The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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IQ

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Sense and sensitivity
If someone tells me I must not read something, I am tempted to give it a look. If you are reading this, you probably have the same curiosity, and the same wish to rebel against other people telling you what you may not read, and what you must not think. In that light, here is... Read More
murray-human-diversity-book-cover
Charles Murray, a sociologist by background and a datanaut by inclination, has carved out a prominent place in American intellectual debate by the simple expedient of writing clearly about difficult subjects. He is an Enlightenment Regular Guy, who does not want Americans to lose ground, or be split apart or be cast asunder by imperious... Read More
The start of a decade is traditionally ushered in with a flurry of predictions. Those usually turn out to be wrong, but are illustrative of the expectations of the current age. Errors are informative, and show our limitations, our fads and misunderstandings. Looking back at predictions can be fun. Hindsight allows us to feel superior.... Read More
For some years now I have made occasional mention of a survey conducted in May 2013 to March 2014 to find out what intelligence researchers thought about racial differences in intelligence. Now the paper has been published, so in academic terms the work actually exists, and can be quoted and commented upon. I can remember... Read More
Response to Birney, Raff, Rutherford, & Scally
It is good to have an essay which sets out a point of view clearly, so Ewan Birney’s 24th October blogpost (Ewan Birney, Jennifer Raff, Adam Rutherford, Aylwyn Scally) is welcome. A summary of this sort gives discussions of racial differences a focal point. Race, genetics and pseudoscience: an explainer It is not up to... Read More
It is generally agreed that the Wechsler tests are one of the best measures of intelligence, and can be considered the gold standard. That is hardly surprising, because they cover 10 subtests and take over an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, for a clinical psychologist to administer. This gives the examiner plenty of... Read More
It takes a certain courage to title a paper: Genetic “General Intelligence,” Objectively Determined and Measured. Javier de la Fuente, Gail Davies, Andrew D. Grotzinger, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, Ian J. Deary doi: Objectively? Is such language permissible in contemporary science? Should we not instead be cautiously shuffling towards seven types of ambiguity, hedged in with... Read More
There is a popular genre of commentary which wishes to show that bright people make as many errors as less bright people, perhaps as a consequence of divine retribution. “Einstein made an error in maths which was spotted by a bus conductor” lifts the hearts of some readers. Of course, bright people make errors. Do... Read More
“All happy families are alike” declaimed Tolstoy, so as to then add the equally unsubstantiated coda: “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Readers may say: “So true, so very true”, but that would be in the literary sense, in that if it sounds profound it is judged to be so. Like all... Read More
net-worth-and-income-by-iq
Do bright people earn more than others? If not, it would strengthen the view that intelligence tests are no more than meaningless scores on paper and pencil tests composed of arbitrary items which have no relevance to real life. So, it is with trepidation that I responded to a suggestion by a reader that I... Read More
When dull meet bright, tough love rules
What happens when above average and below average ability people have to deal with each other? Specifically, how will they interact when potentially both are able to gain from the exchange? It seems obvious that they should cooperate, and extract the greatest amount of mutual gain, but does this really happen in situations where there... Read More
Psychological test.  1990.0034.173.
When I started work in September 1968 one of the first things I was taught was that intelligence testing had a long history, and that many of the subtests in the Wechsler assessments I had been taken from previous research. Kohs’ blocks (1920), I used to mutter, when people talked about Block Design. I was... Read More
Teachers loom large in most children’s lives, and are long remembered. Class reunions often talk of the most charismatic teacher, the one whose words and helpfulness made a difference. Who could doubt that they can have an influence on children’s learning and future achievements? Doug Detterman is one such doubter: Education and Intelligence: Pity the... Read More
For some years I have been organizing the London Conference on Intelligence, which brings together about 25 invited researchers to present papers and debate issues in a critical but friendly setting. (“The London School” was the name give to those who argued that intelligence had a general component, and was heritable). Speakers are chosen for... Read More
You can detect a lot about a person using simple tasks which take less than 2 minutes. Here is a test which did the job in 90 seconds, but then got lengthened to 120 seconds to make it even more reliable. Of this test, one of those Edinburgh researchers said to me in a conference... Read More
The Great Retrodiction: English speakers only
Science marches on. A researcher writes in to chide me that I have forgotten the fastest intelligence test of all, which masquerades as a simple reading test, but which can reach back 50 years, and in 90 seconds deliver a precise verdict on the best level of ability you had in your prime. Indeed, I... Read More
How much could you learn about a person in two minutes, just getting them to answer written questions? I suppose you could ask them their favourite colour or song, or quiz them about their other preferences, occupations, and sundry other demographic matters. Getting them to reveal marital status, religion, politics, earnings and savings might be... Read More
Replies to a reviewer and to blog commentators
Before posting up Piffer’s paper, I sent it to a reviewer, someone who works in intelligence research. I explained that many geneticists were dismissive about Piffer’s work on group intelligence, and asked for a critical opinion. Here is that opinion, and Piffer’s replies. Piffer also includes responses to the main themes which came out of... Read More
Predicting group intelligence averages by polygenic risk scores alone.
The figure shows standardized polygenic scores by population for Education GWAS, in descending order (1000 Genomes Populations, EA MTAG, N= 3,257 SNPs). One function of a blog is to let people shoot down ideas. Conjectures have a short half-life. Refutations always snap at their heels. David Becker, whose latest version of country IQs received trenchant... Read More
Becker update V1.3.2
David Becker has released a new version of the World’s IQ. Each country has a score showing the cognitive abilities of their citizens, this being a blend of genetics and the environment of each country, particularly as regards education and health. The world’s global score is 82. This is 12th percentile rank on the Greenwich... Read More
Of course you’re bright, darling
Although I did not entirely ignore the subject. I should have paid more attention to people’s estimates of their own intelligence. Self-estimates are error prone, and may have negative consequences in real life, as well as making discussions about intelligence remarkable error-prone. Adrian Furnham did several papers on this topic, and Sophie Von Stumm made... Read More
It is very unlikely that even if I continue my blog for decades, it will ever have the impact of Stephen Jay Gould’s (1981) “The mis-measure of Man”. It was a best seller, cited in the academic literature over 10,000 times, and even 445 times in 2017 alone. It continues to meet an audience need.... Read More
50 years on
Philanthropy is a fine thing. A good sum of money put in the right place can benefit many people. Commerce is also a fine thing. A small sum of money put in the right place can create goods and services which people want, which can lead to profit which leads to more money being available... Read More
Four years ago I claimed that it was more important to have educated parents than rich ones. Parents who are educated were very likely bright to begin with, and judged worth educating as much as possible. They may even have gained in ability by virtue of further education. Brighter parents usually earn more than less... Read More
Some things are associated with others. Some things you eat make you ill. Some animals attack you. Some places are dangerous, some people likewise. On a brighter note, some foods are tasty and healthy. Some animals can be domesticated, or at least are easy to hunt or trap. Some places are safe, and some people... Read More
Thank you to all those who commented on the “Swanning About: Fooled by Algebra” blog and associated tweets. A number of themes came up, so here are individual responses I made to some comments, and also some general points. Since Taleb thought he could dismiss a century of psychometry, there are rather a lot of... Read More
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has tweeted a set of remarks about intelligence research. He has now gathered those together into one format, with links and explanations. There is no lack of confidence in his essay. There is much to discuss here, and what follows covers what I see as the main points. I have added some... Read More
In the great cultural war which surrounds race and intelligence, James Flynn is on the side of the angels. I know this because he told me so. Happily, I know him well enough to know he was joking: he was admitting that he was well aware that his mostly environmentalist perspective was far more acceptable... Read More
No conferring
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:... Read More
Linda Gottfredson, author of the most supported and cited statement on intelligence, and the researcher who has done most to explain what intelligence means in everyday life, in terms of specific tasks, training needs, and occupational choices and achievements ( has just been dis-invited from an occupational conference in Sweden where she had been invited... Read More
Brain training, mindset, grit, deliberate practice and bilingualism.
I hesitate to suggest that my readers might ever have felt the need to improve their mental abilities by conducting specific mental exercises, but you may have a friend who wants to dabble in these practices, so this little note is for your friend. Overstating the Role of Environmental Factors in Success: A Cautionary Note... Read More
It is a great pleasure to see that a massive new study on intelligence has just been published, after years of work and also months of publication delays. Anything which can be done to speed up the publication of results is to be welcomed. Research has now moved to an international dimension, with disparate groups... Read More
If you or a family member, beset by a clinical or neurological problem, are given a face-to-face intelligence test, it is likely to be a Wechsler. It is considered the gold standard, and the Full Scale IQ result, the consequence of spending over an hour doing the 10 subtests, is like doing the decathlon: you... Read More
Publisher: Cambridge University Press Online publication date: January 2018 Print publication year: 2018 Online ISBN: 9781316817049 I do not wish to quote myself too often, but in my 2013 review of Sternberg’s Handbook of Intelligence I raised an eyebrow about how often he quoted himself, and by means of an internal citation count questioned whether... Read More
I have good memories of 1975. I got my first secure job, a Lectureship in Psychology at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, part of the University of London. It was a glorious summer, followed the next year by an even better and drier one, and I finally finished my PhD. Little did I realise that... Read More
Who? Whom? versus "What? When? Why? How?
The argument from authority is of questionable merit. Yes, some people know far more than others, but how does one establish that? Happily, there are publication and citation metrics available to help us, and a reasonable case can be made that experts exist. That does not preclude the possibility that they are all wrong. One... Read More
Newspaper reports are still discussing the story about the numbers of Africans admitted to Oxbridge, but I have not seen any giving the numbers of AAA students available, or any that mention intelligence. I doubt that Admissions Officers read my blog, or indeed that they would survive in post if they were ever caught doing... Read More
The ISIR July 2017 meeting in Montreal seems a long time ago, and that feeling is entirely explicable by it being 10 months since I heard the lecture in question. I was chairing the session, which normally diminishes attention to the actual content, but this talk was the exception. It came up with a counter-intuitive... Read More
The concept of “cognitive capitalism” was used by Yann Boutang in 2008 (modern economies are becoming more knowledge based), but I first heard it used by Heiner Rindermann in a somewhat different sense: cognitive ability is the cause of wealth. Heiner’s earliest mention of it in the title of a paper is one which we... Read More
Is honesty the best policy? In fact, in situations where people believe they will not be caught, it appears that honesty is considered a costly strategy. Many find that cheating pays, and judicious cheating seems sensible, particularly when it is enough to obtain advantage, without it being too obvious. Crafty. Do the citizens of some... Read More
Things are moving so fast in genetic research on intelligence that one cannot take a coffee break without missing important announcements. By way of small compensation, even the biggest breakthroughs are based on previous breakthroughs, so most stories in science are about a pattern of results rather than a single paper, and that pattern eventually... Read More
At a time when some people may be wishing to set a New Year’s resolution, after some festive eating and drinking, it is apposite to look at a recent very striking headline: 'I beat type 2 diabetes with 200-calorie drinks' It describes what is said to be a very promising treatment for the treatment of... Read More
As readers of this blog will know, it is usually Woodley of Menie who darkens these pages with talk of genetic ruin, while James Flynn is the plucky New Zealander bringing tidings of comfort and joy about rising intelligence. Now, after my foolishly letting the two of them talk unhindered together for two hours over... Read More
It is sad to hear from Chandra Chisala that our double act will no longer be available for hire, denying us both the prospect of a lecture tour, but if this really is his last word, that is a pity, because debates generally reveal new sources of data, and although personal positions rarely change immediately,... Read More
As is my usual custom, I wrote to the authors whose work I had commented upon in my previous post: I asked John Protzko how long the effects of intelligence boosting interventions lasted. He said that he thought this “fadeout” effect was likely to happen somewhere between 3 and 5 years after the intervention had... Read More
Stay even longer at school?
Although it is popular for people to claim that they don’t know what intelligence is, most people show an interest in boosting their intelligence. Funny, that. These schemes come around every few years: getting babies in the womb to listen to Mozart, taking vitamins and concentration enhancing drugs, counting backwards in the N back procedure:... Read More
Test results of 550,492 individuals in 123 countries
Few subjects arouse as much ire as national IQs. Questions are asked about the cultural appropriateness of the tests, whether they have sufficient scope to assess the different talents of racial and cultural groups, the representativeness and size of the samples, and even whether those results are reported correctly. National scholastic achievements, on the other... Read More
Though she is not a psychometrician, I was reminded of Nina Simone’s song by a recent paper on identifying gifted children, which found that an IQ test was better than the standard teacher referral systems at detecting bright black and hispanic kids. Good news I thought, and yet another vindication of intelligence testing. However, before... Read More
Some immigrants don’t contribute much: locals blamed.
Commenting on the findings shown on the Government website, the Prime Minister said: “What this audit shows is there isn't anywhere to hide. That's not just for Government, it's for society as a whole. Britain has come a long way in promoting equality and opportunity but what the data we've published today shows is that... Read More
Sex differences are in the news. A male Google employee reviewed some of the literature on the topic in the context of his workplace practices, and got sacked. A book questioning the role of testosterone in sex differences, and more generally the veracity of innate biological sex differences, got the Royal Society Science Book prize,... Read More
James Thompson
About James Thompson

James Thompson has lectured in Psychology at the University of London all his working life. His first publication and conference presentation was a critique of Jensen’s 1969 paper, with Arthur Jensen in the audience. He also taught Arthur how to use an English public telephone. Many topics have taken up his attention since then, but mostly he comments on intelligence research.