Monday, December 26, 2016

The rich live longer

Life isn't fair. With a difference of up to 14 years between rich and poor.  And it's not as mysterious as they make out. This is just the old trilogy of IQ, wealth and health.  IQ is the key variable. Smart people are better at getting rich and  going far in education. High IQ also appears to be in most cases just one indication of general biological fitness.  The brain is just another organ of the body, after all.  So the fitter live longer

The correlation with immigration and life expectancy among the poor presumably stems from immigrants having social disadvantages (language skills etc.).  They were poorer than their genetics would explain.  Had they been native-born they would have been richer

The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014

Raj Chetty et al.


Importance:  The relationship between income and life expectancy is well established
but remains poorly understood.

Objectives:  To measure the level, time trend, and geographic variability in the association between income and life expectancy and to identify factors related to small area variation.

Design and Setting:  Income data for the US population were obtained from 1.4 billion deidentified tax records between 1999 and 2014. Mortality data were obtained from Social Security Administration death records. These data were used to estimate race- and ethnicity-adjusted life expectancy at 40 years of age by household income percentile, sex, and geographic area, and to evaluate factors associated with differences in life expectancy.

Exposure:  Pretax household earnings as a measure of income.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Relationship between income and life expectancy; trends in life expectancy by income group; geographic variation in life expectancy levels and trends by income group; and factors associated with differences in life expectancy across areas.

Results:  The sample consisted of 1 408 287 218 person-year observations for individuals aged 40 to 76 years (mean age, 53.0 years; median household earnings among working individuals, $61 175 per year). There were 4 114 380 deaths among men (mortality rate, 596.3 per 100 000) and 2 694 808 deaths among women (mortality rate, 375.1 per 100 000). The analysis yielded 4 results.

First, higher income was associated with greater longevity throughout the income distribution. The gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and poorest 1% of individuals was 14.6 years (95% CI, 14.4 to 14.8 years) for men and 10.1 years (95% CI, 9.9 to 10.3 years) for women.

Second, inequality in life expectancy increased over time. Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5% of the income distribution, but by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5% (P < .001 for the differences for both sexes).

Third, life expectancy for low-income individuals varied substantially across local areas. In the bottom income quartile, life expectancy differed by approximately 4.5 years between areas with the highest and lowest longevity. Changes in life expectancy between 2001 and 2014 ranged from gains of more than 4 years to losses of more than 2 years across areas.

Fourth, geographic differences in life expectancy for individuals in the lowest income quartile were significantly correlated with health behaviors such as smoking (r = −0.69, P < .001), but were not significantly correlated with access to medical care, physical environmental factors, income inequality, or labor market conditions.

Life expectancy for low-income individuals was positively correlated with the local area fraction of immigrants (r = 0.72, P < .001), fraction of college graduates (r = 0.42, P < .001), and government expenditures (r = 0.57, P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance:  In the United States between 2001 and 2014, higher income was associated with greater longevity, and differences in life expectancy across income groups increased over time. However, the association between life expectancy and income varied substantially across areas; differences in longevity across income groups decreased in some areas and increased in others. The differences in life expectancy were correlated with health behaviors and local area characteristics.

JAMA. 2016;315(16):1750-1766. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.4226

Sunday, November 27, 2016

People are hardwired to fall in love with partners who have a similar level of educational aptitude

The effect sizes noted in the journal abstract below are very small but that may reflect our still rudimentary ability to isolate the genes responsible for IQ.  The very weak tendency so far is for the evolution of a genetic elite

A study co-led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) has found that people with genes for high educational achievement tend to marry, and have children with, people with similar DNA.

Humans generally do not choose their partners randomly, but rather mate 'assortatively', choosing people with similar traits. Among the highest ranking qualities people look for in a potential partner are intelligence and educational attainment.

While it is well known that humans mate assortatively in relation to education - people with similar education levels marry each other - this is one of the first studies to show that this has significance at a DNA level.

The researchers argue that this could increase genetic and social inequality in future generations, since children of couples who mate assortatively are more unequal genetically than those of people who mate more randomly.

The study, published in the journal Intelligence, was co-led by Dr David Hugh-Jones, from UEA's School of Economics, and Dr Abdel Abdellaoui, of the Department of Biological Psychology at VU University in The Netherlands.

They examined whether assortative mating for educational achievement could be detected in the DNA of approximately 1600 married or cohabiting couples in the UK. The sample was drawn from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, a survey that aims to be representative of the population.

Dr Hugh-Jones, a senior lecturer in economics, said: "Our findings show strong evidence for the presence of genetic assortative mating for education in the UK. The consequences of assortative mating on education and cognitive abilities are relevant for society, and for the genetic make-up and therefore the evolutionary development of subsequent generations.

"Assortative mating on inheritable traits that are indicative of socio-economic status, such as educational achievement, increases the genetic variance of characteristics in the population. This may increase social inequality, for example with respect to education or income.

"When growing social inequality is, partly, driven by a growing biological inequality, inequalities in society may be harder to overcome and the effects of assortative mating may accumulate with each generation."

The researchers used polygenic scores that predict educational attainment to see whether they predicted the partner's own educational attainment and polygenic score. They found that the scores correlated between partners and significantly predicted partners' educational outcome, for both sexes, in that individuals with a stronger genetic predisposition for higher educational achievement have partners who are more educated.

The researchers also tested whether their data could be explained by other factors, for example by people simply meeting their partners because they lived in the same county. They re-matched individuals with random partners within the same educational levels and geographical locations. However, they found that the scores of the original couples showed greater similarities than the randomly generated pairs, indicating significant genetic assortative mating for educational attainment regardless of educational level and geographic location.


Assortative mating on educational attainment leads to genetic spousal resemblance for polygenic scores

David Hugh-Jones et al.


We examined whether assortative mating for educational attainment (“like marries like”) can be detected in the genomes of ~ 1600 UK spouse pairs of European descent. Assortative mating on heritable traits like educational attainment increases the genetic variance and heritability of the trait in the population, which may increase social inequalities. We test for genetic assortative mating in the UK on educational attainment, a phenotype that is indicative of socio-economic status and has shown substantial levels of assortative mating. We use genome-wide allelic effect sizes from a large genome-wide association study on educational attainment (N ~ 300 k) to create polygenic scores that are predictive of educational attainment in our independent sample (r = 0.23, p < 2 × 10− 16). The polygenic scores significantly predict partners' educational outcome (r = 0.14, p = 4 × 10− 8 and r = 0.19, p = 2 × 10− 14, for prediction from males to females and vice versa, respectively), and are themselves significantly correlated between spouses (r = 0.11, p = 7 × 10− 6). Our findings provide molecular genetic evidence for genetic assortative mating on education in the UK.

Intelligence, Volume 59, November–December 2016.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Children born with big heads have higher IQs and thus a better chance of a successful future

The connection between larger head size and higher IQ is well-known but is usually given as a correlation around .3.  But in this very careful research it came out at .5, which is a major effect.  Interestingly, autistic people tend to have big heads too, and they often have quite extraordinary abilities in some field.  The study mentioned below was not confined to head size.  It looked at many physical attributes -- and many were intertwined with IQ and achievement.  IQ is a physical reality and an important one.  All men are not equal

Babies with big heads are more likely to be clever and have successful futures, a study has shown. Research carried out by UK Biobank has strongly linked higher intelligence with large head circumferences and brain volume.

Half a million Brits are being monitored by the charity to discover the connection between their genes, their physical and mental health and their path through life.

The latest evidence is the first finding to emerge from the study that aims to break down the relationship between brain function and DNA.

Researchers in a paper published by the Molecular Psychiatry journal said: 'Highly significant associations were observed between the cognitive test scores in the UK Biobank sample and many polygenic profile scores, including . . . intracranial volume, infant head circumference and childhood cognitive ability.'

Professor Ian Deary, of Edinburgh University, who is leading the research, said gene variants were also strongly associated with intelligence, according to The Times. 

The new evidence is so accurate that experts claim it could even predict how likely it was that a baby would go to university based on their DNA. 


Monday, September 19, 2016

IQ rediscovered yet again.  You can't suppress reality for long

They account for around one per cent of the population and much of their success has been put down to dedication and perseverance.

But new studies are now challenging the notion that extremely intelligent children earn their achievements through hard work.

Instead, they suggest that they may have a genetic advantage from birth, and that success is built on this early head-start.

Two clusters of genes have been found that are directly linked to human intelligence.

Called M1 and M3, these 'gene networks' appear to determine how smart a person is by controlling their memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning.

Crucially, scientists have also discovered that these two networks - which each contain hundreds of genes - are likely to be under the control of master regulator switches.

Researchers from Imperial College London are now keen to identify these switches and explore whether it might be feasible to manipulate them.

The research is at a very early stage, but the scientists would ultimately like to investigate whether it is possible to use this knowledge of gene networks to boost cognitive function.

The investigators analysed thousands of genes expressed in the human brain, and then combined these results with genetic information from healthy people who had undergone IQ tests.

Remarkably, they found that some of the same genes that influence human intelligence in healthy people were also the same genes that cause impaired cognitive ability and epilepsy when mutated.

In the US, there are several universities that look out for early talent and have been tracking where high-achieving children end up.  Their results show that those who succeed have an early cognitive advantage.

Johns Hopkins University in Maryland runs a talent programme which is open to adolescents who scored in the top one per cent in maths and English.  Notable alumni include Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, and Lady Gaga.

While many of the children on this programme have gone on to achieve great things, Jonathan Wai, a psychologist in the Talent Identification Programme at Duke University in North Carolina, wanted to test whether childhood aptitude was a guide to success in general.

He looked at five subsets of the US elite – federal judges, billionaires, Fortune 500 chief executives and members of the Senate and House of Representatives. He found that in each subset, those in the top one per cent of ability were over-represented.

While these people could have pushy parents, or have attended top schools, Mr Wai argues that environment factors alone cannot account for success.....

While these studies do suggest that intelligence has a high genetic basis, education and opportunity could still lead to success for those without a strong genetic basis.


Friday, September 9, 2016

High IQ people are prejudiced too

The findings below are reminiscent of Yancey's work.  He looked at findings which showed conservatives to be more prejudiced and bigoted. He showed that, using similar research methods, you could show liberals to be prejudiced and bigoted too.  The difference was the target.  Conservatives tended to have dim views of homosexuals and blacks whereas liberals foamed at the mouth about Christians and conservatives

There is currently a small correlation between IQ and expressed liberalism.  High IQ people are quick to pick up on what the dominant political ideas are and to go along with such ideas for the sake of social acceptance.  Around the mid-20th century, when conservative ideas were dominant, high IQ people tended towards conservatism.  See here

It has long been believed that people with a low IQ are more likely to be prejudiced, including anti-gay attitudes and racism.  But new research suggests there may be more to the story.

The researchers looked at data from a survey which asked people to rate their feelings toward 24 different groups.

The survey also gauged participants' IQs using a measure of vocabulary that is linked with overall intelligence. As with previous studies, the results showed that people with low IQ showed more prejudice.

However, the researchers also found that people with higher IQs also showed prejudice.  What differed between the groups was who they showed prejudice towards.

The new study, which is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, suggests that people with lower IQs tend to dislike minorities they perceive as liberal.

In contrast with this, the researchers suggest that people higher on the IQ scale are more prejudiced towards conservative groups, such as religious fundamentalists.

Speaking to Live Science, Dr Mark Brandt, a psychologist at Tilburg University in Holland, who co-led the study, said: 'Because our study finds this on both ends of the cognitive ability continuum, it suggests this isn't just something that's unique to people with low cognitive ability.

'The simplest explanation for this result is that both people with high and low cognitive ability seem to express prejudice towards people they disagree with.'

The researchers looked at data from the 2012 American National Election Studies survey to explore the prejudice that participants may have had.

As with previous studies, the results showed that people with low IQ showed more prejudice. However, the researchers also found that people with higher IQs also showed prejudice.

What differed between the groups was who they showed prejudice towards.

Low-IQ people tended to dislike groups that are perceived as liberal and that people have little choice about whether they join – such as blacks, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and gay people.

In contrast with this, higher-IQ people tended to dislike groups that are perceived as conservative and that people have a choice about whether they join – such as businesses, the military, and Christian fundamentalists.

The results came as a surprise to the researchers, as liberal people tend to be more open to experience.

Dr Brandt said: 'Even people who are open to new ideas show this link between perceiving somebody as having different attitudes than them and expressing prejudice. 'It's kind of depressingly robust.'

The researchers also looked at what is behind the tendency to dislike people you disagree with. They found that the strongest factor seems to be that people dislike other people who they perceive to have different moral values than they do.

Dr Brandt added: 'We want to be at a place where we can say, 'Yep, I disagree with you, but that doesn't mean I dislike you, necessarily.'  'But that seems to be something that's relatively rare.'


Friday, September 2, 2016

LOL. A new politically correct term for genetic inheritance:  "rubbing off"

Parents' math skills 'rub off' on their children

September 1, 2016 in Other Sciences / Social Sciences
Parents who excel at math produce children who excel at math. This is according to a recently released University of Pittsburgh study, which shows a distinct transfer of math skills from parent to child. The study specifically explored intergenerational transmission—the concept of parental influence on an offspring's behavior or psychology—in mathematic capabilities.

"Our findings suggest an intuitive sense for numbers has been passed down—knowingly or unknowingly—from parent to child. Meaning, essentially, the math skills of parents tend to 'rub off' on their children," said lead researcher Melissa E. Libertus, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and a research scientist in the University's Learning Research and Development Center. The Department of Psychology is within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. "This research could have significant ramifications for how parents are advised to talk about math and numbers with their children and how teachers go about teaching children in classrooms."

Within the study, Pitt's researchers found that the performance levels for early school-aged children on standardized mathematic tests could be reliably predicted by their parent's performance on similar examinations. Specifically, they observed major correlations in parent-child performance in such key areas as mathematical computations, number-fact recall, and word problem analysis. Surprisingly, the researchers also found that children's intuitive sense of numbers—i.e. the ability to know that 20 jelly beans are more than 10 jelly beans without first counting them—is predicted by their parents' intuitive sense of numbers. Researchers determined that such close result parallels could not have been produced through similar institutional learning backgrounds because their previous research showed that this intuitive sense of numbers is present in infancy.

The findings represent the first evidence of intergenerational transmission of unlearned, nonverbal numerical competence from parents to children. While separate studies have pointed to the existence of intergenerational transmission of cognitive abilities, only a select few have examined parental influences in specific academic domains, such as mathematics.

Libertus said the study is an important step toward understanding the multifaceted parental influences on children's mathematic abilities. Her future studies will examine why this transference of mathematic capability occurs.

"We believe the relationship between a parent and a child's math capabilities could be some combination of hereditary and environmental transmission," said Libertus. "We look forward to future research endeavors that will explicitly examine the degree to which parents pass down key genetic traits and create an in-home learning environment that is conducive to producing high-achieving math students."

For the present study, the math abilities of parents and children were assessed using the appropriate subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement, a nationally recognized standardized examination of baseline math ability. Children completed three subtests designed to gauge their capabilities in mathematical computations, basic number-fact recall, and word problems with visual aids. Parents completed a math fluency subtest as a measure of mathematical ability, and they were surveyed on the importance of children developing certain math skills.

The study sampled 54 children between the ages of 5 and 8 as well as 51 parents—46 mothers and five fathers—between the ages of 30 and 59. In terms of racial demographics of participating children, 45 were Caucasian, five biracial, three African American, and one Asian. Forty-six participating parents had at least a college degree, and all possessed at least a high school diploma.

A Pitt faculty member since 2013, Libertus' research focuses on the understanding of how children perceive and learn mathematical concepts. The long-range goals of her work seek to identify key factors in the successful learning of mathematics. Emily J. Braham, a doctoral student with a cognitive-neuroscience concentration in the Department of Psychology, assisted in this research study.

The study "Intergenerational Associations in Numerical Approximation and Mathematical Abilities" is available in the latest edition of Developmental Science.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Direct measurement of IQ advancing

Tuning inside the brain is the difference between normal and super smart people, researchers have found.  They say general cognitive ability may be the result of a 'well-tuned brain network' - and may even be able to develop to tune up the mind of those less intelligent.

They found the brains of those with higher intelligence were extremely similar at rest and while carrying out  tasks.

'Specifically, we found that brain network configuration at rest was already closer to a wide variety of task configurations in intelligent individuals,' the Rutgers University team wrote in The Journal of Neuroscience.

'This suggests that the ability to modify network connectivity efficiently when task demands change is a hallmark of high intelligence.

The study suggests greater similarity between brain connectivity at rest and on task may be associated with better mental performance.

It shows that general cognitive ability may be the result of well-tuned brain network updates, said study author Michael Cole of Rutgers University.

'The results also suggest that if we can figure out how to better tune these networks, we can possibly influence cognitive ability generally.'

Different types of cognitive tasks spur activity in various regions of the brain, as indicated by studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The regions activated depend on the specific task, and scientists believe regions active at the same time work together as a network.

Even when our brains are at rest, collections of regions remain active in 'resting-state networks.'

To test the theory, Schultz and Cole analyzed brain imaging data obtained by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Minnesota as part of the Human Connectome Project.

One hundred healthy adults had their brains scanned with fMRI while they rested quietly and while they performed various cognitive tests.

To study brain network reconfiguration, the Rutgers scientists compared participants' resting-state networks to the networks active during language, reasoning, and memory tasks and computed how similar each task-related network was to the resting-state network.

When they compared these similarity ratings to the participants' performance on each task, they found individuals who performed better had more similar resting and task networks.

The researchers also compared the networks active during each of the three cognitive tasks and created a composite generalized task network pattern.

They found that the more similar this generalized task network pattern was to the resting-state network pattern, the better the participant performed on each task, suggesting individuals who performed well had resting-state networks optimized to switch to any of a variety of new tasks.

In other words, high performers appeared to use their brains more efficiently, only needing to make small changes when switching tasks.

However, Cole and study author Douglas Schultz previously found the resting and on-task networks were highly similar.

This led the researchers to propose that the brain has an intrinsic network that reconfigures itself when we switch from resting to performing a task, and they hypothesized the reconfiguration of this intrinsic network relates to how well we perform a given task.

The results of the study suggest that 'people's performance on various cognitive tasks is better the fewer changes they have to their brain connectivity,' said John Dylan Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin who studies cognition and was not involved in the study.

'The efficiency with which a brain engages in a task might be a predictor of intelligence.'

The researchers are planning additional studies to examine how training may improve cognitive abilities by influencing the brain's intrinsic network and its reconfiguration during different tasks. [Fat chance!]


Sunday, August 21, 2016

People like people  -- but high IQ people need their solitude

The above heading encapsulates the findings of a paper from earlier this year by Li & Kanazawa.  Man is a social animal so the finding that people are happier if they have a lot of contact with friends is no surprise.  But why are high IQ people different?  I personally certainly fit the pattern described.  In a typical week I would see the lady in my life for an evening twice a week but have no other social contact in that week.  Since he lives in the same building as I do, my son drops in for a brief chat every few days but that is it.  I do however go to family birthdays and there are a few of them.

So can I offer an explanation of why high IQ people are so anti-social?  The easy answer is that high IQ people find normal people boring, and there is some truth in that.  But, on the other hand, people at all intelligence levels tend to choose their friends from people around their own IQ level.  So a high IQ  person would normally have pretty bright friends.  So boredom would be unlikely to be the crucial factor.

I am afraid that I can offer no general explanation but I note that in my own case, I consider my self-chosen "work" of keeping up with the politics of 3 countries -- the USA, the UK and Australia -- to be pretty engrossing and I need most of my time for that.  From my POV, I haven't got the time for a lot of socializing.  People do to a degree socialize when they have got nothing else to do.  I am rarely in that situation.

I do have both a brother and a son who see things very much as I do.  But that is not as good a thing as some might imagine.  Because we see eye to eye we basically  have nothing to say to one another.  Anything we say would just be a  repetition of something that the other believes. So there is surprising complexity in the way we high IQ people  behave.

There is an extended discussion of the matter here.  Information on the sample used is here

Country roads, take me home… to my friends: How intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness

Norman P. Li & Satoshi Kanazawa


We propose the savanna theory of happiness, which suggests that it is not only the current consequences of a given situation but also its ancestral consequences that affect individuals’ life satisfaction and explains why such influences of ancestral consequences might interact with intelligence. We choose two varied factors that characterize basic differences between ancestral and modern life – population density and frequency of socialization with friends – as empirical test cases. As predicted by the theory, population density is negatively, and frequency of socialization with friends is positively, associated with life satisfaction. More importantly, the main associations of life satisfaction with population density and socialization with friends significantly interact with intelligence, and, in the latter case, the main association is reversed among the extremely intelligent. More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends. This study highlights the utility of incorporating evolutionary perspectives in the study of subjective well-being.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Direct measurement of IQ getting closer

Researchers say MRI scans can measure human intelligence, and define exactly what it is.

This could lead to radical leaps in AI with machines programmed to think in the same way we do.

'Human intelligence is a widely and hotly debated topic and only recently have advanced brain imaging techniques, such as those used in our current study, given us the opportunity to gain sufficient insights to resolve this and inform developments in artificial intelligence, as well as help establish the basis for understanding and diagnosis of debilitating human mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression,' said Professor Jianfeng Feng of the University of Warwick, who led the research.

Together with a team in China he has has been working to quantify the brain's dynamic functions, and identify how different parts of the brain interact with each other at different times – to discover how intellect works.

Professor Jianfeng found the more variable a brain is, and the more its different parts frequently connect with each other, the higher a person's IQ and creativity are.

This study may also have implications for a deeper understanding of another largely misunderstood field: mental health.

Altered patterns of variability were observed in the brain's default network with schizophrenia, autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) patients.

Knowing the root cause of mental health defects brings scientists exponentially closer to treating and preventing them in the future.

Using resting-state MRI analysis on thousands of people's brains around the world, the research found that the areas of the brain which are associated with learning and development show high levels of variability, meaning that they change their neural connections with other parts of the brain more frequently, over a matter of minutes or seconds.

On the other hand, regions of the brain which aren't associated with intelligence - the visual, auditory, and sensory-motor areas - show small variability and adaptability.


I have reproduced above only the parts dealing with the latest brain research.  In an rendeavour to rubbish IQ tests, the article also included a re-run of the old Hampshire research, with its extravagant conclusions.  I cover all that here

Sunday, June 12, 2016

WHAAT?  Premature babies are brighter??

When I first saw the findings below I thought I was looking at another example of researchers getting their statistics back to front.  The logical and conventional view is that premature birth harms the baby to some degree.  And that is the official medical view too.  The authors of the study below were obviously pretty perturbed by their results too and turned themselves inside out trying to think of ways in which their very strong study got it wrong.  And I think that they went close to isolating the problem, but did not have the psychometric background needed to get it exactly right

The thing that told me what was going on was the Dutch Famine Study.  In the closing phase of WW2, Nederland experienced a severe food shortage.  The mothers of babies born at that time did the best for their infants but a lot still went very hungry.  But a food shortage at that early age could be expected to handicap the infant to some degree, with brain damage being probable.  So when that birth cohort came up for conscription into the Dutch army 18 years later, there was great interest in what their average IQs would be.  Most armies do carry out ability testing as an aid to weeding out soldiers who would be more dangerous to their companions than to the enemy. Putting lethal weapons into the hands of dummies is not recommended.

So what did the Dutch psychologists discover?  Did they find that the average IQ for that year was low?  No. To the contrary, they found that the average IQ was unusually HIGH for that year. 

So what had happened?  It was a eugenic effect.  As has repeatedly been shown, high IQ is a marker of general biological fitness -- and only the fit babies survived the famine.  The less fit were weeded out -- died.  So only the fit survived and they had higher IQs than average.

So you might by now see the strong analogy with the results below.  Less fit babies did not survive pre-term birth.  Those who did survive were generally  more fit biologically and hence of higher IQ.  It's actually interesting confirmation of the Dutch findings.  The other finding below, of a slight probability of physical impairment probably shows that even a selection effect cannot cancel out all the stresses and disadvantages that pre-term birth must be expected to impose

Long-term Cognitive and Health Outcomes of School-Aged Children Who Were Born Late-Term vs Full-Term

David N. Figlio et al.


Importance: Late-term gestation (defined as the 41st week of pregnancy) is associated with increased risk of perinatal health complications. It is not known to what extent late-term gestation is associated with long-term cognitive and physical outcomes. Information about long-term outcomes may influence physician and patient decisions regarding optimal pregnancy length.

Objective: To compare the cognitive and physical outcomes of school-aged children who were born full term or late term.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  We analyzed Florida birth certificates from 1994 to 2002 linked to Florida public school records from 1998 to 2013 and found 1?442?590 singleton births with 37 to 41 weeks' gestation in the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics. Of these, 1?153?716 children (80.0%) were subsequently located in Florida public schools. Linear and logistic regression models were used to assess the association of gestational age with cognitive and physical outcomes at school age. Data analysis took place between April 2013 and January 2016.

Exposures: Late-term (born at 41 weeks) vs full-term (born at 39 or 40 weeks) gestation.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  There were a number of measures used, including the average Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test mathematics and reading scores at ages 8 through 15 years; whether a child was classified as gifted, defined as a student with superior intellectual development and capable of high performance; poor cognitive outcome, defined as a child scoring in the fifth percentile of test takers or having a disability that exempted him or her from taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test; and Exceptional Student Education placement owing to orthopedic, speech, or sensory impairment or being hospitalbound or homebound.

Results:  Of 1 536 482 children born in Florida from singleton births from 1994 to 2002 with complete demographic information, 787 105 (51.2%) were male; 338 894 (22.1%) of mothers were black and 999 684 (65.1%) were married at time of birth, and the mean (SD) age for mothers at time of birth was 27.2 (6.2) years. Late-term infants had 0.7% of an SD (95% CI, 0.001-0.013; P = .02) higher average test scores in elementary and middle school, 2.8% (95% CI, 0.4-5.2; P = .02) higher probability of being gifted, and 3.1% (95% CI, 0.0-6.1; P = .05) reduced probability of poor cognitive outcomes compared with full-term infants. These cognitive benefits appeared strongest for children with disadvantaged family background characteristics. Late-term infants were also 2.1% (95% CI, −0.3 to 4.5; P = .08) more likely to be physically impaired.

Conclusions and Relevance: There appears to be a tradeoff between cognitive and physical outcomes associated with late-term gestation. Children born late-term performed better on 3 measures of school-based cognitive functioning but worse on 1 measure of physical functioning relative to children born full term. Our findings provide longer-run information for expectant parents and physicians who are considering delivery at full term vs late term. These findings are most relevant to uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

How to study IQ when you are not studying IQ

The article below is a significant advance.  The authors bypass IQ tests and go straight to the genes behind it.  They show that a particular set of genes can give you the same sort of correlates as you get with IQ tests.  Once again smart people are shown to be advantaged in all sorts of ways. 

The work is still at an early stage, however, as the correlations were much weaker than are found with IQ tests, indicating that only some of the relevant genes have so far been found and suggesting that some of the genes used were statistical "noise".   

There are by now a few comments about the study online, all of which are remarkably tight-assed.  They do their best to play  the findings down.  Put in the context of previous IQ studies, however, the findings are powerfully confirmatory of the pervasive importance of IQ -- vastly unpopular though that fact may be

The final sentence below is sheer nonsense -- added for the sake of political correctness only.

The Genetics of Success: How Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms Associated With Educational Attainment Relate to Life-Course Development

Daniel W. Belsky et al.


A previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) of more than 100,000 individuals identified molecular-genetic predictors of educational attainment. We undertook in-depth life-course investigation of the polygenic score derived from this GWAS using the four-decade Dunedin Study (N = 918). There were five main findings. First, polygenic scores predicted adult economic outcomes even after accounting for educational attainments. Second, genes and environments were correlated: Children with higher polygenic scores were born into better-off homes. Third, children’s polygenic scores predicted their adult outcomes even when analyses accounted for their social-class origins; social-mobility analysis showed that children with higher polygenic scores were more upwardly mobile than children with lower scores. Fourth, polygenic scores predicted behavior across the life course, from early acquisition of speech and reading skills through geographic mobility and mate choice and on to financial planning for retirement. Fifth, polygenic-score associations were mediated by psychological characteristics, including intelligence, self-control, and interpersonal skill. Effect sizes were small. Factors connecting DNA sequence with life outcomes may provide targets for interventions to promote population-wide positive development.

Psychological Science June 1, 2016.  doi: 10.1177/0956797616643070

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

There is still good social and economic upward mobility in America

Jeff Jacoby's argument below is both a cheery one and mostly right. He seems unaware, however, that the Italian study he mentions has a large predecessor in the work of Gregory Clark, who also finds that wealth is to a significant extent dynastic.

Clark's findings that SOME lineages stay wealthy is an interesting one.  And he explains it well.  He says (to simplify a little) that what is inherited is not wealth but IQ.  As Charles Murray showed some years back, smarter people tend to be richer and tend to marry other smart people.  So their descendants stay smart and smart people are mostly smart about money too.

But Clark's findings do not in fact diminish any of the points Jacoby makes.  Dynasties of wealth do exist but most people's wealth or poverty is not dynastic

TWO RESEARCHERS AT the Bank of Italy have documented something remarkable about Florence, the gorgeous Tuscan capital where the Medicis ruled and the Renaissance was born: The city’s wealthiest residents today are descended from its wealthiest families six centuries ago.

As The Wall Street Journal reported this month, economists Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti looked at tax records compiled in Florence in 1427 alongside municipal tax data from 2011. “Because Italian surnames are highly regional and distinctive,” the Journal explained, “they could compare the income of families with a certain surname today, to those with the same surname in 1427.” What they found was that the wealthiest names in 21st-century Florence belong to families that were near the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy in 15th-century Florence — those who were lawyers, or who belonged to the wool, silk, and shoemaker guilds.

Barone and Mocetti did not identify the actual families listed in the Florentine tax rolls, but they note that about 900 of the surnames are still used in Florence by some 52,000 taxpayers. Not all of them are descended from those who bore those names in 1427, of course. And the new study appears to focus primarily on correlations among the very highest and lowest income-earners, not on the majority in between. Over the course of six centuries, the authors note, Florence has undergone “huge political, demographic, and economic upheavals,” and they acknowledge that intergenerational mobility is higher in Italy today than was the case before the 20th century.

Yet even with all those caveats, the persistence of economic and social status across 600 years of Florentine history is eye-opening. And it helps explain what impelled myriads of Italians to uproot their lives and relocate to new homes — especially the 5 million people who immigrated to the United States between 1876 and 1930.

Critics have been lamenting the death of the American Dream for decades, but the US remains what it has always been: a land of opportunity where neither poverty nor wealth is immutable, and no one’s station in life is fixed at birth. Politicians whip up economic envy; activists stoke resentment at a “rigged” system. And yet economic mobility is alive and well in America, which is why so many foreigners still stream to our shores.

Ample evidence bears this out, much of it gathered in long-term studies that track the earnings of large blocs of Americans over many years.

In 2012, the Pew Charitable Trusts published one such study, appropriately titled “Pursuing the American Dream.” Drawing on longitudinal data spanning four decades, Pew was able to show that the vast majority of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents did. Among US citizens who were born into families at the lowest rung of the economic ladder — the bottom one-fifth of income-earners — a hefty 57 percent had moved into a higher quintile by adulthood. In fact, 4 percent had risen all the way to the highest quintile. Over the same period, 8 percent of those born into the highest income category had dropped all the way to the bottom.

For a different examination into economic mobility, analysts at the Treasury Department studied 84 million federal returns of taxpayers who had taxable income in both 1996 and 2005. They, too, found that “roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile moved up to a higher income group.” For two-thirds of all taxpayers, real incomes had increased. And — repudiating the frequent lament that upward mobility is vanishing from American life — the Treasury study concluded that the “degree of mobility among income groups [was] unchanged from the prior decade.”

The 25th great-grandsons of medieval Florentine shoemakers may still be riding high, but things don’t work that way in America. Here, riches-to-rags stories are not uncommon. When Bhashkar Mazumder, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined the earnings of thousands of men born between 1963 and 1968, he discovered that 17 percent of those whose fathers were in the top 10th of the income scale had dropped to the bottom third by the time they were in their late 20s or early 30s. Movement between income groups over the course of a lifetime is the norm for most Americans. The rich often get richer, but plenty of them get poorer, too. Though the top 1 percent makes a popular target, it’s actually a group no one stays in for very long. On the other hand, it’s a group that 11 percent of Americans will reach at some point during their working lives.

Affluence in America is dynamic, and our economic system is biased toward success. But bias isn’t a guarantee. Mobility — up and down — depends to a great degree on the choices that people make for themselves. Individuals who finish high school, marry before having children, don’t engage in criminal activity, and work diligently have a very high likelihood of achieving success. Those who don’t, don’t.

Of course, there are impediments to mobility that are beyond the control of any individual, and that are most likely to hurt those who start out in America’s poorest precincts. Broken public schools, for example. The normalization of single-parent households. Too-easy access to welfare benefits. Counterproductive mandates, like minimum-wage laws and stifling licensing rules. Would that our political demagogues and professional populists put as much effort into dismantling those barriers as they do into demonizing the rich and yapping about inequality.

Yappers notwithstanding, the American Dream is far from dead. This isn’t Florence. No one is locked out of economic success today because of their ancestors’ status long ago. America remains the land of opportunity. Make the most of it.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Female computer science professor blasts the sexist geeks she says show 'staggering' bias against women

If there is prejudice against women in computing, it is really POSTjudice -- as women are rarely good at it and it shows.  I am myself a computer programmer -- as is  my son -- and I have taught it at university level. In my observation only the top 2% in IQ can do the harder types of programming.  I still use FORTRAN and my son uses C#.  Many people find such languages hard but for us they are a doddle.

And because the IQ distribution among females is leptokurtic, there are many fewer women than men in that IQ range. I used to run Sydney MENSA for a number of years and it was notable how few female applicants passed the test.  I have met some very good female programmers.  It was a woman -- Gail Sonkkila -- who taught me FORTRAN.  But they are necessarily rare, given their IQ distribution

So Uschi below may be a good feminist but she is no social scientist

UPDATE:  Just to prove I am not a Dodo, I should perhaps mention that my son is NOT a computer programmer.  He is a "software engineer".  But he is a good one.  Recently his firm wanted to import some hardware from China.  But it needed programming.  So they sent their CIO over there to solve that -- accompanied by their hotshot "engineer" -- my son J.  He succeeded. He can of course code with great facility but what he really has to offer is problem-solving ability -- aka IQ

Sexist geeks who built a prototype of an 'enhanced human' which was entirely male have been lambasted by one of Britain's leading computer scientists.

Ursula Martin, a professor of computer science at Oxford University, said it was a symptom of the 'staggering sexism' in the industry.

She said there was still an anti-female bias and conjured up a picture of male academics like the characters of Sheldon Cooper and Rajesh Koothrappali in The Big Bang Theory, who struggled to engage with women or understand the female viewpoint.

The Times reported that Prof Martin told an audience at the Hay Festival she was shocked to discover some of the attitudes of male computer scientists when she visited the Microsoft research laboratory in Cambridge this week.

She said: 'I was absolutely staggered at the sexism on show.'

Prof Martin said there was a symposium on artificial intelligence and a presentation was given about the 'vision of what an enhanced human would be'.

Prof Martin pointed out the absence of female attributes in the new, advanced human to the person who made the presentation and he had simply responded: 'I suppose'.

A Microsoft spokesman told Mail Online: 'At the Artificial Intelligence Symposium held at Microsoft Research in Cambridge on May 26, there were many external speakers from across academia.

'Contrary to some media reports, the only Microsoft employees who presented at the symposium were women. 'Microsoft is committed through a range of programs such as Make What’s Next to increase the number of women in Computer Science.'

Prof Martin was at the Hay Festival to discuss the contribution to science of Ada Lovelace, a 19th century visionary who foresaw the existence of computers.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Are high IQ people socially inept?

Bruce Charlton has a long article (excerpted below) which says that they are.  It is of course a common stereotype but Charlton gives reasoning and references to back up his claim.  Going right back to the studies of Terman in the 1920's, however, research has tended to show that high IQ people are in fact socially more successful, so there is a conflict there.  I am not familiar with all the references Charlton uses but on the issues I am familiar with, I think every claim Charlton makes has been reasonably disputed -- his claim that religious people and conservatives are dumb, for instance, so I doubt that further reading would take me far.

So I think it might be useful for me to offer some thoughts that could explain what underlies Charlton's impressions.

I think that he is basically confusing high IQ people and academics -- or maybe also people with high academic qualifications.  But academics are only one subset of high IQ people -- and probably the least generally competent subset.  There's not much money in academe so really bright people tend to look more to the world of business -- with Bill Gates being the icon of that.  And there are some high IQ people who are not ambitious at all -- becoming butchers, mechanics etc.

One thing we can learn from academics, however, is the nature of eccentricity. Academics are of course notoriously eccentric.  So why is that?  It is mainly that their high IQ causes them to see the world differently from others.  What seems strange and inexplicable behavior to mainstream man actually seems perfectly logical and reasonable to someone whose vision encompasses far more of what is going on in the world.  The high IQ person sees many more influences bearing on a given decision so must sometimes come to decisions that perplex those who have not taken so much into account.

High IQ is however a solver of almost all human problems so the non-academic high IQ person will see why people are coming to what he sees as wrong or sub-optimal decisions and will deal with that in some way  -- taking time to explain himself, pretending to go along with the herd or some other strategy.  So the non-academic high IQ person will be much less likely to be seen as strange.

But let me reiterate that High IQ helps solve of ALL problems so it can even generate social skills or at least an approximation to social skills.  The high IQ person should in fact be socially insightful rather than socially inept.

Anecdotes prove nothing but they can be enlightening nonetheless -- so let me describe briefly a high IQ lady I know.  She is one of the most popular people I have ever met.  Faces light up all around the room when she walks in.  How come?  Because she uses her brain to take an interest in other people. Because she understands them, she talks to them in terms of what interests them.  So people find her a very sympathetic person and like her for it.  She uses her IQ to smooth social interactions and does very well at it.  Almost anyone she meets wants her for a friend. She did at one time gain considerable academic distinction but did not persevere with it.  She fell in love with an English poetry academic instead.  What a fine woman!

There are many uses for a good brain and acquiring and using social skills is one of them

Another woman I have known since she was a child has made an unending string of good decisions in her life that resulted in her being very highly paid at one stage.  But far from wanting a career, she just wanted a calm and peaceful life so retired very early to a green and pleasant place in the country and now has a big garden that feeds her and her family plus a sheep paddock that yields sheepmeat from time to time.  She lives the sort of life that greenies (and urbanites generally) tend to idealize.  But she would never show up on any list of anything much, let alone a list of high IQ people -- and that is exactly how she likes it. So there are many ways of using a good brain.

And the way academics use their brain is to focus on highly abstract things.  And academe is highly competitive.  So that focus has to be severe.  Taking an interest in people is just not a priority.  So people see them doing things that they don't understand and dismiss them as eccentric.  But the academic doesn't care.  He uses his brain in a way that pleases him and notices people only minimally.

A rather striking example of academic specialization is that it seems very rare for someone to be successful in both academe and in business.  Aside from myself, I know of only one other -- and he ended up in jail.  Because of the general usefulness of high IQ one might have expected that academics would be good in business too.  So it could well be that the high IQ people who are attracted to a life in academe are precisely those high IQ people who have inadequate personalities or who possess some other social limitation or emotional handicap.

So why do high IQ people tend to reproduce less? A glib answer would be that reproduction uses other organs than the brain but there does seem to be a rather deplorable effect there.  A lot of the problem lies with the educational system.  Because they are good at it, high IQ people mostly stay longer in education than others.  And a modern education has even managed to convince some of its victims that having children is bad for the environment etc. And there is no doubt that the emphases on feminism and homosexuality in a modern college education also militate against reproduction.  So it seems unlikely that reduced reproduction is an effect of high IQ per se.

It could also be argued that although they have fewer children, high IQ people invest more in them -- so gaining quality at the expense of quantity.  And those who know the story of Gideon (See Judges chapters 6 to 8) will know that it is not always quantity that wins the day.  Would you rather have your descendant  being the army officer directing operations from the rear or would you rather him being cannon fodder in the front lines?  Genetic survival can be more than numbers

On the whole, and all else being equal, in modern societies the higher a person’s general intelligence (as measured by the intelligence quotient or IQ), the better will be life for that person; since higher intelligence leads (among other benefits) to higher social status and salary, longer life expectancy and better health. However, at the same time, it has been recognized for more than a century that increasing IQ is biologically-maladaptive because there is an inverse relationship between IQ and fertility. Under modern conditions, therefore, high intelligence is fitness-reducing.

In the course of exploring this modern divergence between social-adaptation and biological-adaptation, Satoshi Kanazawa has made the insightful observation that a high level of general intelligence is mainly useful in dealing with life problems which are an evolutionary novelty. By contrast, performance in solving problems which were a normal part of human life in the ancestral hunter–gatherer era may not be helped (or may indeed be hindered) by higher IQ.

As examples of how IQ may help with evolutionary novelties, it has been abundantly-demonstrated that increasing measures of IQ are strongly and positively correlated with a wide range of abilities which require abstract reasoning and rapid learning of new knowledge and skills; such as educational outcomes, and abilities at most complex modern jobs. Science and mathematics are classic examples of problem-solving activities that arose only recently in human evolutionary history and in which differential ability is very strongly predicted by relative general intelligence.

However, there are also many human tasks which our human ancestors did encounter repeatedly and over manifold generations, and natural selection has often produced ‘instinctive’, spontaneous ways of dealing with these. Since humans are social primates, one major such category is social problems, which have to do with understanding, predicting and manipulating the behaviours of other human beings. Being able to behave adaptively in dealing with these basic human situations is what I will term having ‘common sense’.

Kanazawa’s idea is that there is therefore a contrast between recurring, mainly social problems which affected fitness for our ancestors and for which all normal humans have evolved behavioural responses; and problems which are an evolutionary novelty but which have a major impact on individual functioning in the context of modern societies. When a problem is an evolutionary novelty, individual differences in general intelligence make a big difference to each individual’s abilities to analyze the problem, and learn to how solve it. So, the idea is that having a high IQ would predict a better ability in understanding and dealing with new problems; but higher IQ would not increase the level of a person’s common sense ability to deal with social situations.

IQ not just an ability, but also a disposition

Although general intelligence is usually conceptualized as differences in cognitive ability, IQ is not just about ability but also has personality implications.

For example, in some populations there is a positive correlation between IQ and the personality trait of Openness to experience (‘Openness’); a positive correlation with ‘enlightened’ or progressive values of a broadly socialist and libertarian type; and a negative correlation with religiousness.

So, the greater cognitive ability of higher IQ is also accompanied by a somewhat distinctive high IQ personality type. My suggested explanation for this association is that an increasing level of IQ brings with it an increased tendency to use general intelligence in problem-solving; i.e. to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense.

The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for ‘strategic’ modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behaviour of others. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an ‘expert system’ in favour of a non-expert system.

In suggesting that the most intelligent people tend to use IQ to over-ride common sense I am unsure of the extent to which this is due to a deficit in the social reasoning ability, perhaps due to a trade-off between cognitive abilities – as suggested by Baron-Cohen’s conceptualization of Asperger’s syndrome, including the male- versus female-type of systematizing/empathizing brain. Or alternatively it could be more of an habitual tendency to over-use abstract analysis, that might (in principle) be overcome by effort or with training. Observing the apparent universality of ‘Silly Clevers’ in modernizing societies, I suspect that a higher IQ bias towards over-utilizing abstract reasoning would probably turn-out to be innate and relatively stable.

Indeed, I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results. This might plausibly underlie the tendency of the most intelligent people in modernizing societies to hold ‘left-wing’ political views.

I would argue that neophilia (or novelty-seeking) is a driving attribute of the personality trait of Openness; and a disposition common in adolescents and immature adults who display what I have termed ‘psychological neoteny’. When problems are analyzed using common sense ‘instincts’ the evaluative process would be expected to lead to the same answers in all normal humans, and these answers are likely to be stable over time. But when higher IQ people ignore or over-ride common sense, they generate a variety of uncommon ideas. Since these ideas are only feebly-, or wholly un-, supported by emotions; they are held more weakly than common sense ideas, and so are more likely to change over time.

For instance, a group of less intelligent people using instinctive social intelligence to analyze a social situation will presumably reach the same traditional conclusion as everyone else and this conclusion will not change with time; while a more intelligent group might by contrast use abstract analysis and generate a wider range of novel and less-compelling solutions. This behaviour appears as if motivated by novelty-seeking.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Religion and intelligence

Edward Dutton has kindly just sent me a PDF of his 2014 book under the title above.  It is a very comprehensive and research-based treatment of its topic.  And I will mention his most striking finding straight away:  Churchgoers are just as intelligent as atheists.

The big problem with research in the area is defining religion.  There are all sorts of religions.  A major religion these days is "Belief in God only".  Does that count for anything? And what about Leftism?  It has many of the characteristics of a religon. Should it be included? So we cannot be too surprised to note that the various research studies show no uniform definition of religion. 

And even people of the same religion may have very different beliefs.  A Catholic who attends mass regularly will usually have much different beliefs than one who has not been to mass for years.  So direction of belief and strength of belief need to be sorted out too.

I can think of some solutions to those problems but none of the studies so far have addressed them adequately, as far as I can see.  But, out of what's available, the best indicator of religious belief would seem to be church attendance, or "religious practice" more broadly.  It too does of course have its weaknesses.  It is very well known that some people attend church for social rather than religious reasons.  They may even go just for the coffee and cake afterwards.  But there can surely be very few church attenders who are totally non-religious.  And when we think of religious people, it is surely churchgoers whom we are most likely to have in mind.

Table 7.2 on p. 180ff of Dutton's book gives the correlations between churchgoing and IQ.  Most are very low indeed and all but one are less than .20.  And a correlation of .20 reflects only 4% common variance between the two factors, so is negligible.

As it happens, the correlation with religious belief that Dutton tabulates are also low, though not as low as the correlations with religious practice.  The majority are in fact less than .20.

So the conclusion has to be that IQ is unimportant as an explanation of religious belief.

And if someone wants to get Marxist with me and say that I draw that conclusion only because I am myself religious, I reiterate  what I have often said before:  I am the most utter and  complete atheist.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Human religions

There is a site of the above name maintained by Englishman Vexen Crabtree, who says he is a Satanist.  He has slender academic qualifications but he seems to have read widely.   Curiously enough, however, he seems dismissive of religion generally.  Only the small band of Satanists have the truth, apparently.

As an atheist myself I find his Satanism amusing but I was interested to see what he has up about religion and IQ.  It is commonly asserted that religious people are a bit dim and he accepts that uncritically.  The only actual evidence he quotes, however is as follows:

[Paul Bell in Mensa Magazine, 2002, reviewed all studies taken of religion and IQ. He concluded:]

"Of 43 studies carried out since 1927 on the relationship between religious belief and one's intelligence and/or educational level, all but four found an inverse connection. That is, the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold "beliefs" of any kind."

As I have pointed out previously, however, such studies are usually poorly sampled and usually report only slight effects.  Religious people are less frequent among high IQ people but not by much.  And the whole effect could be artifactual:  High IQ people get on better within higher education so almost certainly get more of it.  But universities are places where religion is skeptically viewed so  high IQ people will get more exposure to anti-religious messages.  And greater exposure to anti-religious messages would be very likely to undermine religious belief to some extent.  So it could be that the level of university exposure accounts wholly for the slightly smaller number of religious people in a high IQ population.

That could be tested fairly easily by assessing  religion and IQ BEFORE the people got into university.

In short, I doubt that IQ has any influence on whether you are religious or not.  It is probably a surprise to most of my fellow atheists but religious people think THEY are stupid.  You have to be pretty dim to think creation was a spontaneous, uncaused event, according to religious people.

There is what I think is good evidence for no association between religion and IQ here

Friday, March 25, 2016

Are you an atheist?  Non-believers 'lack empathy' while religious people are less intelligent, claims study

I have done a great deal of survey research (by doorknocking) in which religious belief was asked and the results reported below seemed wrong to me.  So in my usual pesky way I looked up the underlying academic journal article ("Why Do You Believe in God? Relationships between Religious Belief, Analytic Thinking, Mentalizing and Moral Concern" by I.A. Jack et al).  I was pretty sure what I would find and I did find it:  No attempt at sampling.

The research is just a product of laziness.  They used Mechanical Turk to get their test subjects. It's a great way to avoid getting out of your armchair but it gives you no generalizable data.  The population accessed via MT is unknown but is probably of above average IQ and more introverted.  So the data gained from MT responders enables no generalization to any known population.  A representative sample could give quite different results. 

There is therefore no reason to conclude that the results below accurately reflect the real world. In my experience with surveys, I have had a strong positive correlation among a non-sample turn into a zero correlation with a representative sample.

I note also that most of the correlations between belief and ability  were so low as to be effectively zero for all intents and purposes -- e.g. -0.15 and -0.13.  This comports with previous findings of only trivial (and possibly artifactual) ability differences between believers and unbelievers.  See here and here

If you don't believe in God or a universal spirit, you're more likely to be callous and manipulative, according to a controversial new study.

Atheists exhibit more traits commonly seen among psychopaths than people who consider themselves to be religious.

However, believers aren't spared criticism - the study also found that religious people are less intelligent than their non-believing counterparts.

Religious people were found to be more caring towards their fellow humans and the researchers believe their findings may help explain why women - who tend to be more empathetic - are also likely to be more religious.

Researchers at Cape Western Reserve University in Ohio and Babson College in Massachusetts, argue that the conflict between science and religion may have its origins in the structure of our brains.

Brain scans, and experiments, demonstrate the brain has two 'networks' that are activated when we think - one analytical and critical, the other social and emotional.

To believe in a supernatural god or universal spirit, people appear to suppress the brain network used for analytical thinking and engage the empathetic network, the scientists said.

In a series of eight experiments, each involving between 159 and 527 adults, the researchers examined the relationship between a belief in God or a spirit, with measures of analytic thinking and moral concern.

In all eight, they consistently found the more religious the person, the more moral concern they showed.

Scientists have yet to discover a 'God gene' but said differences at a genetic level appeared to play a big role.

The results were part of a report called 'The Gender Gap in Religion' from Pew, a respected US-based research institute.

They discovered that both spiritual belief and empathetic concern were positively associated with frequency of prayer, meditations and other spiritual or religious practices.

The main finding offers a new explanation for past research showing women tend to hold more religious or spiritual worldviews than men, so this gap may arise because women tend to be more empathetic than men.

In contrast, the researchers said there are some similarities between atheists and psychopaths in that they both lack empathy for others.

The typical psychopath demonstrates 'an absence of emotional response to pain and suffering in others' the authors said, who also found this to be the case among people in a series of personality tests.

The research is based on the hypothesis that the human brain has two opposing domains in constant tension.

In earlier research, Dr Tony Jack, associate professor of philosophy at Cape Western used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show the brain has an analytical network of neurons that enables us to think critically and a social network that enables us to empathise.

When presented with a physics problem or ethical dilemma, a healthy brain fires up the appropriate network while suppressing the other.

'Because of the tension between networks, pushing aside a naturalistic world view enables you to delve deeper into the social or emotional side,' he explained.

'And that may be the key to why beliefs in the supernatural exist throughout the history of cultures. 'It appeals to an essentially non-material way of understanding the world and our place in it.'

He continued: 'When there's a question of faith, from the analytic point of view, it may seem absurd.

'But, from what we understand about the brain, the leap of faith to belief in the supernatural amounts to pushing aside the critical or analytical way of thinking to help us achieve greater social and emotional insight.'

His colleague Professor Richard Boyatzis added: 'A stream of research in cognitive psychology has shown that people who have faith (who are religious or spiritual) are not as smart as others. 'They actually might claim they are less intelligent.'

'Our studies confirmed that statistical relationship, but at the same time showed that people with faith are more prosocial and empathic.'

The new study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers said that while having empathy does not necessarily mean a person has anti-scientific beliefs, it may 'compromise' an individual's ability to cultivate social and moral insight.

However, they point out research that shows between 1901 and 2000, 90 per cent of Nobel Prize winners in science were religious, while the rest were atheists, agnostics or freethinkers. 


Monday, March 21, 2016

An open letter to the Virginia Tech community

By Charles Murray

Last week, the president of Virginia Tech, Tim Sands, published an “open letter to the Virginia Tech community” defending lectures delivered by deplorable people like me (I’m speaking on the themes of Coming Apart on March 25). Bravo for President Sands’s defense of intellectual freedom. But I confess that I was not entirely satisfied with his characterization of my work. So I’m writing an open letter of my own.

Dear Virginia Tech community,

Since President Sands has just published an open letter making a serious allegation against me, it seems appropriate to respond. The allegation: “Dr. Murray is well known for his controversial and largely discredited work linking measures of intelligence to heredity, and specifically to race and ethnicity — a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics.”

Let me make an allegation of my own. President Sands is unfamiliar either with the actual content of The Bell Curve — the book I wrote with Richard J. Herrnstein to which he alludes — or with the state of knowledge in psychometrics.

The Bell Curve and Charles Murray
I should begin by pointing out that the topic of the The Bell Curve was not race, but, as the book’s subtitle says, “Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.” Our thesis was that over the last half of the 20th century, American society has become cognitively stratified. At the beginning of the penultimate chapter, Herrnstein and I summarized our message:

Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.

A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.

A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive distribution.

Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, restructuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. [p. 509].

It is obvious that these conclusions have not been discredited in the twenty-two years since they were written. They may be more accurately described as prescient.

Now to the substance of President Sands’s allegation.

The heritability of intelligence

Richard Herrnstein and I wrote that cognitive ability as measured by IQ tests is heritable, somewhere in the range of 40% to 80% [pp. 105–110], and that heritability tends to rise as people get older. This was not a scientifically controversial statement when we wrote it; that President Sands thinks it has been discredited as of 2016 is amazing.

You needn’t take my word for it. In the wake of the uproar over The Bell Curve, the American Psychological Association (APA) assembled a Task Force on Intelligence consisting of eleven of the most distinguished psychometricians in the United States. Their report, titled “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns,” was published in the February 1996 issue of the APA’s peer-reviewed journal, American Psychologist. Regarding the magnitude of heritability (represented by h2), here is the Task Force’s relevant paragraph. For purposes of readability, I have omitted the citations embedded in the original paragraph:

If one simply combines all available correlations in a single analysis, the heritability (h2) works out to about .50 and the between-family variance (c2) to about .25. These overall figures are misleading, however, because most of the relevant studies have been done with children. We now know that the heritability of IQ changes with age: h2 goes up and c2 goes down from infancy to adulthood. In childhood h2 and c2 for IQ are of the order of .45 and .35; by late adolescence h2 is around .75 and c2 is quite low (zero in some studies) [p. 85].

The position we took on heritability was squarely within the consensus state of knowledge. Since The Bell Curve was published, the range of estimates has narrowed somewhat, tending toward modestly higher estimates of heritability.

Intelligence and race

There’s no doubt that discussing intelligence and race was asking for trouble in 1994, as it still is in 2016. But that’s for political reasons, not scientific ones. Once again, the state of knowledge about the basics is not particularly controversial. The mean scores for all kinds of mental tests vary by ethnicity. No one familiar with the data disputes that most elemental statement.

Regarding the most sensitive difference, between Blacks and Whites, Herrnstein and I followed the usual estimate of one standard deviation (15 IQ points), but pointed out that the magnitude varied depending on the test, sample, and where and how it was administered. What did the APA Task Force conclude?

“Although studies using different tests and samples yield a range of results, the Black mean is typically about one standard deviation (about 15 points) below that of Whites. The difference is largest on those tests (verbal or nonverbal) that best represent the general intelligence factor g” [p. 93].

Is the Black/White differential diminishing? In The Bell Curve, we discussed at length the evidence that the Black/White differential has narrowed [pp. 289–295], concluding that “The answer is yes with (as usual) some qualifications.” The Task Force’s treatment of the question paralleled ours, concluding with “[l]arger and more definitive studies are needed before this trend can be regarded as established” [p. 93].

Can the Black/White differential be explained by test bias? In a long discussion [pp. 280–286], Herrnstein and I presented the massive evidence that the predictive validity of mental tests is similar for Blacks and Whites and that cultural bias in the test items or their administration do not explain the Black/White differential. The Task Force’s conclusions regarding predictive validity: “Considered as predictors of future performance, the tests do not seem to be biased against African Americans” [p. 93]. Regarding cultural bias and testing conditions:  “Controlled studies [of these potential sources of bias] have shown, however, that none of them contributes substantially to the Black/White differential under discussion here” [p. 94].

Can the Black/White differential be explained by socioeconomic status? We pointed out that the question has two answers: Statistically controlling for socioeconomic status (SES) narrows the gap. But the gap does not narrow as SES goes up — i.e., measured in standard deviations, the differential between Blacks and Whites with high SES is not narrower than the differential between those with low SES [pp. 286–289]. Here’s the APA Task Force on this topic:

Several considerations suggest that [SES] cannot be the whole explanation. For one thing, the Black/White differential in test scores is not eliminated when groups or individuals are matched for SES. Moreover, the data reviewed in Section 4 suggest that—if we exclude extreme conditions—nutrition and other biological factors that may vary with SES account for relatively little of the variance in such scores [p. 94].

The notion that Herrnstein and I made claims about ethnic differences in IQ that have been scientifically rejected is simply wrong.

And so on. The notion that Herrnstein and I made claims about ethnic differences in IQ that have been scientifically rejected is simply wrong. We deliberately remained well within the mainstream of what was confidently known when we wrote. None of those descriptions have changed much in the subsequent twenty-two years, except to be reinforced as more has been learned. I have no idea what countervailing evidence President Sands could have in mind.

At this point, some readers may be saying to themselves, “But wasn’t The Bell Curve the book that tried to prove blacks were genetically inferior to whites?” I gather that was President Sands’ impression as well. It has no basis in fact. Knowing that people are preoccupied with genes and race (it was always the first topic that came up when we told people we were writing a book about IQ), Herrnstein and I offered a seventeen-page discussion of genes, race, and IQ [pp. 295–311]. The first five pages were devoted to explaining the context of the issue — why, for example, the heritability of IQ among humans does not necessarily mean that differences between groups are also heritable. Four pages were devoted to the technical literature arguing that genes were implicated in the Black/White differential. Eight pages were devoted to arguments that the causes were environmental. Then we wrote:

"If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate". [p. 311].

That’s it—the sum total of every wild-eyed claim that The Bell Curve makes about genes and race. There’s nothing else. Herrnstein and I were guilty of refusing to say that the evidence justified a conclusion that the differential had to be entirely environmental. On this issue, I have a minor quibble with the APA Task Force, which wrote “There is not much direct evidence on [a genetic component], but what little there is fails to support the genetic hypothesis” [p. 95]. Actually there was no direct evidence at all as of the mid-1990s, but the Task Force chose not to mention a considerable body of indirect evidence that did in fact support the genetic hypothesis. No matter. The Task Force did not reject the possibility of a genetic component. As of 2016, geneticists are within a few years of knowing the answer for sure, and I am content to wait for their findings.

But I cannot leave the issue of genes without mentioning how strongly Herrnstein and I rejected the importance of whether genes are involved. This passage from The Bell Curve reveals how very, very different the book is from the characterization of it that has become so widespread:

In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of difference are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.

In any case, you are not going to learn tomorrow that all the cognitive differences between races are 100 percent genetic in origin, because the scientific state of knowledge, unfinished as it is, already gives ample evidence that environment is part of the story. But the evidence eventually may become unequivocal that genes are also part of the story. We are worried that the elite wisdom on this issue, for years almost hysterically in denial about that possibility, will snap too far in the other direction. It is possible to face all the facts on ethnic and race differences on intelligence and not run screaming from the room. That is the essential message [pp. 314-315].

I have been reluctant to spend so much space discussing The Bell Curve’s treatment of race and intelligence because it was such an ancillary topic in the book. Focusing on it in this letter has probably made it sound as if it was as important as President Sands’s open letter implied.

But I had to do it. For two decades, I have had to put up with misrepresentations of The Bell Curve. It is annoying. After so long, when so many of the book’s main arguments have been so dramatically vindicated by events, and when our presentations of the meaning and role of IQ have been so steadily reinforced by subsequent research in the social sciences, not to mention developments in neuroscience and genetics, President Sands’s casual accusation that our work has been “largely discredited” was especially exasperating. The president of a distinguished university should take more care.

It is in that context that I came to the end of President Sands’s indictment, accusing me of promulgating “a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics.” At that point, President Sands went beyond the kind of statement that merely reflects his unfamiliarity with The Bell Curve and/or psychometrics. He engaged in intellectual McCarthyism.

See you next week.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Ho Hum! More Leftist nonsense about IQ

As with Leftists in general you have to look past what the author below says to what he doesn't say.  It is true that tracking down a particular gene for any given type of behavior is in its infancy, though some progress has been made with IQ. But we don't need to know that.   We can assess inheritance by twin studies.  And for many years now we have found that identical twins reared apart are amazingly similar whereas non-identical twins reared apart can be quite different.  And that shows how much we owe to our genes.  In the case of IQ the twin studies indicate that about two thirds of it is inherited.

The author  below, Oliver James, refers to Prof. Robert Plomin, a leading behaviour geneticist, but he totallly misrepresents what Plomin says.  Plomin is a very active researcher and I read his papers frequently.  He is the last person to deny genetic influences on behaviour.  He studies them all the time. There is no point in listing his academic articles here but you can find here an article in which he discusses his research and conclusions.  Believe Plomin on Plomin, not some Leftist nutter. 

See also my recent comment on Plomin's work here.  It gives the link to Plomin's own comprehensive study. 

You would not guess it from Mr James's deceptions but there is in fact a steady stream of findings coming out all the time about IQ and its genetic base.  I have collected my various posts over the last couple of years on the subject into a single blog, an IQ blog.  I have done that mainly for my personal ease of reference but I think anybody browsing through the entries there will  be amazed at the wide-ranging influence of IQ.

Mr James is just a liar.  He says he had a difficult childhood.  I believe it

When I was ten, my parents were informed by my headmaster that I was born stupid, and would have to move to a school for the congenitally defective.

To be fair, I was a badly behaved slacker who was always at or near the bottom of every class (the weekly beatings did not help). But the interesting thing is that it was not my genes that made me a thicko.

Although hardly anyone outside the world of science is aware of it, research in the past decade has proved for the first time that no one is made dim or bright by their genes, or for that matter, mad or sane.

It’s finally being established that your character and mentality is not in your genes. The age-old nature-nurture debate is over, and nurture has won.

Don’t take my word for it: Professor Robert Plomin, a behavioural geneticist at King’s College, London, one of the world’s leading experts in this field, said last year: ‘I’ve been looking for these genes for 15 years and I don’t have any.’

Or look at the huge 2013 study of the genes of twins, whose title told you all you need to know: ‘No genetic influence for childhood behaviour problems from DNA analysis’. Many other studies have had similar findings.

Yes, significant genes for differences in physical traits, like height or eye colour, have been identified by the international quest for genes known as the Human Genome Project.

But no genes that matter have been found for psychological traits.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Some new/old findings about IQ

A paper titled "Top 10 Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics" has just come out with Robert Plomin as lead author.  The finding of the paper is an embarrassment to most psychologists.  We now know that most findings from psychological research are NOT replicable.  They are a flash in the pan with no generalizability.  They tell us nothing. So the fact that findings about the influence of genetics on behavior ARE replicable makes them stand out from other research.  It is putting it a little to strongly to say that it is the only sort of psychological research that it worth bothering with, but it gets close to that. I say here why I gave up on survey research after 20 years of doing it.

I have always noted that the heritability of IQ is by far the best replicated finding in psychology but Plomin shows that other effects of genetics on behaviour are highy replicable too.  Leftists hate all mention of genetics so on that issue, as on many others, they are on the wrong side of history.  And how ironic that is precisely the most well substantiated findings in psychology that are too politically incorrect for general mention.

So why are studies in the genetics of behaviour so robust?  Plomin suggests five sensible reasons but let me give a more impressionist reason:  It is because genetic effects on  behaviour are REAL.  There really is something going on there.  And, as Plomin's other findings show, what is going on is that genetics have a strong and pervasive effect on ALL behaviour.  As Plomin points out, even family environment is not an influence in its own right.  It too is affected by genetics.  I am reminded of something Hans Eysenck said to me around a quarter of a century ago:  "It's ALL genetics".  Already in his time, he had seen how pervasive genetic influences were.

My days as an active psychological researcher are long gone and I read very little in the psychological research literature these days.  I have however kept a watching brief on research on IQ.  So I was well aware of one of Plomin's more surprising findings:  The influence of IQ GROWS as the person grows up.  IQ is only a small influence of behaviour in early childhood but a large influence on the same person's behaviour in adulthood.  The genetic infuence in fact seems to keep growing until about age 30.  That can be seen as rather counterintuitive.  One would think that a small child had ONLY genetic influences to guide his behaviours but as he grew up he would come under all sorts of additional influences on his behaviour.

Plomin explores some possible reasons behind that finding but I think he misses the obvious:  A child is very heavily regulated whilst growing up.  He is pushed in all sorts of directions by parents, teachers and others.  It is only in adulthood that he is reasonably free to "be himself".  And that is exactly what happens.  He throws off most of his environmental influences and behaves in a way that feels good or right to himself.