Neural properties of the mind: Part 1 by King meLo

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[Note from Pumpkin Person: the following is a guest article and does not necessarily reflect my views]

Introduction

The physical interactions behind cognitive variation are arguably the most studied and elusive aspects of human diversity. Despite the HBD community’s enormous interest in the mind, I find that many of the modern theories they propagate are lacking conceptual rigor. Within this thesis I will attempt the following: 1) To persuade the audience that my conception of particular mental phenomena is more precise than or at least endorses the most epistemically accurate contemporary hypotheses. And 2) To lay out a simple yet reliable framework for future HBDers to base new ideas on by giving biological explanations of particular psychological phenomena. For this purpose alone you can treat this article as a short summarization of the extensive research into our concept of consciousness, as such I will not be covering any of this in extreme detail, neither will I be covering every single aspect of the mind, but it will of course be accompanied by studies and papers that will elucidate these concepts further for anyone who is interested.


Philosophy of mind 

First, I think it’s appropriate to cover the philosophical grounds of my views. It should be no surprise that Physicalism/Naturalism is the most dominant position among philosophers within that domain (Bourget and Chalmers, 2013). The number is even greater if you consider scientists as philosophers (which they are). These figures are expected because Physicalism is the most parsimonious explanatory model for how our world works. So what is Physicalism? At the basic level, Physicalism is the belief that our world is a result of physical laws. I cannot highlight the entirety of this debate, the intricacy of the subjects within this article could span the length of multiple textbooks. I will delve more into this in future posts. Instead, I’m going to simply rebut what I believe are common fallacies that underlie dualistic thinking.

The arguments I have read tend to follow similar patterns in their reasoning. The one we will discuss first is the intensional fallacy. Dualist arguments that suffer from this flaw are presented in the following format:

P1: X (usually the mind) has property A

P2: Y (usually the brain/body or just physical entities in general) has property B

P3: Leibniz law which states: Necessarily, for anything, x, and anything, y, x is identical to y if and only if for any property x has, y has, and for any property y has, x has.


C1: X is not Y

From the onset this doesn’t seem that fallacious,  and of course some would even argue the intensional fallacy cannot apply here, as leibniz law is not dependent on what someone knows but the properties a target may exhibit. This is incorrect, knowing the different properties the entity may possess by definition requires knowledge and subsequently a thinker. To see why this argument is ultimately fallacious, observe the following syllogism:

P1: Water is knowable with the unaided eye

P2: H2O is unknowable with the unaided eye

P3: leibniz law

C1: Water is not H2O

Descartes, Ross, and arguments on the unity of consciousness tend to all commit this fallacy. We could replace the subjects and their properties with that of neon and boron and the conclusion would be true, the problem is that discrepancies between the descriptions of physical and mental states (or any concept) does not necessarily entail that the two cannot be identical in reference. To make definitive statements on the mind’s characteristics requires an identification of the mechanisms that catalyze such functions. Physicalists have this luxury, Dualists do not. This idea is echoed (actually I’m the echo) by Kant (1781) in his 2nd paralogism of his Critique of Pure Reason (Kitcher, 1990) This brings me to the second fallacy: ad ignorantiam.  We know a lot about the mind, Philosophy, Art, History, Literature, Psychology, Neuroscience, etc. What seems to be the crux of the issue is how subjectivity arises from objectivity. I am not charging any particular Dualist argument with this fallacy. Instead, I believe this fallacy pervades Dualism as a whole. It usually goes:

P1: Despite Physicalism’s explanatory power, it hasn’t explained the phenomenological character of experience.

P2: Since Physicalism cannot explain this particular aspect it cannot be a tenable model for our world


C1: Dualism is the only tenable position

What makes this a fallacious argument is that the proponent is essentially asking you to “prove him wrong”. Phenomenology is a difficult concept to ground in physical structures simply because of the sheer complexity behind it. Donald davidson even advocated Dual Aspect Monism as a solution to this perceived indeterminism (more on stochasticity later). Despite the debate on the aforementioned subject, if Dualists accept interactionism (which they have to), positing an “ectoplasmic” nature to mental states is pure ad hoc. This brings me to the final fallacy I will discuss: begging the question. If Physicalists can account for these qualities then any Dualist argument against Physicalism already presupposes the need for Dualism. If Physicalism cannot account for said phenomena then these criticisms could cut both ways. More on Dualism and its presumed fallacies.


Nature of the system

These following sections won’t be new or helpful to anyone versed in current literature on neuroscience or similar fields. This is simply a reference point for those less knowledgeable on the subject. Usually, when you read on the Nervous system, authors will refer to its descriptions with computer and engineering metaphors (Furber and Temple, 2007). This article will do the same, but for conceptual clarity I will stress that the brain is not a computer. Yes, it’s true that computers are the closest thing to a brain that we’ve engineered, but it is a biological organ that has been crafted by millions of years of sloppy evolution. As obvious as that is, let it serve as a reminder to not to take the metaphors too seriously. Despite my previous views, the brain is not a parallel system. There aren’t actual physical boundaries that could represent independence. Subsequently, the brain and the mind cannot be modular as modularity also requires independence. The NS and its parts is in fact parallel if you consider each neuron as its own processor with each synaptic cleft as a physical boundary (though you could arguably still contest the independence). Unfortunately, this is not what Scientists of the mind refer to when they use these terms. Cognitive scientists and Psychologists refer to more complex interactions, and as a result many of their computational models could be labelled parallel.  Their divisions are more abstract, the subject of this article is a more empirically grounded level of function.

If anything the brain is an integrated memory system. Which is to say that it is dependent upon neighboring receivers to produce certain behaviors and actions. An integrated system has the same potential as a parallel one, as it can run multiple operations simultaneously (Born 2001). I find integration a better description of our nervous system because it allows for the dependency we clearly witness. Compartmentalization of the cerebral hemispheres is arbitrary. As you can see from the previous video, simple observation indicates that there are no real anatomical boundaries except possibly sulci. However, this would still be against the interests of the consensus. Despite this, localization can still be realized through averaging the enormous variation in functionality (Sporns, Tononi, and Kotter, 2005). Localization is still tricky to realize, as the brain is a biological construct with a general purpose function. This implies that neuronal activity of the same tasks can vary in individuals day by day. There exists a tug and pull between minimization of cost and maximization of growth and adaptation. This is how the brain retains plasticity via a “winner takes all” scenario while simultaneously allowing arborization of localized functionality to solidify (Barbey, 2018). These functions are carried out by populations of neurons. This is because there is no specificity (except maybe some kind of spatial tendency) in regard to the connections between individual neurons.  It should be noted that this is not in reference to variation over time. The plasticity of individual neuronal connections and the categorical selection of pathways that groups of neurons take is determined by a multitude of factors that can be coherently expressed, so a lack of specificity is not equivalent to indeterminism in this context. RaceRealist has an interesting article that could explain the stochasticity of low level connectivity. This link will also be helpful to those interested in how this connectivity is realized. As far as the connectivity on the population level goes, there is considerable determinism that shapes the probabilistic nature of cognition (Dold et al., 2018).

Memory

This is possibly the most important aspect of consciousness, as it is an accumulation of our memories that help formulate how we perceive and establish ourselves. Alzheimers is a type of dementia that affects memory which can slowly make its carrier lose themselves over time. Our memories are completely dependent on external stimuli. Sub-mechanisms of neural plasticity are responsible for this function and can be carried out in multiple ways. Synaptic plasticity is the most commonly discussed aspect of neuroplasticity. Nonsynaptic Plasticity is newer to the field of neuroscience but works synergistically with the former to carry out key mechanisms involving memory and learning (Tully, Hennig, and Lansner, 2014). Simply put, learning a new skill requires locally specific neurons and their glial modulators to strengthen or weaken their connections with each other. The more you carry out these tasks the stronger these connections become, and subsequently the easier it becomes to perform said tasks. Your eyes, ears and skin are sensory organs that transfer information to your brain where it is integrated, which then catalyzes a motor response (most of the time). The world we model around us completely relies on the information from these organs. Because of this, the brain can be said to be experience dependent. Hence, why the brain is a memory system above all else.

There is considerable debate how memories are stored or retrieved. These traces of memories are called engrams. The most prevalent theory is that the patterns of neurons that were initiated when a memory was solidified are what reactivate when a memory is retrieved. These patterns all happen to be a part of a redundant circuitry, just in case if an engram is wiped out it can still be reformed by using alternative pathways. This is important to note, because this means our brains do not perfectly recall information, they reconstruct it. One counter (though they may coincide with each other) to this theory is the possibility that memory is stored in DNA or RNA through epigenetic changes (Bedecarrats, Chen, Pearce, Cai, Glanzman, 2018). In this study, the researchers were able to transfer memories from a trained slug to an untrained one by injecting it with RNA of the former. Usually the criticism against this study has to do with the supposed “conflation” of memory with the response showcased by the untrained Aplysia (an example being Mattei, 2018). This is an obfuscation  from a distinction without a difference. In reality, this effect probably explains how instincts become ingrained within organisms over evolutionary time. The difference is simply the complexity involved and it’s quite possible both mechanisms are responsible for the propagation of memories. Refer to Abraham, Jones, and Glanzman, 2019 for further information on the topic.


Emotions

In my opinion, emotions are probably the hardest aspect for laymen to conceptualize properly. At the most basic level emotions are simply a type of interoception (Critchley, Garfinkel, 2018). Interoception is the brain’s ability to receive information on the internal state of its physiological systems which allows it to maintain homeostasis. These fluctuations in physiology can be triggered by exogenous stimuli and depending on cultural/social differences these stimuli will have varying responses from the individual (Barrett, 2017). Those specific factors are very important as some studies and experiments have showcased that different emotions can have incredibly similar physiological responses. A frequently cited example is Dutton and Aron, 1974. Not only can different emotions have nearly the same physiological effects there are also overlapping physiological effects for different emotions! However, there is enough consistency that localization is reliable (Nummenmaa, Glerean, Hari, Hietanen, 2013). To give an example that many HBDers would probably relate to. Let’s say the sight of interracial sex angers me. The external input (interracial sex) is recieved by sensory organs (my eyes) and then because of accompanying mental dispositions (like racsim) it triggers physiological responses like increased heart beat, higher blood pressure, your brain becomes flooded with catecholamines giving you a burst of energy, your muscles tense, breathing becomes more rapid, etc. This holistic process is itself what we refer to as emotion.

Now emotions are an important part of our decision making processes. You literally cannot make decisions without emotions. As emotions not only dictate the type of decisions we make, they also influence which path we choose when confronted with choice. Cold logic is far more subjective than most people would even realize. This brings forth a new question: What is the relationship between intelligence and emotional intelligence?


Before discussing this we need to first make it clear what exactly it is we’re talking about. Pumpkinperson recognizes that EQ is a very vague concept that isn’t distinguished well from others in his 2016 article. He states that: And Goleman ruined his whole construct by not distinguishing between people who are smart at emotions (i.e. a master manipulator), and those who just have good emotions (someone who doesn’t feel the need to overeat).” The latter definition is closer to what we will be using. I believe the former is more akin to what we know of as “social intelligence”. For the sake of this post we will be defining it specifically as the ability to regulate and recognize one’s emotions, as I believe attributing any more to the concept will render it indistinguishable from Theory of Mind. Instead it would be more accurate to say that SQ and EQ are subsidiary abilities to TOM.

Since we’ve more or less established that emotions are a type of interoception it seems the best way to answer the previous question is to find exactly what the relationship between interoception and IQ is. To find this out we need to understand how one goes about quantifying this construct. Garfinkel, Seth, Barrett, Suzuki, Critchley, 2015 do just this by making the distinction between subjective and objective measurements of interoception and how both are required to make accurate assessment of one’s EQ (see table one for detailed examples). Now of course the authors cited never mention EQ once in the paper, but I believe conceptually what they are measuring is incredibly similar if not identical to EQ. For example, Garfinkel et al, 2016 found that people with higher anxiety had poorer abilities to accurately gauge their respiratory functions. This connection is further corroborated by some studies indicating that IQ and EQ overlap heavily in the neural networks that create said properties (Barbey, Colom, Grafman, 2012). Our own Racerealist provided considerable evidence that the mediating factor behind racial differences in aggression was education, not testosterone: However, as I’ve noted last year (and as Alvarado, 2013 did as well), young black males with low education have higher levels of testosterone which is not noticed in black males of the same age group but with more education (Mazur, 2016). Since blacks of a similar age group have lower levels of testosterone but are more highly educated then this is a clue that education drives aggression/testosterone/violent behavior and not that testosterone drives it.

Mazur (2016) also replicated Assari, Caldwell, and Zimmerman’s (2014) finding that “Our model in the male sample suggests that males with higher levels of education has lower aggressive behaviors. Among males, testosterone was not associated with aggressive behaviors.”” This all seems to imply that both EQ and IQ are heavily integrated with one another. In fact, intelligence may be required to regulate one’s emotions and that this creates a feedback loop where emotional issues cause intellectual issues and vice versa. This of course has effects on the racial level that I will delve into in another blog post.


Intelligence

What exactly is intelligence? Pumpkinperson and I usually define it as the mental ability to adapt and I imagine most people would agree, but there is no actual agreed upon definition and I tend to see great variation when reading upon the subject. Truthfully, most variations are semantic rather than conceptual. Macdonald & Woodley, 2016 refer to intelligence as novel problem solving. They state: “Intelligence is usually distinguished from learning which subsumes a variety of mechanisms that allow the organism to take advantage of temporary regularities in its environment – paradigmatically classical and operant conditioning….Intelligence, on the other hand, assumes no environmental regularities – even temporary ones – nor does it refer to learning how to achieve a goal by observing others who have already solved the problem. Rather, as stated in Jerison’s definition, there is the implication that the organism has a goal and is integrating its knowledge in order to solve problems.” I see this definition the most in regards to Evolutionary Biology, and while it is not that different from Pumpkin and I’s definition, notice that we already established earlier that no aspect of cognition can be independent of one’s previous experience. So “novel problem solving” is a nonsensical term. Subsequently one cannot define mental constructs as being separate from the cultural/environmental conditions they are situated in because said mental constructs cannot develop or exist without input from these exogenous factors. Intelligence is holistically catalyzed, so terms like innate, novel, or potential cannot be accurate descriptors for this concept. 

Unfortunately, intelligence is almost always coextensive with these terms. These types of issues can cause all sorts of conceptual misunderstandings in discourse on the subject. For example a common criticism thrown at intelligence testing is the idea that they are culturally biased. Now these types of critiques are appropriate when in reference to more menial aspects of cultural differences like how the Japanese read right to left instead of left to right like Americans, or how the former tends to think more collectively than the latter. However, when you divorce the idea of “culture free potential” and “intelligence” from one another it becomes clear that intelligence is not really distinguishable from the application of cultural knowledge. Obviously it doesn’t take some sort of genius to see the fallacy in trying to give a Ugandan who only speaks his native tongue and has never ventured outside of his country the Weschler in english and then call him stupid when he inevitably fails, but that is not what’s happening. The truth of the matter is that East Asians consistently score higher on Intelligence and academic achievement tests than do westerners whom the tests are supposedly biased in favor of.

Ultimately, since human environments are their culture (Fuentes, 2018) and intelligence is the cognitive expression of your imprinted culture it may controversially imply that some cultures are just superior to others. Now of course you can’t impose any idea of “superiority” without first defining a reference point. So if intelligence is simply the mental ability to adapt then what is a good hallmark of intelligence? Innovation for one, and as most HBDers are aware, 1st world countries like South Korea and Germany have the highest levels of Innovation. Historically, western societies have also had the most instances of technological innovation. Even Physical Anthropologists use technological complexity( among other things) to deduce differences in intelligence between species of hominins (of course there are some exceptions). So some cultures are superior at producing innovation and concurrently are better at fostering the development of intelligence than others.
 

Measuring intelligence

Originally I was planning on dedicating this section to the supposed construct validity of IQ tests which are currently the most accurate measures we have of intelligence. However, recently I came across what I believe is the single best critique(some may disagree) of IQ that I’ve read (Garrison, 2004). Garrison states in his section on validity: “In traditional psychometric theory, validity is defined as the degree to which a test measures what it claims to measure. I want to first point out the oddity of this formulation. For example, how does the reader respond to this: my ruler is valid to the degree to which it measures length? Is it normal practice to begin ruler validation by asking this seemingly circular question? Rulers by definition measure length. Note as well that by asking what a test measures the assumption that something is being measured goes unchallenged.” Notice, Garrison correctly points out the absurdity of construct validity as a sort of litmus test on whether a test supposedly measures what it purports to. Its circularity renders the use of construct validity in this way as fallacious and simultaneously charges of its supposed lack of construct validity (like Richardson, Norgate, 2015) are critically impotent.

In Garrison’s section on the “Scientific status of Psychometry” he states: “ The development of measurement has generally progressed from classification (qualities), to topology (comparisons) to metrication (measurements) (Berka, 1983). Classification concepts such as “cold” become topological when comparisons are used, such as colder than . . . . Thus they “enable us, not only to establish the sameness (or difference), but also to mutually compare at least two objects which possess a given property and, consequently, to arrange them into a sequence” (Berka, 1983, p. 6). he then goes on to claim that IQ tests only satisfy the first two criteria: “For example, norm-referenced achievement tests offer results in terms of percentile ranks, not delineations of what a student does or does not know about a given field of study, let alone diagnoses of the cause of difficulty. Put another way, scoring in the 70th percentile only indicates how well one did relative to the norm; it does not indicate 70 percent of required material was mastered. Thus the test remains at the topological level,” and because of this “The same problem exists with so-called measures of ability. Nash (1990) contends that norm-referenced ability tests only provide rank order information. “Students are ranked, in effect, by their ability to correctly answer test items, but it is inaccurate to argue that their ‘cognitive ability’ is therefore being measured” (Nash, 1990, p. 63).”. Of course this idea is false for reasons already iterated earlier in this post. Does answering test items correctly not require cognitive ability? However, Garrison believes that because “The validity discourse about test score meaning relative to testing purpose is based on value not residing in things or phenomenon themselves, but in their relation to subjects. Length, however, is a property of an object.” IQ tests are actually assessments of social value not measurements. First I need to clarify that there is a distinction between Criterion-referenced tests (CRT) and Norm-referenced tests (NRT), IQ is an example of the latter, and the former is indeed a measurement of a students knowledge in a particular field, not simply a comparison to the rankings of other students. Garrison may be correct in saying that because of this, IQ is just an assessment but scores on NRTs will highly predict those on CRTs and vice versa. So this distinction may matter little to the practical utility of IQ tests. But maybe I’m wrong, maybe its norm referencing isn’t the only reason it’s “just an assessment” and maybe the CRT’s don’t provide extra corroboration to these tests.  Even If IQ is just an “assessment”  instead of a “measurement” why does that matter? Moreover, even if it’s just an assessment of social value…so what? Do we not value the skills that are learned in school? Should we prioritize something else? Does he believe this subjectivity makes something less scientific? All definitions are inherently circular and thus are subjectively created. If we define this social value as intelligence is it not an ‘“assessment” of intelligence? What does this dichotomy really matter to the overall purpose of these tests?


Conclusion

In this article we’ve clarified what intelligence is, what emotions are,  how both of these are catalyzed biologically. I’ve also cleared up logical misconceptions and criticisms on the subjects in the process:  IQ is not something that is coextensive with innate potential and consciousness is not a biological mystery (at least in the sense of what it is). Furthermore, a lot of these ideas are not compatible with the consensus within HBD circles. If HBD wants to be taken seriously it needs to either address these issues and inconsistencies or get used to being treated like it’s astrology.

I’m going to go ahead and end this paper here. Simply because we’re already around 4,000 words and I’m sure I’ve bored half of you to death in the process. In the next part I’ll be going more into depth on the racial differences in EQ, what a culture neutral (not culture-free) IQ test may look like, our concept of personality, and the evolution of intelligence.

Are we witnessing another civil war?

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I recently listened to an excellent discussion between Spencer Wells and Razib Khan about the civil unrest we’re seeing in the United States.

I already loved their podcast because of the fascinating discussions about genomics and human evolution, but this show, which had nothing to do with either, turned out to be my favorite episode yet.

As a horror fan, I’ve also enjoyed listening late at night to dark discussions prophesying the breakdown of civilization, but usually such shows are hosted by nutty survivalist types. This is the first time I’ve heard a high IQ show discuss this.

You can listen to the show here.

Time magazine’s most influential LIVING people EVER!

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To make this list I looked at all the living people who had ever been Time’s person of the year, person of the decade, person of the century, or included on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year, the century, or all time. Points were allotted as follows:

One of the 100 most influential of the year = 0.01 points

Person of the year: 1 point

One of the 100 most influential of the century = 1 point

Person of the decade = 10 points

Person of the half-century = 50 points

Person of the century = 100 points

One of the hundred most influential people of all time = 50 points (since recorded history is 5000 years and there are 100 people)

If they shared any of these honors with someone else, the points got divided by the number of people. So for example James Watson got 1 point for being one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century and got 50 points for being one of the 100 most influential people of all time, but since both honors were shared with Francis Crick, his total was 25.5 points making him the most influential living person ever (according to the collective wisdom of the World’s most prestigious magazine).

Number 1: James Watson 25.5 points

Number 2: Mikhail Gorbachev 13 points

Number 3.5: Paul McCartney 12.75 points

Number 3.5: Ringo Starr 12.75 points

Number 5: Barack Obama 2.11 points

Number 6 George W. Bush 2.04 points

Number 7: Lech Walesa 2 points

Number 8: Bill Clinton 1.535

Number 9: Bill Gates 1.36 points

Number 10: Oprah 1.1 points

Number 11: Angela Merkel 1.08 points

Number 12.5: Vladimir Putin 1.06

Number 12.5: Pope Francis 1.06 points

Number 14: Jeff Bezos 1.05 points

Number 15: Mark Zuckerberg 1.04 points

Number 16: Donald Trump 1.04

Number 17: Ben Bernanke 1.01 points

Number 18: Stephen Spielberg 1.01 points

Number 19: Bob Dylan 1.01

Number 20: Greta Thunberg 1.01 points

Number 24.5: Jimmy Carter 1 point

Number 24.5: Queen Elizabeth 1 point

Number 24.5: David Ho 1 point

Number 24.5: Rudy 1 point

Number 24.5: Tim Berners-Lee 1 point

Number 24.5: Pele 1 point

Number 24.5: Ted Turner 1 point

Number 24.5: Peter Ueberroth 1 point

Number 29: Henry Kissinger 0.5 points

Number 29.5: Ken Starr 0.5 points

Number 31: Bono 0.34 points

Number 32: Melinda Gates 0.33 points

Number 33: Hillary Clinton 0.1 points

Number 34: Hu Jintao 0.1 points

Number 35: Kim Jong-un 0.08 points

Update june 23, 2020: an earlier version of this article incorrectly ranked Gates too low

IQ tests vs creativity tests

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Many people think IQ tests do not measure creativity. This belief is ironic because IQ tests are backed by the statistical concept known as g (the hypothesized general factor that causes all mental abilities to positively correlate) and the most g loaded tests are those that require you to see associations between seemingly unrelated things: Pattern recognition.

Even g loaded tests as tedious as vocabulary or general knowledge require creativity because acquiring a large fund of information requires you to make some creative associations. For example, if someone asks to borrow some “dead presidents”, you must associate borrowing with money and then be creative enough to associate money with the pictures on currency which are of historical presidents. Hence “dead presidents” enters your vocabulary as a synonym for money.

But because IQ tests all have the same right answer that all high IQ people by definition converge on, many feel that they can’t be measuring creativity (which implies original thought). As a result, psychologists have created divergent thinking tests which supposedly measure creativity. A typical divergent thinking test is to ask people to name as many uses for a brick that they can think of in two minutes. Such tests do not have one right answer or even 100 right answers. The number of right answers is potentially infinite. Original answers like “for a short man to stand on when kissing a tall girl”, or “to put in your suitcase when you leave a hotel without paying so they think you’re still there” get more credit than unoriginal answers like “smash a window”, or “help build a house”.

Although divergent thinking tests correlate positively with conventional IQ tests, the correlation is low (and some say it vanishes altogether above IQ 120).

But one reason for the low correlation could be that divergent thinking tests are not measuring a cognitive ability but rather a personality trait. According to Arthur Jensen, in order for a test to be measuring an “ability” (physical or mental), there must be a clear standard of proficiency. Everyone can agree that remembering five digits is more impressive than remembering two digits or that solving a puzzle in 2 minutes is more impressive than solving it in 3 minutes. But can everyone agree that using a brick to kiss a tall girl is more impressive than using a brick to build?

There are humor tests where there is no single right answer. For example people are asked to write a caption to a cartoon and the funnier the caption, the higher the score. This potentially does have a clear standard of proficiency because although humor is subjective, laughter is involuntary, and if the test participants knew the objective was to make as many people laugh as possible, this might make a good psychometric measure of creativity.

Of course it would be completely impractical because every time someone was tested, you’d need to poll a representative sample of the public on whether the person’s answers were funny. But given that stand-up comedians have high IQs, I highly suspect this test would correlate at least moderately with g.

QAnon threatens to enter congress

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Forbes magazine reports:

A follower of the online right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory appears to have a straightforward path to winning a U.S. Congressional seat from a district in Georgia, setting the stage for what could be the first open supporter of the “deep state” conspiracy theory taking a seat in the U.S. legislature.

In case you don’t know, QAnon is a conspiracy theory that the World is run by a large group of baby eating Satanic Pedophile child trafficking elites who hate Donald Trump because he’s the only one who can destroy them and restore morality to the World. They believe the elite is run by the Saudi Royal Family, the Rothschild family, and George Soros.

Q stands for information you need Q level government clearance to access and they believe an anonymous person(s) with such clearance drops this information to his followers on the dark web.

Among their other beliefs:

  • Angela Merkel is Hitler’s granddaughter.
  • Hillary Clinton had JFK jr killed because he might have run for the senate in New York (a seat Hillary wanted and acquired), but JFK jr. may have survived and could be Q himself.
  • Hillary was running a child trafficing ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor.
  • The stay-at-home orders of the coronavirus is a way of hiding the fact that many Hollywood elites are on house arrest for their crimes (a theory they prove using photo-shopped images of prominent celebs wearing ankle monitors).

On a scale where white Americans average 100 with an SD of 15, I estimate Q people have an average IQ of about 90 (about the same as creationists, and indeed there’s considerable overlap between the two groups).

The media has featured them a few times(which should be a clue that they’re useful idiots for the elite because they make inquiry into legitimate conspiracy theories (the Epstein case, neocon wars) look absurd.

QAnon might have made an intelligent conspiracy theory if meant to be taken metaphorically, but it’s taken all too literally.

Here CNN tries to interview Q followers:


An excellent interview about the Q movement with a man who studies it. Well worth a listen as they get into the psychology of conspiracy theorists:

[This article was updated on June 15, 2020, to remove a statement a commenter found misleading]

Oprah hosting MAJOR DISCUSSION on race in America TONIGHT!!!

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As Mark Stein once noted, no major event in the history of the Republic occurs unless it’s validated by her presence, and the George Floyd controversy is no exception. Tonight Oprah is hosting “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE??”:

AV club reports:

will simulcast on OWN and across all of Discovery’s 18 other U.S. networks… It will also stream for free on the Watch OWN and Discovery Family TVE apps, as well as OWN’s YoutubeFacebook and Instagram channels and be available on Discovery’s global platforms in more than 200 countries and territories.

Imagine the POWER it takes to get your show simulcasted on all 19 Discovery owned channels. I could just picture the secretary at Discovery telling the CEO “Oprah’s on the line, and she’s PISSED!”

CEO picks up phone: “Oh hi Miss Winfrey, great to hear from you.”

Oprah: “Cut the crap. What’s this about my discussion only being broadcast on my cable network. I want the biggest audience possible so it needs to broadcast on ALL your channels”

CEO: “But, but the people watching the food network tune in to see food. We can’t just broadcast Oprah, that’s not how it works”

Oprah: “That’s how THIS will work.”

CEO: “Yes Mam!”

I assume you can watch it below when it starts tonight:

part 2:

Psychosis on the WAIS: the case of D-2

One of the most fascinating case studies in the anals of WAIS history was a 17-year-old male known only as D-2 who was tested sometime in the 1950s, presumably at the legendary Bellevue psychiatric hospital where the great David Wechsler himself worked as chief psychologist from 1932 to 1967. So legendary is the Bellevue mental hospital, that Bellevue has entered the culture as slang for “nut house”.

D-2 scored in the “mentally defective” range which Wechsler defined as below IQ 70 (bottom 2% of America) .

Wechsler wrote of this patient:

Patient’s present admission followed a long history of aberrant behavior. At age of 8 committed by court to institution for mental defectives because of antisocial behavior. At that time considered by the court to be a “psychopath”. Discharged after about two years, but soon recommitted for stealing. Mother of dull-normal intelligence; likewise father. who had frequent incarcerations in penal institutions for various crimes, and had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

Since average range intelligence is considered 90 to 109 (the middle 50% score in this range), the term dull-normal described those with IQs in the 80s. Here we see an example of how regression works both ways. Just as the children of mentally impaired parents (IQ < 70) tend to score high than their parents, but not as high as the average American; the parents of mentally impaired children tends to score higher than their children, but also below 100.

Wechsler continues:

Reported psychometric, is a re-test given on admission to present institution. On examination patient reported to be very distractible and showing generally poor attention. Impression of examiner was that one was dealing with a psychotic rather than a defective individual, and same was confirmed by projective tests. Patient was preoccupied with sexual fantasies, many of a primitive sort. During the examination he asked examiner if she would have sexual intercourse with him.

Wechsler then goes on to explain that D-2’s WAIS profile was far more variable than that of the typical “defective”:

His scores range from 0 on Digit Symbol to 9 on Digit Span. He was hardly able to get started on the Digit Symbol Test; his attention wandered. He was at once confused and frustrated by the task. At first approach, one might suspect that the over-all low performance might be ascribed to the psychotic process but while this undoubtedly served to interfere with his “efficiency,” the systematic poor performance on Vocabulary and Similarities, as well as the Block Design, support the view that in addition to any mental disturbances we are dealing with an individual of basically limited mental endowment. Diagnosis of psychosis with mental deficiency would seem accurately to sum up his mental status. Whether this patient might not do better in a state mental hospital rather than an institution for mental defectives needs to be considered. In this connection it should be noted, however, that a substantial percentage of patients in feeble-minded domiciliaries are undoubtedly also psychotic.

Once again we see how essential the Digit Symbol subtest is at detecting deficiencies other subtests miss.

Below are D-2’s WAIS scores. Note that the IQs (stated in bold) are set to have a U.S. mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. The subtest scores are expressed using a scale with a mean of 10 and a SD of 3. This is somewhat analogous to the distribution of adult male height in Western countries, where the mean is 10 inches above five feet and the SD (typical difference from the mean) is 3 inches. Subtest scores can be converted to IQ equivalents by multiplying by 5 and then adding 50.

 
Information 4
Comprehension 5
Arithmetic 3
Similarities 3
Digit Span 9
Vocabulary 4
Digit Symbol 0
Picture Completion 8
Block Design 4
Picture Arrangement 4
Object Assembly 7
Verbal IQ 71
Performance IQ 66
Full Scale IQ 67

Questions about childhood IQ

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Commenter pumpkinhead has some questions which I posted below in red (with my answers in black).

1) What is the correlation of a childhood IQ test(say WISC) to an adult IQ(say WAIS)? 12 vs 18+ years old lets say…?

Below are all the studies I’ve found on the long-term stability of Wechsler IQ. The median correlation is 0.84.

 
Approximate age at initial testing Age at retesting Correlation Study sample size
2 9 0.56 Humphreys (1989) ?
2 15 0.78 Humphreys (1989) ?
9 15 0.47 Humphreys (1989) ?
9.5 23.5 0.89 Mortensen et al (2003) 26
29.7 41.6 0.73 Kangas & Bradway (1971) 48
50 60 0.94 Mortensen & Kleven (1993) 141
60 70 0.91 Mortensen & Kleven (1993) 141
50 70 0.90 Mortensen & Kleven (1993) 141

2) Is the 95% CI usually around 20 points at the average, gets narrower as the IQ increases and then gets wider again once we get to genius levels?

Confidence Intervals used in IQ testing assume a bivariate normal distribution and thus are the same at all IQ levels though the gap between one’s measured IQ and whatever variable it’s being used to estimate (i.e. “true” IQ) increases the further one’s measured IQ is from the mean. But the 95% confidence interval is always 1.96 multiplied by the standard error of the estimate.

3) Are IQ tests for <12 year olds less accurate, get more accurate for 12-17 yo and even more so for adults(18+)?

Even in early childhood the Wechsler IQ tests are incredibly reliable and load extremely high on g (the general factor of all cognitive abilities). But IQ correlates much less with DNA at younger ages so that might be telling us it’s much less accurate in childhood after all.

4) On a more anecdotal level Marylyn Vos Savant is reputed to have scored a 228 at 10(albeit with shoddy extrapolations) and then again in adulthood scored a 186 on the Mega test. That is a 42 point difference, what is the probability that someone could have such a gap with the WISC and WAIS?

The probability would increase the further you get from the mean. So assuming a 0.84 correlation between childhood and adult IQ, someone who was 128 IQ points above the mean (IQ 100) at age 10 (IQ 228), would be expected to be 0.84(128) = 108 points above the mean in adulthood (IQ 208) and we could say with 95% certainty that their adult IQ would be from 192 to 224.

Why did the prediction miss in Marilyn’s case? For starters The 1937 Stanford Binet she took at age 10 has a mean of 101.8 and a standard deviation (SD) of 16.4 while the Mega Test has a mean of 100 and an SD of 16. If both her scores were converted to the Wechsler scale (which uses a mean of 100 and an SD of 15), she would have scored 215 in childhood and 181 in adulthood. Then consider that the Stanford Binet was 19 years old when she took it, and old norms inflate test scores by as much as 3 points per decade (in the short-term) and her childhood score was really more like 209.

Then consider she took two different tests (the Stanford Binet at age 10 and the Mega in adulthood). Even at the same age, different IQ tests typically only correlate 0.8, so the 0.84 correlation between childhood IQ and adult IQ might be more like 0.84(0.8) = 0.67 when different tests are used at each age.

The expected adult IQ of someone who scores 109 points above the mean at age 10 (IQ 209) is 109(0.67) above the mean which equals IQ 173 (95% confidence interval of 151 to 195) so her childhood IQ actually underpredicted her adult IQ which is surprising since her childhood IQ was based on dubious extrapolation of the mental age scale.

Brain organoid research could teach us a lot about IQ

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One way psychologists estimate IQ heritability (the percentage of variation in IQ linked to variation in DNA) is by correlating the IQs of monozygotic (MZ) twins raised apart. The higher the correlation, the more genetic IQ is thought to be.

However skeptics argue that because MZ twins raised apart still shared the same womb, and still grow up in the same country and sometimes the same town, the high correlation doesn’t prove the genetic effects are independent of environment (maybe the same genotype that increases IQ in the U.S. would decrease it Japan, but we’ll never know if virtually all the twins raised “apart” are still raised in the same country).

As commenter “Mugabe” suggested, the ideal study would have genetic clones separated at conception and gestated and raised by random women all over the developed World, but such a study would be unethical. And even if such a study were possible, and even if it showed strong independent genetic effects, the nature of these effects would remain mysterious. Does DNA directly cause IQ (i.e. coding for bigger and more efficient brains), or does it do so indirectly (i.e. causing us to stay in school longer, where we learn how to think). The problem with even the best designed study of MZ twins separated into random environments is that only the starting environment is random. As we grow old, we select environments that fit our DNA, and although the effects of such environments are counted as genetic effects (since our genes made us choose those environments) they are actually gene-environment feedback loops.

But what if it were possible to clone just our brains, and these cloned brains were reared in environments completely alien to anything we have experienced. You grew up in a nice middle class family, and your cloned brain grows up in a petri dish, where its environment was 100% controlled with no gene-environment feedback loop.

image found here

Then we could be sure that any cognitive correlation between us and our cloned brains was not only an independent genetic effect, but a direct one to boot.

It sounds like science fiction, but something similar is actually happening in the lab of Alysson Muotri, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego. Muotri takes skin cells from volunteers, turns them into stem cells, and then makes them grow into tiny pinhead sized balls of brain tissue called organoids.

Of course these organoids are way too tiny to be considered cloned brains, but they are complex enough to make brain waves. And Muotri has already found that cognitively impaired populations have cells that produce underdeveloped brain organoids in the petri dish. For example brain organoids derived from autistic people had about a 50% reduction in synaptogenesis.

Muotri also decided to study Neanderthal brain organoids. Since it’s not possible to get cells from Neanderthals, he edited modern human DNA. Of the 20,000 protein coding genes, only 61 differ between us and them, and of these, only four are highly expressed in the brain so by editing just these four genes, he was able to produce Neanderthalized organoids, or Neanderoids as he calls them. Modern humans had far more spherical skulls than Neanderthals so it’s interesting that our brain organoids are spherical, while theirs look like popcorn.

popcorn

Muotri notes that like the autistic brain organoids, the Neanderoids have a 50% reduction in synaptogenesis. Neanderoids also show 65% to 75% reductions in firing rate and activity level per neuron per minute. Muotri thinks this may help explain why it took them several hundred thousand years to progress from simple stone tools to, well, simple stone tools. By contrast, in just the last 50,000 years we jumped from simple stone tools to the internet, genetic engineering and traveling to the moon.

image from Muotri’s talk comparing our rate of cultural progress to Neanderthals’

So clearly brain organoids are very good at identifying cognitively impaired populations, but can they measure normal variation in human intelligence?

Muotri could greatly advance our understanding of behavioral genetics if he made brain organoids of a representative sample of Americans of known IQ scores, and then correlated the synaptogenesis, neuron activity level and firing rate of the organoids with the tested IQs of the people from whom they were derived. Perhaps a carefully weighted composite score of all three measures would give the best prediction of IQ, and perhaps such a formula could allow us to estimate how Neanderthal’s would score on IQ tests (if they were reared in our society).

If it’s too difficult to get a representative sample of Americans and test their IQs, he could simply have students at his university donate their cells, and then correlate their brain organoid scores with their SAT scores. Would there be statistically significant differences in the brain organoids of people who score a perfect 1600 on the SAT compared to those who score 1400 compared to those who score 1200 compared to those who score 1000?

Muotri is also trying to teach the brain organoids how to control a robotic body. The speed with which they learn might be considered a low level IQ test. So imagine taking a conventional intelligence test like the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) or the SAT, while your mini-brain, raised in a petri dish is taking its own IQ test (learning to control its robotic body). This could be the 21st century version of studies where identical twins raised apart have their IQs correlated. If your score on a conventional intelligence test predicts the speed with which your brain organoid learns to control its robotic body, then that proves IQ tests are measuring a genetic property of the brain that is completely independent from social class and culture because environment is perfectly controlled in the petri dish.

Perhaps in the future instead of universities testing candidates on the SAT, they’ll just test the student’s brain organoids instead to eliminate the cultural bias some think confounds the SAT. For there’s no culture in the petri dish (aside from bacteria culture :-)).

When a prosecutor suspects a murderer is faking his low score on the WAIS to avoid execution (because it’s illegal to execute people with IQs below 70 in some states) he could insist on testing the murderer’s brain organoid instead (since they can’t fake low scores-as far as we know).

On the other hand brain organoids might prove that normal variation in IQ is nowhere near as genetic or biological as its proponents think. I find it fascinating that just four brain genes separating modern humans from Neanderthals produced such dramatic differences in brain organoids. That implies each gene must have huge effects. That’s not at all consistent with research on normal IQ variation among modern humans, which estimates that some 10,000 genomic variants are involved, each one affecting IQ by only a fraction of a point. It’s also possible that brain organoids showcase too early a stage of brain development to correlate with the higher abstract abilities measured by IQ tests (for example infant development scales have weak correlations with adult IQ).

In the below video Muotri discusses his brain organoid research: