Sunday 24 July 2016

St Petersburg calling: The Gottfredson Bell Curve





If, despite her having made so may contributions to intelligence research, Linda Gottfredson had to be remembered for only one thing,  I think it would be for her exposition of the meaning of intelligence in everyday life.

Whereas most previous researchers talked about the abstract concept of intellectual power, and gave examples only in terms of academic qualifications, Linda looked at the practical impacts of ability on trainability and the successful completion of everyday tasks. Even among my clinical psychology colleagues, most of whom who had done lots of intelligence testing, her papers were received with enthusiasm and some amazement. She explained what people could do at all levels of intelligence, in a way that made sense to patients and clinicians alike.

Some people are brighter than others. This is the finding which has emerged from intelligence research over a century. Read Linda Gottfredson  “Why g Matters: The Complexity of Everyday Life” (1997) if only just page 117 for an explanation of the relationship between literacy, learning and intelligence.

The video below shows David Lubinski talking to Linda for her Distinguished Contributor Interview.


At 14 minutes she talks about the meaning of g, general intelligence. She recalls the three things that are required to detect g, according to Hunter and Schmidt: reliable measures, no restriction in the range of intelligence, and no sampling errors.

As a consequence of some people being brighter than others, and some jobs being more complex than others “You cannot have equality and excellence too”.

At 24 minutes she talks about the real tasks that people can or cannot do according to their intelligence levels.

At 35 minutes she describes how she came to write the statement on intelligence for the Wall Street Journal that was signed by 50 leading intelligence researchers in 1994. She said she kept it simple, and just summarised the main findings in the literature, and asked them to sign or not, not allowing them to change a word.

At 42 minutes she explains why intelligence is so important in health care: prevention requires a high level of self-care, and in the case of modern medicine, that turns out to be complicated. The dull are dying before their time, because the cannot follow the instructions for self-care.

At 57 minutes she mentions The Mind’s Eye: the capacity of intelligent people to imagine to imagine hypotheticals, and evaluate them.

At 1:07 why g matters, at 1.12 her admiration for Arthur Jensen, at 1.31 the contortions that some test creators have got into when trying to build a valid test which also annuls racial differences, mostly by complicated cheating (for example, restricting the cognitive elements of the test to being able to read at the 1st percentile).

A summary of a lifetime’s contribution, gracefully done by a researcher who suffered harassment for daring to talk about intelligence.



  1. Dead youtube link for me...

    Think you're looking for this one

  2. Sorry about that. Have corrected it, I think....

  3. Gutsy girl, Gottfredson.

    "At 42 minutes she explains why intelligence is so important in health care: prevention requires a high level of self-care, and in the case of modern medicine, that turns out to be complicated. The dull are dying before their time, because the cannot follow the instructions for self-care."

    Interesting point. I wonder how much of the shorter life-span of the dim is due to that effect, how much to a lifetime's accumulated insults and injuries to their minds and bodies, and how much to, say, general systemic fitness. (Could that be the reciprocal of genetic load?)

    God is a nasty sod: he's perfectly capable of dealing you a bad hand that's bad in every way.

    1. Dearieme,

      "God is a nasty sod


      True... And here is something else to consider.

      Parents: Little boy or girl! You’re going to exist!

      Embryo: Oooh, what does that entail?

      Parents: So many things! You’re going to be sentient, first of all. You will experience pleasure and pain. You will feel a wide variety of emotions, some of which will be augmented by your human intelligence!

      Embryo: That sounds complicated.

      Parents: It will be! The human experience is such a complex one, due to our high intelligence combined with our primitive instincts! We are probably the only creatures on the planet that have existential woes!

      Embryo: ........

      Parents: In fact, we’re creating you to help alleviate some of our existential woes! You will make us feel immortal and significant in the universe, even though we’re not. You will give us a illusory sense of purpose in life!

      Embryo: Gee, parents, I’m not sure I like the sound of existence. Do you think you could just abort me?

      Dad: Tough shit, kid. We want a baby.

      Mom: God wants us to choose life!

      Embryo: God?

      Parents: God is one of our many coping mechanisms. You’ll need some of your own to deal with how incompatible the universe is with human needs. We also use positive thinking, distractions, and logical fallacies such as the just world hypothesis.

      Embryo: Please, I don’t want this!

      Parents: Your animal instincts will take care of that after you’re born. You’ll want to live even if you’re miserable. Suicide will be extremely difficult to carry out even if you’re in constant agony.

      Embryo: Holyshitholyshitholyshit! Abort mission! Abort mission!

      Mom: There are puppies here. You’ll like them.

      Dad: And rainbows.

      Mom: We have your life almost entirely planned out for you; we just need to figure out your sex.

      Dad: You will have a gender identity that matches your sex, and you will marry someone of the opposite sex and reproduce with them so that this cycle of madness may continue for eons.

      Mom: You will have our political beliefs and religious beliefs.

      Dad: You will need to have a high-paying job to survive our country’s economic climate. You’re going to be in school for a very loooooong time.

      Embryo: School?

      Parents: So you can work for the rest of your life!

      Embryo: Look, this isn’t right. You wouldn’t make a decision this major for someone who already exists, would you?

      Parents: But you don’t exist yet. That makes it a-okay.

      Embryo: This is so pointlessly selfish!

      Mom: No, not having kids is selfish. That’s what people say, for some reason.

      Dad: Stop being a baby!

      Embryo: I haven’t even started yet…

      Parents: Life will be pretty fun while you’re still little and cute. Look forward to that.

      Embryo: How long will I not be little and cute?

      Parents: For most of your life.

      Embryo:?What am I going to spend my life doing, besides what you planned out for me?

      Parents: We can’t tell you exactly, but you will basically pursue pleasure and avoid suffering.

      Embryo: Every day for my entire life?

      Parents: Yes! You must always be doing something to maintain an emotional homeostasis! You will be a reaction machine! You will be pulled by the puppet strings of your physical and emotional needs!

      Embryo: Why????!!!!

      Parents: Life is beautiful!

      Embryo: I already disagree!

      Parents: Stop being a pessimist. Remember what we said about positive thinking?

      Embryo: This is insane! This is so pointless!

      Parents: If you hate life so much, you’re just going to die anyway.

      Embryo: "……………………………………………………….”

  4. Gottfredson is still being attacked by the dishonest race-baiters at the SPLC, which does a textbook point-and-sputter here:

  5. Higher instinctive impetus make ''the dull'' more prone to die earlier as well make ''them'' more prone to have kids earlier. Between the instinct/hormones (make things ''automatically'', without reflective approach, like a automatic pilot) and the reason ( manual pilot) a HIGHER PROPORTION of the ''duller'' who are more in the instinctive side than the ''smarter'' ones. But usually this spectrum is more related to the stupid and the wise.

    Stupid is not someone who score lower in iq tests or that can't learn quickly some stuff, stupidity is essentially the illogical ''understanding'' of the reality where people with any iq-layer can be.

    Wise is those who have developed or ease to the ratio-nal reasoning.