Friday, 18 July 2014

The demise of 'Mouse Utopia' reinterpreted as mutation accumulation by Michael A Woodley

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The so-called Mouse Utopia experiment was conducted from 1968 by John B Calhoun

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Calhoun

The idea was that four breeding pairs of mice were allowed to reproduce freely in a 'utopian' environment with ample food and water; no predators; no disease; comfortable temperature, conditions and space. What happened is described by the author:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1644264/pdf/procrsmed00338-0007.pdf


Phase A - 104 days - establishment of the mice in their new environment, then the first litters were born.

Phase B - up to day 620 - exponential population growth doubling every 55 days.

Phase C - from day 620 population growth abruptly slowed to a doubling time of 145 days.

Phase D - days 560-920; population stagnant with births just matching deaths. Emergence of many pathological behaviours.

Terminal Phase - the last conception was about day 920, after which there were no more births, all females were menopausal, the colony aged and all of them died.

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The Mouse Utopia experiment is usually interpreted in terms of social stresses related to 'over-population' crowding - generating pathological behaviours and a loss of the will to live.

But Michael A Woodley suggests that what might be going on is mutation accumulation, and deleterious genes generating a wide range of maladaptive pathologies, incrementally accumulating with each generation; and rapidly overwhelming and destroying the population before any beneficial mutations could emerge to 'save; the colony from extinction. 

So the bizarre behaviours seen especially in Phase D - such as the male 'beautiful ones' who appeared to be healthy and spent all their time self grooming, but were actually inert, unresponsive, unintelligent, uninterested in reproduction - are not adaptations to crowing, but maladaptive outcomes of a population sinking under the weight of mutations.

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The reason why mouse utopia might produce so rapid and extreme a mutation accumulation is that wild mice naturally suffer very high mortality rates from predation.

Therefore, because wild mice are so short-lived, mice are not 'built to last' and have the reputation of being unusually-prone to produce new deleterious mutations (and are therefore extremely prone to cancer, and susceptible to carcinogens - which is why mice are used to test for carcinogens).

Thus mutation selection balance is in operation among wild mice, with very high mortality rates continually weeding-out the new mutations (especially among males) - with typically only a small and relatively mutation-free proportion of the (large numbers of) offspring surviving to reproduce; and a minority of the most active and healthy (mutation free) males siring the bulk of each generation.

However, in Mouse Utopia, there is no predation and all the other causes of mortality are reduced to a minimum - so the frequent mutations just accumulate, generation upon generation - randomly producing all sorts of pathological (maladaptive) behaviours. 

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To test whether mutation accumulation is the real explanation for the demise of Mouse Utopia, the original experiment should be repeated but with genetic controls. Woodley is hoping to do this himself.

Also, a variant experiment could perhaps be conducted, which maintained utopian conditions but without allowing overcrowding (e.g. by continually splitting-up the growing community, and creating more and more small colonies).

In other words, the social conditions of Utopian mice would be held constant, while mortality rates would be kept low for multiple generations. 

My prediction would be that the Mouse Utopians would go through phases A, B, C, D and terminal to become extinct even without increased population density/ overcrowding, and due purely to cumulative genetic damage.

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Convergent evidence on child mortality rates in hunter gatherer and historical societies - consistent with mutation accumulation being a mechanism of the decline in intelligence since the industrial revolution

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I previously estimated that something like 2/3 to 3/4 of offspring failed to survive in historical times - and that this was the principal mechanism for elimination of deleterious mutations.

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/what-proportion-of-offspring-survived.html 

Modern child mortality rates are, by contrast, so low that it is inevitable that mutations will accumulate - and reducing intelligence is an inevitable consequence (since 'g' is a proxy measure of fitness).

Evidence for this comes from various sources including A Farewell to Alms: a brief economic history of the world, by Gregory Clark. Princeton University Press, 2007.

Also theoretical considerations:

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/mutation-accumulation-as-major-cause-of.html


And, further evidence on this matter is available from a pair of review/ meta-analysis papers:

A Volk and J Atkinson. Is child death the crucible of human evolution. Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology. 2008; 2: 247-260.

A Volk, J Atkinson. Infant and child death in the human environment of evolutionary adaptation. Evolution and Human Behaviour. 2013; 34: 182-192.

In the 2013 paper, a review of hunter gatherer mortality found an average 48.8% child mortality rate - noting that child mortality rates are an underestimate, as not all deaths are recorded.

Historical data showed an average of 46.2% with a minimum of 35%, until modern times in developed countries, when it drops to 1% .

(However, among individuals, some will have a probability of lower, and others of higher mortality rates among their offspring, according to their health, status, child rearing abilities etc.)

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/why-are-women-so-intelligent.html 

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So about a half of children are known to have died before adult maturity in most times and most places, and the real percentage must have been higher.

In the 2008 paper, the authors note that most women who reach adulthood will have children, but about 5% may be infertile; by contrast about 10% of men fail to find a mate and about 5% are infertile. To this can be added the fertility-reducing effect of later marriage among low status men - often to older women with less reproductive potential.

This fits the idea that selection against deleterious mutations is stronger among men than women - with the variance of reproductive success larger among men; a smallish proportion of the fittest men differentially producing most of the viable offspring selection.

This also fits the anatomical picture of sexual dimorphism, with men as considerably more massive and strong than women, as consistent with some significant degree of de facto polygyny.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/sexual-dimorphism-between-men-and-women.html

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So, among men at least 65% or two thirds will fail to reproduce according to direct measures from anthropological and historical data. 

Rates of failure to reproduce will differ between the sexes, with mortality differentially concentrated among men (and indeed male fetuses, babies and children - who suffer greater mortality than females - http://www.huli.group.shef.ac.uk/lummaaproceeding2001.pdf)

Given that 45-50 % directly-measured child mortality rates represents a minimum level; this evidence is reasonably consistent with my previous estimate; and emphasizes the massive change in selection pressure, and presumably mutation elimination, represented by a fifty-fold decline in child mortality rates from historical to modern times.

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Note: I should add that it is the number of surviving (and reproductively viable) children which is the key factor; not the proportion of children that survive. i.e. Reproductive success is about both fertility and mortality.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The lop-sided genius summarized

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The typical genius is of:

1. Very high intelligence, and

2. This very high intelligence is channelled into a specific ability, and

3. Motivation is also channelled into that specific ability.

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Genius is rare because this situation is unusual. These three things must occur together.

High ability - but not all-round ability but instead that ability channelled narrowly, and motivation also channelled into that ability - rather than being spread across a range of activities.

In particular, most humans' interests for most of the time are social and reproductive - but this is not the case for geniuses

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Most humans - in ancestral conditions - aim to be esteemed by other humans; to have status and power; in other words to optimise their reproductive potential - typically this is achieved indirectly and implicitly via sexual instincts, and so on.

But geniuses generally do not behave in ways that optimise their reproductive potential, and they do not want to. Geniuses want to do what they excel-at-doing even when this is low status and leads to problems. In fact, geniuses will do what they excel at doing, unless they are actively prevented.

Consequently the average reproductive success of a genius is very low.

In other words, considered at the level of the specific person: genius is pathological, an illness, an impairment. 

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More exactly, what makes geniuses work so hard and for so long at that thing in which they excel is that they have relatively impaired social and reproductive motivations.

The channelling of abilities and motivations away from reproduction and into a specific ability is a result of genetic impairment caused by mutations which weaken or close-off the usual social and reproductive lines of development.

Because genius is reliant upon mutations, there is no specific pattern to genius - it is extremely varied what a specific genius is good-at and interested-in. Rather the specificity comes from what the genius is not good-at, and not interested-in.

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So, genius is a pathology which occurs occurs in a person of very high intelligence. (Anything which damages average reproductive success is a pathology.)

Yet the occurrence of geniuses seems non-random in the sense that the rate of occurrence of geniuses varies widely between places and at different times. 

Furthermore, although genius is a pathology at the level of the individual; geniuses are sometimes massively adaptive in terms of enhancing the reproductive of their group.

Even a single genius can change the world. For example, a genius who invents a new tool or weapon may allow his 'tribe' of relatives to expand greatly. If that tool or weapon spreads widely, it can change the world. This probably happened many times in history - although usually the inventor's name is forgotten as with the stone axe, the spade, the wheel, the arch, the stirrup, and many other breakthrough innovations.

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Therefore, it is possible that some populations may be selected (by their specific circumstances) to facilitate genius by allowing the kind of genetic pathology which leads to an increased frequency of geniuses.

(Mutations will happen spontaneously, this is merely a matter of passively allowing them to happen - it is a matter of mutations removing or impairing some of the mechanisms that regulate and repair certain genes or types of genes.)

Of course, most individuals who experience mutations in the genes which support abilities or motivations in the social and reproductive domains will not be geniuses; they will just be pathological, ill, impaired. These will die or leave behind no offspring.

(Most historical human populations were under very strong selection against mutations by extremely high child mortality rates - so the wrong kind of pathology or pathologies of excessive severity would be filtered out by this mechanism.) 

Only among some of the most highly intelligent individuals will the pathology have the desired effect of channelling developmental resources into useful but non-reproductive abilities and motivations.

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How intelligent does a genius need to be? Relatively and absolutely

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The main point is that - in order to make the creative breakthroughs which define genius - a genius needs to be much more relatively intelligent than the average for his population.

Early geniuses will have done things like invented the spear, the spear thrower, or later the bow and arrow.

It is important to recognize what a huge step it was to go from a sharpened stick, to a stick with something like bone or stone to make a harder point. The inventor would not need to have a particularly high absolute intelligence, in terms of - say - the intelligence of the UK or US population of today. But the inventor would surely have had a much higher relative intelligence than was average for his population.

The invention of a spear thrower required a higher absolute intelligence than inventing a spear - because it requires more prior knowledge, is more abstract and technologically complex; and inventing the bow and arrow was a step higher in absolute intelligence.

But probably the inventor of the spear, spear thrower and bow and arrow were all approximately similar in terms of being relatively considerably above the population average - and therefore the technological advance from inventing spear to bow and arrow required a rise in the average intelligence of populations.

However, once these had been invented, once some person had made the creative breakthrough - the discoveries were all very easy to understand, copy and use - and could all be adopted by almost any human society of whatever intelligence.

That is why geniuses are so significant in human history.  

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Monday, 14 July 2014

The highly intelligent Normans?

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Like JRR Tolkien I have a kind of prejudice against the Normans for their near complete obliteration of high Anglo Saxon culture, in particular the Old English mythology and folklore.

However, I am forced to acknowledge that, over a period of roughly 900-1300; the Normans were a very small but stunningly successful people from Normandy in France; astonishingly effective in military and political terms.

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The Normans probably comprised some mixture of ex-Scandinavian 'Vikings' with French natives - and despite tiny numbers they conquered (and nearly conquered) lands as wide spread as the British Isles, Southern Italy, Cyprus, and challenged the great capital of Constantinople.

For example, maybe ten thousand or so Normans utterly subdued an English population of maybe one or more than two million! And imposed themselves on the natives as a ruling elite which was almost-wholly unassimilated for about ten or dozen generation.

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How did they do this? My impression is that the method seems to have been by  superior organization supported by superior technology - especially technology in relation to what might be termed engineering or architecture.

It seems, as a rule, a small minority can only successfully dominate a majority by superior technology; and superior technology implies superior intelligence. 

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My understanding is that once the Normans had defeated the Anglo-Saxons natives in one locality, they would force the natives to build a castle; from which the minority of Normans could then dominate the surrounding population from a position of safety; then the military force would move on to subdue the next region, and force these new natives to build the castles which would then become the instruments of their own suppression. 

Thereby, local and piecemeal superiority was swiftly converted to national and overall superiority. Once a network of castles were dotted over the whole of England, then the Normans could not be defeated.

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In a nutshell, it looks to me as if the Normans were simply more intelligent than the Anglo Saxons - and not a little, but a lot more intelligent.

Presumably at least one standard deviation more intelligent than the Native English (i.e. if the native IQ was called 100, the Normans must have had an IQ of 115 or more).

(One SD seems to be the usual (minimum) difference which allows one group to rule another - whether the difference is between classes, castes or races.)

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And I am not sure, but I think that Norman cultural achievements are also at least consistent with higher intelligence than the native Anglo-Saxons.

A comparison of literacy rates might be enlightening - however, the extreme differential in social conditions (and the treatment of Anglo Saxons as an inferior and excluded caste) make such measures difficult to interpret.

Probably a 'matched' comparison of the pre-Norman English ruling class (in terms of literacy, technology etc) with the post Norman ruling class, might be the most enlightening line of enquiry. 

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Why would Normans have had a higher intelligence (assuming that they did)? Perhaps because of the Scandinavian roots - since the harsh conditions and long winters of Scandinavia seem to select for higher intelligence, presumably because low intelligence people cannot survive.

This higher Norse intelligence was not revealed under the harsh Scandinavian conditions (except in terms of sheer survival); but was immediately evident when new and more temperate colonies are founded (as happened in the Northern parts of England - the 'Danelaw', as well as in Normandy); and under more favourable conditions forms of higher cultural expressions begin to develop very rapidly.

Once these intelligent Vikings had conquered a portion of France, they apparently married local women and recruited local men. If we assume that the marriages were 'assortative matings', in which IQs were (somewhat) matched; and if recruitment was of the smarter men (and/ or excluded the least intelligent) - then the high original and Viking-derived intelligence might have been sustained or even amplified as The Normans were formed by a fusion of conquerors and locals.

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Maybe, as genetic technologies advance and g may become measurable in terms of comparing large numbers of g-related genes, and if there is availability of suitable DNA from both Norman and Anglo Saxon skeletons; this theory of Normans having very high intelligence relative to Anglo Saxons may become directly testable.

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(Note: Some of these ideas were developed in discussion over a prolonged lunch with my friend Peter Andras, now of Keele University - http://www.keele.ac.uk/scm/staff/professors/peterandras/.)

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Conceptual notes on brain size and intelligence

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1. There is a broad correlation between brain size and intelligence - as a brain must be of a certain size to have a certain complexity.

But the correlation is crude. Some big animals need big brains to control their bodies - some relatively small animals seem relatively very intelligent - I am thinking of some parrots.

This is because the brain is a multi-functional organ - most of it is concerned with non-'g' matters; and intelligence differences are probably only underpinned by a part, probably a small part, of this organ.

2. My understanding is that intelligence is mostly about efficiency - and efficiency specifically, flexible and multi-functional efficiency) requires complexity; and complexity of the brain is constrained by size and also developmental speed - on the whole a more efficient brain will tend to be larger and take longer to develop (construct) than a less efficient brain.

(I do not think it would be biologically possible for an organism to develop and mature an extra intelligent (therefore more complex) brain  and also to do it more rapidly than usual - therefore high intelligence pretty much requires a longer, and either slower or not-faster, period of brain development and maturation during childhood. Therefore, measuring brain size during childhood is not likely to be a good guide to intelligence - a small and simpler brain may develop and mature quicker than what will eventually turn-out to be a larger and more complex and more efficient brain.)

However, part of making a more efficient brain is probably developing a denser connectivity of brain circuits, rather than simply larger numbers of circuits. The 'g' advantage of men over women is (I would guess) probably related to greater density of connectivity, more than to a physically (and proportionately) larger brain.

3. Brains can be made smaller, and intelligence reduced, by a range of pathologies - illnesses, genetic and chromosomal problems. This is trivially true. But it means that in correlation studies there will be some small brained people with low IQ simply due to damage and destruction of various types (and there is an unconstrainedly large number of causes of brain and intelligence damage).

4. What about larger than average brains? Well, brain size might also be increased by some pathologies - but there may be other, non-g causes for brains to evolve or develop extra--large specialized circuits, to serve specialized functions - perhaps in vision or memory (eg. the suggestion that some specific brain regions are expanded in Australian Aborigines to enhance specific visual memory functions).

But IF (and it is a big IF) these specialized regions could be controlled for and excluded from the analysis - and analysis focused only on 'g' relevant brain regions (currently unknown); and if the brain substance was as densely connected as normal - then increased intelligence would be constrained by brain size: in other words, I think the only plausible way that intelligence could be increased by evolutionary pressures would be to increase the complexity of connectivity, which would probably entail an increase in the size of the (currently unknown) relevant parts of the brain.

5. I have been talking about brain size - head size is only loosely correlated to brain size, and subject to further pathologies. And hat size is only loosely correlated with head size - the shape of the head can make a difference here (so big headed people may only fit a small hat!). I don't think that measures of head or hat size can contribute much or at all to unravelling the difficult aspects of intelligence - except in a negative way:

Shrinking heads (and hats) over time (declining adult head circumference) would probably be strong evidence of declining intelligence - but the opposite would not be true for the reasons outlined above.

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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The relationship between Intelligence (IQ) and Personality traits: Intelligence is Primary - Personality is Secondary

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Historically, Intelligence was the first and most powerfully predictive variable of individual differences.
Personality came later - and was formalized by the work of H.J Eysenck as a separate explanatory variable which can be seen after Intelligence is controlled-for.

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Personality evaluations are not 'tests' in the way that IQ is measured by tests. Usually Personality is evaluated from self-rating questionnaires - sometimes from ratings by other people (e.g. teachers or parents). Sometimes Personality is measured indirectly in terms of behaviours - for example Conscientiousness might be measured by how many hours a person spends studying, or by their record of employment attendance.

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What is the formal relationship between Intelligence and Personality?

The answer is that Intelligence is hierarchically superior to Personality.

Because intelligence very obviously affects personality - but personality does not affect intelligence.

Intelligence is primary as an explanation of behaviour - primary both historically, and formally, analytically.

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Thus, Personality is Secondary to Intelligence.

How can this be understood? Intelligence is a measure of brain efficiency - something like speed of cognitive processing. therefore it affects pretty much all cognitive attributes in a quantitative manner.

Personality is disposition, related to the set-up and balance of attributes. Personality could be conceptualized as a different kind (or balance) of cognitive processing (not a different speed).

So that when exposed to the same stimulus - different Personalities (of the same Intelligence) will process the stimulus differently, to lead to different behavours.

But to establish a difference in Personality, the Intelligence must be controlled - because the same personalities exposed to the same stimuli will generate different behaviours if they have different intelligences - because differences in processing speed will suffice to produce different behaviours.

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This has not been well understood - indeed I did not properly understand it until a few hours ago! Until then I thought of Intelligence and Personality as independent ways of predicting human behaviour. But I now see this is wrong - Intelligence is Primary and hierarchically above Personality - and only after Intelligence has been sufficiently controlled-for should Personality be evaluated.

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In other words, as a matter of routine - when measuring Personality, one should also do an IQ test.

And before looking at the effect of personality on behaviour, one ought to remove the effect of intelligence (by stratified analysis, preferably - i.e. creating narrow strata of IQ and only looking a personality effects within these strata - or else by some kind of regression).

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To put it differently, it is legitimate to measure IQ without Personality - but not legitimate to measure Personality without IQ.

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What this means is that:

1. Two people (or groups) with the same IQ but different measured-Personalities traits (as evaluated using self-rating scales, or whatever), nonetheless have the same IQ.

2. Two people (or groups) with the same measured-Personality traits but different IQs, in reality have different Personalities.

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However, in practice, much personality research is done on an already-intelligence-stratified sample - such as Psychology Students at Mudsville State University - in these situations the researcher can usually get-away-with missing out IQ testing and just evaluating Personality.

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(However, this does not apply to the Big Five pseudo-trait of Openness - which is often so sensitive to IQ differences that it varies even within strata such as the same class of the same college. If Intelligence is controlled-for, then the effect of Openness disappears - because Openness is merely 'the personality type of intelligent people in Western-type societies'  - but rather badly conceptualized.)

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The best conceptualized Personality traits, which derive essentially from HJ Eysenck, are Introversion versus Extraversion and Neuroticism versus Emotional Stability - and these are relatively robust to IQ differences (especially in college populations which provide most of the subjects).

(However, it seems likely that high levels of trait Neuroticism are contaminated by pathology; and likewise extremes of both Extraversion and Introversion. in other words, some personality differences are the result of diseases in specific people.)

The other major Eysenck trait is Psychoticism - which the Big Five splits into the inverse of Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness (which is the same entity as Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing) - to which could be added Schizotypy to capture the 'psychotic' element of Psychoticism.

Ultimately, Personality needs to be related to some underlying biological, and adaptive, mechanism - and the most likely of these underlying explanatory models seems to be Life History; which is another topic for another time.

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Monday, 30 June 2014

What proportion of offspring survived in historical times? - with reference to mutation accumulation

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The paper referenced here:
  
Yann Leseque et al. A Resolution of the Mutation Load Paradox in Humans. Genetics 2012; 191: 1321-1330.



could provide a way into the literature on accumulated mutation damage in other species.

There seem to be a number of variables to consider - how many new mutations per generation, what proportion of offspring survive, how fast the population is growing and probably others.

Although this literature says 88% mortality or 12% surviving,  this is only approximate - and there would have been considerable variation at different points in history.

It also seems a bit high for human reproductive capability - since hunter gatherer women seem seldom to have more than six children (due to late menarche, the children spaced-out by the contraceptive effect of lactation, prolonged lactation and then low fertility from age c 40) - which would not be enough.

So I guess the real number would be more like an average 1/4 or 1/3 of human offspring surviving for most of the time and in most places.

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What about about delayed reproduction in modern populations?

Delayed reproduction leads to more chance of mutations (eg from sperm) and problems with poorer quality control on release of older eggs (eg trisomy twenty one is probably the tip of an iceberg of similar problems).

But late reproduction also reduces the number of generations and the possibility of mutation accumulation from that cause - so that modern people only have two generations (e.g. average thirty plus years) - i.e. two new lots of mutations in sixty-something years - where in historical times there would have been three generations per 60-70 years - three lots of new mutations.

So slowing reproduction (by increasing the average age of reproduction) may perhaps reduce mutation accumulation temporarily; given that the effect of aging on mutations may be less per decade than the effect of an extra generation of new mutations.

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This was originally a comment at a new blog called Brain Size

http://brainsize.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/could-genetic-iq-really-have-declined-so-much-so-quickly/

Which is shaping-up to be a valuable contribution to intelligence research.

The author, Herr Professor Doktor Pumpkinperson, has the attributes of honesty, persistence (this especially), intelligence and a refreshing disinclination to take offense at the criticism of others!

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Population expanision in England with respect to mutation accumulation

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When the Black Death (c 1380) halved the population of England, the deaths were disproportionately among the poorest (i.e. apparently 'eugenic').

Then the population took about 200 years (until around 1600) to recover (from 2-4 million) all the time under strong 'eugenic' selection (probably, nearly all of the surviving children came from the elite skilled craftsmen type working class and the 'intellectual' middle classes).

That is a 200 year doubling time. Then it took another 200 years for the population of England to double to 8 million (around 1800); then about 50 years to double again; and about 50 years to double again to 32 million after 1900; and then about 100 years for the most recent doubling.

So, 4 million was probably the usual maximum population for agrarian England, and there have been five doublings of population in about 600 years since the Black Death

(rounded numbers)

1350 - 4 million
1400 - 2 million
1600 - 4 million
1800 - 8 million
1850 - 16 million
1900 - 32 million
2014 - around 64 million

The rate of increase was slow and child mortality was very high until about 1800 or later - then three of the doublings have happened in 200 years since child mortality began to reduce, and fertility began to reduce, and selection was more and more strongly dysgenic.

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A comment on the personality trait of Openness (and Personality in general)

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Personality is supposed to be independent of intelligence - Personality is a separate explanatory variable which can be seen after Intelligence is controlled-for.

Intelligence is primary as an explanation of behaviour - primary both historically, and because intelligence (very obviously) affects personality - but personality does not affect intelligence.

In other words, as a matter of routine - when measuring personality, one should also test for intelligence - and before looking at the effect of personality on behaviour, one ought to remove the effect of intelligence (by stratified analysis, preferably - i.e. creating narrow strata of IQ and only looking a personality effects within these strata - or else by some kind of regression).

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However, much personality research is done on an already-intelligence-stratified sample - such as Psychology Students at Mudsville State University - in these situations the researcher can usually get-away-with missing out IQ testing and just evaluating Personality.

However, this does not apply to the pseudo-trait of Openness - which is often so sensitive to IQ differences that it varies even within strata such as the same class of the same college.

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If Intelligence is controlled-for, then the effect of Openness disappears - because Openness is merely 'the personality type of intelligent people in Western-type societies' (but rather badly conceptualized).

While the other personality traits (C, E, A and N), which derive essentially from HJ Eysenck, are robust to IQ differences (especially in college populations which provide most of the subjects): Openness is not.

Openness merely a (weak) correlate of IQ (in Western Societies)... plus noise and cross-contamination from other personality traits (e.g. a little bit of Psychoticism/ Schizotypy).

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Take home message: all research on so-called Openness is either ignorant, incompetent - or (usually) both. 

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This began as a comment on  the Isegoria blog

http://www.isegoria.net/2014/06/how-does-iq-relate-to-personality/



Thursday, 26 June 2014

The genius as a 'medium': channeling external influences

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(What follows goes outwith science.)

Pretty much all the geniuses I have heard of and who have expressed an opinion seem to say (in one way or another) that the key factor in their genius comes from outwith their conscious motivation - and feels as if it appeared 'ready-made' in their awareness.

In other words, geniuses will often decline credit for the essence of their achievement (and it is other people who often insist upon ascribing agency to the genius).

This means that - to a varying extent - genius seems to be experienced as a mediumistic phenomenon, that being a genius feels like being a channel for insights and understandings and inventions.

From these point, there may be a division among geniuses: crafted versus automatic. In other words, some 'receive' the inspirations, and work-out for themselves how to communicate it by craft; while other geniuses also receive inspiration about communication - for example, deliberately crafted writing from within the writer; versus a more 'automatic' kind of writing which the writer (to some extent) mentally stands-back and observes the emergence of communications.

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The difference in these types crafted and automatic types of genius is seen when the product of a genius cannot satisfactorily be accounted-for by the observable personality and ability of that person.

Tolkien and JK Rowling could be taken as examples of the two types. Tolkien received his inspiration as 'given' him - as if discovered by him in fragments of ancient texts; and the achievement of Lord of the Rings can easily be understood in terms of Tolkien's own disposition, his abilities, what he wanted to do. When I see Tolkien in an interview is it obvious how a man like him would write LotR.

By contrast, JK Rowling's Harry Potter series (which is, in my evaluation, is also a work of genius - albeit lesser than LotR). But it is hard - I would say impossible - to understand Harry Potter as plausibly having been crafted by JK Rowling. When I see Rowling in an interview, there is a gross mis-match between the person and the work. I believe that the actual communication of Harry Potter was as a kind of 'automatic writing' - experienced more like taking dictation than crafting prose.

In support of this specific interpretation is that Tolkien felt a strong loyalty to LotR, and a gratitude for having the inspiration; while Rowling appears to be hostile to Harry Potter and has a detached, critical and revisionist attitude towards it - consistent with her not having had much to do with its production, but having mostly observed it emerging.

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Where does personal choice and motivation come in?

The genius must accept the external inspiration; and the automatic type of genius must also accept the 'dictation' of the actual mode of communication.

Any attempt to interfere or reshape the external inspiration - or to select or distort the automatic writing - will result in a drying-up of the source of inspiration and loss of automatic writing ability.

However, inspiration can be refused, and distortion of communication can be attempted - with the above consequences. Genius doesn't happen anymore.

Presumably, this accounts for the frequent situation when someone produces a single work of (inspired) genius - but everything else they produce (which is entirely the product of the creator, and lacks external inspiration) is at a qualitatively lower level.

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Most of these ideas are derived from A Geography of Consciousnesses by William Arkle (1974) 151-156.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Lop-sided genius - mutations, channelling K, and group selection

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The idea of Life History (LH) is that organisms tend to have a default 'r' strategy of fast growth and sexual maturation leading to large numbers of offspring requiring minimal parental investment; but that natural selection can act on groups of organisms to enhance a 'K' strategy of LH which is characterized by slower growth and sexual maturity, smaller numbers of offspring, and a greater investment of parental resources per offspring.

So, among mammals, mice are r selected while humans are K selected - crudely r strategy is for quantity of offspring, while K is for higher quality of offspring. .

But a further aspect of LH theory is that within species there are a range of potential Life Histories - and the young organism may be able to respond to environmental conditions to channel development resources in various ways. For example if conditions are harsh and an early death seems likely, then resources are channeled in a relative r direction; while less stressful conditions may trigger a K strategy.

Michael A Woodley has suggested that the slow LH strategy of K is also a strategy for behavioural specialization - so that a more K-selected population of humans is also more likely to generate behavioural specialists - including cognitive specialists:  people with high and also highly- specialized types of intelligence.

In other words, K-selected populations are more likely to produce geniuses - because geniuses have a Lop-sided kind of cognitive activity; geniuses prioritize their special ability and do not put so much effort into the kind of social interactions and reproductive strategies (mating, courting, marriage, child rearing) which dominate the majority of people.

*

So geniuses have something wrong with them, from the perspective of individual reproductive success.

This might suggest that genius is simply a pathology, a rare disease, probably a particular set of genetic mutations - which happens to be useful by chance, in some particular times and places...

Alternatively, it may suggest that genius is group-selected - on the basis that it was geniuses which provided the breakthroughs which led to the industrial revolution and the consequent expansion of those European national populations which produced the geniuses (England, France, Greater Germany, Italy etc).

On this scheme, a genius does not - on average - benefit his own reproductive success; but a population which produces enough geniuses will benefits its own population level reproductive success.

*

SO, what are the ingredients of genius? The answer is twofold: high intelligence plus a high level of personality trait Psychoticism.

But what is Psychoticism, from the perspective of Life History? It can perhaps be seen as a rare result of Lop-sided K -  personality type which combines impairment in social domains (such as Agreeableness/ Empathizing, Conscientiousness, Social Conformity) with an autonomous/ selfish obsession with some other thing.

(Note: High Psychoticism is only rarely found in K-selected populations - there is probably an inverse correlation between the two variables - but it is that rare and strange combination of high K and moderately-high P which is required for creative genius.)

So the personality of a genius is defined, here, by default - by a strategic slow LH but not of the type which would tend to lead to social and sexual success, but instead where long term interest, enjoyment and effort are channelled into... something else.

Something else could be any of the possible domains of genius: mathematics, science, literature, invention, art and sculpture, economics, music... So when there are a lot of geniuses in a population, they are of various and multiple types.

(Although not all types, nor all types at equal frequency - since some populations start with an innately higher level of some talents, and lower levels of others - populations differ).

*

So, why Europe? Why was it Europe, and nowhere else, that made the industrial revolution?

First, there had to be something - or some things - in Europe which selected-for what it is that geniuses provide: selected-for the products of genius... especially things like inventions. 

To focus on inventions - geniuses do not need to be encouraged: genius does what genius does, and unless actively prevented genius will produce... But that is only half of what is needed: the society must notice what is produced, and value it, and exploit it.

*

So, if a society has geniuses, then the geniuses will be producing inventions. But only some societies will use these inventions.

IF a society does use inventions, and as a result the society expands (if the population grows from which the geniuses have arisen) then this would indirectly tend to sustain the production of geniuses.

How might this happen? Perhaps by allowing/ encouraging mutations to occur specifically in relation to some of the genes which sustain social intelligence, sexual selection and that kind of thing - and thereby channelling K into specific functional channels - to create a variety of Lop-sided geniuses who are independent of social pressures and motivated to focus on their special ability; rather than a population all-rounders who conform to societal norms.

*

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Learning to Parrot - modern intelligence as a "Chinese Room" thought experiment

*

Suppose that I'm locked in a room and given a large batch of Chinese writing...[but] to me, Chinese writing is just so many meaningless squiggles. Now suppose further that after this first batch of Chinese writing I am given a second batch of Chinese script together with a set of rules for correlating the second batch with the first batch. The rules are in English, and I understand these rules as well as any other native speaker of English. They enable me to correlate one set of formal symbols with another set of formal symbols, and all that 'formal' means here is that I can identify the symbols entirely by their shapes. Now suppose also that I am given a third batch of Chinese symbols together with some instructions, again in English, that enable me to correlate elements of this third batch with the first two batches, and these rules instruct me how to give back certain Chinese symbols...from the point of view of somebody outside the room in which I am locked -- my answers to the questions are absolutely indistinguishable from those of native Chinese speakers. Nobody just looking at my answers can tell that I don't speak a word of Chinese.'

John Searle, Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 1980

*

The nature of modern technology and educational evaluations is such that people typically understand much, much less than they appear - superficially - to understand.

A modern person is in a position much like that described in Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment outlined above.

Whether in school, college, work, the Mass Media or in almost any kind of discourse - a modern person is able to interact on subjects far beyond his comprehension by algorithmically implementing a predetermined set of rules - recognizing inputs from a chart (whether external or internalized), then matching and selecting 'appropriate' predetermined responses, then ordering and setting them out as a kind of mosaic of 'points'.

This activity is, more or less, automatic - and involves no necessary comprehension of the symbolic inputs or outputs - the whole thing is a matter of cycles of recognition, matching and arranging; back and forth between people or groups.

*

So, a project is assigned on a certain subject. This subject is looked up on the internet. Passages of text, illustrations, graphs are copied, modified, pasted and arranged stylishly in line with explicit guidelines. The work is returned and marked according to a template referencing the guidelines. Several of these projects are accumulated and an educational qualification is awarded. The student becomes a manager, and the same procedure is followed. A task is assigned, information is gathered and arranged and presented - and evaluated, and perhaps implemented - perhaps as bullet points; and if so these implementations will follow the same process: each bullet point leading to an analogous process of recognition, matching and arranging. Even the question "But does it work?" is 'answered' by the same process of gathering and selecting pre-approved forms of data (sales numbers, surveys focus groups...), matching data to the outputs being evaluated, and arranging this into patterns.

*

In modern 'abstract' discourse, there is never any point at which any actual person evaluates the exchanges to determine whether real understanding is present or absent - because the formal evaluation procedures (whether in school college, work, politics, government or punditry) are themselves typically conducted on exactly the same basis as that which is being evaluated.

A person who really knows the field, may know that there is zero understanding - but from the perspective of formal evaluation procedures, this individual evaluation is merely opinion, rumour, hearsay and anecdote.

What really matters in modern bureaucratic organizations is the formal procedures - recognition, matching and mosaic-building; and these do not require understanding on the part of any of the participants.

*

So what is really going on behind the mechanical pretence of understanding?

Social interactions; the usual human stuff of gossip, or status competitions, or money-making, or attempted exploitation, or altruistic assistance... or whatever.

So the relevant thought experiment might be somewhat different from the impersonal and contact-less Chinese Room thought experiment - perhaps a better thought experiment might be interacting Parrots.

*

Imagine a group of parrots which have been taught a set number of English language phrases, and taught when to use these phrases in response to particular other phrases or the presence of key words; and taught rules about how to combine these phrases. These are then evaluated for their linguistic ability by other parrots who are checking whether the stimulus phrases match the proper response phrases according to the rules; and whether the phrases are being uttered in the proper combinations, according to the rules.

*

So, for these parrots, learning the English language, understanding the English language, is defined as following the proper rules in recognizing, emitting and combining phrases of English.

An intelligent parrot is defined as one that knows a lot of these rules and always follows them.

*

Throughout, none of the parrots have a clue what these phrases mean (if anything), nor are they in the slightest degree interested; so far as they themselves are concerned, what is really going on is showing-off or deferring, flirting or repulsing, threatening or submitting, and trying to get more food.

*

And this is a picture of modern 'intellectual' life - in science, medicine, the arts, politics, government, the mass media... the public arena in general.

*

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

So, you think you are in favour of eugenics? Do you know the implications?

*

Current information on the rate of mutation and the fraction of sites in the genome that are subject to selection suggests that each human has received, on average, at least two new harmful mutations from its parents. These mutations were subsequently removed by natural selection through reduced survival or fertility. It has been argued that the mutation load, the proportional reduction in population mean fitness relative to the fitness of an idealized mutation-free individual, allows a theoretical prediction of the proportion of individuals in the population that fail to reproduce as a consequence of these harmful mutations. Application of this theory to humans implies that at least 88% of individuals should fail to reproduce and that each female would need to have more than 16 offspring to maintain population size. This prediction is clearly at odds with the low reproductive excess of human populations. Here, we derive expressions for the fraction of individuals that fail to reproduce as a consequence of recurrent deleterious mutation (ϕ) for a model in which selection occurs via differences in relative fitness, such as would occur through competition between individuals. We show that ϕis much smaller than the value predicted by comparing fitness to that of a mutation-free genotype. Under the relative fitness model, we show that ϕ depends jointly on U and the selective effects of new deleterious mutations and that a species could tolerate 10’s or even 100’s of new deleterious mutations per genome each generation.


  • Adam Eyre-Walker.  
  • A Resolution of the Mutation Load Paradox in Humans. Genetics 2012; 191: 1321-1330.



    *

    I am not suggesting that the above paper is the last word - far from it. Its conclusions require modification in light of some important features the authors have neglected. 

    However, the basic point is that - according to a well established genetic calculation, it would be expected that 88 % of humans would fail to reproduce. The authors regard this as a long-standing unsolved paradox, and try to suggest an answer. But it may not be a paradox - it may simply be what happened in human populations most of the time and in most places through history (in equilibrium, on average) up to about 1800.  

    *

    Even if this number is too big, even if it is much too big, the point is that in order to prevent the accumulation of damaging mutations generation upon generation, in order to prevent the population being overwhelmed and destroyed by genetic damage; a lot of humans would need to fail to reproduce...

    Which, given that - in pre-contraception and -abortion eras - a lot of humans are born (i.e. fertility is high), then there must be *very" high child mortality rates.

    To put this in terms of eugenics, a large majority of people would not be allowed to reproduce at all, or else a large majority of children would have to die (or be killed) merely to stop dysgenics from mutation accumulation - this would have to happen just for things to stay the same.

    To actually improve the functional-adaptedness of the population - in other word to practice eu-genics (by differentially breeding from the better- adapted) would have to come on top of this.  

    *

    To put it simplistically - to perform actual eu-genics as a matter of state policy would require something like the following: 

    1. Slaughter c. 88% of children or sterilize c. 88% of adults, to stay the same - and then... 

    2. Of the remaining c. 12%, breed only from the best adapted minority - to improve the population.  

    Knowing this, are you still in favour of eugenics? 

    *

    Monday, 16 June 2014

    Could the Flynn effect be an invalid artefact? Yes - if IQ tests are no better than any other type of exam at tracking long-term changes in cognitive ability

    *

    Supposing we just accept that IQ tests are no better at measuring long term change in abilities than any other type of examination?

    Then it would not be surprising that the 'Flynn effect' - of rising raw IQ test scores over the twentieth century - seems to have no real-world validity; and is contradicted by slowing simple reaction times over the same timescale.

    *

    But why should we suppose, why should we assume (without proof) in the first place that the raw scores of IQ tests are any better at tracking longitudinal changes of general intelligence than are the raw scores of examinations of (for instance) Latin vocabulary, arithmetic, or historical knowledge?

    Everybody knows that academic exams in Latin, Maths, History or any other substantive field will depend on a multitude of factors - what is taught, how big is the curriculum, how it is taught, how the teaching relates to the exam, how much practice of exams and of what type, the conditions of the exam (including possibilities for cheating), how the exam is marked (including possibilities of cheating), and the proportion of nature of the population or sample to whom the exam is administered.

    In a cross-sectional use - this type of exam is good at predicting relative future performance on the basis of rank order in the results (not on the basis of absolute percentage scores) when applied to same age groups having been taught a common curriculum etc. - and in this respect academic exams resemble IQ tests (IQ test being, of course, marked and interpreted as age-specific, rank order exams).

    All of which means the raw score of academic exams - the percentage correct - means nothing (or not necessarily anything) when looked at longitudinally. Different percentage scores among different groups at different times is what we expect from academic exams.

    *

    Cross-sectionally, performance in different academic exams correlate with each other; and with 'g' as calculated from IQ tests, or with sub-tests of IQ tests.

    But just because differential performance in an IQ test (a specific test, in a specific group, at a specific time) is a valid predictor; does not mean that IQ testing over time is a valid measure of change in general intelligence.

    The two things are utterly different.

    Cross sectional use of IQ testing measures relative difference now to predict relative differences in future; but longitudinal use of IQ data uses relative difference at various time-points to try and measure objective change over time: incommensurable.

    *

    So, what advantage do IQ tests have over academic exams? Well, mainly the advantage is that good IQ tests are less dependent on prior educational experience (also (which is not exactly the same thing) their components are 'g-loaded').

    Historically, IQ tests were mainly used to pick out intelligent children from poor and deprived backgrounds - whose social and educational experience had led to them under-performing on, say, Latin, arithmetic and History exams - because they had never been taught these subjects - or because their teaching was insufficient or inadequate in some way.

    It was found that a high rank-order score in IQ testing was usefully-predictive of high rank-order performance in future educational exams (assuming that the requisite educational inputs were sufficient: high IQ does not lead to high scores in Latin vocabulary unless the child has actually studied Latin.)

    But IQ tests were done cross-sectionally - to put test-takers in rank order -  they were not developed to measure longitudinal change within or between age cohorts. Indeed, since IQ tests are rank-order tests, they have no reference point to anchor them against: 100 is the average IQ (for England, as the reference population) but that number of 100 is not anchored or referenced to anything else - it is merely an average '100'  not mean anything at all as a measure of intelligence; just as an average score of 50% in A Latin Vocabulary Exam is is not an absolute measure of Latin ability - the test score number 50 does not mean anything at all in terms of an absolute measure of Latin ability.

    *

    What applies to the academic exam or IQ test as a whole, also applies to each of the individual items of the test. The ability to answer any specific individual test item correctly, or wrongly, depends on those things I mentioned before: "what is taught, how big is the curriculum, how it is taught, how the teaching relates to the exam, how much practice of exams and of what type, the conditions of the exam" etc. etc...

    My point is that we have been to ready to assume that IQ testing (in particular raw average scores and specific item scores) is immune to the limitations, variations and problems of all other types of academic exams - problems which render them more-or-less meaningless when raw average scores or specific item scores are used, decontextualized, in the attempt to track long term changes in cognitive ability.

    *

    It is entirely conjectural to suppose, to assume, that IQ tests can function in a way that other cognitive ability tests (such as academic exams) cannot. And once this is understood, it can be seen that - far from being a mystery, there is nothing to explain about the Flynn effect.

    If longitudinal raw average or test item IQ scores have zero expected predictive validity as a measure of intelligence change; then there is no mystery to solve regarding why they might change, at such and such a rate, or stop changing, or anything else!

    The Flynn effect might show IQ raw scores or specific item responses going up, down, or round in circles - and it would not necessarily mean anything at all!

    *

    Friday, 13 June 2014

    Possible Dysgenic Trends in Simple Visual Reaction Time Performance in the Scottish Twenty-07 Cohort

    *

    Michael A. Woodley, Guy Madison, Bruce G. Charlton. Possible Dysgenic Trends in Simple Visual Reaction Time Performance in the Scottish Twenty-07 Cohort: A Reanalysis of Deary & Der (2005). Mankind Quarterly. In press.

    In a 2005 publication, Deary and Der presented data on both longitudinal and cross-sectional aging effects for a variety of reaction time measures among a large sample of the Scottish population. These data are reanalyzed in order to look for secular trends in mean simple reaction time performance. By extrapolating longitudinal aging effects from within each cohort across the entire age span via curve fitting, it is possible to predict the reaction time performance at the start age of the next oldest cohort. The difference between the observed performance and the predicted one tells us whether older cohorts are slower than younger ones when age matched, or vice versa. Our analyses indicate a significant decline of 36 ms over a 40-year period amongst the female cohort. No trends of any sort were detected amongst the male cohort, possibly due to the well-known male neuro-maturation lag, which will be especially pronounced in the younger cohorts. These findings are tentatively supportive of the existence of secular declines in simple reaction time performance, perhaps consistent with a dysgenic effect. On the basis of validity generalization involving the female reaction time decline, the g equivalent decline was estimated at -7.2 IQ points, or -1.8 points per decade.


    http://tinyurl.com/m3jf5e4

     

     




    This is the full paper publication of some results previously reported here:

    http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/further-evidence-of-significant-slowing.html

    *

    Thursday, 29 May 2014

    The year I lost eidetic memory was the year I became creative

    *

    I was always very good at exams - the best in my non-selective school - heavily reliant on a strong eidetic/ literal/ photographic memory; and this continued for my first year at medical college where I gained a Distinction.

    In my second year - aged 19-20 - at some point the eidetic memory went. I realized it at the time, and indeed, for a while, my exam results suffered a bit - I dropped out of the top ten.

    I went from the eidetic memory typical of childhood to the 'semantic' - meaning-based, memory of adulthood. Once I had changed my learning strategy, my exam results improved again - and I graduated near the top of the class.

    But I have only just noticed that this eidetic/ semantic shift was exactly the time when I began seriously to do 'creative writing' (although I never attained any competence at it) - for example I worked fairly hard at writing a play which I submitted to a competition.

    It strikes me that this is probably a reason why children are seldom (if ever) really creative - and why eidetic memory savants are not creative.

    *

    Wednesday, 28 May 2014

    Maybe very high intelligence IS (nearly-) always creative - although high IQ test scores are not

    *

    I have been thinking lately that it seems possible that very high intelligence is always (or almost always) creative - despite that people with very high IQ scores are not always creative.

    It is a matter of definitions.

    *

    Very high intelligence is clearly not the same thing as scoring very high on IQ tests - thus it is possible that all those people who really are creative are actually intelligent (if general intelligence - or 'g' - could be validly measured).

    (For example, very few - some but very few - women are genuinely creative - and this is a much smaller proportion than the women who score very highly on IQ testing - at least modern IQ testing.)

    *

    And we need also to look-at the definition of creative.

    People of recognized high creativity are only a - probably small - proportion of genuinely creative people; because some very creative people are working in areas where the general public has little or no interest, and the subjects may not be useful or profitable in a particular society. Therefore their genuine creativity is not recognized.

    This applies to people like the high-IQ prodigy William Sidis - http://www.sidis.net/ - who is popularly supposed to have 'burned-out' and wasted his life - but who was actually very creative in fields that were not given recognition.

    Another example would be Grady M Towers, who had an ultra-high IQ but worked as a night watchman. http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/essential-reading-for-iq-scholars-grady.html his creativity was in the form of some superb essays written for high-IQ societies.

    *

    Given that it is possible for high levels of creativity (such as that of Sidis) to be unknown or invisible for many years - it is reasonable to suppose that some very highly intelligent people are highly creative in domains that are never known to other people - for example in private, unpublished, destroyed journals.

    *

    Furthermore, creativity requires luck, as well as ability - so that some very creative people are simply unlucky, and never make the achievements of which they are capable.

    Putting all this together - the deficiencies of IQ tests in measuring general intelligence plus the limited ability for us to recognize genuine creativity -  it is certainly possible that highly intelligent people are always creative - indeed are driven to be creative.

    And conversely, that many (or almost all) of the supposed examples of unintelligent people being creative, or creative people being unintelligent, are due to misclassification. As when a creative achievement is actually (knowingly or unconsciously) stolen from the work of a truly creative person; or when a low score on an IQ test has simply failed to measure real intelligence.

    In other words maybe very high intelligence just is the creative personality - could we but measure intelligence and creativity validly.

    *

    Monday, 19 May 2014

    A challenge to those who disagree that sRT speed and/or general intelligence has declined a lot over the past 150 years

    *

    Replicate Galton's sRT 183 ms group.

    During 1884-93 Francis Galton found about 2,500 men with a median simple Reaction Time (sRT) of 183 milliseconds (ms).

    http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/objective-and-direct-evidence-of.html

    The challenge is to find any population of 2500 modern people with a median reaction time of 183ms

    This will, in itself, be difficult - I think.

    But if this succeeds and we have 2,500 people median sRT of 183ms - then what is the average IQ of this sRT 183ms modern population?

    Or if IQ data is not available - what is this sRT 183ms 2,500 population's characteristics in terms of reasonable IQ proxies such as examination results, educational attainment, or even occupational class?

    *

    (According to Silverman, other authors contemporary with Galton reported average sRTs between 151ms and 200ms - so instead of 183ms average, perhaps 200ms would be an acceptable replicate? And maybe n = 900, or even n = 200 would suffice? So - even 200 modern men with a media sRT of 200ms would be of considerable interest.)

    *

    Sunday, 18 May 2014

    Is there really such a thing as 'low hanging fruit'?

    *

    It was only after I started getting interested in intelligence research about seven years ago that I heard the phrase 'low hanging fruit' being used as an explanation.

    The first time was, indeed, a suggestion that the field of intelligence research itself was full of low hanging fruit - easy pickings - because most people were too afraid to work in the field.

    *

    Since then I have been hearing the phrase more often, especially as a way of explaining why scientists in the past seem to be so much better than scientists nowadays.

    The implication is that the breakthroughs of the past were more frequent because the problems were easier to solve and the answers were more obvious, whereas nowadays it is supposedly harder to make breakthroughs than in the past because the problems are much harder...

    Or, to put it another way, the 'low hanging fruit' notion assumes that it is easier to make significant breakthroughs when the field is new, virgin territory, unexploited - supposedly breakthroughs are simply waiting there to be 'plucked' by the first person who stumbles upon them.

    *

    The 'low hanging fruit' argument is built on many assumptions - most of which are false.

    1. That creativity is relatively common.

    2. That creative ability is constant across time, place and circumstances.

    3. That history is progressive (assuming that modern people and circumstances are overall 'better' than those of the past).  

    4. That an analogy of creativity as picking fruit makes sense.

    I disagree with all of these. 

    *

    To decide whether people of the past were (as people) better, worse or the same at making creative breakthroughs it is necessary to understand creative breakthroughs.

    This means that we must study creativity - via history and biography and acquaintance with creative people - and understanding creativity requires some minimal level of creativity otherwise it could not be recognized.

    But my judgement is that 1. creativity is rare - and even mundane levels of creativity are uncommon.

    http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2013_09_01_archive.html

    Furthermore, 2. there are many eras, places and circumstances when creativity is apparently absent. And 3. there is really nothing to suggest that creativity is progressive, and the amount of it accumulates through time within any culture - rather creativity seems to come in blips - in creative eras whether shorter or longer, and then may disappear. 

    *

    But my major disagreement regards the nature of the creative process itself, and the cognitive difficulty of making a significant breakthrough.

    Most people are not creative, and few people have struggled to solve a problem for more than a few minutes (and that includes nearly all so-called 'scientists' - who simply get their problems from other people and try to solve them by following recipes).

    Experience and knowledge of creative insight and invention makes it clear that breakthroughs are very very hard to achieve.

    The simplest breakthroughs (i.e. simple in retrospect) are, in fact, by far the hardest to make - as should be obvious from the fact that despite the simplicity of the solution, nobody had actually made the breakthrough!

    And, the more (potentially) important the breakthrough is, the bigger the difference between the difficulty of solving the problem and the ease of understanding and using the solution.

    *

    The best and most important technological breakthroughs have often been astonishingly simple - once achieved. Things like the spade, bow and arrow, wheel, arch. We know of  cultures that failed to discover these for centuries - yet as soon as they were discovered they spread 'like wildfire'.

    *

    The pattern of creativity is that it is very hard to discover things; yet sometimes very easy to understand, use and exploit them after they have been discovered.

    Therefore it is clear that creative discovery is nothing like picking fruit!

    *

    Indeed, experience suggests that creative people who have themselves experienced creative science will never dismiss past breakthroughs as 'low hanging fruit'.

    To regard the simple, major work of the past as akin to plucking low hanging fruit is, indeed, evidence of either an uncreative mind (such as the vast majority of people have) or a potentially creative person who has not yet actually achieved anything creative.

    It is okay to speculate about whether or not major breakthroughs of the past were analogous to 'easy pickings' - a matter of scooping-up goodies that were just waiting to be gathered by the first person to stumble-upon them - but anyone informed and competent will swiftly conclude that the 'low hanging fruit' explanation is arrogant, blind, complacent, foolish nonsense.

    *

    Saturday, 17 May 2014

    Mutation accumulation as the major cause of declining intelligence - WD Hamilton

    *

    I have come across a useful round-up the idea of mutation accumulation as the most likely significant mechanism for rapid decline in human intelligence over the past eight or so generations:

    http://wasdarwinwrong.com/korthof97.htm

    This author came across the idea in WD Hamilton's second volume of Narrow Roads of Gene Land - just as I did:

    http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/what-are-genetic-causes-of-dysgenic.html

    and he fills in the background and more recent history of this idea.

    My only major quibble with this article is that the first and most-important and earliest cause of mutation accumulation was the decline in childhood (i.e. pre-sexually-mature) mortality rates starting from the agricultural and industrial revolutions.

    This means that mutation accumulation very probably began in Britain from 1750-1800 and was becoming measurably apparent by 1850. Apart from public health and hygiene (e.g. water supply) improvements, medical breakthroughs would only have begun to have an effect on natural selection from the early 20th century.


    So mutation accumulation as a cause of dysgenesis is not an abstract and theoretical speculation about the future - something possible unless we do x, y, and z...

    No! Whatever may happen from now onwards - mutation accumulation is something that has already happened, beginning several generations ago - and the product of dysgenic change is us, i.e. the modern population in developed nations: we are it.

    **

    Friday, 16 May 2014

    What do simple reaction time measurements mean to intelligence research?

    *

    Simple reaction time measures a very simple situation - how quickly somebody can respond by pressing a button (or equivalent) to a sudden-onset stimulus such as a light flashing or a sharp noise.

    This correlates with general intelligence - very robustly, but not with a very high correlation.

    In other words, the sRT-g positive correlation is found in all populations - but there is a lot of scatter around the correlation line; so there are apparently many individuals with slow sRT and high IQ and vice versa.

    *

    (I would suppose that when there is a dissociation between sRT and g, that in principle this should be explicable; for example I would suppose that a person with rapid sRT but low measured IQ would have some factor, such as poor vision, concentration or motor control, which affected their performance in IQ testing - but not {or hardly at all} performance in reaction time testing.)

    *

    The advantage of measuring the sRT (compared with other ways of measuring intelligence) is that it is highly objective (e.g. culture- and education-independent); and also that it reduces to a low level of influence things like perceptual differences (good eyesight and hearing), concentration (this does not need to be sustained for sRT), and 'motor' differences - such as muscle strength and fine motor control.

    *

    (Many people grossly misunderstand reaction times as being analogous to reactive power sports actions such as boxing prowess, or batting in baseball; but the sports most related to fast sRT are finesse, minimal-movement, quick-reaction but not strength-dependent sports such as Ping-Pong/ Table Tennis, or perhaps foil fencing - in other words, the kind of competitive sports at which East Asians tend to excel.)

    *

    The simple reaction time therefore measures the speed of a nerve path through the central nervous system while minimizing the effect of perception and musculature - and this presumably provides an imprecise but valid measure of the processing speed of the CNS.

    And this is a measure of the efficiency of processing.

    So, I assume that sRT is a measure of CNS efficiency - and this is why sRT correlates with g; because g is perhaps most profoundly a measure of efficiency: and increased CNS efficiency is the reason that increased g improves (to a greater or lesser extent) average performance on all cognitive tests and tasks.

    *

    It is a truism of complex systems research (and for very good reasons) that the main method to increase efficiency is via an increased in complexity - more specifically efficiency in a process usually entails functional specialization and coordination of specialized functions.

    *

    (The best known example is in a factory - such as Adam Smith's pin factory described in Wealth of Nations - by breaking down pin manufacture into multiple specialized functions - division of labour - and careful coordination of these functions, the efficiency of the factory can be greatly increased when measured in terms of daily productive output of pins per employee. )

    *

    By this argument - sRT measures speed of processing, which is a measure of efficiency, which is a measure of complex functional specialization of organization.

    So, the sRT correlation with g is telling us that - at root:

    A more intelligent brain is a brain with a greater functional complexity.

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    (Complexity of the brain is partly a matter of size as a way of accommodating more neural connectedness; but probably also of the density of connectedness. In computer technology, the density of connectedness of circuits is a constraint on processing speed - and probably something similar applies to brains.)

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    If a more intelligent brain is more complex (hence more efficient and faster-processing) then this, in turn, explains a number of otherwise puzzling things about general intelligence - for example that higher intelligence in a human group or population is achieved at some cost - such as reduced athleticism and reduced fertility in that population.

    Some cost, because building a more complex brain is costly - it requires extra resources (or transfer of resources from other functions) and extra time to make something that is extra complex - and there are more things which can go wrong either in making it, or after it has been made.

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