Wednesday, September 30, 2015

IQ: Brain scans confirm what has long been known from twin studies

Intelligent people's brains are wired differently: Researchers say 'smart minds' are more likely to be happy, well educated and earn more

High achievers have brains that are wired differently from those with fewer intellectual or social abilities, researchers have claimed.

Scientists who analysed brain scan data on 461 volunteers found some had 'connectome' patterns linked to classically positive aspects of life, such as having a good memory and vocabulary, feeling satisfied, and being well educated.

People at the other end of the connectome scale were more likely to display negative traits including anger, rule-breaking, substance use and poor sleep quality.

The findings are among the first to emerge from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a £20 million collaboration between Oxford University and Washington and Minnesota universities in the US.

As the study unfolds, data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans conducted on 1,200 healthy volunteers will be coupled with lifestyle and behaviour tests and questionnaires.

The Oxford team used 461 of the scans to create an averaged map of brain functioning across the participants.

Then, we looked at how much all of those regions communicated with each other, in every participant.'  The result was a 'connectome' for every individual - a detailed description of the extent to which the 200 separate brain regions communicate with each other.

Specific connectome variations were found to correlate with a range of behavioural and demographic measures.

A strong connectivity pattern that included symmetrical peaks on both sides of the brain in five particular regions was seen as 'positive'.

The correlation shows that those with a connectome at one end of scale score highly on measures typically deemed to be positive, such as vocabulary, memory, life satisfaction, income and years of education.

Meanwhile, those at the other end of the scale were found to exhibit high scores for traits typically considered negative, such as anger, rule-breaking, substance use and poor sleep quality.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, echo what psychologists refer to as the 'general intelligence g-factor', said the scientists.

First proposed in 1904, the 'g-factor' is supposed to summarise an individual's abilities in different cognitive tasks but has been criticised for failing to reflect the true complexity of what goes on in the brain.

Prof Smith said: 'It may be that with hundreds of different brain circuits, the tests that are used to measure cognitive ability actually make use of different sets of overlapping circuits.

'We hope that by looking at brain imaging data we'll be able to relate connections in the brain to the specific measures, and work out what these kinds of test actually require the brain to do.'


Friday, September 25, 2015

The chimpanzee effect confirmed

For some years now, I have been talking about a chimpanzee effect.  The idea is that at 6 months of age a chimpanzee baby is much more able in all ways than is a 6 month old human baby. But a human baby grows to be a much smarter adult that does a chimp.  So in assessing IQ, early measurements can be misleading.  So we find that the IQ gap between blacks and whites tends to become greater as time goes by.  In their brain-dead way Leftists tend to interpret the widening gap in various adverse ways.  They say that blacks start out smart but "whites" somehow oppress them.  They fail to take note that chimps develop earlier too.  And chimp IQ certainly does not plateau early because of "racism" or "oppression".

At no point, of course have I compared blacks to chimps.  I am just using the term "chimpanzee effect" as a vivid term for the general rule that final IQ will be reached more slowly the higher is the final level.

So I am rather pleased that the recent journal article below finds that effect in a solely human population. In the study below, lower socio-economic status children fill the role of chimps in my thesis.  But note again that I am not comparing ANY humans to chimps.  I am just pointing out what an initial high or low IQ finally leads to.  It may be worth noting that the final age in the study below was 16.  That age is usually found to be the point beyond which IQ does not develop further.

Socioeconomic status and the growth of intelligence from infancy through adolescence

by Von Stumm, Sophie and Plomin, Robert.


Low socioeconomic status (SES) children perform on average worse on intelligence tests than children from higher SES backgrounds, but the developmental relationship between intelligence and SES has not been adequately investigated. Here, we use latent growth curve (LGC) models to assess associations between SES and individual differences in the intelligence starting point (intercept) and in the rate and direction of change in scores (slope and quadratic term) from infancy through adolescence in 14,853 children from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), assessed 9 times on IQ between the ages of 2 and 16 years. SES was significantly associated with intelligence growth factors: higher SES was related both to a higher starting point in infancy and to greater gains in intelligence over time. Specifically, children from low SES families scored on average 6 IQ points lower at age 2 than children from high SES backgrounds; by age 16, this difference had almost tripled. Although these key results did not vary across girls and boys, we observed gender differences in the development of intelligence in early childhood. Overall, SES was shown to be associated with individual differences in intercepts as well as slopes of intelligence. However, this finding does not warrant causal interpretations of the relationship between SES and the development of intelligence.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Is a meritocracy closer than we think?

I am putting up below just the first part of a very searching essay on the implications of meritocracy.  The most interesting claim is that our society may already be very meritocratic.  In Britain, the 7% of the population who go to private schools end up running just about everything in the whole country.  They even make up about a third of Britain's Olympic team. 

This leads Leftists to claim that inherited social class governs one's opportunities in Britain.  But that may not be so.  Toby Young argues  below that those who go to private schools are already genetically advantaged.  They are by and large the children of economically successful people and such people tend to have higher IQs  -- which they pass on to their children genetically.  So the issue of social class and private schools is a red herring.  It is actually higher IQs that are easing the way for that top 7%

So schemes to improve education for the hoi polloi will not work unless the pupils concerned are already intellectually gifted.  And it was precisely that precondition that made Britain's "Grammar Schools" (academically selective schools) so successful at elevating children from poor families.  They were bright to start with. 

Toby Young does not want that now nearly extinct Grammar School system to be revived but he does want marks and awards in existing schools to be strongly achievement-based.  He wants real ability recognized and rewarded -- just the opposite of the "dumbing down" that has for some time been the existing tendency.  In his system, those with genuine ability will be eased in their upward path, regardless of where they come from.

So it is possible to argue that MOST people already end up at a level within society that is commensurate with their innate intellectual abilities.  And even if that is not already so we are well on the road towards it.

My own experience bears that out.  I have a top 2% IQ but was born into a very humble and not very congenial family.  But, despite that background, I cruised through life mostly doing what I felt like and ended up as a well-paid university teacher.  I ran from one end of the occupational status scale to the other.  And I hardly worked at it.  What I did came easily and was fun.  Education for me was like solving a series of easy puzzles.  So I ended up where my IQ placed me, not where my birth placed me.

But society's responsiveness to IQ creates a problem.  What will happen if it becomes known that society has already placed just about everyone where they belong in the staus hierarchy and that there is no real possibility of an aspiring person cracking that?  Will it not lead to social unrest among the less gifted and maybe  even a bloody revolution against the existing order?

If that is a possibility, the present Leftist myth that it can all be solved by better education is in fact highly beneficial.  It gives hope and diverts attention from the "unfair" reality -- JR

The left  loathes the concept of IQ -- especially the claim that it helps to determine socio-economic status, rather than vice versa -- because of a near-religious attachment to the idea that man is a piece of clay that can be moulded into any shape by society

In 1958, my father, Michael Young, published a short book called The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870–2023: An Essay on Education and Equality. It purported to be a paper written by a sociologist in 2034 about the transformation of Britain from a feudal society in which people’s social position and level of income were largely determined by the socio-economic status of their parents into a modern Shangri-La in which status is based solely on merit. He invented the word meritocracy to describe this principle for allocating wealth and prestige and the new society it gave rise to.

The essay begins with the introduction of open examinations for entry into the civil service in the 1870s—hailed as "the beginning of the modern era"—and continues to discuss real events up until the late 1950s, at which point it veers off into fantasy, describing the emergence of a fully-fledged meritocracy in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century. In spite of being semi-fictional, the book is clearly intended to be prophetic—or, rather, a warning. Like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), The Rise of the Meritocracy is a dystopian satire that identifies various aspects of the contemporary world and describes a future they might lead to if left unchallenged. Michael was particularly concerned about the introduction of the 11+ by Britain’s wartime coalition government in 1944, an intelligence test that was used to determine which children should go to grammar schools (the top 15 per cent) and which to secondary moderns and technical schools (the remaining 85 per cent). It wasn’t just the sorting of children into sheep and goats at the age of eleven that my father objected to. As a socialist, he disapproved of equality of opportunity on the grounds that it gave the appearance of fairness to the massive inequalities created by capitalism. He feared that the meritocratic principle would help to legitimise the pyramid-like structure of British society.

In the short term, the book achieved its political aim. It was widely read by Michael’s colleagues in the Labour Party (he ran the party’s research department from 1945 to 1951) and helped persuade his friend Anthony Crosland, who became Labour Education Secretary in 1965, that the 11+ should be phased out and the different types of school created by the 1944 Education Act should be replaced by non-selective, one-size-fits-all comprehensives. Crosland famously declared: "If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland." Today, there are only 164 grammar schools in England and sixty-eight in Northern Ireland. There are none in Wales.

But even though my father’s book helped to win the battle over selective education, he lost the war. The term "meritocracy" has now entered the language, and while its meaning hasn’t changed—it is still used to describe the organising principle Michael identified in his book—it has come to be seen as something good rather than bad. [1] The debate about grammar schools rumbles on in Britain, but their opponents no longer argue that a society in which status is determined by merit is undesirable. Rather, they embrace this principle and claim that a universal comprehensive system will lead to higher levels of social mobility than a system that allows some schools to "cream skim" the most intelligent children at the age of eleven.[2]

We are all meritocrats now

Not only do pundits and politicians on all sides claim to be meritocrats—and this is true of most developed countries, not just Britain—they also agree that the principle remains stillborn. In Britain and America there is a continuing debate about whether the rate of inter-generational social mobility has remained stagnant or declined in the past fifty years, but few think it has increased.[3] The absence of opportunities for socio-economic advancement is now seen as one of the key political problems facing Western democracies, leading to the moral collapse of the indigenous white working class, the alienation of economically unsuccessful migrant groups, and unsustainable levels of welfare dependency. This cluster of issues is the subject of several recent books by prominent political scientists, most notably Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (2015) by Robert Putnam.

Unlike my father, I’m not an egalitarian. As Friedrich Hayek and others have pointed out, the difficulty with end-state equality is that it can only be achieved at too great a human cost. Left to their own devices, some men will inevitably accumulate more wealth than others, whether through ability or luck, and the only way to "correct" this is through the state’s use of coercive power. If the history of the twentieth century teaches us anything, it is that the dream of creating a socialist utopia often leads to the suppression of free speech, the imprisonment of a significant percentage of the population and, in some extreme cases, state-organised mass murder.

Having said that, I recognise that a lack of social mobility poses a threat to the sustainability of liberal democracies and, in common with many others, believe the solution lies in improving our education systems. There is a consensus among most participants in the debate about education reform that the ideal schools are those that manage to eliminate the attainment gap between the children of the rich and the poor. That is, an education system in which children’s exam results don’t vary according to the neighbourhood they’ve grown up in, the income or education of their parents, or the number of books in the family home. Interestingly, there is a reluctance on the part of many liberal educationalists to accept the corollary of this, which is that attainment in these ideal schools would correspond much more strongly with children’s natural abilities. [4] This is partly because it doesn’t sit well with their egalitarian instincts and partly because they reject the idea that intelligence has a genetic basis. But I’m less troubled by this. I want the clever, hard-working children of those in the bottom half of income distribution to move up, and the less able children of those in the top half to move down.

In other words, I think the answer is more meritocracy. I approve of the principle for the same reason my father disapproved of it, because it helps to secure people’s consent to the inequalities that are the inevitable consequence of limited government. It does this by (a) allocating wealth and prestige in a way that appears to be fair; and (b) creating opportunities for those born on the wrong side of the tracks, so if you start with very little that doesn’t mean you’ll end up with very little, or that your children will. If you think a free society is preferable to one dominated by the state, and the unequal distribution of wealth is an inevitable consequence of reining in state power, then you should embrace the principle of meritocracy for making limited government sustainable.

Much more HERE

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

IQ differences between populations are genetic

Knowledge of the genes associated with IQ has now advanced considerably.  As everyone in the field expected, IQ is governed not by one gene but many.  It is polygenetic.  This is in accordance with the view that IQ is just one aspect of general  biological good functioning.  The brain is just another organ of the body and if the body as a whole is functioning well, the brain should usually be pretty good too.

The researcher below selected 9 alleles that seemed particularly influential on IQ and combined them to get a score which could be called the genetic IQ score.  He calls it a metagene.  He found that the score varied widely between populations but that it correlated extremely strongly with IQ as measured by IQ tests.  Nations that averaged out high on IQ as measured by conventional IQ tests also had a lot of people with high genetic IQ scores.

So much for the common Leftist claim that IQ is only what IQ tests measure.  What IQ tests measure is in fact closely related to brain genes.  You could in theory examine an individual  person's brain and get an accurate IQ score that way  -- without using a conventional IQ test.  It has not got to that point yet.  Only whole populations have been examined so far -- but the future is now in plain sight.  IQ tests may some time in the not distant future be replaceable by genetic examinations.

Leftists have always argued that genetic determination of IQ within a population does not mean that between-population differences are also genetically determined.  That is of course logically true but highly improbable.  That claim would now appear  to have been examined and found wanting.

The implication, of course is that the black IQ deficit is also a function of black genes but anybody who tried to test that directly would probably be lucky to escape with his life.  So we just have to remind Leftists that blacks are people too and that what is true of people worldwide must also therefore be taken as true of blacks.  Blacks just don't normally have the genes needed for high IQ.

That is what the science shows.  When Warmists talk about "The Science", they never actually mention any. Good reason: What they call "science" is in fact prophecy.  See below for some real science:

A review of intelligence GWAS hits: Their relationship to country IQ and the issue of spatial autocorrelation

By Davide Piffer, Ulster Institute for Social Research, London, UK


Published Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), reporting the presence of alleles exhibiting significant and replicable associations with IQ, are reviewed. The average between-population frequency (polygenic score) of nine alleles positively and significantly associated with intelligence is strongly correlated to country-level IQ (r = .91). Factor analysis of allele frequencies furthermore identified a metagene with a similar correlation to country IQ (r = .86). The majority of the alleles (seven out of nine) loaded positively on this metagene. Allele frequencies varied by continent in a way that corresponds with observed population differences in average phenotypic intelligence. Average allele frequencies for intelligence GWAS hits exhibited higher inter-population variability than random SNPs matched to the GWAS hits or GWAS hits for height. This indicates stronger directional polygenic selection for intelligence relative to height. Random sets of SNPs and Fst distances were employed to deal with the issue of autocorrelation due to population structure. GWAS hits were much stronger predictors of IQ than random SNPs. Regressing IQ on Fst distances did not significantly alter the results nonetheless it demonstrated that, whilst population structure due to genetic drift and migrations is indeed related to IQ differences between populations, the GWAS hit frequencies are independent predictors of aggregate IQ differences.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Do conservatives have better self-control?

The research below says that they do and it may be true -- but the study claiming that has rightly been criticized as overgeneralized. See here.

What the study did was rather typical of laboratory psychology. An effect was examined in an extremely limited context and the resulting finding made the basis of vast generalizations.  This study used the Stroop test -- which asks people to name color words that are printed on coloured blocks.  The word "green" might be printed on a red block, for instance.  When people are asked to name the word, the clash of color and meaning does of course slow people down. And conservatives were less slowed down than liberals.

So what does it mean?  It's most incautious to guess.  Saying that it measures something as general as self-control is a pretty wild speculation that could only be supported by much further research.  It IS related to brain function but our understanding of brain function is still in its infancy so that tells us little.  It is however ipso facto a measure of mental speed and measures of mental speed have repeatedly been shown to correlate well with IQ.  So, unsurprisingly, some studies have found that Stroop performance correlates highly with both IQ and academic performance.  And various types of mental illness lead to very poor Stroop performance.

So does this have any implications for conservatives?  I think it has a most interesting implication in fact.  It shows that conservatives have greater academic potential than liberals.  Conservatives are not generally keen on academe as a career, seeing it as poorly paid, among other things, but they do actually have more potential for it. 

And that surprises me least of all. I had a double career. Like a good conservative, I made good money in business while also doing a heap of published academic research. And throughout my social science research career, I was rather dumbfounded by the poor quality of the psychological research by others that I encountered.  A very common fault was exactly the one mentioned above:  Overgeneralization.  Some effect would be demonstrated in the laboratory and vast claims made about what it meant.  The whole research field of mental rigidity is an example of that.  My papers  in that area can be read here.

The amusing outcome of that was that I had a lot of critiques published in the journals -- critiques in which I tore somebody else's research to shreds.  Journal editors HATE publishing critiques because it shows that their reviewing processes have fallen down.  But the points I made were so obviously right that I did in fact get about 50% of my critiques published! See here.

And almost all psychological researchers are Leftist so what I was critiquing was Leftist psychology.  So my experiences is certainly that Leftists make very poor academics.  And the recent revelations about the poor replicability of psychological research results is also a straw in the wind.  The Stroop test is right. Journal abstract below:

The self-control consequences of political ideology

Joshua J. Clarkson et al.


Evidence from three studies reveals a critical difference in self-control as a function of political ideology. Specifically, greater endorsement of political conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with greater attention regulation and task persistence. Moreover, this relationship is shown to stem from varying beliefs in freewill; specifically, the association between political ideology and self-control is mediated by differences in the extent to which belief in freewill is endorsed, is independent of task performance or motivation, and is reversed when freewill is perceived to impede (rather than enhance) self-control. Collectively, these findings offer insight into the self-control consequences of political ideology by detailing conditions under which conservatives and liberals are better suited to engage in self-control and outlining the role of freewill beliefs in determining these conditions.

PNAS vol. 112 no. 27, 8250–8253