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What Is the Gould Effect?
No conferring
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nature nurture

A bit of back history: I started learning about intelligence and intelligence tests when I was an undergraduate in 1964-1968. This included taking group intelligence tests at the beginning of my psychology course, and giving face to face Wechsler tests in my final year. I then started my first research project leading to my PhD: “Cognitive effects of cortical lesions sustained in childhood” which involved about 300 neuro-psychological examinations, and I did about another 300 Wechsler examinations on the psychiatric wards from 1968 till the late 70s. My first publication was in 1970 on “Intellectual abilities of immigrant children” and I had the odd experience of lecturing Arthur Jensen on the subject barely one year after the publication of his famous paper.

Thereafter I concentrated on other psychological topics, but still wrote a summary chapter on intelligence in 1980. Jensen’s “Bias in mental testing” had a big impact on me, making me revise many of my earlier opinions. I also wrote some papers in the early 80s on testing cognitive ability in severely handicapped patients. Basically, I kept in touch with the subject, but didn’t start reading in more detail again till the late 90s, and then making it a focus of attention from about 2002 onwards. I started going to International Society for Intelligence Research meetings in 2007, after which I abandoned a book I had almost completed on intelligence, finding that it was better to keep looking at new findings rather than summarize older work.

It was only after an ISIR conference in 2012 I began blogging, mostly to justify to myself the cost of the journey by spreading the word more widely than the few delegates who had been able to attend. My blog had 4 readers to begin with, though that quickly grew to 20, and later even as high as 116. Number grew further. I rank myself merely as an occasional publisher of research, and an informed commentator.

Around that time I wrote to my university’s lecture room booking department. I wanted to have an open meeting for students. Potential speakers sounded a note of caution: if group differences were to be discussed they feared hostile interruptions and damage to their careers. Opinions varied about the risks, but eventually I reluctantly decided meetings would have to be invitation only, for speakers and a few others. I hoped that participants would change their minds and begin to welcome sympathetic journalists, and a wider audience. Meetings were announced on my blog, but without location details, and papers reported afterwards. Quite a few readers wanted to attend, and I regretted not being able to invite them all. Speakers were very cautious about career-limiting publicity, and feared that some prospective attendees simply wanted to make trouble. Even when intelligence researchers met privately there was concern about any photographs being taken, and different attitudes as to what, if anything, could be reported.

Toby Young, a journalist and free schools advocate gave the 2017 ISIR Constance Holden lecture about the difficulties of conducting intelligence research. He had attended the London conference for about two hours to talk to the speakers and gather material, and in his ISIR lecture described the London conference as “like a meeting of Charter 77 in Václav Havel’s flat in Prague in the 1970s.”

http://www.dcscience.net/Toby-Young-2018-Intelligence.pdf

Six months later he was appointed to a Government committee, and this triggered fiercely negative reactions from political opponents to his generally conservative views. Because his ISIR lecture mentioned the invited conferences at UCL they were described in lurid and misleading terms, such that many speakers later had problems with their own universities. Moral: if you want to have a conference on intelligence research and group differences, avoid universities.

Enough background. Here is the reply written by the participants, published in the journal Intelligence.

Gould effect

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B436HMx9uA6JbTNnNm55bmdBU0hQaDcyYjRxWktkNGFvYXpz

It may seem other-worldly to answer press misrepresentation with an academic paper six months later, but academic debates are a slow affair, since they require people to read texts and think about arguments. There ought to be long moments of quiet when all you can hear are pages turning.

P.S. “No conferring” is a catch-phrase from University Challenge, said by the quiz master to remind each team of 4 undergraduates that they have to answer the initial question on their own.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Censorship, Intelligence, IQ, Political Correctness 
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  1. res says:

    Thanks for posting this. I think it is helpful to include the figure caption to make clear its meaning:

    Fig. 1. Google Ngram publication frequencies of instances in texts in which either “intelligence” or “IQ” and either “racism” or “racist” are used in the same sentence (grey dashed line), and instances in texts in which either “intelligence” or “IQ” and either “heritability” or “heritable” are used in the same sentence (black solid line). Trends span the years 1965 to 2000. Ngram viewer automatically adjusts these trends so as to take into account the increase in numbers of texts over time.

    And here is their interpretation for those who did not click though to the article:

    As shown in Fig. 1, the frequency of sentences involving ‘racism’/ ‘racist’ and ‘IQ’/‘intelligence’ has been increasing over time (between 1965 and 2000), which is consistent with the expectation that intelligence research is becoming increasingly controversialized (in particular in relation to research on population differences) in terms of textual representation. Sentences linking ‘heritable’/‘heritability’ with ‘IQ’/‘intelligence’ increase in frequency until 1984, and then decrease thereafter. Interestingly, this negative inflection point occurs three years after the publication of the first edition of Gould’s (1981) very popular The Mismeasure of Man, in which a case is made for dismissing intelligence research on the grounds of the field’s alleged racism and elitism. In the period 1965 to 1984, there is a positive correlation (r = 0.995, p < .05, N = 19 years) between the two trends; however, between 1984 and 2000, the trends become negatively correlated (r = −0.601, p < .05, N = 16 years), which suggests, consistent with expectations, that the controversialization process may be having a ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of writers to tackle less controversial issues related to intelligence research, such as those connected to behaviour genetics. We term this process the Gould Effect, as no other intellectual has done more to polarize public opinion on a body of scientific findings through systematic misrepresentation and dishonest presentation of data (see e.g. Alcock, 1998; Lewis et al., 2011).

    That final sentence is quite the indictment.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @lavoisier
  2. dearieme says:

    I thought I’d bookmark this blog post. I clicked bookmark and the folder I was first invited to put the link in is titled “science: fraud, error, & misunderstanding”. Good old God, eh? Or Steve Jobs, at least.

  3. EH says:

    The Gould effect, named after Glenn Gould, is the paradoxical effect of listening to his “So You Want to Write a Fugue”, which says: “never be clever for the sake of being clever!”, but nevertheless leads to posts such as this one.

  4. There seem to be multiple Gould effects. I imagine S J Gould is the Gould concerned. I am not quite sure how. This discussion seems to be describing Witch Hunting from the point of view of the witch.

  5. I finished this article having no clue what the Gould effect is. Could we perhaps have a summary for the layman? It wasn’t clear that the linked article addressed this, though it did, in a dense scientific way.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
    , @res
  6. @Fidelios Automata

    Sorry, the negative effect of SJ Gould’s “The mismeasure of man” on the understanding of human intelligence.

  7. Anonymous[746] • Disclaimer says:
    @res

    may be having a ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of writers to tackle less controversial issues related to intelligence research…

    Less controversial?

    • Replies: @res
  8. res says:
    @Fidelios Automata

    I thought the second excerpt I gave in comment 1 contained a good summary from the paper:

    which suggests, consistent with expectations, that the controversialization process may be having a ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of writers to tackle less controversial issues related to intelligence research, such as those connected to behaviour genetics. We term this process the Gould Effect, as no other intellectual has done more to polarize public opinion on a body of scientific findings through systematic misrepresentation and dishonest presentation of data (see e.g. Alcock, 1998; Lewis et al., 2011).

    Taking a stab at rephrasing that. The Gould effect is:

    Polarizing public opinion on a body of scientific findings through systematic misrepresentation and dishonest presentation of data resulting in a ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of writers (and scientists, politicians, etc.!) to tackle related issues.

    Does that capture it?

  9. res says:
    @Anonymous

    Both more and less I would say. Notice I left that qualifier out of my rephrasing above (before I read your comment FWIW).

    But I do think the basic connection is:

    racial differences in IQ bad -> other issues concerning IQ (more OR less controversial) bad

    It is hard to find more controversial issues though ; )

  10. I long time learning few and repeating a lot the basics of … IQ.

  11. lavoisier says: • Website
    @res

    We term this process the Gould Effect, as no other intellectual has done more to polarize public opinion on a body of scientific findings through systematic misrepresentation and dishonest presentation of data (see e.g. Alcock, 1998; Lewis et al., 2011).

    I love it! The Gould effect!

    No scientific charlatan, dead or alive, is more deserving of such a dishonorable epithet than Gould.

    The man was as dishonorable a scientist as anyone who ever lived. His entire life was lived in opposition to the scientific method and a fundamental respect for truth.

    And he was championed and honored by the progressive left.

    I hated him even when he was famous and seen as respectable!!

    The Gould effect!! May the bastard live forever in our memories as the dishonest charlatan he was!

    • Replies: @dearieme
  12. dearieme says:
    @lavoisier

    “His entire life was lived in opposition to the scientific method and a fundamental respect for truth”; “dishonest charlatan”. Who’s the completion: Freud? Lysenko? Ancel Keys? The Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming cabal?

    How about the chap who, it was alleged at the time, tried to seize Luc Montagnier’s credit for discovering the HIV virus? The WKPD entry seems rather mealy-mouthed on the issue. The Nobel Prize committee said a great deal by its silence. Still, I don’t think he’s remotely a contender for the Freud-Gould Prize.

  13. The dark genius of Gould is that thirty years after his parvum opus, it’s still cited as the last word on stuff like The Bell Curve by people who’ve read neither book.

    • Replies: @lavoisier
  14. lavoisier says: • Website
    @YetAnotherAnon

    The dark genius of Gould is that thirty years after his parvum opus, it’s still cited as the last word on stuff like The Bell Curve by people who’ve read neither book.

    Or know anything about genetics or have any respect for the pursuit of truth.

  15. I have to say that I am a fan of Gould’s his essays were very readable. The hate speech against him seems to boil down to his measurement of skulls that others had also not measured with repeatable accuracy.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  16. @Philip Owen

    I was also a fan of his prose style, and enjoyed reading him. What is at issue is not whether he was “readable” but whether he was giving a fair and accurate account of the facts. To criticize inaccurate accounts and correct them is a standard procedure in science. No-one has the final say: it is the results that matter. We must get them as accurate as we possibly can. Searching for truth is not “hate speech”, nor is your comment hate speech.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  17. Biography. Stephen Jay Gould was born in Queens, New York on September 10, 1941. His father Leonard was a court stenographer and a World War II veteran in the United States Navy. His mother Eleanor was an artist, whose parents were JEWISH immigrants living and working in the city’s Garment District

    Just a Cohencidence that (((Gould’s))) name echoes?

  18. @James Thompson

    I didn’t have your comments about Gould in mind when I used the term “hate speech”. There are parts of this site where his venture into measuring skulls has made him a figure of hate. His core work was of course on snails.

    I find his ideas of punctuated equilibrium very useful for predicting and explaining business issues, ecology and economics being very similar with regard to development of entities in an evolutionary manner. In particular, I find strong analogies with the explosion of small business in Russia and the experiments with different “body shapes”.

    Before there were Universities, there were learned societies, usually for practicing professionals, generally a conservative bunch. They tend to be member funded. In so far as the issue is a venue, they exist and confer prestige. The drawback is obviously cost. At the least a conference needs an underwriter. Some may not be frightened of controversy. It brings publicity. Have you had any luck with learned societies?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  19. Anonymous[151] • Disclaimer says:

    There never was any media misrepresentation, debunked here:

    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/London_Conference_on_Intelligence#Woodley_et_al._2018

    Based on two of the conference publications 2015-2016 that list paper abstracts, a journalist writing for London Student calculated that over 80% of London Conference on Intelligence speakers have published papers in the Mankind Quarterly – widely regarded as white supremacist and was founded by racial segregationists in the 1960s.

    It’s undeniable the vast majority of LCI speakers are far-right/white nationalists etc. Those conferences were primarily attracting racist cranks like yourself and you know this.

    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/James_Thompson

  20. dearieme says:

    “widely regarded as”: a rather unspecific charge.

    • Replies: @EH
  21. @Philip Owen

    Fine. Happy to accept your clarification.
    As to learned societies, no, haven’t particularly tried them. Any topic which becomes controversialised ends up being shunned to some extent, hence meetings become difficult. The pity is that the debate becomes distorted, and progress is slow.

  22. EH says:
    @dearieme

    “widely regarded as”

    I enjoy reading that as saying that the person doing the regarding is extremely wide. There’s probably a Far Side cartoon that belongs here, but I’m too lazy.

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