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James Flynn came to psychology from political science, and was a quick learner. He attacked Arthur Jensen’s 1969 paper, and Art wrote back quickly disposing of his objections, and then suggesting new lines of attack. James Flynn followed those up, and they began working together.

I had met Arthur Jensen in 1970, when I gave him a lecture on race and intelligence. It is odd to write that sentence. I had been invited to a conference at Cambridge University where I was going to report on my results on how children’s intelligence recovered after an acquired brain injury. When I realized Jensen was at the conference, I asked the organizers if I could instead give an account of my first paper (not yet published) in which I showed that non-verbal intelligence scores increased in West Indian children if they were born in England or arrived before primary school age, as compared to those who arrived later in their schooling. To my surprise, Art seemed to enjoy my results showing (to my mind) that he was wrong to assume that differences in non-verbal scores strengthened the genetic hypothesis. I argued, as proposed by my boss Dr John McFie, that European children gained by having easy access to educational constructional toys.

I stayed the night in the same staff residence as Jensen, and the next morning showed him how to use an English telephone, which had an alphanumeric dialling system. So, as I explained to him in an email decades later, that was two triumphs for cultural/environmental explanations. After chatting over breakfast, I then walked with him to the Debate of the Century (there have been many of those) where he met his critics at the Cambridge Union. He did his best to hold his audience to the main arguments. He knew he would not be able to quote all his references to them. His critics had a broader canvas, and threw a few wild punches. I felt that the best way to debate was to collect new data.

I met James Flynn in 2007. By then I was far more of a Jensenist, but did not realize how much James Flynn admired Arthur Jensen. “He taught me everything” James Flynn said. I was sceptical about the cultural explanation for the secular rise in intelligence scores, because Maths scores had not budged at all. Given that the survival test of intelligence is dealing with novel problems, I accepted that when problem forms become known they are less valid tests. Nonetheless, if a measure of ability produces higher scores at a rate which cannot be explained by genetic factors, then it has to be debated and researched.

In 2013 I edited a special edition of the journal Intelligence on the Flynn Effect. We did not come to any settled conclusion, and the evidence for narrowing of gaps between races was ambiguous. Apparent gains during schooling came to very little at age 17. Rising ability levels in parts of Africa suggested progress, but no prompt leveling of gaps. Flynn was very complimentary about the contributors, saying: “Collectively the scholars in this volume are beginning to write the cognitive history of the 20th Century”.

Flynn wrote a warm obituary on Jensen, in which he said of him: “To paraphrase Whitehead on Plato, the theories of intelligence of the late 20th century are a series of footnotes to Jensen.” When I commended him, he wrote back to say he meant every single word of it.

In 2017, when I warned colleagues about a Press attack on the London Conference on Intelligence he immediately offered to give public support, asking to see the titles of the papers presented, in order to be prepared.

I met Flynn for the last time at the ISIR conference in Montreal. He was taking a strong anti-Flynn Effect stance, based on Shayer’s work on the alarming drop in bright children’s ability to solve Piagetian problems.

At the end of his talk delegates started a detailed discussion, which had to be stopped because the next talk was due. I offered to chair a meeting with him and the main hereditarian protagonists, which we did later that evening. It was a very muscular critical discussion on the critics part, and after an hour I called it to a close.

He came to dinner with many of us on the last night, talking with many, particularly Woodley. I think the Piagetian data had made him even more sympathetic to the Woodley effect, but they had worked together easily for several years anyway.

The last time I saw him was next day. He was at a coffee table and we talked for a while. He’d been reading a biography of Stalin, and I asked him how that changed his view of Trotsky. Her ran with that one easily. After some other topics, he said with a smile, of the general public’s view of the intelligence and race debate: “I know I am on the side of the angels”, and we both laughed. He did not absolve himself from partisanship. He once observed that no-one was funding research into the genetics of racial differences in intelligence because they feared they would find something.

Above all else, he felt that arguments mattered, and if you avoided them, you avoided the truth.

• Category: Science • Tags: Flynn Effect, Psychometrics 
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  1. the next morning showed him how to use an English telephone, which had an alphanumeric dialling system

    You’ve got me confused here, Professor. Are you saying that US telephones in 1970 weren’t “alphanumeric” (which I presume means that they have both letters and numbers)?

    According to my rapidly diminishing memory, at least from the mid-1950s US telephones were indeed alphanumeric, notably the “classic” Western Electric Model 500 telephone.

  2. Amen. –

    – Thanks James Thompson – and – – James Flynn. (The words above roll on easily even though the subject they are about is no simple one).

  3. Like anyone truth-oriented, truth-oriented students are fated, in the world and large society/culture, to be always wrong. But I guess they don’t mind that particularly; when you have a love, you don’t mind the rest much, and they love truth.

    • Agree: Tom Welsh
  4. F

    Flynn represented the best of the humanistic liberal tradition, which is now sadly in retreat as demographics attritions its most eminent champions.

    • Agree: Occasional lurker
  5. @for-the-record

    Well, I didn’t know that! Was California any different? The English method was to give the first three letters for the exchange, and the next 4 numbers for the phone number on that exchange.
    So, Guy’s Hospital was HOP 7600. Easy, because most hospitals were 7600, so all you really had to say was HOP.
    Perhaps the number Jensen had to call was simply in that unfamiliar format. Dialing to a distant telephone exchange was more complicated, until they rolled out Subscriber Trunk Dialing, which allowed subscribers (people) to dial their own long numbers. An innovation I first saw, I think, in 1966.

    • Thanks: chris
    • Replies: @for-the-record
  6. @James Thompson

    When I was young, it was 2 letters + 5 numbers, so my childhood telephone number was JAckson8 3539. Sometime in the first half of the 1960s, “all-number calling” (which I believe you would know as “all-figure calling”) was introduced where I lived, so that the number became 528-3539.

    As far as I know, this was universal in the US, including California. In fact the key figure in the California-based Anti Digit Dialing League was the linguist S. I. Hayakawa who, partly on the basis of the fame he acquired for this, subsequently became a US Senator.

  7. @for-the-record

    Re ‘California phones’ in James Thompson’s Reply:

    “Was California any different?”

    My earliest memories of using our California home’s late 1950’s telephone, which was very much like the one pictured, involved first speaking two-three letters to an operator, and then hand-dialing the remaining numbers.

  8. Anonymous[153] • Disclaimer says:

    Yeah, the telephone story makes me shitcan the whole article.

    • LOL: Tom Welsh
  9. Yes this is all about telephone numbers. Thanks

  10. John Hagan says: • Website

    “He once observed that no-one was funding research into the genetics of racial differences in intelligence because they feared they would find something.”

    After reading this I considered I must take a break from my trans gender equity studies and perhaps dive into the study of the genetics of racial differences. Now many might consider these complicated studies yet to me they are more akin to the study of a wanderer butterfly over a moth simply asking who was the more intelligent and not considering the folding of their wings at night as their major difference.

    For those who await my answer with trepidation please consider the possibility of contributions to my wanderer butterfly fund. As you can see from my visuals my seriousness in my academic studies is unparalled.

  11. Tom Welsh says:

    If nothing else, the controversy about the heritability or otherwise of intelligence serves as a useful gauge of the extent to which our culture tolerates unpopular truths – a vital survival trait.

    At the moment, it is showing many degrees of frost.

  12. @for-the-record

    Thanks. We should write up this history, which revolves round digit span, and the reduced interference effect of combining letters with numbers, thus increasing practical memory span.

  13. @James Thompson

    This is essentially what Hayakawa and the Anti-Digit Dialing League were saying:

    The A.D.D.L. was born a month ago when a want ad by angry San Francisco Organizer Carl V. May rallied a band of bitter anti-digit men, including famed Semanticist S. I. Hayakawa of San Francisco State College. Soon San Francisco lapels were sprouting A.D.D.L. buttons. Polling its readers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that two-thirds of the ballots were opposed to all-number dialing. Said Hayakawa: “These people are systematically trying to destroy the use of memory. They tell you to ‘write it down,’ not memorize it. Try writing a telephone number down in a dark booth while groping for a pencil, searching in an obsolete phone book and gasping for breath. And all this in the name of efficiency ! Engineers have a terrible intellectual weakness. ‘If it fits the machine,’ they say, ‘then it ought to fit people.’ This is something that bothers me very much: absentmindedness about people.”

    Time Magazine, 13 July 1962,33009,827416,00.html

    • Thanks: Cato, Wade Hampton
    • Replies: @James Thompson
  14. Thank you James Thomson for your picture of an admirable civilised man who put honesty to the forefront of his use of the intellect even when arguing a case.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  15. “Above all else, he felt that arguments mattered, and if you avoided them, you avoided the truth.”

    Ain’t that the Truth!

  16. @James Thompson

    May I ask for some more substantial technical advice from you. I note

    when problem forms become known they are less valid tests.

    That perhaps helps understand the odd fact that the Flynn Effect manifests itself more in Ravens’ Matrices than old-fashioned vocabulary tests. I have noticed in myself a considerable training effect as I tackle more Ravens Matrices tests over the years. Likewise Sudoku fwiw. Actually I went straight to the more difficult Sudoku games/tests when an inlaw proffered them and applied something very like the Ravrns discipline with success.

    What are the implications?

    Perhaps connected is a question on the complexifying contrasting issue of multiple intelligences. Tests of them all show a positive correlation with g I understand (though g is maybe a bit problematic if one t treats Raven’s culture fair tests as most valid despite training effects). So, would it not be appropriate to try to identify the g elements which I take to be mostly mental speed and short term or working memory and then find, and connect to, the neurological (and then underlying genetic and maybe epigenetic) causes.? Following the logic of that should we not one day be able to predict pretty well what an individual’s genes should make him capable of give or take some epigenetic s and suitable environment?

    *** *** ***
    Given the far greater genetic variety in Africa than in the whole of the rest of the world put together what I have seem
    from Lynn, Rushton, and I think even Harpending has looked pretty simple minded to me. I strongly suspect that there are huge variations in intelligence as one might expect of a caste system – just possibly equal even to the amazing differences in athletic abilities (Contrast East African highlanders and Nigerians). But I have also read of a couple of IQ related gene mutations which occurred only out of Africa and am willing to believe that African genes were adequate for Africa and is styles of life pretty early on, obviating any likelihood of genes for impulse control, group planning or prolonged reflection establishing themselves. So…

    Could you not get up a case for a team of researchers to try and put an end to the myths of African genetic-cognitive inferiority once and for all – emphasising the real deficiencies in the evidence and reasoning. I don’t expect that any such simple purported objective would be met. But it might hasten the time when African genomes in their considerable variety can be contrasted with the few out-of–Africa varieties and the importance of the differences assessed.

  17. @Wizard of Oz

    Sorry about the missing “p”. P brands you a Sassenach doesn’t it?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  18. I saw Flynn’s Ted talk recently and he seemed like an earnest liberal, most concerned that we might bomb Iran. So am I to understand that the Flynn effect does not impact mathematics scores? And is that to say mathematics does not differentiate psychometrically? What were Flynn’s beliefs on race and iq?

  19. Polymath says:

    Did Flynn’s book “In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor”, which was pulled at the last minute by a timid publisher, ever find a new publisher or become publicly accessible?

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  20. @for-the-record

    Ditto for me until about 1967-1970.

  21. Did anyone ever asked Flynn how he felt about a late night walk in a US city and seeing a group of young males approaching him on the sidewalk who, upon closer range, turned out to be white?

    Would his reaction be along the same lines as that of Jesse Jackson?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  22. @for-the-record

    For what it’s worth, I can confirm your statement. I grew up in San Jose (back when it was strawberry fields and plum orchards — pre-Silicon days) and when I first learned my phone number it was the first two letters of an exchange name, in my case Andrews followed by 5 numbers. So “ANx-xxxx”. Later, the AN changed to 26. No Area Code. Long distance dialing was expensive, not done frequently and certainly not done by children.

    As a side note, the last line in our mailing address was “San Jose 25 California”. This was pre-Zip Code. After Zip-code, it became San Jose California 95125.

  23. Skeptikal says:

    “the next morning showed him how to use an English telephone, which had an alphanumeric dialling system”

    This had also had me stymied.

    Surely Jensen was of an age to realize that the letters on the old exchanges are associated with numbers in rotary dialing phones (I had one of the classic phone units s shown well into the 1980s in NYC).

    Thus, in Boston in the sixties, the Commonwealth exchange was “dialed” CO6 (266) whereas the Copley exchange was dialed CO7 (267; m is in the 6 hole whereas p is in the 7 hole). Obviously, the telephone wires only “understood” numbers, phone numbers were identified—by the exchange and first digit. Some exchanges had class—such as PLaza in NYC—and some had none.

    I lived in London in 1968–70 and don’t recall ever telling an operator the exchange. Or interacting with an operator at all. I seem to recall that for (rare) long-distance calls one went to the Post Office but perhaps that was in some other country.

    Many rural areas of the US and I expect also the UK were still in the “Number please” era well into the sixties. Our number was three digits and a letter. The first exchange to be introduced had a name, but I think the subsequent ones were just number combos.

  24. @for-the-record

    Fascinating. R. Conrad showed showed that the advantages of a three letter prefix were maintained even if those three letters were not part of a word such as HOP for Hopwell. The Post Office engineers said they wanted to drop letters because they had run out of appropriate permutations, and would not accept his findings.
    The Royal Mint also turned down his finding that blind persons found a ten sided coin easier to discriminate from others than the 7 sided one being planned. The Mint went ahead “because no other country had a seven sided coin”.

  25. @Wizard of Oz

    You need to do some more matrices!

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  26. @Wizard of Oz

    Lots of things to take up, and I will try to deal with the main ones.
    All tests can be trained for to some extent, but that just trains you for that test, rather than boosts the underlying trait.
    We can already test polygenic risk score predictions against actual test scores. It is very early days, but they are in positive territory, and will improve as researchers get a better understanding as to how they generate those predictions. The current trick is to use many snips even if their individual predictive power is very low, because the composite score provides the best estimate. Researchers will play around with improvements. The current scores very very weakly predict African intelligence, tested on a smallish data set.
    Getting large genetic data sets on African would be a game changer. As far as I know, no big sets exist, but some are planned. They need to be 1 million plus for proper analysis. I expect they will show regional variations, and might identify cognitive elites.

    • Thanks: Wizard of Oz
  27. @Wizard of Oz

    Thompson on my father’s side, Bain and Mackellar on my mother’s side. Clan Mackay.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  28. profnasty says:

    Measurements on intelligence are only a single factor in personal value and success.
    Perseverance, physical health, respectful behavior, cleanliness, good looks, and old fat bald White men with beer bellies.
    All these things and more contribute to success.
    Intelligence may not be the most important factor among them. It never did me any good.

    • Agree: Occasional lurker
    • Replies: @James Thompson
  29. dearieme says:

    I enjoyed looking through that old link you provided, doc. The equilibrium task: wouldn’t it be much easier for a generation of children – or, at least of boys – who enjoyed balancing on a see-saw?

    Anyway, farewell to Flynn – a good egg by your account.

  30. dearieme says:

    Phones: I grew up with a three digit phone number – very rural, us. Then suddenly we got area codes plus local number and you could dial direct over (almost) the whole country. I can’t remember ever using an operator for a call.

    At a time when we were impressed by the new ease of calling Edinburgh, Londoners were boasting that they could call Paris direct. People would enquire whether any Parisian would dream of calling London.

    It was all ages ago but I have the impression that the improvement in telephoning must have been one of the most rapid technological improvements I can remember – from the point of view of everyman. What might be comparable? The replacement of Town Gas by North Sea Gas, perhaps? Nope, I don’t think so.

    The coming of the internet and emails and all that seemed sluggish by comparison.

    I can remember being in California in 1988 and a local surgeon asking whether we had mobile phones. Yes, says I, but the networks cover only about two thirds of the country. He goggled at that. I pointed out that it was a wee country. But there was quite a delay between mobile phones being an expensive toy for London bankers and their being cheap enough for the man on the Clapham Omnibus.

    How about ATMs? I can remember a Californian visitor in (about) 1970 being fascinated by watching people sticking a card into a hole-in-the-wall machine and being given cash in return. I think he was slightly miffed that anywhere in the world should be in any way more advanced than Southern California.

  31. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    Och, we’re a Jock Thompson’s bairns.

  32. Thanks.

    James Flynn was indeed a great example of focusing on excavating public data rather than excoriating private motives.

  33. Anonymous[270] • Disclaimer says:

    Yes, it was published under a different title:

    No eBook, no customer reviews. “Temporarily out of stock”

    • Replies: @Dave Bowman
    , @res
  34. @Happy Tapir

    You might read this short paper, well worth your time:

    He thinks bad environments in US black families (i.e., US black cultrure) will probably turn out to explain all of the IQ difference, but he is open minded and his oponions are subject to revision should future research show otherwise.
    Flynn was truly a great man.

    • Replies: @Happy Tapir
  35. @Occasional lurker

    Thanks. Well fine, except that blacks have exactly the same cognitive profile in every country in which they happen to reside. It would not be forbidden to say if it were not true. That’s it’s own litmus test. Anything you need fear to say in virtually any civilization proves its truth. If you can go to jail for saying something in a country, that means it’s true and threatens the power structure in some way!

    • Agree: Peripatetic Itch
  36. @Happy Tapir

    He took what I would call a socially-constructivist position, that different times and economies required and rewarded different skills. Our grandfathers were practical and specific in their classifications, we were more abstract, high level and generalist.
    On race he took a strong environmentalist position, but conceded that the hereditarians had a case which needed to be answered. He ended up partly conceding that there was a genetic component to racial differences in intelligence, but saying that the main cause of African American under-performance was a toxic subculture.

    • Agree: Happy Tapir
    • Replies: @Chimela Caesar
  37. @Anonymous

    No eBook, no customer reviews. “Temporarily out of stock”


    I remember “You can’t fight City Hall”.

    I suspect it’s a pretty thankless job trying to fight lying, worthless, hypocritical, leftist cultural-marxist academic ivory-tower bastards too.

    Mostly because many of them go home to the Levant for holidays.

  38. @Chanda Chisala

    He took what I would call a socially-constructivist position, that different times and economies required and rewarded different skills. Our grandfathers were practical and specific in their classifications, we were more abstract, high level and generalist.
    On race he took a strong environmentalist position, but conceded that the hereditarians had a case which needed to be answered. He ended up partly conceding that there was a genetic component to racial differences in intelligence, but saying that the main cause of African American under-performance was a toxic subculture.

  39. @Chanda Chisala

    Dear Chanda, thanks for your comment.
    (I think a previous reply intended for another commenter was sent to you, which please ignore).

    Jim Flynn liked to concentrate on the arguments. Thomas Coyle sent me a clip which I did not know had been filmed, which was good to see for the first time.

    The sound is not all that good, but the context is that Michael Woodley questioned him, and you will see that on what we would call the dysgenic hypothesis, Flynn took the Woodley position (and not his former Flynn position), that we had become less intelligent than the Victorians. (Personally, I am not sure about that).

    After that I added another question about whether there really was a Flynn Effect, given that there had not been any improvement in Maths and Digits Backwards, and in the end it is evident that Flynn really believed that we were “rotting from the head downwards” ie losing intelligence in a way that was most evident among the supposedly most intelligent.

  40. @Jim Bob Lassiter

    Don’t think so, but read his “Armageddon” paper by putting that in my searchbar. He certainly believed race influence choice of tenants when you had a room to hire.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  41. @Happy Tapir

    No doubt but systematically dealing with them can surely be learned in a way which speeds up and also allows more complicated ones to be tackled. At all events that seems most consistent with the Flynn Effect evidence – is it not?

  42. res says:

    July 2020 interview with James Flynn where he discusses the book.

    He mentions he was working on a follow up about “why?” Does anyone know more about this?

  43. JamesinNM says:

    One’s desire or disdain for the truth is a marker on the condition of the soul.

    • Agree: lavoisier
  44. Just glancing lightly at the curly hair, the beard, and the name, I originally thought that Jeff Lynne had died. Don’t bring me down, Gruß!

  45. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    race influenced choice of tenants when you had a room to hire.

    We have let our house four times when work took us elsewhere. First our country cottage: we let it to a young Swiss couple – fine.

    The next three lettings were of our new house in a university town. We asked around, read around, and pondered. We decided not to let to anyone teaching or studying Law, Business, or Economics. We ended up with archaeologists, vets, and engineers in variety.

    Racially our tenants were a mixed bag – English, Australian, Portuguese. All went well. One of the English girls and the Portuguese chap were particularly good eggs.

  46. I can agree that renting to lawyers would be an unforced error.

  47. @dearieme

    Good eggs, but no wogs, right?

    • Replies: @dearieme
  48. dearieme says:
    @Jim Bob Lassiter

    None applied. Which is odd because there were South and East Asians around. Maybe they preferred to rent from people of their own race/religion. Happily they can’t be racist, not being white.

  49. @dearieme

    What is/was the reasoning behind “no one teaching or studying Law, Business or Economics”?

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

    Those fields attract people of poor character who are then subjected to indoctrination designed to worsen them.

    Give me cheerful horse doctors, engineers, and cracked pot seekers every time.

  51. utu says:

    James Flynn was a good guy. His chief accomplishment was bringing to the light the cover up of the fact that the IQ scale is local in space and time and thus all claims about the universality of the IQ scale are unwarranted. But James Flynn was also a weak person because he permitted to be appeased and placated by the IQist establishment that incorporated his finding into the body of IQisms as the Flynn Effect. Apparently this was enough to assuage his vanity. Instead of being the St. George who slew the dragon he settled for being a village fool who cleans up the dropping left by the dragon so the village remains clean and pristine. New Zealand is small and far away place where the loneliness and craving for attention of the big world I which the real things happen can be a big challenge for an ambitious person’s character. For James Flynn the challenge was to big.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  52. @James Thompson

    On race he took a strong environmentalist position, but conceded that the hereditarians had a case which needed to be answered.

    Could you provide a link for that source? I guess this one below appears to hint at that.

    He ended up partly conceding that there was a genetic component to racial differences in intelligence

    Where is the source for that?

    I think Flynn was a seasoned scientist not given to biases. He, without pretense, struggled to make sense of his data driven findings – even attempting to incorporate Woodley’s hypothesis. However, he perhaps did not make his last stand very clear enough: he was still pro-environment. I will explain what that means.

    I will advocate for Flynn, and present his argument. When issues appear inconclusive in science, we have a scientific method to present competing ideas as probable, and most probable. Scientifically.

    And “most probable” should rule until the case is indisputably settled. That is the scientific process.

  53. Do certain ethnic groups have difficulty counting backward? I read somewhere long ago this capability is not widespread throughout all races and tribes!

    • Replies: @mikemikev
  54. I don’t know that specifically, but unless you can count backwards you will probably miss noting some important regularities. Digits backwards is g loaded, digits forwards less so.

    Put “bombshell” in my search bar.

  55. mikemikev says:
    @Richard Sampson

    Backwards digit span is a pretty good indication of general intelligence, across cultures. Forward digit span is easier in Chinese than English, likely because the syllable pronunciation time is shorter.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  56. CanSpeccy says: • Website

    For James Flynn the challenge was to big.

    Are you verbifying “big” or what?

    • Replies: @utu
  57. utu says:

    I know. Just one little ‘o’.

    • Replies: @canspeccy
  58. I propose a simple non-verbal IQ test for the lower bound:

    Same or not the same?


  59. canspeccy says: • Website

    Just one little ‘o’.

    Good coinage:

    To big: v. trans. to engage in self aggrandizement

    e.g.: Donald Trump bigs bigly.

    But I think you are incorrect to assume that Flynn’s restraint in the discussion of IQ was a matter of weakness. By maintaining good relations with those in the field of intelligence research — whether as the result of temperament or strategy, he obtained a fair hearing for his subversive findings.

    It is true that Flynn did not, so far as I am aware, question the fundamental IQist assumption, namely, that there is a single factor, g, that is the overriding determinant of all mental capacities, but as far as one knows, Flynn saw no reason to question that assumption.

    So, yes, Flynn’s critique of IQ as a measure of intelligence was limited in scope, but that was due, I suggest, not to a character flaw, but merely to ignorance. In particular, it was a failure to take account of the fact that different mental abilities depend on different neural lobes, networks and ganglia, or on hierarchies of lobes, networks and ganglia, each with its own genetic determinants and each modified by its own past experience.

    From this it follows that g, far from representing the fundamental basis of intelligence, reflects only the dependence of the functioning of each of the many components of the brain on some general factor. For example, brains without oxygen die within seconds, which means that all intellectual capacity depends on the efficiency of lungs, heart and the vascular system in supplying oxygen to every cell within the brain. But that does not mean that to be good at the higher math one needs an exceptional capacity of heart or lung or whatever it is that underlies g, because g explains rather little (much less in most cases than environment, for example) of the variation in specific mental capacities.

  60. @mikemikev

    Yes, and poorer in Welsh, for the same reasons. However, you can use tapping sequences forwards and backwards on an array of little wooden towers, and get the same effect.

  61. I will provide arguments in parts as several posts here, partly due to current time constraints.

    I ultimately intend to attempt to reconcile Flynn’s rising test scores, Woodley’s findings, the racial IQ gaps, the possible nature of g, and its connection with IQ scores.

    I will, generally, employ a scientific method, I would call the method of effects. It was employed by physicists to “prove” the existence of black holes in the universe. They could not “see” them – akin to a physical test we might want to use for genetic intelligence equality between races – so they tested for effects that would prove their presence. And their findings entered into the scientific literature.

    Woodley’s co-occurrence model predicts that cognitive measures which serve as stable and highly heritable measures of g should decline with time due to genetic changes, the Flynn effect being restricted to narrower and less-heritable abilities and skills that rise over time due to environmental improvements.

    Possible structure of intelligence

    While intelligence may have many structural layers, I hypothetically emphasize on two: what I would call the physical layer, and the intuitive layer.

    The physical layer has to do with processing speed, reaction time, working memory, visuo-spatial ability, and other related abilities. This layer, I think, is neuroplastic, and is majorly implicated in the Flynn Effect. Nutrition, education, good health, and other environmental factors influence this layer. Just as muscles are flexible and can grow, so is this layer. Conversely, it can shrink without use. However, at its core, it is genetic in starting capacity. Not everyone can become six feet with the richest nutrition.

    The intuitive layer has to do with advanced math ability, advanced verbal ability, and you guessed it, intuition, an ability that cannot be taught; you have it or you don’t, and it’s pretty set at birth. You cannot transform a person to a genius. Even if you educate someone at advanced levels, you simply give them more tools with which to express their intuition. This layer is genetic. Perhaps, that is why math scores are less Flynn. I purposely stated advanced verbal ability – it’s not the mere accumulation of words. And innate skill or talent reside here.

    My next post will continue with the possible nature of g.

  62. dearieme says:

    IQ? An anecdote.

    I had a hospital appointment today. The customers were clearly making an effort at social distancing. Not so some of the nurses: they still seem to prefer palling about close to each other.

    IQ? Another observation. Great pains have been taken to instal perspex screens to protect the receptionists. The screens are provided with microphones for the patients to use. There is, however, no provision for patients in wheelchairs – we just have to shout. I also found it hard to follow what the receptionist said since her loudspeaker was far above my head. Can one estimate the IQ of whoever approved these bêtises? 90, maybe?

    I tend to think that the NHS provides ample evidence of a reverse Flynn effect.

    • Replies: @canspeccy
  63. canspeccy says: • Website

    I tend to think that the NHS provides ample evidence of a reverse Flynn effect.

    There’s no need for assumptions or guess work. IQ testing confirms that the Flynn Effect, i.e., the effect of culture on IQ test scores, has reversed direction, with IQ’s of children in the West now in rapid decline.

    But you don’t need to do the testing, just look at the increasingly decadent and demented crap that is provided as entertainment on TV, or as higher education at the so-called university.

    As the saying goes, those that the gods would destroy they first make mad, or as today’s gods, the globalist billionaire class have it, the plebeian mass now made worthless through developments in artificial intelligence and automation will first be made stupid then driven to their own self-destruction.

  64. Charles Spearman’s tasks of intelligence included distinguishing pitch, perceiving weight and colors, directions, and mathematics.’s_two-factor_theory_of_intelligence

    On observation, the former tasks relate to the physical layer of intelligence. Even the latter, at a basic level, which of course it is, involves automation in the form of memorized formulas and procedures, hence, belongs to the physical layer.

    For Thurstone (1938), intelligence was best captured by a set of primary mental abilities—seven factors that included verbal comprehension, verbal fluency, inductive reasoning, spatial visualization, number, memory, and perceptual speed. This perspective is reflected in the specific subtests that are found on comprehensive IQ tests. Scores on these subtests, such as verbal reasoning or block design, are highlighted to provide a profile of a child’s strengths and weaknesses across different types of measures.

    Thorstone’s verbal fluency, spatial visualization, number, memory, and perceptual speed, all belong to the physical layer. His advanced verbal comprehension, and inductive reasoning, in contrast, belong to the intuitive layer of intelligence.

    Cattell (1971) took an alternative psychometric approach, emphasizing the hierarchical structure of intelligence. In his model and others based on it (Vernon, 1971), general intelligence consists of two fundamental types of ability: fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is defined as the understanding of abstract and sometimes novel relations that does not depend on particular content. It is best measured on analogy problems or series completion tasks, such as Raven’s Progressive Matrices and Vocabulary Scales (Raven et al, 1998). Crystallized intelligence reflects accumulated knowledge and well-established problem-solving procedures, as measured on tests of vocabulary, or general information. In a hierarchical model, there may be further subdivisions within each of these main types of intelligence. This distinction between fluid and crystallized intelligence is now well established, although the idea that tests of fluid intelligence may be purer measures of intelligence because they do not reflect social variables such as schooling or home environment (Jensen, 1980) has been seriously challenged (Ceci et al, 1994). Most IQ tests that are currently in use include fluid and crystallized intelligence items, but they typically do not provide measures that map directly onto these constructs.

    Cattell’s fluid intelligence belongs to the intuitive layer, while his crystallized intelligence belongs to the physical layer as it represents the brain’s memory content.

    For the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test, a study published in the year 2009 found that British children’s average scores rose by 14 IQ points from 1942 to 2008.

    One of the most striking 20th-century changes of the human intellectual environment has come from the increase of exposure to many types of visual media. From pictures on the wall to movies to television to video games to computers, each successive generation has been exposed to richer optical displays than the one before and may have become more adept at visual analysis. This would explain why visual tests like the Raven’s have shown the greatest increases. An increase only of particular forms of intelligence would explain why the Flynn effect has not caused a “cultural renaissance too great to be overlooked.”

    However, because of the learnability of the medium in which fluid intelligence tests are presented, its rise simply points to a shortcoming or unavoidable fate in its design: introduction of physical layer pollution into intuitive layer test.

    In support of the nutritional hypothesis, it is known that, in the United States, the average height before 1900 was about 10 cm (∼4 inches) shorter than it is today.[42] Possibly related to the Flynn effect is a similar change of skull size and shape during the last 150 years. Though the idea that brain size is unrelated to race and intelligence was popularized in the 1980s, studies continue to show significant correlations.[43] A Norwegian study found that height gains were strongly correlated with intelligence gains until the cessation of height gains in military conscript cohorts towards the end of the 1980s.[44] Both height and skull size increases probably result from a combination of phenotypic plasticity and genetic selection over this period.[45] With only five or six human generations in 150 years, time for natural selection has been very limited, suggesting that increased skeletal size resulting from changes in population phenotypes is more likely than recent genetic evolution.

    If nutrition contributes to “increases in fluid intelligence”, I think it has to do with the physical layer pollution, in the form of better brain ware, able to quickly and smartly interpret the visuo-spatial medium carrying the test, perhaps especially at the lower ends of the distribution.

    Spearman’s findings about g

    The g factor (also known as general intelligence, general mental ability or general intelligence factor) is a construct developed in psychometric investigations of cognitive abilities and human intelligence. It is a variable that summarizes positive correlations among different cognitive tasks, reflecting the fact that an individual’s performance on one type of cognitive task tends to be comparable to that person’s performance on other kinds of cognitive tasks. The g factor typically accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the between-individual performance differences on a given cognitive test, and composite scores (“IQ scores”) based on many tests are frequently regarded as estimates of individuals’ standing on the g factor.[1] The terms IQ, general intelligence, general cognitive ability, general mental ability, and simply intelligence are often used interchangeably to refer to this common core shared by cognitive tests.

    Spearman’s law of diminishing returns

    A number of researchers have suggested that the proportion of variation accounted for by g may not be uniform across all subgroups within a population. Spearman’s law of diminishing returns (SLODR), also termed the cognitive ability differentiation hypothesis, predicts that the positive correlations among different cognitive abilities are weaker among more intelligent subgroups of individuals. More specifically, (SLODR) predicts that the g factor will account for a smaller proportion of individual differences in cognitive tests scores at higher scores on the g factor.

    Is g fractured? Or could there be a better explanation of what is observed?

    (SLODR) was originally proposed by Charles Spearman,[80] who reported that the average correlation between 12 cognitive ability tests was .466 in 78 normal children, and .782 in 22 “defective” children. Detterman and Daniel rediscovered this phenomenon in 1989.[81] They reported that for subtests of both the WAIS and the WISC, subtest intercorrelations decreased monotonically with ability group, ranging from approximately an average intercorrelation of .7 among individuals with IQs less than 78 to .4 among individuals with IQs greater than 122.

    How good is a correlation of .4?

    Generally, a value of r greater than 0.7 is considered a strong correlation. Anything between 0.5 and 0.7 is a moderate correlation, and anything less than 0.4 is considered a weak or no correlation.

    So statistically a correlation of 0.4 is practically weak and of no good use. What is intelligence for technological advancement? Is it not an IQ range >122? So this is what we call high intelligence for advancement. Yet, g fails and disintegrates at the beginning of the journey? So what g among nations are we talking about??

    g does not explain high intelligence. Deduced.

    So what really is g?

    g is an artifact of the average and below. It is a measure of the robustness of the physical layer of intelligence. How so?

    Industrial design hypothesis of intelligence

    This intuition has been borrowed from the design of computer systems. Usually, we install powerful software on powerful hardware. Now, lower power software are run on low specification hardware. This hardware is akin to lower efficiency neural brains or physical layer. The software is the lower power intuitive layer. The lower the physical layer power, the lower the power of the intuitive layer running on it: that is the correlation that Spearman observed.

    However, to run powerful software of varying powers (i.e. higher IQs), you will need a hardware of minimum high power: hence the g correlation ending at .4.

    So this connection of high g’s to high IQs is, perhaps, ignorantly erroneous at least, and spurious at best. It is simply an optimum condition in which to “install” high intelligences of varying values. The high intelligences are intuitive layers. But like in many things, even in real computer systems, sometimes a low quality physical layer is matched with a high quality intuitive layer. For example, in the case of neuro-atypical individuals suffering from ADHD, we find a strong intuitive layer struggling with physical layer deficits that impede their performance.

    Next we will connect these to Woodley’s findings and race IQ gaps.

  65. What about Spearman’s specific intellectual abilities?

    Spearman hypothesized that the “s” component was specific to a certain aspect of intelligence. [2] Regarding g, Spearman saw individuals as having some level of more or less general intelligence, while s varied from person to person based on the specific task.’s_two-factor_theory_of_intelligence

    I have earlier hypothesized that g is a measure of the robustness of the physical layer of intelligence. “Regarding g, Spearman saw individuals as having some level of more or less general intelligence”. That can be reconstructed as individuals having varying levels of this robustness. At about IQ 122 (95th percentile), “full robustness” is attained and further robustness with IQ rise becomes negligible. Hence, the observed disintegration of g correlation with mental tasks at this point. Let us call this full robustness gmax.

    Based on the proposed industrial design hypothesis of intelligence, within the range g < gmax, specific abilities, s, will never be higher than the paired physical layer (for neurotypical people). And s will never exceed the paired intuitive layer. The intuitive layer holds a collection of specific abilities of varying strengths that follow this condition. As g falls, the strengths of specific abilities also fall, as the carrier intuitive layer diminishes in power. That is the strong correlation that was found in this range.

    Howard Gardner suggested in his theory of multiple intelligences that intelligence is formed out of multiple abilities. He recognized eight intelligences: linguistic, musical, spatial, intrapersonal, interpersonal, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, and naturalist. He also considered the possibility of a ninth intelligent ability, existential intelligence.[6] Gardner proposed that individuals who excelled in one ability would lack in another. Instead, his results showed that each of his eight intelligences correlate positively with each other. After further analysis, Gardner found that logic, spatial abilities, language, and mathematics are all linked in some way, giving support for an underlying g factor that is prominent in almost all intelligence in general.

    I think the explained model accounts for that.

    Robert Sternberg agreed with Gardner that there were multiple intelligences, but he narrowed his scope to just three in his triarchic theory of intelligence: analytical, creative, and practical. He classified analytical intelligence as problem-solving skills in tests and academics. Creative intelligence is considered how people react adaptively in new situations, or create novel ideas. Practical intelligence is defined as the everyday logic used when multiple solutions or decisions are possible.[6] When Sternberg analyzed his data the relationship between the three intelligences surprised him. The data resembled what the other psychologists had found. All three mental abilities correlated highly with one another, and evidence that one basic factor, g, was the primary influence.

    I think the model explains that too.

    So in summary, what are in the intuitive layer? Specific mental abilities as measured by psychometric tests, and, innate skills and talents. You cannot find a world class pianist of average intelligence (I am not talking about g).

    Now, let us consider the gmax range. Following the industrial design hypothesis, a physical layer at gmax robustness can pair with intuitive layers of various enormous powers. That is why the IQ-g correlation falls apart in this range, as observed by Spearman and others. An intuitive layer’s collection of specific abilities is allowed to show extreme variance in ability strength. There are no g caps anymore — yes, g is robustness. That is why you can be Kasparov at 135 IQ. That is why you can be Feynman at 125 IQ. That is why Einstein rocked. And that is why that 140 IQ professor you know, has not changed the world. Creativity of various degrees appears in this range too. I guess if Spearman had conceived these mechanisms, he wouldn’t have called it a law of diminishing returns. Because, perhaps there are no returns diminishing.

    In the light of these, the term general intelligence for g, I think, is a misnomer arising from possibly ill-conceived modeling.

    Moving on to Woodley’s findings:

    Woodley is primarily known for his research on secular trends in human intelligence. He first gained widespread attention in 2013, when he authored a study reporting that average general intelligence (g) had decreased by about 1.16 intelligence quotient (IQ) points per decade, possibly due to dysgenic selection, since the Victorian era. This was based on a meta-analysis of studies measuring simple visual reaction time, starting in the late 19th century.

    Is there possibly a dysgenic fertility at work? Flynn worried that Europe’s top thinkers had decreased. He had expressed that in a recent paper, IQ decline and Piaget: Does the rot start at the top?However, leaving the cause aside, Woodley’s co-occurrence model can be explained in terms of this proposed model of intelligence. At gmax, simple visual reaction time is high. If it declines, that may indicate that the physical layer that it is part of, has declined; and powerful intuitive layer will not pair. But a lower power physical layer can still benefit from environmental improvements that increase test scores, without improving the paired underlying intuitive layer.

    The next and last post will connect these to the racial IQ gaps.

  66. jb says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    Given the far greater genetic variety in Africa than in the whole of the rest of the world put together what I have seem from Lynn, Rushton, and I think even Harpending has looked pretty simple minded to me.

    I don’t remember who pointed this out, but the idea of “far greater genetic variety in Africa” is a bit of a myth. Yes, if you include all sub-Saharan African populations there is greater variation, but most sub-Saharans are descended from the recent Bantu expansion, and are relatively homogeneous genetically. The truly divergent genes are found in marginal groups like the Pygmies and Bushmen, and there just aren’t enough of them to matter.

    Also, even if the thing about greater genetic diversity were entirely true it wouldn’t say anything about the distribution of intelligence. Yes, there does seem to be significant variation in athletic talent, but on the other hand there isn’t much variation in skin color or hair form. Greater overall diversity does not guarantee the existence of high IQ variants any more than it guarantees the existence of straight hair variants.

    • Agree: mikemikev
    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  67. @jb

    Up to a point Lorx Copper.

    While the spread of Bantu genes from what I take to be their zest African origin has been enormous that has not resulted in flooding the genomes of East Africa. I remember well the disdain with which a a tall dblack Kenyan Luo looked down on other blacks present and said “they are Bantu, I am Nilotic”. And just look at the different noses in East Africa, as well as the running legs and slow twitch muscles. Also, while I don’t suggest that West Africa has caste systems as deep and significant genetically as in India I understand that there are castes even within some of the distinguishable tribes like Igbo and Yoruba, themselves both possibly distinguishable in terms of inherited g . I’m still betting on a couple of Eurasian mutations (or imports from Neanderthals!) that helped Eurasian feed, shelter and clothe themselves when the ice challenged them.

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