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What happens when above average and below average ability people have to deal with each other?

Specifically, how will they interact when potentially both are able to gain from the exchange? It seems obvious that they should cooperate, and extract the greatest amount of mutual gain, but does this really happen in situations where there are also gains to be made from not cooperating?

How do bright and dull cope with each other now, in ordinary life, particularly when they cannot all meet face to face, but have to deal with the consequences of each other’s behaviours. Do these two groups understand each other, or are they always at loggerheads, doomed to perpetual conflict? Why can’t we all get along with each other?

I never say of any book that it has changed my life. People and events have changed my life, but books have only changed my mind. Robert Axelrod’s 1990 “The evolution of co-operation” was one such book. He wondered how co-operation could emerge in a world of self-seeking egoists – whether superpowers, businesses, or individuals – when there was no central authority to police their actions. I enjoyed his analysis of Prisoner’s Dilemma competitions, and the simplicity of “Tit for Tat”, which turned out to be the winning strategy. Start by cooperating, then do unto others as they do unto you.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a conceptual game in which two people accused of a crime are held separately, and each is told that if they implicate the other they will be set free. Clearly, if both keep quiet they both will be released for lack of evidence, but the sting is that the person who cooperates with the Police gets sets free and the other denounced person serves a long time behind bars. If there is solidarity among criminals then both will keep quiet and each will be released. If either one breaks, then the other is heavily punished. If prisoners doubt each other, both may denounce each other, to their profound mutual disadvantage.

It is a long time since I looked at the literature on this game, but decades ago I think no-one bothered to research whether intelligence made a difference. Experimentalists rarely considered this possibility. Now a team have looked at this, with very interesting results, which may have wide application. They studied how intelligence and personality affected the outcomes of games, focusing on repeated interactions that provide the opportunity for profitable cooperation.

Intelligence, personality and gains from cooperation in repeated interactions.
Journal of Political Economy (2019).

This is a very interesting and complex paper, and I have left out any consideration of the other games they have tested, and the further neuro-scanning measures they took of participants while playing games, which reveal that intelligent people showed more brain activity, presumably as they worked on the different strategies required for optimal cooperation. I will mention their personality measures in passing, because the intelligence differences were the most significant.

The method was as follows:

Our design involves a two-part experiment administered over two different days separated by one day in between. Participants are allocated into two groups according to some individual characteristic that is measured during the first part, and they are asked to return to a specific session to play several repetitions of a repeated game. Each repeated game is played with a new partner. The individual characteristics that we consider are: intelligence, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, across different treatments that we will define as IQ-split, A-split and C-split, respectively.

In one treatment, participants are not separated according to any characteristic, but rather allocated to ensure similar groups across characteristics; we define this the combined treatment.

There were 792 subjects in all, university students on a wide range of courses, and on average they earned £20 each, of which £4 was paid for showing up. Motivating but not life-changing. Only 1 or 2 per 100 mentioned intelligence as the possible difference between groups, which strongly suggests that other explanations came to mind more readily. Instructive that we assume complicated motives rather than simple lack of understanding. It may be yet another example that bright people assume that others can think like them.

First, the authors show that brighter people do better at cooperation games than duller people. They cooperate more, and thus end up with higher final scores. Since the scores convert to money, they end up richer. They avoid immediate selfish gains in order to obtain higher long-term cooperative returns. Smart strategy. As an analogy for how they operate in real life, they are likely to reap the benefits of maximal cooperation, leading to increasing wealth.

The researchers then deliberately paired up an above average intelligence player with one who was below average to see what happened. The overall return to the participants fell, because lower ability players tended to defect so as to obtain an immediate advantage, at great cost to the other player. How should the bright player respond? Simply continuing to try to cooperate does not work, because the duller player is then rewarded for his lack of cooperation. Instead, the “tit for tat” punishment strategy is required. Start by cooperating, and on the next round do whatever the other person did: if they cooperated, you cooperate; if they defected, you defect. The researchers call this “tough love”.

Four applications of retaliation were, on average, required to teach the lesson that lack of cooperation would be punished with reciprocal lack of cooperation. Eventually cooperation is established between bright and dull, but at an initial cost. Lower intelligence players learn to cooperate, because higher intelligence players punish them if they don’t. In societies where cooperation is already low, lenient and forgiving strategies become less frequent. There is very probably a level at which trust can be assumed, but below that punishment will be the norm. Where is the social tipping point below which cooperation is too costly a strategy? At what point do civil societies collapse and turn into uncivil bands?

The outcome of games with a trade-off between short-run gain and continuation value loss was strikingly different when played by subjects with higher or lower levels of intelligence. Higher intelligence resulted in significantly higher levels of cooperation and earnings. The failure of individuals with lower intelligence to appropriately estimate the future consequences of current actions accounts for these differences in outcomes. Personality also affects behavior, but in smaller measure, and with low persistence. These results have potentially important implications for policy. For example, while the complex effects of early childhood intervention on the development of intelligence are still currently being evaluated (e.g. Heckman, 2006), our results suggest that any such effect would potentially enhance not only the economic success of the individual, but the level of cooperation in society (at least when interactions are repeated).

Everything else being equal, groups composed of individuals with higher levels of intelligence exhibit higher or equal levels of cooperation in the class of games we consider. In our data, intelligence is associated with different long-run behavior in a sequence of repeated games played within the group, and higher cooperation rates are associated with higher intelligence.

Higher cooperation rates are produced by interaction over time in group of individuals with higher intelligence. Cooperation rates in the initial rounds (approximately 20 rounds) are statistically equal in the two groups. Thus, the experience of past interaction, not a difference in attitude in the initial stages, explains the higher cooperation rate.

Higher cooperation is sensitive to the continuation probability, so it is not the result of an unconditional inclination of higher intelligence individuals to cooperate. Intelligence operates via strategy implementation and strategic thinking.

As an analogy for the interaction in society between citizens of different levels of intelligence, this finding would seem to have very wide application. From one perspective, punishment is required to keep the lower classes in line. A cognitive elite must be firm but fair, and not shrink from teaching their inferiors that their impulsive actions have consequences. Law and Order. Clear rules and clear punishments.

From another perspective, the short-term advantage of defection is being harshly castigated by overlords those who cannot live for the moment: killjoys with miserly habits, censorious guardians of the nanny state. On the contrary, looking after one’s self and living in the moment are harmless pleasures. Be happy, don’t worry, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

The Ant and the Grasshopper.

Perhaps this paper allows us to look at the evolution of cooperation in a new light, as something which is central to civilization and which requires leadership and charity in equal measure. Cognitive elites exist, and under the concept of noblesse oblige should organize society so that cooperation is paramount. It comes at great cost, but the costs of perpetual defection are higher.

On a flippant note, I asked Aldo Rustichini what he would predict for Mafiosos playing the game. According to tradition, they should maintain their vow of silence, and never defect. However, in recent times “omertà” has given way to “il penitente” blabbing about the crimes of their fellow gang members, showing that even career criminals can have a conscience, or at least a wish to live outside prison, even if for ever in fear of their lives.

As far as I know, although the authors have many more results in the pipeline, they have not yet studied this group, but it would make a good PhD thesis for a brave investigator.

• Category: Science • Tags: Game Theory, IQ 
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  1. dearieme says:

    Not too O/T I hope. Recently I read

    “N [a Russian] was averagely intelligent: he learned quickly, his memory was impressive, he avidly read history, enjoyed Tolstoy, and, later, the witty female writer Teffi was one of his favourites, though he also had a taste for English romantic novels, potboilers that he read for relaxation; he relished the ballets of Tchaikovsky, and was a superb linguist, fluent in German and French. His English was so perfect that …”

    Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but that doesn’t sound to me like a description of someone who was “averagely intelligent”. Where might he figure in your seven tribes, do you think? How well would he do at Prisoner’s Dilemma?

  2. Perhaps this paper allows us to look at the evolution of cooperation in a new light, as something which is central to civilization and which requires leadership and charity in equal measure.

    This sure is interesting and even surer: Not new. It looks pretty much like your regular liberal Western European society. I think of Chesterton and the tradition of the crime novel. Or Goethe (Götz von Berlichingen, The Sufferings of Young Werther), or Zwingli or the Pietists or Luther or Arno Borst: Medieval Worlds – Barbarians, Heretics, and Artists in the Middle Ages. Kleist’s novella Michael Kohlhaas = principled non-cooperation as a means of self-destruction.

    The Mafia stms from low IQ surroundings with a weak state (that might be the formula to creat a mafia – that and Catholicism).

    • Replies: @SaneClownPosse
  3. MPerry says:

    How are they defining high IQ and low IQ? What’s the cutoff for each?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  4. Patriot says:

    Please write another article exploring how sex (M vs. F) infliences cooperation.

    • Replies: @sally
  5. As usual, no construct validity for any IQ test.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  6. @dearieme

    Certainly high on verbal. Maths and spatial would complete the picture.

  7. @MPerry

    Above and below median intelligence score.

  8. res says:

    Interesting. Thanks. Long paper, so just taking a quick look now.

    What did you think about this caveat?

    In all cases, an equilibrium that satisfies assumption 2.1 is easy to discover after simple inspection of the stage game; that is, within the class of symmetric two-player two-action stage games, a typical college student can easily identify the equilibrium, and safely assume that the partner does too. The existing literature on experimental repeated games confirms for PD, BoS and SH that the equilibria we describe as natural are indeed typically the outcome. In light of these considerations, it is possible that, when subjects are college students, there is no substantial difference in the ideation of the possible strategies in the class of repeated games with a symmetric two-player two-action stage game. To see these differences, research will have to adopt different groups of subjects or a different class of games.

    Any thoughts about the statistically significant (but smallish effect) negative regression coefficient for being female in the payoff all periods case (Prisoners Dilemma) of Table A.19? The R^2 for that model is 0.7 which seems impressive to me.

    For MPerry, they give summary statistics for Raven Scores, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness in Appendix H. The thresholds vary by session, but for Raven score are in the range 16-18.

    David Becker’s world IQ spreadsheet gives Raven – IQ conversions in the NORM sheet, but I am reluctant to use those given the non-standard test issues described in Appendix I–which also gives a distribution for their sample and compares it to the UK APM standardization distribution. There were some caveats, but roughly speaking:

    The adjusted score of the standardization sample has a mean of 18.37, standard deviation 6.088. Our subjects, perform at least as well, and perhaps better, considering the tight time constraint. This is to be expected, since the sample is selected among college students. The raven mean score across all treatments is 16.89 with a standard deviation of 3.974.

    Looking at the actual distributions in Figure A.6 is more interesting. There we see that the smoothed distribution of their sample actually peaks at a lower Raven score than the standardization sample. Their sample appears truncated at the low end (obviously, since college) but also drops more at the high end. I wonder if that is real or an artifact of the shorter time limit?

    So it looks to me like they have a restriction of range issue relative to the general populace. I wonder if this means the effect they observe is understated relative to what we would see in a broader population?

    Appendix J includes a table of “Culture Representation across IQ Sessions.” Very roughly speaking one sample (Table A.61) was split between Anglo Cultures, Confucian Asia, and Southern Asia (43/25/41 people) with 21 in other categories. I wish they had included culture as an explanatory variable in their analysis. It would also be interesting to see summary statistics by culture for the three main variables (Raven Scores, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness).

    P.S. Why do researchers feel the need to cobble together unstandardized IQ tests rather than just using the standard versions? Which would actually be comparable across studies.

  9. I just lost my entire and very long reply to you!
    Short version.

    Looked at Nash equilibria, thought the PD setup was good enough.

    Avoided talking about sex diffs or cultural diffs.

    College students are a restricted range, even with different subjects studied and more lax entry criteria. Probable under-estimate of effect.

    The test results would have been stronger if standard testing had been done. We have to recommend standard testing

    • Replies: @res
  10. res says:
    @James Thompson


    I just lost my entire and very long reply to you!

    I hate when that happens. I have gotten in the habit of doing a Ctrl-C copy before I submit a long comment, but every now and then I forget.

    What did you think about the range restriction at the top end? The extent to which that seemed to happen surprised me–though as I said, I am not sure if the more stringent time limit was a factor.

  11. I assumed you were right, but don’t know what the general intellectual level of the these students are. In UK settings this can be pretty low, with only the top end of the Russell Group getting top 2.2% students.

  12. To quote Confucius, approximately “the wise man learns from the example of others, the ordinary man from experience, the brute from necessity”. Seems to apply here.

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  13. @Dieter Kief

    “that and Catholicism”

    In Russia, mob is Orthodox?

    The Jews in the American Mafia, Meyer Lansky, et al.

    BTW I think the HRCC is an abomination, created under the direction of a pagan emperor as a state religion to bind and control the populace.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
    , @Johann
    , @Anon
  14. Reading about this study brought me back to the problems that I encountered in my IT career that recurred over 40 years. I was always acting in short term self interest when cooperation would have been the better course, even better for my long term self interest. Individually achieving excellent results, but a lousy team player or a subordinate. It was not something that came from logical thinking about a situation, instead a sudden visceral reaction. My being highly impulsive did not help.

    Soar high, crash and burn. Repeat.

    Maybe, I will do better my next turn around the wheel.

    • Replies: @gutta percha
  15. @SaneClownPosse

    The Mafia is indeed from Southern Italy = stems from a low IQ region and is Catholic. But it has no worldwide monopoly on crime, I’d agree upon this one.
    Seen from a distance, you could describe the Mafia and the (at times quite corrupt) Italian central government as two competing means of societal control. Would be interesting to find out where the on average more smart ones are to be found. My guess would be the Italian State. There was a video online a few years ago, which the Swiss Police took from a Mafia-gathering in the Swiss town Frauenfeld. These guys looked (and talked) quite uninspired and exhausted. They indeed discussed questions of social control and – – – religion and – – – tradition. The old and the young! – How their morals (norms) are passed on…

  16. Anonymous[270] • Disclaimer says:

    Not fair.

    Since this was in the UK, the low IQ cohort obviously came from various dark shitholes with disparate kultchures. If the team wanted them to shine, they should have offered a sister-swapping cooperative game. God knows they’re tired of fucking their own.

    • Replies: @res
  17. The Chinese habits of being 5 points smarter than us and recruiting only 140+ graduates into government have produced results consonant with the paper’s findings. We are doomed.

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @Jacques Sheete
  18. Cortes says:

    And if the offer of advancements doesn’t appeal, is it always down to a lack of intelligence?

    Thinking of

    the runner having few regrets about giving his betters a bad day.

    Noodles, in the scene with Max at the end of “Once Upon A Time In America”, makes much the same point.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  19. I would suggest you clowns quit slandering the Italian and Sicilian mobs. They ran an efficient organization. You could bet on a number and get more money from them and better odds than the government monopolized games. And the mob always paid and as Randy Moss once said:”Straight Cash Homey.”

    Furthermore, if they were such low IQ types they seem to do rather well and they had a better moral code than the bankers, government officials, and politicians we have. It’s hard to denigrate the Mob as compared to the Kennedy Clans, Seagrams, and the Magic Bushies. When the Mob ruled in many small towns in America these areas were safe, clean, and were a delight to live in. Yes, they may have whacked each other but they left most people alone. Compare that to the plight of these infected and destroyed little towns today.

    The Mob tended to take care of people that acted up tried to destroy things in the community. Now what do you have? I’m not making excuses for what they did but I lived in a number of those communities over the years and they were wonderful places. Yes, we knew who many members of the Mob were but they didn’t bother the regular folks. It’s kind of amusing to think of how they operated especially the labor unions etc. So they got some of their friends jobs….is that any different than 75% of all Ivy League Presidents, Deans, Chairmen, and administrators being Jewish. The Jews have 2% of the population!

    I knew a number of bookies and mobsters and I can bluntly tell you they were math wizards and would run rings around even some college professors who teach statistics. If they were so dumb how did they make so much money on gambling when our government seems to have so many problems with similar games of chance? It’s called Skin in the Game. You were responsible. Now today no one in government is responsible for anything. They had low overhead and had a network that the government could never run and they did it without computers.

    They had intelligence in the form of street smarts and there is a lot to be said for that as some form of an aptitude for survival.

    • Agree: BengaliCanadianDude
    • Replies: @Cortes
    , @Jacques Sheete
  20. Cortes says:

    A friend who was a high school teacher (of history) told me that his most impressive colleague taught Arithmetic on purely practical examples: how to calculate the winnings from successful accumulator bets was his specialty. This at a time of the overwhelming popularity of the “ITV7” pushed endlessly at lower socioeconomic audiences for weekend horse racing betting markets.

  21. res says:

    Take a look at Appendix J Tables A.61 and A.62. What you describe appears not to be the case. The “Anglo Culture” cohort is well represented in the low IQ group. Non-SSA cohorts seem to be if anything disproportionately in the high IQ group.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  22. Cortes says:

    A beautiful example of cooperation is Gorgeous George and Senator Levin around the 30-40 mark of

    Poor Coleman…

    But comedy gold.

  23. If the nexus point of both parties is wealth creation and maintenance this kind of strategy makes sense.

    But if the goal is something considered more valuable than “gold and silver.” I think the matter falls apart and questions of goal attainment may have no bearing on intelligence.

    Would I be wealthier if I had cooperated more with some parties – sure. And the cost would have been crushing to mt being or I would end supporting anything and everything to make a buck and keep the bucks that I have.

  24. @Cortes

    Alan Sillitoes short story impressed me much, not least since as a teenager, I was also onto running a bit. And I was going to school my relatives hadn’t gone to.
    The thing with Sillitoe’s character Smith (I’ve looked his name up) is: He started running and loved running for existential reasons. He realised, that a victory would not appropriately represent these. So seen from an existential standpoint, I would even say he outperformed the system by trading in his intact feelings and his pride for a victory.

    On a deeper level there is a problem in this experiment which might be at least near Smith’s problem: You – from the results in this experiment alone, can never tell, whether the participants were succeeding (0simply winning) or (really) cooperating.
    As it turned out in our social history, capitalism is not necessarily something which is beneficial for all participants in it. That was Euckens and Erhards reason to develop a (Christian) social market economy.

  25. Anonymous[688] • Disclaimer says:

    Instructive that we assume complicated motives rather than simple lack of understanding. It may be yet another example that bright people assume that others can think like them.

    They are psychologically/socially/culturally hectored into being unaware of their intelligence, the difference between theirs and the others’, since their first years in school, and through all that comes after.

    To recognize one’s higher intelligence, and low intelligence in others, is about as shameful for the ego as walking naked outdoors.

  26. Anonymous[688] • Disclaimer says:

    The researchers call this “tough love”.

    The strategy that doesn’t pay off (continuing co-operation in the face of defection) could be called Faithfully loving one’s wife.

  27. Anonymous[270] • Disclaimer says:

    That was merely a setup for a joke/insult. It’s surprising if the whites under-performed but I’ll take your word for it rather than check. I’m not visiting Google Drive links even via VPN.

    • Replies: @res
    , @Philip Owen
  28. It is a story for teenagers.

  29. Anonymous[347] • Disclaimer says:

    Thank you, much appreciated.

    It does look like the “Anglo Cultures” grouping did under-perform but I’m not sure that represents whites nowadays. Other “white” groupings performed very well.

    In any case the sample sizes are too small to compare.

    Thanks again.

  30. jester says:

    When you talk to me about intelligence in this day and age I yawn and when you talk about scientific studies I go to sleep. The Jester observes his environment and in the people he considers intelligent and those he considers morons, he seems the same trait which is ………STUPIDITY !

    He hears the same gibberish vomited up by Harvard graduates as he does from brain dead retards and they confirm their idiotic words with equally idiotic actions as if they wished to bask in the glory of their foolishness.

    You dont need to provide a scientific study or Prisoner dilemma games to prove this or that.

    When highly educated people barf out their daily load of drivel we can safely assume our lives and times are headed for stormy waters. And when the morons add their two cents its time to move to a remote location without any sort of communication, not even smoke signals, tom tom drums or homing pigeons.

    We live in the age of simpletons. All of us already know that. We dont need any studies or games to confirm what we see and hear on a daily basis.

    Our ancestors, many without a formal education had far more sense than the “educated” dumbos we have running amok these days !!

  31. David says:

    The combination of persistence and stupidity of the image of “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” must set a record. First, its complexity is out of proportion to what’s being illustrated, basically obscuring the point. Second, all the strategies that are discussed surrounding it assume the game is played again and again while, given the context, the first loser wouldn’t get a chance at retribution.

  32. Anonymous[241] • Disclaimer says:

    We live in the age of simpletons. All of us already know that. We dont need any studies or games to confirm what we see and hear on a daily basis.

    Our ancestors, many without a formal education had far more sense than the “educated” dumbos we have running amok these days !!

    Here you stumbled on some simplism too. The “Before it was better” myth, the “all of us already know that” (who knows that, didn’t you just announce that it’s all simpletons right now?”.

    Wisdom, acuteness, and intellectual autonomy have been as rare (and unproductive, from a natural-selection viewpoint) as they are now since the dawn of (human) times.

    The hyper-educated mainstream-hoopla parroting machines you see are, well, organisms trying to increase/optimize their fitness, self-regard and social standing (productive things, from a natural-selection viewpoint).
    It’s sort of… living algorithms. That’s nature, and the different man’d better stand aside and walk away, or just watch the play if he is still curious about something.

  33. Anonymous[105] • Disclaimer says:

    Not to sound like Taleb, but there’s nothing I can learn from a psychologist.

    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
  34. Dan Hayes says:


    But psychologist Thompson is the one exception which proves the rule.

  35. Alfred says:

    Nicky was writing letters in English to Queen Victoria on behalf of the tsar of Russia.

    I guess that “average intelligence” in the Imperial Russia of 120 years ago was a lot higher than today’s everywhere.

  36. @dearieme

    I think this could be the fault of the author’s choice of words. There might be a reason why the phrase “averagely intelligent” was used instead of the more common “of average intelligence”. The former could suggest the subject is someone who we would describe as “intelligent” — meaning 120-130 IQ — but still “averagely so”, well within the normal range for intelligence, as opposed to one-in-a-million abnormalities like Enrico Fermi or Werner Heisenberg.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  37. anonymous[378] • Disclaimer says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    I believe there are tens of thousands of new civil service positions in Chinese central government every year. What’s the civil service exam cutoff for the most elite civil service positions like the economic planning agency (NDRC)?

  38. gutta percha [AKA "gp"] says:

    “Individually achieving excellent results, but a lousy team player or a subordinate.”

    Same here. I’m retired now, and not having to deal with people is a wonderful blessing. I just never figured other people out. If somebody would pay me to sit and take IQ tests, that would be great. No demand for that.

    On the job, given a trivial problem with a trivial solution, a “team” of six people always manages to come up with between one and six solutions, all ineffective, all “solving” a different problem than the one originally presented. I can come up with a wrong solution in far less time than a “team” takes, and lots of times, I actually come up with a right solution by myself.

    Members of the “team” will be drawn from a pool of people who are already overworked and overdue on their current projects.

    I have nightmares about it. I run from office to office, cubicle to cubicle, imploring and begging and berating people, trying to get them to do what I told them to do in the first place. People who cannot follow a clearly carefully written short numbered list of instructions.

    I am Nick Burns, Your Office Computer Guy. Or Frank Grimes, the tragic high achieving character on The Simpsons long ago.

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @Stebbing Heuer
  39. Anon[367] • Disclaimer says:

    Cooperation as an evolutionary strategy works well in very harsh environments where low-IQ noncooperating people die of hunger. Think Northern Hemisphere in winter during hunter-gatherer days.

    However, the closer you get to the equator, the dumber people get. Why? Because a constant growing season means the stupid can survive in an ever-fruiting environment even if they’re dumb and uncooperative. There is no Darwinian penalty.

    A parallel environment in the modern era is the ever-fruiting American welfare system, which takes care of the dumb and uncooperative. Meanwhile, white people who can fend for themselves still live in a Darwinian environment. But they also cooperate better with each other to achieve great things. We need to get rid of welfare if we want to get rid of a massive parasitic burden that is making life harder for whites.

    • Agree: Alden
  40. gutta percha [AKA "gp"] says:

    I met one of the psychometrists who works on the GRE. (I had taken one of the GREs on computer instead of the old fashioned paper way. The logic-puzzle section was laid out over several pages, and there was no back button to review the clues earlier presented, as you would be able to do on a paper test.)

    So I tried to explain to her how the new method and old method weren’t measuring quite the same thing; the paper test is demonstrably easier. She says “You scored well, what are you complaining about?” And bang inside me was the pang she’d never know, the fruitless obsession with scoring as high as I knew I could, a skill with no benefit to my life whatsoever. If I was really _intelligent_, I would have known how worthless it is.

    Real intelligence is knowing whose butt to kiss and how often. Happiness comes from zenfully accepting that state of affairs.

    • Replies: @Counterinsurgency
  41. @jester

    I’d like to believe what you say but studies prove otherwise.

    They conclude

    an average individual alive today would have an IQ of 130 by the standards of 1910, making them more intelligent than 98% of the population at that time. Equivalently, an individual alive in 1910 would have an IQ of 70 by today’s standards, a score that would be low enough to be considered intellectually disabled in the modern world.

    Presumably our children and grandchildren are a lot more intelligent than we are, as are the X, Y, and Z generations compared to the boomers. Doesn’t seem so to some of us old dogs but it must be true if the data shows it. There’s still hope for the world eh?

  42. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is not a game, it’s the real thing. It’s how cops interrogate separated suspects. And they tell all suspects that the others have shopped them, even if they hadn’t. Don’t know how that latter part, lying about the outcome, translates into the game, if they wanted to play it realistically. But then there’s a lot of such lying going on in workplace environments too, especially if you’ve got a lot of conniving gaslighting Indians.

    • Replies: @TKK
  43. Biff says:

    Co-operating with your criminal banker friends can get you quite rich. Co-operating with the police/state can ruin your life.

    • Agree: Jacques Sheete
  44. I always found the prisoner’s dilemma game very self-centred. What if the player feels benefit if his opposite benefits? Is this what leads to this passage in the Tao Te Ching?

    Trustworthy people I trust. Untrustworthy people I also trust. Te as trust.
    Sages create harmony under heaven, blending their hearts with the world.

  45. sally says:

    i would opt for yet another exploratory bit on “how upbringing” influences cooperation..?
    experience is the only teacher… learning (including responsive behavior) is a set of biological processes

    • Replies: @Curmudgeon
  46. Clearly, if both keep quiet they both will be released for lack of evidence, but the sting is that the person who cooperates with the Police gets sets free and the other denounced person serves a long time behind bars.

    That’s not entirely correct, because that’s a slam dunk: snitch and go free. The dilemma is that if none of them speak, they both walk. If they are both convicted, they get ten years, but if one of them informs, he gets two years and the other gets twelve . Hence, the optimal solution – snitching – involves getting a worse outcome if both had kept silent. Hence the “dilemma”.

  47. dearieme says:

    If we use “intelligent” to mean IQ 120-130 then we must refer to JFK as “unintelligent”. I would have no problem with that but I suspect that JFK-worshippers would be considerably put out.

    • Replies: @Counterinsurgency
  48. dearieme says:

    Yup: you win this morning’s prize.

    P.S. Did you know that the grandson of a man who cooked for Rasputin (and later Lenin and Stalin) became President Putin? I’m learning quite a bit from a book on the Romanovs.

    • Replies: @Alfred
  49. anonymous[351] • Disclaimer says:
    @gutta percha


    • Replies: @gutta percha
  50. @Godfree Roberts

    The Chinese habits of being 5 points smarter than us and recruiting only 140+ graduates into government …

    If true, we are doomed and that’s only one reason. Among other things, the Chinese strike me as some very tough cookies, disciplined, resourceful, hard working, financially savvy, and don’t expect government to substitute for mommy and daddy or play messiah the way ‘Merkins do.

    They also appear to know more about the art of the deal and apparently care much less about prancing and strutting around in the limelight acting like overgrown infants than we ‘Merkins.

    Do they have the equivalents of Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell? I’d be surprised if they did, and if they do, they undoubtledly realize they’re fantasies.

    • Replies: @Realist
  51. @niteranger

    They had intelligence in the form of street smarts and there is a lot to be said for that as some form of an aptitude for survival.

    Street smarts is key. They don’t teach it in skoolz.

  52. @Anon

    Yes it would have been so in the past. But being dumb these days won’t feed those teeming masses in the shanty towns of the tropical third world given their population density. Still they’re not dumb enough not to know where to get to in order to survive at the cost of drowning and becoming shark food. And for most of them even jail after rape, robbery, and murder isn’t bad with it’s three meals a day and no death sentence. But then you have to question the intelligence of those who allow them entrance at risk to their own survival. Eskimos with an IQ of 91 seem fit enough for the harshest environment.

  53. Sean says:

    Martin Nowak worked out a lot of this and cooperation tends to increase come what may because it is the best strategy. Punish and Perish as one of his chapters in Supercooperators puts it. Unfortunately cooperation gets too advantageous and insanely cooperative variants start to dominate, in a closed system.

    Even if you stop the freeriders from migrating, average cooperation increases until eventually a point is reached where a single freerider appearing can bring down the whole system.

  54. Bruno says:

    I suspect the hidden negative correlation between IQ and agression explains a big part of the correlation between IQ and cooperation.

    That’s why at the higher rank of’society you see quite a lot of high IQ people with sociopathy. If you move in an area when people gives and expect cooperation but you don’t – or only with your tribe – you get a big chance of extracting value (parasitism).

  55. Alfred says:

    Did you know that the grandson of a man who cooked for Rasputin (and later Lenin and Stalin) became President Putin

    And did you know that my mother’s favourite cook, Zenham (زينهم), left us when we lived in Cairo. He had been headhunted for the king of Libya. Later, I suspect he became the cook of Gaddafi. My mother never recovered from her loss and always compared negatively all subsequent cooks – who often only lasted in her kitchen for one day.

    Idris of Libya

  56. Well, if your mind can change your life, and if a book can change your mind, then a book can indeed change your life.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  57. TKK says:
    @Commentator Mike

    Public Service Announcement Related to the Prisoner’s Dilemma

    In the South, loss of manufacturing has created huge job holes for working class whites.

    Cut to the chase: Be careful if you buy drugs because many young men are Confidential Informants or Government Cooperatives for cash.

    The trick is that they let them keep buying and selling drugs so it lends a false air of safety.

    My smartest client, an old school outlaw, said it best: You don’t need to worry about the ones in uniform. Worry about the one that drives up in an old pick up.

    Not sure there was ever any truth to adage thicker than thieves, but the snitches get stitches fear is gone.

    These millennials rat on each other and then immediately text the gal or guy they just sold out to go hang out. It leaves me unsettled.

    To be sure, these detectives love the drama of pitting people against each other. It delights them. Most Detectives are gossiping drama kings of low cunning , to be avoided at all costs.

  58. res says:
    @Felix Krull

    Good clarification. Here is a formal definition for a symmetric PD:

    Some further notes about game theory game classification:

    Game theory classifies games according to several criteria: whether a game is a symmetric game or an asymmetric one, what a game’s “sum” is (zero-sum, constant sum, and so forth), whether a game is a sequential game or a simultaneous one, whether a game comprises perfect information or imperfect information, and whether a game is determinate.

    And 2×2 games in a business context:

  59. @Alfred

    Edward Dutton.
    _At Our Wits’ End: Why We’re Becoming Less Intelligent and What it Means for the Future _
    Kindle book, Amazon.

    Maybe smarter by about 15 IQ points (assuming Russian IQ back then was equivalent to UK IQ), according to Dutton. Real research, real data.


  60. @TKK


    Former college pothead here.

    As far as the snitches get stitches rule goes, most 23 year old kids busted for selling pot or ecstasy don’t want to ruin their lives by committing an assault on someone. They can handle a lengthy probation. Assault with a deadly weapon is a whole different animal. Few whites want to serve five years in the pen. They want to play ball with the DA or cops and walk.

    It is easy to get snitches on college campuses. A 21 year old busted for an eight-ball will sing his heart out. College kids are transients from all over the state and if they cooperate they can merely transfer to another school and in any event, they were never planning on remaining in the city they were attending college anyhow.

    The “towns and gowns” thing also comes into play. Usually, a college student will identify poor locals. He’ll move back home 200 miles away and the locals never knew his home address anyhow.

    Professional snitches are usually career criminals. As long as they inform on drug dealers, they can commit crimes like burglary or whatever.

    For them, being an informant is a license to continue committing felonies.

    On some level, I cannot help but sympathize with the young informer. He is white, 21, middle-class and just got busted selling some pot to a pretty undercover female policewoman. He has never been a police station before. He doesn’t know his rights. Police are threatening to ruin his life. He does not even want to inform his parents.

    • Agree: TKK
  61. @dearieme

    If we use “intelligent” to mean IQ 120-130 then we must refer to JFK as “unintelligent”. I would have no problem with that but I suspect that JFK-worshippers would be considerably put out.

    Unintelligent jelly doughnuts are not are not all that uncommon.[1]


    1] Reference to “Ich ben ein Berliner” rather than “Ich bin Berliner” .
    Minitrue says it’s not a true story (, but given that “Berliner” really was a jelly pastry, and the “ein” really should have been left out according to Google Translate, I sort of think that this was the sort of error that is natural for an English speaker, and was quite real. I’m sort of surprised that the supression attempt would go as far as removing all except liberal references, and that the only reference to the liguistic error that I could find was in a recipe:
    “The misconception arose from the fact that Kennedy supposed should have said, “Ich bin Berliner.” Adding the indefinite article “ein” implied that the speaker is a Berliner, which isn’t a citizen of Berlin at all but instead a jelly-filled doughnut popular in Germany and Central Europe. However, Kennedy wasn’t speaking as a literal person living in Berlin but in a figurative sense, where the “ein” is still necessary. Additionally, those jelly doughnuts aren’t even known as “Berliners” in Berlin: They’re called Pfannkuchen instead. No self respecting West Berliner listening to that speech would have confused Kennedy’s words.”

    We really do live in a fictional information space. And it still makes a good story, right up there with Biden’s “Poor Kids Are Just as Bright and Talented as White Kids” remark.

  62. @TKK

    These millennials rat on each other and then immediately text the gal or guy they just sold out to go hang out. It leaves me unsettled.

    These are the same millennials that the Democrats are counting on to be horrified at racists. I think the bolts have fallen out of the construct.


    • Replies: @TKK
  63. Johann says:

    Yes it is amazing how much intellectualism and culture the American Protestant Empire has given to the world. In truth the Anglo American Protestant Empire has developed the biggest supply of killing machines and super bombs in world history. Also the highest garbage culture in world history.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  64. @Philip Owen

    So who is more reliable and likely to produce positive or skirt negative results? The Brute. The Wise Man gets vicarious and second/third hand information. The ordinary man can deceive himself that the experience wasn’t all that relevant, or a one-off. The Brute better be right or he won’t survive.

    I’m a brute, a power plant and mechanical engineer that had to get it right to survive personally and professionally.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  65. @Commentator Mike

    The mighty Flynn [1] effect is going into reverse, and it is argued that the Flynn effect was just a measurement error, not accounting for training.

    Edward Dutton.
    _At Our Wits’ End: Why We’re Becoming Less Intelligent and What it Means for the Future_ Kindle book

    1] Popular music reference. Listen to this at your own risk.
    Captures 1968 perfectly: “When Quinn the Eskimo gets here, all the pigeon’s gonna run to him.” Almost anything exotic was accepted because it _was_ exotic.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  66. GMC says:

    Intelligence as in schooling is overrated in some parts- street sense, common sense and knowing how to play the game is mandatory. Many of those in prison are there because they didn’t have some degree of intelligence, but also because they didn’t have the other smarts and some — money stashed. I know this from birds eye view of the judicial system – and I was a huckleberry. But I had a little of all the smarts and I didn’t do the felonies. I saw guys plea down to 1 felony , just because they were scared into believing that – this was the only way out . I also watched the judge adjust the bail to how much money the detainee was worth . Murder cases were different – for civilians. The whole system is rigged but if you really didn’t do the crime and have a decent lawyer – it might not even go to court because once you win your case , you can sue for – a lot of money. What a shame it has all come down to this.

  67. @gutta percha

    Real intelligence is knowing whose butt to kiss and how often. Happiness comes from zenfully accepting that state of affairs.

    In my experience, that’s been fatal, if not to the person doing it, than to their kids. This society is a meatgrinder that can’t reproduce itself next generation.


    • Agree: byrresheim
  68. Cyrano says:

    Today “intelligence” is used in order to “explain” the difference between rich and poor. Supposedly rich people are smarter. Well let’s see.

    Let’s say that there are, for example, a thousand different human activities. Only let’s say 100 out of them are associated with making money. And it’s enough for an individual to be good at only 1 out of a 1000 in order to get rich – he can suck at the rest of them.

    Being good at only one activity will make him rich and allow him to look down at someone who let’s say is good at 100 activities that don’t make any money. And even then, it’s enough if one individual in 20 generations is good at anything, when in form of inheritance he can pass the wealth to the next 19 generations who suck at everything, but by inheriting the wealth, they are allowed to look down on people who may be good at many things which don’t generate any wealth.

    The “intelligence” doesn’t explain diddly squat, it’s used to justify conditions that might not be entirely fair. “Cooperation” quite often means acceptance of the unfairness of your fate.

    • LOL: Wally
  69. @jester

    When you talk to me about intelligence in this day and age I yawn and when you talk about scientific studies I go to sleep. The Jester observes his environment and in the people he considers intelligent and those he considers morons, he seems the same trait which is ………STUPIDITY !

    Well, the last time Western people tried being smart, back when Europeans and Americans were trying to deliberately change Western society to adapt it to the Industrial Revolution (roughly speaking, after the Revolutions of 1848 [1]), it didn’t work out well. We ended up with 30 years war (1914-1945) the killed quite a few tense of million people, so many we don’t quite know how many it was, and left us with a cold war that could have killed (or condemned to starvtation) most civil populations in both alliances. Plus we got the bloodbath in China. All of this can be directly traced back to efforts at reform [1].

    The net effect of this (no kidding) was a kind of PTSD [2] in the West. The European descended population became afraid to do _anything_, and was happy to let other ethnicities do the deciding [3]. There was much talk of “stopping technology until society matured”. The civil view of WW II combat was so at variance with the actual experience that nobody who had seen it talked about it. R. Unz’s account of the Nurenburg trials and the deaths of very many (a million?) US administered POWs after WW II are interesting. They are news because similar information didn’t reach the US general population, except as urban stories [3]. I’ve always thought that “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” depicted the essence of American life: everybody lives in a stage setting that’s gradually being eaten by monsters.

    And the end result, of course, is that the West was taken over by every bloody minded con man coalition on Earth, including some of our own regions. There being no honor among bad guys, they are now fighting it out (in the equivalent of a burning barn, which is our rapidly declining cities) with each other. About what you’d expect to happen to a catatonic rich person with greedy relatives, in fact [4].

    And we’re out of our own withdrawal hallucinations and back in history again. What next?


    1] Popular rule in the Western members both alliances in both wars, plus wartime propaganda, made it very difficult to stop because off prohibitively high losses, and the Eastern members were either destroyed by their own civil populations (WW I) or kept losing people and were crippled for the four generations (USSR). China’s war (directly traceable to Marxism, a European attempt at reform) both killed an appreciable fraction of its population and resulted in a mix of policies that have left China powerful but crippled (e.g. loss of agricultural land, 3 Gorges dam).



    4] I saw that once. They just kept on fighting until they died of old age.

    • Replies: @jester
  70. Anon[420] • Disclaimer says:

    Thanks for writing this article.

    It is an excellent brief on a study that speaks to the heart of politics and the political power that is their aim: cooperation between individuals; which gradually form into larger coherent political groups (beginning with the family unit and later extending out into community).

    Two cooperative individuals are more political powerful than one dozen uncooperative individuals. This is how small mafias of people can come to rule over large groups, and why these small mafias do their best to stymie large-group culturally-rooted cooperation.

    This is why the heart of communism is not its economic class “unity” red herring, but instead the dismantling of all institutions that lead to social group cooperation: ethnicity / culture, religion, ethnic nation, and race.

    Economic class unity does not lead to significant political cooperation and thus it does not breed real political power: as evidenced by the lack of intergenerational cooperation between random communist individuals. Whereas culturally unified and cooperative individuals will often take great pains to pass on money, businesses, political connections, etc merely as a result of their small group cultural (essentially family) connection. The latter situation representing the intergenerational accrual of political power.

    International communism is an imperialist machine, meant as a control mechanism for foreign highly-cooperative ruling elite. It is not a tool for cooperation of the people as advertised, but instead a dismantling of their political power through the dismantling of their cooperative interfaces.

    My personal experience with lower intelligence groups within the umbrella of my general ethnicity (White) has been fairly horrific; precisely matching the results of the study.

    • Agree: utu
  71. Anon[420] • Disclaimer says:

    The Jews in the American Mafia, Meyer Lansky, et al.

    It is incorrect to not see Judaism itself as the American Mafia merely because they operate under the guise of religion. Judaism is the defining, most refined mafia in the West.

    A reading of the Judaic texts reveals very little of what the rest of the world would hold to be spiritual and consistent in theme with other religions. These are texts focused on group survival, out-group defeat, and material resource accrual.

    Freedom of Religion in the West is merely a license for above-average intelligence mafias to operate with impunity.

    The likely consistent result being that these small mafias often eventually replace the native elite as hostile foreign rulers.

    I’d be interested to know how far back this ascending and eventually ruling foreign mafia mechanism / cycle goes in the context of human civilization.

  72. gutta percha [AKA "gp"] says:

    The diagnosis has been OCD and depression. I won’t discount autism or sperg, although there seems to be a wide range of oft-changing definitions of those.

    If you aren’t born with OCD or depression, working with ineffably stupid people pretty much HAS to DRIVE you to obsession and depression. Getting things done with them is like running a marathon in molasses on Mars. I can’t think of a better depiction of it than Frank Grimes.

  73. @Felix Krull

    Yes, contingencies used in the game vary. My account was too brief.

  74. @Robert H. Burt

    Good point. I should have made it clear it changed my mind about some matters, not everything.

  75. Alden says:

    Way off topic

    A friend worked in a stock brokerage all her life. She wondered about this. Someone buys stock for X amount of dollars. The stock value goes way down.

    So, what happens to the X amount of dollars originally paid for the stock??

    I thought some economists and financial market guys might know the answer. None of the brokers she worked with knew the answer.

    • Replies: @Counterinsurgency
    , @jester
  76. @Alden

    A friend worked in a stock brokerage all her life. She wondered about this. Someone buys stock for X amount of dollars. The stock value goes way down.

    So, what happens to the X amount of dollars originally paid for the stock??

    The money paid for the stock still exists, in the pocket of the person who sold the stock.

    Stock price is not money. You can exchange the stock for money (most days) but the stock itself is no more money than are the groceries you buy.

    If stock prices drop since yesterday, then the fact that you could have sold your stock yesterday (but didn’t) for more money has no more to do with money in general than the fact that you could have gone to Europe yesterday (but didn’t) has to do with geography.

    (here queue the Beatles, “Yesterday”)


    • Replies: @Alden
  77. Skeptikal says:

    Hmm. Pfannkuchen aren’t jelly doughnuts.

    Except I guess in Schleswig-Holstein . . .
    Where they are called Berliner . . .

    As for Pfannkuchen, it seems to refer to something quite different from our pancakes, or griddle cakes.

  78. @Anonymous

    What’s this about Google Drive. My workflow processes are set up on Google Drive. An erstwhile associates consulting in Russia refused to access Google Drive this week. What is the story?

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  79. Alden says:

    from Alden

    Thanks, I’ll tell her. The seller has the money. Might be less or more.

  80. @Poupon Marx

    Large electric motors and hydrogen generators, for a while at least but that industry died.

  81. Anonymous[189] • Disclaimer says:

    the Anglo American Protestant Empire has developed the biggest supply of killing machines and super bombs in world history.

    True, but how they’re used is crucial.

    Also the highest garbage culture in world history.

    That’s the Tribe’s doing but it doesn’t absolve its hosts/victims.

    • Agree: Counterinsurgency
  82. Anonymous[189] • Disclaimer says:
    @Philip Owen

    I’m certainly not Russian but Google = Alphabet = CIA = Mossad.

    In any case, if you trust Google, you’re an Internet fruit fly.

  83. @sally

    Absolutely. There are other factors along the same lines, such as family size, birth order, and self esteem, which in itself is a crapload of variables.

  84. @Commentator Mike

    Doesn’t seem so to some of us old dogs but it must be true if the data shows it.

    But do the data really show it? Have another look at the data published here. Something stands out like (insert rude expression here). So obvious that I suspect a trap. Does Flynn publish in The Journal of Irreproducible Results, or maybe The Onion?

    The error is so glaring that I am staggered that nobody commented(until I did just now).

    My initial position on anything is No mechanism, no effect. Now while I recognise that incredulity is not an argument I can’t conceive(obscure weak meta-pun intended) of any possible mechanism to cause such a humongous result. The only way such enormous change could occur so quickly would be with huge extermination of nearly half the population; I think that that has not happened. Some people might have noticed.

    • Replies: @utu
    , @Commentator Mike
  85. Since Humans would spend up to 70%-80% of their time in LABOR (employment/business) its is puzzling to me that during High School period not much time is dedicated to assesing/evaluating/advising the students/parents about their children psycho/social/LABOR APtitudes. I asked q students what his professional objectives were he said he wanted to be a doctor the I ask him what was his favorite subject he said History. Indeed a quick review of hid grades showed that he did much better in Social Studies than Natural Sciences which would predict medicine as a bad choice for him. Likewise a student that excel at Natural Sciences would be better suited for careers such as Engineering, medicine, dentistry etc. Secondly most people would not pursue a University Career usually because they can not afford it or most likely they are not suited for college,university studies. IF I were to say this to a student, or their parents publicly I would be labeled a racists, elitist, and publicly rebuked. It is much disturbing the fact that the USA employment labor force (place) is becoming Multicultural with added social, legal complexities I find it deeply Unexplainable that the business/corporate/public and private employers DO not developed better LABOR relations PROTOCOLS for collective work place interactions..even standarized language, considering the complexities of multiculturalism, gender, sex, class differences. Finally the employment, business, corporate current culture emphasizes COMPETITION among employees in order to advance, to obtain better pay, time off, and other perks. While employees are paid a fixed salaries corporate management collect HUGE executive\$\$ bonuses…Employees are usually NOT rewarded (collectively) for their performance, which deters group cohesion cooperation. So the social,public ECONOMIC (labor) interaction among HIGH IQ individuals and LOW IQ must begin by assessing the psycho/social/LABOR aptitudes/profiles of the population, standardization of LABOR relations (equal rules), and Making cooperation profitable (pay\$\$.). Corporations in order to maximize profits must develop highly sophisticated pyscho/social profiles evaluations to assign LABOR roles..maybe even develop COOPERATION with schools, and universities. Such psycho evaluations must seek to make WORK not only profitable but fulfilling (emotional) and must of all provide for EXIT strategies (firing/lay off/quitting) that prevent(work) VIOLENCE and encourage openness in order to make transitional events easy and peaceful.

  86. JackOH says:

    I’m not quite sure I get the example, but I’ve had varied experience cooperating with people at different levels.

    In college, I participated in something called the Community Land Use Game, a sort of exercise in learning about land use, development, property values, and so on. I recall few details. Another student, a bright, intellectually aggressive guy, and I made a quick agreement to cooperate. We cleaned up. The other students were baffled.

    In grad school I offered the preferred solution to a scenario in which the survivors of a plane crash had to decide the best course of action. I was ignored. Don’t know why.

    After working as a technical writer, I became a salesman, later a sales manager, and got to be pretty good. People trusted me, but I felt like hell selling crap. I actually believe some people bought our crap because I conveyed an impression of competence and savvy. As in: “Would a smart guy like that sell us crap?”

  87. utu says:

    And all Inuit are geniuses.

    • Replies: @Theodore
  88. utu says:

    The error is so glaring …– There is no error. It just shows you that IQ tests measure something that has a very strong cultural component.

    • Replies: @res
    , @acementhead
  89. When the cities lost their economic base in light manufacturing and shipping, and switched to politics, it had the side-effect of demonstrating to everybody that the real money is in politics, not productive industry. And “everybody” was right — note that our successful “business” entities are highly political in order to get favorable laws and market protection from the Feds.

    Now, if everything is political, it doesn’t _matter_ (to the political establishment) whether a kid succeeds or fails. All that matters is that she, he, it (they don’t care about the student) vote for the current political establishment _in the next election_. There is no market for telling people that Santa Claus doesn’t really exist (it’s your relatives who give the gifts), because that costs votes.

    Politics rules until it doesn’t.


  90. dearieme says:

    What has your tale about Berliners to do with it? JFK had a measured IQ of less than 120. Hence my occasional jibe that he’d only just have scraped into the second highest stream in my secondary school.

    I suspect, but do not know, that it’s the only publicly known Presidential IQ.

    Steve Sailer estimated W’s IQ as about 125, based on his performance on examinations for entering training as a jet pilot. Cruel readers conjectured that that was W’s IQ before years of boozing, and perhaps drug-taking, reduced it.

    • Replies: @res
    , @Counterinsurgency
  91. jester says:

    The money she paid for the stock now resides in the pocket of the seller.

    Suppose you buy a car for \$5000 hoping to sell it for \$7000. Unfortunately, a willing buyer will only pay you \$3000. You have lost \$2000 but the original seller still has the \$7000 you paid.

    It is the same with the stock market. Most people think of it as “stock” but in reality you are buying part of a business.

  92. jester says:

    Look, I have friends that have gone to Harvard. Poor me, I was happy to graduate from Secondary school with a pass mark. However the things they do and say leave me reeling. The most stupid shit comes out of their mouths and the majority of their actions are asinine. If they did not continually flaunt their Ivy League Diplomas one would believe they were asses.

    The same equally applies to the youth. The drivel that erupts from their continually open mouths is astonishing. These are the simpletons who will become idiots when they attend university.

    It seems to me that the “uneducated” possess far more street smarts and common sense than the elite crew with their framed parchment papers.

    I wonder, I ponder and I conclude that these days there is no punishment or consequences for idiocy. Back in the day when a decision could cost you dearly people thought carefully before acting and speaking.

    It is obvious to me that people today DO NOT THINK !

  93. res says:

    It just shows you that IQ tests measure something that has a very strong cultural component.

    Probably partially true.

    But does the similar effect seen for height over the same time frame mean rulers measure something that has a “very strong cultural component”?

  94. res says:

    Here is some discussion about JFK’s IQ:

    According to historian Thomas C. Reeves, author of “A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy,” in prep school JFK scored a 119 on an IQ test. Reeves told UPI, “Kennedy was at no time outstanding in school; spelling was always a problem for him.”

    One other tidbit:

    When JFK was a student at Harvard, he was part of a psychological study that measured just about everything about him, also certainly including his IQ.

    Unfortunately, his personal data will only be released 70 years after his death.

    I don’t know if that is true or not, but we are only fourteen years away from that deadline.

    P.S. What was the cutoff for the first stream? 120 exactly?

    • Replies: @dearieme
  95. @acementhead

    I don’t know how reliable all these tests are. I looked briefly at the various world surveys and the relative distribution is fairly similar with East Asian countries on top and African countries at the bottom, but there are some differences between them. Perhaps there is even more agreement between the various surveys than one would expect given that it isn’t an exact science like measuring temperature. However, in none of these surveys have I seen Nepal placed at the bottom of the world with IQ = 60 as in the survey James Thompson used in one of his previous articles. They almost all give Nepal a more respectable IQ = 78, which is close to the world global score of 82 James Thompson quoted, with many other countries below it. There may be other anomalies between the surveys but I can’t be bothered going through all the data.

  96. @Counterinsurgency


    I used to wonder what that, originally written by Bob Dylan, song was about. Now, thanks to the Internet, easy to find out. It was in praise of Anthony Quinn in the movie “Savage Innocents” where he plays an Eskimo who kills a priest who insulted him by not sleeping with his wife as their rules of hospitality dictate. Not a very smart priest it seems.

    Here performed by Manfred Mann

    • Replies: @Counterinsurgency
  97. @Commentator Mike

    Lots to say on this. I am also doubtful about the very low scores. However, it is very probably better to always show the actual scores and then get into interpretations later, including interpretations that some test settings and procedures are likely to be wrong.

    David Becker has just done a substantial update to the database, extensively discussing anomalous results and making corrections to the overall global figure, to deal with missing data.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
    , @res
  98. @dearieme

    Making a stupid mistake in a critical speech is about right for a quite modest IQ who is controlled by his staff or support group; that was the point. JFK was sort of like AOC before she fired her campaign manager in that way.


    • Replies: @dearieme
  99. @Commentator Mike

    Thanks! I didn’t know that, and its interesting. I can’t follow the symbolic references (if the song has any, other than the name). It still seems to mirror the attitude of the late 1960s, which was that some transformational event was going to happen and make everything better (“When the moon is in the southern stars, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will rule the planet, and love, love will reach the stars”, search for “The 5th Dimension Age of Aquarius 1969” in youtube). What happened next was reminiscent of the Children’s Crusade.

    Anyway, a word about the Innuit [1]. Their predecessors in the Arctic were gradually displaced by the Innuit comparatively recently, about 1000 years back, and their predecessors apparently suffered from increasing genetic load due to inbreeding. That would explain the insistence of sleeping with Quinn’s wife: another custom followed for no reason that turns out to be vital. The Inuit are apparently devolving (slowly) from living in an overly hostile environment — their present toolkit (set of artifacts) is smaller than that of their ancestors; the example being loss of dolls. Something similar happened to the Aboriginal Australians, who have lost most of their ancestral toolkit apparently in response to the present harsh Australian environment. They appear to have pursued physical adaptation as opposed to making artifacts.

    The number of human groups that have come and gone is amazing, and a bit humbling.



    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  100. @James Thompson

    I don’t follow this subject closely but I can see that some of those results quoted in your other article are not the result of direct standardised IQ tests but are based on indirect measurements of some other tests. This is confusing and the margins of error must be great and open to debate. With regard to the results, in your other article you wrote:

    The results for individual countries vary somewhat according to the method used, but these are probably the very best estimates, mostly using psychometric tests but supplementing them with closely correlated maths and science attainment tests, which increases accuracy and country coverage.

    I suppose reading all their books and papers one could get the idea of precisely how they got each country’s IQ, but as I have a passing interest I won’t be doing that. Why not just use results of IQ tests when drawing up a global map of IQ? OK, they’d say IQ tests weren’t conducted in all countries, or not enough samples for statistical analysis.

    I suppose this study in the link below provides actual direct IQ test results in the table (although the map they show is based on Lynn)

    They have Sierra Leone as 95 while that table you gave in your article had it as 60. A lot of those other African countries also have very high IQ test results according to this actual IQ test data. (I can see some potential problems with this presumably online survey in that it was maybe taken mostly by expats in some of those more exotic countries, or at least by those with an access to a computer and internet connection, whatever implications that may have). But they give direct IQ test results for countries such as Greenland, Cape Verde, Gibraltar, Malta, Namibia, Nauru, Palau, Palestine, and many more nations that are not covered by Lynn. They even have data for South Sudan as well as Sudan while Lynn only mentions Sudan. This survey covers 242 countries/regions and no country has an average IQ score of less than 90. Presumably there is bias because those who would take the online IQ test already have a higher IQ. But then there could be other types of bias in other types of surveys too, as those by Lynn et al. for all I know.

    This other table in the following link is based on several studies including Lynn et al and gives a comparison with earnings and temperature.

    Fair enough about what Lynn is doing, but this can only be resolved when some international body does real standardised IQ tests globally.

    As a layperson I can’t be bothered getting deeper into this topic, that’s why we have you to provide summaries – hopefully objective ones.

  101. @Felix Krull

    The payoffs for mutual cooperation were 48 points each, and for mutual defection 25 points each.
    If one suspect cooperated (kept quiet) but the other defected (confessed) the defector got 50 points and the hapless cooperator 12 points.

    An egotistical approach is to defect against a gullible sucker, for maximum advantage.

    Mutual cooperation takes duller players some time to learn.

  102. res says:
    @James Thompson

    Thanks for following up on that. Good extended discussion from David Becker of some of the low IQ values observed. It seems like we need a test covering the low end of IQ (say 50-85) which could be normed for both first world and third world populations. Coming up with a better way of comparing values in those ranges between populations (see comments about the differences between blacks and whites in the US at IQ 70) would be helpful.

  103. @Counterinsurgency

    Ich bin ein Berliner

    actually was correct. Anyway, the error would have been his speechwriter’s.

  104. dearieme says:

    Thanks: I hadn’t understood your point – my mistake.

    A late friend of mine was a visiting scholar at MIT when he was invited for a chat with Senator JFK. He told me three things. (i) He was impressed that the Senator should try to learn more about the world by talking informally to intelligent, non-political visitors to the US. (ii) He found JFK charming. (iii) He found him to be not very intelligent, but quite intelligent enough not only to hire able staff but to retain them.

    • Replies: @Stebbing Heuer
  105. dearieme says:


    What was the cutoff for the first stream? 120 exactly?

    That was never discussed but the top, ‘A’, stream was about the same size as the second, ‘B’, stream so assuming the IQ tests (one taken at age ten and another at age eleven) had a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15 you can estimate the A/B boundary. About 123 or 124? That sounds roughly plausible: you’d have about 6% of the population qualifying for the A stream. In those days about 5% went to university so that allows one sixth of the academically most able children to decide not to go to university. There were plenty of professions open to them without a degree in those days.

    The penalty for qualifying for the A stream was that you then had to study Latin and French whereas the B-streamers weren’t lumbered with Latin. That’s not quite as daft as it sounds because in those days the ancient universities all demanded Latin for entry.

    • Replies: @res
  106. res says:

    Thanks. How closely did the streaming map into who went to university? In a class based society (I think that is a fair characterization of that time and place?) I would expect there to be some disconnect between ability and tertiary education. Or had the pipeline become mostly “merit” based at that point? Was your secondary school roughly reflective of broader society, or was it more selective?

    For comparison, I went to a school I would say was unselected and in the first years we were broken into six equal sized tracks (so presumably roughly 85/93/100/107/115 thresholds). After that classes became mostly elective and self-segregated. I don’t have numbers, but would estimate a good portion of the top two tracks went on to college (with some exceptions for professions not requiring a degree as you note). But that might be low given that the US has been at or over ~50% of high school graduates going on to college for a long time:
    Though the graduation rate is lower:

    P.S. Your secondary education sounds a good bit more rigorous than mine.

  107. dearieme says:

    How closely did the streaming map into who went to university?

    Pretty well, if memory serves. I think the great bulk of the A stream went to university. The B streamers often went to other forms of higher education – tech colleges, teacher training colleges, and so on. Of course, it depended on how well you did in your public examinations in the last two or three years of secondary school. Being in the A stream wouldn’t help you if you made a pig’s ear of your exams.

    As for social background and university – it was conspicuously meritocratic. My new friends when I was a university fresher included the son of an agricultural labourer, the son of a butcher’s assistant, and the son of a rural plumber. I also knew the son of a City Engineer, the son of a doctor, the son of a vet, … But mostly I didn’t know what their fathers did – I only knew about the ones where the subject happened to arise naturally in conversation.

    If your father didn’t earn much you got a grant that was enough to cover all your costs at university: in addition we worked in the vacations. (Yes, I have cycled through the snow collecting the Royal Mail from pillar boxes.) If your father earned more than some minimum you got a smaller grant and your father received a letter telling him how much of a “parental contribution” he should pay you. It all worked pretty well except for the odd skinflint refusing to cough up the parental contribution. The system of grants for students carried on until the Blair government abolished them in 1998 (in breach of an election promise, of course).

    It occurs to me, though, that I know more about the social background of my university friends than I do about the backgrounds of my school classmates. At school I know the occupation of the fathers of two of the girls, being the two to whom I was most attracted! (Farmer, haulier.) Oh, and a third girl – because she was a conspicuously chatty, cheerful soul and I knew her brother. Their father was a doctor. Of the boys I knew less: apart from the doctor’s son I knew that another was the son of a factory manager. But then at school, unlike university, we didn’t sit around chatting in a common room after dinner or go off to the pub together afterwards. Moreover, when school ended many pupils scattered back to the villages they came from unless they were staying behind for sports, or debating, or drama, or chess, or whatever.

    Even when we had “free periods” during school hours, intended for study, we didn’t sit around idly chatting. In winter we usually played card games of the whist family or, as we got older – greatly daring – we’d sneak away to try to play snooker and drink beer. We had more success with the former than the latter. As for cards I was keen that we play mainly bridge but my classmates preferred a whist variant called Hearts. Bloody barbarians.

    Was your secondary school roughly reflective of broader society, or was it more selective?

    Reflective – I remember only one (clever) boy from my primary school going away to boarding school. There will presumably have been one or two children from well-off families who didn’t attend local primary schools but went to “prep” schools instead. Otherwise everyone went to the same secondary school, streamed according to our performances in “attainment exams” and IQ tests at age 10 and 11.

    Your secondary education sounds a good bit more rigorous than mine.

    In addition to Latin and French our compulsory subjects for the first couple of years were English (plenty of Chaucer and Shakespeare), Maths, Physics, Chemistry, History, and Geography. We also had non-examinable classes in Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, RK (Religious Knowledge), PT (Physical Training), woodwork, and metalwork (the girls replaced the last two with “domestic science” or some such name). Later you could drop some subjects and could add Biology, German, Ancient Greek, or Russian. There may have been other subjects I’ve overlooked. (My memory isn’t awfully good; I’m pleased that I can remember so much. It’s probably a sign that I enjoyed it.)

    Some of the teaching was tremendously good, Maths and English in particular, and also History and Geography. I remember our history teacher announcing “We are now going to do the wars of European Nationalism. I shall teach you about the German Wars under Bismarck. You will read up on the Italian Wars over the summer holiday. Do not concentrate solely on Garibaldi – keep an eye out for Count Cavour.” I was thirteen. Who now would give pupils of that age a bit of serious reading for the summer and reasonably expect them to do it?

    It was a good summer – I was also in charge of the town weather station for a fortnight or so. So there is at least one period in the history of the Royal Burgh when the max and min temperatures and rainfall measurements are entirely trustworthy. 🙂

    I know that it must have been that summer when I was temporary, acting, unpaid meteorologist, because for the next few summers I was big and strong enough to earn money working around the harbour.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
    , @res
  108. @dearieme

    A lovely account. How much did you earn in your harbour jobs? My first job in Christmas 1964 was as a chippy. £15 per week, cash. Did not equal that till in full time work in 1968.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  109. @res

    roughly 85/93/100/107/115 thresholds

    Curious as to what you mean by this. Do you mean you and your classmates were divided into groups by approximate IQ? Thanks

    • Replies: @res
  110. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    How much did you earn in your harbour jobs?

    I don’t know: my memory fails. I know that the best paid work per hour was dealing with the mooring lines for the “steamers” – mainly diesel-engined, and about 200 tons – 600 tons, carrying cement, or timber, or fertiliser. If high tide was at 06:00 in early July – daylight being pretty good by 06:00 – then I had to be on duty before 05:30: maybe 05:15? I am not a “morning person” but time and tide wait for no boy.

    The highest pay – because it involved far more hours – was for unloading the steamers. I’d probably not have been strong enough for that until I was fifteen, at a guess. On a warm summer day you sweat and the cement dust gets into all your pores – not terribly comfortable but I could either go home for a bath or off to the river for a swim. Or preferably both.

    Anyway the money all went into my Savings Bank account with the intention of finally buying a motorbike. And eventually, once I’d sorted out my budget at University, I did. Wheeeeeee!

  111. res says:

    I actually don’t know exactly how the division was done (e.g. how much teacher assessment factored in), but that is the basic idea.

    More on the school tracking topic. Needless to say, it is controversial in the Current Year.

  112. dearieme says:

    A pleasure.

    I should tell you that, horror of horrors, our primary school was streamed too. Each year group had two classes, each of about 45-50 pupils, streamed by the teachers after they had first taught us for a term using arbitrary assignments of pupils to classes. Then when we were 10, and again at 11, we and all the other primary school pupils in the county did the same attainment exams and IQ tests so that we could be assigned to streams in secondary school. (I say “in the county” but for all I know the same exams were used across the country.)

    I should also tell you that that was an era of “corporal punishment” – misbehaviour could lead to you standing with your hands held out in front to receive whacks from a leather strap. By the time we were in secondary school this became a bit of a joke because we had started playing cricket and the sting your hands received from making a catch of the fast-moving leather ball was much fiercer than the sting from the strap. But if, for example, a small female teacher “gave the strap” to some galumphing lad who towered over her it was taken to be more of social statement than a physical punishment: you were being told where the boundary was between Having a Lark and Going Too Far.

    Hey ho, lovely days.

  113. @Commentator Mike

    I was just going by the very surface, looking at the chart for variation in gain by region. The curve for Oceania is identical to the World. This is impossible and an obvious gross error; in my opinion it calls the whole thing into question.

    When I had just turned 21, with no training in psychology, I was looking at a paperback book in a book shop, with a view to perhaps purchasing it. The book was an account of Burt’s MZ twin study. It was not written by Burt, but I think Eysenck. On one page there was a tiny chart which showed a correlation of, I think, from memory, .779 between MZ twins, six or seven pairs at that stage, I turned the page and there was another tiny chart. At that stage one more twin pair had been added. And believe it or not the correlation shown was again .779; an utter impossibility. I immediately decided that Burt’s study was fraudulent.

    The above took place early in 1962. I believe I was the first person in the world to decide that Burt’s study was fraudulent, as the controversy that eventually arose did not take place until quite a few years later in mid ’70s.

    The point of all the above; accuracy matters.

    I didn’t buy the book.

  114. @gutta percha

    I was fine working with people in offices and teams until for professional and lifestyle reasons I started working with lower IQ people.

    What had been a pleasure turned into a drag, having to listen to f***wits talking endlessly about sex, endure their mocking me and each other, and watch them fail to complete basic tasks.

    No more, never again.

  115. @dearieme

    He found him to be not very intelligent, but quite intelligent enough not only to hire able staff but to retain them.

    That is so crucial to group effectiveness.

  116. @Counterinsurgency


    Yes, a lot of silly songs in those days. I used to think lyrics of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles were about the silliest, but actually quite wholesome compared to songs these days.

    Somewhat similar to Eskimos, the tribes of Borneo that live in longhouses also had the tradition of offering visitors women, but not necessarily wives, usually an unmarried girl for the night. They are very hospitable to strangers for a bunch of fierce headhunters. So a visitor staying overnight in the longhouse could easily get laid, yet one of lads of the tribe could not get married before he brought a skull back from a tribal war, as no girls would have him otherwise.

  117. Kingfelix says:

    This is completely wrong. It’s so wrong it’s almost astonishing.

    • Replies: @Wally
  118. @utu

    There is no error.

    There certainly is an error. The curve shown for Oceania is identical to that for the World. That is not possible, so is wrong. And obviously wrong. A child of, I think, 8 would see it.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  119. me_again says:

    You are such an implausible liar. No one who has an IQ above room temperature could possibly believe your faux-naive account of the Burt affair. Of course you just stumbled across it in a book shop and remembered the three decimal points. Take your tendentious rubbish somewhere else. Such nasty falsehoods. You nauseate me.

  120. @acementhead

    Yes, I just pulled it from the site and didn’t look at it carefully considering the reputable names associated with the research. I was more interested in the conclusions of what I assumed was a quality study that had gone through the peer review process and the various academic and publication checks and revisions. That research must have gone through a lot more qualified referees and editors than a layperson like me who hardly looked at it carefully. I don’t always take science at face value and have often spotted errors in publications but this one escaped me, perhaps for being so glaring. Maybe they made a mistake when presenting the various graphs for publication and reproduced one twice while omitting one altogether (world or Oceania) – it doesn’t necessarily follow that their raw data or conclusions are wrong. If they were deliberately faking data, they wouldn’t have made it quite so, to have the world trend identical to Oceania. Anyway they should have published a corrigendum if anyone spotted it and told the authors.

    • Replies: @acementhead
  121. The authors need to study a bit more Game Theory, parait-il. Half-smart cunts wanting to have a crack at ‘dummies’, when the dummies are actualyl doing what the theory says they ought to. (By ‘the theory’, I don’t mean the 2nd-year undergraduate pedagogical model; I mean repeated games with uncertainty¸ where players do not know the epistemic type space).

    Ask yourself this: in a repeated game with a known end-point, what is the optimal strategy?

    It is to defect at step 1.


    Because unless the payoffs are jiggered in order to make co-operate-to-the-end inherently dominant, it is optimal to defect at step N-1 (where N is the number of steps).

    Your counterparty knows this, and so it is optimal for your counterparty to defect at N-2… so it is optimal for you to defect at N-3… and so on, all the way back to the start.

    OK… so now let’s assume that the end-point is not known – but it is obvious to all players that the game is not going to last to infinity. Again… the optimal strategy is to defect at step 1.

    Read some decent game theory (for example, the excellent book by Stanford/UBC collaborators Matthew Jackson, Yoav Shoham, and Matthew O Jackson).

    Fucking hell – if this got published in the fucking JPE then the whole fucking world is fucking fucked. A decent third-year undergrad knows full well that ‘defect’ is the optimal strategy.

    “Prisoners of Intelligence”… more like “Prisoners of Dunning Kruger” (which, let’s remember, affects the bottom 75% of the population – not of humans, but of of Cornell psych undergrads – who are themselves 1.5 sigma above the median individual).

    Today it happened – I am ashamed of the economics profession.

    • Replies: @res
  122. @Commentator Mike

    Thanks for your response.

    If they were deliberately faking data, they wouldn’t have made it quite so, to have the world trend identical to Oceania.

    I agree 100% and didn’t mean to imply that they were faking data it’s just that the error was so obvious that I think it shows incredible sloppiness to let an error such as that to get through.

    In Burt’s case I don’t have the slightest doubt that he was in fact faking data. A correlation to three decimals is absurd with such a small amount of data with such a comparatively large standard error.

    The point is that experts often miss glaring errors that are obvious to even unqualified and unskilled lunkheads such as I am.

    • Agree: Commentator Mike
  123. res says:

    Read some decent game theory (for example, the excellent book by Stanford/UBC collaborators Matthew Jackson, Yoav Shoham, and Matthew O Jackson).

    I would also recommend their pair of online classes. Details at

    Note that there are two books and a package of notes at those links. Two of the PDFs are free and the other costs \$5.

    P.S. You missed one of the authors.

    Matthew O. Jackson
    Stanford University

    Kevin Leyton-Brown
    University of British Columbia

    Yoav Shoham
    Stanford University

    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  124. @res

    D’oh… no idea how I came to copy Prof Jackson’s name twice, and leave out Lleyton-Brown.

    Jackson’s course on Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis is also a must-do; if nothing else, it gives participants some basic tools to begin thinking about how individuals get their estimates of truth values. Even the most basic model – the De Groot Learning network – is fascinating as a basic ‘rule of thumb’.

    The guy who is responsible for my Damascene conversion to, and deep love of, the study of economics – a guy called Ross Parish, who is now dead – wasn’t a fan of quantitative economics, but he absolutely pounded the table on Game Theory and insisted that his students immerse themselves in it to the point where it became second nature, because everything in life is a Bayesian Game.

    That’s almost 30 years ago now.

    In Parish’s defence, he wasn’t anti-quant for the sake of it: he understood that quant can be useful if performed properly and with all the caveats understood. But the major caveat (when it comes to policy analysis) is that engineering solutions don’t work, because humans “behave their way around” constraints.

    Best example: compulsory set belts and safer cars lead to more pedestrian and cyclist deaths (and more deaths overall). Feeling safer makes drivers trade away some of the extra safety for risk – and they exceed their competency before they do harm … to themselves. If we were truly concerned about reducing road tolls, Tullock Spikes would be mandatory, not seat-belts, air bags and crumple zones. (It’s a variant of ‘football helmets cause head injuries‘, which was his other example – one that proved prescient).

    Also, he had watched quant being used as a vector for failed mathematicians to arbitrage into economics in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The same way psychocharlatanry and management-drivel has been used by Ariely and Kahnemann and their ilk since (which is why I despise “Behavioural Economics” – a series of small-N, biased-sample, zero-payoff ‘gotcha!’ schlock that claims to ‘reject’ a first-year pedagogic model of rationality).

    • Replies: @res
  125. res says:

    I took a number of Coursera “networks” courses and IIRC that was the most rigorous. Unfortunately I did not internalize it as much as I would have liked.

    Traffic calming is an interesting field. To my thinking the major challenge is decreasing perceived safety (thus slowing drivers down) while not actually making things less safe (e.g. I think short sight lines decrease actual safety). I’m not confident practitioners do this well (and would like to see more explicit discussion of this tradeoff, do you know of any?). I know as a cyclist a fair number of traffic claiming measures place me in closer proximity to cars (e.g. the chokepoints they love so much, like pedestrian extensions into roads) which I think is less safe.

    Do you think “Behavioural Economics” has potential as a field? Is the problem just the practitioners’ way of dealing with it? I think the assumption of homo economicus is a weakness of classical economics, but am not sure how to deal with it.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  126. @res

    I am interested by, yet sceptical of traffic simulations. However, they are a marvellous test of model-making, particularly when fairly random events then have testable consequences. For example, a traffic light failure at a junction can sometime ease congestion.

    • Replies: @res
  127. res says:
    @James Thompson

    Agreed. One hope I have for the increasing automation in cars is that all of that data will allow for better simulation and perhaps even (easier) before/after testing for changes in a given spot.

    From your comment I take it you are familiar with Braess’s paradox?

    Braess’s paradox is the observation that adding one or more roads to a road network can end up impeding overall traffic flow through it.

    Another bit of traffic trivia.
    That is an instance where I wonder if driverless cars will be able to perform better than humans. Especially if inter-car communication is possible.

  128. Did not know of Braess’s paradox by name, but knew a minor version of it indirectly, when a maths colleague said that all satnavs had to cheat to come up with a suggested route, because the real calculations were far too time consuming. So, they essentially funnelled drivers to the nearest good road, often a motorway, and just solved the getting on and getting off the motorway problem. Once the main route gets overloaded, the system says, mendaciously, “you are still on the fastest route”.

    As to waves, they are not trivial at all! I experience them almost every week. Infuriating. Once cars talk to each other directly they may give us better quality crafty suggestions.

    • Replies: @res
  129. res says:
    @James Thompson

    As to waves, they are not trivial at all! I experience them almost every week. Infuriating.

    Trivia as in random arcane knowledge, not importance. Agreed about the infuriating bit. I find the combination of large slow accelerating vehicles and hills to be distressingly effective wave initiators.

    What I find interesting is how the waves follow from fairly reasonable behavioral assumptions. My introduction to the idea came in a college E+M waves class where the professor used them as an example of wave behavior.

    I do wonder how much car communication and automation might help. It is easy to blame the waves on driver stupidity (and that surely plays a role), but I think given initiators (e.g. hills/slow vehicles, or more transitory events like a driver cutting someone off and sending shock waves of braking back) the traffic waves might be a more persistent phenomenon than I expect.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  130. @res

    I now understand your use of trivial! I think that waves are often due to drivers wanting to look at crashed cars on the other lane, plus the time take to re-start speedy traffic flows. Automated car-followng systems would deal with a lot of this.

    • Replies: @res
  131. res says:
    @James Thompson

    I think that waves are often due to drivers wanting to look at crashed cars on the other lane, plus the time take to re-start speedy traffic flows.

    I think that is one of the most common initiators of traffic waves. Annoying as that is, the one that annoys me even more is that caused by people passing on the right and then forcing their way back into the left lane (reverse lanes for those in the UK) causing others to have to brake. Made even worse by the presence of big, slow accelerating vehicles and hills that I mentioned.

    It is interesting that on one of my common routes I can generally predict the presence of big vehicles a mile or so ahead just by watching the way traffic behaves. Can even get an estimate of how far ahead they are from where the waves appear with respect to upslopes.

    Automated car-followng systems would deal with a lot of this.

    I think they would help, but my suspicion is they will be almost as vulnerable to waves initiated by others. Probably also better at promptly accelerating up to speed and not being as jerky about braking. I wonder what kinds of simulations have been done to look at the effect on traffic waves of varying proportions of automated cars in the traffic stream.

  132. Wally says:

    Please demonstrate how it’s wrong.

  133. Theodore says:

    An important consequence of selection pressure is that if an environment is stable and the population has reached, or nearly reached, equilibrium in that environment, it will be under little or no selection pressure and is unlikely to evolve. On the other hand, if the environment changes, the population will be farther away from equilibrium and will be more likely to evolve. Compared to a population that stays put, a population that moves from one climate zone to another, as man’s predecessors did when they migrated north, enters a new environment and faces stronger selection pressures, which accelerate its evolution.

    Selection pressure therefore helps determine where evolution is most likely to occur. Except for occasional drastic changes in the amount of precipitation in Africa, the African and Asian tropics and the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions have a more stable environment than the temperate zones in between, which not only have wide yearly changes in seasons, but have also suffered through several ice ages that lasted thousands of years. As a consequence, selection pressures are greater in the temperate zones, and species, including man’s predecessors, were more likely to have evolved there than in the tropics or the polar regions.

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