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Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK?

36 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 26 October 2007 09:50PM

Idang Alibi of Abuja, Nigeria writes on the James Watson affair:

A few days ago, the Nobel Laureate, Dr. James Watson, made a remark that is now generating worldwide uproar, especially among blacks.  He said what to me looks like a self-evident truth.  He told The Sunday Times of London in an interview that in his humble opinion, black people are less intelligent than the White people...

An intriguing opening.  Is Idang Alibi about to take a position on the real heart of the uproar?

I do not know what constitutes intelligence.  I leave that to our so-called scholars.  But I do know that in terms of organising society for the benefit of the people living in it, we blacks have not shown any intelligence in that direction at all.  I am so ashamed of this and sometimes feel that I ought to have belonged to another race...

Darn, it's just a lecture on personal and national responsibility.  Of course, for African nationals, taking responsibility for their country's problems is the most productive attitude regardless.  But it doesn't engage with the controversies that got Watson fired.

Later in the article came this:

As I write this, I do so with great pains in my heart because I know that God has given intelligence in equal measure to all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin.

This intrigued me for two reasons:  First, I'm always on the lookout for yet another case of theology making a falsifiable experimental prediction.  And second, the prediction follows obviously if God is just, but what does skin colour have to do with it at all?

A great deal has already been said about the Watson affair, and I suspect that in most respects I have little to contribute that has not been said before.

But why is it that the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay, whereas racial genetic differences in intelligence are not?  Am I the only one who's every bit as horrified by the proposition that there's any way whatsoever to be screwed before you even start, whether it's genes or lead-based paint or Down's Syndrome?  What difference does skin colour make?  At all?

This is only half a rhetorical question.  Race adds extra controversy to anything; in that sense, it's obvious what difference skin colour makes politically.  However, just because this attitude is common, should not cause us to overlook its insanity.  Some kind of different psychological processing is taking place around individually-unfair intelligence distributions, and group-unfair intelligence distributions.

So, in defiance of this psychological difference, and in defiance of politics, let me point out that a group injustice has no existence apart from injustice to individuals.  It's individuals who have brains to experience suffering.  It's individuals who deserve, and often don't get, a fair chance at life.  If God has not given intelligence in equal measure to all his children, God stands convicted of a crime against humanity, period.  Skin colour has nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

And I don't think there's any serious scholar of intelligence who disputes that God has been definitively shown to be most terribly unfair.  Never mind the airtight case that intelligence has a hereditary genetic component among individuals; if you think that being born with Down's Syndrome doesn't impact life outcomes, then you are on crack.  What about lead-based paint?  Does it not count, because parents theoretically could have prevented it but didn't?  In the beginning no one knew that it was damaging.  How is it just for such a tiny mistake to have such huge, irrevocable consequences?  And regardless, would not a just God damn us for only our own choices?  Kids don't choose to live in apartments with lead-based paint.

So much for God being "just", unless you count the people whom God has just screwed over.  Maybe that's part of the fuel in the burning controversy - that people do realize, on some level, the implications for religion.  They can rationalize away the implications of a child born with no legs, but not a child born with no possibility of ever understanding calculus.  But then this doesn't help explain the original observation, which is that people, for some odd reason, think that adding race makes it worse somehow.

And why is my own perspective, apparently, unusual?  Perhaps because I also think that intelligence deficits will be fixable given sufficiently advanced technology, biotech or nanotech.  When truly huge horrors are believed unfixable, the mind's eye tends to just skip over the hideous unfairness - for much the same reason you don't deliberately rest your hand on a hot stoveburner; it hurts.

Comments (526)

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Comment author: Tom_McCabe2 26 October 2007 11:33:35PM 1 point [-]

In this sense, God has screwed over each and every one of us- in three billion bases of DNA, there's bound to be alleles which we really don't like.

Comment author: Carinthium 30 September 2011 10:44:19PM 9 points [-]

Clearly, however, some have been 'screwed over' less than others at the very least- there are large numbers of people for whom the dislikable alleles aren't even noticed.

Comment author: Snowyowl 17 August 2012 12:44:13PM 0 points [-]

I think it's more the point that some of us have more dislikable alleles than others.

Comment author: Jeff_H. 26 October 2007 11:51:32PM 5 points [-]

What I find amazing is that no article I read actually quotes Watson as saying Africans have lower IQs. What he said was that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.”

His claim was ONLY that Africans' intelligence is different than "ours."

Is there much doubt as to his meaning? Perhaps not, but I should think on this blog we would not commit the sin of assuming too much.

Comment author: Epiphany 13 August 2012 04:31:37AM *  0 points [-]

First, I want to say this: I have no idea whether his claim that Africans got a lower IQ score on the test in question is true or false. I hope it is false. There's a possible explanation that is totally in support of the Africans, EVEN if the claim was true. Here it is:

IQ tests are culturally biased. If the test asks "How do you use a teacup?" a British person will be likely to know the answer - a lot of them use teacups daily. Do Africans use teacups every day? Maybe they'll bomb on the teacup question because they drink their tea from bowls as with Japanese matcha tea, or from gourds as with yerba mate tea. If you ask them "Is a rattlesnake dangerous?" that question is irrelevant to them. They have boa constrictors, but not rattlesnakes.

There are tests that are designed to prevent these differences from influencing your score. They're called "culture fair tests". Nobody here has specified whether a culture fair test was used (I searched the page).

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 13 August 2012 06:42:48AM *  19 points [-]

IQ tests are culturally biased.

If IQ tests are 'culturally biased', then we would expect the highest scoring group to share the same culture as the test writers. The highest scoring group does not share the same culture as the test writers (for instance, East Asians score higher than White Americans). This seems to be strong evidence that IQ tests are not 'culturally biased'.

Comment author: Epiphany 13 August 2012 08:19:15AM *  0 points [-]

Ok. Interesting point, but did this group of Asians take English language courses at school? Do they have knowledge of American culture via entertainment channels? Perhaps the Africans who allegedly got low scores were people who grew up living in tribes in the wild, and only came into the city where they ended up getting tested recently. I met a person whose mother fell in love with an African tribesman and I read her memoir on the experience - it wasn't long ago that she met him, a decade or two maybe. There may be a large proportion of people in Africa who literally grew up in a jungle.

In addition to straight up single-culture cultural differences, there are also variations from one culture to the next between which foreign cultures they've been exposed to (if any) and enjoy. Some cultures seek to limit their exposure to the outside (North Korea) while in others, the ideal is to embrace them (USA). For instance, here, there are many fans of Asian culture - think anime, Japanese video games and lovers of Thai food. Do they have a multicultural atmosphere like that in Africa? Sure there are American missionaries around who probably bring teacups and the like, but there's a giant difference between occasionally seeing some white people with some cups they didn't tell you anything about because they were too busy feeding starving children versus being taught their language in a class and spending time absorbing culture from their entertainment products.

Not only that, but differences between one IQ test and another could be gigantic when it comes to how many culture-dependent questions are in them. If you haven't specifically controlled for that during test design, that would be completely random. Maybe the Asians just so happened to get the test that had fewer cultural questions on it, and the Africans got one that was thoroughly based on many obscure pieces of cultural knowledge.

What we really need to be asking here is this:

Has anyone done a culture fair test for multiple different countries, using the exact same test with each one, and controlled for factors like whether the people being tested were schooled as children, whether they ever experienced starvation (that can cause brain damage) and any other important things?

Only if all the factors are controlled for would we have relevant data.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 13 August 2012 12:00:12PM *  15 points [-]

If I'm not mistaken, the most widely used IQ test is the Raven's Progressive Matrices. How is taking English lessons or having been infected with Anglophonic memes going to help you guess which shape goes in the white box?:

Comment author: wedrifid 13 August 2012 06:16:24PM 10 points [-]

If I'm not mistaken, the most widely used IQ test is the Raven's Progressive Matrices. How is taking English lessons or having been infected with Anglophonic memes going to help you guess which shape goes in the white box?:

I wouldn't rule out the possibility. There is an environmental influence on even more fundamental visual perception and so could well be related differences here. Further, past exposure to tests in general and tests of the 'complete the pattern' variety is going to bring up a cache of typical things that a test designer is likely to include. It is more or less a habit for me when looking at such a problem to test if it is simple rotation (by either a constant amount or an amount that increases by a constant amount, depending on the level of the test).

Comment author: army1987 13 August 2012 10:32:02PM *  5 points [-]

I seem to recall that the Ponzo illusion doesn't work among cultures not accustomed to visual art using perspective.

(Edited to replace ASCII art with a link to Wikipedia.)

Comment author: Kindly 13 August 2012 10:43:43PM 3 points [-]

I think it might be wiser to link to an image. Wikipedia's article on the Ponzo illusion appears to be talking about the same thing.

Comment author: army1987 13 August 2012 11:23:45PM 1 point [-]

Thank you. I had no idea what the name of that illusion was.

Comment author: SilasBarta 14 August 2012 08:06:13PM *  8 points [-]

That's a pet peeve of mine: that illusion belongs to class of illusions of the form, "If you saw this in real life, your perception would be right. But it's a 2D picture, so you're wrong."

It's exactly the same as taking this standard optical illusion, and instead of claiming the A/B squares are the same color, saying "This image has no squares. Verify it for yourself!" (i.e. in the plane of the image, nothing makes a square, but it's understood to represent a perspective image of squares)

Nothing wrong with exploring these -- they're very informative about how our perceptual system works -- but please understand what's going on.

I can see, then, how a culture not expecting perspective images, can interpret them as flat and not fall prey to these illusions.

Comment author: army1987 14 August 2012 09:45:38PM 1 point [-]

Another thing I thought about is that there weren't that many straight lines and right angles in the ancestral environment, so i think it's likely that the module in the brain for "getting" perspective doesn't come from a blueprint in the DNA but rather it arises in response to stimuli in the early life. If this is right, there might be differences between people who spent their early childhood in rural vs urban environments.

Comment author: Danfly 14 August 2012 10:05:47PM 2 points [-]

An old psychology professor of mine once gave an anecdote of a tiger that was kept in a cylindrical room during its early phases of development. It grew up to have a warped sense of spatial awareness and was unable to function properly for the most part. I don't know the details surrounding the story, so I can't confirm it right now, but I'll see if I can find the study (assuming it does exist).

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 04:51:08AM *  9 points [-]

We both underestimated how inaccurate cultural differences can make an IQ score, I think.

I have two rebuttals specific to your assertion that knowing English shouldn't affect your ability to solve IQ test puzzles, but I also thought about this more and realized that even a culture fair test probably cannot compensate for the differences between the three groups of people we're discussing, so I gave a couple examples for that, too.

First: How are you supposed to understand the question that goes with the puzzle if you don't know how to read English well? Without that question "Which shape goes in the white box?" there is little hope of interpreting the puzzle correctly, let alone filling it out. This is an IQ test, and the questions are sometimes written in a way that makes them tricky to understand completely. IQ tests may demand a high reading level. If all you've got is broken English, reading and comprehending questions like these might feel like you're doing something as hard as applying Bayesian probability to statistics.

IQ tests are also frequently written by people who don't consider all possible ways of interpreting the question. If you were not constantly exposed to academic conventions, you are likely to interpret the questions in a different way without realizing it. Look up the difference between "divergent intelligence" and "convergent intelligence" if you don't believe me. That's a big problem for people with divergent minds - even ones who have been schooled - they see all these options that other people don't (essentially, they're creative) and they tend to get lower IQ scores for no reason other than that they did not interpret the questions and answers in a convention manner. A professional developmental psychologist may provide a creativity test to these people, and if they score significantly higher than average on the creativity test, they'll actually adjust the person's IQ score upward accordingly.

Now for our underestimation of cultural differences: I think you're really underestimating the amount of difference it can make to the human mind to grow up in a completely uncivilized environment. These children (specifically the Masai tribe I read the book about) are literally growing up stealing cow's blood from the adult's tubs for their survival (it's a staple food for some) and as a game, they dare each other to challenge wild animals. They're not sitting there day after day, like you and I have been, looking at pieces of paper. Their lives are completely different, and this most likely makes a profound difference in what kinds of processing their brains develop.

For example, there's a lot of controversy over whether ADD is a disease, or if children just aren't meant to be sitting there in classrooms. Some theorize that ADD is extremely useful for your survival if you live in a jungle. You have to be aware of your entire environment the whole time. If the kids are growing up surrounded by boa constrictors and other dangerous animals, they have to REALLY develop their ability for paying attention to every little sound and movement. This is the opposite of what the schooling environment will do - force you to learn how to focus for long periods of time on little pieces of paper, doing thinking work, while blocking out any noise or thought you have that's unrelated. Concentration is a skill, no?

That's just one difference. There are others.

For instance, have you ever heard it's important to teach math in school, not because everybody needs high level math itself, but because doing the type of intellectual rigors involved in mathematical calculating will boost reasoning in general?

If you were tossed a machine gun at the age of 6 and told to shoot or die, you're totally not going to spend any time on math. And some of them were. (I learned that in a Ted talk video).

The Chinese people that were tested, to contrast, may have spent a lot of time as children working in sweatshops making small items or doing fine motor skill work like making toys and sewing. They've probably spent a lot of time developing their ability to concentrate - way more than would be demanded of the average American kid (they're working 16 hour days...) and furthermore, constructing these products takes a bit of reasoning.

Don't underestimate the difference that culture can make to an IQ score. Now that I've thought about this, I'm not even sure a culture fair test can compensate for these differences. It probably only works if you compare people with a similar upbringing. Comparing jungle survivors vs. sweatshop laborers vs. schooled Americans is probably going to yield different results no matter how you design an IQ test.

Comment author: someonewrongonthenet 14 August 2012 07:58:48PM *  13 points [-]

My measured Ravens IQ jumped a good ten points after the experience of taking a few IQ tests, because I got a sense for the thought patterns of the test makers. This indicates that you can learn how to do better on these tests, which further suggests that cultural knowledge might help you learn it faster.

A westerner customarily reads from left to right, and then goes down one line. Note how the incomplete square is also the last square that the Westerner's eye would consider...only after seeing all the relevant information would the Westerner consider the empty square.

A westerner also frequently uses the concept of clockwise and anticlockwise. The black square progresses in a neatly clockwise fashion for each shape as it is viewed by the western gaze. Thanks to the bottom third line breaking the top left/top right/bottom left pattern, one must use clockwise/anticlockwise notions to complete the pattern.

A westerner has also been taught about division using pie charts, and each of these shapes are divided neatly into fourths. Add to this a passing familiarity with grids, the idea that tests are important in the first place...you get the picture.

To get some sense of how difficult this task would be for, say, an illiterate hunter gatherer, try rotating the image 45 degrees counterclockwise and refrain from using your prior knowledge of the correct reading frame to complete the pattern. Suddenly, it is a lot harder, isn't it?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 August 2012 05:36:13PM 2 points [-]

One big cultural difference might be how seriously tests are viewed, and how much practice people get at taking them.

Comment author: David_Gerard 13 August 2012 09:35:29AM 1 point [-]

East Asians in America or East Asians in East Asia?

Comment author: army1987 13 August 2012 10:38:45AM 0 points [-]

The former, IIRC.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 13 August 2012 11:31:02AM 7 points [-]

Both, actually.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 13 August 2012 11:23:29AM *  7 points [-]

East Asians in America or East Asians in East Asia?

Average IQ

  • East Asians in US: 106
  • Whites in US: 103
  • Japanese in Japan: 105
  • Koreans in South Korea: 106
Comment author: David_Gerard 13 August 2012 12:11:48PM *  1 point [-]

Uh, two to three points is noise. Edit: er, possibly. What was the sample size?

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 13 August 2012 12:37:37PM 5 points [-]

In any case, it is clear evidence against the 'cultural bias' hypothesis.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 13 August 2012 07:18:57PM 7 points [-]

Richard Lynn, Race Differences in Intelligence (2006) refers to a study with n = ~2000 for whites in US getting IQ 103 and a study with n = ~1000 (plus several with n = ~500) for Japanese in Japan getting IQ 105.

Comment author: common_law 07 September 2012 09:10:38PM *  9 points [-]

If IQ tests are 'culturally biased', then we would expect the highest scoring group to share the same culture as the test writers.

This assumes that if a test is culture biased, it must be biased in favor of the culture as a whole. A test can be culture biased by hyper-valuing a set of skills prominent in one culture, even if that skill set is stronger in some other culture. If IQ is biased, say, toward "academic culture," even though this is a feature of "white U.S. culture" it may be even more a part of East Asian culture.

What I think your argument shows is that the tests aren't intentionally biased in favor of one culture specifically. In fact, the studies of early IQ testing shows there was intentional bias (not so much today), but rather than being in favor of the dominant culture, it was against the cultures of particular immigrants. (I'm speaking of the Army Alpha tests.)

Comment author: Yosarian2 04 January 2013 10:36:02AM 1 point [-]

The best explanation for this I've heard is that there is a certain mindset (the writer refereed to it as a "modern mindset") that is uncorrelated with intelligence, but that allows you to do better on intelligence tests. As evidence for this, he used the fact that right here in America, test scores have gone up over the past several decades. This clearly isn't caused by some genetic change, so the most likely explanation is cultural change.

When people say that the IQ tests are culturally biased, that doesn't necessarily mean that "white Americans" have the biggest advantage, it just means that IQ tests are measuring at least two separate qualities; one which is "intelligence", and the other being some facet of the culture.

There are cultural factors that might give someone in China and advantage over someone in America on an IQ test. One of the simplest explanations I've heard is that the Chinese numbering system is easier to learn and more intuitive to do simple addition and subtraction with. While most number in English have a regular pattern that makes them easy to understand and to work with, (twenty-one, fourty-three are said in "tens then ones" form), the numbers right after ten don't follow this pattern in English (eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen). This makes them more difficult for a child who is first learning his numbers to do so, and makes them slightly more difficult to work with on a cognitive level (it's intuitive to add fourty-one and twenty-two and get sixty-three, since those numbers are in tens-then-ones form; it's less intuitive to learn do that with eleven or thirteen).

Anyway, that's just a simple example of the kind of cultural difference you won't even notice but might give one culture a small cognitive or learning advantage over another that has nothing to do with genetics.

Comment author: army1987 13 August 2012 12:56:15PM 4 points [-]

I'm pretty sure IQ tests don't ask questions like that. They're supposed to measure intelligence, not knowledge (at least in principle¹), and it's obvious that even a very smart person couldn't possibly figure out whether rattlesnakes are dangerous while taking the test, short of knowing that beforehand.

  1. Well, many of them do require knowledge of the English alphabet and its order, a few require a reasonable knowledge of English, and I think even with Raven's Progressive Matrices, some explicit knowledge of discrete maths concepts such as exclusive OR and cyclical permutations is very useful.
Comment author: Alicorn 13 August 2012 06:26:55PM 5 points [-]

I took an IQ test that had a bunch of "what's wrong with this picture" items in one section. I don't remember any of the questions but the last one - the last one required me to know that there wasn't any air on the moon.

Comment author: army1987 13 August 2012 10:19:33PM *  2 points [-]

Well, a sufficiently intelligent person could guess that the moon is likely too small to have strong enough grav[realizes that Alicorn is looking at him in a weird way]... Just kidding. :-)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 14 August 2012 10:48:10AM 7 points [-]

That was obviously a bad test.

There is a theory about how IQ tests should be designed. Most of the complaints in this discussion about why some IQ tests are not fair, are already known, and probably have been known for decades.

Of course it does not prevent people from ignoring those suggestions and making their own mistaken "IQ tests" anyway (especially if there is money and status to gain by doing so). Just like any amount of medical research cannot prevent people from making and selling homeopathics.

Comment deleted 07 September 2012 08:30:19PM [-]
Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 September 2012 07:50:39AM 0 points [-]

If your first sentence you claim that the tests are well designed.

In your second sentence you explain what is wrong about their design.

Considering this, I have trouble understanding your third sentence.

Comment deleted 18 September 2012 12:45:44AM [-]
Comment author: fubarobfusco 18 September 2012 01:20:09AM 0 points [-]

This comment seems to have little content beyond insult. It doesn't belong here.

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 01:49:29AM -1 points [-]

Okay, my examples sucked, but the general principle that one's abilities with reading and English will make a big difference on a written and/or English IQ test still holds. I made that point a lot better in a different comment. http://lesswrong.com/lw/kk/why_are_individual_iq_differences_ok/776g

Comment deleted 07 September 2012 08:19:30PM [-]
Comment author: army1987 07 September 2012 10:21:45PM *  0 points [-]

Interesting. [searches Google for "crystallized intelligence"]

Comment author: gwern 07 September 2012 10:59:46PM *  8 points [-]

Fluid intelligence measures like Ravens have proven valuable for predicting success in mathematics--and little else.

Cite please. This is a completely novel claim to me, one I routinely see problems with (eg. a few days ago reading a SMPY review mentioning a 13-fold gender imbalance in extremely high SAT math scores while tests of fluid intelligence show little or no such asymmetry). I find it very hard to believe that matrix tests predict mathematics success and little else.

If you are trying to express some reasonable position like "IQ tests (which include subtests covering a variety of crystallized materials as well as fluid intelligence measures) will have some incremental predictive validity for various activities or life outcomes over an IQ test (which is just a measure of fluid intelligence)", then perhaps one could agree. But your current absolutist statements seem to be endorsing some other position...

Comment deleted 08 September 2012 12:06:06AM *  [-]
Comment author: gwern 08 September 2012 12:35:53AM 4 points [-]

Why not cite a study favoring your claim directly rather than challenging me to? What does fluid intelligence predict besides math success? If it predicts more, there should be studies on point.

Are you challenging me to find a single study using a matrix test which predicts to any degree some metric other than math success, such as income or employment or highest attained degree, and that's it? Are you sure? Because your following restatement agrees that matrix scores can be predictive outside math.

I'm not saying matrix tests don't predict anything but math achievement; rather that fluid intelligence adds nothing to prediction beyond what a general IQ test provides, which is to say, a bit more precisely, its other correlates with achievement can be accounted for by a combination of other factors. That's a lot stronger than your "reasonable" position--which I'd call a trivial position--but weaker than claiming fluid intelligence measures are useless for brute prediction outside math. They have no value outside math prediction because other tests are better for other predictive purposes.

I think we have different views on what is "valuable" (eg. is a matrix test faster and easier to administer than your combo of other factors? Then it could be valuable even if it's not quite as good a predictor), but your stronger position does not seem obviously wrong to me, so I won't object to it.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 August 2012 04:41:08PM 5 points [-]

Look at ravens progressive matrices, these are as far from relying on culture as you can get- they are too abstract and tend to show reasonable distributions of results in all groups. They also show poor results for some groups, including africans.

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 01:59:11AM 0 points [-]

This comment makes my point on this better than the one above did: http://lesswrong.com/lw/kk/why_are_individual_iq_differences_ok/776g

Comment author: wedrifid 13 August 2012 06:09:00PM 0 points [-]

IQ tests are culturally biased. If the test asks "How do you use a teacup?" a British person will be likely to know the answer - a lot of them use teacups daily. Do Africans use teacups every day? Maybe they'll bomb on the teacup question because they drink their tea from bowls as with Japanese matcha tea, or from gourds as with yerba mate tea. If you ask them "Is a rattlesnake dangerous?" that question is irrelevant to them. They have boa constrictors, but not rattlesnakes.

Regardless of whether or not it is true it is not supported by the rest of the paragraph. That explains a way in which some arbitrary test which clearly is different in nature to an IQ test could in principle be culturally biased.

(The final paragraph does constitute support of the claim, in as much as the existence of a culture fair test implies an authority sees a need for it.)

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 02:08:00AM *  0 points [-]

That's a valid criticism, so I explained a lot better here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/kk/why_are_individual_iq_differences_ok/776g

Comment author: gwern 13 August 2012 09:27:40PM *  5 points [-]

If you're interested in the topic, Lynn & Vanhanen have released a new book on the dataset, Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences, at least some of whose chapters seem relevant to the question of the validity of the scores. (I only just downloaded it and so haven't read said chapters. EDIT: excerpts)

I'd note in passing that a culture-loaded test could be perfectly useful in ranking people within a different culture, for the same reason that crystallized intelligence can be used to predict fluid intelligence: if the smarter people are more likely to remember something after just 1 or 2 exposures, and everyone is rarely exposed to the foreign culture, then when you test people on the foreign culture, you'll wind up constructing a ranking which looks a lot like what a 'fair' IQ test would have given you. (Imagine you're an inner city black: you may see or hear of yachts just a handful of times in your life, as would all your confreres; the ones most likely to remember what a 'yacht' is when that infamous example comes up, are... going to be the smart ones who can remember obscure trivia like what white people mean by 'yacht'. The occasional homeboy obsessed with boats but not terribly smart will add noise to the ranking by knowing all about yachts, but over the whole inner-city population, the ranking still works.)

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 02:53:08AM *  0 points [-]

I finally got a chance to give that a look, skimmed various areas to get an idea of what's in there. What I reallly want is a chart that looks like this:

 Poverty | War | Sweatshop | Schooling | Racial Attitude

Poverty

War

Sweatshop

Schooling

Racial Attitude

Where all the boxes for intersections have the average IQ score, and there are, of course, more columns to account for all the things that might have an effect. Lead paint exposure, crack epidemics, etc.

Without that, we're never going to have even the slightest clue. Even with it, we have to ask "Which was the chicken and which was the egg".

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 03:01:38AM *  0 points [-]

Maybe Africa is smarter despite the score... I just realized there's another reason why a chart like the above wouldn't answer this question:

We have to ask "Might being under really tough selection pressures actually make a population smarter than they appear?"

First half of my point: Say we accounted for all the details and we discovered that a particular group had been through it all. You have to wonder how the hell they survived. More intelligent people more likely to survive hard circumstances, aren't they? Maybe it depends which circumstances. But my thought is that a population of people that's been surviving something really, really hard might end up having it's genes influenced by natural selection, so that there are way more bright people. Second half of my point:

Combine this with another thing that affects IQ and you'll see where I'm going with this:

If a person has depression, for instance, that can lower their IQ score 30 points until the episode of depression ends. They might have a lot of IQ points in there that we can't see because their IQs are suppressed by stress - not permanently damaged, just suppressed.

If stress can lower your score substantially, then a population might require a larger reserve of intelligence if it is going through something awful. What if you're depressed AND at war AND survived starvation, AND weren't schooled, etc. To be able to accomplish an IQ score of even 85 might take a genius after going through all that. So, they could have a population of geniuses over there, and we wouldn't know. Because we, over here in civilized land, have no idea where to even begin guessing what AMOUNT of IQ suppression a combination of factors so terrible would have, especially because they'd probably multiply each other.

So, if we looked at a population that had been through a heck of a lot, and they don't score very well, does that mean that they're dumb (as in born that way, or permanently stuck there), or that they are, in fact, super smart (say, IQ 140) but that the EXPRESSION of that is suppressed because they're so ridiculously stressed out?

So, we could look at this another way: What IQ would it take to go through all the hell an African has gone through and survive it?

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 03:38:14AM 9 points [-]

More intelligent people more likely to survive hard circumstances, aren't they? Maybe it depends which circumstances. But my thought is that a population of people that's been surviving something really, really hard might end up having it's genes influenced by natural selection, so that there are way more bright people.

Why would you think this? Intelligence is metabolically expensive, and pays off only in the long run (consider how much of a life you can 'waste' getting an education). Putting people into a resource-pressured poor quality environment would seem to select for more immediately useful traits like aggression or growing up very quickly (and hence, investing in poorer quality body parts or less of them, like being shorter).

If there were a lot of resources on average but the environment fluctuated a lot, then there might be evolutionary pressure for intelligence: but this does not describe Africa too well and better describes very northern countries like Scandinavia where you can freeze to death but agriculture or fishing etc still yield lots of food. The book does discuss this theory and run some regressions in its favor. (I've always been a little dubious: it seems to me that it largely depends on European countries for most of its value...)

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 07:20:41AM *  4 points [-]

Gifted babies do things sooner - that's how early it shows up. Gifted children can learn to walk sooner, talk sooner, climb sooner, have rational thoughts sooner, etc. I'm not talking about marginally sooner. I'm talking about huge gaps like 1/3 sooner or 3 times sooner, and sometimes even 12 times sooner (William Sidis).

Gifted children tend to be bigger, not smaller - they develop faster. All these things would certainly give them an edge over the other children. They do grow up faster - otherwise what else describes child prodigies? They've reached an adult level of skill as a child. That does happen, you know.

Gifted people tend to be emotionally intense - and of course they may express that in any number of directions (sadness, happiness, anger) which lends itself to the idea that some portion of the gifted population may be easier to provoke to the point of aggression.

And there are different kinds of gifts, different sources of giftedness. Some gifted people only need three hours of sleep, for instance. I've met several bright people that require only three hours a night. That's five extra hours every day. Imagine that all your days are 1/3 longer, and how much of an advantage it would be.

What are these "resources" you keep mentioning? It's not like gifted children eat two elephants a week. They eat normal food.

Do you happen to remember the area of the book dealing with this theory?

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 04:45:54PM *  11 points [-]

All of your points may be true, but are not especially relevant. Philippe Rushton makes much hay in his lifecycle theory of how black kids grow up faster than white kids and much faster than East Asian kids, but that doesn't mean they're destined for genius any more than chimp infants growing up much faster than human infants means anything.

What are these "resources" you keep mentioning?

Fats, protein, calories, time-investment, sleep. Feel free to look through http://www.gwern.net/Drug%20heuristics for those (the sleep one IIRC is from Ericsson).

It's not like gifted children eat two elephants a week. They eat normal food.

How do you know how much they eat? Have you weighed out their every meal and snack? Just a few hundred calories made the difference between life and death in Nazi concentration camps; how much more so in famines or droughts? Your intuitions from a fat Western First World environment are not very useful in this discussion.

I've met several bright people that require only three hours a night. That's five extra hours every day. Imagine that all your days are 1/3 longer, and how much of an advantage it would be.

I have, actually, with modafinil. It's not as impressive as one might think; if you weren't being productive with your original waking hours, getting some more is not necessarily going to revolutionize your life. Further, we know that sleep deficits are one of those things that are easy to fool yourself about: the chronically sleep-derived are deluded about whether they are paying any mental price for the sleep deprivation.

Comment author: Epiphany 17 August 2012 03:25:08AM 0 points [-]

There are different speeds at which people grow up, it's not boolean. There are different levels of giftedness. Some are so gifted as to be called geniuses, some are more along the lines of talented, and there are plenty of people in between.

Food: Now that you've said "a few hundred calories makes a difference", I see that this could be a potential setback for them. That was a good point. I don't know whether they eat a bit more or less, though I know that they can experience reactive hypoglycemia if they don't space and balance their meals properly to avoid blood sugar crashes.

Sleep: Gifted children are more likely to need either more or less sleep than average. So far, I've met a bunch of gifted people that need less sleep, and none that need more. If sleep were a survival factor, then the gifted people who need less of it would theoretically just be more populous than the ones who need more. Obviously, the longer sleepers theoretically would not prevent shorter sleepers from surviving better.

It's not 100% clear to me whether brilliant people who sleep 3 hours a night experience sleep deprivation symptoms. However, when you're looking at something as extreme as a 5 hour difference, you'd think the person would unravel very quickly, if they needed those 5 hours. If they're paying a price for it, it's certainly not nearly as bad as the price an ordinary person would pay. A normal person would probably devolve into schizophrenia after a couple weeks of that. But these guys seemed bright and rational.

Comment author: army1987 15 August 2012 10:43:05PM 3 points [-]

Gifted babies do things sooner - that's how early it shows up. Gifted children can learn to walk sooner, talk sooner, climb sooner, have rational thoughts sooner, etc. I'm not talking about marginally sooner. I'm talking about huge gaps like 1/3 sooner or 3 times sooner, and sometimes even 12 times sooner (William Sidis).

Einstein and Feynman didn't start to talk until they were 3.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 16 August 2012 01:11:35AM 2 points [-]

Huh. I didn't know that. My parents thought I was deaf until one day I started talking - in full and coherent sentences.

How common is that?

Comment author: Alejandro1 16 August 2012 01:46:04AM 1 point [-]

This old Language Log post discusses some fictional, real and apocryphal cases.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 August 2012 03:53:24AM 0 points [-]

Huh. I didn't know that. My parents thought I was deaf until one day I started talking - in full and coherent sentences.

How common is that?

I couldn't give a figure for it but it is a common enough occurrence that my Asperger's Syndrome textbook notes it as a possible outcome.

Comment author: army1987 16 August 2012 08:51:04AM 0 points [-]

I had originally read that on the WIkipedia article about Feynman, which links to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_delay, which cites http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/1999_06_24_newyorktimes.html (which I haven't read yet, but I'm going to).

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 03:33:33AM 2 points [-]

I have no idea what your chart would mean. The book supplies tons of regressions if you want some sort of prediction on an individual level (and cites many individual studies which may be more useful than cross-national regressions), so you can't complain data is lacking.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 14 August 2012 11:57:44AM 13 points [-]

There's a possible explanation that is totally in support of the Africans, EVEN if the claim was true. Here it is:

IQ tests are culturally biased.

Where did this explanation come from? The way you present it, it's as if you looked for this explanation in order to save a belief about the intelligence of Africans.

If the test asks "How do you use a teacup?"

I have seen a few IQ tests, and none of them contain questions remotely like this. This imaginary IQ test question seems to have been invented as fictional evidence to support the explanation.

IQ tests these days are typically "culture-fair", by which is meant that the questions are non-verbal and non-pictorial. At least, that is what is usually meant, although on googling for "culture-fair", I did notice the occasional assumption that a test that gives different average scores to people from different cultures is ispo facto not culture-fair, making equality of IQ between cultures an axiom instead of an observation.

Comment author: kilobug 14 August 2012 02:23:38PM 0 points [-]

Even without looking at cultural unfairness in the tests themselves, it's very hard to tell apart genetic factors from nurture.

Be it within the US (or Europe) or between US/Europe and Africa, there is a strong correlation between skin color and economical status. Lower economical status means lower quality food, higher chance of living in old buildings using lead-based paint, usually poorer quality shcools, ... which all affect the developement of the brain.

Is there any study done for example on the IQ of black children raised from a very young age in middle-class foster families, compared to whilte children raised in similar conditions ? Even then we couldn't rule our non-genetic factors that affected pregnancy (like bad food quality or drug/alcohol use during pregnancy), but it would be more significant to claim that there is a significant genetic difference.

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 01:39:28AM *  2 points [-]

Even that wouldn't work. Here's why:

Read about Jane Elliot's brown eyes, blue eyes experiment. Cliff notes version: A school teacher tells her class that the brown eyed kids are better than the blue eyed kids, puts collars on the blue eyed kids, and sees what happens. Very, very quickly, they take on these oppressor vs. victim roles. Suddenly, she's noticing things like the blue-eyed children who used to be smart couldn't perform well. Brown-eyed kids were spelling words she knew they couldn't spell.

Simply being a black child in a white-dominant classroom is enough to potentially throw those kids off on the tests. Could this be a problem for a predominantly black school in a white-dominant country? Or a predominantly black country in a white-dominant world? It is argued that America is not a white-dominant country and that's true if you look at the population statistics. But that doesn't mean everyone's updated their attitudes or that the social structures have really changed. :/

One interesting thing I want to note here is that I have read that Chinese people feel a sense of pride about being "the first people." I don't know whether that is a common attitude in China, but IF it is, and IF these IQ tests are actually accurate (which I have already stated some serious criticisms about) perhaps the difference is the way that the races perceive their lot in the world.

Also, I hate to do this to you because if I were on the receiving end I would feel really bad, but I can't not say it now that I've seen it:

Why do we have to stick to comparing black foster kids with white foster kids, as if there are no black children in middle class families to research? Michael Jordan, for instance, made it well beyond the middle class. I've seen black people working middle class jobs, and met a black guy recently who makes a lot of money working in IT. It's not like they aren't out there.

I hope you don't take it too badly... we all come here because we want to remove our bias. That's a respectable goal. If you see any of mine let me know. (:

Comment author: rebellionkid 03 August 2013 08:38:10PM 5 points [-]

I hope it is false.

I think this is the most interesting sentence in the whole discussion.

Let's be clear. Racial groupings are really very significant pieces of evidence. There's huge amounts of genetics that correlates, huge amounts of culture that correlates, huge amounts of wider environment that correlates. It would be frankly astonishing if things like IQ, reaction time, hight, life expectancy, and rates of disease didn't also correlate.

So, we ought to expect to see a correlation, and in fact a whole bunch of studies say we do. ... And then those studies are put under far more than average pressure. See people below wanting to dismiss Raven's Progressive Matrices as culturally biased. Why on earth do we want there to be no such correlation with IQ.

We're very happy to say there's a correlation between race and hight, between race and life expectancy, between race and disease, between race and income. Why not race and IQ? Why do we want that to be false?

Comment author: private_messaging 03 August 2013 09:20:25PM *  0 points [-]

Well, there's a correlation between race and height, too, no doubt, but such correlation is utterly insignificant comparing to variance within either race - you don't say whites are taller or blacks are taller, there's very short black populations and very tall ones, and ditto for the whites whose variance is smaller.

The quantitative differences make a qualitative difference here.

Racists believe the correlation to be of greater significance than that of correlation between the height and intelligence. Based on fairly poor evidence - Raven's matrices are not this culture fair, they're culture fair in the sense that you can test British, Germans, French, Russian, and Chinese and Japanese with it, not in the sense that you can go and test some tribe that doesn't do much arithmetic nor is exposed to similar visual stimuli.

By the way given the diversity of blacks it would be utterly surprising if there is not a single ethnicity there with an average IQ greater than 100, as well as IQ with greater or smaller variance. (I would expect blacks to have larger variance than whites because they're plain more diverse, and mixed to have greater variance still)

Then the "rational" racists also object to use or even the existence of correlation between such racism and intelligence, conscientiousness, education, and other factors.

Comment author: rebellionkid 03 August 2013 10:21:40PM 5 points [-]

Notice I said nothing at all about racism or our policy responses to race. Of course intra-group variation is more important, that's obvious and applies to height too. This much is well known and irrelevant to my point.

The thing I'm interested here is why it's commonly accepted that there ought (in a strong moral sense) to be no correlation. Not our response to the actual existence of that correlation.

Comment author: Vaniver 03 August 2013 10:42:41PM *  4 points [-]

Based on fairly poor evidence - Raven's matrices are not this culture fair, they're culture fair in the sense that you can test British, Germans, French, Russian, and Chinese and Japanese with it, not in the sense that you can go and test some tribe that doesn't do much arithmetic nor is exposed to similar visual stimuli.

I am not aware of any test of pattern recognition that is more culture fair than Raven's, but would love to hear of one if you're familiar with one, and I would be rightfully suspicious of the intellectual capabilities of a tribe that has not invented arithmetic.

By the way given the diversity of blacks it would be utterly surprising if there is not a single ethnicity there with an average IQ greater than 100

I'm not aware of many ethnicity-level studies; I think the best we have are nationality-level studies. The highest country mean in all of Africa that I'm aware of is Morocco, with 85.

Comment author: Epiphany 03 August 2013 10:19:16PM *  1 point [-]

Let's be clear. Racial groupings are really very significant pieces of evidence. There's huge amounts of genetics that correlates, huge amounts of culture that correlates, huge amounts of wider environment that correlates. It would be frankly astonishing if things like IQ, reaction time, hight, life expectancy, and rates of disease didn't also correlate.

Culture and environment are not race. Therefore, if you're studying race, those influences should be taken out of your scientific experiment. It's extremely difficult to remove things like culture and environment from a study on IQ. The fact that so much is correlated with it doesn't mean the results of studies intended to determine racial differences are significant so much as it means they're a tangled mess of cause and effect which we likely haven't sorted out adequately.

Why on earth do we want there to be no such correlation with IQ.

A. We don't want black people to suffer needlessly.

B. We don't want to encourage ourselves and others to be prejudiced against people when, regardless of what the average African's IQ is, it is still both logically incorrect (hasty generalization) and ethically wrong to prejudge individual Africans. However, knowing how humans behave, we figure that if people believe Africans have lower IQs, that will result in an increase in prejudice.

We're very happy to say there's a correlation between race and hight, between race and life expectancy, between race and disease, between race and income. Why not race and IQ? Why do we want that to be false?

Actually, I bet some people are not happy saying that there are correlations there. This is one of those notions you might want to double check.

Comment author: Sharper 27 October 2007 12:18:26AM 3 points [-]

Assumptions:

1. Intelligence describes some quality that individuals have. 2. Individuals have different aamounts of or ability in that quality. 3. Larger groups of can be created by grouping these same varying individuals and this group can be said to have a group average in terms of intelligence.

Some conclusions that follow from these assumptions: 1. Any group of people, divided by almost any arbitrary measurement into a large enough sample will differ in the average amount of intelligence each particular subgroup has. 2. Arbitrarily dividing the worlds population into "races" based on their skin pigmentation will create subgroups that also have a differing average intelligence.

Therefore, different racial groups have a different average intelligence. This logic doesn't depend on what exactly you define as intelligence, as long as something is defined as intelligence. This logic doesn't imply that any particular racial group must have more intelligence than any other particular racial group. It just implies that by definition, individuals are different from each other and thus groups of individuals will also tend to differ in their different characteristics.

Now for the fun part.

Does it matter that different races have varying "average" intelligences? Only if you are racist and judge people by what arbitrary "race" you've mentally classified them as. To me, if you insist on classifying people based on their physical appearance, it would make more sense to classify people by height, or eye color, or their weight. Those attributes tend to make more of a difference, genetically.

However, perhaps you find race an easy way to filter individuals into categories. In that case, based on the extensive evidence, in some geographic regions, people with darker skin have a lower average intelligence as judged by the best tests and definitions of intelligence available. What's interesting is that in some other geographic regions, people with darker skin have a higher average intelligence.

So used as a bayes filter, skin color isn't going to typically give you the ability to improve your judgement of intelligence unless you have other demographic information that has a much better correlation.

In actual fact, if you want to judge a person's intelligence based on some quick rules of thumb, there are much better demographic methods available to you than skin color. National origins, wealth levels, education obtained (for older individuals), etc...

On the other hand, if you really care that much about it, just ask them to take whichever intelligence test you prefer for you.

But to say that races differ in intelligence? That statement should be as non-controversial as a statement of fact as it is useless as a guide to actions and policy.

Comment author: g 27 October 2007 12:28:23AM 5 points [-]

Sharper, if the divisions are truly arbitrary and on a basis uncorrelated with individual intelligence then the difference in population average will be (crudely speaking) on the order of 1/sqrt(N) where N is the size of each population. N is so large here that the sorts of interracial "differences" that are inevitable on the grounds you give are also clearly negligible, and no one who claims that races do, or don't, differ in intelligence is talking about such tiny differences.

Eliezer, leaving aside the bit about God, I think there's at least one way in which differences (in actual intelligence, or in others' estimates of your intelligence, or in other things that matter) can be worse when they're distributed according to race: network effects. Nations, societies, cultural groups, families, etc., tend to be somewhat homogeneous by race. So if you belong to a race that's systematically poor (to take an example that uncontroversially does occur) then you're doubly screwed: you have no money, and all the people around you who might have been able to help you also have no money, and all the social structures that might have been built up to help you aren't there because no one else around you has any money either.

Comment author: Robin_Hanson2 27 October 2007 03:29:18AM 5 points [-]

As I tried to make clear a while ago, humans are very particular about the kinds of inequality that bother them. Race tied inequalities are among the ones they care most about.

Comment author: Daniel_Yokomizo 27 October 2007 04:22:23AM 0 points [-]

IME most people only think individual IQ differences are ok because they believe other qualities compensate the difference. If they say that some person has a higher IQ, they usually (at least implicitly) question their social skills, financial success, physical prowess, etc.. Also they always talk about much smarter people, not about the 50% under the average, conveying the idea that difference is due to the genius' unusually high IQ not because most people are stupid in comparison. OTOH group comparisons usually imply that one group is smarter and the other is dumber, by comparing the average values for each group. While race is a sensitive issue, if we exchange race by gender, economical status, birthplace, weight, etc., the controversy is pretty much equivalent.

About the IQ vs. GDP "controversy" both Lynn and Vanhanen should be ashamed. They're not even decent scientists, their methodology is flawed and they manipulated the data to fit their results! You can't say "I don't have the real data so I'll just put a number here and argue that it's true because I say so." and expect it to be taken at face value. It's not an experiment if it isn't reproducible (which rules out almost everything except biology, physics and chemistry ;) and you can't reproduce it if you force the data to fit your pattern.

Now, speaking about IQ itself, does make sense talking about it? Is there (at least) a significant correlation between IQ and any useful metric? Can we say that IQ improves our utility, for example? Are we (as a scientific community) sure that IQ measurement isn't just self fulfilling (i.e. it measures what high IQ people have, but not much more)? I know of the (methodologically valid) studies that show people with higher IQ earning more but those studies don't show if these cases are a direct result of IQ (i.e. they're more effective) or a indirect result due to employers favoring people with high IQs (or SATs). Also other (methodologically valid) studies show that IQ doesn't correlate to financial growth (i.e. becoming richer) because people's investment and saving habits don't correlate with IQ.

IMO IQ is a poor metric, it can't give reliable predictions about things that really matter (e.g. GDP, personal finance, scientific achievements, etc.). I fail to see how it's better than trying to measure how fast can people divide long numbers, surely it may be impressive and have a couple of use cases, but mostly it doesn't matter. IMNSHO it's telling that those people trying to correlate IQ with other values always use bad methodology and end up trying to convince the reader that correlation (i.e. their results) equals causation (i.e. their hypothesis).

Comment author: Daniel_Yokomizo 27 October 2007 04:33:07AM -1 points [-]

About the commenting program:

1. Why require both javascript and a captcha to prevent spamming? Both are very bad for accessibility. 2. Moving to another URL is quite bizarre. Additional negative points if after submitting doesn't show any results at all. 3. Combining 1 & 2 in a javascript requirement for two (seemingly) unrelated URLs makes the whole process much more complicated than it needs to be.

I browse with javascript disabled (security reasons) and usually can post in most blogs. I also write software for a living, so I know that any of those aren't required. Please consider improving your blog software to something simpler and less restrictive.

Comment author: Marie 27 October 2007 06:18:17AM 0 points [-]

There are no racial inequalities there are only human inequalities.

Comment author: algekalipso 19 March 2011 12:13:30AM 2 points [-]

I may not risk to claim: There are no human inequalities, there are only sentient inequalities.

Comment author: TGGP4 27 October 2007 07:37:47AM 2 points [-]

Sharper, dividing humanity into the subpopulations "male" and "female" does not result in average IQ differences, though brain-volume does differ, as does the visuo-spatial vs verbal component of intelligence, and the standard deviations for them differ as well. It is usually an assumption of statistics that large enough groups with arbitrary divisions (say, by a "natural experiment") will not differ on average.

In which geographic region were you thinking of where darker skin indicates higher intelligence?

Daniel Yokozimo, nobody had been discussing Lynn yet, so you should have mentioned that that the book you are referring to is called "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" so other readers aren't left in the dark. I believe if you remove all the data they made up/estimated the result is pretty much the same, although I haven't actually read the book myself. If you know of a study finding no correlation between IQ and GDP or GDP growth, provide a link. The reason people are interested in IQ it because it has more predictive power than any other variable in psychology and possibly any social science. It isn't just employer preference, it also predicts likelihood to be in an accident on the job (within professions).

Comment author: Konkvistador 21 February 2011 11:02:49PM 3 points [-]

Sharper, dividing humanity into the subpopulations "male" and "female" does not result in average IQ differences,

Its a bit more complex than that.

Comment author: Z._M._Davis2 27 October 2007 09:14:50AM 9 points [-]

Group differences are distressing because the more of a difference there is, the more grounds there are for discriminating on the basis of race or sex, and it is incredibly frustrating to find oneself continually judged not for one's own manifested abilities, but for the average abilities manifested by other people who who share one's race or sex.

Yes, if there is an average group difference, then race or sex alone would count as Bayesian evidence of a particular level of ability. A perfect Bayesian, looking at all the evidence, would be justified in statistically discriminating. But there aren't any perfect Bayesians; that's why this blog exists. One needn't contend that all groups have identical average capacities in order to be worried about discrimination. The problem is not discrimination itself, considered abstractly in some toy domain; the problem with discrimination is that in the real world, people are going to do it wrong, and do it wrong in all sorts of harmful and oppressive ways.

In "An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning," Eliezer writes that people don't pay enough attention to priors, but I wonder if the opposite isn't the case when the task is evaluating people whose race and sex are known.

Comment author: Konkvistador 21 February 2011 11:05:20PM *  5 points [-]

The problem is not discrimination itself, considered abstractly in some toy domain; the problem with discrimination is that in the real world, people are going to do it wrong, and do it wrong in all sorts of harmful and oppressive ways.

Too bad no one actually bothers to work on that problem rather than simply proclaim any and all differences of outcome the result of often ill defined and nebulous systemic discrimination.

Comment author: g 27 October 2007 01:06:34PM 1 point [-]

Who has suggested not looking at each individual with love and respect?

Could you be more specific about the insights you find in the book of Job that are relevant here? (It doesn't seem to me to say anything about individuals versus groups, or about the implications of varying intelligence or other unequally distributed benefits; and what it says on the question of whether God is just amounts to "how dare you question his justice? he's bigger than you". But no doubt I'm missing something.)

Comment author: J_Thomas 27 October 2007 01:49:24PM -1 points [-]

U can't possibly say what I want about this and keep it short, but I"ll try anyway. I'll sketch the bare outlines and if you want you can fill in the details.

The US race problem comes entirely from insufficient miscegenation. If we mixed things up sufficiently we'd have no separate races in 2 generations. But we haven't, yet.

Consider Gause's Law. Populations that don't mix are like separate species, they won't stably fill the same niches. The alternative to one population going away is a caste system -- guarantee that each race has niches that are theirs alone, that they have a guaranteed place in the society.

The developing US caste strategy was abandoned for one that officially lets anyone compete for anything. We *have to* claim that the competition is fair, or equality is a sham.

In reality, africans have far more genetic diversity than anyone else. Without detailed information it would seem to follow that they'd have more variability in intelligence, and in anything else that hasn't been intensely selected. And also in traits that have been selected; a diverse population will tend to find multiple solutions to challenges.

Within a single breeding population, inequalities tend to average out. If you cheat me in a land deal, maybe my grandson marries your granddaughter and it's all in the family. In 5 generations there's more chance for that, in 10 generations it's likely. If one of my ancestors cheated another of them, he shouldn't have done that but it doesn't mean much to me. Between separate populations the outrage tends to build up. If you cheat me and get the advantages at compound interest, my great-great-grandchildren just have it worse. It's predictable we'll have problems when separate populations interact too much.

Comment author: Daniel_Yokomizo 27 October 2007 03:16:42PM 2 points [-]

TGGP: Eliezer referenced the book (the wikipedia url on the "real" link, lookup for the phrase "Is Idang Alibi about to take a position on the real heart of the uproar?"). I thought everybody followed the links before commenting ;). Anyway I assume that if something is referenced its discussion is on topic.

Regarding their data, we can't just remove the data they fudged, we need to redo the analysis with the original data. We can't just discard data because it doesn't fit our conclusions. Using their raw data without fudging we are left with low correlation, many data points outside the curve.

Ditto for any other studies. I highly skeptical of sociologists or psychologist papers because they always (again IME) have use very bad statistics. Most assume a gaussian or poisson distribution without even proving that the process generating the data has the right properties. The measurement process is highly subjective and there's no analysis to assess the deviance of individual measures, so they don't properly find the actual stddev of their data. If one wants to aggregate studies, first one must prove that the measurement process for each study is the same (in the studies mentioned in your "predictive power" link this is false: at least two Lynn studies use population samples with different properties, also another couple use different IQ tests) otherwise we are mixing unrelated hypothesis.

I'm highly skeptical of IQ measurement, because it's too subjective. Measuring the same individual over and over on a long interval we get different results, but we shouldn't. A physicist wouldn't use a mass measurement process that depended on subjective factors (e.g. if the measured object is pretty or the time of measurement isn't jinxed), in a similar way we shouldn't use a measure of mental capacity that is highly dependent of stress (which has no objective measurement process) or emotional state. In this situation one of the best approaches would be using many different data measurements for each individual and aggregate the data with Monte Carlo analysis to find the probability of each results. We can't just fudge the data, discard sample we don't like and use a subjective methodology, otherwise it isn't science. When a physicist does a experiment he has a theory in mind, so he either already has an equation or ends up discovering one. The equation must account for all variables and the theory must prove why the other variables (e.g. speed of wind in Peking) doesn't matter. "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" fails to prove that any other factors influencing GDP are irrelevant to the IQ correlation, that alone discredits the results.

Correlation is the most overused statistical tool. It is useful to show patterns but unless you have a theory to explain the results and make actual predictions it's irrelevant as much as the scientific method is concerned. If we ignore this anything can be "proven".

Comment author: Evil_Mike 27 October 2007 05:30:52PM -3 points [-]

Skin color is a function of the latitude at which ones ancestors lived.

This is obvious through observation: ancestors lived on the equator - brown skin. ancestors lived at extreme north/south latitude - white skin.

Comment author: Sharper 27 October 2007 06:38:17PM 1 point [-]

Gareth, I don't believe I specified a quantitive amount by which they would differ, just that they would differ. You're right, normally (pun intended), the groups wouldn't differ by much. That's part of the point, isn't it. Why care that they differ at all? There isn't a useful reason to care that group X has a different average IQ than group Y. Does a particular group of dark skin people have a lower intelligence due to their skin color? Not likely. Other factors are much more significant. There's no causual relationship between the two factors. The only reason it's mentioned at all is because some people have a hang-up about defining themselves or others by the color of their skin.

If you took two groups. One group with high intelligence and a second group with low intelligence and genetically modified them to change only their skin color, would their intelligence change drastically as well? The point is that skin color is not a causal factor in determing intelligence, so it's meaningless to use as a filter when presented with a sample size of one random individual with skin color X.

For a bunch of reasons, recent black immigrants from the East Indies in NY have a much higher average intelligence than blacks in NY with a longer US family pedigree (and a higher average intelligence than your average white in NY, for that matter) Does it matter to their intelligence what color their skin is? Apparently other factors matter a lot more. My point is that racial grouping is more arbitrary than most other groupings as a basis for making judgements and is only really used by people out of historical inertia. The groupings of people into "race", whether done by individuals or by governments tends to be pretty damn unscientific compared to say, geneticly-based groupings. I don't know first-hand about the UK's classification schemes, but have you seen the racial categories governments in the US use?

TGGP,

Dividing the human population into two groups, male and female, does in fact result in one group having a higher average intelligence than another. Depending on your actually used definition of intelligence, you may decide that one group has a higher average than the other and which group that is may change over time. I suppose if you modify your definition of intelligence based on the actual level of that quality in males and females you might be able to come up with a definition that for an instant in time made the two groups equal, but the actual population changes quickly enough that your definition would also quickly become outdated and the two groups would no longer be equal in your proposed definition of intelligence.

On the question of if there is a usefully measurably large difference between the groups (as opposed to an actual difference), then I agree that it's not useful to use male/female group membership as a filter or test for an individuals estimated intelligence, regardless of which of the popular definitions of intelligence that you subscribe to. The variance is way too high within the population to make it a useful indicator for practical purposes.

Again, that's why the fact of there being differences should be as unremarkable as it is useless as a guide to decisions and policy.

Take a step back. Theoretically if someone divided the world population into two groups by randomly assigning each individual the letter "A" or the letter "Z", you would have two groups that on average have a miniscule difference in intelligence, or athletic ability, or whatever you want to measure.

But practically speaking, knowing the results of the "A" and "Z" groups and also knowing which group your individual belongs to is useless as compared to a factor that actually has a casual relationship to what you are trying to measure that individual for.

No offense to the sociologists among us, but individual characteristics matter far more than group characteristics when making any sort of judgement or decision.

Comment author: Sharper 27 October 2007 07:10:02PM 2 points [-]

TGGP,

Sorry, forgot to answer your additional question in my reply. Whenever Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams get together in a small group (as they do occasionally), within that small geographical region darker skin color is a great indicator of higher intelligence. Makes all these divisions seem just a little more arbitrary, doesn't it?

On a more serious note, Queens, NYC, NY has a higher than normal proportion of black West Indies immigrants. In that geographic region, blacks have an average IQ higher than those with lighter skin. Other US locations include Pembroke Pines, Florida, Rialto, California and Brockton, Massachusetts. They also have a higher median income, are more likely to live in a two parent household, own their own home, etc...

Comment author: AnonymousThinker 27 October 2007 07:29:15PM -3 points [-]

test

Comment author: douglas 27 October 2007 11:15:44PM 0 points [-]

g- Nobody has suggested treating people other than with respect and love. It seems to be a fairly common thread in the things I'm reading here. Instead of asking "what group has a lower or higher IQ?", why not ask, "How do we raise an indiviual's IQ?" I may be misreading Job, I see more like- "don't forget the beauty that surrounds you"

Comment author: Bob_Knaus 27 October 2007 11:24:33PM 0 points [-]

Sharper -- Pembroke Pines? Holy schmoley, that's a pretty small neighborhood. I'ts more known in my mind for Canadian snowbirds than high IQ dark skinned people. Do you have a reference for your assertion? I'm personally intererested because it's about 5 miles down the road from where my sailboat is right now. Plus it's where a friend of mine lived when she was in the escort business.

Comment author: g 28 October 2007 12:51:45AM 1 point [-]

Douglas, I don't see why we can't ask both questions, but in any case the question this post was about wasn't "what group has a higher or lower IQ?" but "why do people think that group IQ differences matter more than individual ones?" -- decrying group-over-individual emphasis just as much as you are.

All the stuff about natural beauty in Job is there to make the point "God is bigger and cleverer than you are, so who are you to question him?". (Hence the constant refrain of "Do you know ...?, Have you seen ...?, Were you there when ...?".) It's admittedly rather grand, at least once you get over what now reads like bizarre Bad Science (storehouses for the hail, etc.), and people whose judgement I respect have claimed it's great poetry, but I still don't quite see what insight into the human condition it offers beyond "Sometimes bad things happen for no readily apparent reason", which most people over the age of three have noticed even before they read Job.

Comment author: dearieme 29 October 2007 12:30:06PM -3 points [-]

"in his humble opinion": Jim Watson? Humble? There's a first for everything.

Comment author: Tangurena 29 October 2007 02:33:15PM 2 points [-]

>Race adds extra controversy to anything; in that sense, it's obvious what difference skin colour makes politically. However, just because this attitude is common, should not cause us to overlook its insanity.

You can thank the Nazis for making race so political that it won't be touchable for generations. You can also thank the segregationists for irritating that political gland and making race untouchable for more time.

Francis Galton brought a lot of ideas to the world, but the one that was amplified to the point where it will take centuries for the controversy to die down was "eugenics." And when people hear the word "eugenics" I bet you that they also hear "master race." I read a lot of science fiction, and I believe that there have been very few novels that discuss eugenics as anything other than a project to make "supermen." Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country and Sawyer's Hominid trilogy are the only ones that come to mind at this time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Galton

Weasel words: I use "thank" purely out of sarcasm.

Comment author: August 29 October 2007 07:48:27PM 2 points [-]

Why isn't the concept of fairness a bias? It seems to meet the criteria.

Comment author: PlacidPlatypus 08 August 2011 11:59:04PM 2 points [-]

It could also be a moral value in your utility function, in which case what looks like bias mostly falls under wishful thinking.

Comment author: Steve_Sailer 30 October 2007 08:37:00PM 5 points [-]

People care about race because race is about who your blood relatives are, and who, to some extent, your descendants will be.

A racial group can best be defined as an extended family that has more coherence and cohesiveness than a typical extended family because it is partly-inbred.

So, that's why people care so much.

Comment author: Steve_Sailer 30 October 2007 08:46:21PM 6 points [-]

Also, please, can we stop equating "race" and "skin color"? Haven't you ever seen an African albino? Being white in skin color doesn't make him white racially.

Or consider the famous golfer Vijay Singh, who of South Asian origin and was born on Fiji. He is darker than the average African-American (but has Caucasian features). He is never, ever considered to be racially black or African-American in America. Never. You can make up a list of other dark-skinned people who aren't considered black in America, such as pundits Dinesh D'Souza and Ramesh Ponnuru.

Race is about ancestry.

Different societies have different ways to deal with the inevitable complexities of genealogy in assigning people to races, but they are genealogy-based, not skin color based.

Comment author: MrHen 10 February 2010 03:54:07PM *  6 points [-]

I thought the actual point of this article was nifty, but I thought this was stupid:

If God has not given intelligence in equal measure to all his children, God stands convicted of a crime against humanity, period.

As much as you open/close this, there isn't nearly enough in this article to justify the claim. I am not asking you to justify it. I am just curious why you include something like this in an otherwise focused article. What is the point of having this and saying it the way you did? To me, it just sounds like "Boo God!"

I had a hard time deciding whether to ask this question to just let it go. I figured asking would sound too petty or trollish. But I posted it anyway. I don't know if I have seen your answer to this yet.

Comment author: PlacidPlatypus 07 August 2011 03:36:14AM 2 points [-]

I think Eliezer is missing the main cause of the uproar in cases like this. The stance of the uproarers is not that "If this was true, it would be horrible, so let's not believe it." It's more like, "believing this is true would cause people to act horribly, so let's not believe it."

Claims of innate racial and sexual differences in intelligence have historically been baseless rationalizations that attempt to justify oppressing the group in question. So now when anyone raises the question, they are shouted down because they are tarred with the same brush. The objectors are not saying that if true group intelligence differences would be worse than individual intelligence differences. but that saying there are group differences is worse than saying that there are individual differences, because while individual differences clearly exist, group differences probably don't and are usually postulated by people who are motivated to invent them. This may be irrational, but not in the way this post focuses on.

Comment author: wedrifid 07 August 2011 03:52:02AM 16 points [-]

because while individual differences clearly exist, group differences probably don't

Just not true. And obviously not true at that. Was this presented as "one of the crazy beliefs that some insane people have" or as your own position? Hard to keep track in there.

Group differences not existing would be such an overwhelmingly improbable occurrence that it would prompt me to second guess my atheism. The universe isn't fair. Things just don't go around being equal to each other without good reason.

Comment author: PlacidPlatypus 09 August 2011 12:41:07AM 4 points [-]

Sorry for the confusion.

It was meant as a joint position of the insane people and myself, but on further consideration I'm abandoning it.

However, I don't think it's that unlikely that e.g. racial differences are fairly minimal if they exist at all, at least in terms of genetic rather than cultural/environmental/whatever differences. To the best of my knowledge, races aren't all that distinct on a genetic level, so I wouldn't call it "overwhelmingly improbably" that they would turn out to be close to indistinguishable in terms of intelligence.

That might be wishful thinking at play, but it seems sound to me. Not to say that it's not worth doing a serious investigation of the possibility that there really are such differences.

Comment author: Barry_Cotter 09 August 2011 09:00:09PM 4 points [-]

TTBOMK a grand total of two (2) men whose ancestry is not predominantly West African have ever run 100m in less than ten seconds. If you can come up with some good reasons why selection for g wouldn't have ancestral group differences that strong I'd be interested to hear them.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 09 August 2011 09:52:31PM 2 points [-]

If you can come up with some good reasons why selection for g wouldn't have ancestral group differences that strong I'd be interested to hear them.

I would think that different climates would select different physiologies more intensely than they would select for different "g" -- I can think areas where running is a greater advantage, and areas where swimming is a greater advantage, and different musculatures may account for each... but in pretty much all areas generic intelligence is an advantage.

This doesn't preclude the possibility for differences, but it's a reason why the differences wouldn't be as strong.

Comment author: Konkvistador 14 October 2011 12:36:03PM *  4 points [-]

I can think areas where running is a greater advantage, and areas where swimming is a greater advantage, and different musculatures may account for each... but in pretty much all areas generic intelligence is an advantage.

This doesn't preclude the possibility for differences, but it's a reason why the differences wouldn't be as strong.

No, I don't think we can really say that unfortunately.

I. Opportunity cost.

To elaborate, even if g is perfectly equally useful in all geographic regions, if other selection criteria vary you can still get pretty strong selection pressures that effect intelligence (say something as simple as heat regulation of the brain or say a different rate of babies surviving birth in regions where fewer parasites are adapted to humans). Pleiotropy also means that these sorts of things may not always be apparent.

II. Speed of adaptation.

Also even given perfectly equal selection pressures on all dimensions, one would expect isolated populations depending on their size to adapt faster or slower to a new equilibrium (depending on which theories you espouse).

Comment author: grendelkhan 30 September 2011 09:40:56PM 0 points [-]

It's potentially misleading to quote a statistic like that in isolation without describing the base rate. A quick scan seems to imply that nine men whose ancestry is predominantly West African have ever run 100m in less than ten seconds... which certainly seems to support your point anyway, since less than nine elevenths of the Olympic talent pool is from West Africa.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 16 November 2011 11:10:13PM 3 points [-]

You misdescribe your link and so are off by a factor of 8. Your list is of the ~10 people, all west African, who have set records faster than 10s. Here is a list of 80 people to have run that fast. Immediately above that on the page is a list of the 2 or 3 non-Africans and the 2 south Africans to have run that fast.

Comment author: lessdazed 07 August 2011 04:43:07AM *  2 points [-]

"believing this is true would cause people to act horribly, so let's not believe it."

That's not just delusional, it's deluded.

"believing this is true would cause people to act horribly, so let's not believe that we believe it," would be merely delusional, and hence less objectionable.

Comment author: PlacidPlatypus 09 August 2011 12:29:36AM 3 points [-]

I mostly agree with you; I was just stating my impression of the attitudes of those raising the objections in the first place (note the quotation marks). And to be fair to them, it's really more, "believing this would cause other people to act horribly, so let's keep them from believing it."

Comment author: grendelkhan 30 September 2011 09:46:47PM 0 points [-]

It's more that racism is unfair in a different way than people simply being different from each other. People don't get upset that some people are cleverer than others because it's fundamentally different from the unfairness of perfectly competent people having their opportunities crushed because of unfair things that people actually do on purpose. They're fundamentally different kinds of unfairness, and that's why they provoke fundamentally different responses in people.

I'm confused that this wasn't more obvious when this was posted. I'm usually not struck by how obviously wrong something in the Sequences is, and I'm unsure of exactly where the fault lies.

Comment author: lessdazed 30 September 2011 09:57:01PM 5 points [-]

actually do on purpose

I plan on replying to this later as it deserves a full reply and I have no time.

For now let me just say I am suspicious of perspectives on racism that have as an integral component the belief that most racism is on purpose.

Comment author: grendelkhan 24 December 2011 06:54:27PM -1 points [-]

I'm not sure what I was going for there; the whole point of the Chicago resume study was that racist outcomes happened even when nobody involved set out to do racist things. I think I meant "unfair things that people do", as opposed to unfair things that simply happen.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 30 September 2011 10:16:52PM 4 points [-]

It's still not obvious to me. Can you unpack a little here?

What is most confusing to me about your comment is what it means for two examples of unfairness to be fundamentally different, rather than... um... non-fundamentally different (superficially different?). For example, is there some framework I can use to determine whether, say, treating able-bodied people differently from handicapped people is also fundamentally different from treating black people differently from white people, or is fundamentally the same and merely superficially different, or is not different at all, or...?

Comment author: grendelkhan 24 December 2011 10:18:50PM *  1 point [-]

I'll try to unpack that, especially since the original post was so sloppy.

The original post said "But why is it that the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay, whereas racial genetic differences in intelligence are not?". This is incorrect. "The rest of the world" seems to think that individual genetic differences in intelligence exist and are meaningful, whereas racial genetic differences do not. (Does Yudkowsky really think that anti-racist activists believe that black people are inherently less intelligent and that that fact should be ignored? I'm not sure how else to read that.)

The unfairness of individual differences in intelligence is that, well, it happens and it's unfair. The unfairness of racial differences in intelligence is that they don't exist, but people act as though they do, and it's that second part that's unfair. These are two different kinds of unfairness. For the first, changing people's minds won't do a darned thing; it's like trying to persuade water to run uphill. For the second, changing people's minds will, following the above logic, reduce the amount of unfairness in the world, because the source of the unfairness is in those people's minds.

So, treating able-bodied people differently from disabled people is... well, it depends. If you treat someone in a wheelchair like they can't walk, that's the first kind. (They actually can't walk; it's not anyone's fault.) If you treat someone in a wheelchair with no obvious signs of mental impairment like they have impaired intelligence, that's the second kind. (They're just as clever as anyone else; the unfairness is entirely in the way you're treating them.)

Does that clear things up a bit?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 24 December 2011 11:21:04PM 1 point [-]

Yes, thanks for clarifying.

I agree with you that there's a difference between treating groups differently based on differences that actually exist, and based on differences that don't actually exist, and that the second thing involves a kind of unfairness that's different from the first thing.

That said, it does seem to me that a lot of people not only think that racial genetic differences in intelligence don't exist, they also think that if racial genetic differences in intelligence did exist, that would be a bad thing, in a way that they don't think that the existence of individual genetic differences in intelligence are a bad thing.

Do you disagree?

Comment author: lessdazed 02 October 2011 12:15:49AM 3 points [-]

One thing to say about the study you cited is that I don't think it was conducted well. The names chosen were steeped in confounding status effects. The "white names" ("Emily" and "Brendan") were high status and they didn't include white low status names like Seth, Clint, Cody, Angel, Neveah...I'd better stop, I'm having way too much fun with that list. The "black names" were not high status ("Lakisha" and "Jamal") and they didn't choose available black higher status names like Jasmine (sic), Andre, Jeremiah, or Xavier.

A minor nitpick - this isn't just about perfectly competent people, the study interestingly found a constant relationship between interviews for both perfectly competent white-named/black-named and incompetent white-named/black-named people, with employers 1.5 times as likely to take chance on a poorly qualified "white-named" person as "black-named" person just as they are 1.5 times more likely to give an interview to a qualified "white-named" as "black-named" person.

They're fundamentally different kinds of unfairness, and that's why they provoke fundamentally different responses in people.

I think this is incontrovertibly true if reversed, but not as it is; they provoke different responses in people and that effects how we should treat each kind of unfairness, but I'm not sure that aside from that they are so different.

One person is born brilliant, ugly and fat, another good-looking and of average intelligence. Both of the same race, gender, propensity to work hard etc. Both work just as hard. They are given the same scores on their oral exams, do just as well in interviews, and so on. Both do just as well performing their job because the good-looking one does better on collective projects. It's unfair that the first isn't rewarded for his or her intelligence or given more opportunities, and this is because of his or her poor appearance, but he or she didn't earn or deserve his or her intelligence in the first place.

I could easily be persuaded to support treating the different cases of unfairness differently on the mere grounds that humans feel they are different, if an intelligent way to treat them differently is articulated.

Comment author: grendelkhan 30 March 2012 12:49:00AM 1 point [-]

The "black names" were not high status

From the paper: "We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names." Section 5 deals with this; "Carrie" and "Neil" (low-status white) do just as well as "Emily" and "Geoffrey", while "Kenya" and "Jamal" (high-status black) do just as poorly as "Latonya" and "Leroy".

A minor nitpick - this isn't just about perfectly competent people

Absolutely--I should have said "equally competent" or "reasonably competent".

I don't have a particularly strong opinion on your example, though; I've rolled it around in my head a bit and can't quite see how to fit it into the same framework. There are, I believe, organizations and affinity groups advocating for better treatment of fat people, at least. I don't perceive 'ugly' or 'fat' as being the same sort of grouping as race, though, and I'm not sure where the difference comes from, exactly.

Comment author: lessdazed 31 May 2012 06:39:47AM 0 points [-]

Section 5 deals with this

This makes me think that you are right.

There was a weakness in the method, though. In appendix table one they not only show how likely it actually is that a baby with a certain name is white/black, they show the results from an independent field survey that asked people to pick names as white or black. In table eight, they only measure the likelihood someone with a certain name is in a certain class (as approximated by mother's education). Unfortunately, they don't show what people in general, or employers in particular, actually think. If they don't know about class differences between "Kenya" and "Latonya," or the lack of one between "Kenya" and "Carrie," they can't make a decision based on class differences as they actually are.

Comment author: HBDfan 15 July 2012 12:37:02PM -1 points [-]

Differences between groups is obvious to any rational person I think. I cannot see how it can be otherwise. Anyone calling this racist is mind killed.

Comment author: GLaDOS 17 July 2012 06:19:26AM 7 points [-]

The differences you speak of really are obvious and among experts not controversial at all. The open question is how much is environmental and how much genetic but usually people shoot down discussions of such topics before they ever reach this stage, flatly refusing to believe the data. And there is a huge stack of data in that corner, this is no refusal of one anomalous study but of the entire field of psychometrics at the very least.

Comment author: Epiphany 13 August 2012 04:07:54AM *  9 points [-]

Individual intelligence differences are NOT thought of as okay. Try introducing yourself on a random message board with each of these and see what happens:

  • Hi, I'm Joe and the main thing I'm good at is art.
  • Hi, I'm Joe and I'm proud of my Native American ancestry.
  • Hi, I'm Joe and my IQ is 170.

Joe with the IQ of 170 will be called arrogant, a liar, an elitist, treated like a scam artist, or told he has no social skills. That's not telling Joe he's okay. That's telling Joe not to talk about his difference. Let's explore what it means to be told you can't talk about your difference for a moment. Imagine going into a room and saying each of the following:

  • Hey, don't say you've got Native American blood, that's socially inept.

^ This comment will surely be interpreted as racism.

  • Hey, don't say you're good at art, you're a liar.

^ This comment will be interpreted as an extremely rude or even oppressive comment. Making judgments about whether artists are "good" or "bad" is taboo and considered, by many, to be oppressive to self-expression.

  • Hey, don't say your IQ is 170, don't be an elitist.

^ This comment prejudges the person. It assumes that they're an elitist when they're just talking about an intellectual difference that doesn't prove anything about your personality.

So, why doesn't Joe get to have the same freedom to express himself without society oppressing that? Why doesn't he get to talk about his difference without expecting prejudiced remarks that jump to conclusions about who he is?

We have a million excuses for this. "People feel threatened by intellect." Well, they used to feel threatened by black people, but that doesn't excuse society from working on removing their prejudices about black people and it doesn't excuse them from working on removing their prejudices about gifted people.

"That's just not polite." <- This is an interesting excuse. I'll explain why:

Imagine you go into a room and say "Hi, I'm white." (I realize that people of any race may read this comment, I am asking you to humor my hypothetical situation for a moment.)

Your race is evident. This is a neutral statement of fact.

If someone tells you "That's just not polite." why are they saying that? They're probably confusing it with an expression of the white pride attitude that is associated with the KKK. They're assuming that you're prejudiced.

What if you went up to a bunch of random white people and accused them of hating black people? Since this doesn't happen frequently, they'd probably be mostly bewildered. But imagine if random people did that to them every day.

Prejudice is a very serious offense to be accused of. It would stress them out. They'd wonder what kinds of social and career opportunities they might be missing out on. They might become more cautious to guard their physical safety - after all, prejudice is the kind of thing people get really heated about and some people get violent when they're upset. They'd start to hide hints that they're white on things like resumes. They would be oppressed by an assumption that they're prejudiced, just the same way that they'd be oppressed by an assumption that they're all criminals.

Accusing a person of prejudice simply for being part of a certain group is, in and of itself, prejudiced. That's prejudging them based on some trait that they can't control, not on their behavior. Yet, if you claim to have a high IQ, you are very likely to be accused of elitism. People act like this prejudice against people with a high IQ is okay and that gifted people should behave like an oppressed minority by hiding their difference.

I'm glad you think it's okay with the rest of the world for people to talk about their intelligence differences, I think that's okay. But a looooooot of people don't!

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 August 2012 05:42:20PM *  1 point [-]

How would that play out with athletic accomplishments?

Compare: I'm Joe, and I have an Olympic gold medal in [famous|obscure] sport.
I'm Joe, and I just finished a marathon.
I'm Joe, and I've won a local marathon.
I'm Joe, and I run half a dozen marathons a year

One more: I have the optimal physiology for [some sport]. I think this is the closest to announcing a a high IQ..

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 05:22:51AM *  0 points [-]

I am not a sports person, so I have no idea, but I suspect they'd be cheered on. Unless they were seen as part of an enemy team. I think people feel a sense of pride in the people that play on local teams. My imagination says that might go something like this: "That guy's probably eaten some of the hotdogs from the factory I work in. I probably played some small part in this famous guy's awesome sports abilities somehow."

I'm really itching to do an experiment now. (: Maybe I will...

Comment author: OrphanWilde 13 August 2012 06:07:33PM 2 points [-]

The issue is more the circumstances that lead to talking about your IQ. In an argument about something else, it is almost certainly an appeal to authority, and should be avoided. Brought up out of the blue it -is- socially inept. A discussion which turns to IQ might be an appropriate place to bring it up. (I bring up my own exceptional IQ as an argument against elitism or eugenics, such as people who think low-IQ people shouldn't be allowed to reproduce. "Do you want me applying the same standard you're applying to other people to you?" is a pretty effective argument when you're more standard deviations above the other person than they are over the people they think are too stupid to reproduce/make their own decisions.)

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 05:28:10AM *  2 points [-]

I agree that using IQ as an appeal to authority will draw negative attention, and that bringing it up in order to use yourself as an example of a smart person who isn't elitist would probably go over very well. But those examples are black and white. You're not making distinctions outside the black and white "easy to interpret" areas where people begin to behave funny, so, in effect, you're ignoring the problem I presented.

As for your "out of nowhere" comment, what would they do if I said "I'm a woman." out of nowhere? What if I said "I'm African-American." If they don't react in a negative way to those, but they DO react in a negative way when IQ is brought up, that says something. Why do they react to it negatively, instead of neutrally, when there is no context in which to interpret?

Comment author: OrphanWilde 14 August 2012 01:30:02PM 2 points [-]

They would assume you have a reason for bringing those things up. (Or, if they couldn't find one, assume you were a bit daft.)

What reason would you have, in their model of you, for bringing up your IQ? None of them are good.

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 02:05:15AM 1 point [-]

Judgments often made about IQ statements:

Joe with the IQ of 170 will be called arrogant, a liar, an elitist, treated like a scam artist, or told he has no social skills. That's not telling Joe he's okay. That's telling Joe not to talk about his difference. Let's explore what it means to be told you can't talk about your difference for a moment. Imagine going into a room and saying each of the following...

http://lesswrong.com/lw/kk/why_are_individual_iq_differences_ok/76x6

I think you were asking "What do I think they think?" - your wording felt a bit tricky to interpret.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 15 August 2012 01:09:06PM 3 points [-]

It's worse then that: What do you think they think you are thinking?

People generally assume purpose, correctly or incorrectly. If you bring up your IQ, your audience is going to ask themselves -why- you are bringing up your IQ. And they're unlikely to find any good reasons, which leave only the bad.

(Not to mention that most people who bring up IQ -are- socially inept, precisely because of social policies against bringing up IQ. It's unfortunately a stable equilibrium. You'd need a popular movement to change the social mores there, and I don't think most people are going to care enough to get involved in it, compared to the other social problems our society faces.)

Comment author: shminux 13 August 2012 08:08:20PM *  3 points [-]

Individual intelligence differences are NOT thought of as okay. Try introducing yourself on a random message board with each of these and see what happens:

Hi, I'm Joe and the main thing I'm good at is art.

Hi, I'm Joe and I'm proud of my Native American ancestry.

Hi, I'm Joe and my IQ is 170.

One of these is not like the other two. How about:

Hi, I'm Joe and I'm good at 3D games (or some other activity that is representative of high IQ scores). This replaces the apparent status seeking with a proper introduction.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 05:31:46AM *  0 points [-]

You make my point better than I do.

This statement strikes you as having a major, obvious difference. If it's so obvious, then there probably really is a difference, right? Well obviousness has a lot in common with first impressions - they're both instant, they're both compelling, and they both happen so fast that when you first experience them, there hasn't been any time to scrutinize them yet.

This "one of these is not like the other" reaction IS the experience of bias. By arguing that one statement is different, you have underlined your bias.

One way to determine whether there is any bias in the way people interpret mentions of giftedness and IQ is to attempt to conceive of contexts in which they'll be perceived neutrally. If this is a lot harder than presenting things like gender and race, then this may indicate bias.

Try coming up with some contexts in which a mention of IQ or giftedness will be perceived neutrally - without "cheating" by applying an opposite bias (like wrapping it in a sugar coating by telling people you're an example of a Mensan who isn't elitist for instance) or suppressing the information (for instance waiting until someone asks, or hiding it from everyone except your developmental psychologist) and without using code words to obscure it (Because evidently, my question is not always being interpreted as a request to know a way to talk about it directly.) If you have to hide the information to avoid being chided, that's basically the definition of oppression, and how do you get oppression without bias?

What I want to know is "How do you freely tell people you're gifted or have a high IQ in a way that is entirely neutral?"

Comment author: shminux 14 August 2012 06:01:37AM 4 points [-]

What I want to know is "How do you freely tell people you're gifted or have a high IQ in a way that is entirely neutral?"

Not sure why you ignored my original example. As I said, you tell them that you are good at something that implies high IQ score, but is not perceived as status seeking. "Hi, I'm Joe and the main thing I'm good at is art." is not the same as "I draw better than 99.9998% of all people", which would be the equivalent of "my IQ is 170", and would also be perceived as status seeking.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 06:52:30AM 1 point [-]

That doesn't qualify as an example of how to talk about IQ and giftedness. You're talking about 3D games. Your suggestion was to hide the fact that you're talking about IQ by talking in code. That's why I ignored the example - I didn't see that you were trying to present me with a neutral IQ statement.

I'm still waiting to see whether anyone can come up with a way to freely tell people you're gifted or have a high IQ in a way that sounds neutral - without cheating in any way. Without sugar coating, without having to hide it, and without using code words to obscure it (Because evidently, my question was not interpreted as a request to know a way to talk about it directly.) . (:

Comment author: army1987 14 August 2012 08:14:34AM 0 points [-]

'Hi, I'm Joe and I'm a smart guy.'

Comment author: Yvain 14 August 2012 06:03:44AM 7 points [-]

The most important difference here is that the first two statements, in addition to being boasts, also convey a non-boasting fact about the particular area you are interested in. For example "I'm good at art" strikes me less as conveying information about being especially talented, as saying that art is the particular subject you like and work on.

Compare someone who goes into an artists' workshop or an art class or something. They introduce themselves with "Hi, I'm Joe, and I'm really good at art." Now it is boasting. Everyone there is interested in art, and Joe is making a claim of being especially good at it compared to all the other artists. (This is even more true if we add some kind of number or statistic to it. "Hi, I'm Joe, and I'm in the 99th percentile for art skills.". Now he's definitely boasting, since the statistic doesn't do anything to help describe his interest.)

Intelligence is very general, and it's something you have rather than something you're interested in. That might make claims to it seem more boastful.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 07:49:20AM *  1 point [-]

"I am a woman" - is that a boast? No, it's just a fact.

"I am African American" - is that a boast?

"I am white." - is that a boast? It could be. Why do we perceive it that way?

All three are a difference you might have, rather than a thing you're interested in. They are also all things that can influence you. Gender stereotypes are criticized for numerous reasons, and I don't think they're perfect, but we can't deny that a lot of men and women have a set of differences they associate with gender. For many, it's part of their identity. At times, members of both genders have had issues with excessive pride in their gender such that it became a sort of prejudice against and oppression of the other gender. Yet, when I say "I am a woman." does it sound like a boast? Does any part of your mind want to jump to the conclusion that I am a feminazi or a man hater? Where does this perception of excessive pride come from when people talk about giftedness?

You might argue "It implies you're really good at something" - okay, so does the phrase "I'm a doctor."

If being good at something makes a statement a boast, why is it okay to say "I'm a doctor." as part of an introduction?

That you perceive the example IQ statement as a boast is a sign of bias. How do you know that it is a boast? It isn't objective. It is a subjective sense. You're guessing at the person's motive. If you wouldn't guess the same motive for "I'm a woman." and "I'm a doctor." then why do you guess it for "My IQ is 170."?

Specifically when it comes to speaking about IQ and giftedness, I want to know how we discern the difference between boasting and making a neutral statement of fact about what makes one different? Put another way, here is the problem: Being gifted and/or having a high IQ makes one different. It frequently makes sense to refer to this difference in order to provide a context in which to be correctly understood. Some examples: Gifted people are frequently misdiagnosed with mental disorders. They have numerous traits (like being really intense and sensitive) that make them look a bit crazy -- but they're not necessarily crazy, even though they may have these unusual traits. Gifted people tend to have different interests and are more likely to have certain personality traits. People who are gifted enough sometimes feel like outsiders, or aliens - they feel completely different. Saying "I'm gifted." could be a shortcut way to refer to all of those differences and others and give people an idea of how to interact with them and how to interpret their different behaviors without having to explain every single one of them individually. The same way that people tend to be gentler to women, who tend to identify as sensitive, but yet don't do that to men, because many men interpret it as condescension.

There must be thousands of different ways we interpret the people around us in order to meet in the middle that makes our interactions go far more smoothly... think of all the protocols we follow when we're around children, or people of a different religion. Gifted people are not able to request that people attempt to get along with them more smoothly by simply referring to their set of differences. Imagine if a computer could not specify it's protocol. This wreaks all sorts of havoc. This could be part of why we hear that gifted people feel misunderstood, alienated, and why they're labelled as having "social skills issues" - if OTHER people aren't trying to bridge the gap, and they're not allowed to freely discuss their difference and it's details, it makes it a lot harder for everybody to get along.

It's not easy to say you're gifted in such a way that it does not make people upset. All of the ways that I know of involve some sort of compensation for bias. That is what tells me that people are biased about statements of IQ and giftedness. People frequently assume the person's motive is to boast, as if there's no other reason you would want to mention it.

Can you think of a way that a person can freely state that they're gifted, or have a high IQ, and make it sound neutral, without sugar-coating, without having to hide it, and without using code words to obscure it, or cheating in some other way?

If not, then something is off, isn't it? If we can't think of a way to present it neutrally, or it turns out to be extremely hard, this would be a sign that our cultural perceptions of speaking about high IQ and giftedness contain assumptions, am I right?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 August 2012 03:20:48PM 1 point [-]

"I am a woman" - is that a boast? No, it's just a fact.

It needn't be. For example, if this is said at a gathering at which trans folk are particularly visible, it might be perceived as a boast, since the whole question of who is and isn't a woman is foregrounded and has status associated with it. (Of course, at most gatherings this is not a reading that would occur to anyone, since trans folk are not typically visible.)

"I am African American" - is that a boast?

Again, it depends. In a gathering where being an African American is a high-status marker within the group, it can be.

"I am white." - is that a boast? It could be. Why do we perceive it that way?

Again, in gatherings where being white is a high-status marker within the group, it's a boast. For most of LW's readers, this is probably far more common than either of the other two examples.

Can you think of a way that a person can freely state that they're gifted, or have a high IQ, and make it sound neutral, without sugar-coating, without having to hide it, and without using code words to obscure it, or cheating in some other way?

In a gathering where high intelligence is a status marker, no.
Claiming a high-status marker within a group is never a neutral move.

If we can't think of a way to present it neutrally, or it turns out to be extremely hard, this would be a sign that our cultural perceptions of speaking about high IQ and giftedness contain assumptions, am I right?

Sure. In particular, as I've said, I think the assumptions they contain is that high IQ and giftedness are status markers.

Comment author: Epiphany 14 August 2012 07:31:04PM 0 points [-]

Hiding IQ is the rule not the exception, do you agree with that? I agree that talking about just about any trait might be perceived as boastful or rude in very specific contexts. But when something isn't okay to talk about in most contexts, that's how we know that there's a widespread bias that can be said to be cultural. Do you agree with this?

Claiming a high-status marker within a group is never a neutral move.

What if I introduced myself with "Hi, I'm Sue. I like sports and I am a doctor. What about you?"

That would be interpreted as talking about a difference you have that affects who you are, not a boast, am I right?

I think the assumptions they contain is that high IQ and giftedness are status markers.

Okay, that's a really good point. To be clear, you do agree with me, then, that there is a cultural bias against talking about giftedness and IQ - am I correct?

I'm also interested in knowing whether you agree with these:

  • If talking about high IQ and giftedness are usually seen as a status marker, this makes them socially unacceptable to talk about most of the time.

  • Do you agree that when both of these conditions are true, it is sign of oppression:

    A.) There is a group of people that have significant social differences, for example, how the queer community dates differently from and sometimes express gender differently from hetero people.

    B.) It is socially unacceptable to talk about the difference that makes them part of the group, for instance, the "Don't ask, don't tell." policy that the U.S. military had.

    • Do you agree that gifted / high IQ people meet the two definitions above of having significant social differences, and that it is considered socially unacceptable for them to talk freely about their differences? If so, then does this qualify as a form of oppression? Fine distinction: I don't think that most people KNOW they're doing something that may be considered oppressive. To me, if a prejudiced person doesn't see their prejudices as prejudiced, it doesn't mean that their behavior doesn't oppress the people they're prejudiced against. That just means their oppression is unintentional.

I don't blame people for the prejudice that I see. But that doesn't make it any less real to me.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 August 2012 08:35:16PM 1 point [-]

Hiding IQ is the rule not the exception, do you agree with that?

Depends on the social group. I hang out in a number of social circles where signalling high intelligence is highly endorsed. But, sure, I agree that's the exception and not the rule; in most social circles, signalling high intelligence is seen as a status grab.

But when something isn't okay to talk about in most contexts, that's how we know that there's a widespread bias that can be said to be cultural. Do you agree with this?

Sure.

What if I introduced myself with "Hi, I'm Sue. I like sports and I am a doctor. What about you?" That would be interpreted as talking about a difference you have that affects who you are, not a boast, am I right?

Again, that depends on the status implications of those claims in the context of the group you're introducing yourself to. There are many contexts in which introducing yourself as a doctor would be seen as boastful, and many contexts in which it would not. (There are few contexts where introducing yourself as liking sports would be seen as boastful.)

To be clear, you do agree with me, then, that there is a cultural bias against talking about giftedness and IQ - am I correct?

I would agree that there are contexts where talking about my giftedness and my high IQ is seen as a status grab, and therefore rejected. Many of those are contexts in which talking about giftedness and IQ in general is seen as OK.

If talking about high IQ and giftedness are usually seen as a status marker, this makes them socially unacceptable to talk about most of the time

Again: where high IQ and giftedness are seen as status markers, talking about my high IQ and my giftedness is usually unacceptable. (Similarly, talking about my wealth or my really beautiful spouse or various other status markers is usually unacceptable.)

Do you agree that when [there is a group of people that have significant social differences, and it is socially unacceptable to talk about the difference] it is sign of oppression:

I agree that these things are frequently present where oppression exists. But they are also frequently present where oppression does not exist.

For example, if I'm a white-collar millionaire participating in a social group that is primarily lower-middle-class blue-collar workers, that's a significant social difference that is socially unacceptable to talk about, but I would not agree that I was being oppressed, or that millionaires are generally being oppressed by blue-collar workers.

Relative levels of power and status matter, here.

Do you agree that gifted / high IQ people meet the two definitions above of having significant social differences, and that it is considered socially unacceptable for them to talk freely about their differences?

In many contexts, yes.

If so, then does this qualify as a form of oppression?

In some contexts, yes. Not many.

Comment author: Epiphany 06 September 2012 02:03:01AM *  0 points [-]

I enjoy your precision.

If talking about high IQ and giftedness are usually seen as a status marker, this makes them socially unacceptable to talk about most of the time

Again: where high IQ and giftedness are seen as status markers, talking about my high IQ and my giftedness is usually unacceptable. (Similarly, talking about my wealth or my really beautiful spouse or various other status markers is usually unacceptable.)

You make my verbiage look sloppy. (:

Sorry for seeming to ignore this comment for a few weeks. I was busy.

Right now the way I'm seeing this is that because IQ differences are not seen as something that can cause a person a prolific number of differences that are socially relevant for lots of things other than status, it's often perceived as a status grab when it's not.

There are also a whole bunch of other problems that, combined, paint a picture of oppression. OrphanWilde did an experiment in this very thread, asking "Actually, let's try an experiment: My IQ is estimated to be in the vicinity of 220. What is your reaction?"

The result was that he was accused (in the context of the experiment, by people who, I realize, probably do not literally believe these things) of lying by Alicorn and gwern and later suspected to be a psychopath by gwern and shminux.

I was the only one that showed willingness to entertain the idea that OrphanWilde might not be a liar or a psychopath. I suppose, technically that's not oppression against people you believe to be gifted, it's discouragement toward people you believe not to be gifted. However, what happens when people have the same attitude of not believing other types of people about their differences? "Oh you're not really homosexual, let's send you to the psychologist and have that fixed." They may have good intentions but the result is definitely oppressive. If people jump to conclusions about a group of people - even the conclusion that the specific individuals in question aren't part of the group - then those assumptions can oppress the group in question.

Then there's the fact that 50% of gifted children in America are never given an IQ test, yet they require special education to prevent them from developing problems like learned helplessness due to being placed in the wrong environment.

Terman did a study that challenged commonly held beliefs that gifted people tended to be ugly, and have a lot of problems, and revealed various myths. That was in 1921, but there are still echos of that mentality - people frequently associate negative things with giftedness as if trying to balance things out and make everyone equal again on some imaginary scale - when we shouldn't be viewing our equality any differently regardless of intellectual differences anyway.

As I see it, people are having a hard time dealing with intellectual inequalities and frequently react as if they are going to equate to rights inequalities.

This leads them to oppress.

Do you have observations that would be relevant to my perspective, supportive or unsupportive?

Comment author: J_Taylor 06 September 2012 02:22:19AM *  1 point [-]

later suspected to be a psychopath by gwern and shminux

If gwern suspected OrphanWilde of being a sociopath, surely he would have made a PredictionBook post.

But seriously, I've read the posts I think you are talking about. Nobody has such suspicions.

Comment author: Epiphany 06 September 2012 02:31:52AM *  0 points [-]

OrphanWilde was only doing an experiment. I didn't mean to say those guys were serious about their accusations. They behaved that way in the context of the experiment. Most likely they do know better than to take the experiment literally. I realize this. (:

I hate pointing out the obvious, but I guess I have to now. edits my post

Comment author: J_Taylor 06 September 2012 02:53:30AM *  0 points [-]

I apologize for my lack of explicitness.

Here gwern states that someone possessing transcendent charm is not sufficient evidence for one to conclude that they possess a 200+ IQ. (He mentions other possibilities of them having a "mere" 140+ IQ or them being a psychopath.)

Here gwern states that the world contains more psychopaths than geniuses.

Here is a well-done ramble about the overlap between psychopathy and genius.

I cannot find any post by schminux that would explain why you think he was pretending to accuse OrphanWilde of being a psychopath.


Now to clarify: I am holding that gwern and schminux never publicly suspected OrphanWilde of being a psychopath. I am further holding that gwern and schminux never publicly pretended to suspect OrphanWilde of being a psychopath. These events did not occur, nor did events resembling them occur. Thus, this:

later suspected to be a psychopath by gwern and shminux

is almost a complete non sequitur, apropos of nothing.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 06 September 2012 03:12:19AM 1 point [-]

As I see it, people are having a hard time dealing with intellectual inequalities and frequently react as if they are going to equate to rights inequalities.

Yes, I agree that this is frequently true.

We also frequently react that way to wealth inequalities, power inequalities, and various other things that we fear (not always without justification) will allow a privileged minority to become a threat to us.

This leads them to oppress.

It isn't clear to me that "oppress" is a clearly or consistently defined term here, but I agree with you that this sometimes leads us to act against the groups we see as potential threats.

Do you have observations that would be relevant to my perspective

The thing that most jumps out at me is that we seem to keep reiterating the same rhetorical pattern.

You point out scenarios where intelligent people end up in potential conflict with those around them because of their intelligence. I agree that that happens sometimes, and add that it's a special case of a more general relationship that isn't especially about intelligence. You continue to discuss how raw a deal intelligent people are given, from a slightly different perspective.

It mostly leaves me with the feeling that we don't really disagree about any of the stuff that's actually being said explicitly, but that there's something more fundamental that isn't getting said explicitly, about which we do disagree.

If I had to guess, I would guess that you're motivated to maximize the relative status of intelligent people, and you're framing the situation in terms of how oppressed intelligent people are in order to justify doing that, and you see my responses as interfering with that framing.

But that's just a guess.

Comment author: Epiphany 06 September 2012 03:52:17AM 0 points [-]

Good insight, TheOtherDave, it is time to clarify. I don't want to "maximize the relative status" of anyone - I don't believe in status. Oh, sure I see lots of people imagining one another to be at different points on a mental model, and I don't deny that people behave that way, but to me, that doesn't mean the mental model is at all accurate to reality. To me, they're just imagining this - status is just a bias.

Also, I think the fact that people perceive intelligence as a "high status" thing is the entire problem. So unless "maximize the relative status" was meant more like "optimize the relative status" I don't think that'd be a real solution.

I don't really see your responses as interfering with the framing, but like you said they're indicating that some clearer point needs to be made.

Here are some ideas:

No sort of oppression happens all the time, but that doesn't mean a group is not oppressed.

I think the oppression of gifted people should recognized. I think people on both sides need to realize that most of it is unintentional. I think we need to knock it off with this status business, as a species, recognize that we all have rights regardless of intellectual abilities, and quit acting paranoid and grappling for control with one another.

Seeing this power struggle and status madness makes me sick to my stomach. Every time I see it, I have to question why I bother to make a difference if people are going to behave like this.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 06 September 2012 04:32:23AM 1 point [-]

I think we need to knock it off with this status business, as a species, recognize that we all have rights regardless of intellectual abilities, and quit acting paranoid and grappling for control with one another.

(nods) Sure, sounds great. Two questions:
- Do you agree any more or less with that phrase if I remove the clause "regardless of intellectual abilities"? (Followup: if you don't, what is that clause doing there?)
- Do you have any strategies in mind for achieving that state?

I think the oppression of gifted people should recognized.

I recognize that gifted people are sometimes subjected to actions taken against their interests, which we can describe as "oppression" if we want to, though that word has other connotations in other contexts I don't think apply to the condition of gifted people.

That said, I don't care very much.
Do you think I ought to care more?
If so, why?

Comment author: Kindly 06 September 2012 04:56:26AM 1 point [-]

I see lots of people imagining one another to be at different points on a mental model, and I don't deny that people behave that way, but to me, that doesn't mean the mental model is at all accurate to reality.

I don't think what you're saying here makes sense. The "status model" only makes claims about people's behavior. If people behave as though status were a thing, that makes status a thing.

By way of analogy, beauty is also imaginary in the sense that status is imaginary. Lots of people imagine each other to be at different points on the beauty scale, and act accordingly, but there's nothing objective out there corresponding to beauty. Sure, there's things that lots of people would agree are beautiful -- symmetric faces, lack of disfiguring scars, whatever -- but these are arbitrary -- there's nothing intrinsically beautiful about them. (Similarly, wearing a gold watch or whatever might be a sign of status, and is also arbitrary.)

Would you say that you "don't believe in beauty" in the same way that you "don't believe in status"? If not, what are the relevant differences?

Comment author: yli 14 August 2012 07:39:19PM 1 point [-]

I'm glad you think individual intelligence differences are okay.

Did you even read the post? He doesn't think they're okay:

Am I the only one who's every bit as horrified by the proposition that there's any way whatsoever to be screwed before you even start, whether it's genes or lead-based paint or Down's Syndrome?

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 12:59:09AM 1 point [-]

For clarity: My interpretation of his main point is "the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay" and my main point in that comment is "Individual intelligence differences are NOT thought of as okay (by the rest of the world)."

The sentence you singled out is an oversimplified version of what I was actually trying to convey. What I was trying to convey was "I'm glad you think it's okay with the rest of the world for people to talk about their intelligence differences, but it's not okay." It looks like my verbal processor took a shortcut without me noticing it. I'll fix that to prevent any confusion. Thanks for pointing it out.

I don't appreciate hearing "Did you even read the post?" yes, I read the post (and responded to other aspects of it also).

Comment author: yli 14 August 2012 07:54:08PM *  -1 points [-]

To contribute my analogy, I think introducing yourself by saying "Hi, my IQ is 170" is kinda like introducing yourself by saying "Hi, my net worth is $100 million", which would definitely be obnoxious. Though the IQ thing is maybe even more obnoxious to me because at least you had to make the money yourself, whereas the IQ you got almost purely as a matter of luck.

Comment author: army1987 15 August 2012 10:40:09PM 2 points [-]

Though the IQ thing is maybe even more obnoxious to me because at least you had to make the money yourself

Or inherited it.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 14 August 2012 08:37:36PM 1 point [-]

Actually, let's try an experiment:

My IQ is estimated to be in the vicinity of 220.

What is your reaction?

Comment author: Alicorn 14 August 2012 08:50:24PM 8 points [-]

I think you're lying.

Comment author: gwern 14 August 2012 09:31:30PM 7 points [-]

Indeed. At the usual standard deviation norm of ~15, a 220 IQ would be 8 standard deviations out and make him ~1 in 8*10^14 (100 trillion).

Inasmuch as only 100 billion humans are estimated to have ever lived, the overwhelming majority of that having an average IQ far lower than 100 and so being essentially irrelevant, we can conclude that he is either lying or from the future.

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 01:06:48AM *  0 points [-]

220+ IQ scores DO happen - due to the fact that IQ tests cannot be made accurate for such an uncommon group of people, they're far more common than they're mathematically supposed to be. A collection of research on that can be found online right here:

http://hiqnews.megafoundation.org/Terman_Summary.htm

I've actually talked with people in that IQ vicinity, and based on the absolutely sublime intelligent conversation they're capable of providing, and considering the likelihood of specifically them being dishonest about that within the context of their other behaviors, I just don't think they're lying.

Superintelligent people do exist. And they have to actually BE somewhere, right? Where do they go?

Do you think that none of them would be attracted to a website like LessWrong? I think this site is likely to be a genius magnet.

If it turns out that this person's IQ really is over 220, I totally want to have intelligent conversation with them. If you give people the benefit of the doubt in situations like this, sometimes the result is more than worth the effort to withhold judgment for a while.

P.S. Yes, I realize the claim is that it was estimated at over 220, not that they received that score. The obvious argument here is "What professional would estimate it that high knowing how rare those scores are SUPPOSED to be?" but if you're not basing your estimation on observations about people who have received that score, all you are left with is attempting to deduce the characteristics of a person with such an IQ out of the numbers themselves, with no actual experience to base it on. Or, this person may be referring to the practice of adjusting a young child's IQ score upward in order to reflect the age at which they took the test. For instance, if you are 2 years old and get an IQ of 100 on an IQ test, that's really incredible. You definitely have to give that kid a higher score than 100. The only way I know of to get a score in the 200 ballpark is to have that sort of age adjustment done after taking the test with the highest limit before a certain age.

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 01:50:53AM 6 points [-]

220+ IQ scores DO happen - due to the fact that IQ tests cannot be made accurate for such an uncommon group of people, they're far more common than they're mathematically supposed to be. A collection of research on that can be found online right here: http://hiqnews.megafoundation.org/Terman_Summary.htm ...You definitely have to give that kid a higher score than 100. The only way I know of to get a score in the 200 ballpark is to have that sort of age adjustment done after taking the test with the highest limit before a certain age.

And that's a limitation of the tests being ratio tests or not being normed on the sufficiently large population they're supposed to be normed on. (Why are all the datapoints on that page so old?) That's why modern IQ tests come with listed ceilings! 'Past this point, who knows what it's measuring if anything'. With a short test, even random guessing will eventually throw up some remarkable scores...

I've actually talked with people in that IQ vicinity, and based on the absolutely sublime intelligent conversation they're capable of providing, and considering the likelihood of specifically them being dishonest about that within the context of their other behaviors, I just don't think they're lying.

Perfectly consistent with them having more earthly IQs >140. (If even that; I have been reading up on psychopathy lately, and one of the diagnosable traits is being gifted conversationalists and creators of emotional 'bonds', despite psychopathy being, if correlated with IQ at all, negatively correlated.)

Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 03:14:48AM -3 points [-]

Living people with 220+ IQs do exist - you say the words "modern IQ tests" as if the ratio tests were invented in the dark ages. This only changed in recent decades. Regardless of which method is the best, the fact that there are plenty of people still alive today who can honestly claim that they were given an IQ score that high means that this person is not automatically a liar or "from the future".

"Perfectly consistent with them having more earthly IQs >140"

Which is perfectly consistent with them having IQs over 220, if you think about it...

And, no, they weren't like the people with scores of 140. There are differences that they have that I have not encountered in anyone else. Things stood out.

Why are you bringing up psychopathy? That's totally out of left field. Do you mean to imply that people claiming that IQ are probably psychopaths?

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 05:11:30PM 9 points [-]

Living people with 220+ IQs do exist - you say the words "modern IQ tests" as if the ratio tests were invented in the dark ages. This only changed in recent decades.

Very well then, let us discuss the cases of people recorded to be hundreds of years old by less than modern documentation, like Methuselah as verified by the Book of Genesis. Wait, you don't think people actually live to thousands of years? But you just said we can use datapoints from any kind of test we please!

Whatever cutoff you choose to exclude things like Genesis or scientific results from hundreds of years ago while still including largely obsolete ratio tests, I will shift it slightly to include only better IQ tests. I think this is perfectly legitimate, as one should strive to use the best available data, and regard your 'but old obsolete scores!' as quibbling.

Which is perfectly consistent with them having IQs over 220, if you think about it...

And it's also consistent with IQs over 9000!!! <monocle shatters>

Occam's razor. Use it, love it. The base rate of IQs like 140 are by definition higher than >220.

There are differences that they have that I have not encountered in anyone else. Things stood out.

"But I was so impressed, don't you understand?" You'll pardon me if I ignore some rubbish anecdotes about them seeming like shining special snowflakes.

Why are you bringing up psychopathy? That's totally out of left field. Do you mean to imply that people claiming that IQ are probably psychopaths?

My argument was perfectly clear: brilliant conversation is far from a flawless indicator of intelligence. That you don't understand why I would bring up an example of how this indicator can fail catastrophically or interpret it as implying that...

More fun base-rate reasoning: psychopaths make up 1-2% of the population, and most are great manipulators; the top 1% of the population IQ-wise is sometimes taken as being the genius fragment; even if we assume the 1% IQ are all gifted conversationalists, if all we know about someone is their gifted conversation, we wind up inferring that they are equally or more likely to be a psychopath than a genius!

Comment author: shminux 15 August 2012 05:22:00PM 3 points [-]

they are equally or more likely to be a psychopath than a genius!

...And able to convince you that they have IQ > 220, regardless of whether it means anything,

Comment author: siodine 15 August 2012 05:29:12PM -1 points [-]

I wish I could do that, imagine how much "funding" I could get for my perpetual motion machine.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 August 2012 08:26:34PM 0 points [-]

More fun base-rate reasoning: psychopaths make up 1-2% of the population, and most are great manipulators; the top 1% of the population IQ-wise is sometimes taken as being the genius fragment; even if we assume the 1% IQ are all gifted conversationalists, if all we know about someone is their gifted conversation, we wind up inferring that they are equally or more likely to be a psychopath than a genius!

I'm actually somewhat curious about the degree overlap between those two groups.

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 08:44:42PM *  4 points [-]

Well, assuming complete independence would just be 1% * 1%; but there does seem to be a slight negative correlation between psychopathy & IQ. Complicating matters is Hare and Babiak's research into business psychopaths, where they estimate they are over-represented by a factor of 2-3 or so, suggesting that the negative correlation may be skewed by the 'failures' in prison samples (which are the samples for most studies, for obvious reasons); smarter psychopaths are far less likely to resort to violence**, further hindering identification (since impulsive violence is one of the major diagnostic hallmarks). To the extent that the gifted 1% avoid business, that may restore a negative correlation / underepresentation. Finally, psychopath's impulsivity and few long-range goals or efforts (another part of the diagnosis along with glibness/manipulation) suggests that to the extent genuine objective achievements cause you to be considered a gifted 1%, we can expect still more underrepresentation*.

So guesstimating further, I'd say in a population of 300m people (eg. the US), we could expect substantially fewer than 30,000 gifted psychopaths (0.01 * 0.01 * 300,000,000). Phew!

On the other hand, they would be the ones who would do the most damage and be least likely to ever be diagnosed, so we may never know for sure...

* Which makes me wonder about high IQ societies, now that I think about it. My vague impression was that they tend to collect those with poor social skills, and also with fewer objective accomplishments & success. So if you meet someone in a high IQ societies who seems very charming and empathetic but lacks objective accomplishments, just how much does this increase the psychopath possibility over the 1% base rate..?
** Covered multiple times in the Handbook; first relevant paper seems to be "Psychopathy and Aggression", Porter & Woodworth.

Comment author: army1987 15 August 2012 10:38:03PM 0 points [-]

brilliant conversation is far from a flawless indicator of intelligence

Maybe, but if someone talks to me about quantum field theory and actually makes sense, my posterior probability that their IQ is < 80 suddenly goes down to epsilon.

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 11:05:48PM 2 points [-]

But how do you know that? Plenty of nutters sound convincing on quantum matters (as judging by the sales into millions of such folk as Deepak Chopra and abominations like The Dancing Wu-li Masters), so I assume you have some expertise in the matter - and now you're just judging based on that. (And what if they sound convincing on a topic you have no expertise in...)

Comment author: army1987 16 August 2012 09:09:56AM 1 point [-]

And it's also consistent with IQs over 9000!!! <monocle shatters>

Upvoted (also) for this.

Comment author: Epiphany 06 September 2012 01:06:03AM *  0 points [-]

Looking closer, I think there are several points of confusion. Neither of us carefully distinguished between meanings like "An IQ score / estimation that really was that high but not accurate." versus "An IQ score / estimation that high that is NOT accurate." and I guess that neither of us noticed the possibility for multiple meanings. We also did not address the possibility that this person's (inaccurate) IQ could be that high while incidentally, the person does have an intelligence level to truly match an IQ of 220. That sort of person would be more likely to get an IQ of 220 on a test/estimate, no? There may be people with that (true) IQ who also have a nearby (inaccurate) IQ result to match it. After all, that is what the developmental psychologists are aiming for - that they're right sometimes but not all the time is possible.

I thought this was great, BTW:

And it's also consistent with IQs over 9000!!! <monocle shatters>

Comment author: shminux 06 September 2012 01:22:01AM 0 points [-]

Note that it is physically impossible to measure IQ > 200:

There are not enough people in the world to 'beat'.

Comment author: army1987 15 August 2012 10:31:24PM *  3 points [-]

IQ is defined to be a normal distribution with mu = 100 and sigma = 15, so “IQ 220” means ‘99.9999999999999th percentile¹’; if more than a person in 10^15 gets such a score, then the test is miscalibrated. (But most tests are, beyond a few standard deviations away from the mean.)

  1. I didn't count the nines, I just copied and pasted the output of pr norm(8) in gnuplot and moved the decimal point.
Comment author: Epiphany 15 August 2012 01:00:02AM 1 point [-]

Awesome! Tell me super-intelligent thoughts? Have you met the others? (Nope, not gullibility. Explaining below in re to gwern.)

Comment author: OrphanWilde 15 August 2012 01:03:49PM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure what a super intelligent thought would look like; there's a limit on how intelligent a thought could be, as a thought that gets too clever ceases to be clever at all. But if that's your internal reaction as well, I don't have any room to argue/criticize on this front, as you're being fully consistent.

(Strictly speaking, incidentally, any score above 180 is merely an estimate; IQ tests cease to perform reliably above that level.)

Comment author: Epiphany 06 September 2012 02:28:03AM *  0 points [-]

I loved your experiment. (: As for what a super-intelligent thought would look like, there are multiple ways of interpreting you:

You might be saying that a person with an IQ of 220 could be prone to over-thinking things. In that case, it would cease to qualify as cleverness due to a failure to maintain a good cost-benefit ratio between the amount of brainpower put in and the results coming out.

You may mean that if someone were to say something significantly more clever than what is commonly thought of as "clever" it may not be recognized as such, may not even be observable to most minds once pointed out, and therefore might never end up recognized as "clever" by anyone.

There's a much more interesting possibility - that a super-intelligent thought may transcend cleverness, take on emergent properties, or otherwise be so advanced that our current definitions of intelligence can't express it.

Comment author: army1987 15 August 2012 10:26:54PM 1 point [-]

Estimated by whom?

Comment author: OrphanWilde 16 August 2012 01:00:49AM 0 points [-]

You're taking my experiment literally.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 15 August 2012 01:51:12PM *  5 points [-]

Try going to an art forum and proclaim "Hi, I'm Joe, and I'm very, very good at art."

The key is: are you using a form of words that imply that you're better than other people?

Comment author: gwern 15 August 2012 05:23:15PM 14 points [-]

My personal reaction seems to be traceable to a potential vs achievement view of status.

Imagine a 10 year old who introduces himself and says he's been tested and found to be gifted/~150 IQ. My intuitive reaction is to be a little happy for the kid and maybe talk to him.

Imagine a 40 year old who introduces himself to the group and says he's been tested at 150; same IQ, same introduction, but my reaction is instantly negative - because why did he introduce himself based on his IQ? At age 40, shouldn't he have something to show for it, some personal identity beyond 'a smart person'? Be a doctor, a researcher somewhere, an entrepreneur, etc. His failure to mention anything more substantive seems like decent evidence that there is nothing better to mention, and he's simply failed at life - yet he still seems to think a lot of himself. An arrogant failure is not someone I wish to know or think highly of, and so I don't.

Comment author: Peterdjones 04 January 2013 11:35:44AM 2 points [-]

What's wrong with "I'm Joe and I'm doing my doctorate in string theory"? People do pick on IQ-boasters specficially, and there are reasons for that.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 04 January 2013 01:56:06PM 0 points [-]

What's wrong with "I'm Joe and I'm doing my doctorate in string theory"? People do pick on IQ-boasters specficially, and there are reasons for that.

I don't know, but there definitely IS something wrong with it. "I'm doing my doctorate in string theory" quite often gets responded to by "so you're saying you'll never do anything practical, then", or the like.

Comment author: Peterdjones 04 January 2013 02:29:48PM 0 points [-]

Does it? You could also say that to an artist Or a derivatives trader.

Comment author: Desrtopa 04 January 2013 01:46:37PM 0 points [-]

I agree that there are cases where claiming high IQ is an exception to some social rules, but I think that a lot of the differences between that and the other self-claims you use as examples here come down to a social norm against unsolicited boasting.

"The main thing I'm good at is art" isn't a boast, because it makes no claim about how good the individual is at art relative to other individuals, or about the relative value of art to other talents. You wouldn't assume this person is claiming superiority to someone else who would say that "my main talent is singing," for instance.

A more comparable statement would be introducing oneself with the claim "I'm Joe, and I can bench press 500 pounds."

Comment author: anansi133 04 January 2013 01:56:46PM 3 points [-]

How about, "I'm Joe and I make $200,000 a year"? or; "I'm Joe and I drive a 2011 Lexus"?

If someone needs to be that specific about themselves, people are right to wonder about that person's motives. There is information we have about ourselves that's not supposed to be secret, but it is considered private- no the first thing you say aloud at a party.

Context is important here too: A mensa board is unlikely to take offense with an IQ comment. If you talk about your interest in DeviantArt, people might want you to be even more specific. A geneology board is a good place to talk about one's ancestry.

In each case, it's people's interpretation of Joe's social ability that we are reacting to, not just what he's saying.

Comment author: AndyCossyleon 02 August 2013 09:23:42PM 3 points [-]

I think an obvious difference between the last one and the first two is that the last one includes a number. There is no uncertainty when comparing numbers, no wriggle room for subjectivity. A real number is either smaller, bigger, or equal to another real number. Period. This rigidity does not mesh well with the flexibility that comfortable social interaction requires. I don't think this is the only reason why the third is so inappropriate, but it definitely contributes.

Comment author: Muhd 02 August 2013 11:44:04PM *  1 point [-]

This is an interesting point, but let's try a thought experiment to see if it holds up. Consider the following statements you could make about yourself

  1. You are an X-level black belt in a martial art.
  2. Your top bowling score is X.
  3. You can benchpress X amount of weight.
  4. You have an IQ of X.

Where X is some value that is impressive and/or noteworthy. How strong of a negative reaction do you think each of these would get?

Here's what my intuition says:

  1. Probably no negative reaction.
  2. Probably no negative reaction.
  3. Possibly somewhat negative, sounds like bragging.
  4. Strong negative reaction.

Looking for a pattern in the results, I have a theory: it seems like what is most unacceptable is making it sound that you are superior to the other people in the room in an objective sense. The reason martial arts and bowling are acceptable is that skill in those pursuits is not relevant to the other people in the room who do not engage in them. On the other hand, bragging about your weightlifting is somewhat more annoying since it seems like you are saying you are more healthy/fit/muscular than other people in the room--traits which are more broadly valuable.

Claiming high intelligence gets the worst response of all because it is the most absolute and broad claim of superiority one can make, since being intelligent generally makes you better at a broad range of tasks in the modern world, all else being equal. Also, IQ is associated with controversy and suffers from addtional negativity from that -- just like if you say you are for/against abortion. I think Andy may be right that the objective number makes it worse in some way. If you said "I am really smart" that wouldn't be quite as offensive, since it is less objective.

If someone can think of counterexamples to my theory, replies are welcome.

Comment author: Epiphany 03 August 2013 04:51:02AM *  -1 points [-]

I don't think it's superiority. A counterpoint in thought experiment form:

  1. "Hi, I'm the president of the United States"
  2. "Hi, I run my own business."
  3. "Hi, I'm a model."
  4. "Hi, I'm Albert, the guy who came up with E equals MC squared."
  5. "Hi, I'm a genius."

I think the numbers do make statements sound bad (I couldn't figure out a way to word the above using a number without making it sound like bragging) but that's irrelevant to the question I'm trying to answer, so it's essentially one of those factors that should be removed from an experiment. I added an additional statement in the same format (an introduction using an identity of some type) about intelligence which does not include a number so that we've got a comparable intelligence-related option.

Here's what my intuition says:

  1. No negative reaction (more likely a positive reaction like excitement).
  2. No negative reaction (admiration seems as likely as jealousy).
  3. Potentially some amount of negative feelings from jealous females, and some amount of excitement from males or lesbians.
  4. No negative reaction (more likely a positive reaction like excitement).
  5. Strong negative reaction.

What's interesting here is that 1 and 4 are not only some of the biggest claims of superiority that you can make, but have also referred to something verifiable, which should theoretically intensify the reaction. If making a claim of superiority was the problem, those should trigger much worse reactions.

I think the difference between the genius claim and the others in my thought experiment is that all the others are claiming to be doing something constructive. This makes the superiority less threatening. Another possibility is that the claims to genius and high IQ are not verifiable with LinkedIn or other research, so they're not as believable.

Here's a thought experiment on with some non-verifiable claims, where there are varying levels of superiority and threat:

  1. Hi, I'm a secret government agent.
  2. Hi, I'm very powerful.
  3. Hi, I'm an elite computer hacker.
  4. Hi, I'm highly gifted.

I think the reaction to 1-3 would be curiosity while the reaction to the fourth would be extreme dislike. I'm interested in other people's reactions because I think my own are too influenced by having thought about this previously. Interestingly:

  1. Secret agents are probably far less common than gifted people. If I remember right, the entire government is 3% of the population whereas gifted people are 2% and I doubt that 2/3 of the government consists of secret agents.

  2. Not all gifted people are powerful, as giftedness does not automatically lead to any type of success. Claiming to be gifted is not claiming as much power as "powerful" is.

My current idea is that if a person with a high IQ makes any type of claim to this, they are more likely to be accused of lying or regarded as a threat than is sensible, and that the negative reactions provoked are disproportionate when compared with reactions to other claims that are comparable but don't involve IQ / giftedness / genius.

I found your comment refreshing and thoughtful. +1 karma.

If you can think of any good counterpoints, I'd like to read them. (:

Comment author: Jiro 03 August 2013 05:36:13PM *  2 points [-]

I'd suggest something that is related to what you're saying: the problem isn't that "I'm a genius" is an objective statement. The problem is that a statement made with more objectivity than is warranted.

The person saying this thinks it makes him objectively better. It doens't just apply to intelligence; consider "I'm a model" versus "I'm beautiful". The latter would get negative reactions. Stating that you're a secret agent is actually an objective statement; you either are or you're not. Stating that you're a genius is likely to be interpreted as a general claim of mental superiority that is somewhat based on objective characteristics, but not by as much as you're claiming it to be.

Even if the person claiming to be a genius says "I have high IQ" instead, I've observed that people on Less Wrong give much higher credence to IQ than people outside Less Wrong. Telling an average person that you have a high IQ is telling him "I believe I am objectively superior, but I'm basing my belief on this number that is very narrowly applicable, doesn't capture all of what we mean by intelligence, and many of whose past uses have been discredited."

Comment author: Epiphany 03 August 2013 03:51:34AM 2 points [-]

An unexpected point. Thank you.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 03 August 2013 04:11:42AM 0 points [-]

There's plenty of uncertainty when comparing numbers when there's uncertainty in how the numbers were generated. IQ tests aren't completely uniform across space and time. Worst case, 170 IQ Joe might have taken some random online test.

I think the simplest explanation is the Bayesian one: most people who introduce themselves using their IQ are socially inept, so introducing yourself using your IQ is Bayesian evidence of social ineptitude and other unpleasant things.

Comment author: army1987 13 August 2012 10:35:14AM 6 points [-]

I'm pretty sure individual IQ differences aren't OK (in that sense) in certain contexts. There's a stereotype that (except in clinically pathological cases) if your son doesn't perform well at school, his teacher is expected to tell you that he doesn't put enough effort in it, not that he's stupid.

Comment author: kilobug 14 August 2012 02:41:41PM 2 points [-]

The uproar associated with racial differences in IQ has two main reasons to me.

The first one is historical : black slavery and all its consequences still running in the modern world, the nazis and their racial theories, ... those horrors of history justify, from a political point of view, an uproar against attempts to classify people in races and "rank" the races. We know where that path leaded often enough in history, and we don't want to ever walk it again. Since most people don't really understand statistics or bayesian reasoning, spreading that "black are less intelligent than white", even if it were true (which I honestly don't know, cf my other comment), can do a lot of harm.

The second one is not so much about skin color itself, but about being able to spot easily, from birth, that someone is supposed to be less intelligent. Individual intelligence difference do exist, but except in rare cases (Down syndrom and the like) it's hard to detect. In day-to-day social interaction, you don't know that the one in front of you is supposed to be more or less intelligent. When the first grade teacher sees the kids fo the first time when they enter school, he doesn't know which kid is smart and which one isn't. If you could detect that easily, if everyone, just looking at you, could say "oh he's probably dumb" or "oh he's probably smart", it would greatly amplify the base unfairness of being slightly more or less intelligent. If skin color really has a strong correlation with intelligence, it would be somehow like tatooing people their IQ score on their forefront.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 04 January 2013 01:54:06PM 1 point [-]

If you could detect that easily, if everyone, just looking at you, could say "oh he's probably dumb" or "oh he's probably smart", it would greatly amplify the base unfairness of being slightly more or less intelligent. If skin color really has a strong correlation with intelligence, it would be somehow like tatooing people their IQ score on their forefront.

You seem to have the unstated assumption that fairness is desirable. What if the people who control policy WANT to perpetuate unfairness which happens to benefit them? What if perpetuating that unfairness would happen to benefit you? Why would you want to give up an advantage?

Comment author: kilobug 04 January 2013 02:09:22PM 1 point [-]

I consider fairness to be a terminal value, and it's not something uncommon in primates, as shown by the studies of ultimatum games. Fairness isn't the only terminal value, and when choosing between terminal values people will weight fairness differently, but fairness is a terminal values for humans, and I suspect it to be part of our CEV as well.

Comment author: Desrtopa 04 January 2013 02:15:35PM -1 points [-]

Then they'd have an incentive to perpetuate a belief that their race is smarter on average.

But people tend to look negatively on open attempts to create an uneven playing field. "If this person will try to change the playing field so that they personally come out ahead at others' expense, would they do the same at my expense?" Unless you know that you and this other person mutually see each other as ingroup members, and the groups they're disadvantaging as outgroup members, you'd have reason to suspect that they'd act against your social interests.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 04 January 2013 02:18:49PM 1 point [-]

Which is why part of the strategy always involves insuring that your in-group is the one holding all the normative power.

Comment author: Zaq 28 July 2013 05:05:26PM 0 points [-]

With individual differences, people are being judged as individuals, and on the basis of their individual capabilities.

With racial differences, people are being judged as members of a race, and not on the basis of their individual capabilities.

At least, that's the fear.