the dam really broke.

The Post reports that the dissertation of the study’s co-author, Jason Richwine, asserted, “The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market.” No wonder he came up with such a study; his dissertation adviser was George Borjas, a Harvard professor infamous for his crusade against immigration (legal or not).

Jennifer Korn, executive director of the pro-immigration-reform conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, responds: “If you start with the off-base premise that Hispanic immigrants have a lower IQ, it’s no surprise how they came up with such a flawed study.” She continued: “Richwine’s comments are bigoted and ignorant. America is a nation of immigrants; to impugn the intelligence of immigrants is to offend each and every American and the foundation of our country. The American Hispanic community is entrepreneurial, and we strive to better our lives through hard work and determination. This is not a community hampered by low intelligence but a community consistently moving forward to better themselves and our country.”

Heritage scrambled to distance itself from the author’s IQ views, with a spokesperson insisting that they did not relate to the viability of its study. But for the reasons Korn gives it most certainly does. No wonder the study postulates that legalized immigrants will be poor and become a drain on society.

Moreover, that Heritage engaged such a person to author its immigration study suggests that the “fix” was in from the get-go. It also raises the question of whether Heritage is now hiring fringe characters to generate its partisan studies of questionable scholarship. I expect that will be about all we hear from Heritage on the study for a while.

It certainly undermines the cause of all immigration opponents to have their prized work authored by such a character. It’s an unpleasant reminder that sincere opponents of reform should distance themselves from the collection of extremists and bigots who populate certain anti-immigrant groups. One can certainly be anti-immigration-reform and not be anti-Hispanic, but it doesn’t help to be rallying around a report by someone convinced that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.”

The facts won’t calm Ms. Rubin down, because, obviously, the facts are hatestats, but here’s a meta-analysis of the enormous amount of data available on the subject:
Roth, P. L., Bevier, C. A., Bobko, P., Switzer III, F. S. & Tyler, P. (2001) “Ethnic group differences in cognitive ability in employment and educational settings: a meta-analysis.Personnel Psychology 54, 297–330.
As I wrote in 2005:
This 2001 meta-analysis of 39 studies covering a total 5,696,519 individuals in America (aged 14 and above) came up with an overall difference of 0.72 standard deviations in g (the “general factor” in cognitive ability) between “Anglo” whites and Hispanics. The 95% confidence range of the studies ran from .60 to .88 standard deviations, so there’s not a huge amount of disagreement among the studies.
One standard deviation equals 15 IQ points, so that’s a gap of 10.8 IQ points, or an IQ of 89 on the Lynn-Vanhanen scale where white Americans equal 100. That would imply the average Hispanic would fall at the 24th percentile of the white IQ distribution. This inequality gets worse at higher IQs Assuming a normal distribution, 4.8% of whites would fall above 125 IQ versus only 0.9% of Hispanics, which explains why Hispanics are given ethnic preferences in prestige college admissions.
In contrast, 105 studies of 6,246,729 individuals found an overall white-black gap of 1.10 standard deviations, or 16.5 points. (I typically round this down to 1.0 standard deviation and 15 points). So, the white-Hispanic gap appears to be about 65% as large as the notoriously depressing white-black gap. (Warning: this 65% number does not come from a perfect apples to apples comparison because more studies are used in calculating the white-black difference than the white-Hispanic difference.)For screen shots of data tables from Roth et al, click here.

This fits well with lots of other data. For example, Hispanics generally do almost as badly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress school achievement tests as blacks, but that average is dragged down by immigrant kids who have problems adjusting to English. The last time the NAEP asked about where the child was born was 1992, and Dr. Stefan Thernstrom of Harvard kindly provided me with the data from that examination. For foreign-born Hispanics, the typical gap versus non-Hispanic whites was 1.14 times as large as the black-white gap. But for American-born Hispanics, the gap between non-Hispanic whites and American-born Hispanics was 0.67 times as large as the gap between non-Hispanic whites and blacks, very similar to the 0.65 difference seen in the meta-analysis of IQs.For more on Mexican-American educational attainment, see the landmark “Generations of Exclusion” study by Telles & Ortiz.

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The mathematician and thermonuclear bomb designer Stanislaw Ulam famously challenged economist Paul Samuelson to come with up a social science theory that was both true and nontrivial. After a few years, Samuelson replied with Ricardo’s 1817 theory of comparative advantage in foreign trade: if Portugal is worse than Britain at making both steam engines and corks for wine bottles, Portugal should still concentrate on making corks because it’s comparatively less bad at corks than at steam engines. (These may not be the precise examples Ricardo used in 1817, but they get his point across.)

Of course, Portugal’s corkocentrism helps explain why the Portuguese Navy was such a decisive strategic element in the Age of Steam, but the advantages of having a navy that rules the waves are not considered relevant in conventional economics. 

Samuelson wrote to Ulam:

That it is logically true need not be argued before a mathematician; that is not trivial is attested by the thousands of important and intelligent men who have never been able to grasp the doctrine for themselves or to believe it after it was explained to them.

Whether Ulam, co-inventor with Edward Teller of staged radiation implosion, responded by pointing out the advantage of making nuclear weapons and not trading them is unknown. Compared to the Hussein family of Iraq and the Qaffathy family of Libya, two ruling clans that didn’t find the economics of making nuclear weapons rational, the Kim family of North Korea has enjoyed a comparative advantage at avoiding violent death.

I’ve long thought that Spearman’s 1904 g (for general) factor theory of intelligence is reasonably comparable in nontriviality.

I’ve always had a hard time grasping it myself. Back in 1998, I wrote a review of Arthur Jensen’s magnum opus, The g Factor, that considered some of the paradoxical social and political implications:

Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, a 1981 book that continues to shape the non-scientific intelligentsia’s feelings about IQ, demonized g as the “rotten core” of Prof. Jensen’s 1969 article documenting the white-black IQ gap. The g Factor’s overwhelming vindication of g, drawing on 15 years of new research, might seem likely to end the debate. It won’t, of course, for reasons good and bad. The book sheds light on crucial new issues beyond the narrow scope of g (such as racial differences in nerdishness). More depressingly, few will grasp either its strengths or its limitations due to fundamental confusions rampant among American intellectuals about how to think about humanity. 

For example, nobody noticed that Gould’s assertion that human equality is a factual (rather than a moral, legal, or spiritual) reality centered on denouncing g; yet, g is the only concept that could conceivably make sense of his claim. 

Ironically, the g-ocentrists are among the last students of human nature making important discoveries within the egalitarian world-view. The one technique capable of uncovering mental equality is Jensen’s: minimize the number of data points by measuring only the single most important factor (g) across only a few vast groups. Thus, Jensen, the Great Satan to egalitarian fundamentalists, delivers in Chapter 13 the most important pro-equality finding in recent decades: Men and women really do possess the same average g. Their equal average IQ’s scores aren’t just an artifact of IQ tests being rigged to produce this result. Jensen’s finding is hugely important in itself: it’s the best explanation of the splendid performance of women in many white-collar jobs. 

Still, this example also shows that g, like any successful reductionist theory, has its limits. Males and females, while similar on mean g (but not on the standard deviation of g: guys predominate among both eggheads and knuckleheads), differ on several specific cognitive talents. Men, Jensen reports in passing, tend to be better at visual-spatial skills (especially at mentally rotating 3-d objects) and at mathematical reasoning. Women are generally superior at short-term memory, perceptual speed, and verbal fluency. Since the male sex is stronger at logically manipulating objects, while the female sex prevails at social awareness, that explains why most nerds are male, while most “berms” (anti-nerds adept at interpersonal skills and fashion) are female. Beyond cognition, there are other profound sex dissimilarities in personality, motivation, and physiology. All this helps explain the sexes’ different patterns in career choices. 

Because Jensen’s simple, single-factor model can detect intellectual equality between men and women, it can also detect intellectual inequality between whites and blacks, if that’s what the facts are. Although most responses to Jensen’s equality/inequality model haven’t risen above name-calling, obfuscation, guilt-by-association, and professional cowardice, there is a logical, fruitful alternative: develop a complex, multi-factor “diversity” model that rather than concentrating upon one difference among a very few groups, focuses on the many differences visible among many groups. Emphasizing the trade-offs necessary for achieving different goals, it makes toting up an overall winner look a little pointless. 

The diversity perspective has much to offer, but only when it’s thoroughly understood that it’s inherently less empirically egalitarian than Jensenism. The diversity model’s current popularity, however, stems from the wishful thinking that it discredits racial differences, on the assumption that since Diversity and Equality are both Good Things, they must be synonyms rather than antonyms. One particularly fashionable defense of empirical equality is to combine the doctrine that there “are no such things as races” (just swarms of little ethnic groups) with Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s speculations about seven “multiple intelligences.” Ergo, all groups must be equal, QED. 

Let’s do the math: assume, say, 100 ethnic groups and seven “intelligences.” That’s 700 data points. No way, no how could they all be equal — our universe doesn’t work like that. The more complex your model, the less equality and the more diversity you’ll perceive in the world. 

Interestingly, when I pointed this out to Gardner, he agreed with me.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Speaking of Arthur Jensen, Occidentalist has a table listing all 40 academic studies he could find of the white-black gap in average IQ in the U.S. They range from 1918, when it was measured at 17 points, to 2008, when it was found to be 16 points. So, don’t let anybody tell you The Gap hasn’t closed over the last 90 years.

Seriously, is there anything in the human sciences more stable than La Griffe’s Fundamental Constant of American Sociology? It’s really odd when you stop to think about how stable it has been. I suspect that differences in average height have changed significantly more over the generations. For example, when I was a kid, the Dutch weren’t particularly tall, not the way they are now.

Things change.

Except this …

Indeed, I’m wondering whether there isn’t some kind of behavioral feedback at work regarding IQ that somehow keeps The Gap about the same. I don’t have any candidates in mind for what that stabilizing mechanism might be, but it’s worth considering.

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From the NYT:

Betty Hart Dies at 85; Studied Disparities in Children’s Vocabulary Growth 


Published: October 25, 2012 

Betty Hart, whose research documenting how poor, working-class and professional parents speak to their young children helped establish the critical role that communicating with babies and toddlers has in their later development, died on Sept. 28 in hospice care in Tucson. She was 85 …. 

Dr. Hart was a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s when she began trying to help poor preschool children overcome speech and vocabulary deficits. But she and her colleagues later concluded that they had started too late in the children’s lives — that the ones they were trying to help could not simply “catch up” with extra intervention. 

At the time, a prevalent view was that poor children were essentially beyond help, victims of circumstances and genetics. But Dr. Hart and some of her colleagues suspected otherwise and revisited the issue in the early 1980s, beginning research that would continue for a decade. 

“Rather than concede to the unmalleable forces of heredity, we decided that we would undertake research that would allow us to understand the disparate developmental trajectories we saw,” she and her former graduate supervisor, Todd R. Risley, wrote in 1995 in “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” a book about their findings, which were reported in 1992. “We realized that if we were to understand how and when differences in developmental trajectories began, we needed to see what was happening to children at home at the very beginning of their vocabulary growth.” 

They began a two-and-a-half-year study of 42 families of various socioeconomic levels who had very young children. Starting when the children were between 7 and 9 months old, they recorded every word and utterance spoken to them and by them, as well as every parent-child interaction, over the course of one hour every month. 

It took many more years to transcribe and analyze the data, and the researchers were astonished by what they eventually found. 

“Simply in words heard, the average child on welfare was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one-third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour),” Drs. Hart and Risley wrote. 

“By age 4, the average child in a welfare family might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family,” they added. 

Isn’t there a giant assumption in this famous calculation: that the one hour per month of child-parent interactions that Hart & Risley recorded are representative of the entire month? Don’t some of these non-welfare parents have jobs, during which periods they can’t be talking to their children?

Let’s try the math. Say the average 0 to 4 year old is awake 10 hours per day, or 3,600 hours per year, or 14,400 hours in those four years. If the working class family talks at the child 635 more words per hour than those famously laconic welfare families, then that comes out to a differential of 9,144,000 words, not 13,000,000 words. So the working class family must be talking at their children not just ten hours per day, but more like 14 hours per day, leaving only 10 hours per day for the poor child to sleep (or to talk himself or to watch TV or to play with his blocks or to watch the cat or to daydream).

Shouldn’t somebody call Child Protective Services and report all the non-welfare families in the country for child abuse due to incessant chatter?

They also found disparities in tone, in positive and negative feedback, and in other areas — and that the disparities in speech and vocabulary acquisition persisted into school years and affected overall educational development. 

So, parents with big vocabularies tended to have children with big vocabularies. (Also, I would imagine, parental skin tone, height, and hair color tended to correlate with their children’s skin tone, height, and hair color.)

“People kept thinking, ‘Oh, we can catch kids up later,’ and her big message was to start young and make sure the environment for young children is really rich in language,” said Dr. Walker, an associate research professor at Kansas who worked with Dr. Hart and followed many of the children into their school years. 

I recommend taking your preschoolers to Tom Stoppard plays. Start with The Real Thing no later than 30 months and work up to Arcadia by at least the fourth birthday. Also, read to them every night from Nabokov. Pnin is an easy start, but they should be finished with Ada by the time they enter kindergarten.

The work has become a touchstone in debates over education policy, including what kind of investments governments should make in early intervention programs. One nonprofit program whose goals are rooted in the findings is Reach Out and Read, which uses pediatric exam rooms to promote literacy for lower-income children beginning at 6 months old. 

Prompted by the success of Reach Out and Read, Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital and New York University Langone Medical Center, pushed intervention even further. He created a program through Bellevue in which lower-income parents visiting doctors are filmed interacting and reading with their children and then given suggestions on how they can expand their speaking and interactions. 

“Hart and Risley’s work really informed for me and many others the idea that maybe you could bridge the gap,” Dr. Mendelsohn said, “or in jargon terms — address the disparities.” …

I don’t see any mention here of experimental research, just tracking of existing differences that are compatible with most combinations of nature and nurture theories.

“Today, much of her research is being applied in many different ways,” said Dr. Andrew Garner, the chairman of a work group on early brain and child development for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “I think you could also argue that the current interest in brain development and epigenetics reinforces at almost a molecular level what she had identified 20 years ago.”


One obvious but little mentioned implication of this popular line of thought is: White professional mothers who hire semi-literate nannies who have smaller vocabularies in English than in Spanish and smaller vocabularies in Spanish than in Mayan to raise their children for them while they put in the hours to make partner or get tenure are dooming their offspring to only getting into State U. You see, by not personally speaking to their small children for much of the day using their high level vocabularies, Hart & Risley’s logic says their kids are in big, big trouble.

And, indeed, many white mothers behave exactly as if this were true.

For example, one of my early bosses in the marketing research business was Kathie, a hard-charging, funny, foul-mouthed MBA who let nothing stand in the way of our team making the numbers. Then I heard a rumor that she and her boyfriend, an MBA at a big corporation, were going to take a little time off from each other. Then she started going to the gym at lunchtime, lost ten pounds, and then showed up one Monday morning wearing an engagement ring and a big smile: her ex-boyfriend was now going to be her husband. Marriage and a baby ensued, but she was right back on the job a month after giving birth. Then she got pregnant again, and came back to the job a couple of months after giving birth. But within a week of her return, she announced she was permanently retiring to be a housewife. Management tried hard to talk her into part-time work or taking just a couple of years off or whatever she wanted, but she was adamant that she was done with working: she was a full-time mom from now on.

Of course, Kathie’s trajectory was feasible because her husband was making good money. But, her emotions are common.

Of course, this pro stay-at-home-mom implication of the Hart & Risley conventional wisdom is not played up in the press, which is largely run by women who are not stay-at-home-moms and who frequently feel guilty about it if they do have children or resent those women who are mothers, and thus try to put them down by emphasizing how glamorous and politically important it is to be a working woman.

What does the research say on stay-at-home mothers vs working mothers in terms of children’s cognitive development? I haven’t looked in a long time, but my recollection was that it’s inherently uncertain because nobody can run a controlled experiment. Mothers are constantly adapting to what they think is best for their children (e.g., Kathie), trying to optimize a variety of factors that differs for each family and, indeed, for each child.

That moms refuse to follow experimental methodologies when it comes to their own kids is bad for science, but good for children.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Richard Posner is probably the most prominent judge in the U.S. not on the Supreme Court. He has to be the hardest working, as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and a senior lecturer at the U. of Chicago Law School. The author of approaching 40 books, by one measure he’s the most cited judge of the 20th Century. 

Posner has a joint blog with Gary Becker, the Nobel-winning UC economist, where they discuss a topic every week. Awhile back, they took on “Rating Teachers.” Judge Posner wrote:

I don’t think varying salaries on the basis of measures of teacher quality are a feasible reform. My reasons for this pessimistic judgment are several. First, teaching below the college level tends not to be attractive to competitive people. I happen to have a job, as a federal court of appeals judge, in which everyone is securely tenured and paid the same salary, even though the judges vary in ability, experience, and effort.

I.e., nobody works as hard as Posner.

There are many jobs of that sort, they have their pluses and their minuses, and it would be a mistake to think that all such jobs would be performed better if they were restructured along the Darwinian lines that prevail in business. It’s a mistake to think that everyone is a natural risk taker. Tenure, a wage that varies with seniority rather than measured output, and long summer vacations create a compensation package that is attractive to a certain kind of person.  

Second, while in a sample of millions, as in the study by Chetty et al. that Becker cites, it may well be inferrable, as the study finds, that teachers vary in the value they add to their students, within an individual school such an inference will be very difficult to draw. The average IQ and home environment of students in different classes may differ significantly, random factors may affect their future success, and there can be spillover effects from other classes. 

I know a lot about the history of the evolution of baseball statistics over the last 150 years, a lot more than I know about the development of teacher rating statistics. Maybe I’m not up to date, but my general impression is that teacher rating stats are about where baseball stats were in the late 1800s.

Here’s a concept for a nonfiction book. A lot of books come out that focus on schools, with journalists visiting KIPP schools, charter schools, etc. etc., and there’s always talk about value added test scores being used to evaluate teachers, but I’ve never seen a journalist follow some teachers, sitting in the back of the classroom, and then watch them get back their value-added test scores. Do the value-added scores match up with the journalists’ subjective impressions?

You may be saying, “Subjective? Everybody knows we have to trust only objective statistical measures, even if they were just made up this year!” In truth, subjective and objective evaluations improve each other. Right now, we have a bunch of brand new complicated value-added measurement systems with few ways of checking whether they seem plausible or not.

Suppose for example that a mediocre teacher teaches English, and a superb teacher teaches the same students history. Both teachers require essays. The superb teacher improves the students’ writing skills, and that in turn improves their performance in their English class, making the English teacher look better than he or she really is.  

Third, and related, varying teachers’ salaries by some output measure will induce all sorts of wasteful strategizing—office politics—what organization economists call “influence activities,” an aspect of agency costs—by teachers hoping to get a good quality rating. They will angle to get the best students assigned to their classes, even when salary is tied to “value added,” as discussed by Becker, because smarter students are likely to improve more.  

Fourth, although in principle the cost of higher salaries for the better teachers could be offset by reducing the salaries of the worse teachers, that is surely infeasible; so the Darwinian approach would cost more than the existing system, and maybe as much more as raising teacher salaries by a uniform percentage.  

Finally, I am not clear what we should think the problem of American education (below the college level) is. Most children of middle-class (say upper quartile of households, income starting at $80,000) Americans are white or Asian and attend good public or private schools, usually predominantly white. The average white IQ is of course 100 and the Asian (like the Jewish) almost one standard deviation higher, that is, 115. The average black IQ is 85, a full standard deviation below the white average, and the average Hispanic IQ has been estimated recently at 89. 

Black children in particular often come from disordered households, which has a negative effect on ability to learn and perhaps indeed on IQ (which is only partly hereditary) as well. Increasingly, black and Hispanic students find themselves in schools with few white or Asian students. The challenge to American education is to provide a useful education to the large number of Americans who are unlikely to benefit from a college education or from high school courses aimed at preparing students for college. The need is for a different curriculum and for a greater investment in these children’s preschool environment. We should recognize that we have different populations with different schooling needs and that  curricula and teaching methods should be revised accordingly. This recognition and response should precede tinkering with compensations systems.


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Felix Salmon writes about planning for retirement in “Who is speaking for the poor?:”

IQ also helps. Check out this chart, for instance, from a very long and detailed paper about the likelihood that a person of given intelligence will be invested in the stock market.

The distribution is clear: the smarter you are (as measured by IQ), the more likely you are to be invested in the stock market. And this distribution is independent of wealth: it applies to the rich as much as it does to the poor. Or, as the paper puts it, “IQ’s role in the participation decisions of the affluent is about the same as it is for the less affluent. The definition of affluence—net worth or income—does not affect this finding.” 

Most impressively, check out this paper from 2007. It asked just three “simple mathematical questions” of couples to judge the numeracy of each one. If neither got any questions right, the total wealth of the couple, on average, was $202,000. If they both got one question right, it was $505,000. If they both got two questions right, it was $853,000. And if they both got all three questions right, their average wealth on average was a whopping $1.7 million. (If they got different scores from each other, the wealth ended up somewhere in between.) 

And similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, there’s huge amounts of research showing that if you’re particularly financially illiterate, or you’re not good at numbers, then you’re much more likely to be ripped off by predatory lenders or other scams, be they legal or otherwise. 

There are various conclusions to be drawn here, one of which is that if we do a better job of financial education, then Americans as a whole will be better off. That’s true. But at the same time, financial illiteracy, and general innumeracy, and low IQs, are all perfectly common things which are never going to go away. It’s idiotic to try to blame people for having a low IQ: that’s not something people can control. And so it stands to reason that any fair society should look after people who are at such a natural disadvantage in life.

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I’ve been writing since 2004 about how the most cost-effective way to help poor countries is through micronutrient supplementation: the U.S. used to have, for example, problems with cretinism in inland states caused by a lack of iodine in the diet. (Saltwater fish tend to be a good source of iodine, but not freshwater fish). So, back before WWII, manufacturers started to add iodine to salt, and this IQ-sapping problem went away. Adding iron to flour also helped raise IQs. This is one of the (many) reasons that the military found the mental sharpness of draftees in WWII much more satisfactory than in WWI.

The NYT has an article about an alternative approach to supplementation: instead of trying to get local manufacturers to add micronutrients to staples, have parents sprinkle the nutrients on their kids’ food. 

Whatever the delivery method, this appears to be the most cost effective way to raise national average IQ, and higher national average IQs correlate closely with a host of good things such as higher school test scores and higher per capita GDP. Unfortunately, the entire concept of “national average IQ” has been more or less verboten outside a small corner of social sciences, so the best argument for micronutrient supplementation almost never gets aired. So, this extremely promising method remains stuck in the unfashionable corner of global philanthropy, with Kiwanis International being the prime donor.

The good news is that in the last few years the Gates Foundation has begun to get involved in this field. But, after getting in late, a decade after their splashy debuts in other fields, they’ve kept if pretty quiet. My guess is that Gates’ personal worldview is roughly the same as Mike Judge’s Idiocracy and Monty Python’s The Protestant View. We know he’s obsessed with IQ and that his father was big on population control. (As I pointed out in Taki’s Magazine, eugenics was the ideology of Silicon Valley’s founders, William Shockley and Fred Terman, and, for all I know, it might still be the sub rosa worldview out there. Here’s Paul Graham’s essay on “What You Can’t Say.”) How long do you think it would take you to explain the logic of micronutrient supplementation to raise national average IQ to Gates before he interrupted you and said, “Okay, yeah, I get it.” 90 seconds?

But because it’s pretty obvious that Gates comes out of the old WASP ideology of quality over quantity in reproduction, if anybody stopped and thought about it, he has to operate through these complicated double bankshot projects to burnish his reputation for being a true believer in political correctness, such as wasting (in his own admission) $2 billion on the lefty “small schools” fad of the last decade.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: IQ 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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