June 29, 2012

Contra Kanazawa

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott Barry MacKaufman

A Scots-Irishman named, uh, "Scott"?

That's, uh, well, like, uh, that's, uh, well, like, uh, that's, uh, well, like, uh, that's, uh, well, like, uh, that's...

SEGFAULT STACK OVERFLOW

V said...

My guess is that g is linked with the cognitive building blocks more than the architecture- how readily the brain uses glucose, the speed at which gateways channel ions, etc.- and if the subcomponents work well, any module will do better. Previous results showed a correlation between reaction speed and g which seems to be evidence for that guess. (The 'bell curve through genetic noise' hypothesis that Kaufman discusses fits well with this guess, but they don't require each other.)

But in this experiment, deduction speed didn't correlate with g, which is evidence against my guess. Hmm.

tommy said...

Nature is an engineer. The brain isn't going to develop things twice when it can use the same thing over again. That g can handle both novel and familiar situations shouldn't be too surprising. It's about what we would expect out of an optimized brain. If evolution can employ a large percentage of the same neural pathway with detours from the main road to various domain specific side roads, then why evolve two main pathways to get to each? g is the highway, those other domains are the on-ramps, off-ramps, city streets. Sure, that's a bit simplistic, since the brain's organization is a bit more complex than that (a highway may just be a city street in another situation), but you get the drift.

So perhaps the usability of those main pathways is what we would call g and the side roads are what we would call talent. (Alternatively, it could be the ability to toggle between using neural pathways as highways or city roads or a dozen other similar possibilities.)

I suspect intelligence is probably like multiple circles that almost, but don't quite, overlap entirely. Those small non-overlapping parts might be g subfactors or domain-specific intelligence factors and, while their total area may be small compared to g, the actual size and overlap pattern vary from one individual to the next.

For all species, evolution is probably constantly shifting between developmental pathways that emphasize specific and general abilities depending on environmental circumstances (including environmental randomnness). Sometimes you branch out, sometimes you broaden, sometimes you spread out. If a society selectively bred those who could understand and perform well in a very specific intellectual area, like microeconomics, for long enough, I would expect an initial rise in g (for obvious reaons), but I also suspect this ability to know and understand microeconomics would also become domain specialized to an extent since you're not breeding based on whether the microeconomist can understand physics, chemistry, or some kind of engineering, or philosophy, or any other high g activity, and it may not be surprising if, in a several dozen generations of intensive selective breeding, in a society that no longer holds tests for microeconomic ability, adopted children from the microeconomist tribe still have a knack for economics that exceeds their ability in physics or chemistry. Certain domains have been emphasized, others neglected. Some neural pathways have been selected for robustness while others have been allowed to atrophy.

ben tillman said...

Evolutionary psychologists have tended to assume that for any trait important to fitness, selection pressure would reduce variance around an optimal level of the trait, with individual differences being random noise.

Really? It seems to me that they assume that for any trait important to fitness in a particular environment, selection pressure would reduce variance around an optimal level of the trait for that environment, with individual differences being random noise.

Norville Rogers said...

...We also administered a number of measures of cognitive ability, including verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, working memory, processing speed, and explicit associative learning ability...

They ought to identify the most seaworthy metric from these, rather than battling over a term "general intelligence" which encourages a lot of semantic argument, not only from people of academic bent & incentives. Why wouldn't physical process of thought have a measurable characteristic like horsepower or (in the olds days) megahertz for computers? Unless the process doesn't obey physical laws. Now perhaps that process is only observed indirectly via the individual's application of thinking, whether to read a legal brief or play chess or hatch a plan for running guns into Mexico; but can't those be separated off from an underlying model of the mechanics of thought? I realize this is not the main point of their study (finding an evolutionary cause for "domain general cognitive abilities")

JayMan said...

This makes much more sense that Kanazawa's insightful, but overly simplistic Savanna Hypothesis. The source escapes at the moment, but this meshes with Linda Gottfredson's (I believe) observation that among Bushmen, IQ is negatively correlated with belief in traditional medicine.

Even with these groups, it appears that IQ is helpful.

Luke Lea said...

Was that really necessary?

TGGP said...

I don't recall if Kanazawa ever offered any evidence for his theory. At any rate, he can't respond at his Psychology Today blog because he was banned from blogging for a year. I for one think blogs are just the place for work of his quality.

Nanonymous said...

This makes much more sense that Kanazawa's insightful, but overly simplistic Savanna Hypothesis.

Almost anything would though... I made a real effort to finish reading Kaufman's piece. This stuff is like Jung vs Freud. Historically interesting but ultimately meaningless.

Simple and obvious: g is a fact of life while evolutionary psychology is a fact of researchers' vivid imagination of how everything in life is adaptive.

Anonymous said...

http://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/watsoning-martin-sewell/

Anonymous said...

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/28/lost_highways

Henry Canaday said...

I was confused about how he was measuring speed to deduction. Was it speed to the correct deduction, or speed to a deduction, whether correct or not? I can see how smart people might: 1) be able to decide more quickly; but 2) simultaneouly tend to take more time to reach a correct deduction in a problem they recognize has some potential traps.

On the surface, it seems he was using definition 1, but possibility 2 might blur the potential correlation.

Anon87 said...

OT: "Guess the race" at McDonalds

candid_observer said...

I am always puzzled when issues like this arise regarding the specificity of a supposed evolutionary psychology trait or mechanism. Most people seem to assume that evolution is simply going to see to it that the trait or mechanism comes about just in the ideal form that the need would seem to prescribe.

Stephen Jay Gould may have been wrong about many things, but one thing he was dead right about was that evolution uses what it has available to serve the functions required: thus, we have the panda's bizarre "thumb". Evolution is at least as much about bad, but serviceable enough, "engineering", as it is about successful adaptation to needs.

It is entirely plausible that the reason g is so important is that it was the easiest thing for evolution to manipulate to achieve the required ends. Maybe it would have been better if each need was serviced by a different, quite specialized, component. But constructing such a component from modifications in the DNA sequence might not have been possible, or, more to the point, might not have been the steepest gradient in the possible evolutionary paths. If enhancements to g in certain areas of the brain achieved the same effect faster, that's what evolution would bring about.

I do wonder how well some of these thinkers (or perhaps commenters) really grasp evolution, if they don't understand how constrained evolution is in how it can proceed.

SFG said...

What's the drawback to g? There must be some disadvantage or we'd all be walking around with IQs of 240.

Anonymous said...

"What's the drawback to g? There must be some disadvantage or we'd all be walking around with IQs of 240."

The brain requires a heck of a lot of energy, over 20% I think, maybe closer to 25%.

Anonymous said...

What's the drawback to g?

High-G Folk can't seem to find any time in their busy schedules for making babies.

And it's not a new phenomenon - in fact, it turns out that it's as old as recorded history.

Anonymous said...


"What's the drawback to g? There must be some disadvantage or we'd all be walking around with IQs of 240."

The brain requires a heck of a lot of energy, over 20% I think, maybe closer to 25%.


Indeed. There are development issues, birthing issues and operational issues.

These tend, in my view, to push people towards hard-coded modules for operating in their specific environment, if that environment stays social for long enough.

Thus, looking at the first two four card tests the article looks at, it seems very clear that people have hard-wired modules for dealing with the second. It is known as cheating detection.

The smartest people around will be able to co-opt existing hard-wired facilities for isomorphic problems.

Anonymous said...

Brain volume, number of neurons, neural firing, working memory, knowledge, etc are all ingredients to a great creative work of art/science. It s the intellectual software spark, creates and uses these ingredients to do something genius. Most discoveries are through hard work by smart people built sometimes incrementally. Something serependitiuos needs a genius spark.

From Hindu perspective universe is a hologram of different energies, intellect is one such, a genius is tapping into higher intelligence.

Chuck said...

Scott Barry Kaufman....

I commented on one of his others articles here:

http://occidentalascent.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/misunderstanding-heritability/

ben tillman said...

What's the drawback to g? There must be some disadvantage or we'd all be walking around with IQs of 240.

The drawback to g is the same as a drawback to a Mercedes -- it's expensive!