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  • IQ

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on September 12th, 2020 (All posts by )

    I have written a lot at my own site. I don’t know how strong the interest is here. It is a topic I know a fair bit about, both the Mythbusters and the recent-thinking-and-research varieties. I can put up a couple of posts here if you like. To get the blood warm, I will tell you that it is much better to live in a place of high average IQ than to have a high IQ yourself, in terms of prosperity, lack of violent crime, freedom, and individual rights. Doubly warm, it is a real thing that measures real properties and has significant predictive value. It is usually polite to say YMMV, but I won’t because your mileage really doesn’t vary, you just want it to.

    So ignore this if you don’t want to see valuable ChicagoBoyz space taken up with the topic, or jump on it if you want to engage. If you have a common Myth, I will of course Bust it, but if you have an uncommon myth I might be set on my heels and have to think about it a bit. Much is known, but much remains dark.

     

    65 Responses to “IQ”

    1. MCS Says:

      I’ll add an aphorism: It’s better to be intelligent than to believe that you are.

    2. David Foster Says:

      “To get the blood warm, I will tell you that it is much better to live in a place of high average IQ than to have a high IQ yourself, in terms of prosperity, lack of violent crime, freedom, and individual rights.”

      Couldn’t the same be said about a lot of other human attributes?…say, impulse control? Empathy?

    3. Kirk Says:

      Prove your case that what you’re measuring with the IQ test is what you’re talking about when you say someone is “intelligent”, first.

      I’m skeptical of it all, in that I think that a critical aspect of the whole question has been left out: Actual performance vs. test performance.

      Since about 1900, we’ve been engaged in a massive experiment where we’ve given massive amounts of power and prestige to people who do well on written tests. This has led to the same sort of ennui and poor performance in reality that the Chinese got when they turned everything over to the people who “did well on the tests” back when. The same sort of syndromes and performance issues are demonstrated in our “elites” today that the mandarin class displayed in China, and it’s the same damn reason: The test does not reflect reality, and predicted performance does not match demonstrated performance.

      There’s also the practical effect where these tests produce people who’re convinced that they’re some sort of uber-elite that has the right to run roughshod over everyone else in society, because they’re “so smart”. I would submit that the test regime we’ve used and everything else that contributes to this attitude is precisely why we’ve got people in government like Weismann and the rest of the FBI filth that think they have the right to do things like erase thirty phones which the IG has required them to turn over. These creepy cretins have been told all their lives, based on how well they do on “the tests” that they are smarter and superior to everyone else, so why are we surprised when they behave as though they are?

      The IQ test is mostly bullshit. It does not measure anything particularly useful, other than the ability to do well on the test itself. The idea that IQ test performance is somehow equal to virtue or wisdom is a dangerous idea, and the one that will no doubt be seen in the future as the thing that destroyed our civilization. Whatever the IQ test measures, its use as a discriminatory factor does not produce an elite which possesses either wisdom or the ability to produce positive results in administration. If you doubt me, go take a hard look at the “cognitive elite” which is administrating our cities and other institutions, and the demonstrated performance we’ve gotten out of them.

      I’m pretty sure Mayor Wheeler in Portland did really, really well on all of his tests. It’s just that he’s a functional moron, educated well past his abilities due to how well he did on those tests.

      The ability to do well on an IQ test quite obviously does not identify men or women with wisdom and ability to produce positive results in the real world. This factor alone ought to make anyone of real intelligence question the entire premise. The egotism displayed by the people produced ought to also give you pause with your premise.

    4. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ Kirk -You have hit just about every standard myth, all of which have been shot down repeatedly, with ample data. But it doesn’t matter. People want to believe what you believe, because they get their knickers in a knot with resentment.

      “I’m skeptical of it all, in that I think that a critical aspect of the whole question has been left out: Actual performance vs. test performance.”

      That critical aspect has never been left out. The testers started with that and have returned to it continually. IQ predicts how well people will do at college, including what they can major in, and whether they can handle jobs in the military (the ASVAB is an IQ test with some added specifics). It is a powerful indicator whether people will have criminal records, whether they will fall for scams, how well their children will do in school, what their driving record will be, and even their life expectancy. It is a better predictor of these things than the next three predictors in any of those categories combined. It is not flawless, just as height is not a flawless predictor of basketball skill. It’s pretty good. If you are asking more of any predictive factor than that, it’s your problem, because there aren’t any out there. For anything. It takes determination more than anything else to become an Eagle Scout. Yet Eagle scouts have higher IQs than those that stop at Life or Star rank. How can that be?

      If you were to go into a first grade, or fourth grade, or eighth grade classroom without knowing any scores for any students, you would notice that some children read better. They do their numbers better. They have more general knowledge in discussion. They show better memory. When presented with something unfamiliar they have more things they can try and get the answers faster. Do you have a better definition of “intelligence?” After you have identified those children, you will find that their test scores are significantly higher – in every school district in the country.

      Find me the engineers who did poorly on their SATM, or the high school math teachers. You keep changing the subject to say “Hey, but it’s not WISDOM.” No one ever said it was. Straw man. IQ measures candlepower, and measures it very well. It doesn’t measure height or beauty either. Your point?

      People can succeed in many ways in the world, with hard work, or discretion, or compassion, or charm, or beauty, or luck, or adaptability, or musical ability, or athletic skill. All professions require more than one skill, but all also have a minimum threshold for intelligence. One ability is not enough, but IQ is a hard line in most jobs. There’s a minimum necessary to work at McDonald’s, or drive a truck, or draw blood, or read an X-ray. Guess what. You can actually measure those things with an IQ test. It’s clear you’ve never seen one. They measure general, not arcane knowledge, common sense reasoning, short and long-term memory, reaction time, performance versus abstract reasoning, identifying sequences, computational skill, vocabulary – what are these other aspects of intelligence you think are being left off the test?

      Are there people with high IQ’s who are fools? Certainly. I know way more of those folks than you do, I imagine. Do people who have any single ability get conceited about that? Absolutely. But that applies equally well to people who think too well of themselves because they have a big house, or run faster, or look prettier, or come from an important family, or got lucky. Obama learned to imitate the high-IQ people, but he was only above average. (Nonetheless, he was above-average.) His arrogance is irritating, but it does not invalidate the idea of intelligence.

    5. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Kirk has an excellent point. We put much more emphasis on IQ and its proxies in selection & promotion today than 50 or 100 years ago — yet our societies are clearly in many ways degraded relative to those times (setting aside the changes due to technology). What have high IQ people done for us lately?

      One speculation is that we are funneling the higher IQ people into decision-making & overhead positions for which they are not particularly well suited. As a result, we are draining smart people from the more important functions in society where the rubber meets the road.

      Go back to the early 1900s, when intelligence helped in getting into a university (for example) but social class was essential. The consequence of class prejudice was there were smart (high IQ, if one prefers) people at all levels of society. It was the smart farmers & fishermen & bricklayers & teamsters who made society work. A society which makes all its high IQ people into lawyers & executives & bureaucrats is doomed — as we can see happening now.

      Perhaps economic realities will force a re-evaluation. Already, smart plumbers and smart welders can earn more than most lawyers. And smart kids are starting to notice — and act accordingly (e.g. the studiously ignored male student deficit in colleges). If we can distribute smart/High IQ people more broadly throughout society, it will be a better world.

    6. Donna B. Says:

      Years ago I had 44 radiation treatments to my brain to combat a growing, but not malignant, tumor. That, coupled with aging, reduced my IQ measurably. I miss those IQ points mostly because I remember having them and often wish I didn’t. There’s no joy in knowing that you’re only slighter smarter than a rock. Yet, I still retain some “wisdom” earned over a lifetime that I can offer to my children and grandchildren. It’s often in the form of “is it worth it to fight that particular battle – ie, can anybody win”? Losing IQ points didn’t cause me to lose my memory of battles lost.

    7. Ginny Says:

      Myth? 1: I thought that they’d stopped doing iq tests in schools, etc. since this was a taboo subject and the tests had been endlessly critiqued. But several of you are saying the country relies on iq tests too much. Where are these taken and who uses them? I’m curious. I don’t remember my children taking what they thought or we were told were intelligence tests, though of course they did tests that led to AP classes, etc. And they took the SATs, etc. In the fifties we took them, but those were the years psychiatrists were seen as oracles. The services have a reputation for the best, fairest, and most complete batteries of tests of intelligence, aptitude, etc. One of our friends who was a high school counselor wanted his daughter to sign up just to go through the tests that might help her choose a career. You say there is a high predictability in terms of the armed forces and that makes sense to me, but I had vaguely believed they had some kind of dispensation to keep giving them.

      Myth? 2: One of another friend’s observations (from a book’s graphs), was that apparently when the average iq of a nation rose so did its income, corruption lessened, etc. When a nation’s iqs were lower than would seem from its rank in wealth and lower crime rate, etc., they had been colonized by the Brits with their sense of property rights, etc. Nations with higher iqs that did not have this bourgeois orderly culture had lower average incomes and general corruption: they were more often satellites of Russia.

      Of course, cause and effect must be complicated: those tests often require a level of abstraction that isn’t common in the culture of third world nations; childhood nutrition isn’t as good (though thankfully that has been improving), etc. These are also causes of weaker economies.

      Making this a taboo subject (which it may end up here, I suppose, it does most places) is understandable. I don’t think it should be. But considering intelligence immutable can lead to a fatalism that is stunting in itself and others may put up unnecessary boundaries. Knowing that it exists should not but may influence our sense of how much free will we have and obscure the importance of the other skills you list. If we are capable of being cool and objective about our limitations we can also often be more clearheaded about what we can do, can choose, can exercise our will over.

      Related Myth?3: By the way, someone observed once to me in grad school that those with high GRE’s were more likely to drop out (not fail out, but just not live up to their potential). I don’t know if that is true or not (I think that on average, the higher they were the more background the student had, but the less consistent their study habits, the more varied their interests) But then I thought that because someone had suggested that they dropped out. Maybe if I knew everyone’s scores and everyone’s lives, my impressions would be false. Grad school also gave little positive feedback which bothered some A students, meant a lot of time alone puzzling out a theory from primary sources, etc. which was harder on more gregarious types: the skills and rewards differed from those that some thrived on in academia.

      Don’t know if this was the kind of response you were interested in.

    8. Brian Says:

      I have zero interest to discuss IQ mostly because those who are obsessed with their own are inevitably tiresome bores and those obsessed with others are invariably racist.

    9. pouncer Says:

      I consider IQ to be of limited use, analogous to the BMI (body mass index) statistics tossed around. Like the Dow Jones Industrial “average” (which is hardly any kind of “average” in a statistical sense) or Global Average Temperature, a number can be developed for a specific purpose. So for comparing one sample group to another sample group within the topic considered, the numbers represent actionable meaningful information. For individuals, often, the number is more than “just” a number, but less than primarily useful.

      Before considering students, classrooms, and intelligence we might consider Lt. Gilbert Daniels, pilots of the US Air Force, and simple physical dimensions: leg length, head circumference, shoe size. “There is No Such Thing as a Average Pilot.” A cockpit — or, I think, any system — optimized to fit an average person will fit nobody at all.

      So informed, I am skeptical of a diet targeting a group of such-and-such BMI. I am skeptical of a tax-and-subsidy scheme designed to improve the rainfall in California — or globally. And I’m skeptical of designing classrooms around groups of age-segregated children with semester-length benchmarks of accomplishment — and tagging those who don’t fit the average as “slow” or “retarded” or “Left Behind”.

      A quality we recognize as “intelligence” exists within individuals and should be measured. IQ is an old, first approximation, for a tool to be used for that measure. It’s a long long way from reliable. IQ now stands in the way of better measures.

    10. MCS Says:

      “I will tell you that it is much better to live in a place of high average IQ than to have a high IQ yourself”. It is? Name a few places for us with high or low average IQ. How do you know? Explain San Fransisco or the whole state of California.

      The whole basis of the hypothesis of IQ depends on, is in fact defined by, a Gaussian distribution with the mean AND the median at exactly 100. Therefore, any reasonably large random sample will also have an average IQ of 100, by definition. It is not intellectually permissible to convert a relative measure to a transcendent quantity without specifying a unit of measure. Outside the context of a specific sample, an IQ point has no meaning and measures nothing.

      The membership of MENSA might be as close as we can come to some sort of objective evidence. As far as I’ve ever read, the occupations of the members are widely diverse with a noticeable number in less intellectually demanding jobs. This is a very self selected sample but about the only one with known IQ’s. Everyone needs a hobby; taking IQ tests is probably no worse or better than crosswords.

      A community is to some extent self selected rather than truly random. I would still expect your conjecture to rest on very small differences which would be unlikely to reach significance. How would you go about measuring? It doesn’t seem plausible that you would ever get a large enough, truly representative, sample to all take your test under proper controlled conditions for any meaningful conclusion.

      I tend to think of intelligence like height. There is probably a threshold beyond which a person is handicapped but the actual value is subject to context. Are you trying to sleep in a standard size bed or reach a high shelf?

    11. David Foster Says:

      “general, not arcane knowledge, common sense reasoning, short and long-term memory, reaction time, performance versus abstract reasoning, identifying sequences, computational skill, vocabulary”…I would think that for many jobs, the individual components would be better predictors than the overall score. For air traffic controllers, reaction time is more important than it is for programmers working on the ATC software…for whom vocabulary, while not unimportant, is less-imporant than it is for the FAA Administrator or the Secretary of Transportation.

      I understand that these factors are correlated with one another and that factor analysis pulls out a general factor which we call IQ, but they are not *perfectly* intercorrelated.

    12. PenGun Says:

      IQ is over rated. Especially as a predictor of success. Very smart people know how dumb they are. The “intelligent” are invested in their slight advantage, and often like to talk about their … smartness? ;)

    13. pouncer Says:

      “This [MENSA] is a very self selected sample but about the only one with known IQ’s.”

      Reading comprehension being a significant component of IQ — one wonders if you just skipped reading AVI’s comments as well as the head post.

      Perhaps the initialism ASVAB (AVI: “the ASVAB is an IQ test with some added specifics”) is not in your vocabulary? Since so few moderns actually contemplate military service, this little gateway/sorting mechanism is now much less widely known than formerly. But in any case, I suspect there are a LOT more inferences to be drawn from the data and samples collected by the US military via the ASVAB than from MENSA. So, more than one sample, and the vastly larger Military one, less self-selected.

      Last time I checked MENSA would allow the “GT Score” extracted from the ASVAB as a qualifying measure for their “genius IQ” admission standard.

      For large samples (not individuals) Height correlates to nutrition. IQ correlates to nutrition. Oddly enough, (not, “therefore”, just observationally) Height correlates to IQ. This seems uncontroversial. But the identically framed claim about genetic inheritance is socially dangerous to explicate. Height correlates to genetics … fill in the blanks. ) There is nevertheless a cap. You can’t turn every baby into a giant genius adult just by doubling up on each one’s vitamins. And you can’t guarantee that Andrew Cuomo, Justin Trudeau, or Andrew Guiliani will be successful politicians as were Mario, Pierre, or Rudy — “good” breeding notwithstanding.

    14. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Mercy me, where to start? It’s okay to not know the basic facts of a topic – not everyone is fascinated by the same things – but when you don’t know anything it is usually better not to develop strong opinions based on your feelings or what you heard a guy say once. These things are easy to look up. SAT & ACT are essentially IQ tests. Formal IQ tests can uncover specific strengths and weaknesses, and thus are used on people when there is a decision to be made, such as whether a child has specific areas of impairment that are interfering with overall functioning, or whether the overall functioning is itself low; or, whether someone has the basic smarts to be able to follow instructions in the armed services, or whether they could handle being a meteorologist or nurse. The ASVAB is quite good at sorting things out, and shares significant aspects with such traditional IQ tests as the Stanford-Binet or the WAIS. It is meant to be administered quickly and scored quickly. The SAT’s do not test spatial aptitude as well as they should, but otherwise have high correlation with IQ’s. This is because there is a correlation of cognitive abilities that is called the g-factor. People have specialties, certainly, but the students who do well in vocabulary tend to do well in math tend to do well in history tend to do well in science. Some kids are brighter, others don’t seem able to pick up much of anything. The SAT works from the strongest correlates with g, leaving out such things as pure memory tests such as how many recited digits you can retain and say back (and then backwards, which is of course harder). Those correlate with g but not as well.

      So in that limited sense lots of people have taken IQ tests. There are national and international tests as well, such as the PISA, administered yearly, so we get some sense of what the average IQs off other nations is. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations discusses the book, so you can see for yourself what you think. I will note that while some criticisms are valid, those are mostly identifying weaknesses, not refutations. Most of the rest of the criticism is of the form “It would be a bad thing if this were true, so therefore it is not true and the authors must be bad people.”

      There are hundreds of places to look up the topic on its own, but I will give you some that are a little different and hopefully more enjoyable reading. Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire have blogged about the topic for years, so you might go to their archives. Steve Hsu and Greg Cochran are more formal academics if you prefer. Hsu recently got in trouble for wrongthink, and the others have been accused of wrongthink for years. Nonetheless, their arguments are quite solid.

      https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/09/feynman-schwinger-and-psychometrics.html
      https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/09/27/against-individual-iq-worries/
      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201112/polymath-physicist-richard-feynmans-low-iq-and-finding-another
      https://vdare.com/articles/flynn-flips-iq-tests-do-matter

      A personal anecdote: I went to an advanced studies program while in high school. We all thought we were pretty special. But among that group there were those who shone. Larry David in particular was a shining star. He was in Chemistry, yet knew more math than the math students, more physics than the physics students, more biology than the biology students. We shook our heads. “He’s Really Smart.” He went on to MIT, got a PhD at Wisconsin and worked at IBM research for years, then off to other high-tech endeavors. Had a few patents for things like low-temperature ceramics and other stuff I don’t really understand. Made a fair bit of money even though he didn’t care about it. Genial, warm guy, I reestablished with him when he came back to NH and see him from time to time. SATs? 1600 under old scoring in 1970, when he was 15. So, do you think that test might actually be measuring something useful, or does it just measure how well you take tests?

      IQ is also used for group research more than individual, because it plays the averages. A group of students with SAT 1300 will do better in college on average than a group with 1200. But some of the 1300s will bomb out and some of the 1200s will bring other abilities to bear and excel.

      I caution that people seem to be letting other issues leak in, such as whether a person is a jerk, or arrogant, or lazy, and criticising cognition-specific tests on that basis. IQ is like height in basketball. It has some predictive value but other factors are important, such as speed, perseverance, coachability, coordination, etc. But recognising those things does not make height less valuable or predictive.

    15. Gringo Says:

      MCS

      The membership of MENSA might be as close as we can come to some sort of objective evidence. As far as I’ve ever read, the occupations of the members are widely diverse with a noticeable number in less intellectually demanding jobs. This is a very self selected sample but about the only one with known IQ’s. Everyone needs a hobby; taking IQ tests is probably no worse or better than crosswords.

      While I have no documentary evidence to back it up, I suspect that MENSA members, when compared to non-MENSA members with similar IQs or board scores or whatever parameter MENSA uses, have a higher proportion in less intellectually demanding jobs. I get the impression that MENSA has a fair amount of members who, aware of not having achieved at the level they consider commensurate with their intelligence level- a.k.a. underachievers- have joined MENSA as partial compensation. Yes, my achievement is disappointing considering my intelligence level, but at least I can join MENSA.

      Lest you consider this sour grapes on my part, by several criteria I am eligible for membership in MENSA, but have never applied. Perhaps I didn’t join because I was afraid I would be labeled as an underachiever-because there was some accuracy in so describing me. :)

      A relative wrote his doctoral dissertation on predicting the academic achievement of college freshmen. In addition to SAT scores and HS grade point average, his freshmen sample took a battery of psychological tests. After all, testing was his specialty. He found out that while SAT score and HS grade point average were important, a trait he called “stick-to-it-iveness” was more important. Another way of describing this trait is perseverance- the ability to keep going in spite of setbacks.

      I imagine that “stick-to-it-iveness” is also important outside the college classroom.

      In looking at the Merit Finalists- aristocrats of the IQ world- from my high school class, I would say that their achievements in life are not as high as one might have predicted.

    16. MCS Says:

      Pouncer,
      Regardless of my reading comprehension, the members of MENSA are self selected by their decision to join the group not by the test that provides their qualification.

      All of the surrogate tests are based on written tests which are manifestly tests of reading comprehension first. In the realms where they are administered, it’s assumed that those unable to comprehend the test are of no interest, or more accurately, any use, to the organization administering the test. There are non reading and even non verbal tests but they can not be administered on a mass basis.

      I’m still waiting to hear where this Lake Woebegone is where all the children are above average.

      Do IQ tests measure an important property? Various organizations are willing to invest money and resources in them and be governed by the results which is positive evidence but short of proof.

      Assuming that IQ is a measurable property rather than a statistical construct, are there differences between cultures or countries that are a product of such differences? These differences would have to be quite pronounced to stand out unequivocally among all the others.

      Is the property of IQ cultivatable? What actions might be taken to increase it? If it’s just a general property of society, then it may be exploited to gain the most useful outcome but not improved or refined.

      Which organizations should be allowed to cherry pick the worker pool and which will have to make do with the leavings?

    17. David Foster Says:

      Useful to discuss the legal implications of IQ testing. It has often been noted that the Griggs vs Duke Power court decision limited the ability of companies to use IQ tests in hiring/promotion decisions, and it is often stated that this put more emphasis on academic credentials…BUT, the same decision also limited the use of educational credentials. Specifically, the ruling was that *either* IQ testing *or* diploma requirements had to demonstrate the job relevance of the test or credential.

      I don’t know whether the decision was modified by later court decisions or by legislation…but there seems to be little concern about the legal implications of credentialism; more concern about IQ and other testing…but still, tests claiming to test characteristics related to specific job types are widely used. The hiring company indeed.com is selling such testing services on a wide scale.

    18. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      MCS: “Which organizations should be allowed to cherry pick the worker pool and which will have to make do with the leavings?”

      You know the answer. Since admission to college became much easier from about the 1970s onward and since all organizations started to use possession of an academic credential as a hiring requirement, we have funneled “High IQ” people into well-paid overhead functions in government, professions, business. This has left fewer “High IQ” people to do the challenging jobs that really do need to be done well — keeping the lights on and the factories humming and the shelves stocked. That is why so many things don’t seem to work as well as they used to.

      Ultimately, economics will fix the problem. The rates of pay for those with real skills are already rising above the rates for those with a credential in Lesbian Dance from a prestigious academic institution. It is a messy process, and in the meantime our society will under-perform, but it will be self-correcting in the long run.

    19. Christopher B Says:

      I thought about posting this earlier and didn’t, but will now as a caution against the claim that ‘we designed a system…’

      I recently watched a short YouTube that covered the history of US Army Officer insignia, specifically the use of gold insignia for what are considered lower ranks (2nd Lt vs 1st Lt, Major vs Lt Colonel) with the same symbol. Many people consider this an anomaly because gold is considered more precious than silver as a metal, and general officers receive gold stars. The tl;dr is that if you go back to the nineteenth century the colors of the insignia were chosen based on the contrast with the epaulets or shoulder boards, usually gold, where the insignia were displayed. Higher ranking officers received insignia with greater contrast, i.e. silver on gold. When you combine the inertia of not wanting to change existing markings of rank with the eventual elimination of those gold uniform elements, and then the necessity during WWI of providing 2nd Lieutenants with a rank marking to distinguish them from privates who also wore no rank marking on very similar uniforms, you wind up with the current sequence of US Army Officer insignia.

      Numerous myths have arisen to explain the situation, all of which share the common defect of assuming that the current markings exist because of a deliberate design decision to favor silver over gold from the start when the actual history is a series of unrelated changes and problem resolutions that can not be deduced by reasoning backward from the current way rank markings are colored and displayed.

      As AVI points out, high IQ people are going to thrive *regardless of the system you put them in*. I’m pretty sure that if we tested the high achievers in both the historic USSR and the current CCP, neither of which had a system with any pretense of selecting for high IQ, we would none the less find that those folks would not be scoring in the lower quintiles on a standardized intelligence test.

    20. Jay Guevara Says:

      Couldn’t the same be said about a lot of other human attributes?…say, impulse control?

      I strongly suspect that impulse control correlates with IQ as well. Successful impulse control requires foresight, which in turn requires intelligence.

      @ Kirk -You have hit just about every standard myth, all of which have been shot down repeatedly, with ample data. But it doesn’t matter. People want to believe what you believe, because they get their knickers in a knot with resentment.

      Thank you for rebutting Kirk’s comment, saving me a lot of typing.

      We put much more emphasis on IQ and its proxies in selection & promotion today than 50 or 100 years ago — yet our societies are clearly in many ways degraded relative to those times (setting aside the changes due to technology). What have high IQ people done for us lately?

      You answered your own question with the technology point, to which one could add breathtaking advances in science and medicine. Use of IQ and its proxies allowed identification and advancement of people with cognitive ability who at one time would never have had such advancement owing to their social class.

      It is not intellectually permissible to convert a relative measure to a transcendent quantity without specifying a unit of measure.

      How about standard deviation from the mean? That provides a measure of where an individual stands vis a vis the population as a whole. Which is what we’re trying to ascertain.

      I tend to think of intelligence like height.

      I tend to think of intelligence as more like time in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, i.e., one measure of potential. Having a 4.5 sec time does not guarantee stardom in the NFL, but having an 8 sec time pretty much guarantees the opposite.

      Is the property of IQ cultivatable? What actions might be taken to increase it?

      I doubt it very much. How many programs have been launched to try to increase the cognitive skills of some demographics? With what success?

      That is why so many things don’t seem to work as well as they used to.

      Begs the question, doesn’t it?

    21. David Foster Says:

      Relevant article at Forbes:

      https://www.inc.com/business-insider/why-iq-big-factor-future-success-job-performance-according-science-research.html

      One quote:

      “Based on the results of studies he ran on hundreds of salespeople and hundreds of applicants for sales positions, Grant concluded:
      “Cognitive ability was more than five times more powerful than emotional intelligence. The average employee with high cognitive ability generated annual revenue of over $195,000, compared with $159,000 for those with moderate cognitive ability and $109,000 for those with low cognitive ability. Emotional intelligence added nothing after measuring cognitive ability.””

      I’d be interested in knowing what these salespeople were selling. The skills required for a business-to-business sale of a complex technical product, where there are multiple decisionmakers in the client corporation, are pretty different from those involved in selling automobiles to consumers.

    22. pouncer Says:

      MCS, we seem to talk past each other. Let me write with small words from here on.

      There is a large pool of men*. Each man has at least one trait which may be of some use to the Armed Forces. Say height. Say weight. Say BMI. Or say IQ. A test is made such that the traits of each man can be known. The test is not great. But it beats having no test. Math is done and a curve is drawn to show how the traits will be found in the pool — if the Armed Forces take men from the pool by chance. Some traits are bad for some jobs, though. A tall man may have or cause problems on a sub, right? A fat man may not run as far as most men. A man with bad eyes who can’t read well is hard to train. And so on. The Armed Forces pick a spot on the math curve, and will not take any man with a trait too high or too low compared to the marks spread over the rest of the pool. A group of men is left. Call it the puddle. A larger group of men joins up. Call that group: “Lake Wobegone”. All the men in Lake Woebegone have the traits that better fit the needs of the Armed Forces. They are not “average”. It may be that some men in the “Lake” are below the mid-mark of the first “Pool”. But

      I paraphrase

      It is much better to serve in a place — and force — of fit, smart, well trained men than to rely on being a fit man or a smart man or a well trained man, by yourself.

      The force is better than it would be with no test. It is “above” average, better than the random, un-filtered, general pool.

      I think that no test will get it right all the time. The Armed Forces will take some men who test well but fit in poorly. Some men will be left back who would have been a good or great fit for some job. One by one, and man by man, such a test is doomed. Or dooms some men. But group by group, for large groups and many types of job or role to fit in the church, or the town, or the school … or any of the lots of slots that wait for many matched pegs, such tests have a place.

      IQ, BMI, or other.

      * {I use men in this case as a general and generic group-collective noun to refer to human beings of any gender fashionable and politically correct at the reader’s moment in history. }

    23. pst314 Says:

      Gringo “While I have no documentary evidence to back it up, I suspect that MENSA members, when compared to non-MENSA members with similar IQs or board scores or whatever parameter MENSA uses, have a higher proportion in less intellectually demanding jobs…”

      I have no idea if that is the case, but I have gotten the impression over the years that MENSA members tend to have personality defects. For instance, arrogant pride in their superior intelligence relative to those they meet, and a tendency to want to prove their superiority (which suggests insecurity.) They have tended to rub me the wrong way and I suspect that their personality flaws may tend to get in the way of achieving their full potential–after all, who wants to work with an obnoxious jerk?

    24. pst314 Says:

      Is the property of IQ cultivatable? What actions might be taken to increase it?

      I doubt it very much. How many programs have been launched to try to increase the cognitive skills of some demographics? With what success?

      Here is a question I have not bothered to look into: As I understand it, Eastern European Jewish immigrants fresh off the boat tested low in IQ and yet in a generation were testing quite high. This suggests to me that language and culture led to the low initial scores. So maybe the persistent low scores of The Demographic That Shall Not Be Named are due to persistent cultural failings, nurtured by liberal social policies that subsidize dependency and shiftlessness and encourage resentment and paranoia? On the other hand, can those policies really account for all the persistent failure we see? It seems unlikely but I don’t really know.

    25. MCS Says:

      Pouncer,
      What did you think my point about exploitation was about? It is exactly the same as grading lumber. Sound boards are used for structurally demanding applications, lower grade elsewhere. Neither the the military nor the lumber yard can afford to take only the best and must find productive uses for less desirable material. The military is constantly refining their criteria according to the need for manpower. You use what’s available.

      The original post however dealt not with individuals but differences between large groups. This is where the difference between a statistical construct like IQ falls apart. It can only be used to compare groups through a complicated process of correlating it with some other test, common to both groups. This takes the already significant uncertainty of some sort of group IQ and compounds it with the uncertainty of yet another cross cultural measure of some sort.

      The real question is what, besides curiosity, is served? The use of a perceived lack of intelligence to justify some of the worst acts of history would seem to require a significant justification for reopening this particular can of worms. I simply don’t believe the tools have the precision to reach that sort of conclusion. What would be the advantage of being able to prove that Japan was smarter then America? How would it change anything?

      It’s not as if there is any lack of actionable differences between the developed world and the rest. Much of it is dead simple like clean water and honest government. How would being able to prove they also had an IQ deficit help without some way to correct it. What if we discovered that Chad was smarter than Americans? An advanced economy can carry a lot of dead weight. That still wouldn’t keep anyone alive.

    26. Jay Guevara Says:

      As I understand it, Eastern European Jewish immigrants fresh off the boat tested low in IQ and yet in a generation were testing quite high.

      I believe that IQ tests during that era (1900-1920) were highly loaded with linguistic and cultural references that would be unfamiliar to someone fresh off the boat.

      I also believe that that source of systematic bias has been obviated subsequently, the extreme example being Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which (IIRC) does not even require the test taker to be literate.

      A second consideration is consistency across multiple measures. Consider the win/place/show performance of various demographics across IQ tests, SAT scores, academic performance, economic success, etc. It’s difficult to believe that that is coincidental. On the contrary, that consistency suggests a fundamental correlation driving the various measures.

    27. Anonymous Says:

      This suggests to me that language and culture led to the low initial scores.

      Sorry, forgot to address this. Consider that Asians – who God knows should have excuse re language and culture – do just fine on IQ tests. Better than native-born Americans, in fact.

      That suggests that culture and to some extent language are not a big factor in explaining modern-day IQ scores.

    28. Jay Guevara Says:

      The real question is what, besides curiosity, is served? The use of a perceived lack of intelligence to justify some of the worst acts of history would seem to require a significant justification for reopening this particular can of worms.

      How would being able to prove they also had an IQ deficit help without some way to correct it.

      It would contribute to making sound policy decisions, so we don’t spend fortunes trying to, e.g., teach calculus to golden retrievers, but devote resources to trying to mitigate the economic impact of the difference.

      In addition to which, IQ tests at the individual level can be used to identify those individuals who have more potential and to devote resources to developing them.

      Years ago I read “The New Brahmins,” which posited that going into scientific research provided a way for bright kids from middle and lower class backgrounds to advance in society in an area which was not closed to them (unlike, e.g., banking). Without IQ tests, they’d have been relegated to the bottom of the heap, whence they came.

    29. MCS Says:

      Jay Guevara,
      We’re still talking about large groups, not individuals. I will even grant your point as it applies to individuals. It doesn’t apply to countries, regions or ethnic groups. So I repeat, what is served?

    30. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Much to think about. In the meantime, there is the Raven’s Advance Progressive Matrices test https://psycho-tests.com/test/raven-matrixes-test which is non-verbal, relying on pattern recognition. It is accepted for some high-IQ societies. It has become popular because it is culture-fair, with no obvious advantages for white people and Asians. The dirty, highly-disguised secret is that those groups still do better. It’s fun stuff. Give it a try. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven%27s_Progressive_Matrices

      @ Gringo – while hard work is valuable, the aspect of that sticktoitiveness that is more important is the one you mention: resilience. To be cast to earth and rise again is even more valuable than hard work. Interestingly, it is mildly correlated with IQ as well. Some people get all the genetic luck, it seems, while the rest of us have to scrutinise our cards carefully and play them well.

      There are societies with cutoffs higher than Mensa’s, some considerably higher. International Society for Philosophical Enquiry and Triple Nine, both around 150. Prometheus (also Cincinnatus and Four-Sigma, now defunct) at about 164, Titan Society and Mega Society higher still. The difficulty arises in that there just aren’t that many people that qualify, and many of them have other things to do. Those societies count among them people who have amazing accomplishments and those who haven’t much to show for their efforts. The tests they accept are varied, and not always verbal, because they have an international base.

      Kevin Langdon and Ron Hoeflin both created ultra-high tests in the 1980s, hoping to find really good tools to find the super-bright. Mostly, they were just hoping to find friends to talk to, as the internet didn’t exist and it was hard to find people. Both tests were roundly criticised as not following good rules of design and relying on accidentals (sort of like “Slumdog Millionaire”). And yet… when the dust settled, their tests did correlate pretty well with the higher reaches of other tests. Their high scorers seemed to include a lot of physics profs and mathematicians and women who had scored over 1500 on their SAT’s and were now research chemists. But also, as expected, some clearly bright people who never seemed to be able to put it together, like Grady Towers. https://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2011/12/and-another-one-bites-dust-part-one.html

      I somewhat agree with Gavin Longmuir about the movement of people with high-IQ’s to less-important jobs. We don’t have data for this, only impressions based on the majors that people choose in school and what they do with them. Still, that is something, even if it is soft data. You don’t see that happening much in developing countries. The bright ones have little choice but to do the jobs needed for national prosperity. This shows up more in women’s choices than men’s. In the countries where women have the most choice, such as Scandinavia, Northern Europe, and Japan, the brightest often choose helping professions that pay less and allow them more time for family. This would be regarded as a national disgrace in other places, and sororal treachery to feminists in the Anglosphere. But it’s their choice, right? American women often do this too, despite the social pressure.

    31. Jay Guevara Says:

      It doesn’t apply to countries, regions or ethnic groups.

      Why not? It applies to one person, presumably it applies to two, and so on, by induction it could potentially apply to any number of people.

      Their high scorers seemed to include a lot of physics profs and mathematicians and women who had scored over 1500 on their SAT’s and were now research chemists.

      Imagine.

    32. Jay Guevara Says:

      For those trying to explain the empirical data, may I commend Occam’s Razor?

    33. Langston Blooze Says:

      IQ is real, it is genetic, it cannot be improved or cultivated, it is not cultural, it is fundamental to all aspects of individual and social success, and no one wants to hear that or believe it because it goes against all of the pretty lies we tell ourselves.

    34. MCS Says:

      AVI,
      I took the test, I will agree that it starts deceptively simple. I’m not sure what I believe about the results. I’ll share some of it, it was XX.14285714286 which seems a little suspect if they can’t even program the page to truncate the meaningless digits.

    35. Malcolm Kirkpatrick Says:

      Alfred Binet developed IQ tests to identify people who would do well in school. Here, “school” refers to French academically-oriented instructional facilities. IQ refers to nervous system functions that include sensory input (observation), memory, and abstraction (pattern recognition). Would the test have found a different sort of IQ if “school” meant cooking school or foraging and hunting school or dance school? Elite cooks need great olfactory sense, olfactory memory storage, and the ability to “taste” imagined ingredients. The correlation between verbal SAT and Math SAT is strong, but not 1. The correlation between either of these and spatial visual relations is not 1.

    36. Anonymous Says:

      Guess which city has the highest SAT scores?

      Give up?

      Oak Ridge, Tennessee

      All those scientists with the children

      This seems like sort of a Rorschach question as far as IQ. If you’re talking about what Mensa considers IQ I’d consider that almost worthless. So you can solve abstract puzzles, so what? I wonder if a Beethoven or Mozart could solve those puzzles. If not then would they be considered geniuses for having people still listen to their music 250 years later? Or composing entire symphonies while you’re deaf?

      I believe it was Edison that said that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration“

      Time for bed.

    37. Dan from Madison Says:

      I guess to me, IQ doesn’t really mean anything, at least from my perspective. Either someone can perform, or they can’t. I don’t give IQ tests when interviewing someone for a job.

      If a guy who is a welder has a “low” IQ but is successful in his field, to me that doesn’t make him of any less worth than a scientist who has a “high” IQ. Some people just don’t test well and aren’t very book smart, but can fix anything.

      Just my $.02.

    38. MCS Says:

      Malcolm Kirkpatrick,
      That is also what I was taught many years ago from a Psychology text that was even older. I have since learned that a great deal was complete BS. Jukes and Kallikaks among other things. Wikipedia traces the term IQ to a German some years before. I can remember the Stanford-Binet Test. Again, for individuals it makes sense but has questionable relevance for larger groups.

      I took AVI’s Raven’s Advance Progressive Matrices test out of curiosity, It’s too late for me to correct my career trajectory towards either rocket science or ditch digging. Although it turns out that I have done a little of both at different times.

      My contention is that a country’s IQ, to the extent such a thing exists, is going to be as easy to change as the amount of tin ore in the country. What will change is how much of that ore can be extracted. With intelligence, it will be how well things are arraigned, not just to allow the cream to float to the top, but to get the most from everyone. The Soviets had extensive programs to identify and advance talent, they were a lot less successful with the rest. So far, we seem to have done better.

    39. Bruce Hayden Says:

      A good discussion, by a group who are all, almost assuredly, on the right side of the distribution.

      “ While I have no documentary evidence to back it up, I suspect that MENSA members, when compared to non-MENSA members with similar IQs or board scores or whatever parameter MENSA uses, have a higher proportion in less intellectually demanding jobs. I get the impression that MENSA has a fair amount of members who, aware of not having achieved at the level they consider commensurate with their intelligence level- a.k.a. underachievers- have joined MENSA as partial compensation. Yes, my achievement is disappointing considering my intelligence level, but at least I can join MENSA.”

      We chuckle a bit when the subject of MENSA comes up. One relative by marriage brags about his MENSA membership. He is good at fixing things. But he took until almost 50 before he found a career where he would do moderately well – and that was selling a fairly low tech item. What he doesn’t have is drive and stick-to-ed-ness. On the flip side, the guys growing up who have been the most successful have both of those in abundance, though none of these have college degrees.

      I have been blessed with two intellectually challenging careers, first in software design, then in patent law. Known some of the best in both areas, as well as a number of extremely bright inventors, esp in the engineering realm. Trying to keep up with them was one of the big reasons it was so challenging as a career.

      One of the things that IQ seems to characterize is the ability to handle complexity. But one problem I have seen is that testing typically has some built in limitations. One of them is speed. My wife had a photographic memory, with possibly a touch of ASD. Her mind is as fast as lightning, and got straight As, by just replaying the video of the text books and lectures in her head during testing. But on the flip side, in my family 4 of 5 showed mathematical aptitude. Not surprising, as we were at least third generation with math/engineering degrees (my daughter is the 4th). 3 of 4 of us scored very high in the SATM. But the 4th was probably the mathematical genius. He scored a 100 points lower on that test. His mind is slow and thorough. He has always struggled to finish standardized tests on time, while I can usually double check all my answers, with time to spare. It has been said that Einstein may not have gotten into college, if they had been using SATs, for just that reason – his mind was too slow and thorough.

      One of the problems that I think we face with an IQ rewarding society is that those with the highest IQs almost seem to crave complexity, and as a result, have created an overly complex society. My 2nd profession (law) has been at the forefront there, as we are the ones who make and circumvent the rules. And, as a class, we do it for our own advantage. Anymore, you need to hire us to navigate the complexity that we created. Of course, my 1st profession, software, is little better. The problem is that half the population has an IQ (at or) below 100 (by definition), and have to live and survive in a legal and technological society created by those whose IQs are mostly two or more standard deviations above that mean. I don’t really like the consequences of that, but don’t really see a viable alternative.

    40. Bruce Hayden Says:

      “Much to think about. In the meantime, there is the Raven’s Advance Progressive Matrices test https://psycho-tests.com/test/raven-matrixes-test which is non-verbal, relying on pattern recognition. It is accepted for some high-IQ societies. It has become popular because it is culture-fair, with no obvious advantages for white people and Asians. The dirty, highly-disguised secret is that those groups still do better. It’s fun stuff. Give it a try. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven%27s_Progressive_Matrices”

      To toss a stone, there is pattern recognition, then there is pattern recognition. For example, males are better at spatial orienteering, while females are typically better at orienteering based on landmarks. There are exceptions, of course – my mother and daughter were/are decent with maps, but had math degrees (latter had a double major with physics, and a PhD in engineering). We were in a hotel in Missoula the other day, and my wife couldn’t figure out the floor plan if her life depended on it. It was essentially an inverted comma, with a closed loop on the bottom, which she would find herself repeating endlessly. Landmarks were useless, because all the halls and doors were identical. I took a snapshot in my mind of the floor plan, the first time we stayed there, and thereafter would direct her to the room, whenever she got lost and called. The trick was – there was only one elevator, and not one on every other hall. Something that probably most of the guys here could do. And probably have done.

      But she is visually a genius in terms of color, etc. She has had several houses she designed the interior for in Architectural Digest. When we buy a new house, she has the space planning done before we walk out the door the first time. With my engineering background, I measure everything and then arrange it in a CAD program. It took several weeks when we did it last year. She does a better job by sight, instantly. And it looks a lot better too. How can she tell, to the inch, the size of an item across the room? I have no idea. But she does. Doing a great job designing involves more than spatial planning – you also have to coordinate colors, hues, and tones. I can do color. Maybe. But I don’t really see hues and tones. She does. Her eye surgeon, last month, told her that she is one of a handful like that whom he has encountered in his decades of practice.

      I expect that I would do better on many, if not most, pattern matching tests, because my skills are more common. I most often take her genius in design for granted, because I live in the fruits of it. But it is far less common than mine.

      I don’t see the patterns that she sees visually. But she is just as clueless when it comes to anything verbal. I obsessively try to figure out what is happening politically and socially, in the world. She has little interest, or, I suspect, skill. But if we meet someone new to both of us, she will have noted and characterized far more than I did, or could. For women, she notes their original hair color, surgeries, the quality of their clothing. Ditto for men, but also their physical shape, what sort of work or exercise they do, etc. It’s a type of pattern recognition that I have no more skill with than most men. (More than once she has asked why some guy has hair plugs, or dyes his hair, because it is so obvious – my response is that it isn’t that obvious to most of us).

    41. Mike Doughty Says:

      I’m not too sure about https://psycho-tests.com/test/raven-matrixes-test. I took it just now for grins and scored 160. Based on other IQ tests I’ve taken, that’s about 20 points high.

      In any event, like Dan above, I’m pretty unimpressed with IQ as a predictor of performance. It’s good to be smart, but other things count for a lot more. Knowing you’re smart, or believing you are, often (not always, of course) makes people intellectually lazy. Things come easily and hard work isn’t needed, so when it becomes necessary, the person is unprepared, and some never recover from that. They continue to take the easy way and therefore never accomplish too much (certainly not what they’re capable of). This leaves them disappointed, bitter and resentful. We are seeing lots and lots of the fruits of that in current events.

      If we’d never had IQ tests, grade inflation and rampant credentialism maybe we’d have a society where people really would have to earn their place. We’d be a lot better off as a whole. I dispair for the future of our country.

    42. Anonymous Says:

      Regarding Army, Marine and Air Force officer rank insignia, I was told and can not verify as true this tale explaining it:

      Gold is heavier by volume than silver therefore applies to the lower rank, silver to the higher rank. The bars (ingots) symbolize raw ore from beneath the ground (one gold bar second lieutenant, one silver bar first lieutenant and two silver bars for captain. The oak leaves lie on the ground above the ore, gold for major, silver for lieutenant colonel. The silver eagle flying above the ground for the colonel. The stars are above the sky in the heavens so they are reserved for the generals. They are silver, not gold. The common nick name for a second lieutenant is butter bar. It is considered a slur.

      IQ is probably a rear thing that is important to problem solving even if we measure it imperfectly and relatively. It is handy to have more rather than less, all other things constant, because life and work are often full of problems needing solutions. They are often complex and require accurate assessment of trade offs.

      In my experience, success is more likely if you have intelligence and drive. I have known some highly intelligent folks that accomplished average or sub average results because their level of effort was consistently low. They had risen to a place of decision making and organizational ability based on their intelligence making up for their consistent effort. So effort and intelligence to some degree are substitutes.

      Another factor that seems very important is virtue. The most intelligent, focused and creative soul may be toxic if fundamentally self-absorbed as “in business for themselves”.

      I want to be around people who have a good combination of all three characteristics.

      Death6

    43. Ginny Says:

      Well, now that if I understand AVI’s explanation, and thank you for that, I want to observe that those tests I misunderstood can make a difference – both in a person’s potential and more productive use of talents in our society. What follows are anecdotes – so skip them if anyone wants reasoned argument & facts.

      My eldest daughter’s closest childhood friend had a father whose family was generally somewhat dysfunctional, but did, I think, finish high school. He went into the Air Force, soon he was sent to Korea, learned Korean and married a Korean wife, he was sent here to get a BA in EE, later he was offered the opportunity for a choice of majors for his master’s, and then later made the trade off to stay longer as they put him into a Ph.D. program; he got out and was immediately hired by a company he’d worked with in the Air Force – phoning us that he was somewhat nervous at supervising over 200 people and God knows what salary. His daughter got both engineering and law degrees – a path I’m sure surprised her grandparents. In college I dated a guy who hadn’t finished high school. He was probably in the draft generation but he also got into trouble in high school and joined the Air Force. We took a class together when he was working on his ma under an expert on medieval Siena; he went to Brown for his Ph.D., then taught in the Wisconsin system. I think his parents were immigrants – I know he was kind of feeling out middle class customs. The Air Force had set him on his way. J. D. Vance is extraordinary but the pattern of Hillbilly Elegy is not unique.

      Another point, National Merit scholarships call attention to talent that lies in flyover territory and often geography exerts a strong pull. Here’s a list of the top ten #s of admitted, private & public mixed. (The first Google I found was 2010, which is admittedly dated.)

      1. University of Chicago: 268

      2. Harvard University: 261

      3. University of Southern California: 250

      4. Northwestern University: 227

      5. University of Oklahoma: 225

      6. Yale University: 224

      7. Washington University, St. Louis: 215

      8. Princeton University: 192

      9. Vanderbilt University: 188

      10. Texas A&M University: 177

      Sure the Ivy League, etc. lead, but even in the top 10 are two land grants. In our family, one went to Chicago, one to UT, two to Nebraska. The one to Chicago’s brother turned down Chicago for Nebraska – he said, I’m not going to start out with all that debt and intended specializing in grad school. He now has a Ph.D. from another land grant college; NASA tempted him with his own (whatever they call them – pods, crews, research group?) but he chose a more congenial job. He will always have more choices without debt, which shows as much intelligence as his perfect score.

      My daughter who went to UT, got her ma at Penn: she described a “networking” emphasis. I asked her if her classes were to train lobbyists: she replied “not all of them mommy, not all.” Of course, we have a friend whose daughter is a lobbyist and makes several times what her father and my husband did – but she’s been able to convince legislators to send more money and that is probably better for the school than a convincing explication of a Yeats poem or the Hebraic/Hellene distinction in Arnold.

      On the other hand, my daughter with a Ph.D. was not a national merit scholar and is the only one of my three with that degree. Barnard accepted her; when she chose UT, they suggested she do her last year’s there to graduate form it. Meanwhile, she found out UT was much better at linguistics, she spent her soph year abroad and became engaged. She was brilliant at languages, has an ear for their sounds, etc. but only as her children matured was she interested in getting back into a more academic path and started publishing. We all make choices; women are offered a broader variety but some are difficult.

      Sorry my comments are long, personal anecdotes – I like to think of them as illustrations and am aware they are not proofs. These are, however, some of my favorite anecdotes because they illustrate diversity, tapping rich potential, and in general a kind of optimism about what we can be. These seem so American.

    44. PubliusII Says:

      I’m pretty much in agree ment with Kirk’s basic point that IQ and intelligence aren’t the same thing. And that IQ measures the ability to take written test. And a polity that put high-scoring written test-takers in charge is headed for trouble.

      Perhaps this argument can be reduced to High IQ = Book Smart, Life Dumb.

    45. David Foster Says:

      One characteristic that is extremely valuable is the ability to look at one’s own actions behavior critically, and thereby improve over time.

      This is related to but *not* identical to the ability to recognize that what one is thinking at any given moment might be *wrong*. I know a few people who can recognize bad decisions retroactively, but *this* time, they are absolutely sure about that stock, or that job opportunity, or that boyfriend…

    46. ron Says:

      Just do it

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnSMIgsPj5M

    47. Norman Says:

      MCS: Your result – XX.14285714286 has similarities to mine: XX.42857142857. I’m no math whiz. Maybe someone could explain?

    48. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      PubliusII – got anything more than feelings for that opinion? Challenge yourself on your definition of what intelligence is and what IQ tests measure. Repeating cliches just isn’t doing it for me persuasion-wise.

      @ Bruce Haydon – There is a lot of research on wayfinding, on how people navigate and some general tendencies between males and females. The Japanese have done some interesting stuff there. I wrote on it quite a bit years ago, and put it into a series. I hope you enjoy it. https://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2011/07/wayfinding-and-stonehenge.html

      For the rest, there is a point I want to repeat. Every job requires a minimum intelligence, and it is remarkable how much consensus you can get on what the IQ for that is. It matters, and deeply. Yet it is only one thing, and beyond that threshold any of a hundred other abilities might be more important: charm, musical ability, discretion, emotional control, athletic ability, patience, fine-motor co-ordination, connections, luck, or the proper crease of your pants. Has anyone ever said otherwise? You might find individuals who are trying to rely rather defensively on what they imagine is high intelligence, but I think it is ten times more common for people of IQ 120 to think they are really 140, or people at 100 to say it’s all crap because they don’t really understand what is being said. The really, really bright people I know can all identify others they think are jaw-dropping smart. The people who think they are the smartest in the room seldom actually are. They are usually jumped-up posers of above-average but not exceptional ability.

      They run for office a lot.

      There are exceptions. I do know people who are very smart and also think they are always the smartest person in the room and don’t listen to anyone. It’s irritating. It’s not the norm. Most smart people are quick to admire other smart people.

      @ Ginny – some of that was reasoned facts, though, wasn’t it? Not all opinion and anecdote. Thanks.

      @ Dan from Madison – I would say you are asking the wrong question about welders. Of course welding ability, once observed, is more important. No one fires a good welder because their test scores came back low. But that is judging in retrospect. If you have to be the guy who chooses who is going to be accepted into an underwater welding program, and you’ve seen people who are dumb enough to be dangerous, the knowledge that they need an IQ of at least 95, and that there is increasing advantage up to IQ 110, after which it levels off would be very useful. All the other skills might be more important above 110, so that 115 and 140 are the same and not worth bothering about. But the difference between 80 and 100 might be huge.

    49. pouncer Says:

      Going on a tangent a bit now.

      We’ve used or read the word correlation several times here. But we aren’t discussing the idea that intelligence, wisdom, cleverness, or whatever you want to call it — whether or not such a subtle trait or group of traits can be numerically measured by any test, let alone the IQ test — is reliably and usefully correlated to an obvious innate trait like height. Or hair thickness. Or myopia. Or freckles. Or skin color. Or sex. Or the ratio of the length of your ring finger to length of your index finger. Or the shape of your skull. Or having wisdom teeth. …

      Does it change anything in our culture, and our systems of education and hiring and juries and selection of policy makers etc if we could firmly and finally establish some kind of connection? If we can predict IQ (just for instance) by counting incidence and size of freckles (just for instance, again.)? Would that be a good thing to know, and to do? Or would it create weird issues for our culture?

      Suppose it’s not freckles. Or suppose causality runs the other way. Suppose highly intelligent people tend to be born with bad eyesight. Or ruin their own eyes in early childhood by reading too much. There is a lot of folklore associating intelligence with the wearing of corrective lenses, right? Should or could we test for IQ early in order to protect, or provide accommodations for, the eyesight of an “at risk” group of children?

      If we do find a link between IQ and some obvious X, what do we do with the knowledge?

    50. Mike K Says:

      National Merit Scholar here but never interested in MENSA.

      I have gotten the impression over the years that MENSA members tend to have personality defects. For instance, arrogant pride in their superior intelligence

      How do you know someone is a MENSA member? Wait 30 seconds and they will tell you. Worse than vegans, if possible.

    51. Jay Guevara Says:

      National Merit Scholar here but never interested in MENSA.

      Seconded.

    52. James the lesser Says:

      Norman: try multiplying the decimal part of both numbers by 7.

      The total number of questions is divisible by 7, which gives that funny 6-digit repeating pattern.

    53. Bill Brandt Says:

      National Merit Scholar here but never interested in MENSA.

      I have gotten the impression over the years that MENSA members tend to have personality defects. For instance, arrogant pride in their superior intelligence

      How do you know someone is a MENSA member? Wait 30 seconds and they will tell you. Worse than vegans, if possible.

      Mike – Sometime ago there was a WSJ article on this very subject, and a few “Mensans” were getting tired of the way their fellow members acted.

      Just talking about weighty topics isn’t enough for contemporary Mensans like Craig McCue of Des Moines, Iowa… He eventually grew frustrated with his local groups, where members touted their intelligence while “just…sitting on a couch, having philosophical discussions.”

      “Being a genius is not taking a standardized test, it’s what you contribute to the world,” he said.”

      I wrote a blog piece on it some time ago

      https://thelexicans.wordpress.com/2019/01/03/more-than-puzzle-solving/

      Even one of the Mensa co-founders was getting a bit disgusted.

      And you are right – they are worse than militant vegans.

    54. CapitalistRoader Says:

      More recent info on the Flynn Effect:

      People Are Getting Dumber: The Flynn Effect Goes Into Reverse
      Is it genes, or have we “started building a stupidity-inducing environment”?

      If falling average IQ scores cannot be attributed to dysgenic or immigration effects, they must be the result of some environmental effects. But what? The researchers conclude that “our results remain consistent with a number of proposed hypotheses of IQ decline: changes in educational exposure or quality, changing media exposure, worsening nutrition or health, and social spill-overs from increased immigration.”

      As George Mason University economist Tyler Cowan pithily puts it, “We have started building a more stupidity-inducing environment. Or at least the Norwegians have.”

      On the bright side, a 2018 review article by Flynn and his University of Otago colleague Michael Shayer reports that America continued to show a steady rate of average IQ gain from 1989 to 2014 at about its historic rate of .3 IQ points per year.

    55. Norman Says:

      James The Lessor: Thank you for your explanation!

    56. dirtyjobsguy Says:

      The real world is muddled in the sense that lots of high IQ people work in all types of work, and many more are competent and efficient at tasks with lower IQ’s. If the issue is people with really high IQ’s or more correctly some level of very high analytic skills it is pretty limited. General population intelligence can improve the workings of societies a lot since the tails are shrunk more than the mean increases. It is the very low IQ people that are harder to have happy, productive lives. Very high IQ’s are largely people like mathematicians and physicists whose skills allow them to see things others can’t, but they are not well suited to other roles.

    57. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      CapitalistRoader: “Is it genes, or have we “started building a stupidity-inducing environment”?”

      We take it for granted now that a woman who gets pregnant will deliver a living baby (assuming she does not choose to abort it), and mother & baby will be fine. But in historical terms, that is a recent sanitary & medical accomplishment of the human race. It really blew me away to learn that in parts of the now super-wealthy United Arab Emirates, infant mortality was running at around 30% as recently as the 1960s — and maternal mortality was not a whole lot better.

      The absolutely great side of this accomplishment is that the ancient scourge of infant & maternal mortality has been almost eliminated as a concern, at least for human beings in the First World. The other side of that accomplishment is the nagging thought that we may unintentionally be paying a price for defeating the Darwinian idea of the Survival of the Fittest.

      Infant mortality was historically something that impacted the whole of society. (Famously, Queen Anne of England had something like 19 pregnancies between AD 1684 & 1700, but had only 1 child who survived beyond infancy). However, it would not be an improbable hypothesis that, back in those not-so-distant days, smarter parents would (on average) have seen more of their children surviving to adulthood, simply through better care and better nutrition. By ensuring the anti-Darwinian survival of all babies and their progression to reproductive age, it does not seem unlikely that there would be a tendency for subsequent generations to be (on average) less healthy & less smart.

      As someone once said, every coin has two sides.

    58. MCS Says:

      First, the pedant point: It’s matrices not raven-matrixes-test.

      Second, there are very few things in the universe that are quantified to as many as 5 significant figures, displaying this to 13-14 is just silly.

      The construction of the test is very interesting. The first few questions were so obvious that I questioned whether I had missed something. Upon a day’s reflection, it’s obvious that they were the “instructions”. If I remain amused, I might try taking it again while deliberately flubbing the first few just to see how that is handled.

      The drawings are rather crudely drawn. Not quite free hand but I could have certainly done much better back when I made mechanical drawings with pen and straightedge. Now I probably have six different ways to render them with mathematical precision from invisible to billboard size. So again, it must be by deliberate choice.

      Some of what I considered the right choice were slightly wrong in detail, they couldn’t have been cut from the exemplar as shown but none of the others were remotely correct. This could have been an artifact of the sloppy rendering but I suspect it was deliberate.

      I took the test on a 28″ 4K monitor. I could easily see both the problem and the answers simultaneously. I never felt the need to scale up the display even when some of the details in the later problems were a bit obscure but I could have easily. I doubt I would have done as well on a phone, certainly not as fast and with considerably more frustration. This is one of the big differences between paper and a computer administered test, especially when there is no control on the computer being used.

      They don’t seem willing to show which are the right answers, unsurprisingly, so I have no way of knowing which I got wrong. My score was high enough that I don’t think there were that many.

      Finally, no language. As I said, it is quite clever requiring no written instructions, not even an example. There should be no bias from a lack of language skills or reading ability. However, I think I had a definite advantage over many people, especially those from less technologically developed cultures. I’ve been making and using mechanical drawings for almost as long as I’ve been reading, certainly longer than I have needed to shave. This makes me fairly adept at picking details out of abstract drawings. There are others that are far better than I. I am constantly bemused by commentators on art that can glance at a painting and name off details that will take me a long while to find even with the hint.

      I’m sure it has a use. Maybe to provide an estimate within ten below a reasonable cut off. I doubt it’s very accurate on the high range but it would provide a reason to investigate further. I could see giving it to a group of Afghans to see which might be worth trying to train as mechanics or some such.

      Average intelligence is perfectly adequate for the vast preponderance of the jobs that need doing, if it wasn’t, they’d never get done. More intellect is an advantage but there are so many more qualities, many named above, that will make the difference between outstanding and barely tolerable. Somewhere there is probably a lower cutoff. I never worried about hiring someone that wasn’t smart enough to do a job. It was all the other things that I wouldn’t know until I saw them in action that makes me happy that I don’t do that any more.

    59. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      I know only one Mensan, the uncle I am named for, dead for a few years now. Either I don’t know any who have joined, or they haven’t mentioned it.

      If a pilot who went to Harvard does Crossfit, which will he tell you about first?

      IQ does not have an especially good individual predictive value – again, like height in basketball. It has good group predictive value for many tasks, as the other qualities such as charm, determination, resilience, beauty, etc even out.

      There has been mention a few times here that we seldom know what a person’s IQ is. This is true. Remember that a lot of folks pretend to be things they are not, and pretend them well. Looking at accomplishments, even starting young, is worth adding to the evaluation. Some majors are harder than others. I went through a lengthy discussion on Quora a few years ago that Barack Obama’s IQ was likely in the range of 115-124. He has very successfully imitated – and he says so in his own biography – the mannerisms, dress, and demeanor of people much higher on the scale and taken great care to associate himself with them. Which is a smart thing to do, right? For the record, the only president we have an actual SAT for is Bush 43, who scored a 1206, which equates to an IQ about 124-128. He scored higher on the math than the verbal part, which is not surprising for a pilot. His score on the OCS test was just higher than John Kerry’s, who was reputed to be much smarter when they faced off. Al Gore has scored a 132, Mensa threshold, on an IQ test. The rumors of Bill Clinton’s SAT and Barack Obama’s ACT scores are unsubstantiated. Discussing presidents is a good example of the limitations. They all need an above-average candlepower, certainly. But once that minimum is established, say 1SD above 100, a dozen other things are more important, including training, honor, attentiveness, decisiveness, and ability to listen. While a few more IQ points might provide a slight advantage, it is those other things that matter more. Chuck Schumer has a very high IQ and it shows. He is effective at what he does. I still wouldn’t vote for him because of his core beliefs and maybe his essential manipulation and cheating in approach. Still, he’s plenty smart.

    60. Ginny Says:

      Didn’t Sully belong to Mensa? He may have been a jerk – certainly Tom Hanks didn’t play him as one. He appeared to be able to think under pressure and calculate in a way that worked. I’ll take that in a pilot over charm – but then we don’t spend any time with even the pilots that save our lives.

    61. David Foster Says:

      Ginny….”I’ll take that in a pilot over charm – but then we don’t spend any time with even the pilots that save our lives.”

      But copilots do, and air traffic controllers do. There has been more than one accident where the determination of causal factors includes a captain’s unwillingness to listen to input from his copilot, or a copilot’s unwillingness to offer such input for reasons like ‘he has such a bad temper.’ There is a subset of the aviation safety analysis field, called Cockpit Resource Management / Crew Resource Management which deals with interactions among flight crews.

    62. Ginny Says:

      Wasn’t that a Gladwell argument about why a culture that made the pilot unapproachable, etc. led to a very bad accident: the co-pilot saw the wings icing over. Although I don’t remember that as being jerkiness as too strong a sense of hierarchy (though that probably means a less humble than he should be pilot and a less assertive than he should be co-pilot)? AVI seems to imply that true intelligence has humility – listening to and respecting others.

    63. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ Ginny – that would be wisdom. Intelligence can occur without character. As a point of reference, the Bible, other major historical religious texts, and philosophers say very little about intelligence. They say nice things about wisdom.

      Nonetheless, intelligence has its uses, just like physical strength, beauty, connections, determination, resilience, and a hundred other things.

    64. Mike K Says:

      I still wouldn’t vote for him because of his core beliefs and maybe his essential manipulation and cheating in approach. Still, he’s plenty smart.

      Do you think those could be related ? There are a lot of people who are very intelligent and knowledgeable on one technical subject who think that qualified them to rule others. I remember Eric Schmidt once saying he supported the Democrats because abortion was important to his wife. So Google has become the gray eminence behind Biden ?

    65. Anonymous Says:

      Funny, I’ve never been impressed with Schumer’s intellect. Maybe it is all the stupid assumptive statements that pour out of him (and his crocodile tears). McConell seems to be his mental peer, but with less drama. Gingrich seems intelligent, even if I don’t think everything he says is so much better. At least he seems to be able to formulate and clearly express a complex argument with some connection to reality.

      Death6

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