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Archimedes in bath

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 a large convivial dinner in Montreal last July, while the rest of us swopped stories and jokes, Flynn appears to have gone over to the dark side.

In truth, it must be admitted that Woodley and Flynn go back some years now, and Flynn had come to the conference with his talk on Piaget already prepared, but it is funny what bedfellows one makes when one follows the data. James Flynn had long expressed surprise at the continuing rise in intelligence scores, and had charted their stagnation and then decline, though that has not happened in all countries, or not in the same way. However, here in 2017 we have none other than James Flynn worrying that our top thinkers have been decimated. What is going on?

I have never troubled you too much about Piaget. He stands outside the psychometric canon, and is no believer in proper samples. He studied his own children in great detail, thus being totally biased, unrepresentative, and at the same time very interesting. He was able to tease out what his children did not know, and what they could not work out at each stage in their development. Even as an undergraduate I was cautious about his work, and his stages of development. My dutiful rendering of his theories got me my highest ever marks, but I did not follow others in slavish admiration of his approach. Be reassured, the stages don’t just happen like sedimentary deposits. Brighter children go through them faster. However, his experiments have charm, and depth. Perhaps Bärbel Inhelder had a good influence on him, particularly on the tasks we will be looking at now.

The formal operations stage, achieved around 12 years of age (yes, sooner for brighter kids, and much later for the slower ones) was considered the apotheosis of cognition. Once you got there, you could start being a scientist. Not much point in teaching physics before that. What is lovely about these tasks, from our point of view, is that they are potential markers of the scientific frame of mind, the basic stepping stones of the empirical project. They have had the same logic (and probably level of difficulty) for ever, and certainly since Archimedes. As such, we can say that if a child cannot solve these problems, they can probably not solve the whole larger set of problems which require the scientific method.

Equilibrium in balance

Robert Siegler (1979) gave children a balance beam task in which some discs were placed either side of the centre of balance. The researcher changed the number of discs or moved them along the beam, each time asking the child to predict which way the balance would go.

He studied the answers given by children from five years upwards, concluding that they apply rules which develop in the same sequence as, and thus reflect, Piaget’s findings. Like Piaget, he found that eventually the children were able to take into account the interaction between the weight of the discs and the distance from the centre, and so successfully predict balance. However, this did not happen until participants were between 13 and 17 years of age.

Pendulum task

Formal operational thinking has also been tested experimentally using the pendulum task (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958). The method involved a length of string and a set of weights. Participants had to consider three factors (variables) the length of the string, the heaviness of the weight and the strength of push. The task was to work out which factor was most important in determining the speed of swing of the pendulum.

Participants can vary the length of the pendulum string, and vary the weight. They can measure the pendulum speed by counting the number of swings per minute. To find the correct answer the participant has to grasp the idea of the experimental method -that is to vary one variable at a time (e.g. trying different lengths with the same weight). A participant who tries different lengths with different weights is likely to end up with the wrong answer.

Volume and heaviness (Archimedes)

The way this has been studied by Michael Sayer is a whole lesson in itself. Students are taken step by step through the fundamental problems presented by floating and sunken objects. Sunken objects displace a quantity of water equal to their volume, floating objects displace a quantity of water equal to their weight. This is important because children, and many adults, think of volume and weight as highly correlated in everyday life. Of course, the dissection of these properties led to a milestone in the history of science: Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy. Archimedes realized that he could determine whether the king’s crown was made of pure gold by examining the amount of water it displaced.

Shayer takes the children through 12 experimental steps before they are presented with the Archimedes problem. This deals with a concern which I voiced to James Flynn in the question session after his talk: I assumed that the massive fall in students solving this task could be due to poor science teaching. The Shayer procedure is an extended, hands on, tutorial, and goes some considerable way to countering a lack of science teaching as an explanation for poor performance.
Having read these brief descriptions, you might like to rank them in order of difficulty.

IQ decline and Piaget: Does the rot start at the top? James R. Flynn, Michael Shayer. Intelligence, Volume 66, January–February 2018, Pages 112–121.

What James Flynn and Michael Sayer now report is contained in their Table 5, which I find it difficult to understand. There are 3 tests, and for each test we have 3 factors jostling for position in a jumble of figures: the level of Piagetian development of the children, where “3A and above” relates to early Formal Operations and 3b and below Concrete Operations; the dates at which the data were collected; and whether the results of the Piagetian tests were different from what would be expected from test intelligence results at that time. Frankly, there were too many variables at one time for this reader. It would have been better as a Figure, showing the historical changes pictorially.

Bottom line: the scores have crashed dramatically.

Piagetian collapse

The authors say:

In sum: at one time the best of Britons (aged 12–14) could cope with items on the formal level and blended into a smooth curve of performance. Now these items are beyond many of them and register as a huge decimation of high scorers.

Piagetian gains at the bottom of the curve should not be dismissed as simply a phenomenon that offsets losses at the top. Consider the British results for Equilibrium and Pendulum. The decimation of top scorers means that by the age of 12 to 14, fewer British schoolchildren attain the level of formal operations. This means that fewer could think in terms of abstractions (without concrete examples), which limits their capacity for deductive logic and systematic planning. However, the fact that these losses are made up by gains over the rest of the “curve” means that far more of them are at the concrete generalization level. They are better at on the spot thinking (e.g. in playing demanding computer games). Their understanding of the physical world is limited to simple causation between two variables, but they can draw inferences from observations to make generalizations.

The Piagetian results are particularly ominous. Looming over all is their message that the pool of those who reach the top level of cognitive performance is being decimated: fewer and fewer people attain the formal level at which they can think in terms of abstractions and develop their capacity for deductive logic and systematic planning. They also reveal that something is actually targeting that level with special effect, rather than simply reducing its numbers in accord with losses over the curve as a whole. We have given our reason as to why the Piagetian tests are sensitive to this phenomenon in a way that conventional tests are not.

Massive IQ gains over time were never written in the sky as something eternal like the law of gravity. They are subject to every twist and turn of social evolution. If there is a decline, should we be too upset? During the 20th century, society escalated its skill demands and IQ rose. During the 21st century, if society reduces its skill demands, IQ will fall. Nonetheless, no one would welcome decay in the body politic, or among the elite who at present represent our best thinkers. Although it might be argued that the character of the electorate will be enhanced if it contained fewer lawyers and more plumbers and service workers.

This is sobering stuff. Unlike psychometric test scores, these are physics experiments which are essential for understanding the world. As a 12 year old I can certainly remember being taught about moments of force and the use of levers. I don’t think we did anything at that age on pendulums, and the Archimedes problem was explained to us in general terms in Maths and Physics classes (together with an explanation of the Plimsol Line), though I don’t recall doing experiments on it. I can certainly remember feeling, on being asked to weigh a beaker prior to doing an experiment, that the task was ridiculous because a beaker was too light to make any difference. I soon learned not to make my arms a reference point for the determination of the mass of the universe. I have no idea how I would have fared on these experiments. I assume the Equilibrium task would have been easy, the other two probably difficult.

Can we conclude from these results that youngsters today are helpless, confused and likely to believe any sort of rubbish about the physical world? Well, only Britain seems to have tracked this issue in any depth. Perhaps there are more historical Piagetian data from other countries out there somewhere. Let us, for the time being, consider Britain to be the canary in the mine. We seem to have a generation which cannot operate the levers of empiricism. If this were really true, what would we notice? An incapacity to fix material objects, and just buy instant replacements? A petulant requirement that everything in society should be fixed, but not by them? A belief in windmills? A belief that new batteries are just about to be invented that will solve everything?

Perhaps Flynn and Shayer are right about the numbers of logical thinkers being drastically reduced. They themselves talk about a “huge decimation”. My readers will of course know that “decimation” refers to the killing of one in every ten of a mutinous Roman legion as a punishment. The authors mean “a huge reduction”, but we will let that pass. The results are alarming because of the real nature of the test. The bits and pieces of the fundamental problem are laid before the adolescents, and if they cannot put them together, then they fail: a true zero. (Yes, given time we could count the hours taken over successive testing sessions until the solution emerged, if it ever did).

Because the results alarm me, I disagree with their final joke about lawyers, and the implication that students who fail to master the experimental method will turn out to be good plumbers and service workers. Not so. Plumbers, electricians, roofers and repairers need to have the minds of well-trained detectives and experimentalists. Remember that next time the light go out, and water starts dripping into the house.

• Category: Science • Tags: Dysgenic, IQ 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Archimedes realized that he could determine whether the king’s crown was made of pure gold by examining the amount of water it displaced.

    I’m a bit tipsy now so forgive me but… whether it’s gold or tungsten the crown would sink completely and displace the same amount of water (the volume of the crown would be same).

    Can we conclude from these results that youngsters today are helpless, confused and likely to believe any sort of rubbish about the physical world?

    Possibly. Too many Marvel movies where a (100 Kg, tops) superhero throws a cable around a building/tank and pulls it (without any additional support) toward himself because he’s strong. I don’t watch those movies anymore but I distinctly remember cringing when a werewolf in one of the “Underworld” movies effortlessly pulled in a huge helicopter like that.

    As for the young-uns getting dumber: Western demography is changing for the worse so it’s unrealistic to expect the same results. Here are some of the questions for eighth grade students in 1912:

    Dumb & Dumber – Scientific Proof That People Are Getting ‘Stupider’

  2. @Anonymous

    Thank you for the very impressive exam paper. I could solve some of them, honest.

    Archimedes had weighed the crown. He would have like to have melted it down for an easy calculation of volume, but that would have destroyed the handiwork. By putting the crown in water and using displacement he was able to find the volume of this highly irregular solid. He could then use the weight by volume calculation of its relative density, and compare it with what would be expected of a solid gold crown. Since gold is very dense, he was able to detect the hidden addition of less dense metals, such as copper or lead.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @astrolabe
  3. PiqueABoo says:

    Modern parenting and the nature of childhood play is of course the most obvious factor. I’ve been a more reckless parent to my daughter by prevalent standards, but there is only so much you can do when other parents won’t let their children out of the house to join your child unless you assure them there has been a full risk-assessment and will provide a close protection team. There is a lot less play where they have the freedom to explore and become the subject of fundamental physics e.g. climb trees, make rope swings and play in streams.

    We like outdoors-stuff so got daughter rock climbing around the age of eight and I used to joke that she was learning quite a lot of physics: gravity, friction, force, elasticity, pendulum motion. I suspect there is a little truth in that. Would she fare better in those tests than a gadget addict who doesn’t get out much?

    • Replies: @James N. Kennett
  4. dearieme says:

    ‘My readers will of course know that “decimation” refers to the killing of one in every ten of a mutinous Roman legion as a punishment.’ At least one of your readers remembers that as one of the few interesting things he learnt in Latin class.

    Mind you, if starting Physics before about age twelve would be pointless, would the same be true of learning Latin? But little tots of my father’s generation were obliged to spend endless hours on Latin.
    I conclude that many of the claims about studying Latin being good for your powers of reasoning are probably tosh.

  5. Where exactly in the UK were these kids tested in? Could the test location be subject to demographic change over the time periods between the various tests?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
    , @res
    , @Hamish
  6. Sunbeam says:

    For god’s sake.

    I don’t have the slightest idea if you read this, or give it any credence.

    But why do you think performance on these kinds of tests have dropped? Have you ever asked yourself why modern youths can’t seem to get from point A to point B, even after having travelled the route before?

    Have you noted the fact that changing a flat tire, something virtually every young male knew how to do at one time, seems to be a daunting challenge to the aforementioned modern youths?

    But in contrast to past generations, they play umpteen hours of online games, and walk around with cell phones engaging their attention – all the time.

    Now forget about testing. Forget about anything you learned in a psychology classroom or read in a text.

    And ask yourself this: what exactly do you expect from kids that grow up in what is a fairly common modern environment?

    Everyone knows this. They talk about things like this all the time. And you have to see a decline in the numbers of children that seem to know what leverage is?

    Here’s another question for you.

    “Robert Siegler (1979) gave children a balance beam task in which some discs were placed either side of the centre of balance. The researcher changed the number of discs or moved them along the beam, each time asking the child to predict which way the balance would go.

    He studied the answers given by children from five years upwards, concluding that they apply rules which develop in the same sequence as, and thus reflect, Piaget’s findings. Like Piaget, he found that eventually the children were able to take into account the interaction between the weight of the discs and the distance from the centre, and so successfully predict balance. However, this did not happen until participants were between 13 and 17 years of age.”

    Let’s say you had a time machine and could give this test to children in some typical English village, circa 1750 or so.

    While they might not have answered questions with language you would respect, do you seriously think any of them WOULDN’T understand the concept of a seesaw and how it works? All the while scoring with their illiterate selves on your tests as if they had brains of cabbage.

    Plus I guarantee you that if I took a slew of them on a long hike, then left them alone in the woods, all of them would make it home okay. Actually they wouldn’t even have to think about it, they’d just scamper home chattering all the way.

    Whereas I have to tell young male relatives “Turn here. Uhh you are going to need to get into the other lane, we will have to turn in a mile or so,” when going to a place they’ve been to numerous times before.

  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @James Thompson

    Thanks for the clarification. If anyone’s interested, the answers are here:

  8. res says:
    @Abelard Lindsey

    Could the test location be subject to demographic change over the time periods between the various tests?

    That question does seem like the elephant in the room.

    This mention of Woodley’s research on page 2 is suggestive: “They found that high levels of immigration were correlated with IQ decline, particularly when the decline was measured by tests with a high g loading.”

    But they go on to say: “However, our analysis focuses on a relatively brief period from about 1980 to 2014, or about one generation. Clearly during most of the 20th century social factors were so potent that they overwhelmed other negative trends, hence IQ gains over time.”
    Which seems odd to me. I would think during that time period the rise in immigration (especially the “not so selective” kind) has been especially important.

    And: “Dutton and Lynn (2013) conclude that immigration in Scandinavia during this period is too small to be an important factor. ”
    Which I find to be an interesting interpretation of the relevant section of that reference given the definition of Scandinavia (emphasis mine):

    Third, the declines of IQ in Norway, Denmark, Australia, Great Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands may be partly attributable to the large numbers of non-European immigrants with lower IQs who settled in these countries from the mid-1960s onwards. At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, 13.1% of the Norwegian population were non-European (Statistics Norway, 2012), as were 11.4% in Denmark (StatBank, 2012), 21% in the Netherlands (CBS StatLine, 2012), 11% in the UK (UK Census, 2011), and approximately 20% in Australia (Australian Bureau of statistics, 2011). These non-European peoples, with the exception of the Chinese, have average IQs ranging from 10 to 30 points lower than the European average (Lynn, 2006; Lynn & Vanhanen, 2012), so immigrants from these countries are likely to reduce the average IQs in Western nations, and this could explain some or even all of the decline in IQs in Western European nations.

    This is unlikely to have been a factor in Finland because there were few non-European immigrants in Finland during the years 1997–2009. In 2012, 4.8% of the Finnish population were immigrants or had at least one immigrant parent (Statistics Finland, 2012) and the great majority of these were Russians and Estonians, whose average IQ is the approximately same as that of the Finns at around 100 (Lynn & Vanhanen, 2012). Those of non-European, including American, origin made up just 1.8% of the Finnish population in 2012 (Statistics Finland, 2012). Thus, the decline of IQs in Finland cannot be attributed to the arrival of significant numbers of immigrants who may have had lower average IQs than the indigenous population. The most probable reason for the declines in IQs that have now been recorded in a number of countries is the presence of dysgenic fertility, i.e. the negative association between intelligence and numbers of children that has been reported in Sweden (Nystrom, Bygren, & Vining, 1991), Denmark (Nyborg, 2012), Finland (Dutton, 2012) and a number of other countries reviewed in Lynn (2011). For Denmark, Nyborg (2012), employing a combination of simulations involving demographic changes and interpolation based on theoretical IQ losses due to the negative fertility-IQ correlation, estimates the decline in IQ attributable to the combined effects of both within and between population dysgenic fertility for the period 1979–2010 at 3.11 points equivalent to approximately one point per decade.

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown for the relative contributions of within and between population dysgenic fertility.

    The regions of the UK used for the Piagetian data are mentioned on page 6:

    Britain has Piagetian data of high quality. For trends on Volume & Heaviness, sixty-nine samples (ages 11–12; school year 7) yielded more than 2000 subjects tested each year (Shayer, Ginsburg, & Coe, 2007). They represented both England and Wales and also state and independent schools. The trends on other tests were based on eight schools with 913 subjects (ages 12–13 & 13–14; school year 8–9). However, their Piagetian scores were compared to national norms on the Cognitive Abilities Test, or the Middle Years Information System Test from the University of Durham (Shayer & Ginsburg, 2009).

    Perhaps someone in the UK could comment on the population demographics likely there (or follow the references to check)? I don’t have the UK background knowledge to interpret effectively.

    I agree Table 5 is a bit hard to understand, but if I do you are right about a crash. Showing it pictorially might be a bit too effective. Those numbers are scary if representative of reality.

    It seems to me that Flynn and Shayer chose (probably wisely) to just hand wave away the immigration elephant in the room.

    P.S. This interesting excerpt near the end speaks to comment 6:

    Shayer speculates about the evolution of British society over the relevant period (since 1989 – when the subjects were 5 or 6). Children drifted away from formal toward concrete thinking. They became more and more immersed in modern visual and aural electronic culture. More time (four to five hours a day, more on weekends) spent on TV, computer games, and cell-phones, all of which decrease their attention span. A hypothesis: When Volume and Heaviness was first used in the CSMS National survey in 1975–6 there was a boy/girl IQ difference of 0.50 SD. At the time, this was attributed to differential play patterns between the ages of 4 to 8. These were unaltered until 1994. After that, thanks to the new electronic culture, the way in which boys and girls spent their free time gradually became the same. As a result, the IQ gender gap steadily decreased. By 2002 it disappeared and in 2003, boys and girls began to suffer IQ decline in tandem (Shayer et al., 2007, Fig. 2).

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  9. El Dato says:

    “Give three duties of the President”.

    Bombing stuff. Grabbing pussy. Seizing resources in foreign lands.

    But yeah, these developments may explain “JavaScript/MongoDB on the backend” being taken seriously and hoovering up millions upon millions of bucks and manhours so one can install crippling radioactive illiterate waste where it should never be.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
  10. nebulafox says:
    @El Dato

    I’ve met developers who couldn’t even tell me what a compiler or a binary search tree was… and they were racking in six-digit salaries while I was struggling to get interviews at all. (I’m employed now, and man, I am *not* eager to go back to job hunting.) And instead of spending billions on going to Mars or cracking high-Tc superconductivity mechanisms, billions are rewarded to people who come up with apps that are convenient, but don’t fundamentally change lives. Or on how to cure baldness or old people’s erections or whatever…

    Imperial Decline.

    • Replies: @FKA Max
    , @ANON
    , @Anonymous
  11. Randal says:

    if a child cannot solve these problems, they can probably not

    Sadly, you go with the modern approach of not using “he” for the general case, I see.

    Call me a dinosaur, but abusing the plural in order to avoid using the English language in a way that offends modern feminists will always come across as awkward and unpleasant.

  12. @Randal

    Agreed. I may have fallen into bad habits because of British Psychological Society style guidelines, or perhaps the crime is of my own making.

    • Replies: @Randal
  13. FKA Max says: • Website

    … billions are rewarded to people who come up with apps that are convenient, but don’t fundamentally change lives.

    Actually, they do fundamentally change lives, but unfortunately for the worse, in my opinion.

    I distinctly remember, when I read the first news story about a driver who had driven into a river because instead of paying attention to the road he/she followed/trusted his/her GPS, that we would be in big trouble.

    Many people readily and happily cede and outsource their logical and critical thinking faculties and decision making processes to outside authorities, and that is the real problem, in my opinion.

    Our greater and greater reliance on technology actually cripples our capacity to trust ourselves and to think for ourselves and to experiment, etc.

    I think this behavior can probably be explained by the human tendency towards pain/risk avoidance.

    This might be where, when and how the rot started:

    University of Georgia professor Richard Mullendore described the rise of the cell phone as a contributing factor for helicopter parenting—having called cell phones “the world’s longest umbilical cord”.[5][16] Some parents, for their part, point to rising college tuition costs, saying they are just protecting their investment or acting like any other consumer. […]
    Dr. Clare Ashton-James, in a cross-national survey of parents, concluded that “helicopter parents” reported higher levels of happiness.[19] Some studies have shown that overprotective, overbearing or over-controlling parents can cause long-term mental health problems for their offspring. The description of these mental health problems may possibly be lifelong and its impact comparable in scale to individuals who have suffered bereavement, according to the University College London. According to the Medical Research Council “psychological control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour”.

    Michael Drives Into A Lake – The Office US

    Helicopter Parents vs. Free Range Kids: Q&A with “America’s Worst Mom” Lenore Skenazy

    • Replies: @FKA Max
    , @gwynedd1
    , @Dale
  14. Randal says:
    @James Thompson

    I suppose most establishment style guides these days must by now have caved in to the general pressure to use social engineering usages of that kind in relation to gender. It’s, as usual, left up to the occasional, heroic curmudgeon to stand against it.

  15. This seems to say that intelligence, or at any rate IQ, varies rapidly and importantly for–oh God, oh God–cultural reasons.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  16. FKA Max says: • Website
    @FKA Max

    Correction: I distinctly remember *thinking*, when I read the first news story about a driver who had driven into a river because instead of paying attention to the road he/she followed/trusted his/her GPS, that we would be in big trouble.

    Sat-navs and mobile apps ‘threaten map-reading skills’

    The Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) said increasing dependence on technology means people are losing the ability to find their way by traditional methods.

    The RIN wants schools to encourage the teaching of basic map-reading because few pupils can read one.

    Its president, Roger McKinlay, said society is “sedated by software”.

    Mr McKinlay added: “It is concerning that children are no longer routinely learning at home or school how to do anything more than press ‘search’ buttons on a device to get anywhere.
    The RIN believes that map-reading can develop character, independence and an appreciation of maths and science.
    RIN director Peter Chapman-Andrews told the BBC “technology must not replace thinking”.

    He warned that the Global Positioning System (GPS), used by many sat-nav and mobile map systems, “cannot always be depended on”.

    Mr Chapman-Andrews said: “We are not anti-technology. We encourage the use of technology, but the use of it intelligently.”

  17. When I was a tot, we had a toy balance beam in the house. You hung different integers on either side until they balanced. Since the numbers were sized proportionately, you learned addition at the same time as you learned about equilibrium.

    Both the pendulum and buoyancy are beyond most adults. Instinctively, most adults will say that weight affects pendulum period.

    Buoyancy is treacherously subtle. Not until I built boats as an adult did I truly grasp all the implications. Boats are harder because as weight is added the immersed volume does not rise linearly since the sides generally flare outwards with height above waterline. Exact calculations would involve numerous curves, areas, volumes and calculus. Marine designers and engineers settle for close enough and use algebra. How many pounds of weight must be added to a particular hull with such and such square foot water plane area so as to produce one inch additional immersion?

    The big loss, as I see it, is in our having deleted manual arts training from our schools for 7th and 8th grade boys. A paradox. How can loss of formal reasoning skills be attributed to neglect of prior stage manual skills?

    Because learning is sequential. And boys and girls at this critical transition age learn by manipulating. The concepts come clear to them in the doing of the thing. Adults mistakingly believe that children and young adults learn the same way that adults recollect stuff, ie from the top down. But children learn from the bottom up. Boys learn about the principle of magnetic fields generated by current passing through a conductor by winding wire around a nail and connecting the ends to a battery.

    Book learning cannot replace the actual doing. So even bookish kids who do get the general principle are at a loss when confronted with a stubborn furnace motor.

    In our rush to produce little Einsteins we are neglecting to take into account the way children learn. This was Piaget’s critical insight.

    And one final thing. Only in Art and Industrial Ed. classes were little boys allowed to stand up, move around and make a mess; in other words, be boys. Part of what’s going on is attributable to the unacknowledged war on masculinity. Predominantly female teachers see no reason for boys to be boys. Let them be just like the girls. Neat, tidy and well behaved (meaning, sit still!, stop fidgeting!, sit down!).

  18. nebulafox says:

    Essentially. You could view a lot of the dysfunction in both the black and white working classes as the inevitable result of them imitating what they have picked up from their societal superiors. Unlike them, they don’t have the monetary resources or connections or innate abilities (usually a varying combination of the three) to recover from a period of college-aged decadence. What can be an embarrassing period of frivolity, in hindsight, for a high-IQ, well-connected upper-middle class white kid can be lethal for somebody else who requires a more structured, disciplined environment to succeed and/or can’t really afford to screw up as badly. I speak from personal experience as someone who lacked the mental/emotional ability to pull off the same dual life that his college aged peers did, yet naively attempted (and failed anyway) to.

  19. Call me a dinosaur, but abusing the plural in order to avoid using the English language in a way that offends modern feminists will always come across as awkward and unpleasant.

    Both you and James Thompson are sadly out-of-date: the new norm calls for “she” in such indeterminate cases. When I recently returned to perusing (in the original, “correct”, sense) academic papers and journals after a rather sustained hiatus (three decades), I was rather shocked to discover this usage, and assumed that it was only a relatively rare “virtue signalling”. Later I realised that it has becoming extraordinarily common and almost certainly institutionally-imposed. And I am not talking about fringe subject areas, but serious law and economics papers/books. To cite just a few examples from a book recently published by Cambridge University Press (Trademark and Unfair Competition Conflicts: Historical-Comparative, Doctrinal, and Economic Perspectives):

    When an individual had appropriated an object from the public domain through labor, it was clear that she was not to be deprived of it.

    Each trademark communicates a particular set of information that the consumer does not need to gather herself every time she considers a purchase.

    If a party acts in more than one jurisdiction, including the forum state where she is domiciled or incorporated, she will always be—regardless of what happens abroad—subject to the forum courts’ jurisdiction.

    The trademark owner thereby suffers, as Schechter calls it, a “double whammy”—not only will the right owner suffer injury in foreign markets, but she will also run the risk of reputational harm and of damage from (potentially) declining domestic sales in the future.

    • Replies: @Randal
  20. Most modern US playgrounds do not have seesaws, or teeter-totters, due to safety concerns.
    Some schools systems are banning swings: Some schools are banning balls and mandating “coaches” for tag, because students might trip while running.

    So, it’s like a bizarre experiment in which US adults try to shelter children from Newtonian Physics. My oldest child went on a service trip to eastern Europe; the time the high-school students spent playing on the old-fashioned playground featured prominently in the stories of the trip.

    When my children were young, I observed that infant toys were becoming boring push-button crud rather than concrete opportunities to observe cause and effect. So, there’s this toy:

    Rather than this toy:

    I’ve saved our infant toys. It’s noticeable that the wooden/eco lines, which are more expensive, don’t have the push button nonsense.

  21. I have a comment awaiting moderation.

    It is noticeable that high schools will often see shop (carpentry) and trade instruction as not “college prep.” Thus, some high schools have gotten rid of their carpentry shops, on the premise that students interested in such things will choose the vocational technical school instead.

    My husband, an engineer, asked first thing when I told him the news, “but how will the engineers learn to take things apart?”

    • Replies: @j
    , @Dale
  22. Have you seen this report?

    It explains why the children in our allergists’ office are well behaved.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  23. Randal says:

    Both you and James Thompson are sadly out-of-date

    You write that like it’s a bad thing….

    the new norm calls for “she” in such indeterminate cases. When I recently returned to perusing (in the original, “correct”, sense) academic papers and journals after a rather sustained hiatus (three decades), I was rather shocked to discover this usage, and assumed that it was only a relatively rare “virtue signalling”. Later I realised that it has becoming extraordinarily common and almost certainly institutionally-imposed.

    Yes, this has been around for some time now, and my reaction to it has always been like yours – I put it down to irritating posturing by the writer.

    I don’t know if it is actually in any style guides (I haven’t had cause to look at one for decades and the few I have in my own library are similarly decades old). Without direct observation of that, I’d still put it down to individual posturing and virtue signalling rather than being imposed. It’s just even more irritating nowadays for being unoriginal and pedestrian, as well as being as sanctimonious as it always was.

  24. Factorize says:

    Doctor Thompson, could you offer an opinion on the hardline g theorist perspective that
    intelligence is a fixed property of the mind?

    Such a point of view should be most clearly apparent when measuring IQ certeris paribus (i.e., over the short term with fixed environment/technology), instead of over decades during which various changes in the cognitive environment can shift the psychometric meaning of mental tasks.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  25. Sunbeam says:

    I think I must be some kind of arch pessimist. My impression is that there is a definite limit to what envionment can modify “positively” (whatever we choose as good or useful), ….

    And a whole helluva lot environment can do to screw things up. To my mind things are a lot more fragile and dependent on social systems than people like Jayman (and I guess this poster from England) care to admit.

    Take something like literacy. If you don’t teach a kid to read at a relatively young age, you wind up with a different kind of person than they would have been if they did. Learning to read at age 20 is not the same thing as at age 6. And that early learning depends on either parents or a schooling system that is omnipresent in Western countries.

    Of course, there’s no real way to test something like this. You could of course, use twins (like all the best studies do). But then you’d have to find a way to separate them at birth, and raise one in a place like Palo Alto with doting supportive parents.

    And send the other to be raised by some kind of hill tribesmen in … Hell, pick Afghanistan.

    Language barrier aside, these kids are not going to score at all similarly on IQ tests, math tests, any kind of test. With the same genetic makeup, one might attend Stanford and become a noted scientist.

    That isn’t going to happen with the other one, most likely.

    Aside from my point about literacy fundamentally rewiring or changing the development of a young brain, there is another angle on this whole thing.

    10,000 hours might not be capable of making you a world level practicer of whatever, if you lack the genetics for it. But even if you have the genetics, a lot of things have to go right for those genetics to fully express their potential.

    Take some kid from Iceland with the genes to become an uber powerlifter. But raise him in Calcutta. Not going to happen. Wrong environment, no peers around to push him to become even better, heck I doubt if he ever would get into pumping iron.

    Maybe a silly example, but there are lots of other ones out there. And a lot of things this site discusses frequently, like Nobel Prizes in Physics, or Fields Medals depend on you following a fairly clockwork progression, and being “in position to make the play” at the right time in your life.

    If you go to college at age 30, and find you have a real gift for math, your 38 year old Phd ain’t gonna produce what an alternate universe version of you did that attended at 18 and got a Phd at 24.

    And obviously the same thing applies to sports. If you are a sprinter, however it happens, you better be on the starting line from about age 20 to 26. You aren’t going to be on the line at the Olympics starting at age 32 and working for your first shot at age 36.

  26. @Sunbeam

    It is possible that the main influence of the environment is a negative one, in that it can mess up performance when it is very bad, but be a neutral facilitator when it is OK.
    Twin studies suggest that the effects of adoption are usually quite limited.

    Practice helps somewhat, but less than popularly thought

  27. @Factorize

    Big question.
    First, I think that extracting a g factor is the best way of comparing performance on different tests of cognitive ability, both formal and informal. It is a cleaner measure that a score total.
    Second, I think that overall ability does not vary that much over the lifespan, so long as one makes allowance for age related changes. That is, people maintain their relative population ranking throughout their lives (until well into old age, when random physical problems intervene).
    Third, “a fixed property of the mind”. Yes, I suppose so, if you add in the above age changes, and short-term changes because illness/fatigue etc, which we can lump together as measurement error.

  28. Factorize says:

    Thank you very much for replying!

    I realize that “intelligence as a fixed property of mind” is somewhat touchy
    and it has a range of implications that many (including myself) find disturbing.

    One implication being that even the large gains in intelligence experienced
    over the last many decades can be understood as psychometrically hollow.
    All we are left with are relative performances through time as a truer measure
    of intelligence than the actual scores. If true, then even Mensa might be conflating
    psychometric g and recorded scores.

    As another baseline question: What is the current expected IQ difference between
    identical twins who have been rigorously selected on (adjustments made for) the basis
    of exhibiting very similar genetics (current evidence has found that identical twins are not genetically identical), similar intrauterine environments etc. . If psychometricians could
    measure the IQ of one identical twin and predict with a very high degree of accuracy the IQ
    of the other twin, then this would be substantial confirming evidence of psychometric science.
    I am especially interested in what the latest research on this question might have found.

    Given all the confusions that can arise from discussion of psychometrics, especially
    for non-professional psychometricians, it would be extremely helpful to have a post,
    possibly coblogged by others on unz, with 10 Commandments of Psychometrics.
    So much of the discussion on this forum cycles back time and time again to basic
    principles of psychometrics that can then be argued yet again. With the
    10 Commandments a basic set of ideas will be put forth as received truth,
    subject to objective scientific scrutiny. Hopefully, this could reduce the endless

    None of the Commandments would need to be especially controversial
    from the perspective of the profession consensus. I nominate the
    idea that genetic enhancement of people is emerging that will ultimately
    allow for optimized IQ of 1500+ to be included in these 10.

  29. @Anonymous

    Archimedes already knew the specific gravity of pure gold.

  30. @dearieme

    I recall an Oxford Greats graduate of great distinction in the law and business opining that a good use for the 8 to 11 year old mind (don’t hold me to his precise ages) was to memorise and memorising Latin and Greek grammar and vocabulary was the best.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  31. @Sunbeam

    But also ask yourself this: what exactly do you expect from kids who have been disproportionately bred by and by the descendants of the relatively low IQ people who adopted birth control long after the smart and educated?

  32. ANON • Disclaimer says:

    Respect please. Don’t you joke about old people’s erections Sir – or Madam as the case may be. One day….

  33. dearieme says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    Yeah, but how would he know? What controlled experiments did he perform?

  34. Hamish says:
    @Abelard Lindsey

    British cities are loaded with non-Europeans, mostly Afros and S Asians. The ethnic identity ‘White British’ (a census category) is a minority in all major UK cities.

    All thanks to contraception.

  35. @East Coast

    I’m not sure why you said, though I suppose jokingly, that the article explained “why the children in our allergists’ office are well behaved” but I did react immediately to the article that I would be very surprised if members of Mensa were in any way typical of people whose IQs are more than 2 sds above average. Sad that anyone with an IQ of 130, let alone 145, should feel the need to join a club with Mensa’s qualifying criteria.

    • Replies: @Dale
  36. Joe Hide says:

    It’s no problem at all. Just do like they do in schools. Grade inflation. Kids that used to get C’s and D’s now get B’s and A’s. Everyone passes. Just do the same with intelligence tests. If as time passes, the average person becomes below average in I.Q. (HA!) just give them a 100 I.Q. If 10% are at 120 I.Q,, grade that as genius level. This “I.Q. inflation” will do what grade inflation has done for the economy, culture, and politics.

  37. @dearieme

    He had some teaching experience and his grandfather; whom he had known well and learned from, had been a headmaster, but I suspect it was a common sense observation based on the knowledge or assumption that rote learning was relatively strong and logical analysis relatively week during those pre adolescent years together with his view of the value of mastery of Greek and Latin if one didn’t have to use all one’s adolescent years on them.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  38. dearieme says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    Fair enough, but that rote learning capacity might have been used more fruitfully on biology and chemistry, French and German, English prose and poetry.

    When I was young we were assured that our learning Latin would help us to think more logically. I never found that argument in the least persuasive. Crosswords might well have been better for us, or rounds of Bridge. Or just more maths and physics, history and geography.

    “Two little girls, one on each knee (7 letters)”.

  39. Randal says:

    “Two little girls, one on each knee (7 letters)”.


    • LOL: Twodees Partain
    • Replies: @dearieme
    , @Dale
  40. @dearieme

    To understand what Archimedes did you have to have basic knowledge arithmetic.
    You have to know that two multiplied by two is four and six divided by three is two.
    The rest you will understand easily. He also needed a pure golden nugget.
    Naturally he could also bite into golden crown and check the imprint. If he sow the imprint than it was pure gold. If he did not see the imprint than it was not. but Archimedes did not do that.

    This is what Archimedes did:
    He put golden nugget on the scale. seeing the weight he wrote down the number.
    Than he took a hair from horses tail and hanged the nugget on scale.
    Than he submerged the nugget in water and measured the weight again.
    Than he wrote down the number.
    Than he divided the fist number by second number, and the result he wrote down.

    Than he took the crown and did the same procedure with the crown.
    If the numbers matched than the crown was pure gold.
    If the numbers did not match than King had a right to execute the Jewish Goldsmith.
    (Just kidding)

  41. Only anecdotal evidence, I know, but suggestive anyway: success on the more g-loaded rhetorical analysis essay on the AP English Lang and Comp exam has been steadily declining among students at our school over the past several years, while scores on the synthesis and argumentative essays, which require less precise use of language, have remained stable. Enrollment and success in calculus, physics, and chemistry have plummeted. We first started to see the change about ten years ago, when social media were becoming more dominant.

  42. gwynedd1 says:
    @FKA Max

    Indeed. We need to find a way to make better humans in lieu of crutches. Its a tricky thing but essential.

  43. @Sunbeam

    The village children, being the offspring of the ubiquitous “ag. lab.” as the later censuses put it, would know that stuff backwards. Almost everything was weighed on a steelyard, from gold guineas to sheep to fully-laden carts. Fancy double action grocers’ balances with a pan and spring balances were almost unknown.

    They might have had a bit of trouble reading the time off a pocketwatch, though. As do modern children.

  44. @Sunbeam

    If you go to college at age 30, and find you have a real gift for math, your 38 year old Phd ain’t gonna produce what an alternate universe version of you did that attended at 18 and got a Phd at 24.
    That seems like a strange thing to say. I don’t understand the logic behind the statement. At age 38 there is not significant cognitive decline but you are more likely to be well-read in a wider variety of subjects.

    • Replies: @Sunbeam
    , @Dale
  45. George says:

    Are there links explaining the actual experiments, lesson plans? The links I found require payment.

    Could it be video games what’s done it? Video games have their own ‘physics’ which does not necessarily have to be logical or compatible with real world physics. Video games also slow down or speed up based on ability. Real world objects are governed by physics, you have to speed up or slow down. I have also noticed that for whatever reason kids do not seem to be playing sports as much. Before I get nostalgic, concussions were a bad part of growing up in the past.

  46. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @Frederick V. Reed

    This seems to say that intelligence, or at any rate IQ, varies rapidly and importantly for–oh God, oh God–cultural reasons.

    It’s not that intelligence varies, but that intelligence evolves in different ways in different circumstances, cultural, physical and technological.

    Western culture during the 20th century was deeply influenced by a largely mechanical technology, so children, boys in particular, naturally were interested in mechanics and, hence, performed well on tests of mechanical aptitude.

    Western youth of today, exist in a world of digital devices and services that, to the user, are almost indistinguishable from magic. Naturally, therefore, the course of intellectual development has also changed, and scores on so-called intelligence tests requiring an understanding of mechanical devices will have declined.

    In their grasp of mechanics, Westerners are beginning to more closely resemble sub-Saharan Africans who never were embedded in an advanced mechanical civilization.

    Thus, Western scores on 20th Century IQ tests will likely continue to decline as Western civilization converges with that of sub-Sharan Africa, i.e., a pagan civilization, dominated by a fantasy life created by fake media, Hollywood, and the porn industries and surrounded by seemingly magic technology providing world-spanning cell-phone communications, a diet of processed, ready-to-eat food, self-driving automobiles, and holidays in space.

  47. @PiqueABoo

    Modern parenting and the nature of childhood play is of course the most obvious factor.

    Correct. Just as interaction with computer screens makes children better at the traditional IQ test, so a lack of outdoor play will make them less adept at these physics-based tasks.

    Changing demographics (mentioned in other comments) is unlikely to be the explanation, because the work claims to have sampled a large number of children from state and independent schools. There appears to be no systematic bias against “natives”, and the demographic changes over the last 25 years are not large enough to explain such a large decrease of high achievers.

    It is the arrival of the Nintendo generation. Outdoor places, where 40 years ago children used to play, are now so little used that they have become overgrown with brambles.

  48. dearieme says:

    Just as well I didn’t say Rubbers of Bridge then.

  49. Anonymous [AKA "back seat driver"] says:

    I wonder what your young male relatives think of your back seat driving. Have you ever asked them?

    I wonder what they say about your back seat driving when you’re not around.

  50. Outdoor places, where 40 years ago children used to play, are now so little used that they have become overgrown with brambles.

    Not just brambles. Heaps of broken spirits bottles; used needles; armed dealers waiting for their punters; homeless Eastern European alcoholics (often evading the Law for trivia like murder in their place of origin), and indigenous, seriously mentally ill men who used to be warehoused in the giant psych wards of old before Care in the Community (don’t laugh); “refugees”, seeking to ameliorate their inexplicable “sexual emergencies”; off-the leash “devil dogs” and their chav owners. Stray politicians on “badger watch”.

    All overseen by the unsleeping and ubiquitous CCTV, that apparently sees nothing. Unless the Authorities want it to, that is.
    If those hypothetical kids lit a fire (if they even knew how) to grill some bangers on a stick, Famous Five style, the SWAT/Armed Response team would be on them like a Kevlar sack of organic manure. God help them if they had a penknife.
    If a boy went for a pee in the bushes, well, bang to rights, Sexual Offenders’ Register, forever.

    At the very least the parents would be subject to a 30-strong social worker inquisition and subsequent punishment. Maybe the kids would be forcibly adopted to a nice gay couple, rather than the natural parents who have so failed them.

    • Replies: @Dale
  51. Rurik says:

    I’d love to know what the correct answer to the History question #6 was..

  52. Factorize says:

    Did anyone else notice how easy the Arithmetic section on the grade 8 exam was in comparison to the other sections? For me this contrast was dramatic and I think clearly shows how ability level in the community is greatly influenced by its potential usefulness. In the modern digital age, a mathematical cognitive style is pervasively present when dealing with computers. It can hardly be surprising that our digital world has resulted in high level performance in digital skills.

  53. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    t. confusing economics and politics
    sure, economics are important to wise politics
    but your army will trump my economics every time

  54. Sunbeam says:

    I thought it was common knowledge that if you are going to do groundbreaking work, work that makes a real difference in fields like Mathematics and Physics, you do it in your 20’s.

    Did a quick search and found a couple of links, but nothing covering the argument exactly.

    People like Newton, Einstein, a ton of other did the work that made them famous in their 20’s.

    I can tell you that the few links I did find, mentioned some outliers that apparently stayed productive even with age. But a guy like Gauss would be a freak in any time period.

    • Replies: @FKA Max
    , @Wizard of Oz
  55. cbrown says:

    The rate of development of ones brain functions vary.
    The interest of one childhood as well vary and will changed overtime.
    That being said the average range exists and i don’t see anything wrong to expose the learning children into every learning subject. The only failure is we’re not exactly trying as much to discern a children interest and talent in each subject. None could completely do so anyway.

    @Author maybe some comparison in the adults in each generation can accompany this subject since i believe the primetime for most people is when the brains reaching full development and have their IQ, EQ balanced out.

  56. Later research has linked the period of great creativity to male celibacy/single status rather than age per second.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  57. FKA Max says: • Website

    Maybe it partly has to do with the lower average life expectancy of the past?

    10 Notable Mathematicians Who Died Young


    Did you see this story, yet?

    A Long-Sought Proof, Found and Almost Lost

    When a German retiree proved a famous long-standing mathematical conjecture, the response was underwhelming.

    Royen hadn’t given the Gaussian correlation inequality much thought before the “raw idea” for how to prove it came to him over the bathroom sink. Formerly an employee of a pharmaceutical company, he had moved on to a small technical university in Bingen, Germany, in 1985 in order to have more time to improve the statistical formulas that he and other industry statisticians used to make sense of drug-trial data. In July 2014, still at work on his formulas as a 67-year-old retiree, Royen found that the GCI could be extended into a statement about statistical distributions he had long specialized in. On the morning of the 17th, he saw how to calculate a key derivative for this extended GCI that unlocked the proof. “The evening of this day, my first draft of the proof was written,” he said.

    Speaking of pharmaceutical companies. I just posted a comment on another potential contributor to this negative trend mentioned in this article on one of Mr. Thompson’s other articles. Maybe “Big Pharma” is causing the rot?

    Depression: It’s Not Your Serotonin

    by Kelly Brogan, MD

    An important analysis by the former director of the NIMH makes claims that antidepressants “create perturbations in neurotransmitter functions” causing the body to compensate through a series of adaptations which occur after “chronic administration” leading to brains that function, after a few weeks, in a way that is “qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the normal state.”
    So, when your doctor says, “You see, look how sick you are, you shouldn’t have stopped that medication,” you should know that the data suggests that your symptoms are withdrawal, not relapse.

    Longitudinal studies demonstrate poor functional outcomes for those treated with 60% of patients still meeting diagnostic criteria at one year (despite transient improvement within the first 3 months). When baseline severity is controlled for, two prospective studies support a worse outcome in those prescribed medication:

    One in which the never-medicated group experienced a 62% improvement by six months, whereas the drug-treated patients experienced only a 33% reduction in symptoms, and another WHO study of depressed patients in 15 cities which found that, at the end of one year, those who weren’t exposed to psychotropic medications enjoyed much better “general health;” that their depressive symptoms were much milder;” and that they were less likely to still be “mentally ill.”

    • Replies: @pyrrhus
    , @FKA Max
  58. @dearieme

    Not too bad, about half a minute – PatElla?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  59. @Philip Owen

    “Later research has linked the period of great creativity to male celibacy/single status rather than age per se.”

    Is that right? Any links?

    “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”

  60. @James Thompson

    Must be those two years of Latin 40 years ago at state grammar.

  61. @James Thompson

    I think I could have but sheered away in instinctive protection against something I could become addicted to or at least waste a lot of time on. My wandering brain lights on an analogy. When l can’t remember a name I start running through possible or possibly possible nanes from A to Z and it is a remarkably good way to get to the answer. For crosswords I would of course hope to discover particular authors’ styles and gimmicks but here, without that, I think I might have zeroed in on girls names as one of my lines of approach. If I was applying a bit of mental energy but not focusing too hard I would think there was a fair chance that Pat would prompt Patella, though maybe only after I had done a few.

  62. @dearieme

    I think the best case for Latin and Greek that I accepted was that translating from English required one to be very clear about what the English meant. Maybe, too, choosing amongst different possibilities when translating into English also improved one’s focus. And, at the risk of fostering pedantry, knowing the Greek or Latin roots of English words is a help in avoiding solecisms and at least encouraging precision and not saying e.g. “very unique” or using “anticipate” interchangeably with “expect”.

    • Replies: @dearieme
    , @pyrrhus
  63. @dearieme

    Good point, dearime. The survival of Latin as a language, at least in the realm of the study of some arts and sciences, probably dates to a time in history when much of the reference material in medicine and law was still contained in tomes written in Latin.

    Since that is no longer the case, I would view the use of Latin in medicine, botany and law as nothing more than an attempt at gatekeeping with an eye toward excluding those autodidacts who aspire to participation without having pursued officially recognized courses of study through universities.

    • Replies: @Dale
  64. @Randal

    Randal, there’s also the possibility that abusing the plural “they” is done out of an ignorance of the rules of grammar.

    • Replies: @Randal
  65. @Sunbeam

    I suspect that originality is hindered by the existing weight of learning so that if the Newtonian brain started learning mathematics 5 years later than the actual Newton did his original work might merely be postponed for 5 years.

  66. dearieme says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    I agree about “anticipate” though the old joke about its misuse is now entirely obsolete.

    To wit: there’s a great difference between expecting marriage and anticipating marriage.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  67. Randal says:
    @Twodees Partain

    Yes, I’m sure in many cases ignorance is behind it, especially in less formal speech, but not in the case of educated writers such as Thompson here, and certainly not in the case of establishment style guides.

    Another aspect is of course that in the long run rules of grammar are descriptive rather than prescriptive and the fact is that the language is changing in this regard. The more one hears and reads “they” used in this context, the more likely one is to hear or read it as correct and to use it that way oneself.

    It’s annoying because it means the social engineers of the left win again.

    • Replies: @dfordoom
    , @CanSpeccy
  68. Randal says:
    @James Thompson

    Wish I could think like that.

    You surely could if you wanted to enough – it’s just a trained habit of thinking that (imo, obviously – your view might well be different, and interestingly so) anyone of reasonable intelligence could acquire with a bit of sustained effort on cryptic crosswords.

    “Two little girls, one on each knee (7 letters)”.

    It’s actually (no disrespect to dearieme intended here) what would be regarded as a rather “loose” clue in the context of say the Times of a few decades ago, because the words “one on each” carry no informational content about the answer and are there as baggage to make a plausible sentence. Ideally every single word in the clue should have some sort of (admittedly often rather twisted) relevance to the answer.

    Better would be:

    “Two little girls, making a knee”, referring to the now archaic phrase “make a knee” (now I believe rendered as “take a knee” in the American football context). Although that would have worked better a few decades ago when people would recognise “make a knee” as a meaningful expression in itself, and thereby be diverted from seeing the nowadays rather too obvious meaning in terms of the answer.

    When I read it I assumed it would be two abbreviated girls names forming a word probably meaning or related to knee, and I actually briefly tried to remember the latin word for knee, but when it wouldn’t come to me and after I tried to think out how the “one on each” might be relevant, I gave up and made a flippant response instead. But I had years of doing cryptic crosswords (not really much in the past decade or so, though), and school education in latin to O level, to train me.

    A year or so of doing a cryptic crossword in your Sunday morning newspaper and you’d be spotting answers like that easily.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  69. pyrrhus says:

    Another great column, Dr. Thompson. As usual, I will point out that the tens of millions of data points represented by the College Board’s SAT scores over the last 60 years show very significant intelligence declines amongst the takers, who are the smartest college bound juniors and seniors in America….Though Greg Cochran has only budged to the point of admitting the loss of one IQ point per generation, so I haven’t been very persuasive, apparently.

  70. pyrrhus says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    My experience in learning French rules of grammar and verb declinations was similar. For the first time, I started to understand English grammar, much of which is no longer taught in America…

    • Replies: @utu
  71. pyrrhus says:
    @FKA Max

    What could possibly have caused those huge downward spikes in female life expectancy in France? They weren’t drafting women….

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
    , @Santoculto
  72. @dearieme

    Indeed. I think I could still use that joke, and did, when I was adding an MBA to my degrees and, in the part time year, found it within the specifications of some contribution one was asked for that I should talk about language and management. I recall taking pleasure in hammering the misuse of “infer” while boring it up the second rate pedant who thought “quite unique” could never be correct.
    The idea of doing it may have come from my father chuckling about a pretentious old acquaintance of the family who, from memory, had uttered “prevaricate” at a board meeting when he clearly intended “procrastinate”. I didn’t forget that because, though he had two good law degrees, my businessman father didn’t often indulge in such pleasant digressions. It may be too that I wasn’t familiar with “prevaricate”.

  73. FKA Max says: • Website
    @FKA Max

    In one section, she describes the effects of taking the lowest dose of an SSRI antidepressant in March 2014:

    I have become fatter, ‘flatter’, dumber, number. Less tearful, yes. Unfortunately, less of everything. The sunset and the beach no longer lift my spirits.” –

    These serotonin level-increasing ( SSRI ) antidepressants produce “warrior gene”/psychopathic societies:

    MAO, or monoamine oxidase, exists in each neuron (nerve cell) in the brain, and it acts like a recycling factor for neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). In people who have the “warrior gene,” less MAO is produced, which means that less of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are broken down. As noted above, higher levels of these brain chemicals seem to equal higher levels of aggression. These people feel less empathy for others (if they feel any), and are more willing to harm others on a whim.

    Anti-depressants likely do more harm than good, researchers find


    Why are so many of us on antidepressants?

    Other HSCIC data shows that the number of prescriptions almost doubled between 2003 and 2013, rising from 27.7million to 53.3million.
    And it noted that cases of diagnosed depression went up by just over 7 per cent a year between 2009/10 and 2011/12 – while antidepressant prescriptions rose by more than 17 per cent.

    About one in 10 Americans aged 12 and over takes antidepressant medication.


    Global antidepressant users per 1,000 people


  74. dfordoom says: • Website

    It’s annoying because it means the social engineers of the left win again.

    They win because conservatives fail to put up a fight. Of course that’s probably because most conservatives are too busy focusing on the really important issues, like lower taxes for the rich. And bombing other people’s countries.

    Conservatives lost the Culture War because they didn’t care.

    • Replies: @Dale
  75. Randal says:

    They win because conservatives fail to put up a fight.

    Well in this case they probably win because their course coincides with the way ignorance or laziness tends to lead people to misuse the words anyway, as Twodees Partain noted above.

    And it’s also true that the ideologues and identity lobby zealots screechingly insist on some seemingly trivial change like not using “he” for the general case, and most people, both conservatives and neutrals, just can’t see that it’s a big enough issue to be worth upsetting them about. Only particularly curmudgeonly and grumpy conservatives like me bother to make a stand on it, when we remember to.

    And bombing other people’s countries.

    Indeed. Like Obama’s drone murders and enabling of the attacks on Libya, Syria and Yemen, Blair’s Iraq war, Clinton’s attack on Yugoslavia, Kennedy and Johnson’s war in Vietnam, Truman’s Korean slaughter. We can debate whether these men were “leftists” (though we should probably refrain from importing that here from the other thread), but one thing none of them were is conservative in any honestly meaningful sense.

    • Replies: @dfordoom
  76. dfordoom says: • Website

    And it’s also true that the ideologues and identity lobby zealots screechingly insist on some seemingly trivial change like not using “he” for the general case, and most people, both conservatives and neutrals, just can’t see that it’s a big enough issue to be worth upsetting them about. Only particularly curmudgeonly and grumpy conservatives like me bother to make a stand on it, when we remember to.

    That’s the tricky thing. The Culture War serves the function of obscuring the Class War but it still needs to be fought. To the elites the fact that the Culture War will destroy civilisation is of little importance. They just want to maintain their power and their money. But the Culture War will destroy civilisation and anyone with any interest in preserving civilisation must fight it every step of the way.

    And the seemingly trivial changes you’ve mentioned are crucial. I often wonder if most mainstream self-described conservatives have ever actually read Orwell. If they have read him maybe the only message they got from 1984 was that communism was wicked. If so they missed the point. If you control the language you control everything. I don’t know how Orwell could have made the point any clearer but they still missed it.

    The first big victory the Forces of Darkness won in the Language War was to persuade us that it was OK to use Ms instead of Mrs and Miss. It was such a little change and if it kept the ladies happy why not just go along with it? That was truly the thin end of the wedge. Personally I still refuse to go along with the Ms nonsense.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  77. CanSpeccy says: • Website

    The more one hears and reads “they” used in this context, the more likely one is to hear or read it as correct and to use it that way oneself.

    That someone prefers to use the word “they” with reference to a person of unspecified gender, seems perfectly harmless and perfectly sensible. What is obnoxious is the demand that others should revise their use of the English language because … well for no justifiable goddamn reason at all, and certainly no reason that does not infringe the first amendment mandate to the US Constitution that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

    However, the snowflake Commies and their tiny-minded PC professorial mentors will eventually demand, and will certainly achieve, laws in America that restrict free speech, as has already occurred in Europe, unless those who wish to continue to live in a free society exercise their right of free speech with all necessary contempt for those who would prevent them.

  78. CanSpeccy says: • Website

    The first big victory the Forces of Darkness won in the Language War was to persuade us that it was OK to use Ms instead of Mrs and Miss.

    Language changes and as long as it changes in accordance with the free choice of people using it, there can surely be no serious objection to the changes. Having at one time had to maintain a large e-mail correspondence with people of unknown marital status, I found the Ms. form of address very convenient. But in a free society, changes in language cannot be imposed by force of law, but must be adopted spontaneously.

    That language use in Europe is now at the point of totalitarian control is evident from this headline:

    British Government refuses to say whether proclaiming divinity of Christ is a hate crime.

    God help us: if it’s not a hate crime to make that request.

  79. utu says:

    “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own. ” ‒ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    • Replies: @Ilyana_Rozumova
  80. j says: • Website
    @East Coast

    infant toys were becoming boring push-button crud rather than concrete opportunities to observe cause and effect.

    The favorite toy of my 2 years old grand daughter is a toy telephone – a push button plastic thing with color lights that answers and sings. She has been trying to take it apart, but it is indestructible. May be it is teaching her how things will work in her future.

  81. @Randal

    ” the words “one on each” carry no informational content about the answer and are there as baggage to make a plausible sentence”

    I’m pretty sure a patella is a kneecap and there’s one on each knee.

    • Replies: @Randal
  82. Randal says:

    You’re right, I stand corrected.

  83. @utu

    Goethe vas not part of nobility. Not Von!

    • Replies: @EH
  84. EH says:

    The Wikipedia article on Goethe has a “von” in the title and says: “…Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Carl August in 1782” [Age ~33].

  85. @YetAnotherAnon

    I read it in the New Scientist or Scientific American at least 10 years ago.

  86. @pyrrhus

    Influenza killed more young people than the war.

  87. @pyrrhus

    Maybe because precocious demographic transition which occurred in France and aging as well. French people started to have less children and become older than any other people in Europe and without massive implementation of modern medicine, without or before… Of course I know France have a demographic “miracle” after second war world but they already have experienced long time with reduced fertility rates in combination with “higher mortality”, maybe at normal levels for developed countries in this time. France had very lower levels of emigration and one of the lowest population growing during XIX and XX. Britain and Germany for example surpass France even with massive emigration for other countries. And also France already had experienced highest levels of immigration from other European countries during XIX and first half of XX century.

  88. George says:

    Not so. Plumbers, electricians, roofers and repairers

    You have not convinced me that Plumbers ect are less smart than in the past. Maybe the general population or elites are stupider but that does not mean plumbers are. There is a reason the UK needs all those Polish plumbers. Open borders mean you don’t need to produce smart people locally.

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  89. @res

    Steve Jobs was once asked if he allowed his children to spend time texting on the iPhone and play video games, engage in Social Media, etc. His answer was direct and succinct: “I DON’T ALLOW THEM TO DO THAT SHIT”. Full stop. He knew that this was low cognition, infra-human, baseline, that did not involve the Frontal Cortex and higher functions. Jobs’ ability to see the “rest of the picture” internally like an X-ray and over the horizon constituted his greatest ability. Obviously, he saw where this social media scat would lead his kids; to mediocrity, conformism, and GroupSink.

  90. @George

    In fact, the smart young person will consider a technical job or trade, where the employment is secure, and always in demand. You generally work alone and the job satisfaction is immediate. The job is either done right or not. You therefore will not have to listen to drivel or twaddle from a boss with a subjective value system.

    A friend of mine years ago, who was a roofer, told me his first love was Shakespearian literature, which he had a degree in. Roofing paid the bills and kept him moving. In his spare time, he indulged his intellectual and spiritual passion. It also provided a sense of balance in his life. Always a happy guy, fairly nice looking, completely bald (his hair was in the Friar Tuck style-extended but not too long), he had women hanging off him constantly, from his persona alone.

    Most White Millennials, I must say, are too stupid and lazy to structure their lives from the widest field of possibilities; more than any other country.

    • Replies: @anarchyst
  91. In the paper’s abstract: “Piagetian trends provide information conventional tests do not: that the largest losses may be at the top of the curve.”

    Why wouldn’t this pattern be reflected in conventional IQ test scores?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  92. As conceived by Piaget, formal operations were a universal final stage, not the accomplishment of an elite. There’s a question about what it means when adults fail to demonstrate formal operations: performance versus competence. I once considered (and found some weak evidence for) the hypothesis that poor performance on formal operations by intelligent adults is the result of lack of interest in science. Scientific interest but not measures of fluid or crystallized intelligence predicted adult formal operations performance.

    “Adults’ Performance on Formal Operations: General Ability or Scientific Interest” –

  93. @Stephen R. Diamond

    That is the puzzle. A possible explanation is that the Piagetian tests are more “real” and relate to an actual problem in physics. Maths scores don’t show much Flynn Effect, so that would fit in. Digit Span shows virtually no Flynn Effect, or perhaps an increase in the easier digits forwards, and a decrease in the harder digits backwards.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  94. @James Thompson

    Lack of interest is my self-serving explanation as to why I can’t play chess. Other explanations? Inability. It is too hard for me.

  95. @James Thompson

    But one wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that where you lacked some ability for chess that ability is g. Not learning to play chess is very weak as evidence of low IQ. Why? Because we have much better measures.

    What prior justification is there for seriously entertaining the hypothesis that falling performance on formal operations is due to declining intelligence. It just doesn’t have any serious prior credibility. The argument that it might better measure g because it is more “real world” is fallacious. IQ tests don’t represent the real world because testers can develop artificial items that correlate better with intelligence than real world achievements.

    I find Flynn very curious. He makes illogical leaps. The Flynn Effect is a major challenge to the IQ concept. (It is hard to believe that environmental effects on cohorts fail to affect individual differences within a cohort.) But this hasn’t been properly debated, mainly because Flynn conceded the point too early.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  96. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @Stephen R. Diamond

    The Flynn Effect is a major challenge to the IQ concept. (It is hard to believe that environmental effects on cohorts fail to affect individual differences within a cohort.)

    That is a nice statement of a central issue that seems to have received little experimental evaluation. However, a meta-analysis concluded that:

    …findings from 40 studies showed that students can raise their scores on aptitude and achievement tests by taking practice forms of the tests. The size of the gains from practice appeared to be a function of three factors. First, gains were larger when identical forms of a test were used for practice and criterion measurement and were smaller when parallel forms were used. Second, the size of the effect increased with the number of practice tests given. And finally, the size of effect was influenced by the ability level of the population studied; gains were larger for subjects of high ability than they were for subjects of low ability.

    This raises the interesting question of whether, IQ test scores might be greatly elevated if children were not merely afforded the opportunity to take practice tests, but were coached in IQ-type tests from K to 12, as they are in, say, mathematics.

    It is unlikely that such coaching has ever been undertaken or, if undertaken, its effects evaluated quantitatively. However, since IQ tests are mainly tests of verbal and numerical reasoning, intensive education in the three Rs likely has effects on IQ test performance similar to effects of intensive IQ test training. Even musical training apparently affects IQ test scores, suggesting that within-cohort Flynn-type effects are likely substantial.

  97. anarchyst says:
    @Poupon Marx

    I too sought out a trade instead of college, while engaging in many educational pursuits. Pursuing a trade allowed me to earn a very comfortable living while having the time to educate myself.
    I am comfortable discussing just about any subject with anyone from pre-schoolers, high-school dropouts, to those with advanced degrees and PhDs.
    In fact, I have had PhDs remark positively about how truly “educated” I am despite lacking a “college degree”. There has been some negative criticism from insecure “college types” about my alternative learning of various subjects–to these misguided individuals who resent my extensive knowledge and lifelong love for learning, despite not possessing a “college degree”.
    In my younger years, it used to bother me, but no more…it’s THEIR problem–not mine…
    Opening one’s mind does not require a “college degree”. In fact, there are those who made great strides in technology despite not having a “college degree”.
    One prime example of this is the story of Stanford Ovshinsky. A machinist by trade, he came up with the idea of “amorphous semiconductors”. Traditional semiconductors are fabricated from crystalline structures, by complicated processes, which are then “doped” with various “impurities” to gives them unique electrical characteristics. Ovshinsky’s method utilized non-crystalline methods which could be simply “sprayed” on a surface, while possessing these unique electrical characteristics–much less expensive to produce. He took his ideas to local universities, whose professors all told him that his ideas would not work. He still pursued his line of thinking “outside the box” and was extremely successful. Multinational corporations such as Sony and Sharp have licensed his patented technology. These same universities, who initially rejected him, in later years, have invited him as a “peer” and have finally embraced his unconventional methods who they initially said “wouldn’t work”. Thinking outside the box can be a lonely pursuit, but is quite often necessary to advance the technology…Mr. Ovshinsky himself, admitted that if he had received a traditional college education, he would not have come up with his successful ideas…

    • Replies: @Dale
  98. AaronB says:
    @James Thompson

    You joke, but you don’t realize how profound this problem is. It literally vitiates the entire science of IQ.

    Another explanation: you’re smart enough to understand that, but you’re not interested in really thinking about it.


  99. astrolabe says:
    @James Thompson

    I suspect that what Archimedes did was to place the crown on one side of a symmetrical balance, and an equal weight of gold on the other side, and then observe the result when balance and all were submerged (and air bubbles released).

  100. Dale says:
    @FKA Max

    I took a full year of calculus in college 25 years ago, but had trouble doing a division problem on paper just a few weeks ago.

    We have outsourced our maths to our iPhones, and perhaps all numeracy. I can tell you phone numbers from 25 years ago, and even 35 years ago, but I have no idea of my best friends phone numbers.

  101. Dale says:
    @East Coast

    The slow decimation of auto body and shop classes in high school’s has been a net negative for our society. Not every kid is capable of or desirous of a college education. Allowing these young adults to pursue vocational training at 14, along with basic education, would allow for much better allocation of resources.

  102. Dale says:

    Your post perfectly encapsulates Dr Thomas Sowell’s mantra- Culture Matters.

    The tribalism and superstition of most Indians apparently inhibits their intelligence, while the hyper competitive and logically robust cultures of many Southeast Asian nations and Jewish sects could possibly be related to their relatively high IQs.

    Has there ever been a large IQ study of Asian children raised by culturally middle American families?

    Epigenetics cannot be discounted. The circumstances of the birth of the mother and father can have tremendous impact on their offspring. I can’t recall the study at the moment, but it was recently shown that women who had starved as young people had grandchildren that had an elevated level of… Obesity? I’ll have to look it up.

  103. Dale says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    Agreed. I’ve passed their test and gotten invitations from members I’ve met online, but…meh.

    Unfortunately I’ve had a tumultuous couple of years and my smart friends are scattered, and my job is filled with mostly non inquisitive people, I need a new group of smart friends locally.

  104. Dale says:

    I’m kinda new so I’m not allowed to like a reply, but that was LOL.

  105. Dale says:

    Yes, but the rigidity of thinking and losss of creativity, is similar to artists.

    Some produce amazing work until the due of old age, but the vast majority peak by 25.

  106. Dale says:
    @Expletive Deleted

    I, unfortunately, agree with most of what you say. Our culture has been hijacked.

  107. Dale says:
    @Twodees Partain

    Excellent comment.

    It took years before some of my former colleagues grudgingly admitted that I had a better understanding of the subject they studied in school for years, despite my lack of a graduate degree.

  108. Dale says:

    Conservatives lost because they were NOT conservative. Or, more appropriately, libertarian.

    They went along with many of the most horrifying policies of the last hundred years, as long as they got their crony capitalist pork barrel projects.

    Until libertarian Republicans like rand Paul and Justin Amash and Ben Sasse are the undisputed leaders of the GOP then bland cultural Marxism will remain the norm in DC.

  109. Dale says:
    @James Thompson

    Chess is like math. The rules are simple, but the interaction and permutations of those rules give way to larger understanding to those who study those rules closely and can combine those rules into a calculus.

    Playing with an amateur is fun, but it’s the difference between drunk wrestling with a buddy and stepping into an Octogon for a UFC fight.

    FWIW, I suck at chess.

  110. Dale says:

    You left out Gödel and Escher!

  111. Dale says:

    You sound like my kind of guy.

    I currently work in a field with “normal” intelligence, and get shit for being so eager to discuss esoteric subjects.

    • Replies: @anarchyst
  112. anarchyst says:

    Thank you, I stopped worrying about what others think of me…I’m not a smart @ss, merely well-informed. Best regards,

  113. @YetAnotherAnon

    I read it long ago but there was a formal study that made the claim.

  114. @Simpleton

    I think Galileo got it right. Balance in air, then balance in water. Any difference is a difference in density.

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