Thursday 2 June 2016

Some characteristics of eminent persons


Although it is my fond hope that “Psychological Comments” is becoming widely known, at least in the highly discerning circles inhabited by my distinguished readers, I sometimes wonder whether it would have been more accurate to call it “Supplementary Annexes”. As you will discern, I am not good at dreaming up best-selling brand names. However, the answer to interesting questions about scientific findings are often buried in supplementary annexes. The authors are not to be blamed for space limitations, though sometimes important matters are consigned to dark corners, and readers have to dig a little.

Who are the eminent persons who get very high scores at age 13 on tests which most 18 year olds find very difficult?

Here is the relevant table S1 in Supplementary Annex 1 to the paper by Makel et al. described in my previous posting.

Demography of eminence

First, as regards the sex ratio, in the TIP sample we have 215 men to 44 women, and in the SMPY sample 253 men to 67 women, so 81% of the overall sample are male, and 19% women, and the sex ratio is 468:111 or 4.22 to 1.

My view on this finding is that:

1) According to the Lynn hypothesis, males are late developers, so at 13 years of age sex differences in ability should be very small, but in maturity there will be a 4 IQ point male advantage. It would be good to look at the Verbal versus Maths scores (probably to be found in previous publications by these same authors) but in this case the male advantage is already evident at age 13.

2) Overall sex differences of this magnitude are closest to what we get by assuming that Males are IQ 102(15) and Females  IQ 98(14) and assuming that the cut-off is IQ140. At this level 0.56% of men make the cut and 0.13% of women: the sex ratio is 4.18. That means that 81% of bright people will be men. This is a good match with these actual results.

However, it is pretty clear that these particular students are in the top 1 in 10,000, so the IQ equivalent is 155. At that level, to get a 4.2 sex ratio we get closest by assuming Males are IQ101(15) and Females IQ100(14). The issue of sex differences is not perfectly resolvable at the moment, because neither of these two talent searches will have found all the bright persons at that age (though I bet they will have found most of them), and the population of Scottish 11 year old shows an actual 8 to 1 sex ratio for the top scorers. However, the Scottish population data is a population N which takes precedence over a sample s. Nevertheless, both are highly informative

The data on ethnicity are rather sparse, but we can do a little bit of work on them by looking at US Census figures for the 1970s when most of these children were born.

White 178,119,221      Eminents 418         Rate  .0000023467

Black   22,539,362     Eminents None stated.

Asian    1,526,401     Eminents 126          Rate .000082549

So, in the absence of more detailed particulars about the Other category, Asians win the race by a country mile. If we simplify things by considering only Whites, Blacks and Asians the US in 1970 then the country at that time was 88% White, 11% Black, and less than 1% Asian. The actual results of eminent students are 77% White, 0% Black, 22% Asian. No need for a Chi square.

In terms of eminence, Whites are somewhat under-represented, Blacks massively under-represented, Asians massively over-represented. We would need more detail about ethnic groupings before refining these numbers, but it is clear that some groups are far brighter than others, as intelligence testing reveals.

Another approach is to use the visualizer, putting Asians at IQ 106 (15) and Whites at IQ 100 (15) and the cut-off at IQ155. Then Asians achieve eminence 4.4 times more often than Whites.

Putting Blacks at IQ 85(15) against Whites IQ 100(15) then Whites achieve the eminence level 355 times more often. If we put Black IQ at 90 then Whites achieve the eminence level 74 times more often.

In general terms, the study of eminent minds identified at age 13 reveals significant male advantage, consistent with greater male variance and probably with somewhat higher male intelligence, though not conclusively. The study also reveals highly significant Asian advantage over Caucasians, consistent with higher intelligence, and Caucasian advantage over Africans, as revealed by intelligence testing.





  1. I believe the Black American standard deviation is 12, not 15.

    Also I'm not sure males have a higher mean IQ, though they probably do have a higher standard deviation than females.

  2. Thanks. Will check those details (are they on your blog)? Was presaging new work I expect to be out over the next few months on the case for a 4 IQ point male advantage.

  3. "Caucasian advantage over Africans, as revealed by intelligence testing": that just proves that IQ tests are incorrigibly racist.

    "highly significant Asian advantage over Caucasians": shshshshsh!

  4. There's an interesting fact about the ethnic composition of SMPY that they have never published.

    I heard it through the grapevine.

  5. Dear Greg, I was thinking of you when I wrote up the post, because I recalled exactly what you had said. So, I wrote to the authors asking them for further and better particulars about the demographics of the group, and will report on that when I receive a reply. In that vein, this very week I spoke to a researcher known to me for many years who told me that he had never been able to publish all his work on MRI scans 30 years ago because they showed a significantly lower brain size for the African patients. He felt that readers should know about this so as to be able to interpret other important brain anomalies, but it was considered "unpublishable".

  6. I remember being part of the DUKE TIP program in elementary/middle school. I had a high enough verbal ( 640 in 7th grade, and I was a year younger than everyone else) and a just barely high enough math (I think high 400 or low 500) score on the SAT to make it in.

    At my school there were 3 others who scored a little below me, who I don't *think* made it in, in a grade size of ~80 students. As one might predict from the mean IQ's of different ethnic groups...this was a Jewish day school that drew fro a wealthy Jewish community.

    The others, even though they scored below me, have been more successful so far. My low conscientiousness has held me back-- or is that just a excuse for a bad work ethic?

    Enjoying your blog


    1. If anyone is curious, I tried estimating it and I think that around a Jewish mean IQ of 108, they become a third of the white sample in TIP/SMPY; at 109.5, they become a majority; and by 112, they are ~100%.

      It would be interesting to know the actual representation. Almost certainly at least a fifth, but how much higher?

    2. You have wisely included IQ 112 in your calculations. I will let you know when I hear back from the authors.

    3. Should've known La Griffe would have done it already - the threshold method is his shtick, after all.

    4. @gwern

      I'm sure you've done this because you're pretty methodical, but did you account for Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic IQ and population in US?


      The large and growing % of Orthodox Jews who participate in varying degrees with the mainstream education system.

      In my personal experience, Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox Jewish school have very good schools, with both high-quality religious and secular education, but the the "ultra-Orthodox", often have low quality schools that focus mostly on religious education, and often deliver bad English instruction and and bad math instruction.

      The ultra orthodox usually have significantly higher family sizes, sometimes have isolated communities, etc. and may have significant founder effects even compared to Jews in general. I wonder what their average IQ is. I haven't been able to find much data on average IQ or SAT of ultra-orthodox in the US or Israel...

      I knew one guy who was attending the law school at the university I just graduated undergrad from (around rank 50 school in the US),who got into law school only because of his LSAT score-- he'd basically never had a good English class in his life, had spent a couple of years after high school in a yeshiva (admittedly, probably very god training for law school), and was just now, in law school, learning about evolution, biology, etc.

      I'd be curious to see if IQ scores differ in those ultra-religious groups from their derived population. Probably not...but maybe their schooling, focused as it is on Jewish law and interpretation and debate, and not focused on math, would skew their childhood IQ's.


    5. "probably very god training for law school": you win the Typo of the Week award. I'd be proud of that one if I were you.

    6. I didn't because I couldn't find any comments on the breakdown of Sephardic vs Ashkenazi in the USA in 1970 other than a comment that the latter were a 'vast majority'. Since the Jewish Population Survey was probably an undercount in not including all the people of Jewish descent, I'm hopeful those two biases simply cancel out.

  7. Dear Gardenofjew, thanks for you contribution, and in the modern parlance, "personal testimony" which helps confirm Greg's information. Conscientiousness lets many of us down, even those with what would probably have been lower scores. Supports Jensen's views on genius, that Success = ability, times effort, times opportunity.

  8. "Success = ability, times effort, times opportunity": in a metaphorical way that seems pretty reasonable. It explains success but does it explain genius? Most success is too routine a matter to earn someone the title "genius", isn't it?

    1. "Most success is too routine a matter to earn someone the title "genius""

      And genius is often too idiosyncratic and out of step to succeed. Many canonical artists and writers had long patches of poverty and obscurity, and for each of them there were hundreds of similar merit who never left that obscurity. Many didn't want to be known, especially those who got the "tall poppy" treatment as children.

    2. "'Success = ability, times effort, times opportunity': in a metaphorical way that seems pretty reasonable."

      That equation needs to add: "minus the efforts of the confederation of dunces and competitors".

      Reading up on WP: tall poppy syndrome I found the concept goes back to Herodutus, one tyrant giving wordless advice to another by striking off the heads of the tallest plants in the crop. That article linked to another, much more elaborate and systematic Scandinavian version, "the law of Jante", which I think has deep roots in the Anglosphere as well, explaining why the rarity of intelligence is not well correlated with the rarity of eminence. Here is a quote:
      The Jante Law as a concept was created by the Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose,[1] who, in his novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933, English translation published in the USA in 1936), identified the Law of Jante as ten rules. Sandemose's novel portrays the small Danish town Jante .... Generally used colloquially in Denmark[3] and the rest of the Nordic countries as a sociological term to negatively describe a condescending attitude towards individuality and success, the term refers to a mentality that de-emphasises individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers.

      There are ten rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: You are not to think you're anyone special or that you're better than us."

      The ten laws are:

      You're not to think you are anything special.
      You're not to think you are as good as we are.
      You're not to think you are smarter than we are.
      You're not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
      You're not to think you know more than we do.
      You're not to think you are more important than we are.
      You're not to think you are good at anything.
      You're not to laugh at us.
      You're not to think anyone cares about you.
      You're not to think you can teach us anything.

      An eleventh rule recognised in the novel as 'the penal code of Jante' is:
      . "Perhaps you don't think we know a few things about you?"

  9. I conflated two things: success and genius. On the latter, Jensen was clear it required more than high intelligence, but (from memory) the other ingredient seemed to be mental energy, also known as effort.

    1. A hae ma doots: there must be more to it than that, unless "genius" is just defined to make it true.

  10. @deariemi

    Yes, that's a pretty great mistake. Proud!


    That makes sense. I didn't realize your analysis was focused on 1970. Back then the complicating factors would have been smaller: ultra-orthodox Jews were not quite as self-isolating as they are now, were not as numerous, and Ashkenazi Jews were a larger portion of the Jewish pie.

    Is it detailed somewhere on your website?