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"When you turn your back on reality you lose the ability to manipulate reality. One would think that is self-evident. I didn't go into this to not try to find the truth." — James Flynn*
Today it is an honor to have Dr. James Flynn on the podcast. Dr. Flynn is Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago and recipient of the University's Gold Medal for Distinguished Career Research. In 2007, the International Society for Intelligence Research named him its Distinguished Contributor. His TED talk on cognitive and moral progress has received over 3.5 million visits. His long list of books include Are We Getting Smarter?, What is Intelligence?, Where Have All the Liberals Gone?, Fate and Philosophy, How to Improve Your Mind, and most recently, Does Your Family Make You Smarter?: Nature, Nurture, and Human Autonomy.
In this episode we cover a wide range of topics relating to intelligence and its determinants, including:
Twitter Q & A with James Flynn
Flynn: No, they would just be better adapted in their ability to meet educational demands.
Flynn: Whenever I catch them I am disturbed by both bad genetic hypotheses and bad environmental ones.
3. "What has caused the Flynn reversal in Nordic and some other rich countries? Markus Jokela suggested it could be health related." https://twitter.com/mark_ledwich/status/1027685177231695872
Flynn: See this article in Intelligence by myself and Shayer on IQ decline.
5. "Could the Flynn effect be based at least partially on a trade off, meaning that with change in culture promoting development of skills associated with higher IQ scores, this rise is at a cost of eg working memory?" https://twitter.com/Kapusta2365/status/1027689783219380225
Flynn: I don't think there is a downward trend in working memory – see Does Your Family Make You Smarter?
6. "Do the intelligence gains the Flynn effect reveals show an in increase in the g factor?" https://twitter.com/DabneyPierce/status/1027684042022432768
Flynn: No – see "Reflection about intelligence over 40 years" just posted on the net.
7. "What do you make of American SAT/ACT trends, that is the Asian scores increases and the Native-American scores declines?" https://twitter.com/UnsilencedSci/status/1027682180737130497
Flynn: Sorry I have only looked at black and white.
8. "Does you ever think there will come a time when rational, non-bigoted people can publicly discuss race and gender topics relating to your research?" https://twitter.com/AFIChai/status/1027732647349547009
Flynn: Well I hope so – but there is no trend in that direction.
* Quote taken from a lecture Flynn gave at the University of Cambridge on July 20, 2012.
Dr. Stuart Ritchie on Intelligence, IQ Testing and GeneticsMay 3, 2016In "intelligence"
The Latest Science of Attachment with R. Chris FraleyJuly 5, 2017With 2 comments
Straight Talk about IQ with Christopher ChabrisJune 8, 2015In "intelligence"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper on SSRN authored by Emily Shaw, Nicholas Scurich and David Faigman. Here is its abstract:
In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the United States Supreme Court held that intellectually disabled defendants cannot be sentenced to death; but since then, the Court has continued to grapple with how intellectual disability should be legally defined. Typically, however, it is jurors who determine whether a defendant is intellectually disabled and therefore categorically ineligible for the death penalty. Very little is known empirically about how jurors reason about and make these decisions.
This Article presents the results of a novel experiment in which venire jurors participated in an intellectual disability hearing and a capital sentencing hearing. The diagnosis of a court-appointed expert was experimentally manipulated (defendant is or is not intellectually disabled), as was the provision of information about the crime (present or absent). Jurors were considerably more likely to find the defendant not disabled when the expert opined that the defendant was not disabled. They were also more likely to find the defendant not disabled when they learned about the details of the crime. Similarly, jurors were more likely to sentence the defendant to death after learning about the details of the crime, which increased perceptions of both the defendant's blameworthiness and his mental ability. These findings highlight the reality that jurors' assessments of intellectual disability are influenced by crime information, contrary to pronouncements made by the United States Supreme Court, and they support the use of bifurcated disability proceedings, as some states have recently adopted.
NEUROSCIENCE & SOCIETY: Ethics, Law, and Technology
24-25 August 2018
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Advances in brain scanning and intervention technologies are transforming our ability to observe, explain, and influence human thought and behaviour. Potential applications of such technologies (e.g. brain-based pain detection in civil lawsuits, medications to help criminal offenders become less impulsive, prediction of future behaviour through neuroimaging) and their ethical, clinical, legal, and societal implications, fuel important debates in neuroethics. However, many factors beyond the brain – factors targeted by different emerging technologies – also influence human thought and behaviour. Sequencing the human genome and gene-editing technologies like CRISPR Cas-9 offer novel ways to explain and influence human thought and behaviour. Analysis of data about our offline and online lives (e.g. from fitness trackers, how we interact with our smartphone apps, and our social media posts and profiles) also provide striking insights into our psychology. Such intimate information can be used to predict and influence our behaviour, including through bespoke advertising for goods and services that more effectively exploits our psychology and political campaigns that sway election results. Although such methods often border on manipulation, they are both difficult to detect and potentially impossible to resist. The use of such information to guide the design of online environments, artifacts, and smart cities lies at the less nefarious – and potentially even socially useful and morally praiseworthy – end of the spectrum vis à vis the potential applications of such emerging "moral technologies".
At this year's Neuroscience & Society conference we will investigate the ethical, clinical, legal, and societal implications of a wide range of moral technologies that target factors beyond, as well as within, the brain, in order to observe, explain, and influence human thought and behaviour. Topics will include, but are not limited to:
We invite abstracts from scholars, scientists, technology designers, policy-makers, practitioners, clinicians and graduate students, interested in presenting talks or posters on any of the above or related topics.
In addition to keynote presentations (to be announced shortly), contributed talks, and a poster session, the conference program will also include three sessions on the following topics:
Posted Aug 23, 2010
The 20th century witnessed a dramatic increase in IQ, as much as 3 points per decade (see Are you smarter than Aristotle? Part I). The fact that IQ scores increased so much in such a short amount of time has raised many issues about the nature of intelligence, and what intelligence tests are measuring. For instance, while an individual's IQ test performance within a particular generation tends to be relatively stable and is determined by a complex mix of nature and nurture, such dramatic increases across generations demonstrates the potent influence of the environment on the development of cognitive abilities.
Multiple researchers have proposed theories to explain the Flynn effect. One of the most elaborate is Dickens and Flynn's 'social multiplier effect'. Their proposed effect takes into account the importance of culture in influencing what particular forms of intelligence it educates, spotlights, and nurtures.
This sort of situation would up the ante on breakdancing skills. Sure, those naturally inclined toward athleticism would still have a breakdancing advantage, but the average standard of breakdancing performance would be greatly increased. In order to remain competitive, aspiring breakdancers would have to step their game up and learn increasingly complex moves. Given enough generations with such high levels of breakdancing training, you would start to see a rise in mean scores on tests of breakdancing ability.
This breakdancing example also applies to the rise seen in IQ scores across generations. Within each generation, people who tend to do well on one test of cognitive ability will tend to do well on other tests that tap to some extent complex reasoning ability. But across generations, the particular types of tests that show the most dramatic increases indicate to a considerable degree our cultural priorities. The Flynn Effect serves as a reminder that when we give people more opportunities to prosper, more people do prosper. We've come quite a long way since the pre-industrial revolution in terms of our cultural emphasis on reading, writing, abstract reasoning, and scientific thinking. The Flynn Effect is a partial indicator of this progress (see Are you smarter than Aristole?: On the Flynn Effect and the Aristotle Paradox).
Over the years, various 'social multipliers' (Dickens & Flynn, 2006) have been proposed to account for the Flynn Effect, including increased nutrition, increased test familiarity, heterosis, increased scientific education, video games, TV show complexity, modernization, and more. Surely a combination of factors contributed to the rise. In this post, I want to focus though on a few changes over the course of the past 100 years that have particular implications for understanding race, ethnic, and national disparities in IQ. First let's look at literacy.
The importance of being able to read for performance on an IQ test cannot be understated. Instead of measuring 'intelligence' in an illiterate test-taker, the test is measuring that person's inability to read. While 'intelligence' may certainly influence an individual's ability to read, society has a lot of influence on how many inhabitants even get the chance to read in the first place regardless of the intelligence level of any single individual. Therefore, reading skills may exert important effects on particular races and nationalities that have historically undergone much discrimination and as a result, limited opportunity for literacy development.
An enormous body of evidence collected over the past 50 years shows that different ethnicities and races within a country tend to show substantial differences in their average level of IQ. Some researchers argue that this gap is narrowing (Dickens & Flynn, 2006) whereas others argue that the IQ gap has remained stable (Murray, 2006). IQ test score discrepancies are also found between nations. For instance, sub-Saharan African countries have demonstrated statistically significantly lower IQs than other nations (Lynn, 2006, 2008). These findings have led some researchers to propose that such IQ gaps found across ethnicities, races, and nationalities suggests a difference in innate brain capacity (see Lynn & Vanhanen, 2006).
Until recently, the phenomenon of the Flynn Effect, and IQ gaps found between different ethnicities, races, and nationalities have not been tied together. For the first time ever, Psychologist David F. Marks systematically analyzed the association between literacy skills and IQ across time, nationality, and race (Marks, 2010).
If increasing literacy were really explaining a number of seemingly different IQ trends, then you would expect to see a few things. First, within a population you should expect increased education of literacy skills to be associated with an increase in the average IQ of that population. Second, IQ gains should be most pronounced in the lower half of the IQ bell curve since this is the section of the population that prior to the education would have obtained relatively lower scores due to their inability to comprehend the intelligence test's instructions. With increased literacy, you should expect to see a change in the skewness of the IQ distribution from positive to negative as a result of higher rates of literacy in the lower half of the IQ distribution (but very little change in the top half of the distribution). You should also expect to see differences on the particular intelligence test subscales, with increased literacy showing the strongest effects on verbal tests of intelligence and minimal differences on other tests of intelligence. If all these predictions hold up, there would be support for the notion that secular IQ gains and race differences are not different phenomena but have a common origin in literacy.
To test these predictions, Marks looked at samples representative of whole populations (rather than individuals), and used ecological methods to calculate statistical associations between IQ and literacy rates across different countries. Were Marks' findings consistent with the predictions?Strikingly, yes. He found that the higher the literacy rate of a population, the higher that population's mean IQ, and the higher that population's mean IQ, the higher the literacy rate of that population. When literacy rates declined, mean IQ also declined. Marks also found evidence for unequal improvements across the entire IQ spectrum: the greatest effects of increased literacy rates were on those in the lower half of the IQ distribution. Interestingly, he also found that both the Flynn Effect and racial/national IQ differences showed the largest effects of literacy on verbal tests of intelligence, with the perceptual tests of intelligence showing no consistent pattern.
It must be noted that literacy wasn't the only factor responsible for the Flynn effect. Adopting the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (C-H-C) framework (McGrew, 2005, 2009) Marks found that Visual processing (Gv) and Processing Speed (Gs) also made important contributions.
It should also be noted that Mark's findings only speak to populations (not individuals) and do not say much about causation. The findings can only definitively say that some not-yet-identified variable is causing both literacy and IQ scores to change. To really test for causation, future experimental studies should be conducted to look at the effect of literacy intervention on IQ scores in comparison with a control group not receiving literacy intervention and should also investigate intervening variables that affect both literacy and IQ. Still, the result that population level literacy changes with population IQ is suggestive that increased literacy is causing increased IQ.
Even though there is still much work to be done, their findings have some very strong implications for our understanding of the Flynn effect, the nature of intelligence, and the origin of race and secular differences in intelligence.
Marks did just that by scanning the literature for datasets containing test estimates for populations of groups taking both the Armed Forces Qualifications Test and tests of literacy. One study on nine groups of soliders differing in job and reading ability found a correlation of .96 between the Armed Forces Qualifications Test and reading achievement (Sticht, Caylor, Kern, & Fox, 1972). Another study showed significant improvements among Black and Hispanic populations in their Armed Forces Qualifications Test scores between 1980 and 1992 while Whites only showed a slight decrement (Kilburn, Hanser, & Klerman, 1998). Another study obtained reading scores for 17-year olds for those same ethnic groups and dates (Campbell et al., 2000) and found a correlation of .997 between reading scores and Armed Forces Qualifications Test scores. This nearly perfect correlation was based on six pairs of data points from six independent population samples evaluated by two separate groups of investigators. As Marks notes,
"On the basis of the studies summarized here, there can be little doubt that the Armed Forces Qualifications Test is a measure of literacy."
The Flynn Effect was intriguing all by itself. Now that researchers have shown common linkages between The Flynn Effect, race, ethnic, and nationality disparities, there are even more questions to be answered and potential research avenues to be explored. The Marks study suggests a crucial environmental factor is literacy. If this is so, then interventions that increase literacy will also narrow the IQ gap found between different races and nationalities.Literacy intervention can take many forms though, both directly and indirectly. Researchers should consider not just improved access to schooling but also lots of other conditions that may affect literacy rates. For instance, recent research shows the important effects of parasites and pathogens on a nation's intelligence (see recent article in The Economist called Mens sana in corpore sano). Christopher Eppig and colleague's argue in their recent article in Proceedings of the Royal Society that the Flynn effect may be caused in part by the decrease in the intensity of infectious diseases as nations develop. Looking at data from 192 countries and 28 infectious diseases in those countries, they found that the higher the disease burden of that population, the lower that population's mean IQ level, with robust correlations ranging from -0.76 to -0.82. The chance that this correlation came about at random is reported by The Economist to be less than 10,000. Interestingly, when Eppig and colleagues controlled for other contributing variables to national differences in IQ (temperature, distance from Africa, gross domestic product per capita and various measures of education), infectious disease remained the most powerful predictor of average national IQ.
These results suggest that infections and parasites such as intestinal worms, malaria, and perhaps most importantly (according to Eppig and colleagues) bugs that cause diarrhea, can all have important effects on both literacy rates and IQ scores. The good news is that disease interventions such as vaccinations, clean water and proper sewage can have quite outstanding effects on multiple areas of cognition.
© 2010 by Scott Barry Kaufman
Note: Portions of this post originally appeared as a guest post on the blog Intelligent Insights on Intelligence Theories and Test (see original post here), which is run by legendary IQ test maker, theorist, and researcher Kevin McGrew. I'm a long time follower of his blog and am honored to guest post for him.
***Update*** Over at Kevin McGrew's blog, Bob Williams wrote an extensive reply to my post. You can read his very different perspective here.
For more on the Flynn Effect, see:
Campbell, J. R., Hombo, C. M., & Mazzeo, J. (2000) Trends in academic progress: three decades of student performance, NCES 2000-469. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP 1999.
Colom, R., Lluis-Font, J. M., & Andrés-Pueyo, A. (2005) The generational intelligence gains are caused by decreasing variance in the lower half of the distribution: supporting evidence for the nutrition hypothesis. Intelligence, 33, 83-91.
Dickens, W. T., & Flynn, J. R. (2006) Black Americans reduce the racial IQ gap: evidence from standardization samples. Psychological Science, 17, 913-920.
Eppig, C., Fincher, C.L., & Thornhill, R. (2010). Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0973.
Flynn, J. R. (2009) Requiem for nutrition as the cause of IQ gains: Raven's gains in Britain 1938 to 2008. Economics and Human Biology, 7, 18-27.
Herrnstein, R. J., & Murray, C. (1994) The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Free Press.
Kilburn, M. R., Hanser, L. M., & Klerman, J. A. (1998) Estimating AFQT scores for National Educational Longitudinal Study(NELS) respondents. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Distribution Services.
Kirsch, I. S., Jungeblut, A., Jenkins, L., & Kolstad, A. (1993) Adult literacy in America: A first look ook at the results of the National Adult Literacy Survey. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Lynn, R. (2006) Race differences in intelligence: an evolutionary analysis. Augusta, GA: Washington Summit.
Lynn, R. (2008) The global bell curve. Augusta, GA: Washington Summit.
Lynn, R., & Vanhanen, T. (2002) IQ and the wealth of nations. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Marks, D.F. (2010). IQ variations across time, race, and nationality: An artifact of differences in literacy skills. Psychological Reports, 106, 3, 643-664.
McGrew, K. S. (2005) The Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory of cognitive abilities: past, present, and future. In D. P. Flanagan & P. L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: theories, tests, and issues. (2nd ed.) New York: Guilford. Pp. 136-182.
McGrew, K. (2009). Editorial. CHC theory and the human cognitive abilities project. Standing on the shoulders of the giants of psychometric intelligence research, Intelligence, 37, 1-10.
Murray, C. (2006) Changes over time in the Black-White difference on mental tests: evidence from the children of the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Intelligence, 34, 527-540.
National Center for Education Statistics. (1993) 120 years of American educ ation: a statistical portrait. (T. Snyder, Ed.) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, NCES 1993.
Sticht, T. G., Caylor, J. S., Kern, R. P., & Fox, L. C. (1972) Project REALISTIC: determination of adult functional literacy skill levels. Reading Research Quarterly, 7, 424-465.