The article also reports, "Its students take all their classes online, and after their first year in California, they spend each semester in a new country of their choosing." This I call burying the lede. That's the really interesting and educational aspect of this program. If the students are funded to study abroad, moving from country to country as they go through the program, the program cannot help but be educational. Living in another country can't help but get a learner unstuck from the learner's earlier prejudices. "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." What I learned from living overseas is that there are a lot of things people think that they just know from observation of the world that people with other cultural backgrounds do not assume to be true, and people from different cultural backgrounds often talk past one another until they examine their hidden "factual" assumptions about how the world works. Getting a group of learners to go all over the world while learning sounds like a very productive idea for a better education.
On the whole, it's good that the non-system of higher education in the United States allows experimentation like this. The people who are running the project aren't sure that they will produce graduates who end up getting jobs, but they will try something new and different while they have funding and see what happens.
 G. K. Chesterton, "The Riddle Of The Ivy" http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/20697/
In short, rationality is not the same thing as intelligence and general intelligence does not correlate with rational behavior nearly as well as we might like it to. Individuals with high intelligence can and do put their mental endowments to work to argue for mistaken ideas and execute irrational plans.
I'm now thinking of an intelligent individual who made a small misstatement in conversation, then, when challenged on that point, proceeded to explain why he was not mistaken for several minutes... then finally wised up and admitted that his original statement was wrong.
by Keith R. Stanovich. I'll quote here from a review of the book I wrote for friends on an email list about education of high-IQ children, and sum up an answer to your question in my last paragraph:
"For many kinds of errors in cognition, as Stanovich points out with multiple citations to peer-reviewed published research, the performance of high-IQ individuals is no better at all than the performance of low-IQ individuals. The default behavior of being a cognitive miser applies to everyone, as it is strongly selected for by evolution. In some cases, an experimenter can prompt a test subject on effective strategies to minimize cognitive errors, and in some of those cases prompted high-IQ individuals perform better than control groups. Stanovich concludes with dismay in a sentence he writes in bold print: 'Intelligent people perform better only when you tell them what to do!'
"Stanovich gives you the reader the chance to put your own cognition to the test. Many famous cognitive tests that have been presented to thousands of subjects in dozens of studies are included in the book. Read along, and try those cognitive tests on yourself. Stanovich comments that if the many cognitive tasks found in cognitive research were included in the item content of IQ tests, we would change the rank-ordering of many test-takers, and some persons now called intelligent would be called average, while some other people who are now called average would be called highly intelligent.
"Stanovich then goes on to discuss the term 'mindware' coined by David Perkins and illustrates two kinds of 'mindware' problems. Some--most--people have little knowledge of correct reasoning processes, which Stanovich calls having 'mindware gaps,' and thus make many errors of reasoning. And most people have quite a lot of 'contaminated mindware,' ideas and beliefs that lead to repeated irrational behavior. High IQ does nothing to protect thinkers from contaminated mindware. Indeed, some forms of contaminated mindware appeal to high-IQ individuals by the complicated structure of the false belief system. He includes information about a survey of a high-IQ society that find widespread belief in false concepts from pseudoscience among the society members."
So Stanovich, based on the studies he cites in his book, concludes that the cognitive strategy of being a cognitive miser (using the minimal amount of information and thinking possible, even if it is too little) is such an inherent part of the human condition that external incentives and societal processes of decision-making are necessary to overcome that weakness. He has a fair amount of optimism about filling mindware gaps through educational processes that would train more thinkers in correct reasoning (as, for example, the kind of statistical training that some but not all hackers receive during higher education). He suggests that actively counteracting contaminated mindware (which is something I have a penchant for doing here on HN) is considerably more difficult, because it is precisely high-IQ individuals who are best able to defend their irrational beliefs.
I remembered that I had seen her blog post "Should You Date a Mathematician?"
posted to Hacker News (and other sites I read) before. I'll read more of her more purely mathematical blog posts over the next few days. I see one I can use right away in the local classes I teach to elementary-age learners.
On the substance of the post, I'm seeing several comments that equate "genius" to "person with a high IQ score." That was indeed the old-fashioned way that Lewis Terman (1877 to 1956) labeled a person with a high IQ score as he developed the Stanford-Binet IQ test. But as Terman gained more experience, especially with the subjects in his own longitudinal study of Americans identified in childhood by high IQ scores, he didn't equate high IQ to genius, and he became more aware of the shortcomings of IQ tests. Terman and his co-author Maude Merrill wrote in 1937,
"There are, however, certain characteristics of age scores with which the reader should be familiar. For one thing, it is necessary to bear in mind that the true mental age as we have used it refers to the mental age on a particular intelligence test. A subject's mental age in this sense may not coincide with the age score he would make in tests of musical ability, mechanical ability, social adjustment, etc. A subject has, strictly speaking, a number of mental ages; we are here concerned only with that which depends on the abilities tested by the new Stanford-Binet scales."
Terman, Lewis & Merrill, Maude (1937). Measuring Intelligence: A Guide to the Administration of the New Revised Stanford-Binet Tests of Intelligence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 25. That is why the later authors Kenneth Hopkins and Julian Stanley (founder of the Study of Exceptional Talent) suggested that is better to regard IQ tests as tests of "scholastic aptitude" rather than of intelligence. They wrote
"Most authorities feel that current intelligence tests are more aptly described as 'scholastic aptitude' tests because they are so highly related to academic performance, although current use suggests that the term intelligence test is going to be with us for some time. This reservation is based not on the opinion that intelligence tests do not reflect intelligence but on the belief that there are other kinds of intelligence that are not reflected in current tests; the term intelligence is too inclusive."
Hopkins, Kenneth D. & Stanley, Julian C. (1981). Educational and Psychological Measurement and Evaluation. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. p. 364.
So on the one hand there is the acknowledged issue among experts on IQ testing that IQ scores don't tell the whole story of a test subject's mental ability. A less well known issue is the degree to which error in estimation increases in IQ scores as IQ scores are found to be above the norming sample mean. Terman and Merrill wrote,
"The reader should not lose sight of the fact that a test with even a high reliability yields scores which have an appreciable probable error. The probable error in terms of mental age is of course larger with older than with young children because of the increasing spread of mental age as we go from younger to older groups. For this reason it has been customary to express the P.E. [probable error] of a Binet score in terms of I.Q., since the spread of Binet I.Q.'s is fairly constant from age to age. However, when our correlation arrays [between Form L and Form M] were plotted for separate age groups they were all discovered to be distinctly fan-shaped. Figure 3 is typical of the arrays at every age level.
"From Figure 3 [not shown here on HN, alas] it becomes clear that the probable error of an I.Q. score is not a constant amount, but a variable which increases as I.Q. increases. It has frequently been noted in the literature that gifted subjects show greater I.Q. fluctuation than do clinical cases with low I.Q.'s . . . . we now see that this trend is inherent in the I.Q. technique itself, and might have been predicted on logical grounds."
Terman, Lewis & Merrill, Maude (1937). Measuring Intelligence: A Guide to the Administration of the New Revised Stanford-Binet Tests of Intelligence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 44
Readers of this thread who would like to follow the current scientific literature on genius (as it is now defined by mainstream psychologists) may enjoy reading the works of Dean Keith Simonton,
the world's leading researcher on genius and its development. Readers curious about what IQ tests miss may enjoy reading the book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought
by Keith R. Stanovich and some of Stanovich's other recent books.
Readers who would like to read a whole lot about current research on human intelligence and related issues can find a lot of curated reading suggestions at a Wikipedia user bibliography
occasionally used for the slow, pains-taking process of updating the many Wikipedia articles on related subjects (most of which are plagued by edit-warring and badly in need of more editing).
"Frey and Detterman (2004) showed that the SAT was correlated with measures of general intelligence .82 (.87 when corrected for nonlinearity)"
"Indeed, research suggests that SAT scores load highly on the first principal factor of a factor analysis of cognitive measures; a finding that strongly suggests that the SAT is g loaded (Frey & Detterman, 2004)."
"Furthermore, the SAT is largely a measure of general intelligence. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on standardized tests of intelligence, and like IQ scores, are stable across time and not easily increased through training, coaching or practice."
"Numeracy’s effects can be examined when controlling for other proxies of general intelligence (e.g., SAT scores; Stanovich & West, 2008)."
As I have heard the issue discussed in the local "journal club" I participate in with professors and graduate students of psychology who focus on human behavioral genetics (including the genetics of IQ), one thing that makes the SAT a very good proxy of general intelligence is that its item content is disclosed (in released previous tests that can be used as practice tests), so that almost the only difference between one test-taker and another in performance on the SAT is generally and consistently getting all of the various items correct, which certainly takes cognitive strengths.
Psychologist Keith R. Stanovich makes the interesting point that there are very strong correlations with IQ scores and SAT scores with some of what everyone regards as "smart" behavior (and which psychologists by convention call "general intelligence") while there are still other kinds of tests that plainly have indisputable right answers that high-IQ people are able to muff. Thus Stanovich distinguishes "intelligence" (essentially, IQ) from "rationality" (making correct decisions that overcome human cognitive biases) as distinct aspects of human cognition. He has a whole book on the subject, What Intelligence Tests Miss, that is quite thought-provoking and informative.
(Disclosure: I enjoy this kind of research discussion partly because I am acquainted with one large group of high-IQ young people
and am interested in how such young people develop over the course of life.)
"Contrarian anecdotes like these are particularly common
in medical discussions, even in fairly rational communities like HN. I find this particularly insidious (though the commenters mean no harm), because it can ultimately sway readers from taking advantage of statistically backed evidence for or against medical cures. Most topics aren’t as serious as medicine, but the type of harm done is the same, only on a lesser scale."
The basic problem, as the interesting comments here illustrate, is that human thinking has biases that ratchet discussions in certain directions even if disagreement and debate is vigorous. The general issue of human cognitive biases was well discussed in Keith R. Stanovich's book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought.
The author is an experienced cognitive science researcher and author of a previous book How to Think Straight about Psychology. He writes about aspects of human cognition that are not tapped by IQ tests. He is part of the mainstream of psychology in feeling comfortable with calling what is estimated by IQ tests "intelligence," but he disagrees that there are no other important aspects of human cognition. Rather, Stanovich says, there are many aspects of human cognition that can be summed up as "rationality" that explain why high-IQ people (he would say "intelligent people") do stupid things. Stanovich names a new concept, "dysrationalia," and explores the boundaries of that concept at the beginning of his book. His shows a welcome convergence in the point of view of the best writers on IQ testing, as James R. Flynn's recent book What Is Intelligence? supports these conclusions from a different direction with different evidence.
Stanovich develops a theoretical framework, based on the latest cognitive science, and illustrated by diagrams in his book, of the autonomous mind (rapid problem-solving modules with simple procedures evolutionarily developed or developed by practice), the algorithmic mind (roughly what IQ tests probe, characterized by fluid intelligence), and the reflective mind (habits of thinking and tools for rational cognition). He uses this framework to show how cognition tapped by IQ tests ("intelligence") interacts with various cognitive errors to produce dysrationalia. He describes several kinds of dysrationalia in detailed chapters in his book, referring to cases of human thinkers performing as cognitive misers, which is the default for all human beings, and posing many interesting problems that have been used in research to demonstrate cognitive errors.
For many kinds of errors in cognition, as Stanovich points out with multiple citations to peer-reviewed published research, the performance of high-IQ individuals is no better at all than the performance of low-IQ individuals. The default behavior of being a cognitive miser applies to everyone, as it is strongly selected for by evolution. In some cases, an experimenter can prompt a test subject on effective strategies to minimize cognitive errors, and in some of those cases prompted high-IQ individuals perform better than control groups. Stanovich concludes with dismay in a sentence he writes in bold print: "Intelligent people perform better only when you tell them what to do!"
Stanovich gives you the reader the chance to put your own cognition to the test. Many famous cognitive tests that have been presented to thousands of subjects in dozens of studies are included in the book. Read along, and try those cognitive tests on yourself. Stanovich comments that if the many cognitive tasks found in cognitive research were included in the item content of IQ tests, we would change the rank-ordering of many test-takers, and some persons now called intelligent would be called average, while some other people who are now called average would be called highly intelligent.
Stanovich then goes on to discuss the term "mindware" coined by David Perkins and illustrates two kinds of "mindware" problems. Some--most--people have little knowledge of correct reasoning processes, which Stanovich calls having "mindware gaps," and thus make many errors of reasoning. And most people have quite a lot of "contaminated mindware," ideas and beliefs that lead to repeated irrational behavior. High IQ does nothing to protect thinkers from contaminated mindware. Indeed, some forms of contaminated mindware appeal to high-IQ individuals by the complicated structure of the false belief system. He includes information about a survey of a high-IQ society that found widespread belief in false concepts from pseudoscience among the society members.
Near the end of the book, Stanovich revises his diagram of a cognitive model of the relationship between intelligence and rationality, and mentions the problem of serial associative cognition with focal bias, a form of thinking that requires fluid intelligence but that nonetheless is irrational. So there are some errors of cognition that are not helped at all by higher IQ.
In his last chapter, Stanovich raises the question of how different college admission procedures might be if they explicitly favored rationality, rather than IQ proxies such as high SAT scores, and lists some of social costs of widespread irrationality. He mentions some aspects of sound cognition that are learnable, and I encouraged my teenage son to read that section. He also makes the intriguing observation, "It is an interesting open question, for example, whether race and social class differences on measures of rationality would be found to be as large as those displayed on intelligence tests."
Applying these concepts to my observation of Hacker News discussions after 1309 days since joining the community, I notice that indeed most Hacker News participants (I don't claim to be an exception) enter into discussions supposing that their own comments are rational and based on sound evidence and logic. Discussions of medical treatment issues, the main concern of the submitted blog post, are highly emotional (many of us know of sad examples of close relatives who have suffered from long illnesses or who have died young despite heroic treatment) and thus personal anecdotes have strong saliency in such discussions. The process of rationally evaluating medical treatments is the subject on entire group blogs with daily posts
and has huge implications for public policy. Not only is safe and effective medical treatment and prevention a matter of life and death, it is a matter of hundreds of billions of dollars of personal and tax-subsidized spending around the world, so it is important to get right.
Blog post author and submitter here tylerhobbs suggests disregarding an individual contrary anecdote, or a group of contrary anecdotes, as a response to a general statement about effective treatment or risk reduction established by a scientifically valid
study. With that suggestion I must agree. Even medical practitioners themselves do have difficulty sticking to the evidence,
and it doesn't advance the discussion here to bring up a few heart-wrenching personal stories if the weight of the evidence is contrary to the cognitive miser's easy conclusion from such a story.
That said, I see that the submitter here has developed an empirical understanding of what gets us going in a Hacker News discussion. Making a definite statement about what ought to be downvoted works much better in gaining comments and karma than asking an open-ended question about what should be upvoted, and I'm still curious about what kinds of comments most deserve to be upvoted. I'd like to learn from other people's advice on that issue how to promote more rational thinking here and how all of us can learn from one another about evaluating evidence for controversial claims.
is great, as is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
indeed newer and better books than shown on the link I have just shared. One I particularly like, from a mainstream psychologist of considerable experience, is What Intelligence Tests Miss by Keith R. Stanovich.
Stanovich includes a huge number of citations to current scholarly literature in his book, and amply makes the case that many important cognitive functions that make up "rationality" are missed by current IQ tests.
A good book for background on how people in general think is What Intelligence Tests Miss by Keith Stanovich.
As Feynman points out, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool." Human cognitive illusions are part of the human condition, and every scientist has to guard against them ceaselessly.
Research does not suggest that formal training in mathematics does anything to improve the quality of discourse on public policy. Please note that I write this as a teacher of mathematics. I like mathematics and think that mathematical thinking is helpful, but I don't expect it to have much help for public discussion of policy.
which is full of helpful information on developing the kind of cognition missed by IQ tests that constitutes rationality, very important information for parents, educators, and business leaders.
2009, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species, has been a banner year for new books on evolutionary biology. Some of my favorites include
Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
Evolution: The First Four Billion Years edited by Michael Ruse and Joseph Travis.
All are full of up to date information about biology, which, as Thedosius Dobzhansky said, only makes sense in the light of evolution.
SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
is enjoyable and thought-provoking, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, for all the usual reasons applying to collaborations by those two authors.
The recent book-length work on this subject
provides abundant references to peer-reviewed experimental literature on this distinction.
Assessing Adolescent and Adult Intelligence, Third Edition by Alan S. Kaufman and Elizabeth O. Lichtenberger
What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought by Keith Stanovich
What Is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect by James R. Flynn
Handbook of Intelligence edited by Robert Sternberg
and a host of related books about IQ testing and what it means, to prepare a working paper on the latest research on IQ testing.
1) First of all, it is very possible for high-IQ persons to have irrational ideas. It happens all the time. Most high-IQ people don't notice when they are being irrational.
The author of the article I have just linked has gathered numerous examples in a very readable and impeccably referenced book
that I have had occasion to recommend here on HN before. Read the book at your earliest opportunity if you would like to understand all the barriers to human understanding and rationality besides IQ. You'll learn a lot from the book, particularly numerous cases of high-IQ persons (including members of high-IQ societies) believing things that are false and irrational.
for additional forms of evidence showing that wisdom and correct beliefs are distinct from IQ scores.
2) Second, no one knows his IQ exactly, so no one can pull rank this way. All IQ tests have error of estimation, and no one brand of IQ test will yield the same score for the same individual on every occasion, nor will two different brands of IQ tests necessarily sort the same group of test-takers into the same rank order. Terman (the developer of the first widely used IQ test in the United States, the Stanford-Binet) noted that error of estimation in IQ scores increases as IQ scores are above the mean:
"From Figure 3 [not shown here on HN, alas] it becomes clear that the probable error of an I.Q. score is not a constant amount, but a variable which increases as I.Q. increases. It has frequently been noted in the literature that gifted subjects show greater I.Q. fluctuation than do clinical cases with low I.Q.'s . . . . we now see that this trend is inherent in the I.Q. technique itself, and might have been predicted on logical grounds." (Terman & Merrill, 1937, p. 44)
3) Third, a slightly different point from point 2), anyone's IQ can change over the course of life. (Pinneau 1961; Truch 1993, page 78; Howe 1998; Deary 2000, table 1.3). "Correlation studies of test scores provide actuarial data, applicable to group predictions. . . . Studies of individuals, on the other hand, may reveal large upward or downward shifts in test scores." (Anastasi & Urbina 1997 p. 326).
4) The best way to put this method to the test, I suppose, is to ask you which of my opinions you would accept if I could show that I have a higher IQ than you have. How much of a difference would force you to credit my opinions with being true? If the difference in IQ score were slight, would you propose that we each be retested?
5) Anyway, the suggestion, although interesting, is illogical, because what someone's IQ score is has no sure relationship with the truth of a person's beliefs, the adequacy of the person's education on particular matters of fact, or the person's willingness to reconsider opinions based on new evidence.
Anastasi, Anne & Urbina, Susana (1997). Psychological Testing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Deary, Ian J. (2000) Looking Down on Human Intelligence: From Psychometrics to the Brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Howe, Michael J. A. (1998). Can IQ Change?. The Psychologist, February 1998 pages 69-72.
Pinneau, Samuel R. (1961). Changes in Intelligence Quotient Infancy to Maturity: New Insights from the Berkeley Growth Study with Implications for the Stanford-Binet Scales and Applications to Professional Practice. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Terman, Lewis & Merrill, Maude (1937). Measuring Intelligence: A Guide to the Administration of the New Revised Stanford-Binet Tests of Intelligence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Truch, Steve (1993). The WISC-III(R) Companion: A Guide to Interpretation and Educational Intervention. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
draw between "intelligence" (I would say "IQ," but his terminology is standard) and "rationality." There are various forms of human cognition, and IQ tests miss many of them. Stanovich reports that there are mental tests that would reliably show, among adults with high IQ, who has executive function problems and who does not.
nor is it the same thing as wisdom, as James R. Flynn himself says.
This accords with my experience after fifty years of life, but is not quite a proof that IQ is meaningless. IQ tests estimate a kind of abstract problem-solving ability useful for many real-world tasks, and correlated with life success in various occupations. But IQ is not the same as rationality,
or, if you prefer this terminology, IQ is not the same thing as wisdom,
so it shouldn't be terribly surprising to see irrational or unwise behavior from high-IQ individuals, as I certainly have.
Anyway, IQ is orthogonal to rationality,
and sufficient rationality might explore the implications of the submitted article without any reference to IQ tests.
As the current researchers put it, you can be "intelligent" (= score high on IQ tests) without being "rational" (above reference) or wise (below reference).
But this idea goes back a lot further, all the way to the beginning of IQ testing. Lewis Terman himself wrote, "There are, however, certain characteristics of age scores with which the reader should be familiar. For one thing, it is necessary to bear in mind that the true mental age as we have used it refers to the mental age on a particular intelligence test. A subject's mental age in this sense may not coincide with the age score he would make in tests of musical ability, mechanical ability, social adjustment, etc. A subject has, strictly speaking, a number of mental ages; we are here concerned only with that which depends on the abilities tested by the new Stanford-Binet scales." (Terman & Merrill 1937, p. 25)
Ian Deary has very trenchant comments on how poorly understood "ability to think quickly" is in his book Looking Down on Human Intelligence: From Psychometrics to the Brain
But, really, the obligatory link for any discussion of a report on a research result like that is the article by Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, on how to interpret scientific research.
Check each news story you read for how many of the important issues in interpreting research are NOT discussed in the story.
P.S. I saw another news story about this research announcement,
and it included this interesting paragraph:
"Just because intelligence is strongly genetic, that doesn't mean it cannot be improved. 'It's just the opposite,' says Richard Haier, of the University of California, Irvine, who works with Thompson. 'If it's genetic, it's biochemical, and we have all kinds of ways of influencing biochemistry.'"
(this is just one citation among many for this often-replicated result) and digit span is not related to important cognitive functions that sum up to "rationality" as distinct from IQ.
But in general about articles in the popular press posted to Hacker News about IQ, what I say is that the obligatory link for any discussion of a report on a research result like that is the article by Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, on how to interpret scientific research.
I've attended a lecture by John Raven, the publisher of that test, and he doesn't make that claim.
The long, careful examination of what the Raven tests show, in conjunction with other evidence, can be found in James R. Flynn's excellent book What Is Intelligence?, which is about to come out in a new, expanded edition.
Also very good for reconsidering the importance of IQ tests is Keith Stanovich's What Intelligence Tests Miss.
is the best first book to read about IQ testing. The best second book to read about IQ testing is Flynn's latest book,
and the best third book on IQ testing to read, after the other two books have given you a conceptual foundation, is Keith Stanovich's latest.
A more complete annotated bibliography
lists other books, not all from the same point of view.
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