Thursday, 11 February 2016

Dognitive ability (in university level dogs)

Rosalind Arden, when not sitting next to me at conferences teaching me what questions to ask speakers about animal general intelligence, has been testing dogs on doggy problem-solving, and finds that the general ability evident in mice, chimps and humans is also present in dogs. Odd if it were not the case, given that it is a feature of having a brain which must adapt to the problem of survival.

I accept that dogs co-evolved with humans, and do not resent them their place on the planet, but I prefer most of them at a distance, outside the house and in the countryside where they belong. Once I am sure that they are not going to bite me, lick me or piss on the furniture I can tolerate the quieter and more thoughtful ones, particularly if they are morose but amiable. Excitables dogs, overjoyed that humans have genitalia, I can do without. Cats, with their claws, and their tendency to sit in your lap, I can also do without. Perhaps in my case I was left out of the co-evolution process.

Rosalind Arden and Mark James Adams. A general intelligence factor in dogs. Intelligence Volume 55, March–April 2016, Pages 79–85

The structure of cognitive abilities in dogs is similar to that found in people.

Dogs that solved problems more quickly were also more accurate.

Dogs' cognitive abilities can be tested quickly, like those of people.
Bigger individual differences studies on dog cognition will contribute to cognitive epidemiology.


Hundreds of studies have shown that, in people, cognitive abilities overlap yielding an underlying ‘g’ factor, which explains much of the variance. We assessed individual differences in cognitive abilities in 68 border collies to determine the structure of intelligence in dogs. We administered four configurations of a detour test and repeated trials of two choice tasks (point-following and quantity-discrimination). We used confirmatory factor analysis to test alternative models explaining test performance. The best-fitting model was a hierarchical model with three lower-order factors for the detour time, choice time, and choice score and a higher order factor; these accounted jointly for 68% of the variance in task scores. The higher order factor alone accounted for 17% of the variance. Dogs that quickly completed the detour tasks also tended to score highly on the choice tasks; this could be explained by a general intelligence factor. Learning aboutg in non human species is an essential component of developing a complete theory of g; this is feasible because testing cognitive abilities in other species does not depend on ecologically relevant tests. Discovering the place of g among fitness-bearing traits in other species will constitute a major advance in understanding the evolution of intelligence.


However, though I am not interested in dogs, I can see why they make good experimental subjects. The authors say: Dogs are not subject to confounding arising from lifestyles that may contribute to causal differences such as smoking, alcohol and drug use. Individual differences in dogs' cognitive abilities are not causally confounded with variability in socio-economic status. It is more feasible, cheaper and less intrusive to conduct repeated behavioural testing with dogs. Following phenotypic studies, dogs will be useful in genetic studies; genes associated with complex traits are easier to find in dogs than people because of their longer haplotype structure (Lequarré et al., 2011 and Ostrander et al., 2006). A consequence of their haplotype structure is that sample sizes needed for genomic analyses are much smaller in dogs than people. Some behavioural adaptations are breed-specific (pointing, herding); these involve both innate propensities and learning. Some traits are typical across all breeds, such as a tendency to affiliate with humans (see for review Benksy et al., 2013, Miklosi, 2007 and Shipman, 2010).

Here are the doggy tests they used: We examined individual differences on a set of cognitive tasks (four increasingly complex versions of a detour task first designed in 1927 by the German psychologist, Wolfang Kohler (1887–1967)(Frank and Frank, 1982 and Scott and Fuller, 1965), a quantity-discrimination task (Bonanni et al., 2011,Macpherson and Roberts, 2013, Prato-Previde et al., 2008 and Ward and Smuts, 2006) and a point-following task (Elgier et al., 2012, Ittyerah and Gaunet, 2009, Kaminski and Nitzschner, 2013, Lakatos et al., 2012 and Miklosi et al., 2006). These tasks were administered to one breed of dog (border collies) selected from similar rearing and living environments. We administered six tasks (of which four were related) to the dogs and, guided by the human psychometrics literature, tested the fit of four basic models against the data.

We recruited 68 farm-living border collies from Wales. We chose a single breed to avoid confounds arising from differential selection. Scores from a basset hound tested against a whippet would be uninterpretable (Udell, Ewald, Dorey, & Wynne, 2014) This is because dogs have been selected by people for different behaviours, and they are the most polymorphic species on earth, varying greatly in leg length and other traits relevant to task performance. We selected farm border collies for several reasons. First, we wanted the dogs' backgrounds to be similar (in contrast with pet or companion animals, because variation in level of enrichment could contribute to cognitive differences). Although border collies have been subject to artificial selection its focus has been on behaviour more than appearance; border collies remain morphologically variable with a reported moderate inbreeding coefficient of around 2.8% (Hoffman, Hamann, & Distl, 2002) but unknown empirically in our sample. Our sample comprised 68 dogs, (males 34, females 34) ranging in age from 1 to 12 years. We chose Wales as our recruitment centre because it is rural and enriched for border collies, having many hill farms where dogs work stock.

The animals in our sample differ from companion animals in background and behaviour that may be relevant to the study. They are kennelled outdoors and, although socialised to respond to their owner in a farmyard setting, they are unaccustomed to games, indoor behaviour and food treats.


Dognitive tasks

We first estimated how much within-dog variability there was on task performance. The consistency of performance was low for navigation (R = 0.26, 95% credible interval [CI] = 0.11, 0.42) and repeatability was low for the point-following (R = 0.35, CI = 0.22, 0.50) and moderate for quantity discrimination (R = 0.51, CI = 0.40, 0.63). Consistency on mean navigation completion time was moderate (Rn0 = 0.58, CI = 0.35, 0.74). Repeatability of mean completion time on point-following was high (Rn0 = 0.77, CI = 0.63, 0.87) and of average completion time on quantity discrimination was also high (Rn0 = 0.88, CI = 0.83, 0.92).

The authors then carry out some factorial studies, and found that the hierachical g model was the best fit. The full model explains 68% of the variance, but g itself accounts for only 17% of the variance, which is not all that much, but see the possible explanation further below.

Our results indicate that even within one breed of dog, where the sample was designed to have a relatively homogeneous background, there is variability in test scores. The phenotypic structure of cognitive abilities in dogs is similar to that found in people; a dog that is fast and accurate at one task has a propensity to be fast and accurate at another. It may seem obvious that once a detour task (finding the treat behind a barrier) has been solved in one form, the solution to the other forms will follow naturally, but dogs are not people. Experiments have shown that dogs' problem-solving skills do not transfer readily from one problem to a different form of the same problem as ours do (Osthaus, Marlow, & Ducat, 2010). The g factor we report is consistent with the prediction made by the many experts in the ‘dog world’ (trainers, veterinarians, members of dog societies, and farmers) who were consulted in the early stages of this study. Those experts said that in their experience some dogs were more likely to catch-on, learn and solve problems more quickly than others. Our results show structural similarities between canine and human intelligence.

Just as everything is falling nicely into place, Arden and Adams admit that border collies which can’t round up sheep at the command of the shepherd do not make the grade as sheep dogs, and are excluded, so that the sample they’ve been working with are the cognitive elite of the breed, able to work out what humans want them to do, the top flight university graduates of the doggy world. This selection will lead to considerable restriction of range, because all the dogs are very bright. If it were possible to include the equivalent of some technical college collies, a few art college collies, and a pack of liberal arts, humanities, social scientist qualitative sociologist collies, it would strengthen the correlations and the g factor considerably. Perhaps this should be incorporated in the next study. The other approach would be to find a harder additional task to test these bright collies more stringently.

Read the whole paper here:

This is an important finding, and will not be surprising to biologists, but certainly dents the argument that general ability is a confection which depends on an arbitrary selection of narrow tests.

So, Deary and Der’s “cognitive epidemiology” is now joined by Arden and Adams’ “dognitive epidemiology” and g rides over the whole lot, supreme.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Swedish Prejudice: immigrants and psychologists


Although I receive the British Journal of Psychology, I rarely read it. I look at the contents list, and sometimes intend to read one of the papers, but then place it safely  in the pile of brochures on my study floor. I do not say this in condemnation of a journal I have read for 45 years, but my interests have diverged from its contents. I pay for it as a a presumed academic requirement, but not out of any excitement.

Today, before putting it aside I came upon a paper with a topic of contemporary interest, which is unusual, so I thought I would look at it in the light of the current mass migration into Europe.

Like parent, like child? Development of prejudice and tolerance towards immigrants. Miklikowska, Marta. British Journal of Psychology, 107.1 (Feb 2016): 95.

First of all, this is a well-conducted study and a clearly written paper, so this is good quality psychology research, and not a weak study to be dismissed for failing to meet contemporary standards.  Second, the discussion includes at least the possibility of genetic transmission of attitudes, so it is not marred by an exclusively social focus, though little is made of the possible genetic causes of the observed effects. Third, the sample of 891 adolescent 13 year olds is sizeable, and there are two waves of data collection two years apart, which give more dependable results.

Despite all this, I still wonder if it does justice to attitudes regarding immigration. I baulk at the idea that an attitude must be a “pre-judgement” if comes to one conclusion (against immigration) but indicates tolerance if it comes to another conclusion (in favour of immigration). Most of us, most of the time, make judgements on the basis of only a few of the possibly available facts. In my view, this is natural. We use rules of thumb (heuristics which make us smart) in order to make the best decisions we can in the time available. More knowledge might make us change our minds, but does not have to, because it may confirm our intial observations. So long as we take in new facts, and don’t get too precious about old hypotheses, we should be able to update our views and make better decisions. Indeed, had we not been able to do so in former times we would not have survived. Being as right as possible, without waiting to be perfectly right, particularly in a fast changing world, has evolutionary advantage. It can be a matter of life or death.

Turning to the paper itself, the attitude questions used in this paper come from Van Zalk et al (2013) and the flavour can be judged by the title “Xenophobia and tolerance towards immigrants in adolescence”.

Prejudice and tolerance towards immigrants were measured with eight items from the Tolerance and Prejudice Questionnaire (TPQ, see Van Zalk et al., 2013). Prejudice was measured with three items rated on a 4-point Likert scale (1 = Don't agree at all to 4 = Agree completely): ‘Immigrants often come here only to take advantage of the welfare in Sweden; Immigrants often take jobs from people who are born in Sweden; It happens too often that immigrants have customs and traditions that not fit into Swedish society’. Tolerance was measured with five items rated on a 4-point Likert scale (1 = Don't agree at all to 4 = Agree completely): ‘Immigrants should have equal rights as Swedes have; Immigrants are good for the Swedish economy; We should have a welcoming attitude toward immigrants that would like to live in Sweden; The Swedish culture gets enriched by immigrants coming to Sweden; In the future Sweden will be a country with exciting encounters between people who come from different parts of the world’.

These questions give respondents more opportunities to agree to tolerant questions than prejudiced ones. An “acquiesence response set” might be more likely to be engengered by these five “positive” questions than the three “negative” ones. Even more importantly, these opposed statements do not cover the range of opinions about immigration. I wonder how respondents would have responded to more general statements like: “Immigration must be to the advantage of local people.”  Many people feel positive about individual immigrants and negative about large scale immigration, and this is a rational position.


If we take adolescent prejudice as an average of 2.26 then the average Swedish adolescent is hovering at the mid-point of slight agreement with the “prejudice” questions and at 2.7 slightly agreeing with the “tolerance” questions. Call it a 0.44 difference in favour of tolerance. Parents at 2.085 for “prejudice” and 2.945 for “tolerance” are 0.86 in favour of tolerance. So, parents are more tolerant than their children.  This either means that adults learn to live with immigrants, or that young people are becoming less tolerant of increasing immigration, which perhaps they see more at school than parents see at work. On the other hand, you might say that the main finding is that parents and adolescents slightly agree with the “prejudice” statements and agree a little bit more with the “tolerance” questions, but only the adults show much of a difference in favour of tolerance. The apparent overall leaning towards tolerance might be because all respondents have 5 opportunities to “say the right thing” and only 3 to “say the wrong thing”.

From a factual point of view, what is the right thing to say about immigrants in Sweden?

As the Swedish state does not base any statistics on ethnicity, there are no exact numbers on the total number of people of immigrant background in Sweden. There are data on nationality, which means that in most studies immigrant children count as Swedes. This is an approach adopted in many countries, which makes it difficult or impossible to follow different genetic groups into the second generation onwards. Indeed, regarding race and religion as unmentionable subjects is intended to make them disappear. If indeed they are of little consequence, then recording them as a matter of course, together with other data, would reveal them to be unimportant, and would give the lie to vulgar prejudice. Pretending not to notice obvious differences smacks of protesting too much, and fearing to find real differences.

Despite the embargos, just to give a flavour of the available data, here is an entry from Wikipedia: As of 2011, a Statistics Sweden study showed that around 27% or 2,500,000 inhabitants of Sweden had full or partial foreign background. Therefore, there should be plenty of studies comparing the various immigrant groups with the local population. In a study by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention in 1997–2001, 25%of the almost 1,520,000 offences were found to be committed by people born abroad and almost 20% were committed by Swedish born people of foreign background. In the study, immigrants were found to be four times more likely to be investigated for lethal violence and robbery than ethnic Swedes. In addition, immigrants were three times more likely to be investigated for violent assault, and five times more likely to be investigated for sex crimes. Those from North Africa and Western Asia were overrepresented.

Here is some work on the employability of immigrants:

APRIL 2014. Catching Up: The Labor Market Outcomes of New Immigrants in Sweden By Pieter Bevelander and Nahikari Irastorza

The report shows that employment rates during newcomers’ initial years in Sweden are relatively depressed for low-educated refugees and migrants who come based on family ties, in comparison to natives and labor migrants from EU countries. Since Sweden's refugees and family arrivals are not selected through employment-related criteria, they are likely to lack locally in-demand skills and are often out of work in the years immediately after arrival. The obstacles these groups face can be exacerbated by certain features of Sweden’s labor market, such as high minimum wages, a relatively small pool of low-skilled jobs, and stringent employment protection for permanent work.

Non-EU labor migrants are also more concentrated in low-skilled jobs and have lower average annual earnings than both EU migrants and natives. Over time, however, all newcomers to Sweden have on the whole improved their employment rates, displayed income growth similar to natives, and moved into middle-skilled positions.



Swedish citizens may well baulk at a policy which results in immigrants taking a decade to come close to Swedish standards.


Swedish citizens may well prefer an immigration policy which requires at least secondary education, or even tertiary education so that immigrants are likely to be beneficial to them immediately, and not after 14 years if at all.

I think it would have been more accurate to have entitled the paper “Attitudes to immigrants in parents and their children”. That would be neutral, which is the scientific ideal. I don’t know what the “right” attitude is, nor does the author, nor has the questionnaire been measured against any factual benchmark of immigrant contribution. The paper does not discuss what proportion of immigrants claim benefits as against the proportion of local claimants, though the above study suggests immigrants actually claim for a longer period. Judging whether the statement: “Immigrants often come here only to take advantage of the welfare in Sweden” is true or false needs to be based on proper evidence.  Presumably the effects of the current immigration will become even clearer two generations from now, so long as proper records are kept. In the mean time, for a factual look at immigrants and their scholastic attainments into the second generation, and indirectly their intellectual abilities, see:

Rindermann H, Thompson J. THE COGNITIVE COMPETENCES OF IMMIGRANT AND NATIVE STUDENTS ACROSS THE WORLD: AN ANALYSIS OF GAPS, POSSIBLE CAUSES AND IMPACT. Journal of Biosocial Science [Internet]. 2014 Nov 7 [cited 2015 Sep 23];1–28. Available from:

The general points and the detailed tables are covered here:

Considering the psychological traits of immigrants and their socioeconomic outcomes, research strongly confirms that immigrant performance is predicted by country of origin. Usually these abilities and achievements are lower than the European norm, even into the second generation. On that basis there are entirely rational reasons for being opposed to unselective immigration, and being in favour of selection by ability and good character.

Back to the paper again. The data were collected in 2010 and 2012, before the latest surge of immigration, so the attitudes may have changed somewhat, and the findings may be out of date. The paper is out of date, and no fault of the author. She submitted her manuscript in October 2014, the revised version in January 2015 and it has seen the light of day only in February 2016, 4 years after data collection. This is no way to disseminate science. Back to the paper again. Immigrants were excluded, which is a pity, since their attitudes would refine the interpretations placed on the overall results. Immigrants are often lukewarm about further immigration, particularly about other immigrant groups. This is rational. The benefits they get from settled and wealthy societies are threatened if many more supplicants come to seek those same benefits, benefits which include higher-paid work.

Back to the paper again. Parents and adolescents influenced each other in their attitudes, and parents influenced their children more if their children saw them as supportive. The author concedes that the overall effect might be due to an inherited predisposition, but feels socialisation is the key. This leaves aside the findings on the heritability of social attitudes. Picking a relevant paper at random, it is at least worthwhile considering whether the apparent interaction of parent and child in coming to an opinion might be due to shared heritable characteristics.

Social influence constrained by the heritability of attitudes. Nicholas Schwab. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 66, August 2014, Pages 54–57

In her Conclusions and Implications the author says: “Given the adverse effects of prejudice for the well-being of immigrants, interventions aimed at decreasing adolescents’ anti-immigration attitudes have been designed. They may be informed by this study and use inter-generational transmission as a social engineering tool.” This attitude on the part of the author certainly puts the needs of immigrants higher than those of residents. She deems immigration to be correct and anti-immigration to require social engineering. Perhaps social engineering is seen as A Good Thing in Sweden, though it raises fear in Anglo Saxon lands.

Anyway, her specific policy implication provokes the response: “Given the adverse effects of unselective immigration on the well-being of local people, interventions aimed at decreasing pro-immigration attitudes should be designed”. Pro-immigration might be based on the mistaken pre-judgement that anyone from anywhere must be better than the locals. Correcting this misperception would be of benefit to Swedish citizens.

What would a neutral implication be? “Groups intending to sway people’s attitudes about social policies like immigration should consider the effects of  inter-generational transmission”. This would allow pro- and anti-immigration activists to use the findings of this paper, such as they are, to boost their campaigns.

I think that the author has pre-judged the issue of immigration. I do not know, and she cannot know, what the current effects of new immigrants will be. She has decided it is a good thing, but gives no references in her paper. Both she and I can look at the data on immigration to Sweden and to Europe, so as to get a general indication of the consequences of immigration. I certainly think that any study of presumed prejudice should give the basic evidence on which the truth is based: the truth from which the prejudice is revealed.

In summary, I think that the standard social psychology viewpoint of “prejudice” versus “tolerance” is not helping us understand social attitudes to immigration. Prejudice is to pre-judge something without having considered it, and to hold to that opinion despite all evidence to the contrary. Setting aside whether Swedish citizens really want to have the levels and types of immigration they are getting (as free people they could decide against it for whatever reason) there is evidence of the costs paid for immigration in terms of the decade it takes for the new arrivals to fully contribute, as compared to the locals. The “prejudice” questions in this survey do not do justice to the citizen who feels that, on balance, the current immigration policy is not to their advantage, nor to the advantage of their children.

The paper is an example of a careful analysis of the specific results obtained, but the concept of “prejudice” reduces the proper understanding of how parents and their children come to form their political and social views, whilst a more open and neutral attitude to attitudes could have strengthened it.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Three quarters of a million

Or a mere seven hundred and fifty thousand. Take your pick. People are reading about intelligence research.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

50 Russian oblasts

The last time I walked around Red Square, many years ago, my companion Nick pointed out that there was a light Cessna plane on the cobbles surrounded by a temporary barrier. I was not interested in it. It was a glorious night, beautiful Russian women were promenading about, the Red Flag was flying in a breeze specially created for it by an air compressor hidden in the flagpole, the Border Guards were celebrating their national day by being amiably blind drunk, and I was looking forward to giving a talk at a conference the following day. The Cold War seemed to be coming to an end.

The next day international journalists accosted me the moment I left the hotel not, as usual, to get my wise perspectives on psychological matters, but to ask if I knew the name of the doctor attending the conference who had filmed the Cessna landing in Red Square. A German boy had eluded Russian air defences and brought his plane down in central Moscow. The unknown doctor had videod the landing, and eventually sold it to the media for a small sum. The immediate story was that the boy was trying to impress his girlfriend, but the later account was that he was making a gesture in favour of world peace. Whatever the cause, it allowed Gorbachev to fire a few incompetent military men.

Now there has been a landing of a different sort: The data for literacy, infant mortality, fertility and stature in the late nineteenth century are available for 50 provinces of European Russia. The percentages of the population that were literate in 1897 were calculated from the data of the Russian Imperial census carried out 28 January, 1897 a mere 119 years ago, or almost 5 generations back.

Regional differences in intelligence, infant mortality, stature and fertility in European Russia in the late nineteenth century. Andrei Grigoriev, Ekaterina Lapteva, Richard Lynn.  Intelligence 55 (2016) 34-37

Estonia and Livonia were (and probably still are) the bright (literate) provinces of Russia, no doubt something to do with having been Swedish dominions until 1710. They tower over the rest of Russia. On average, Estonians are said to have 49.5% of West European Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) ancestry, the highest percentage of any living population. Nearby Pskov, slightly to the East and 95% Russian, had the lowest literacy rates.

The Russian provinces differed significantly by geographical location. The positive correlations with latitude (r= .33, p<.05) and the negative correlation with longitude (r=−.43, p<.01) show that the rates of literacy were higher in the northand west than in the south and east. These trends were partly determined by the rates of literacy being highest in the north-western provinces of St. Petersburg and the three Baltic states of Estland, Livland and Kourland(correspondingapproximately but not precisely to contemporary Estonia and Latvia; Livland consisted of southern part of contemporary Estonia and eastern part of contemporary Latvia). Removing these four regions makes both correlations non-significant (.21 and −.23).




Literacy was strongly positively associated with stature. The more literate provinces had lower infant mortality, probably due to their higher wealth. They also had smaller families, but Lynn finds this does not correlate with stature, suggesting it is not a wealth effect but probably part of a general dysgenic trend at that time.

This is a very interesting data set and is part of a trend towards regional comparisons, showing that intelligence not only impacts individuals and countries, but also districts, states and provinces. This is a valuable contribution, given that such matters are routinely ignored in most travelogues and political discourses. It is also testimony to what can be achieved when one scholar, despite scarce resources and considerable opposition, makes links with psychologists across the world, and puts together the results for countries and regions so as assemble an archive of ability across the world.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The saving grace

I am a saver, but I do not know exactly why. For a rainy day perhaps, but rainy days are plentiful and cheap: I stay in and read something. Perhaps I save so that I can be gently fed when unable to do so in old age. More likely, perhaps I secretly wish to astound my neighbours by driving up in a red Ferrari, though rather than admiration this will more likely engender doubts about my mental state. Furthermore, I am told that only a very limited set of Ferraris hold their value. Moreover, after relaxing the rules regarding how pensions could be spent, a Government Minister agreed that pensioners “could blow the whole lot on a Lamborghini”. Decisions, decisions.

Savings have survival value. Food and resources get you through lean periods. It is prudent to fear the worst and provide a buffer against storm and starvation. Surely everyone realises that?

R.W. Hafer. Cross-country evidence on the link between IQ and financial development. Intelligence 55 (2016) 7-13.

Research finds that individuals with higher levels of intelligence are likely to save relatively more than others. Evidence from macro-level studies shows that countries with higher than average IQs also are characterized by greater levels of saving. These two outcomes suggest the testable hypothesis: Do countries with higher national average IQs, on average, have more developed financial markets to accommodate this increased savings activity? Using three popular measures of financial development and the Lynn-Vanhanen national IQ measure, I test that hypothesis for a large sample of countries. The evidence indicates that, all else the same, IQ is a signficant predictor of financial development.

The author takes 3 measures of national wealth and plots them against IQ. The bivariate correlation between IQ and Liquid Liabilities, Private Credit and Bank Assets is, respectively, 0.66, 0.76, and 0.66.  Private Credit is considered the most accurate measure of savings, so I have used that one, but all three are similar.



French legal systems are less conducive to wealth generation than those from other countries, such that the correlations between French legislation and wealth are negative. 

Hafer puts in other predictive variables, and finds they made a contribution, but not so much as to alter the conclusion that the main driver is human ability.

The evidence presented here indicates that countries with higher national IQ are more likely to experience greater financial development than countries with lower levels of IQ. Using three popular measures of financial development, the effect of IQ occurs independently of a country's legal origin, its initial level of real GDP per capita and its level of economic freedom. This finding is robust to a variety of tests, including the addition of alternative institutional measures, such as human development, health, and education, as well as more specific indexes of economic freedom.

Not only do individuals with higher IQs tend to be thriftier and save more, but countries comprised of such individuals apparently establish and develop financial institutions that promote such behavior.

In brief, when clever people save, and when countries are composed of clever people save, then financial institutions evolve to handle those savings, and to cater for deferred expenditures. Money transfers are the first step, financial instruments like mortgages and futures markets the second. Such markets facilitate the saving habit, reduce transaction costs, speed up the re-allocation of resources, and provide deep pools of wealth to get societies through times of trouble. That is the theory anyway. The study period started in 1980 and for painfully obvious reasons stopped in 2009. The deep pools were not deep enough. Have the advanced and clever nations been clever in carrying out Quantitative Easing? I don’t think so, but as Chou En Lai remarked of the French Revolution “It is too early to tell”. (Yes, I know he misheard the question, and thought that Kissinger was asking about the effects of the then recent French Student revolution of 1968).

Read the whole thing here:

Friday, 29 January 2016

Vita brevis, intelligentia longa

Yesterday, at a lakeside party, Bob told me about the evening he drove up to an isolated beachside hotel in Guatemala, some four decades ago, and made his way through the deserted lobby to talk to the sole member of staff, a waiter with a skew-whiff bow tie. “Have I time to swim in the sea before dinner?” Bob asked. The waiter looked at him calmly and said “Tenemos mas tiempo que vida” (we have more Time than Life).

It is curious that there should be any correlation between intelligence and longevity. The contemporary fashionable view of intelligence is that it is a creature of priviledge, a confection of schooling and private tutors, granting acess to good jobs for those who can manipulate a narrow range of logical symbols, no better grounded in real ability than the recitation of classic verse or the oratorical flourishes of rhetoric. Such hothouse flowers bloom in sheltered spaces, and have nothing else to commend them. If they live longer, it is because they dine well and sleep in feathered beds. If this is remotely true, then “correcting” for social class should cancel out any effects of upbringing and living circumstances on lifespan.

To the contrary, much research (Der, Batty, & Deary, 2009; Deary, Whalley, & Starr, 2009; Gottfredson, 2004) finds that measures of intelligence taken in early childhood are good predictors of lifespan, even when social class is taken into account.

Intelligence and Early Life Mortality: Findings From a Longitudinal Sample of Youth

Kevin M. Beaver, Joseph A. Schwartz, Eric J. Connolly,Mohammed Said Al-Ghamdi, Ahmed Nezar Kobeisy, J. C. Barnes & Brian B. Boutwell

DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2015.1137994


The current study examined whether adolescent IQ predicted risk for mortality by the age of 32. Analyses of data from the Add Health revealed that IQ was related to mortality risk, such that respondents with relatively lower IQs were significantly more likely to experience early life mortality when compared with respondents with comparatively higher IQs. This association remained statistically significant even after controlling for a host of covariates such as race, gender, involvement in violent behaviors, levels of self-control, and poverty. The average IQ of deceased respondents was approximately 95 while the average IQ of living respondents was about 100.

Persons with comparatively lower IQ scores have been found, for instance, to be more likely to engage in risky behaviors that have been shown to compromise short- and long-term health (Gottfredson & Deary, 2004). Additionally, research findings have revealed significant direct associations between IQ and a number of health outcomes, including asthma, depression, high cholesterol, and tumor growth to name just a few (Der et al., 2009). Beyond these associations with health outcomes, IQ also appears to be related to the way in which individuals respond to medical advice and directions. To illustrate, once diagnosed with a health-debilitating disorder, individuals with lower levels of intelligence are less likely to take prescription medications as instructed and are less likely to schedule follow-up appointments compared to those with higher levels of intelligence (Gottfredson & Deary, 2004). Taken together, these findings from the cognitive epidemiological literature point to IQ as one of the most important factors that is connected with overall health (Deary, 2009).

Data for this study were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; Udry, 2003) a four-wave prospective study that was initially based on a nationally representative sample of American youth. The sampling frame consisted of all high schools with an 11th grade class and that had an enrollment of at least thirty students. A systematic random sample of these schools was then selected with the end result being the inclusion of 80 schools. The schools were stratified based on region, school type, percentage white, and urbanicity. The largest feeder school for each of these 80 schools was then selected to be included in the study. With this sampling procedure in place, there were a total of 132 schools that were retained. The first wave of data was collected in 1994–1995 when in-school surveys were administered to students who were in attendance at these middle or high schools on a specified day. In addition, an in-home component to wave 1 data was also included when 20,745 youth were selected to be re-interviewed in their homes along with their primary caregiver. The second wave of data was collected approximately 1.5 years later when 14,738 of the original respondents completed the survey instrument. Nearly seven years after the wave 1 data were originally collected, the third round of surveys were administered to 15,197 participants when the majority of the respondents were between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. The fourth and final wave of data was collected in 2008–2009when most of the 15,701 respondents were between the ages of 24 and 32 years of age and 50.5% of the sample was female. Overall, the Add Health data span approximately 14 years of human development (Harris, 2009; Harris et al., 2003).

At wave 3, participants were administered the Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT), which is a shortened version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R). The PVT is designed to measure individual variation in verbal skills and receptive vocabulary.




So, even at the early age of 32, a 5 IQ point handicap is making  difference between life and death.

First, and in line with existing research, there was a negative and statistically significant association between IQ scores and the odds of mortality. This significant association was detected in a bivariate rare-events binary logistic regression model as well as in the more fully specified models that accounted for the confounding effects of age, gender, race, involvement in violent behavior, levels of self-control, and poverty. Taken together, these findings suggest that lower IQ scores in adolescence are related to an increased risk of mortality in late adolescence and early adulthood.

The second main finding to emerge from the analyses was that, prior to including controls for violence and self-control, African Americans were about 2.61 times more likely to have experienced death by early adulthood relative to other races. This association was expected as previous research has revealed African Americans—as a group—are at increased risk for unhealthy outcomes and premature death and that their mean life expectancy is lower than that of other races (Crimmins & Saito, 2001). What was particularly surprising about the analyses, however, was that that the influence of race was no longer statistically significant in the fully specified model that accounted not only for IQ, but also for involvement in violent behaviors and for levels of self-control. These findings converge with those focusing on other phenotypes, wherein the effects of race can be fully accounted for when including a complete list of covariates (Beaver et al., 2013; Wright et al., 2014), some of which may serve as mediators.

Nonetheless, the authors are very cautious about intelligence being causal, particularly through a shared genetic pathway, though that is likely from other research. The short Peabody test was given when respondents were 18-26, which is old enough for other things to have influenced their intelligence (though this is probably not a big factor, but cannot be discounted). Moral: test intelligence early, at 4 years of age before kids go to school. That is already a very predictive score. The authors are happy with the Peabody test, saying it correlates well with other kid’s tests. I don’t question that, but I have the feeling it is insensitive for the higher ranges, so the correlations found here may be under-estimates of the real effect. Of course, happily for the subjects, few of them have died, but their good fortune makes it hard for the researchers to be sure of their findings. I am already pretty sure, because it fits in with other findings, but they, quite properly, cannot be.

Read it all here:

In my view this is another finding to strengthen Deary’s “system integrity” hypothesis. In genetic terms, whatever makes us bright makes us healthier and longer-lived.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Famous Four


Intelligence research may seem a lonely career choice. The public understanding of intelligence has fallen so far that all and sundry have a gut-full of disparagement to offer, and not much in the way of reasoned evidence.

Indeed, the capacity of fools to regard themselves as founts of wisdom was well studied by one of the four I will discuss below.

In a very refreshing change, four intelligence researchers have been singled out for honours. The American Psychological Association has listed the following in their Rising Stars of 2015

University of California, Irvine

Bailey studies the contributions of domain-general cognitive abilities and children’s specific mathematical skills to children’s mathematical development.

University of Edinburgh

Ritchie's research contributes significantly to the understanding of the causes of cognitive differences and their real-life impacts.

Goldsmiths College, University of London

Von Stumm innovates assessment methods in the behavioral sciences and produces original knowledge on life-span cognitive development.

Vrije Universiteit, Brussels

Woodley of Menie developed the best-supported theory in explaining positive and negative Flynn effects.

So, three out of the four rising stars had already been featured in “Psychological Comments” and I will repair my apparent omission of Drew Bailey as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, use their names in the search bar and the many mentions of their work will pop up for you to read.

The one who looked at people’s judgements about their own intelligence?

In terms of Tetlock’s superforecasters, on the narrow front of upcoming intelligence researchers I proudly claim a 75% success rate. (Long discursive meditations about predictive accuracy metrics to follow in due course).

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

3rd London Conference on Intelligence 13-15 May 2016


Would you be interested in attending the London Conference on Intelligence, to be held over the long weekend of 13-15 May?

Speakers will include many of the researchers whose work I have covered in this blog, and will be a mixture of papers and informal discussions. It will be relatively small scale, so that there is plenty of chance for interaction and conversation. If you are interested in researching intelligence or personality, or combining intelligence measures with other research you are doing, this would be a chance to meet researchers with new things to say.

The format is that we meet in central London on a Friday afternoon for a few hours of informal discussion between delegates, then a few keynote lectures, and then go off to a nearby pub for a drink and something to eat.

On Saturday starting at 9 am papers are presented and discussed all day,  and then in the evening we go to another pub followed by the conference dinner at an Italian restaurant. Two or three traditional toasts.

On Sunday papers are presented till mid-day with a final summary session on future projects.  Then we have informal end of conference lunches, sandwiches etc and more conversations.

If you would like to present a paper, send a one page abstract to me for consideration.

For readers, the Registration Fee is set at £20 in cash to cover tea, coffee and biscuits and room hire for the 3 days. We don’t have facilities to take credit cards.

If you would like to attend, (this is written so as to confuse a robot) write to me at my electronic address, using my first and second names separated by a dot, then the at sign, and then        

I will then send you further details.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Hive Minds ?


I am very glad that Garrett Jones has written “Hive Mind: How your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”.

And yes, I know that I have just posted up Stuart Ritchie’s review of the same book, but I had already made a long-drawn-out start on mine, so I am giving you the benefit of two perspectives. 

Jones has focussed attention on the collective effects of intelligence, showing that intelligence strongly shapes societies and economies. This will be something of a shock to many economists, and to The Economist magazine, and the disturbance this may cause them provides intelligence researchers with a source of harmless amusement. It is time that the default hypothesis of equi-potential economic humans was challenged, and this book may do it, if economists get round to reading it. If intelligence is important, and groups vary in intelligence, then the speed with which they learn new things will also vary, with profound consequences for their group achievements.

On a narrower front, how does one distinguish between a hive mind and a set of individuals working together? Is there anything extra? Does the hypothesis of a “hive” mind lead to any testable conclusions? That is, can we detect the difference between an aggregate mind and a hive mind, the assumption being that the spirit of a bee hive involves a higher sense of purpose, and of more closely coordinated intellects, or indeed a critical mass of inter-conectedness that a mere agglomeration of intellects could not achieve?

Were the scientists in the Manhattan Project a Hive Mind? They were certainly very bright, had a common purpose, and worked together pretty well. However, it was clear to all that some were very much brighter than others. Oppie led the pack, Richard Feynmann was more than a sounding board to his elders, and with Neil Bohr and Enrico Fermi the four of them could probably have got the device together, bar the long-winded, hand-operated computing (which Feynmann reorganised into a speedier and more effective process anyway). I say probably, because so many contributed, and I wouldn’t want to exclude Hans Bethe and Joseph Rotblatt, the latter not only for his abilities but for the amusing stories he told me about the project.

Has the Internet made us all into a hive mind? There is certainly a case to be made that our collective ability to retrieve and apply knowledge has increased considerably, and we are more closely inter-connected in terms of thoughts and knowledge than ever before, though Britain, France, Germany and Italy  in the Enlightenment must have been close rivals, certainly in terms of quality and depth of thought, if not quantity of communications. Here is the European Core as depicted by Charles Murray in “Human Accomplishment”.



So, what do we make of Hive Mind? First, Jones writes well. He wants to communicate, and has thought about the problems inherent in describing intelligence to those determined not to believe that it exists as a measureable characteristic of any importance. His explanations are good: well thought out and clearly written. Being understood takes much more work than being confusing. For example, he describes Spearman’s work in measuring ability as a decathlon where the best athletes tend to do well on all most of the ten events. Although forgotten, Spearman included the discrimination of musical pitch in his tests, finding it correlated with Maths and language ability, suggesting a more general capability than that caused by schooling. Jones calls this “the Da Vinci” effect. Jones says that the summary of ability given by the concept of g  is no more nor less a simplification than giving a person’s temperature in a single number.

Another example: his description of Axelrod’s wonderful “The Evolution of Cooperation”  is a fresh and interesting read. Patience, pleasantness and perceptiveness are required for good cooperation, and higher ability people have more of those than average.

Perhaps higher intelligence only leads to apparently patient behaviour because carefully considering the future requires keeping many facts in mind simultaneously, and having to do a few calculations.

Jones has a deep knowledge of economics, so there is much in the book about the link between personal characteristics and economic behaviour, and therefore between group differences and national economies. The core of the book is a set of explanations about how deeper and faster thinkers make better, more long-term and often kinder decisions.

I learned new things from this book, and also found much that I already knew expressed very well in ways which improve comprehension and memorability. We need more of these books, bringing up to date intelligence research to enclosed subject domains still working on distorted and poor quality findings.

Patience is often mentioned by Jones as a virtue of intelligent people. Since patience, by operational definition, requires the capacity to anticipate future events and to calculate the benefits of delayed gratification, this is part of intelligence,and no further explanation seems necessary. Jones seems to suggest that patience is an important personality variable which may be linked to intelligence. In current parlance “patience” is a facet of the major personality factors, such that patience is an aspect of the conjunction of agreeableness and emotional stability. I think that we will need to do some work on personality variables and economic achievement before concluding that patience is an essential extra requirement.

I admit I can’t understand Jones’s argument about why low skill (low IQ) immigrants are good for high productivity (high IQ) countries. I would have thought the whole tenor of the book was against that notion, but I may have been reading that chapter too late at night. He does say that he hopes rich countries will find “deep and effective” ways of raising the ability levels of people from poor countries, but if, as is very likely, rich countries are rich because of the high ability of their citizens derived from surviving demanding circumstances for many generations, and poor countries are poor because there was less selection for ability, then this quick few-generation IQ-boosting project is unlikely to be successful.

Has Jones proved that “your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”. Not really. Bright people do well in all countries. Bright people can also emigrate to brighter countries, and at least half of them do, away from Africa at least. A bright person can generally make their way anywhere. Jews, even when they are small in number, generally do very well, though much better in open societies.

Can we really prove the contrary assertion “Your IQ matters more than anybody else’s”? Not quite. Jones acknowledges that the smart fraction probably contribute far more than everyone else, but points out that this fraction is mathematically related to the average ability of each nation. A fair point, though the authors did their best to test the soundness of their results by comparing the average IQ with the higher smart fraction IQ, and the finding of stronger effects for the latter seem to be holding up.

Have humans achieved a Hive Mind? I think they are on the way to that, having made the biggest leap by switching on the Web at the turn of the Millenium (and about 40% of the world now has access From that collective library we get so much of what we know, or think we know, all of which has become retrievable by anyone with any curiosity, and almost for free. Things known after the year 2000 are more easily retrieved, so now is the new Gutenberg.

I hope this book gets read, and it would be marvellous if The Economist were to review it.  Some-one send them a copy.