July 8, 2013

The Terman Family: Proof that IQ and heredity are frauds

Glancing at the comments on a Salon article on IQ testing:
politicalrealist3 23 hours ago 
Malcolm Gladwell wrote of the problems with IQ tests in "Outliers".  In the 1920s, Stanford psychology professor Lewis Terman thought the IQ test was the answer to predicting what would happene in people's lives.  He devoted his life to the concept.  He managed to track the children who had scored in the highest percentiles for decades. He thought their high IQs would predict their success.   
It didn't.  Only a tiny percentage of Terman's High IQ children excelled. Many were complete failures in life.  None were Nobel prize winners. Ironically, in California two children who DID win the Nobel prize were not a part of his group because their IQs were not high enough. 

I've run through this history before, but it's so ironic that it's worth repeating. 

One of the two Nobelists who just missed Terman's cut-off was physicist William Shockley. Shockley is often called "the father of Silicon Valley" because so many of the silicon chip firms were founded by lieutenants he recruited to work at Shockley Semiconductor, such as Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, founders of Intel. 

So, obviously, this proves that Louis Terman's obsession with IQ and heredity was pseudo-science.

And yet, Shockley didn't think so: as a Stanford professor in the 1960s and 1970s, he was a notorious advocate of the heritability of IQ. 

But that raises other questions, such as why was Shockley hired as a Stanford professor after he washed out as an entrepreneur by alienating his employees? And was Shockley really the father of Silicon Valley? After all, HP and a number of other Stanford-connected high-tech firms were flourishing there before Shockley arrived from Bell Labs.

The other candidate for the title of father of Silicon Valley is Stanford's dean of engineering Fred Terman, who mentored future entrepreneurs like Hewlett and Packard, and developed the military-industrial-academic-entrepreneurial complex on Stanford land that he leased to his former students. 

Fred Terman hired his buddy Shockley for Stanford. 

And Fred Terman was the son of Louis Terman, the inventor of the famous Stanford-Binet IQ test.

Of course, we now know that the Termans, father and son, and Shockley were totally wrong about everything, which is why nobody today at Stanford or in Silicon Valley ever worries about how smart anybody is. Hence, Stanford or Google just admit or hire applicants at random.


World according to Gubbler. said...

All said and done, IQ testing is still more reliable than random lottery, right?

If IQ testing is wrong, then all forms of testing must be false since no test can measure everything or foresee the future with absolute certainty.

So, the fairest way to admit students in colleges or hire people would be through random lottery.
I'll bet high IQ liberals will suffer most from this system as they dominate the elite fields.

World according to Gubbler. said...

How about we stop and frisk for future successful people?

If we stop and frisk them and find calculators in their pockets, it means they are likely to succeed.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered if he's related to Chris Terman at MIT. Anyone konw?

Yan Shen said...

I've commented about the Terman study before.

See here.


"Lewis Terman began an ambitious search for the brightest kids in California, administering IQ tests to several thousand of children across the state. Those scoring above an IQ of 135 (approximately the top 1 percent of scores) were tracked for further study. There were two young boys, Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, who were among the many who took Terman’s tests but missed the cutoff score. Despite their exclusion from a study of young “geniuses,” both went on to study physics, earn PhDs, and win the Nobel prize.

How could these two minds, both with great potential for scientific innovation, slip under the radar of IQ tests? One explanation is that many items on Terman’s Stanford-Binet IQ test, as with many modern assessments, fail to tap into a cognitive ability known as spatial ability. Recent research on cognitive abilities is reinforcing what some psychologists suggested decades ago: spatial ability, also known as spatial visualization, plays a critical role in engineering and scientific disciplines. Yet more verbally-loaded IQ tests, as well as many popular standardized tests used today, do not adequately measure this trait, especially in those who are most gifted with it."


This analysis illustrates the differential validity of measures of quantitative versus verbal reasoning ability for creative technical accomplishments. In student selection, specific abilities also have differential validity in identifying contrasting potentialities. For example, in what is arguably psychology’s most famous longitudinal study (Terman, 1925, 1954), two future Nobel laureates were assessed but rejected for longitudinal tracking (Shurkin, 1992): Luis Alvarez and William Shockley both came in under the cutting score on Terman’s highly verbal Stanford-Binet.

The conclusion seems to be that the highly verbal Stanford-Binet failed to identify Shockley/Alvarez, whereas a test focused on mathematical/spatial reasoning would most likely have done so in terms of predicting future success in a quantitative endeavor.

Yan Shen said...

What the Terman study may prove, as noted above, is that the math/verbal split is extremely important in terms of predicting success in particular fields.

One might expect someone highly skewed towards mathematical ability and away from verbal ability to be successful in a quantitative field such as physics, but not necessarily in more verbally loaded areas.

hbd chick said...

also, why can't the iq-deniers reference more studies debunking iq from this century? or at least the latter part of the twentieth? why does it always seem to be stuff from a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away...)?

Anonymous said...

Can you explain the national obsession with IQ? It seems this is uniquely an American/European phenomenon . Why do so many people hold strong options over this particular subject matter when its just a number?

Anonymous said...

"Yan Shen said..."

This 'verbal split' really doesn't exist, actually. In SAT scores, for example, it's pretty rare for math and verbal scores to differ more than 100 so points, so someone who scores perfect on the math will have a very high likelihood of scoring well above average verbal, too. This duality of skills is part of a broader PC social movement where proficiency of one skill has to come at the expense of another. There is no scientific grounding for this, and empirical evidence suggests it's resolutely wrong. Genius writers can become above average mathematicians just as genius mathematicians are very often very good writers.

Melendwyr said...

Why do so many people hold strong options over this particular subject matter when its just a number?

Because it's not just a number. Dumbass.

Education Realist said...

" Yet more verbally-loaded IQ tests, as well as many popular standardized tests used today, do not adequately measure this trait, especially in those who are most gifted with it.""

The flip is true as well. I have a very high IQ, but my spatial is by far the weakest. I'd probably test above average on Raven's, but not by much.

"This 'verbal split' really doesn't exist, actually."

Yeah, it does. My original SAT scores (back in 1980) were 730 V, 580 Q. Today, recentered, they'd be 800 and 600.

Now, I got much better at math once I figured out how to learn it, and my GRE scores were 800 Q/790 V (800 Vs in the CAT era being vanishingly rare and reserved for those who have more patience than I do). But my math ability is based on my ability to compensate with logic.

Steve has written about my essay The Gap in the GRE before: http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/the-gap-in-the-gre/ , but I still like to bring it up whenever people talk about verbal vs. spatial skills. I am pretty convinced we don't have a good idea of what it means to be high verbal, and what sort of training and career paths are best. Too bad, really.

Edo Lasani said...

I was a poor HS student (1982) and graduated with a class rank of about 375 out of 535, my scores were 590V and 550M. I am now a software engineer. If you think that is good, there was another person in my same class whose class rank was in the 400's, he got in the 1200's on his SAT, and became successful in the computer industry.

as i was saying to the brigadier ... said...

Question to education realist- when you speculate that "we" don't have a good idea of what it means to be high verbal, are you referring by the word "we" to a set of individuals which excludes those who are actually "high verbal"? And, if so, do you find it likely or unlikely that the set of "high verbal", i.e., those individuals who can easily manipulate several hundred thousand lexical concepts with relatively unfettered flow, are not the same people who can ---manipulate a few thousand proven concepts in a field like differential geometry, or the field of steroid-free baseball statistics, or the field of fact-based and statistical progress of false conspiracy theories in the public statements of the ignorant over the decades --- and hence are actually the same people as those who are considered high M, the effects of which we do have a good idea about?
My personal opinion is that, absent divine grace, every single person with relative intellectual advantages uses it primarily for personal status advancement, and the M and V tags, well studied as they are, are (outside the theological context, and outside of uniquely single-focused people like Ramanujan and Newton)impossible to understand correctly without a full acceptance of the moral or amoral sacrifices in time and attention that are either consciously made by an individual or consciously forced on the individual by someone with power over them.
Point of this comment might be that the historically recent glorification by classical liberals and others of the high-M and high-V among us is based on the mistaken assumption that high-V or high-M are not mostly interchangeable and are exponentially unique, as opposed to mostly interchangeable and almost always merely arithmetically unusual.

Nanonymous said...

Only a tiny percentage of Terman's High IQ children excelled.

Of 857 males, 3 were elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In total, they published, "nearly 2000 scientific and technical papers and articles and some 60 books and monographs in the sciences, literature, arts, and humanities have been published. Patents granted amount to at least 230. Other writings include 33 novels, about 375 short stories, novelettes, and plays".

So in comparison to the general population, the study subjects were over-represented 100-1000-fold in high achievement in sciences and

Anonymous said...

I performed a self diagnosis. Made more than 30 times the number of on line tests. Obviously was already informed about the alleged lack of reliability.
I also made a conversion of my school notes with an attempt of sorts to'' IQ''. The results were very close and made sense to me. I've always been really bad at math, always had a great vocabulary in my native language, since I was a child.
I can not have a super verbal IQ, by logic. Super high verbal IQ is easy to learn multiple languages​​, I have not. Not to mention that I have great lazy to study what I have no interest. I am miserable at math, I have dyscalculia, have difficulty doing math mentally. Also leaving these concludes my remarks'm probably borderline for Asperger, obsession and social reasons.
I estimated 120-130 for verbal IQ, performance IQ (and visuo-spatial) between 109-114 and my iq mathematician to 90-95.

I do not agree with the theory that all are super high IQS'' geniuses''. The term genius seems to be very misunderstood. Most super high IQS has not exceptional talent, only very intelligent.

I like what this guy speaks


The IQ can not accurately measure'' geniuses'' because in my opinion, what makes someone brilliant is not the amount of their cognitive ability but their quality. Even believe that the type temper should be handled within the idea of ​​neurological diversity as in the ASPERGER. The genius would be a high functioning asperger but with moderately psychopathic personality, which is a minority among high IQS.
The only way to understand the genius of it is to get high and super high IQS neurotypicals.

Sam said...

The most successful subjects in Terman's study had one or two things going for them:

They didn't enter the work force during the Depression.Those kids who came of age during the Depression had their careers stunted.

They came from solid middle class families. Kids from working class backgrounds did not have the resources or social confidence to get the most out of their high IQs.

So, someone with an IQ of 120 from the right home and entering the workforce and the right time had more career success than someone with an IQ of 150 with little resources entering a poor economy.

Gladwell's point, I think, was there are several factors that lead to success.

Dan Kurt said...

re: IQ and trajectory of life

I have encountered during my schooling many really smart individuals two of which have gotten Nobel prizes in science. I can not give their IQs but this was in an Ivy League University so I believe that their IQs were at least in the 130+ range. These individuals were all SERIOUS students and hard workers. They were diligent and have done well during their lifetime. I got my doctorate in the late 1960s as did those really smart individuals.

Now, I have only direct experience with a really, really smart student during those years. He had Grad Record scores of 800 verbal, 800 math and 960 out of 970 in I believe chemistry which places him in the 165+ IQ range. He also scored a perfect 116 out 116 in a Navy IQ test given to pilot candidates, an unheard of score. He never studied yet breezed through his studies.

Why did he not become a University professor and/or researcher? I think I have the answer. He had nothing to prove. He spent his time entertaining himself.

Recently I read an article about a similar experience to mine. Read it here:
The whole essay is good but my point is covered in the section titled "THE TYRANNY OF THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION" and the following five paragraphs.

Dan Kurt

Anonymous said...

"Can you explain the national obsession with IQ? It seems this is uniquely an American/European phenomenon . Why do so many people hold strong options over this particular subject matter when its just a number?"

Some of the reasons might include:

Because it has high predictive success, as used by the military for about a century.

Because it is not as tractable to "teaching" or environmental shaping as pure Blank Slatism (and ideologies founded on Blank Slatism) assume and need to demonstrate for their success.

Because if IQ is not malleable, the full promise of the American K-12 system to remake anyone in the world into New American Man likely isn't possible.

Because corporations want to hire people that are good at whatever it is IQ measures (but are legally kept from using IQ, so as with most prohibitions, develop round-abouts).

Because the black population in the US probably has an average IQ around 84, not 100, and many, many people, including a lot of liberals on the left, understand this (the exact numbers don't really matter), but nobody knows what to do about it if it isn't subject to change.

Because violence and criminality correlate pretty well with IQ at the low end (the petty criminality of which the world is full). Again something many people seem to know but avoid spelling out too much.

Because the West currently has a kind of lightweight John Dewey Enlightenment ethos that assumes sufficient care, attention, and education can "engineer" people to be better, but if IQ has a significant fixed (or genetic) component (it doesn't even have to be the most significant component) all this is called into question. The entire program may flop, the core assumptions on which a couple centuries of progressive thought have been founded fail, probably. The world can't be made into utopia by concerned school marms.

So there's a lot of big stuff on the table.

Anonymous said...

"One of the two Nobelists who just missed Terman's cut-off was physicist William Shockley."

Something to keep in mind about this... Perhaps if more than one test had been done things would have been a bit different. Everyone has off days.

I took my SATs after having played all 4 quarters of a high-school football game, both offense and defense, the night before, about a 3 hour drive away and then had to drive about an hour in the morning to the testing center by about 8:00. I didn't have enough money for the scores to matter and don't really think it made much difference. But one test doesn't a solid data point make.

Anonymous said...

Energy and ambition, more than IQ, lead to success.

dearieme said...

"Luis Alvarez and William Shockle ... missed the cutoff score": but what were their scores? Tell me they weren't 95 and 85.

Dahinda said...

"Fred Terman, who mentored future entrepreneurs like Hewlett and Packard, and developed the military-industrial-academic-entrepreneurial complex on Stanford land that he leased to his former students." The father of the Silicon Valley was Uncle Sam and his wallet!

Edward Waverley said...

Here's a great article about William Shockley about the time he was libeled as a neo-Nazi and how he sued for this and won in court.


Anonymous said...

I have high-IQ mother, who is a scientist by training, yet all she wants to do is clean, straighten and tend the house. She is endlessly fascinated by very boring tasks, and she focuses on tiny details and fusses about how things should look so much that it drives me berserk. She would fit Terman's high-IQ but unsuccessful-in-life crowd to a T.

High IQ does not equal having interesting interests. William Sidis collected street car transfers, which is as stupid and dull as stamp collecting, and only wanted to work menial and unchallenging jobs.

However, my mother, she of all the boring detail, invested the family earnings so well that they're millionaires, despite never having made more than middle-class salaries. In her own sphere, she was successful. To Terman, this sort of success wasn't 'his sort' of success, because he'd never heard of her personally.

Anonymous said...

I have the faint memory (confabulation?) that some fact
addict actually followed up on a
large sampling of the people originally identified as gifted by the Terman testing. It was revealed that as a group they were distinctly happier, had higher incomes, etc. etc. than there merely average age mates.

Anonymous said...

A major problem with IQ testing is
that mention of a specific IQ--
e.g., 128, say--implies a precision that is spurious. In fact, the result is a score range
that is most intelligible if rendered in terms of say, an 85% likelihood, that the person's general mental ability exceeds, **% of the general population and is, in turn, exceeded by **% of the general population. It is not stilted or too high hurdle to emphasize such inherent crudity and usefulness of measurement. Apparently, the market for tests is better if a specific score can indicate the precison of a stop watch instead of the "range" of a carefully made sundial.

Felix M said...

"Only a tiny percentage of Terman's High IQ children excelled." Depends on what you mean by "excelled".

My understanding is that most became successful doctors, engineers, pastors etc.

But, while a Nobel Prize winner nees an adequate intelligence (135+ perhaps), the really central qualities are a ferocious curiosity and drive. And IQ tests don't measure these.

BTW, I agree with the comment about improving your IQ score thru study. I scraped into Mensa but I'm sure this was because I knew a few math tricks.

Anonymous said...

The opposite view to high-IQ kid being better off than average kids was from Leta Hollingsworth. Same with high-IQ male being manlier.
Terman's subjects were drawn from the state of California, Hollingsworth's from New York.

Erik Kengaard said...

I wonder if there is a hint of sarcasm in Mr. Sailor's closing statement?

Erik Kengaard said...

Stanford admits at random? Sarcasm?