I was tested twice when I was in second grade, the first time by a psychologist in a class setting and the second time one-on-one to verify the first. I tested quite high, but even then I knew I wasn't noticeably smarter than others; I just test particularly well.
Frankly, it cracks me up when someone refers to their IQ seriously or boasts about being in Mensa. Other than testing for mid-to-high level mental retardation, subjectively, IQ tests seem to be terrible at measuring actual brilliance.
Likewise, I have a friend who is world class _stellar_ at putting Monitors back in complicated styrofoam packing and into boxes (Seriously - his ability in this task is amazing) - and he tests off the chart on the pattern recognition component of IQ tests.
So - I can, based on the admittedly small anecdotal sample of n=2, suggest that there is strong predictive power of at least some elements of the IQ tests.
Flynn goes further, and suggests that the society and culture that you grow up in, also enhance your ability to execute on IQ tests. The genetic potential (obviously?) hasn't changed, but the environment has shifted such that our "actuated" IQ has increased as we practice more often in abstract tests.
I'm trying to understand this. Here's my understanding: That it is possible to take an IQ test and have score x, then perform activities y, retake the IQ test and have the score x+15. How exactly did the initial test measure the potential for that increase? That your potential is x (+-)15 (or 25 or whatever the number is)?
The argument that James Flynn makes, is that your potential can increase, through your environment.
That is - your IQ isn't simply a function of your genetics, but also of what you are exposed to.
To put it in concrete terms - someone who worked every day, from dawn to dusk, in very manual labor - let's say cutting wood, chopping it up, and stacking it, will develop their potential for abstract thinking very differently than if they had instead gone and gotten their PHD in some abstract field like Logic.
Same person, same genetics - very different IQ.
What you are referring to, is closer to the "Potential for Potential" - I don't know if there is any way, or anyone who measures something like that. But I think that everyone will agree, that IQ is _not_ a measure of your "Potential for Potential" - simply a measurement of your potential - and that is malleable.
Your parent poster is definitely referring to this concept. (S)he is referring to that concept explicitly because it is so ill-definable and unmeasurable.
So, if the army wants to determine who should be an officer candidate, or an NCO, or a radar operator, or a potato peeler, when they have 3 million men to process, it's incredibly efficient. If you are interviewing 10 candidates for a management position, an IQ test would make no sense.
(My hypothesis:) Naturally what I would expect would be found is that IQ is just one measure that sometimes correlates in certain types of people, and that it completely fails and miscalculates actual intelligence and mis-predicts future performance in other types of people. And that it fails in a statistically significant number of cases. And that due to the behavior confirmation effect (self-fulfilling prophecy) it ends up true in more cases than it could.
Meaning IQ is an OK measure in many cases, but very flawed. I'm curious what will eventually take it's place as more useful.
Frankly, it cracks me up that you're so confident in your opinion when you argue past a strawman and demonstrate incredible ignorance about IQ tests.
> I tested quite high, but even then I knew I wasn't noticeably smarter than others
Now we're onto something.
She was worried that it could affect the way she treated me and my success (or lack of success) in school if she had some expectations based on a single number.
If you think that the Stripe CTF challenge has the potential to evaluate and define you as an individual, then perhaps you should either think twice about it, or work really hard. For most entrants, and I guess probably you too, it's a harmless and fun challenge with very few implications for your core identity.
First, Intelligence (as probably this article says) is an ever evolving concept and its multidimensional. Accurately measuring it seems probably impossible, the least really hard. The way we attempt to measure it, is via standardized tests - but those don't really prove much because instead of really measuring what they should measure, they usually end up measuring "test-taking" abilities.
Just think about Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci for that matter. Einsten did terrible in school and would have probably done terrible on an IQ tests. Leonardo da Vinci (arguably the greatest genius of all history) was rather slow in problem solving, but increadibly effective. He would have probably done terrible on a timed standardized test.
In no way was Einstein deficient -- he would at least be described as advanced, just maybe not as a prodigy.
This doesn't mean he was stupid. Go and read "The Einstein Syndrome" , it's a fascinating read.
Einstein started in the second grade of elementary school at age 6 1/2, was one of the top students in his class, and was admitted to a competitive gymnasium at 9 1/2. He studied not just "math", but Latin, Greek, art, music (he was a very talented violinist who could have played with any number of orchestras), literature, history, philosophy, and theology. He did very well in all of these, was not "fast tracked" to anywhere, and tried, on his own, to enter university more than 1 year early. This failed, largely because French was not a strong subject for him. He studied it in Munich, where it was a lot less important than in multi-lingual Switzerland. After half a year of schooling in Switzerland, he passed the university entrance exams with flying colors, both in sciences and humanities. He was not an incredible child prodigy, but he was doing fine, and nobody ever thought he was mentally retarded. Enough.
The kind of people who go around talking / bragging about their IQs are likely to overlap with that set of people that score well on formal cognitive tests, IQ or otherwise. (See, the entire membership of "Mensa", for example.)
(And if a person who was very into tests and intelligence also scored 95, you'd probably not hear a peep out of them - it would misalign with their self image.)
Finally, the typical person scoring 80-85 in IQ is not likely to be the kind of person who enjoys taking such tests, or considers their IQ or their intellectual ability as an important aspect of their personal identity.
IQ is a comparison between you and everyone else, on a topic which is close to the core of our being, especially for the kind of people on this forum.
I don't really believe in IQ as anything more than a statistical artefact in the first place. But of course, different people are going to perform differently on different tasks.
Well, no - because I could use tools to extend that. And it's not about insecurity, as I'm quite comfortable with myself and my brain. I just don't see it as being a valuable reference. However, I know if I had a number I'd start comparison-shopping and I might feel either elated (if high) or depressed (if low). Is anyone here, if you have had an IQ test, honestly prepared to say that you didn't or wouldn't be curious about what that meant and that it wouldn't affect how you viewed yourself?
I just don't need to know. I guess that for me, as long as there isn't a 'goal' or a 'fence', the sky's the limit.
It's the same thing with the SAT (before they added the writing sections). It usually paid to just guess & move on if you faced a difficult question, because the time spent thinking about it would cost you so many other answers that you were better off just eating the penalty for getting it wrong. People who could actually complete the (old) SATs were at a strong advantage, as one of the most common failure modes was simply not being able to answer all the questions.
I've love to know more about the research backing this up. I googled, of course, but I'm sure there must be a good discussion of this that I've missed.
I also wonder if I would have a higher IQ (or would that be an IQ that appears higher?) were I not to think those thoughts (and would I be stupid for thinking them in that case?)
This is a wild guess: You're probably ~young, with high aspirations for yourself, you don't think people should ever be prejudged. You have great promise and show all the signs of competence, but you haven't actually achieved anything particularly noteworthy, yet.
I base this hypothesis on the theory that once you achieve certain things, and you have confidence in yourself, you won't give two shits about what some IQ test says. In fact, if it scores low, if you are genuinely competent, you would think "wow, now that's an interesting development, let's investigate" rather then feeling that you've been somehow slighted.
> the penultimate chapter is a list of 14 examples in which science has failed because of social blindness.
This carries through more broadly and generally to the application of many incorrect fundamental assumptions to the design of our institutions, which consistently fail because of the resulting flawed structures.
Its like the difference between a guy who gives 120% every day but his work, taken individually, is mediocre vs a guy who gives his 1% but his 1% is the Nobel prize winning work of his field... the guy who gives his 120% day in and day out is a smarter man.
Ironically, an IQ test will not say much about either of them. The 120% guy might score lower than the 1% man by 10 or 15 points, but the 120% guy, if he were, say, a researcher or inventor, would be spending day in and day out finding thousands of ways that don't work just so he can find one that does. The 120% man learned how to focus the skills he does have and learned how to apply them well; of the two, I'd hire him over the 1% man, Nobel or not.
The few super geniuses that history remembers (such as Tesla) had both: 120% work ethic combined with a brilliant mind. These people are rare, but every single person no matter their racial or religious background has the ability to become that kind of person to.... they just never learn how to.
Seriously? I don't know, but even if i had a 120% work ethic, i consider that i would never reach the level of genius of someone like Tesla, he is simply a genetic freak. Also, almost all the traits of humans seem to be unevenly undistributed in the population, not everyone has the capability to be a top athlete or top dancer, or top X. Why intelligence could be the exception?, when even common sense and observation tells us that some people are more intelligent than others.
He is interested in the proper method of rearing children, believing that "geniuses are made, not born". Before he had any children, he wrote a book entitled Bring Up Genius!, and sought a wife to help him carry out his experiment. He found one in Klara, a schoolteacher, who lived in a Hungarian-speaking enclave in Ukraine. He married her in the USSR and brought her to Hungary. He home-schooled their three daughters, primarily in chess, and all three went on to become strong players.
"Strong players" is an understatement for Judit's accomplishments which are well known.
Yes, true, but the present discussion concerns why that is so. It was traditionally held that IQ was inherited and immutable, but this was before studies that show creation of new brain cells in animals placed in stimulating environments. And the brain's ability to repair itself after injury is only beginning to be appreciated.
So it seems that IQ is not immutable, and "some people are smarter than others" can be placed alongside "some people run faster than others" as an example of something that is to some extent under our control.
But the science is much better for behaviors and temperaments being heritable. Some people are more comfortable sitting around only reading; some people are more likely to be comfortable fighting with abstract ideas; some people are more likely to be stubborn when they don't understand something and go at it until they figure it out. These things will affect what we measure as your IQ. My suspicion is that this is the source of the data for genetic differences in intelligence.
As for why these intelligence genes wouldn't spread throughout the population: it could be because they have other effects with a negative survival/reproductive value as well. Intelligence is often inversely correlated with confidence, for example, since people's expectations of themselves rise faster than their abilities. Confidence is heavily correlated with social skill and the ability to attract a mate, so highly intelligent people often face severe deficits in the mating game (I'm sure we all know someone who is brilliant but completely socially inept, and many of us have been that person).
Also, remember that the ancestral environment that humans evolved in significantly less favorable to intelligence than the modern one. 15,000 years ago, intelligence might be nice, but the ability to outrun a lion or take down a buffalo was far more important. It's only within the last 3-5 generations that intelligence has become essential to surviving in modern society (that's the whole point of Flynn's thesis), and evolution doesn't work so well on a timescale of 3-5 generations.
Why? What survivability/reproduction benefits does intelligence provide beyond a certain level, particularly in pre-modern society? If you were the daughter of serfs a thousand years ago, what good would a 150 IQ do you? Especially if there's some tradeoff involved, such as a correspondingly lower ability to socialize with your peers.
If there's any reason for an "intelligence gene" not being completely wide-spread, it would be this. Intelligence would have to have some very significant drawbacks. Some people have theorized that autism is when you get "overloaded" on those intelligence genes. It strikes me as unlikely this would really provide significant pushback against the intelligence genes completely dominating the gene pool, but I agree it's possible.
Exceptional intelligence as a strong determinant of economic and social success (and thus presumably reproductive success) seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon in the human species.
Even today, the Einsteins and Teslas don't do better in the mating game than the Brad Pitts and Kobe Bryants (likely much worse).
Edit: it would be interesting if HN handles were attached to downvotes. People would likely think twice before knee-jerk downvoting if they couldn't do it anonymously.
This is just your bias in what you think is more beneficial informing your belief that more intelligence = better survival. If this is the case, why aren't all apes just as intelligent as us? Has no ape simply ever had the luck to have a mutation that improved the carrier's intelligence? This is implausible. The answer is that one's environment determines what is selected for, and it is not the case that more intelligence is necessarily more fit for survival. Not even in modern times.
I disagree. Most math classes are structured as far away from the abstract as possible. Math classes, at least in the US high schools, are simply students sitting down and crunching numbers on paper with 40 other people around you. How is that abstract thought? I'm not saying math isn't useful in the abstract, I'm saying the way we measure people's math abilities is too focused.
People who think that intelligence is innate will refer to the "g factor".
The racist (technically speaking) and controversial Jean Rushton believes that "gains in IQ over time (the Lynn-Flynn effect) are unrelated to g".
What's really going on with discussions like this is that humanity seems to have come to the conclusion that "smarter is better". Intelligence almost certainly exists, but is quite difficult to quantify exactly, and is further complicated by the fact that people resent others who are "better" than them. Given that there is a genetic component to intelligence to a certain degree, race becomes a factor and leads to a line of inductive reasoning that makes people uncomfortable:
1) Smarter is better
2) Intelligence is genetic
3) Race determines genetics
4) One race is better than another
5) Hitler was right (or other outrageous conclusion)
Your points 3-5 are completely wrong. Genetics determines race, not the other way around. Points 4 and 5 are just meaningless "racist" phrases, not statements in a line of reasoning.
Basically, "race" is a cultural distinction. It's a label we apply as a proxy for other stuff (usually cultural). Scientists (well, except anthropologists studying that cultural stuff) don't use it, and for good reason.
Just off the top of my head, there are over 93000 references in PubMed to "ancestry." They vary whether they call it "race" or "ethnicity" or "region of ancestral origin" but plenty of adults are quite happy talking about it.
Now who is strawmanning? (BTW, there is no blood test for autism, yet scientists are pretty darn sure it's mostly genetic.)
I'm sure you can come up with a definition of "Polynesian" such that genetic tests would be useless. That more shows that people can some up with useless definitions. However, someone else can could up with a definition of "Polynesian" that is useful: people whose ancestors inhabited Polynesia (say) 1000 years ago. And genetic tests for any individual in isolation would be very very very highly correlated with the actual answer of their ancestors coming from Polynesia. (There are, of course, people of mixed ancestry, but this doesn't mean that ancestral measures don't exist no more than hermaphrodites mean sex doesn't exist.) "Black" would need serious subdivision, but nothing that makes a person on the street drop their jaw and say "I never thought of 'Black' that way."
I suspect this is as far as constructive discussion has gone, so I'm going to stop here if that's okay.
The same is true of "polynesian" -- sure, they might have been isolated at one point but by now almost every "polynesian" you meet in Hawaii has a ton of white and japanese ancestry too (substitute appropriate mixing for Maori or Samoan and Fijian, etc...), so what use is it to talk about the potential IQ effects his great-great-grandparents might have had?
Yet the argument at hand (that, as far as I can tell, you are in support of) is that somehow the "race" of real people can, because it is "genetically determined", be correlated with something like IQ, which it just can't. It's far too polluted a data set.
That typical (now there's an overgeneral term!) black woman will have a darker skin color than a typical white woman. She will be less susceptible to sunburn. She is more likely to suffer from certain genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia.
Now, none of these are absolute statements. They are all probabilities. That does not make them useless. If someone comes into the ER with severe pain in their extremities, it is very useful to know that they're black. They may or may not have sickle cell anemia - that can be determined conclusively through a blood test and thorough medical examination. But knowing whether they're likely to is very useful information, because it lets you determine whether it's worth putting in the extra effort to diagnose it conclusively. (Similarly, even if they carry the genetic marker, they might not be having a sickle-cell crisis, and it could be a blood clot or some other medical condition. But it's pretty damn likely.)
It's a fallacy to believe that just because the data you're working with can't tell you everything, it tells you nothing. Rather, you should recognize the limitations of what you know, and use them to determine what else you need to know. Race tells you something. It doesn't tell you a whole lot, because there's a lot of individual variation within a race. But that doesn't mean it tells you nothing, either.
It doesn't even pass the smell test. Seriously: would Obama (who's turning into quite the counterexample here) show up "black" or "white" on that test? If the answer isn't "both" (it has to be, as he's almost literally 50/50) then the test can't work. If it is "both", then what meaning did "black" have again as a genetic grouping?
People insist on misinterpreting me here. I'm not saying that it's impossible to tell if someone has ancestry from africa or east asia or wherever. I'm saying that blocking real people (i.e. not members of an isolated subgroup with pure ancestry) up into a "race" like "asian" or (especially) "black", doing studies on them (like an IQ test) and arguing that this is "valid" because those groups are "genetically defined" is wrong. It's bad science. Please stop.
I tried to qualify my statements here very carefully. I'm not claiming a strict genetic definition of race. I'm also not defending this specific blood test, I only know about it from that Wired article. But the theoretical possibility of what I have mentioned seems to exist, if that test or one like it actually works. Or am I mistaken?
No, it's not, and classifying people "like that" makes sense.
> In one of the most extensive of these studies to date, considering 1,056 individuals from 52 human populations, with each individual genotyped for 377 autosomal microsatellite markers, we found that individuals could be partitioned into six main genetic clusters, five of which corresponded to Africa, Europe and the part of Asia south and west of the Himalayas, East Asia, Oceania, and the Americas
These guys http://genome.cshlp.org/content/19/5/815.long even have a picture http://genome.cshlp.org/content/19/5/815/F2.large.jpg
Please find me the "races" on that chart. I don't see any. This is a chart of "genetic clusters". Which one does, say, Barack Obama (most famous mestizo I could think of, but frankly you could put almost all of the non-white population of the US into similar buckets) belong to? He doesn't fit. Most people don't fit. (Editted to point out: it's specifically a study of a small number of individuals of "pure" background.) Yet, and this is important, he does have a "race". Everyone, including himself, agrees that he's "black".
So where does "black" go on that chart? It doesn't. So "race" is non-scientific.
In the cluster on the left.
This is specifically a chart of individuals with "pure" ancestry. People with mixed ancestry (i.e. almost all of us) have no spot on it. It doesn't tell us anything about our "race".
To get back to the example. If "blacks" belong on the bottom left than Obama (with his northern european mother) isn't black. So either he has a "race" or he doesn't. Which is it?
Stop thinking about "race" as a measurable thing, it isn't.
The fact that some people, mostly from the former European colonies, won't perfectly fit doesn't change that. The fact that this distinction is blurred, emphasized, or altered for political reasons doesn't change that. The fact that outward features, which are often used as proxy for the underlying genetics, can sometimes be misleading doesn't change that.
Also, I don't think "almost all of us" or even most of us wouldn't fit into those clusters. Do you have a source?
I understand that Obama is not exactly technically black; that legal, political or self-identified race may not align with those clusters or even known ancestry but it doesn't invalidate the concept. Just like there are people who are legally blind, and a subgroup who really can't see anything.
Out of curiosity, when you say "people have been interbreeding like rabbits", does that mean that you believe that rabbit "breeds" are also a cultural distinction?
So please, don't say things like "race is genetically determined". You're right that a "genetic cluster" or "ancestral group" is better defined. But those IQ results weren't corrected for that, so again: non-science.
(The three expert reviewers shown on Amazon are all very impressive researchers on human intelligence in their own right, so their joint endorsement of Flynn's book carries a lot of weight for people like me who follow the research.)
Here is what Arthur Jensen said about Flynn back in the 1980s: "Now and then I am asked . . . who, in my opinion, are the most respectable critics of my position on the race-IQ issue? The name James R. Flynn is by far the first that comes to mind." Modgil, Sohan & Modgil, Celia (Eds.) (1987) Arthur Jensen: Concensus and Controversy New York: Falmer.
AFTER EDIT: Replying to another top-level comment:
I don't understand how anyone could not have an emotional response being told 'your IQ is x'.
People have emotional responses to most statements about themselves that they think are overall evaluations. Some of those emotional responses are more warranted than others. Devote some reading time to the best literature on IQ testing (besides the book under review in this thread, that would include Mackintosh's second edition textbook IQ and Human Intelligence
and the Sternberg-Kaufman Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence,
both recently published). Any of these books will help readers understand that IQ tests are samples of learned behavior and are not exhaustive reports on an individual's profile of developed abilities.
AFTER ANOTHER EDIT:
Discussion of heritability of IQ, a reliable indicator of how much discussants read the current scientific literature on the subject, has ensued in some other subthreads here. Heritability of IQ has nothing whatever to do with malleability (or, if you prefer this terminology, controllability) of human intelligence. That point has been made by the leading researchers on human behaviorial genetics in their recent articles that I frequently post in comments here on HN. It is a very common conceptual blunder, which should be corrected in any well edited genetics textbook, to confuse broad heritability estimates with statements about how malleable human traits are. The two concepts actually have no relationship at all. Highly heritable traits can be very malleable, and the other way around.
Johnson, Wendy; Turkheimer, Eric; Gottesman, Irving I.; Bouchard Jr., Thomas (2009). Beyond Heritability: Twin Studies in Behavioral Research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 4, 217-220
is an interesting paper that includes the statement "Moreover, even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability. For example, height is on the order of 90% heritable, yet North and South Koreans, who come from the same genetic background, presently differ in average height by a full 6 inches (Pak, 2004; Schwekendiek, 2008)."
Another interesting paper,
Turkheimer, E. (2008, Spring). A better way to use twins for developmental research. LIFE Newsletter, 2, 1-5
admits the disappointment of behavioral genetics researchers.
"But back to the question: What does heritability mean? Almost everyone who has ever thought about heritability has reached a commonsense intuition about it: One way or another, heritability has to be some kind of index of how genetic a trait is. That intuition explains why so many thousands of heritability coefficients have been calculated over the years. Once the twin registries have been assembled, it’s easy and fun, like having a genoscope you can point at one trait after another to take a reading of how genetic things are. Height? Very genetic. Intelligence? Pretty genetic. Schizophrenia? That looks pretty genetic too. Personality? Yep, that too. And over multiple studies and traits the heritabilities go up and down, providing the basis for nearly infinite Talmudic revisions of the grand theories of the heritability of things, perfect grist for the wheels of social science.
"Unfortunately, that fundamental intuition is wrong. Heritability isn’t an index of how genetic a trait is. A great deal of time has been wasted in the effort of measuring the heritability of traits in the false expectation that somehow the genetic nature of psychological phenomena would be revealed. There are many reasons for making this strong statement, but the most important of them harkens back to the description of heritability as an effect size. An effect size of the R2 family is a standardized estimate of the proportion of the variance in one variable that is reduced when another variable is held constant statistically. In this case it is an estimate of how much the variance of a trait would be reduced if everyone were genetically identical. With a moment’s thought you can see that the answer to the question of how much variance would be reduced if everyone was genetically identical depends crucially on how genetically different everyone was in the first place."
The review article "The neuroscience of human intelligence differences" by Deary and Johnson and Penke (2010) relates specifically to human intelligence:
"At this point, it seems unlikely that single genetic loci have major effects on normal-range intelligence. For example, a modestly sized genome-wide study of the general intelligence factor derived from ten separate test scores in the cAnTAB cognitive test battery did not find any important genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms or copy number variants, and did not replicate genetic variants that had previously been associated with cognitive ability[note 48]."
The review article Johnson, W. (2010). Understanding the Genetics of Intelligence: Can Height Help? Can Corn Oil?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(3), 177-182
looks at some famous genetic experiments to show how little is explained by gene frequencies even in thoroughly studied populations defined by artificial selection.
"Together, however, the developmental natures of GCA and height, the likely influences of gene–environment correlations and interactions on their developmental processes, and the potential for genetic background and environmental circumstances to release previously unexpressed genetic variation suggest that very different combinations of genes may produce identical IQs or heights or levels of any other psychological trait. And the same genes may produce very different IQs and heights against different genetic backgrounds and in different environmental circumstances."
It's worth making another point here - just because there is no single gene for a trait does not make in unheritable, and just because a trait is genetic does not mean there is a single gene for it.
Eye color, for example, is clearly a genetic trait, but may be controlled by as many as 16 different genes. Race is also genetic, but really is shorthand for variation in hundreds, maybe thousands of genes.
It's well-established that intelligence is polygenic. That doesn't mean it's not genetic - if everybody had the same genes, ~80% of the variation in intelligence would be eliminated. It also doesn't mean that there's a single genetic switch we can throw to design a master race of human geniuses. It means exactly what it says: that there are some combination of genes that interact together to produce ~70-90% of the variance in the measured quantity that we label "intelligence".
There's a subtlety in your statement that I think will be lost on too many people, even more so given the juxtaposition with the statement about eye color. So at the risk of sounding pedantic...
Race is not a trait like eye color. Variations in the human gene pool are not evenly distributed geographically or across ethnic groups for a number of historical reasons. Many of these genes manifest in our physical appearance. But there is no countable number of races. Dividing humanity into 3, 4, 5 or even a hundred races is totally artificial. All you have to do is walk from Europe to SE Asia, or Europe to Africa via the middle east and you will see a gradual change, a gradient for each of the observed physical differences.
So description of "race" as a "shorthand" is spot on. Sadly it is a poor shorthand because most everyone conceive of race as discrete types of humans.
I was eavesdropping on the conversation behind me on the bus today:
"What color would you describe your eyes as?" a guy asks.
"Green-ish. Something like that," a girl answers.
"Good, you didn't say hazel. A bunch of people would've called them that."
And then followed a whole long discussion about how you can basically perform hierarchical agglomerative clustering on humanity's words for colors, if you follow the words linguistically back through a few thousand years. Apparently the first split happened between light & dark, and then broad colors like "blue/green" (as a single color) split off, and then modern languages broke blue & green into separate colors.
Some folks break them down even further, into "cerulean" and "turquoise" and "aquamarine" and "royal blue". I've heard (from sources other than the bus conversation) that women actually have significantly more color words in their vocabulary than men do; they make distinctions where men don't.
So eye color is a shorthand too. Some people just say "light" or "dark". Others say "brown" or "blue". Still others will break it down into "black", "brown", "blue", "green", and "hazel". Once in a while you'll get a poetic type who'll say "Eyes the color of a roiling sea, as you catch the last glimpse of sunlight before a storm rolls in."
Bringing it back on topic, intelligence is a shorthand as well. It stands for a bunch of directly observable characteristics, but which characteristics vary depending on who you ask. Some people think an intelligent person is one with a high IQ who always does well on standardized tests. Others think it's someone who accomplishes great things in the intellectual realm, another Tesla or Einstein. Still others define it as a talent, and claim there're multiple intelligences, each in one desirable realm.
Perhaps the meta-lesson isn't about race or eye color or heritability at all, it's to drill down and ask what we actually mean by such broad characteristics. When you make a statement such as "IQ has a heritability of 0.8", you're making a very specific statistical assertion (though even that's not ironclad: which IQ test?). But whether that lines up with the statement of "Intelligence is largely genetic" depends on what you mean by "intelligence" and "genetic", both of which are very broad concepts that hide a lot of subtlety.
There are many people with an extreme capacity for memorizing facts and images. It is said that one of our national poets, Eminescu, wasn't able to forget anything.
By this classification, many people are and were smarter than Einstein, who apparently couldn't remember his son's or wife's birthday, or know how many feet are in a mile (although this may be just folklore). Einstein also started to speak a lot later than normal kids, at 3 years old by his own testimony and performed badly in his first years of elementary school, with his parents being warned that he had a mental disability.
And yet he was able to come up with the relativity theory, which goes to show that intelligence is indeed relative.
That's the old popular definition of intelligence, the "walking encyclopedia" model. But books, and more recently computers, have greatly reduced the value of that kind of intelligence, by being better at it than any person.
Now that we have more facts at our fingertips than we can possibly absorb, a different kind of intelligence is (a) more valuable, and (b) more likely to arise from the interaction between a human and an inexhaustible source of facts (like a computer) -- the ability to synthesize new ideas out of old ones.
In olden times, simply being able to recite facts was prized, but books and computers can now do that more efficiently -- consider that a computer recently prevailed in "Jeopardy" against a selection of very good human contestants.
The new indicator of intelligence is the ability to come to an original conclusion based on a mass of accumulated facts. Because fact collecting is more easily done by a computer, and because of the value of the ability to create new ideas out of old ones, this new meaning for intelligence may well become dominant by way of natural selection.
Here's an example I heard recently while reading about planetary science:
1. Jupiter's moon Io has volcanoes, but it's too small for those volcanoes to have the same cause as those here (Io has long since lost the heat arising from its original formation). This means that many people were able to describe Io's volcanoes, but no one could explain them.
2. Io also has an elliptical orbit around Jupiter -- which means it moves closer to, then farther from, Jupiter, during each orbit.
Someone put facts (1) and (2) together and realized that it was Io's elliptical orbit, and the consequent huge flexure of tidal force within Io's solid mass, that's heating the moon and providing the energy source for the volcanoes.
It is this kind of intelligence that is recognized -- prized -- in the present and future: the ability to synthesize.
I can believe that. He grew up in metric countries.
Does that mean people are learning more skills in general? I don't think so. In fact, it doesn't seem like people are learning the skills on other standardized tests more quickly. What is it about IQ tests that allows scores to increase like this?
What? No... no. There are plenty of ways that intelligence could have dramatically increased since the '30s without any evolutionary effects.
Group differences in IQ do exist, and Flynn effect does not make them go away. Flynn effect increases scores across the board, it does not equalize different groups.
Black people in US have lower average IQ than white people do, Asian people have higher average IQ. The reasons for this are many, but genetics certainly comes into play: IQ is heritable.
Trying to explain away group differences by "culture" is mostly bad science - trying to make the facts fir your desired conclusions.
Flynn’s interpretation overturns one of the most dangerous myths of IQ research — that blacks have been shown to be fundamentally less intelligent than whites. With what seems to me to be a series of cast-iron statistical analyses, he shows that this has, in fact, never been proved ... What the evidence actually shows is that racial differences, once all external factors are removed (primarily the social and cultural context of the testees), seem to be almost undetectably small.
The problem that I see here is that by removing all social and cultural context we will lose some genetic information as well. It is very hard to measure influence of genetics on social or cultural outcomes, but it definitely does exist.
I have not read Flynn's book yet, but he will have to do something amazing to explain away the twin adoption studies.
Do read his book. You will surely learn something. The references to recent publications on heritability that I posted as a second edit to my comment at the highest comment level in this thread (currently the top comment in the thread) include several publications by researchers who have worked on the Minnesota Twin Study and other twin studies. I join a weekly journal club during the school year with most of the researchers on the Minnesota Twin Study (one of whom, coincidentally, is my fifth cousin) and I rely on them to keep me up to date with what the latest research shows.
And what the latest research shows, after we look at all the twin study findings, is fully consistent with HN user Steko's quotation from the review of James R. Flynn's new book, the parent comment to your comment.
Critics, however, have pointed to several key methodological problems with TRA studies (TRA study critics include Farber, 1981; Joseph, 2001, 2004, 2010; Kamin, 1974;
Kamin & Goldberger, 2002; Lewontin, Rose, & Kamin, 1984; Taylor, 1980). These problems include (a) the doubtful “separation” of twins, who frequently grew up together
and had contact over much of their lives, (b) similarity bias in the methods of MZA identiﬁcation and recruitment, (c) the questionable status of “intelligence” and “personality” as valid and quantiﬁable constructs, (d) the failure of the MISTRA researchers to publish or share raw data and life history information for the twins under study, and (e) the impact that the researchers’ bias in favor of genetic interpretations may have had on their results and conclusions.
While these and other issues are important, the main problem with TRA studies such as Bouchard’s MISTRA is clear: the investigators used the wrong control group (MZTs). By using MZTs as controls, they failed to control for several key environmental factors shared by both MZA and MZT pairs (see Joseph, 2004; Rose, 1982). Environmental inﬂuences shared by both MZAs and MZTs include but are not limited to the following:
• They are exactly the same age (birth cohort).
• They are always the same sex.
• They are almost always the same ethnicity.
• Their appearance is strikingly similar (which will elicit more similar treatment from the social environment).
• They usually are raised in the same socioeconomic class.
• They usually are raised in the same culture.
• They shared the same prenatal environment.
• Most studied pairs spent a certain amount of time together in the same family environment, were aware of each other’s existence when studied, and often had regular contact over long periods of time (Farber, 1981; Kamin, 1974).
So maybe twin studies aren't the slam dunk they are often presented as.
Also referenced by Cowen:
See the difference is you are talking out of your ass, whereas Flynn has a book filled with verifiable statistics.
That's going to need some explanation. First off, I can see how the question itself is abstract, about a place they have never been, but "no camels" sounds extremely concrete to me. Second, how is ignoring information anything other than a lapse in intelligent thought?
> That's going to need some explanation. First off, I can see how the question itself is abstract, about a place they have never been, but "no camels" sounds extremely concrete to me. Second, how is ignoring information anything other than a lapse in intelligent thought?
The underlying point is valid, but it was not explained well in the article.
The point is that "extremely concrete" is always relative to language. For example, in the bible, "40 years" meant something like "a long long time", not 40 literal years. Likewise, a "foot" today does not mean a concrete human foot (although it originated as a particular one). A more annoying example today is that "literally" no longer means "literally" ("I literally died when ...").
To be specific about this example, it is possible that saying "There are no camels in Germany; how many camels are there in city X?" is interpreted in different ways in different languages and cultures. Perhaps "there are no camels" means "camels do not naturally live in that area", but there could be camels brought there artificially, say to be in a zoo. And especially when asking "how many camels are there in city X?", the implication is that specific details about city X matter, for example if it has a zoo or not. The person being asked might try to guess if it has a zoo based on the city size etc.
Also worth noting that the question is of the form of a classic logic puzzle. That sort of thing is part of the Western cultural tradition since ancient Greece. But other cultures have other traditions.
See also the philosopher Wittgenstein on "following a rule". No sentence in any language is ever so concrete that it cannot be interpreted in many ways.
Think of the old "analytical" thinking questions companies used to give out like "how many golf balls can you fit in a bus", "how many high schools are there in America", etc.
Now, I'm not the smartest person but my peers and bosses consider me to be highly intelligent. When I first heard these questions, I was completely stumped. I mean, I've never really taken public transportation and I don't know really have a good idea of how many students go to a typical high school or even how large America is, so how was I supposed to know? However, the population cutoffs for high schools and the size of buses and golf balls are very concrete and well known. Does this show a lapse in my intelligence?
If you don't know the sizes, then the test-maker has failed you. If you know the sizes and still can't answer, then yes it is a lapse in intelligence.
Can you give me an example of a problematic question that isn't caused by using unfamiliar nouns?
I imagine that being told "there are no camels in Germany; how many camels are in this German city?" simply sounded ridiculous to the rural Russians. And so I assume that with no background in abstract reasoning or "word problems" where you're supposed to rely on just the information presented in the problem, they fell back on what they knew about cities: they're places with camels. Imagine if someone came to you from another country and said something like "we don't have people in our cities. But Atlantis is our biggest city. So how many people do you think live there?" It would sound meaningless.
Honestly, with the camel example, I think it was a problem of asking a really dumb question without explaining that the question might be so dumb. If you ask me the Atlantis thing out of the blue I might give a weird answer. But if you specifically assure me that you're not trying to trick me in your Atlantis scenario and you just want to hear my answer to the question then I'll say no people and wonder if it's abandoned or filled with robots or cats.
Also, "a lot" is obviously not an acceptable answer if "I don't know, there should be some there" isn't for you.
> Can you give me an example of a problematic question that isn't caused by using unfamiliar nouns?
Maybe if I tried really hard? But that's the point I'm contending. A lot of IQ and standards test use unfamiliar nouns/concepts/abstractions to test intelligence, so does a certain group of people struggling with them show their lack of knowledge?
You yourself listed the big problems of not knowing how many students go to a school or how large America is. All I'm looking for in answer to that question is taking the number of people in America [pre-knowledge unless the test-maker screwed up], guessing what percent are in high school [pre-knowledge unless the test-maker screwed up], and dividing the size of a high school [pre-knowledge unless the test-maker screwed up]. It's all about figuring out how to combine knowledge to get an answer. Which is also what you use a relational database for so I don't see how you can do one and not the other.
Well I'm only going to accept "a lot" as a final answer if they have no math skills at all. That depends on the culture. But it shows a basic idea that yeah, it takes a whole bunch of golf balls to fill it up. Just like saying "no camels means no camels" indicates an understanding of the dumb-but-simple question. Saying "some camels" is the answer I won't accept.
Which is exactly my point, again. It's not that I can't do both. It's that, although both questions take similar intelligence, one of them is phrased in an unfamiliar way. I start off disadvantaged in the former question because my lack of familiarity with what the "correct" answer should look like. With the latter, I know how to begin thinking and answering. Yet, an IQ only provides one of these options so if I got the one I was not familiar with, I would score low. My point is that is not a sign of a lack of intelligence.
Just like saying "no camels means no camels" indicates an understanding of the dumb-but-simple question. Saying "some camels" is the answer I won't accept.
But to understand a question, the premise of it has to make sense to you. For my example, I can understand the question because I'm aware that there is a real solution. In the example from the article, to ask farmers who only know about cities with camels about the camels in a city where there are no camels doesn't make sense to them. It's an unnecessary abstraction and just shows that they haven't experienced a situation rather than that they can't answer a simple question.
To me it's almost as if someone asked me "in a math system where 1 * a is not a, what is 1 * a?" or "what is 2 + 2 for arbitrarily large values of 2?" Simplicity is subjective.
Hmm, I think it's more like "a math system where 1 * anything is 1". It's baffling to my understanding of math but it still fully explains itself. "Like multiplication, but different" "like a normal country, but without camels" I have no idea why it's this way but I can still make use of it and answer the question.
The pattern of differences in IQ test answers between generations is not congruent with the pattern of differences between individual who do better and worse on average within generations -- at least according to the few studies which have looked at this question. For this reason, we can infer that the generational changes in IQ test scores are not changes in the same underlying factor that causes differences in performance within a generation. If we call the factor that causes within-generation differences in IQ test scores intelligence, then what differs between generations isn't intelligence. In other words, the Flynn effect is something other than what it might appear at first glance. It's still something of a mystery.
Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis can be used to demonstrate this, or you can just look at the correlation matrices.
Which means I can't read it, because my eyes suck.
Someone call up Paul Krugman and tell him that iodine deficiency doesn't actually cause mental retardation.
This is similar to statements engineers sometimes make that the Chinese are good copiers but can't innovate.
No, cultures are the same as everyone else. They have humour, art and like to tinker and have in jokes. If they don't publicly innovate it's more likely it's not economical in that environment yet.
The fact 'camels' was used has strong undertones to me, if this was an actually a study I'd be interested to know.
Oh, cultures share lots of features. But I've been in a few. Even countries as geographically close as Britain and Germany have quite a few differences.