September 14, 2009

Intelligence and Conscientiousness

Over recent decades, psychologists have converged on a model of personality sometimes called the Big Five Factors Plus IQ. As Geoffrey Miller points out in Spent, this is not some revelation that a charismatic genius like Freud has brought down from the mountaintop. Instead, it's an emergent consensus of a whole bunch of researchers.

Conscientiousness is becoming popular as the Big Five factor that's most like IQ in that it's broadly applicable. Just as all else being equal, in hiring for almost any job you'd rather have somebody with more rather than less IQ, you'd like to have somebody with more rather than less conscientiousness.

Bruce G. Charlton has an interesting essay on IQ and Conscientiousness that begins:
The psychological attributes of intelligence and personality are usually seen as being quite distinct in nature: higher intelligence being regarded a ‘gift’ (bestowed mostly by heredity); while personality or ‘character’ is morally evaluated by others, on the assumption that it is mostly a consequence of choice? So a teacher is more likely to praise a child for their highly Conscientious personality (high ‘C’) – an ability to take the long view, work hard with self-discipline and persevere in the face of difficulty – than for possessing high IQ. Even in science, where high intelligence is greatly valued, it is seen as being more virtuous to be a reliable and steady worker. Yet it is probable that both IQ and personality traits (such as high-C) are about-equally inherited ‘gifts’ (heritability of both likely to be in excess of 0.5). Rankings of both IQ and C are generally stable throughout life (although absolute levels of both will typically increase throughout the lifespan, with IQ peaking in late-teens and C probably peaking in middle age). Furthermore, high IQ is not just an ability to be used only as required; higher IQ also carries various behavioural predispositions – as reflected in the positive correlation with the personality trait of Openness to Experience; and characteristically ‘left-wing’ or ‘enlightened’ socio-political values among high IQ individuals. However, IQ is ‘effortless’ while high-C emerges mainly in tough situations where exceptional effort is required. So we probably tend to regard personality in moral terms because this fits with a social system that provides incentives for virtuous behaviour (including Conscientiousness).

Yet, it would seem like Conscientiousness is historically alterable -- e.g., the Victorian English seem a lot more conscientiousness than their Regency grandparents, while today's English seem like bigger screw-offs than their grandparents.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

73 comments:

rainy said...

this is not some revelation that a charismatic genius like Freud has brought down from the mountaintop

kmac reference?

headache said...

Steve I'm glad you're bringing in other factors of success and not just harping on IQ. IQ per se is too narrow and destructive a concept. The traditional Christian view was that character supersedes skill, which is a broad concept encompassing anything from intellectual ability to artisanship. Many modern Hollywood actors, professional sport stars and politician, in spite of ample raw talent, suffer from the lack of character. I'd say the breakdown of western society underscores this concept. In most western countries you can still find many intelligent people, who are unfortunately living useless and destructive lives. The reason for this is that the moral compass which traditional Christianity, with its emphasis on discipleship used to induce, is missing. The biblical analogy is that a beautiful woman without virtue is like a pig with a nose-ring.
Ultimately a less intelligent nation with sufficient virtue can outperform a high IQ nation without character, because IQ alone will not determine a successful outcome.

Edward said...

For someone who gets his knowledge of the English from Fawlty Towers, Steve Sailer has pretty well developed opinions on the English.

Yet, it would seem like Conscientiousness is historically alterable -- e.g., the Victorian English seem a lot more conscientiousness than their Regency grandparents, while today's English seem like bigger screw-offs than their grandparents.

Tut tut. Criticising the English today for their lower classes while praising them yesterday for their upper classes is both a cheap shot and intellectual laziness.

You're just like this American guy I know who says all English girls are ugly. The girls he cites are certainly no English Roses, such as Alison Balsom who was on the Proms the other night, they're tabloid trash known as "WAGs" from the lower classes.

Come over here, you'll find in the upper-middle English classes as conscientious as ever - but this time it has morphed into respect for Mother Earth.

Limey Oik said...

Yet, it would seem like Conscientiousness is historically alterable -- e.g., the Victorian English seem a lot more conscientiousness than their Regency grandparents, while today's English seem like bigger screw-offs than their grandparents.

I am not sure exactly what 'screw-offs' means, although I can guess.

Nevertheless, the decline of standards, of honour, uncorruptibility, public service etc, was the big theme in Peter Oborne's book, The Triumph Of The Political Class.

We see it over and over again in scandal after scandal.

Sadly, I have to admit your observation is probably correct.

Caligula said...

To borrow terminology from Biology, there is the Norm of Reaction. For example, supposed you add some nutrient to some plants you are growing. All of the plants would grow in size but the heritability from generation to generation stays the same so the height of the plants follows a bell curve.

Personality factors may be similar in the sense that culture may shift the mean level of conscientuousness. Children may have similar levels compared to their parents but the environmental input may be different from generation to generation.

Anonymous said...

I must be missing something here.

Surely Conscienceness (sic) is environmentally shaped.

A strict teacher who insists on close attention to detail will have an effect.

So will growing up in an underclass family which treats the future as something which just happens.

l said...

Here's an interesting peek inside the machinery of psychology. At first blush this web site:

http://www.understandingprejudice.org

appears to be that of a fringe leftist group. The rainbow flag is flown in first position on the masthead and we're told that animals are a discriminated-against "outgroup." Going to the "About Us" page, we find out that this group exists at all thanks to grant money from the National Science Foundation and the largess of McGraw-Hill Higher Education -- the college textbook folks, and the site has the blessing of the American Psychological Association.

Peter A said...

IQ is historically alterable as well. So what's your point? It's also not clear to me that English conscientiousness has changed as much as you think. Factor in that a) many conscientious lower and working class Victorian English families moved into the middle class during the last 80 years, and b) the effect of immigration, then it becomes unclear that you're really comparing apples to apples.

Graham Asher said...

Steve, the conscientiousness of the English is skewed on way or another by incentives controlled by the state. Over the last generation or two the welfare state has removed incentives from lower earners. The middle classes continue to be hard-working and creative and the country is, despite Gordon Brown's high taxes and micro management, remarkably prosperous. (Do you ever come to the UK?)

The stories you hear, especially from Theodore Dalrymple, who paints a rather lurid picture, are not all there is, and some quantitative evidence would be illuminating.

By the way, the term screw-off, as a blanket description of a nation, could be taken as offensive. I hope you didn't mean it that way.

RWF said...

Of the 'Big 5' concientiousness is probably the easiest to measure.

If you look at the tests for openness for example, they are largely measures of indecisiveness as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

Well, you know, Renaissance Europeans seemed to be smarter than their medieval ancestors. Aristotle's Greeks seemed to be smarter (certainly more complicated) than their Homeric ancestors.

Richard T said...

I read your gratuitous side swipe at the English and wondered how you might justify the statement you have made. As a start, do you mean the English as those who actually live in England or is it a lazy way of saying the British? Then perhaps you might expand a little more to avoid the risk of generalising from a particular with even some evidence to back your statement up.

I am genuinely interested in your perception and indeed how you differentiate between the Regency, the Victorian period and today. This is relevant to the question I initially posed since there are clear cultural and class differences within English society scpeifically as well as across the United Kingdom.

Jim Bowery said...

Of course what if your dictates of conscience are more programmable and they are being programmed to being a screw-off? What I mean is the moral indignation at the thought of purity that seems embedded in the mal-definition of "diversity" -- to the point that we have op ed pieces in the NYTimes praising "contaminationism".

What's a good boy or girl to do?

David said...

How does one measure conscientiousness? Things get slippery any time moral evaluations come into play.

And what is this? "'[H]igher IQ also carries various behavioural predispositions – as reflected in [...] characteristically "left-wing" or "enlightened" socio-political values'"

Incidentally, Steve, you misspelled "conscientiousness" in your post title.

Yorick said...

My guess: genes give a baseline potential - how conscientious a person can possibly be - while upbringing determines how conscientious a person actually acts. Someone who finds that conscientiousness comes easily to them will naturally behave more conscientiously than someone who doesn't.

Would you say that there's a sinusoidal tendency to cultural influences on conscientiousness? Maybe with a period of four generations or so?

dearieme said...

"Conscientuousness": some sort of clever self-referencing joke, or elementary blunder?

Recovering Leftist said...

There's a vital - yet wholly neglected by HBD - psychological variable that also seems to align with the Big 5's 'Open to Experience' factor - it's the ego levels (or stages) that were initially researched by Jane Loevinger.

These stages of ego maturity are also known as 'Action Logics' (see Bill Torbert's work), and also ally closely with Robert Kegan's levels of consciousness (aka cognitive complexity) findings. They are also known as stages of 'meaning making' or self-identity.

Each of these stages is “an overall strategy that so thoroughly informs our experience that we cannot see it”.

Research seems to suggest that only those leaders with fairly late stage, mature, 'action logics' are able to successfully transform their organisations.

Stages of increasing complexity and capacity in adult maturation were also researched by the late Elliot Jaques (the guy who coined the term 'mid-life crisis') over 5 decades or so.

Jaquesian researchers claim even to be able assess the spontaneous dialogue (rather than prepared speeches) of US Presidential candidates and predict the winner: it's always (I think?) the one with the highest complexity level (which is a relief, as you want someone with a long 'time horizon' taking the important decisions).

You might enjoy the graphic of the talent pool maturation curves of the 2008 Presidential primary contenders!

See:
http://www.requisite.org/2008%20Republican%20Primary%20.pdf

The general comparative Presidential 'modes' page is here:
http://www.requisite.org/main.html

Art Kleiner once wrote in 'strategy + business' of a European investment firm that even predicts share values by evaluating the leadership complexity maturity stage of CEOs!

Though, like other business groups that are aware of these developmental complexity levels, it doesn’t advertise its method...

I can't yet get my head round exactly where IQ and these adult cognitive complexity stages converge and diverge.

Are they different ways of looking at the same thing?

Sadly, you HBD folks don't seem to talk about all this adult development stuff, and the adult development folks seem to stay fairly clear of IQ.

PS In case you didn't know Earl Hunt has an IQ book out early next year called 'On Human Intelligence'.

Hunt was the guy who reviewed Nisbett's book in the journal Intelligence in May. It's a somewhat critical review in places.
Anyone seen any responses to his review?

Kijkfaas McGee said...

This article would seem to suggest the extent to which scientists can get carried away with their own methodology and presumptions. Of course, as SS notes, conscientiousness has changed amongst populations over times and can, moreover, change within individuals over time (although this is perhaps rare). I have also never been convinced of the glib view, taken willy-nilly as far as I can tell from Murray's famous work, that 'in hiring for almost any job you'd rather have somebody with more rather than less IQ', because, outside of a set arrangement for short-term observation or experimentation, it would seem likely that a highly intelligent person would get terribly bored with a great many jobs and would so perform badly in them.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but a favorite iSteve theme:

Jack Kramer dies at 88; champion ushered in era of pro tennis
By Bill Dwyre
September 14, 2009
latimes.com

...Kramer eventually realized that tennis clubs were not as lucrative as golf courses. So he bought Los Serranos Country Club in the late 1950s and added an additional 18 holes to the Chino Hills public layout in 1962...

albertosaurus said...

Conscientuousness and intelligence correlate if only because conscientuousness can be faked if you're smart enough to recogize when the test is trying to measure conscientuousness. You can pretend to be smart in social situations by lying about your credentials but on a good standardized test IQ can't be faked.

I remember when I was young and unemployed and appying to be a Management Consultant with a company on Union Square in San Francisco. There were maybe a dozen young men who showed up to take their special "management" test.

In fact the entire test was just long division of large numbers. I recognized that they weren't interested in specific knowledge or even in IQ, they were just measuring persistence. So I sat there and worked all those long divisions. One by one the other candidates left when they finished or just gave up. Many muttered about how stupid the test was. Of course it wasn't the test that was stupid, it was they themselves who failed to recognize what kind of test it was.

Finally after checking and rechecking my divisions for hours, I was the last one left. The company personnel was enthusiastic about my candidacy. They pushed hard to get me to take one of their jobs.

I didn't take the job - a really miserable 100% travel sales job. I had been faking conscientuousness.

bgc said...

Bruce G Charlton (author of the paper) speaking - Thanks for covering this.

@Steve Sailer said: “Yet, it would seem like Conscientiousness is historically alterable -- e.g., the Victorian English seem a lot more conscientiousness than their Regency grandparents, while today's English seem like bigger screw-offs than their grandparents.”

This is not a contradiction.

Personality rankings (like IQ rankings) are not much changed by interventions which are applied to a whole group - the most and least conscientious people in a group are still the same after the group intervention.

But the group may (as a whole) become more (or less) conscientious as a result of the environmental incentives and training.

And groups who start-out with the same level of C but experience different incentives and training may end up different in C.

So it is plausible that Victorian Brits had a higher C than modern Brits; but that the most- and least- conscientious people within these whole groups would have been the same in each era (if they could be transplanted from one time to another).

There - clear as mud...

zanon said...

The high IQ Victorians would also not be "left wing" or "enlightened" in any way; not by today's standards and not by the standards of their own time.

Tino said...

It makes complete sense to praise hard work, but not high IQ. Hard work is a function of BOTH innate Conscientiousness and chosen effort, whereas people have virtually no control over how smart they are.

It’s like voting on politicians due to past economic behavior, even though politicians only partially control the economy you want to get at that portion of the variation.

Anonymous said...

sorry doesn't really fit with the post but i thought you might enjoy

http://failblog.org/2009/08/12/racism-fail/

aso

WLindsayWheeler said...

That is because "conscientuousness" is a Virtue. Virtue is trained, ingrained, habitualized. That is what Victorian England had. This is what we lost.

It is the Classical training in the Greeks and the Romans that brings that out. Victorian England was heavily Classical.

Conscientuousness is a very big factor in any work situation. Doctors need it. Engineers need it. "Attention to Detail", or as Plato has it "Accuracy". Asians have it to a great degree. Africans don't have much of it.

Sockstand said...

Many employers DO use IQ tests, or as close a simulacrum as they dare to avoid "business necessity" requirements, specifically to weed out very smart as well as very dumb people. They know that smart people will not stay in truck driving, CSR or food service jobs very long, as a rule.

Other businesses hire morons on purpose because they don't want to train future competition or because they feel smarter people would be more able to get away with scamming or skimming from them. I eat at a local pizza parlor occasionally which is not particularly good, but is convenient, The owners are three South Italian immigrant brothers. Most of the non-family employees are stupid, as in obviously lacking in basic smarts or even borderline retarded. One of the brothers offhandedly admitted to me that they only hired dummies because they didn't steal or if they did were easily caught and they stayed working there forever.

Steve Sailer said...

RWF said:

"If you look at the tests for openness for example, they are largely measures of indecisiveness as far as I can tell."

Interesting. Could be. Then, again, maybe not. I'll have to look into that. Or do I have better things to do? I'll have to think about whether I want to think about it.

Anonymous said...

People; Steve's swipe at the English exists solely to provide cover for his more persistent bigotry against the Irish. It's a carefully crafted plan, part of an ethnic survival strategy well known to all HBDers. But thanks anyway Steve, now no one can say the English are hyper sensitive too.

Marc B said...

"Yet, it would seem like Conscientiousness is historically alterable -- e.g., the Victorian English seem a lot more conscientiousness than their Regency grandparents, while today's English seem like bigger screw-offs than their grandparents."

There is also the down breeding that has gone on in the interim via social engineering and the welfare state, the thinning of the herd of the "best and brightest" with WWI to the Iraq War, and the dumbing down of students via an education system no longer steeped in a strict classical model to the current LCD version. I know there are cultural factors at play stemming from the excessive permissiveness unleashed by the boomer generation that is now the norm, but there are also even more opportunities for dysgenics to play a major role. I'd hire a high C of average intelligence over a low C genius 90% of the time. It's Beethoven vs. Mozart.

Steve Sailer said...

"Steve's swipe at the English exists solely to provide cover for his more persistent bigotry against the Irish. It's a carefully crafted plan, part of an ethnic survival strategy well known to all HBDers."

Actually, my reference to the rise and fall of English manners was part of my carefully crafted plan to subliminally advance my campaign of ethnic bigotry against the Okinawans.

But, thanks for playing.

Edward said...

What about the man who tried to kayak to the North Pole this year?

The absurd Caitlin Expedition?

Both English.

Grade-A conscientious. A big fat 'F' for smart.

Anonymous said...

I GOT A DIRECT RESPONSE FROM THE BIG FELLOW HIMSELF!!! Right, off to the pub to celebrate...

David said...

> "Conscientuousness": some sort of clever self-referencing joke, or elementary blunder? <

Whatever it is, it continues. Currently he spells it "conscientousness." I am sure he will demonstrate both conscientiousness and consentaneousness regarding my conscionable correction.

But to speak to the topic:

Is there really such a thing as an immorally slacking genius - or are there only bored or discouraged geniuses? As someone here implied, Aristotle wouldn't succeed as a pizza deliverer, at least not long-term. Does this mean he has a bad character?

The peculiarly American notion that anyone can be anything he wants to be, so long as either a. he applies enough elbow grease or b. he is subjected to the right upbringing or educational method, is the basis of the fanciful and failed doctrines of egalitarianism and democracy. I dispute the notion. It seems to me that both free will and enviromental determinism tend to be overemphasized in the general flight from hereditary determinism.

Effort has its place: one can't drive a Mercedes if one doesn't turn the key and apply oneself to the accelerator and steering wheel. But effort's role is really very small. A Mercedes is no good when used for a horsecart; nor is a horsecart any good when used for a Mercedes.

Edward said...

rise and fall of English manners

An American lecturing the English on manners... De Tocqueville is spinning.

Dutch Boy said...

If today's English are really worse "screw offs" than their grandparents, then they have plenty of company here in the colonies. I regularly twitted my teenage son by describing his high school classmates as "trolls" (and he went to a relatively good school - the worst ones need round-the-clock police protection to operate!).

Anonymous said...

Effort has its place: one can't drive a Mercedes if one doesn't turn the key and apply oneself to the accelerator and steering wheel. But effort's role is really very small.




Effort is what gets you the Mercedes in the first place, not "IQ".

Whiskey said...

Edward -- Steve is talking about the English Middle and LOWER classes.

During late Victorian times through the 1950's, it was common for people in working class neighborhoods to leave doors unlocked in East London and have kids play out in the Streets. Theodore Dalrymple, in "Life at the Bottom" describes this straight out of the words of the Black inhabitants of the housing project Obama was involved with in "Dreams from My Father: A Story of RACE and Inheritance" where older residents who grew up in Segregation were openly nostalgiac for the time when kids could play in the streets without fear.

There were reasons for this: social controls mandated most people marry and stay married, limit their drinking, go to jail (and stay there some time) if they break the law in large ways, and experiences significant social shame and loss of status if persons flagrantly violate social norms.

All part of deliberate social reforming, for example Hogarth and other social reformers banning Georgian gin drinking in favor of far less alcoholic beer.

My blog has many links to metrics showing Britain's total collapse socially, including being the WORST in OECD for drunken 13 year old girls, you can see one article here. Note it's not just one provincial town that is the Dalrymple special: drunken-ness abounds, trash everywhere, obesity, fast-food all around, general misery/unhappiness. Various studies show despite all the money spent (Britain leads in social spending) the results are at the bottom for the OECD nations.

Among both Blacks in America and Britons there was prior poor social behavior communally, a brief flowering of social reformers (particularly with private, benevolent societies concerned with moral and educational development -- working man's libraries and clubs, the Tuskegee Institute and Grambling, other Black Colleges), and then social collapse once constant effort to maintain social reform by overtly controlling group behavior collapsed.

You can also trace the collapse of culture to the collapse of social controls. The Harlem Renaissance, Black musical innovation, along with the working-class White British poets, musicians, writers, etc. all basically exited the scene from 1965-1985, as social controls that created enough wealth and stability among these groups collapsed.

Anonymous said...

Sockstand: Many employers DO use IQ tests, or as close a simulacrum as they dare to avoid "business necessity" requirements, specifically to weed out very smart as well as very dumb people. They know that smart people will not stay in truck driving, CSR or food service jobs very long, as a rule.

This is actually a pretty important point that iSteve-ers ought to remember if they find themselves in dire economic circumstances and they have to take a $10/hr job for a few months just to make ends meet: Intentionally miss a few questions on the test, dumb-down your résumé to nothing much more than a high school diploma [and for God's sake, don't mention graduate school], wear some slightly wrinkled clothes which don't look like they came right off the rack at Brooks Brothers, lop a good ten years off your true age, throw in a few obvious grammatical errors during the interview [although, chances are, the interviewer won't even notice]...

Stopped Clock said...

Still misspelled.

Svigor said...

Furthermore, high IQ is not just an ability to be used only as required; higher IQ also carries various behavioural predispositions – as reflected in the positive correlation with the personality trait of Openness to Experience; and characteristically ‘left-wing’ or ‘enlightened’ socio-political values among high IQ individuals.

Openness to Experience is essential to dropping left-wing "enlightened" values, too. It was essential to my move to ethnic nationalism.

The traditional Christian view was that character supersedes skill

This is sensible, because effort is more important than intelligence in the abstract sense; a man of average intellect and supreme drive will go further than a man of supreme intellect and average drive. But effort is less important in a practical sense because drive doesn't have the hard limits intelligence does; a man can decide to give life his all, he cannot decide to have more to give.

This isn't to say I think drive isn't heritable, or influenced by genes.

josh said...

Re Edward:"...you'll find the upper-middle English classess as conscientious as ever..." I thought most of them were busy trying to get the hell out!

Svigor said...

Blogger Stopped Clock said...

Okay, that's twice you've been right today...

kudzu bob said...

>Still misspelled.<

Also true of Hemingway's "Moveable Feast." Don't sweat the small stuff.

Anonymous said...

Peter A - IQ is historically alterable as well.

Come on Pete, tell us more. You are not going to get away with that on this site.

Anonymous said...

Dalrymple is a bit of a screw-off himself on this front. To him its all down to culture, no place for hbd in his analysis as far as I can tell.

And you'll never guess his ethnic/religious origins.

Anonymous said...

I was talking to a friend (she is a music teacher herself) the other day about small children learning the violin. Our children go to a school where all the 8 year olds are given superficial violin lessons, she is very dismissive of their value.

I had assumed the purpose of the lessons was to try and pick out some of the better ones and perhaps put them forward for proper lessons. I thought that sounded reasonable.

Anyhow she, more cynical than I, says no, its so the school can boast about its violin lessons for all, they are of no practical use.

The point of this comment is; without hesitation she said that, as a teacher, she would select the children who would work hard, not the apparently gifted ones.

Edward said...

During late Victorian times through the 1950's, it was common for people in working class neighborhoods to leave doors unlocked in East London and have kids play out in the Streets.

The idea that the lower classes are the well-spring of a nation's morality is a romantic one. Not sure if I believe it.


Anyway, immigration pushed much of this working class out of the cities (particularly the Northern ones) and up into the lower middle classes (partly because they had higher IQs than immigrants who came in). Among these white populations crime is still relatively low.

There's a problem with immigrants (five were shot in a mass brawl in London the other night) and with the white inner city underclass, high concentrations of extremely low IQ individuals who have been breeding rapidly courtesy of the state.

That is a new feature of Britain that wasn't here half a century ago.

There's too much voyeuristic fascination about this group as though as if it reflected significantly the character of the whole nation, rather than something new about just that isolated group.

Anonymous said...

misposted an HBD-Darwinist comment on this thread by accident

Peter A said...

IQ is historically alterable as well.

Come on Pete, tell us more. You are not going to get away with that on this site.


Anonymous, clearly you haven't heard of Charles Darwin. Like any inheritable characteristic IQ within a group will change in response to the environment. I don't think Steve disagrees with that. Askhenazi Jews demonstrate that IQ can change over the span of a pretty short time - say 5-6 centuries. We can probably breed stupidity into white people pretty quickly and England is also a good example of that.

Anonymous said...

The point of this comment is; without hesitation she said that, as a teacher, she would select the children who would work hard, not the apparently gifted ones.

A) There's got to be a huge overlap between the gifted and the hard-working [at least there was when I was in band & youth orchestra], but also

B) The role of Theodore Dalrymple's notion of culture is precisely to beat a little discipline into the gifted but lazy.

PS: Do not kid yourself for a moment about the baleful influence of beer/marijuana/cocaine/meth/etc* when it comes to the subject of young people who fail to live up to their potential.


*PPS: And I'd add WoW to that list.

Robert said...

If high IQ indicates the ability to correctly calculate the consequences of one's actions, shouldn't high IQ and conscientiousness be correlated? Isn't it always better to be appropriately conscientious than to miscalculate how much effort and what kind are needed for a particular goal? So high-IQ individuals should know when to at least appear conscientious and in what way.

Chief Seattle said...

Regarding the Victorian period and Conscientiousness being alterable: most likely the innate ability to live up to one's responsibilities and the ability to defer pleasure are not changeable. But society can change the incentives for people to reward that behavior - so that even the shortest of short-term thinkers will fear an immediate social penalty for a transgression whose real effects might not be felt for a long time. Also, people are creatures of habit, so once a man becomes used to getting up early, saving, and remaining faithful he will probably continue in that direction with far less effort.

Interesting stuff. I will have to read more on how conscientiousness can be numerically tested.

Truth said...

And what part does quantum physics play in all of this? It has been proven that a scientific experiment gets different results if people watch.

David Davenport said...

By the way, the term screw-off, as a blanket description of a nation, could be taken as offensive. I hope you didn't mean it that way.

Gosh, we wouldn't dare insult the EU provinces formerly known as UK. Please don't hurt us.

Hard work is a function of BOTH innate Conscientiousness and chosen effort, whereas people have virtually no control over how smart they are.

Predestination, in other words.

That is because "conscientuousness" is a Virtue. Virtue is trained, ingrained, habitualized.

No, salvation only possible by Divine grace, not through good works.


...without hesitation she said that, as a teacher, she would select the children who would work hard, not the apparently gifted ones.

Mao-ism.

Anonymous said...

"...as reflected in the positive correlation with the personality trait of Openness to Experience; and characteristically ‘left-wing’ or ‘enlightened’ socio-political values among high IQ individuals."

This observation, while true (correlation .20), is because some odd questions in the openness part of a test. E.g., "I have a rich vocabulary" and "I enjoy complexity" and the like. Other researchers have pointed out that these questions are basically questions about IQ, not openness per se. So the openness part gets infected with questions that are better suited for indirectly asking about one's IQ.

To me this is a deliberate and rather obvious attempt to actually CREATE the correlation out of thin air -- "See, liberals ARE more intelligent than those conservatives!"

Anonymous said...

"Regarding the Victorian period and Conscientiousness being alterable: most likely the innate ability to live up to one's responsibilities and the ability to defer pleasure are not changeable."

It is called incentive.

It is why we go to work.

If it weren't for the paycheck, I would just sleep in.

Anonymous said...

The Big5 system, like most things promoted by academic psychologists, is a joke. Myers-Briggs is a much better system.

Graham Asher said...

@David Davenport:

"By the way, the term screw-off, as a blanket description of a nation, could be taken as offensive. I hope you didn't mean it that way.

Gosh, we wouldn't dare insult the EU provinces formerly known as UK. Please don't hurt us."

It's not you we care about, David. We respect Steve's opinions, though. He has earnt that respect by (generally) being scrupulously polite to all groups, and backing up his statements with evidence.

David said...

Anon said

> It is called incentive. It is why we go to work. If it weren't for the paycheck, I would just sleep in <

Good point.

Remember the Animal Farm horse who kept working and working, snout to grindstone, for the benefit of evil commie pigs? When used up, he found himself on the way to the glue factory. He wasn't smart, but was he virtuous?

"Slack-off" is sometimes in the beholder's eye. That someone (child or adult) doesn't excel in what you prescribe does not necessarily reflect poorly on his or her moral character. Maybe the person finds no real incentive in what you like.

> Mao-ist <

Yes. A teacher contemptuous of talent wants obedience above all.

Morals are a sticky subject: they are normative, therefore prescriptive. X wants Z to do something positive and if Z doesn't obey, Z is a worthless character.

An Animal Farm horse who bucked instead of worked would be a bad horse. Sure, he might be smart, he might be right - but it's more important to be a hard worker and obey one's masters. There is surely a Mercedes just around the corner, whether you like Mercedes or not.

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the paycheck, I would just sleep in.

Dude - have you considered looking for a new line of work?

Like maybe something involving a little entrepreneurialism?

Truth said...

"If high IQ indicates the ability to correctly calculate the consequences of one's actions, shouldn't high IQ and conscientiousness be correlated?"

Of course, after all, we all know how conscientious Wall Street bankers, politicians and Lawyers are.

Felix said...

1. Sockstand commented that “Other businesses hire morons on purpose because they don't want to train future competition or because they feel smarter people would be more able to get away with scamming or skimming from them”.

Reminds me of applying for a job with a firm of accountants after college. I asked why I wasn’t successful and suggested their reasons didn’t hold up.

Then the guy tells me that my supervisor hasn’t finished his degree and would have felt a bit uncomfortable if they had appointed me.

2. On conscientiousness in 19th century England, just read literature from the time, look at the photos and listen to the songs.

The lower middle classes went to church on Sunday (often twice or thrice). They read best sellers by Samuel Smiles “extolling virtues of self help” (Wikipedia). Men wore hats.

In short, they took themselves and their responsibilities seriously. They lived in a different mental universe to people wearing jeans and t shirts.

Reg Cæsar said...

I know there are cultural factors at play stemming from the excessive permissiveness unleashed by the boomer generation... --Marc B

[Yawn.] Another lazy swipe at the wrong target. The oldest "boomers" were all of seven when Hugh pimped Marilyn to their fathers. Or is Marc referring to the teenage rioters at the Stonewall?

Give credit where credit is due. For freerange pornography, legal abortion, floodgate immigration, no-fault insurance and divorce, and New Math, thank the "greatest generation".

Abbie Hoffman was born the same year as John McCain!

Janella said...

Among the Big Five personality traits Conscientiousness is most strongly related to real-life outcomes such as academic success, job performance, and life expectancy. There are two unresolved puzzles related to conscientiousness. Unexpectedly, several studies have shown that those individuals who rate themselves as more self-disciplined, responsible, reliable, and dependable have on average lower IQ scores than those who think that they are undisciplined, reckless, and undependable.
Janella

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the paycheck, I would just sleep in.

"Dude - have you considered looking for a new line of work?

Like maybe something involving a little entrepreneurialism?"

Dude, assume I am average and not a genius.

Now, does it make sense?

Anonymous said...

"several studies have shown that those individuals who rate themselves as more self-disciplined, responsible, reliable, and dependable have on average lower IQ scores than those who think that they are undisciplined, reckless, and undependable."

Key phrase here, "rate themselves"

Idiots always overrate themselves on everything.

Anonymous said...

"Among the Big Five personality traits Conscientiousness is most strongly related to real-life outcomes such as academic success, job performance, and life expectancy. There are two unresolved puzzles related to conscientiousness. Unexpectedly, several studies have shown that those individuals who rate themselves as more self-disciplined, responsible, reliable, and dependable have on average lower IQ scores than those who think that they are undisciplined, reckless, and undependable.
Janella"

So? Many stupid people wrongfull believe themselves to be smart.

Anonymous said...

I would just sleep in.

I am average and not a genius.

Come on, dude, cheer up - you sound like you're all down in the dumps.

Besides, 99.99% of all small businesses don't require any genius - they just require a little initiative and some panache.

none of the above said...

It seems like highly conscientious people will overperform, given their IQs. That is, while a strong work ethic and good study habits and such isn't a perfect substitute for intelligence, it can substitute to some extent.

What that means is that, in competitive fields, very conscientious people probably tend to be less intelligent than their competitors/peers. By the same token, in professional sports, I'd guess that on average, people with spectacular work ethics probably have less native talent. That doesn't mean you can't have a Michael Jordan type, who's got both. But on average, you'd expect the people who rolled 18s on all their ability scores to be able to get away with a little less intense focus and drive.

none of the above said...

Peter A:

Think about the Flynn effect. Or just think about what happens when you get everyone vaccinated for most childhood diseases, install proper sewers and water supplies everywhere, get rid of the parasites most everyone was carrying, and make sure everyone gets enough food and the right micronutrients. Suddenly, your population is much smarter, all around, because you've improved the conditions in which they develop. Add in some schooling (which at least ensures that even folks with horrible parents get a little exposure to some education), and the effect gets still bigger.

This has happened all over the world.

Anonymous said...

"Unexpectedly, several studies have shown that those individuals who rate themselves as more self-disciplined, responsible, reliable, and dependable have on average lower IQ scores than those who think that they are undisciplined, reckless, and undependable."

Geoffrey Miller doesn't mention this in his new book. In fact he goes out of his way to say none of the big 5 correlate with intelligence nor each other, with the exception being openness and IQ -- because openness asks questions related to IQ, as was previosuly mentioned.


David Nettle says your claim was found in 2 studies but not in any of the others.

Anonymous said...

The work of H. J. Eysenck is directly relevant here. His CRIME AND PERSONALITY was reformulated and republished, but betrays an empirically-based, measurement-based, approach that attempts not merely to describe but to explain.The varied biological substratum for conscientious behavior is so great that schools and churches can not contribute by "a one basic size can be tailored to fit all" approach. In a real sense the arrogance of Blank Slate assumptions has been perhaps as destructive in this domain of morality as it has in social policy relevant to IQ. Thanks to the practical genius of Bill Wilson, we accept without ripple a tasteful lapel pin notice "I'm an alcoholic" on the part of someone drinking carefully at a cocktail party, and indeed over the test of time come to admire the muted honesty and self confrontation that enables such a person to do so acceptably (most
biological alcoholics perhaps should not drink at all?). In due course, perhaps some suitable formulations will become socially insintuated to enable muted and productive confrontations / acknowledgements / of biological propensities to sociopathy, satyrisis, physical violence, etc. As Engles did not say about any of this: Freedom is the recognition of necessity.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw a study that concluded that conscientiousness actually negatively correlated with intelligence. This to me was baffling.

There seems to be a contradiction between what intelligent people report on personality tests and the behavior we actually see from intelligent people. As a whole, intelligence is correlated with a host of conscientious behaviors, including educational attainment, exercise, healthy eating, frugality (less likely to be in debt), and prudence (less likely to get married before being settled in their career; less likely to divorce, etc.).

Combine that with the fact that people as a whole tend to underestimate their own conscientiousness, I propose that intelligent people are especially prone to this.