Monday 21 April 2014

A researcher replies


Why don’t Northeast Asians win Nobel prizes?;
Genius - being a highly original thinker - is predicted by a combination of high IQ (which the Northeast Asians have) but also by a certain personality trait profile which distinguishes the 'genius' from the normal academic. The Big 5 pesonality factors are Agreeableness (Altruism), Conscientiousness (impulse control), Extraversion (feeling positive feelings), Neuroticism (feeling negative feelings) and Openess-Intellect (a combination of creativity and intellectual curiosity). The normal academic has high Agreeableness and Conscientiousness (that is low psychopathology). The genius, in general, has high psychopathology (ie low Agreeableness and low Conscientiousness) and high Openness. So, it is the combination of intelligence and psychopathic personality which predicts genius. Northeast Asians have very low psychopathology. This would explain why they do not win as many Nobel prizes as their high IQ might predict. 

> The evolution of racial differences in intelligence, in psychopathic personality and sporting abilities

Cold Winters theory would predict two things: that those evolved to hotter climates would have lower intelligence (as there would be lower selection pressure for it) and, in general, lower Agreeableness (less pressure to co-operatate) and lower Conscientiousness (less pressure to control impulses). These predictions are correct. Sub-Saharan Africans have relatively low intelligence and relatively high psychopathology. Cheating is predicted by psychopathic personality (low Agreeableness, low Conscientiousness) and low intelligence. As such, we would expect West Africans (for example) to be over-represented amongst cheaters in sport and there is sound evidence - currently under review - that this is the case in many sports. Chess is often seen as a sport. However, it is very much a test of intelligence and we would therefore expect poor African representation and very high Jewish representation. This is indeed the case.


  1. Hmm, I will be interested to see the evidence of sports cheating. Certainly elite sprinting is dominated by West Africans and also by cheaters, but in elite sprinting it is both highly beneficial (in terms of performance) to cheat, and highly lucrative in terms of sponsorship and prize money also. It's also quite easy to get away with it. And West Africans certainly do seem to have a genetic advantage in this field. But in situations where Caucasians have dominated a sporting field in comparable circumstances (easy to cheat and not be caught, cheating comes with a big performance boost, and the payouts are big) cheating has often also been endemic (elite road cycling/Le Tour de France comes to mind).

    Perhaps a possible method would be to watch a large number of Premier League football matches, where many different ethnic groups compete, and have a number of skilled raters (perhaps current or former referees) assess all players for n of cheating incidents per match. Of course the picture is somewhat complicated by the fact that in some sports many forms of cheating and rule-breaking are unofficially regarded as acceptable. In rugby it's totally fine to play all sorts of dirty tricks at the scrum and breakdown, but it's not OK to actively try to con the referee by faking injury (as is very common in football). Abusing the referee is absolutely verboten in rugby, but very common and often unpunished in football (despite being against the rules). Rugby's rules are also very complex, to the point where it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a genuine error and an attempted cheat. These issues certainly complicate measurement.

    My gut says that in the modern era of professional sports evolutionary/game theory predicts that cheaters of all races inevitably rise to the top. The rewards are just too big, the costs too low.

    1. Thanks for explaining modern sports behaviour! Reminds me of Professional Foul by Stoppard.

  2. I'm not sure that cold winters theory needs to make a prediction here, but any idea why mean temperature correlates strongly with IQ just within the 50 US states?

    r = -.66 (-.75 without Alaska and Hawaii).

    Can't be evolution, so maybe the global correlation between temperature and IQ might not be evolution either...?

  3. Oh, the correlations become -.53 and -.60 when controlling race.

    1. Could be a straightforward environmental explanation that in warm and sunny climates solving mental puzzles just doesn't seem worth the effort. A rational allocation of resources. One might test this by trying to give IQ tests to tourists on the beach, and comparing the results with those obtained when back in their colder countries. Perhaps warm temperatures reduce persistence in problem solving

    2. Isn't this down to economics? Successful cities with successful multi-national companies (New York, Seattle etc) inevitably attract the highest IQ citizens. Historically, most of the United States' largest cities were located in regions with temperate climates, no doubt partly for reasons of comfort for their inhabitants. That has resulted in spurious correlation between temperature and IQ. Maybe if one removed the states with the largest, most economically successful cities, the results might change?

    3. Begs the question how successful cities with successful multi-national companies get to achieve that position. If it is a matter of temperature based comfort then that is a real explanation for which problem solving is easier in particular geographies.

    4. A couple of points in response, James. If the argument is that in hot climates low IQ is not penalised as heavily as in cold climates (so that evolution doesn't weed out low IQ people in hot climates, and hence temperature "causes" average IQ levels), I would argue that in the US the relationship is not so causative - there is an association only between temperature and IQ. Cold temperatures stopped killing large numbers of people (owing to starvation etc) a very long time ago. For example, welfare (and to a lesser degree temperature control - air con etc) have been around for a long time. Second, high temperatures might mean high IQ people can't operate efficiently, but surely genetically they're still high IQ and will pass those characteristics on to the next generation? Hence the observed correlation would be between temperature and living standards, but not IQ.

  4. Hakan Wonderwerk22 April 2014 at 06:32

    So what's the range of variation within East Asia? Depressed psychopathic tendencies seem like it should largely be the outcome of Neolithic and post-Neolithic pacification processes (the rise and centralization of states with punitively enforced codes of law, the adoption of intensive agriculture, the concentration of dense sedentary populations) that we know to have been non-uniform in age of advent and intensity within East Asia.

    Potentially relevant are the differences between mainland China and Japan on one hand and Mongolia and both Koreas on the other on this map:

    What's more, in this list of rampage killers from Asia, it does seem notable that the Chinese ones are disproportionately from northern China:

    Zhaodong, Heilongjiang (NE China)
    Beijing (North China)
    Yueyang & Xima, Chongqing (SW China)
    Dayukou, Shanxi (North China)
    Guangzhou (SE China)
    Liuhe & Tonghua county, Jilin (NE China)
    Ankang & Suizhou, Shaanxi (NW China)
    Tianjin (North China)
    Ertaizi, Liaoning (NE China)
    Yongling, Liaoning (NE China)
    Chenggu, Shaanxi (NW China)
    Botou, Hebei (North China)
    Beijing (North China)
    Xianma, Ningxia (NW China)
    Chongqing (SW China)
    Malipo, Henan (Central China)
    Fu-an village, Jilin (NE China)
    Luoyang Town, Hubei (Central China)
    Chengyuan, Jiangxi (SE China)
    Kaifeng, Henan (Central China)
    Fumin, Jilin (NE China)
    Changshan, Guangdong (SE China)
    Hangzhou, Zhejiang (East China)
    Taijiang county, Guizhou (SW China)
    Wugu, Yunnan (SW China)
    Dingtao, Shandong (northern East China)
    Chang village, Hebei (North China)
    Jiekui, Guizhou (SW China)
    Lhasa, Tibet
    Changfeng County, Anhui (East China)
    Helong Township & Sunwobu, Jilin (NE China)

    Got bored ... that's only to #65.

    NE China (Jilin, Liaoning, Heilongjiang), the former Manchu domain adjoining the Korean peninsula, seems to make a very strong showing, much more than one would predict from share of population. Something interesting may also be going on in the SW, a relatively late-pacified region with substantial non-Han minority presence and probably also more historical "non-Han" ancestry in self-identified Han.

  5. Hakan Wonderwerk22 April 2014 at 06:36

    Note that NE China accounts for only 8% of the PRC's population.

  6. Fascinating. Would be good to measure this in terms of the population frequency world wide. We need someone to work on this data set, and make comparisons with US, Columbia, South Africa etc

  7. Any idea on how to increase conscientiousness in someone with low conscientiousness?

  8. "Northeast Asians have very low psychopathology..."

    Why, in your opinion, don't measured international differences agree with this model? Measure non-invariance? See: Schmitt, et al. (2007). The geographic distribution of Big Five personality traits patterns and profiles of human self-description across 56 nations.

    1. You can be a mad men conformist. Asians des-selected the nonconformist behavior traits. If they had many traits of this nature to de-select.