November 29, 2007

Linda Gottfredson on talking about IQ

At Cato Unbound, Linda Gottfredson is debating Jim Flynn, Stephen J. Ceci, and Eric Turkheimer:

Proponents of the taboo on discussing race and IQ assume that the taboo is all for the common good, but whose good, exactly, is served? It is most certainly not individuals of below-average intelligence, who face a tremendous uphill battle in modern, literate societies where life becomes increasingly complex by the day. General intelligence (g) is simply a general proficiency to learn and reason. Put another way, it is the ability to deal with complexity or avoid cognitive error. Virtually everything in life requires some learning or reasoning and thus confers an advantage on brighter individuals. Life is complex, and complexity operates like a headwind that impedes progress more strongly for individuals lower on the IQ continuum. Everyone makes cognitive mistakes, but lower intelligence increases the risk of error.

Take, for example, health care. Patients differ enormously in intelligence level, and these differences have life and death consequences for them. Individuals of lower health literacy, or IQ, are less likely to seek preventive care even when it is free, use curative care effectively when they get it, understand and adhere to treatment regimens, or avoid health-damaging behavior. They have worse health, more accidental injuries, higher health costs, and die sooner—regardless of income, insurance coverage, or quality of health care. Health care matters, as do material resources and motivation, but mental resources matter too. They are critical in the prevention and self-management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Health self-care is an increasingly complex life-long job for all of us, which becomes even more complex as we age and experience more health problems.

It overstates only slightly to say that health care providers currently pay no attention to patient differences in the ability to learn and understand. As health literacy researchers have shown, however, a sizeable fraction of patients in urban hospital outpatient clinics are unable to understand an appointment slip (when to come back), a label indicating how to take four pills a day, or, among their insulin-dependent diabetic patients, the signs of low (or high) sugar and what action to take to bring their blood sugar back under control. Do proportionately more blacks have such problems? Yes, many more. Is that a reason to continue ignoring or disputing individual and group differences in g?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Quote from the article, "Health self-care is an increasingly complex life-long job for all of us, which becomes even more complex as we age and experience more health problems."

Well, personally, I can't argue with that. Will anyone dispute it? The system shakes out those who can't master it's complexity. Much like many large systems we deal with in the post-information age. If you don't pick this stuff up, you become a deadbeat and or a criminal.

I wonder though. Schools teach classes in contemporary English, Social Studies. Perhaps they could teach students skills to navigate in the real world. As an example, I studied and was graded on my appreciation of a novel, Sea Wolf by Jack London, in high school. I haven't read any Jack London since (no disrespect to him, but hey life is short, I want to minimize my suffering). I am sure this helped me in that I had to take similar courses in college. But, in my real life, not so much.

To put it more plainly, we could do a lot better with vocational education in this country. When it's offered now it's stigmatized. Honestly when I grew up it was considered a stepping stone to jail or something, as opposed to a respectable trade. (I am reminded of what I hear is the situation in Europe - you have to get into the 'good' schools period. Everything else is undignified, and of course, unspoken of by the elite media and their ilk.

Anonymous said...

It's the "twelve closest friends" problem discussed in the opening chapter of The Bell Curve. The educated classes simply cannot fathom that a sizable proportion of the population is tuned to a different cognitive frequency and that this has real-world implications. They can't understand it, in part, because the cloisters they inhabit - courtesy of meritocratic stratification - make it easy to avoid commingling with the left half entirely. On those ocassions when intellectuals do catch a glimpse of stark reality, their reflexive hostility is such that IQ denialism becomes a seductive cover. Gottfredson's sin is that she cares enough about people to try to understand them.

Anonymous said...

Free download of Michael Hart’s book Understanding Human History which employs current research on genetics and intelligence in addition to the archaeological, geological and historical record.

Anonymous said...

Here's my question. How long before the Hillary Clinton's of the world realize that they can use the following tactic successfully.


and the ignorant masses, go, yeah, you're right...

Anonymous said...

Gottfredson's point isn't a secret to nurses. My sister is an agency nurse who often takes assignments in an inner-city hospital with a mostly black and Latino (sorry Jody) patient population. One thing she's learned is that a non-trivial percentage of the patients are illiterate, including some of the (presumably illegal) Latino immigrants who can't read Spanish. So when she hands paper work for patients to sign, she often hands it to them upside down, to see if they invert it. She'll also ask them to read the first line, telling them she wants to make sure she gave them the right form.

Anonymous also has a good point: there are a lot of useful subjects which aren't taught in schools. If lower-IQ students can only hold so much knowledge in their heads, perhaps it would be better if, for example, math classes took a semester or a year to pound the concept of compound interest/time value of money into their heads, and left the trigonometry for later.

Anonymous said...

I think going back to an apprenticeship model will help. Someone elsewhere has stated that adolescents need to be pushed into the world of work at 14, like they used to. I think that's a good idea - get kids in the world of adults, under adult supervision, as opposed to the rule of teenagers they currently live under. High school is generally wasted time, even for the "smart" kids. I did some internships in the summer, in office environments, and I learned much more from that than from being in class. Have a stint at working in the real world before deciding whether to go to college.

I saw Steve's comments on EconLog and Megan McArdle's place, and I think Steve has a lot of good ideas (or is relaying the good ideas of others) for making life better for Americans not sitting on the right tail. But the state of education for those right-tail people is also crap. I say abolish high school entirely.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion on IQ. I just noticed this interview with soon to be ex-UCLA football coach Karl Dorell. He indicates that he received an 850/1200 on the SAT. Perhaps I am mistaken but I thought that the SAT, at least since the 1960s, was graded on a 1600 point scale (800 Math, 800 Verbal).

See George Bush's SAT score of 1206:

KD's score of 850 (early 1980s) might explain some of the difficulties he's had coaching at UCLA. An SAT score of 850 corresponds to an IQ of 91, which, as Steve has pointed out, is 9 points below the average of ALL people in the US :

This guy may be in way over his head. His IQ is lower than that of the average HIGH SCHOOL grad.

According to the article some of his football players are reading on the 5th grade level. Wow - I did not realize the extent to which major universities have allowed football/basketball to destroy their academic standards.

Steve Sailer said...

I think an 850 in the old (pre-1995) days would have been a little above the national average (if you include people who didn't take the SAT because they weren't going to college).

Yes, Dorrell has been a frustrating coach, but he just might beat USC on Saturday and save his job. He's done it before.

Anonymous said...

Gottfredson, from this brief example, is an excellent polemicist. We could all learn a lot by studying her writing: not only the style, but also the logical sequence of her argument.

Anonymous said...

John Ray mentions the latest round of debate between Murray and Flynn. He says Flynn is still relying heavily on the Eyferth study. Anyone familiar with the ASVAB and its purpose can tell you why that might be a problem.