General Cognitive Ability Is Almost Perfectly Stable from Early Adulthood to Late Middle Age

Michael Rönnlund and colleagues have a very nice paper out in Intelligence. They show that the individual differences in general intelligence that exist at age 18 are almost perfectly preserved to age 60, after which this stability starts to slowly break down. Continue reading

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IQ and Personality: What James Heckman Got Wrong

A few years ago James Heckman, together with some other economists, published a study arguing that “achievement tests” and “IQ tests” are different beasts: the former, they claim, are better predictors of criterion outcomes (such as grade point averages) and are more strongly influenced by personality differences than the latter. Like most of Heckman’s forays into psychometrics — he has been obsessed with trying to shoot down Bell Curve -type arguments ever since the book was released — the study leaves much to be desired. David Salkever has published a nifty reanalysis of Heckman and colleagues’ study, showing that their results stem from faulty imputation and a failure to take into account age effects. Continue reading

Socioeconomic Status and Heritability of IQ Redux

There’s a long-standing debate about if and how parental socioeconomic status moderates the heritability of IQ. Research has often but not always found that heritability is lower in low-SES families. See Turkheimer and Horn’s excellent review for details (although some of Turkheimer’s own research on this is less than convincing).

Robert Kirkpatrick and colleagues have conducted what may be the best study on the question so far. They use a big Minnesota sample, comprising about about 2500 pairs of adolescent twins, non-twin biological siblings, and adoptive siblings, and investigate if SES moderates either genetic or environmental determinants of IQ. Continue reading

Bias in Measures of Implicit Racial Bias

It is claimed that implicit association tests, or IATs, reveal unconscious biases against racial and ethnic minorities and other stigmatized groups. The tests are simple and their results appear to be straightforward to interpret: if you are quicker to associate positive words (or other positive stimuli) with the non-stigmatized group (e.g., whites) and quicker to associate negative words with the stigmatized group (e.g., blacks), you have an implicit preference for the former and against the latter. Moreover, it has been shown that IAT scores are (modestly) related to arguably discriminatory behaviors. Given that the IAT scores of most people suggest that they are biased against stigmatized groups, it has been claimed that implicit biases explain discriminatory behaviors in the real world.

Hart Blanton, a long-term critic of various theoretical and methodological absurdities in the IAT paradigm, has written, with some colleagues, a paper challenging a key assumption of the IAT. Re-analyzing several published implicit bias studies, they found that the standard IAT scoring procedure will typically label as implicitly biased people whose observed behavior is neutral and unbiased. IAT researchers assume that individuals who associate positive and negative IAT stimuli with different groups with equal ease are unbiased, but the research by Blanton et al. suggests that such individuals tend to be biased in favor of the stigmatized group. In other words, the zero point of the IAT scale is not associated with behavioral neutrality.

The results of Blanton et al. are pretty straightforward, but not necessarily easy to understand, so I’ll try to clarify them a bit. Continue reading

The Elusive X-Factor, or Why Jonathan Kaplan Is Wrong about Race and IQ

Philosopher Jonathan Kaplan recently published an article called Race, IQ, and the search for statistical signals associated with so-called “X”-factors: environments, racism, and the “hereditarian hypothesis,” which can be downloaded here. His thesis is that the black-white IQ gap could plausibly be due to racism and what he calls racialized environments. He presents simulations in support of this argument. He also argues that “given the actual state of the world there is no way to generate any reasonably strong evidence in favor of the hereditarian hypothesis.”

I have written a detailed critique of his claims. In short, he is wrong. Here’s the abstract of my article:

Jonathan Michael Kaplan recently published a challenge to the hereditarian account of the IQ gap between whites and blacks in the United States (Kaplan, 2014). He argues that racism and “racialized environments” constitute race-specific “X-factors” that could plausibly cause the gap, using simulations to support this contention. I show that Kaplan’s model suffers from vagueness and implausibilities that render it an unpromising approach to explaining the gap, while his simulations are misspecified and provide no support for his model. I describe the proper methodology for testing for X-factors, and conclude that Kaplan’s X-factors would almost certainly already have been discovered if they did in fact exist. I also argue that the hereditarian position is well-supported, and, importantly, is amenable to a definitive empirical test.

The PDF is available at Open Differential Psychology. You can also read the article below the cut. Continue reading

About That Gene-Environment Interaction Study by Turkheimer et al.

One of the more famous studies on the heritability of IQ is Eric Turkheimer and colleagues’ 2003 paper called Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children. According to Google Scholar, it has been cited more than 700 times. Based on a sample of 7-year-old twins, the study found that in impoverished families the shared environment accounted for about 60 percent of IQ variance while heritability was close to zero. In contrast, heritability was high and the effect of the shared environment nugatory in affluent families.

The literature on the interaction between socioeconomic status and IQ heritability is very mixed. Several studies besides Turkheimer’s find such interaction (although in no other study is it as extreme as in Turkheimer et al. 2003), but others, including some with the very best study designs, find none. I am not going to try to adjudicate between these contradictory findings at this time. Rather, I will show some interesting, hitherto unpublished (well, careful readers of Boetel and Fuerst’s The Nature of Race have seen them already) results pertaining to Turkheimer’s study and the question of race differences. Continue reading