Found in 13 comments on Hacker News
Danihan · 2017-12-26 · Original thread
To develop mental models you need to start at the ground floor, with understanding basic human nature.

slphil · 2017-11-26 · Original thread
You've heard nonsense. Please read some of the literature on intelligence research (1). Steven Pinker has also written a great book on why the ideas of the blank slate and social constructivism are purely ideological and do not hold up to analysis (2).

IQ is a very strong metric predictor of pretty much every aspect of personal success, from successful marriages to income to academic achievement to interpersonal skills. By no means is the relationship deterministic, but that isn't what we mean by predictors. (Many other psychological metrics, like the nonsensical "emotional intelligence", predict nothing when IQ is included in the mix.)



jonloldrup · 2017-08-09 · Original thread
> For example, it selectively cites a tiny corner of the > research literature, conveniently ignoring the mountains > of evidence that don't fit the stated thesis.

You really should provide some sort of reference on that claim.

I would say, that the consensus among psychologists in academia is the opposite of what you suggest: A majority of those people would admit that genes have a significant influence on differences in human behaviour, interests, capabilities etc.

Haidt & Jussim, May 16, 2016, Hard Truths about Race on Campus. Wall Street Journal.

Jussim, L. (2017). Why do Girls Tend to Prefer Non-STEM Careers? Psychology Today.

Jussim, L. (2017). Gender Bias in STEM or Biased Claims of Gender Bias? Psychology Today.

Ceci & Williams (2011). Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 3157-3162.

Duarte et al (2015). Political diversity will improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000430, e130

Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate. New York: Penguin Books

Wang et al (2013). Not lack of ability but more choice: Individual and gender differences in choice in careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Psychological Science, 24, 770-775.

Williams & Ceci (2015). National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 5360-5365.

(this list was copied from I have myself read 'The Blank Slate' by Steven Pinker. A very recommendable book)

BurningFrog · 2015-10-24 · Original thread
There are definitely differences in both generic mental abilities and what fields interest people between the sexes. From an evolutionary biology perspective, it would be really weird if there weren't.

To be clear, men and women are equally mentally gifted as a whole, but focused on different skills, and with bigger variance in men.

Pinker's "Blank Slate" lays out the case well:

ajarmst · 2014-11-18 · Original thread
Almost certainly not. Stephen Pinker has a whole book discussing not only why not, but why some people are willing to ignore both evidence and reason in order to believe it anyway: The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (
jahooma · 2014-10-31 · Original thread
Well, there's only one truth. It's perfectly plausible that one set of ideas (conservative ideas) could be less scientific than another set (liberal ideas).

However, ideology can influence us, since we are not perfect at science. Without the strong objective feedback of the hard sciences, social psychology is particularly vulnerable.

The bias alleged in this article actually starts to look more plausible when you consider the history of social psychology and related fields. Back in the 1970s, it was taboo to mention ANY innate qualities of human nature. Gender was purely a social construction. Babies were identical in every way--people were different only because of their upbringing. Prominent biologists like E.O. Wilson who argued genes might play a role were attacked and demonized. Nothing could contradict this doctrine of the blank slate -- that we're born perfectly malleable. I highly recommend Steven Pinker's 2002 book, titled "The Blank Slate" [0] which brilliantly debunks this theory, and lays out the best characterization of human nature I've ever come across. Seriously, read this book, it is a masterpiece.

Anyway, from what I've read recently, it seems many fields like social psychology are still captive to lesser versions of the blank slate fallacy. Human nature is not as malleable as they think. Our instincts are still there (gotta eat, sleep, procreate), and even "higher" areas of the brain for things like language, emotion, and thought seem to be heavily innate (to think at all requires machinery, and there are many ways to craft that machinery). Also, genes really are more important than most seem to realize. The twin and adoption studies show that the majority of variation among people in intelligence and personality is due to genes. How your parents treated you and brought you up has almost no effect by the time you are an adult in important metrics like IQ and personality tests. Smart people are largely born smart.

These sort of "deterministic" ideas fly in the face of traditional liberal values. Topics like gender discrimination and societal inequality are undermined by these ideas, so that provides a reason for a liberal thinker to push back against them.

If the gender gap in computer science is due more to innate differences in interest than to discrimination, and if inequality of income is due more to innate differences in talent than differences in opportunity, then that makes it harder to argue for reform. I believe thinking along these lines is the major cause for bias today.

So yes, I agree social psychology is quite biased. In the future, we will look back with horror at how we let politics and ideology interfere with science.


lexcorvus · 2014-02-10 · Original thread
You raise a good point. Wikipedia's policy of NPOV (neutral point-of-view) effectively means "mainstream"; while I grant that "controversy" on this subject exists in the mainstream, I believe in this case the mainstream is unhinged from reality. Thus, on this point, so is Wikipedia. [1]

Given the dramatically different reproductive incentives for women (one egg per month for ~25 years, 9 months of pregnancy plus lactation, etc.) and men (millions of sperm per week and potentially no more than a few minutes' commitment), biologically determined cognitive and behavioral differences are obviously the null hypothesis. In other words, the burden of proof is on those who claim that women and men don't exhibit cognitive dimorphism. Does this strike you as the "mainstream" view? For example, there are many who claim (or, much more often, merely imply) that women and men must on average be equally well-suited to engineering. Are such people routinely called out by NPR and the New York Times to produce evidence to support their position? Um, no. So, we can see that the mainstream is in error: even if it turns that there is such evidence, the mainstream doesn't generally demand it. (Indeed, those who do demand it risk censure for their beliefs.)

A survey of different cultures around the world tends to confirm the null hypothesis: a belief that women and men have different natures is a human universal. [2] For a rigorous account of the positive case that women and men differ in their cognitive and behavioral characteristics, I can recommend The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker. [3] If you're short on time, see his TED talk for a quick overview. [4]

[1]: If creationism were mainstream, Wikipedia would claim a "controversy" over evolution. Indeed, many creationists make just such a claim. This doesn't make them right.




temphn · 2013-08-18 · Original thread

  The twins' father, Walker Inman, 57, lumbered from the 
  mansion, his tattooed sleeves visible under a black T-
  shirt, drinking his morning rum ... He'd been full of 
  dangerous mischief since he was a child. As a 13-year-old 
  orphan in 1965 taken in by his aunt Doris Duke, Walker – 
  then called "Skipper" – had romped around her lavish 
  14,000-square-foot Hawaiian estate without regard for 
  property or propriety
That single word "orphan" is the most important part of this article. The reason this piece is so bizarre is that the sorts of traits that allow you to build great fortunes in business[1] are anti-correlated with those that result in becoming a tattooed, drunk, abusive, morbidly obese, criminally-inclined drug addict. Put another way, the kind of guy who would build up a fortune like that would be unlikely to have a biological son like this. In America we're supposed to pretend that DNA doesn't matter, and that you can only pass down looks/height and not brains/behavior, but reality doesn't work like that [2,3,4]. Babies put up for adoption at birth in particular tend to disproportionately be children of parents with low impulse control and mental disorders, and at least some of that appears to be due to the genetics of the parents above and beyond the orphanage conditions [5]. Sounds harsh, but good to know if you're considering adopting.

[1] Celebrities and athletes are of course excluded from this sentence. They don't become wealthy through scaling businesses/managing people, and as such have a much higher incidence of behavioral issues. Many NBA and NFL athletes are bankrupt after a few years out of the league, in fact.





  The Minnesota psychologist and her colleagues found that 
  disparity could be due as often to innate factors such as 
  perinatal care or his birth parents' genes. "The 
  deleterious effects may quite possibly have come before the 
  adoption ever took place," Keyes, the study's lead 
  researcher, says.

mhartl · 2011-10-19 · Original thread

  “As always, the children who are most at risk are exactly 
  the very many children in our society who have the fewest
  resources,” Alison Gopnik, a psychologist at the
  University of California, said in an e-mail.
Indeed. And such "at-risk" children often inherit genes predisposing them to exactly the kinds of issues the studies uncover (and blame on watching too much TV). The problem is that most of these studies don't control for genes; there's no way to tell if TV-watching is the source of the problems or if it's the genes of the parents who let their babies watch lots of TV. Until the studies are re-done while controlling for genes, the conclusions (and the corresponding recommendations) are useless.

Parents who read a lot to their children have children who grow up to be more verbal. But parents who read a lot to their children also tend to pass on genes for verbal fluency. Studies that adequately control for genes show that reading to children does virtually nothing for their verbal ability—it's all in the genes, and in random events over which the parents have no control. See and for more.

tokenadult · 2011-06-25 · Original thread
(see "The Blank Slate")

The book The Blank Slate was published almost a decade ago

and research has moved on. The chapter in The Blank Slate that has the most to do with heritability of cognitive abilities is largely based, as author Steven Pinker acknowledges in his bibliographic references, on the work of Eric Turkheimer. But Turkheimer has revised his point of view in the last decade, and if Pinker is still reading Turkheimer's writings, Pinker should too. I'll recommend here two articles from Turkheimer's faculty web page

that more readers of Pinker's book ought to know about, to bring their understanding of human behavioral genetics up to date.

Johnson, Wendy; Turkheimer, Eric; Gottesman, Irving I.; Bouchard Jr., Thomas (2009). Beyond Heritability: Twin Studies in Behavioral Research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 4, 217-220

is an interesting paper that includes the statement "Moreover, even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability. For example, height is on the order of 90% heritable, yet North and South Koreans, who come from the same genetic background, presently differ in average height by a full 6 inches (Pak, 2004; Schwekendiek, 2008)."

Another interesting paper,

Turkheimer, E. (2008, Spring). A better way to use twins for developmental research. LIFE Newsletter, 2, 1-5

admits the disappointment of behavioral genetics researchers.

"But back to the question: What does heritability mean? Almost everyone who has ever thought about heritability has reached a commonsense intuition about it: One way or another, heritability has to be some kind of index of how genetic a trait is. That intuition explains why so many thousands of heritability coefficients have been calculated over the years. Once the twin registries have been assembled, it’s easy and fun, like having a genoscope you can point at one trait after another to take a reading of how genetic things are. Height? Very genetic. Intelligence? Pretty genetic. Schizophrenia? That looks pretty genetic too. Personality? Yep, that too. And over multiple studies and traits the heritabilities go up and down, providing the basis for nearly infinite Talmudic revisions of the grand theories of the heritability of things, perfect grist for the wheels of social science.

"Unfortunately, that fundamental intuition is wrong. Heritability isn’t an index of how genetic a trait is. A great deal of time has been wasted in the effort of measuring the heritability of traits in the false expectation that somehow the genetic nature of psychological phenomena would be revealed. There are many reasons for making this strong statement, but the most important of them harkens back to the description of heritability as an effect size. An effect size of the R2 family is a standardized estimate of the proportion of the variance in one variable that is reduced when another variable is held constant statistically. In this case it is an estimate of how much the variance of a trait would be reduced if everyone were genetically identical. With a moment’s thought you can see that the answer to the question of how much variance would be reduced if everyone was genetically identical depends crucially on how genetically different everyone was in the first place."

I've enjoyed learning about this line of research from several well known behavioral geneticists, including some of the doyens of twin research, as I participate in the journal club in individual differences psychology and behavioral genetics

at the university where those researchers are based. There is always lively discussion on what the data show, and what the data don't show. Thus far, there are no data to show that poor people are poor solely because they lack academic ability (and anyway studies show

that poverty is a meaningful disadvantage even for high-ability young people).

Nor is there any predictable limit on how much poor people might be able to use their abilities, whatever their current ability level, to improve their condition in life if the undeniable disadvantages of lacking money were alleviated.

Some related resources:

IQ is history-correlative

IQ determines life success and more

Faster evolution means more ethnic differences

IQ and all other traits are heritable

mynameishere · 2009-08-24 · Original thread
Well. It's pretty clear that your ignorance is fundamental. I can't possibly explain the world to you in a comment here. I recommend starting with this,

Pinker is a liberal but he's also a scientist, and so it's a good intro into reality.

mynameishere · 2007-12-12 · Original thread
And every instance of "child genius" that has been studied has boiled down to no innate ability, but rigorous practice from an early age.

Completely laughable, and completely unverifiable. The only passable tests of such things that I am aware of are studies of separated twins, which have indicated quite clearly, time and time again, that variance in intelligence is attributable in great part to inheritance. There's no arguing around such tests--bring up as many chimpanzee breeds that you want.

Meaning that "intelligence" is largely learned, mind is an empty plate of neurons waiting to be connected.

The oldest error in the discussion. Start your elementary education in the subject here:

Pinker spends an enormous amount of time bowing down to the antique emotionalisms of the age, and so the book shouldn't be too offensive to the weak-hearted.


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