Tuesday 30 July 2013

The (annoying) arrogance of creativity


Creativity is a trait: a personality trait.

Therefore, although its overall level and expression can be modulated by self-training and environment - creativity is not something which is switched on-and-off at will: creative people tend to be creative at many or most times and many or most circumstances.

Therefor creative people tend to be creative even when they are too young, too inexperienced, and/or too lacking in knowledge to have any plausible basis for their creativity.

This can be and usually is annoying to those who are older, and do have experience and relevant knowledge (as well as those who do not understand creativity or are hostile to it - and instead want to align with consensus).


Creativity tends to go along with the cluster of traits that Eysenck termed Psychoticism


and one of these traits, related to creative genius, is ego-strength, or confidence - or to put it another way: arrogance.

It takes arrogance to look at an established situation and to respond by acting on the assumption that 'I know better' or 'I can do better' (which response is pretty much intrinsic to creativity) and to continue in this way despite inevitable (and quite likely justified) criticism and pressure to stop-messing about and just get on with it!


This necessary arrogance is one of the reason why creativity is so often unwelcome, and why it provokes frustration even when it does not provoke outright hostility.

Einstein, for instance, in his later life provoked intense frustration at his refusal to 'get with the program' in relation to the ultimate validity of quantum theory: to persist in criticisms of its tenets, to regard it as merely a temporary expedient.

But this stubbornness of Einsteins in the face of near universal disagreement, was of-a-piece with the creativity which made him great; and most creative people are much less gracious than Einstein, as well as being of much lesser intellectual stature.

Hence, unless we actually want creativity, it tends to be filtered-out by modern, long-haul, multi-level education/ training systems and employment hierarchies.  

Monday 29 July 2013

What of the Mute Inglorious Miltons? - unacknowledged creativity


Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

From Thomas Gray's  Elegy written in a country churchyard

Note: this is a first rate poem - if you do not know it, take a look: http://www.bartleby.com/101/453.html


The idea of Mute Inglorious Miltons is intended to convey that creativity, and even creative genius, may have its effects and innovations may result - and yet the creative originator may be unknown and credit misallocated (for example, appropriated without acknowledgement by an uncreative person - or the provenance of the breakthrough simply lost to history) - or else the advance may simply be regarded as an obvious-next-step and taken for granted as having required nothing in the nature of creativity.


(Creativity is grossly undervalued by the uncreative - who are, as it were, 'tone deaf' to the operations of creativity. This is possible because creativity usually appears to be wrong, dysfunctional, silly -- and deriving from incompetence, ignorance, craziness, arrogance or some other undesirable trait in the creative person. And of course, more often than not, the products of creativity turn-out to be, indeed, relatively dysfunctional. But when creativity, rarely, leads to an improvement discernible even to the uncreative, then it no longer appears to be a breakthrough but merely a product of common sense.) 


But my observations have suggested that only creative people generate innovations, and the majority of people are - in any given context - utterly uncreative and would never innovate, nor even improve (regardless of their intelligence). 

I give two examples of uncreativity from my experience of methods in medicine and laboratory science.

1. Use of alcohol to clean skin before taking blood. When I was taught to take blood, I was told to sterilize the inner elbow with an alcohol swab, then to push the needle through the still wet alcohol in to the vein. This introduced alcohol under the skin where is produced an immediate painful stinging, like a bee sting - and this would be sustained for an hour or so after the blood had been taken.

On enquiry, I discovered that the alcohol could not possibly have any germ killing effect in the few seconds after application, so that it was working merely as a cleaning (not sterilizing) agent, and could (and should!) therefore be rubbed- or wiped-off before inserting the hypodermic needle.

Thereby leading to a great reduction in pain.

So hundreds, thousands of people, on millions of occasions, have inflicted needless pain when taking blood - simply because they were not creative, they were not able or motivated to want to improve the process.

(The same applies to the common but useless and pernicious practice of pressing on the hypodermic needle as it is withdrawn from the vein; thereby scratching the needle tip along the inner surface of the vein;, inducing deep pain of the kind that makes you faint and causing several days of aching.)


2. In preparing samples of human brain (post-mortem brain samples, I should make clear!) for the measurement of neurotransmitters, I needed to denature the structural protein of the brain. the approved method did this by 1. adding strong acid and 2. boiling the resultant mixture.

(Denature means to disrupt the 3-D structure of the protein, while preserving its chemical identity - this happens to the albumin when boiling an egg - the clear raw egg 'white' becomes white-and-opaque when boiled. The same effect could be achieved by adding a strong acid, with the obvious disadvantage to subsequent eating.)   

When confronted by the hazardous requirement to boil multiple vessels containing concentrated acid I enquired why it was necessary to do both procedures - adding acid and boiling - when seemingly either of them alone would suffice to denature protein.

I tried the experiment of just boiling the brain (leaving out the acid) and the method worked just as well. So by dropping one step I saved a lot of time, and made the method safer.

But why had so many people been doing it wrong, wasting time, risking accidents - so often for so many years?

Furthermore, it was not necessary to boil the brain, since this kind of protein denatures at about 56 degrees Celsius (quoting from memory) - so I heated the brain to 80 degrees for a time long enough to ensure that it could do its job - and the protein was denatured without inconvenience, mess and hazard of dealing with boiling tubes. 

Now, these modifications I made were not exactly 'rocket science' , but they were instances of creativity in action in an everyday setting - and the necessity for these micro-creative modifications provides examples the very low level of creativity of most people who devise and perform procedures and do things in everyday and institutional life.


Furthermore, such exaples of creativity are highly likely to be appropriated without acknowledgment - and this is fair enough, since they are tiny; but this neglect may give the false impression that creativity was not needed for them, that they were merely 'trial and error' of a kind which can simply be taken for granted.

Not so! - even this kind of creativity cannot be taken for granted but depends on specific individuals - albeit such individuals have not all that rare in England in recent years.

But that situation may not apply at all times and places, and sometimes therefore even micro-creativity is lacking in a social situation or a whole society - and then procedures will ossify and become irreversibly degraded with time.


Sunday 28 July 2013

Implications of the group selection of genius?


Suppose that genius benefits group fitness rather than individual fitness, as seems likely to be the case - then this is a precarious situation.

If genius led to higher fitness, then the proportion of geniuses in a population would increase with each generation. But if genius is group selected then the genetic consequence of a genius is to expand the group - and this rising tide of group fitness will raise the boat of genius.



A group-selection account of genius therefore (I think) suggests that genius grows in an expanding group, an expanding population - the outcome of genius being the expansion of that population - and the situation can only be sustained if the consequences of that expanding population include maintaining and promoting the causal requisites of more geniuses.

I think it is probably correct that each genius is a one-off - sui generis - not as a matter of necessity, but mostly because of the extreme unlikelihood of the occurrence same combination of abilities and personality factors.

This means that there is NOT a specific and definable 'genius-type' - which further means there cannot be a system for recognizing and promoting geniuses.


Which means that genius-type creativity cannot be taught, and can indeed only be described in a broad brush terms.


Add to the mix that geniuses are nearly always (not always) troublesome in one way or another - this goes with the territory because even if you cannot say with precision what the genius does do, what he does NOT doe is think like other people - and what kind of personality he does NOT have is one that goes with the flow of social consensus.


There are many consequences of this way of understanding genius - and one is that genius is tolerated rather than encouraged - and this especially applies at the local level of the people living around and with the genius - these will experience the problems of genius, but will not benefit from the genius any more than the rest of society.

Since the benefits of genius are general, there is an incentive, therefore, to shift the costs - let someone else, some other group, employ the genius and let them put up with him!


Further more, due to the activities of genius, a society, more exactly a human group - that group within which the genius functions - may abruptly switch from being one which tolerates genius for the sake of what he offers, to one which has... well some other attitude that could be actively anti-genius, or merely conformist, or short-termist, or non-functional...

(Non-functional in the sense that what genius offers is ultimately greater functionality, greater efficiency and/or effectiveness at some function - and if a group stops being concerned about functions, then there is no reason to  tolerate genius.)


My reason for exploring this point is that at some point in the past few decades, British society went from being one which in practice tolerated genius, to one which is hostile to genius - and this can be seen at almost every level.

To read of such difficult, annoying, disruptive geniuses as Dirac or Wittgenstein, and then to realize that that were Professors at Cambridge - is to recognize that such characters would nowadays get nowhere near a Cambridge chair - not least because actual functional ability is not regarded as of primary importance in modern Britain.

I personally know of examples of supremely able and creative and productive people (as close to genius as we now get) who have been in practice (and for many and various 'excuses') excluded from positions in UK universities - not just once but repeatedly.

Mediocrity is zealously enforced by Head Girl types (of both sexes) whose sole concern is their own social micro-environment.


Modern Britain values Leftist ideals far, far more highly than the ability to do your 'job' - and I mean job in the ideal sense of performing a distinctive function.

What happens now is that instead of selecting people on the basis of how they do the job, the job is redefined to include the kind of people you want to select. 

(This is, of course, the bureaucratic way of doing things - in which the bottom line is satisfying other bureaucrats whose bottom line is satisfying other bureaucrats - with bureaucratic 'turtles all the way down' and no bottom line of reality.) 

So, in such a world as modern Britain, why tolerate difficult characters whose 'only' recommendation is that they are supremely good at the real job?


Thus a society with a high concentration of effective geniuses flipped quite suddenly into a society which is in practice and almost universally (at the relevant level of effect) actively anti-genius, selecting against genius, excluding of genius.

And the whole thing is denied by the simple expedient of re-labelling: in which some creative nonentity (maybe of high status, or a nutter) is simply stated to be a genius, talked about as a genius - probably given awards and medals for being a genius - and the concept of genius is thereby relativized and even further discredited!


Thursday 25 July 2013

The Head Girl Syndrome - the opposite of creative genius


The ideal Head Girl is an all-rounder: performs extremely well in all school subjects and has a very high Grade Point Average. She is excellent at sports, Captaining all the major teams. She is also pretty, popular, sociable and well-behaved.

The Head Girl will probably be a big success in life, in whatever terms being a big success happens to be framed (she will gravitate towards such aspects of life) - so she might in some times and places make a Good Marriage and do a great job of raising a family; in another time and place she might go to a top-notch college and get a top-notch job - and pursue a glamorous and infertile lifestyle of 'serial monogamy'; with desirable mates.

But the Head Girl is not, cannot be, a creative genius.


Modern society is run by Head Girls, of both sexes, hence there is no place for the creative genius.

Modern Colleges aim at recruiting Head Girls, so do universities, so does science, so do the arts, so does the mass media, so does the legal profession, so does medicine, so does the military...

And in doing so, they filter-out and exclude creative genius.


The genius is pretty much everything the Head Girl is not. He is lop-sided in his abilities - truly excellent at some things or maybe just one thing, he is either hopeless or bored by many others. He won't work hard for long periods at things he does not want to do. He will not gravitate to the prestige areas of life, or cannot or will not do the networking necessary to get-on.


The Head Girl can never be a creative genius because she does what other people want by the standards they most value. She will worker harder and at a higher standard in doing whatever it is that social pressure tells her to do - and she will do this by whatever social standards prevail, only more thoroughly.

Meanwhile the creative genius will do what he does because he must.


The Head Girl will not ever want to alienate potentially powerful allies.

Meanwhile the creative genius is indifferent or hostile to the opinions of others so long as he knows he is right.


The Head Girl is great to have around, everybody thinks she is wonderful.

Meanwhile the creative genius is at best a person who divides opinion, strongly, in both directions - at worst often a signed-up member of the awkward squad.


The more selective the social system, the more it will tend to privilege the Head Girl and eliminate the creative genius.

Committees, peer review processes, voting - anything which requires interpersonal agreement and consensus - will favour the Head Girl and exclude the creative genius. 

(Not least because committees are staffed by Head Girls, of both sexes, who naturally favour their own kind.)


We live in a Head Girl's world - which is also a world where creative genius is marginalized and disempowered to the point of near-complete invisibility.


Creative genius probably requires lop-sided cogntive abilities (NOT all round high intelligence)


Given that the concept of 'g' or general intelligence breaks down at higher levels of cognitive ability - it is plausible that this may be a factor contributing to the highest levels of achievement which we call creative genius.

What this means is that it is not at all unusual to find that someone who is of exceptionally high intelligence in say mathematics is of only moderately (around average) intelligence in 'verbal IQ' - and vice versa - and it may be these specialists who are most likely to do the highest levels of creative work in their fields - rather than the all-rounders whose different subsets of cognitive ability are all approximately equally high.

Evidence for this comes from the many instances of measured or explicit dissociation between cognitive abilities among those of creative achievement - my favourite example is CS Lewis who was extremely creative, and apparently had an extremely high intelligence of the verbal IQ type -  yet who was only about average in ability in mathematics so that he could not pass the basis 16-plus school examination (O-level) despite several attempts and with private tutoring.

Also, Anne Roe's Making of a Scientist (which is still just about the only thorough intelligence testing of top-notch scientists) shows considerable differences in the average scores of intelligence sub-scales both within and between scientific specialities. These averaged dissociations will have been even more marked, no doubt, at the individual level.


But I am perhaps most impressed by my own experience!

I think it is pretty clear (from many experiences, but recently including the breakdown of my IQ test scores for Mensa) that my own intelligence is in the top one percent for verbal IQ but much lower for mathematical and spatial types of intelligence - probably only in the top fifteen percent or thereabouts.

I did get a (top) grade A in O-level mathematics - which would put me in the top few percent, but then O-level mathematics is not very mathematical!

I also got a grade A at A-level (18-plus) physics - which would probably be in the top one percent - but the physics curriculum I studied (The Oxford Examination Board) was designed so that it could be done without A-level maths (as an aspiring medical student I thought it more important to do biology than maths - and I was correct) - and my understanding was therefore achieved by 'translating' physics into a non-mathematical form - which I managed to do, but it was hard work!


Later on I developed an interest in Epidemiology - the statistics of medicine and health - and found myself teaching basic statistics and writing papers on epidemiology - and I think I was pretty good at this (although I didn't much enjoy it - It didn't come easily)

Indeed, the highest level of eminence I reached in academia was as an epidemiologist - for example I was twice asked to apply for a Professorship in the subject at University of East Anglia, published a lot including in the top journals in the field and was asked to speak at major conferences.

My point here is that my high and distinctive ability in epidemiology and statistics was not despite my mediocre mathematical skills,but because of them. People in the field who found the maths easy, did not pause to consider the context of that maths, and failed to notice the problems of the way in which mathematics was being applied.

I therefore perceived problems in the mainstream understanding which were real and important - but which were slid-across by the mathematically expert - they whizzed past them so swiftly that they failed to see them.


I think my own case is actually an example of the way in which creativity generally works - creativity is a product of friction, and of a distinctive point of view.

Someone who has to translate mathematics into verbal terms is more likely to notice problems and possibilities and to make a distinctive contribution to the subject than is someone for whom it all comes effortlessly.

Clearly high ability of some kind is necessary to this process - but this may be a specific ability with relative weaknesses elsewhere which force the use of that special ability, and problems may yield to one kind of ability but not another.


In sum, it is lop-sidedness, the distinctive individual profile of abilities and deficiencies, which may contribute essentially to creative achievement - including that at genius level.

Friday 19 July 2013

Dishonesty reduces applied intelligence: re-wires the brain


Surveying the modern intellectual scene, the world of public discourse among the educational elites, I conclude that dishonesty does not only reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of thinking - but it actually reduces applied intelligence - probably by re-wiring the brain.


What I am suggesting is that, although the fundamental efficiency of neural processing is an hereditary characteristic which is robust to environmental differences and changes (short of something like destructive brain pathology - encephalitis, neurotoxin, head injury, dementia etc) - habitual dishonesty (such as is mainstream among the modern intellectual elite) will generate brain changes, and a long-lasting (although probably, eventually, reversible) pathology in applied intelligence - such that what ought to be simple and obvious inferential reasoning becomes impossible.


I mean impossible.

Habitual dishonesty (most notable political correctness) is a form of learning; and learning strengthens some brain pathways and brain connections; while allowing other pathways and connections to wither and (perhaps eventually) perish.

Therefore, even on those rare occasions when a typical modern intellectual tries to be honest and to think straight - they cannot do it, because their reasoning processes have been sabotaged by their own repeated habits of dishonesty - their attempts at honest thoughts will be inhibited, and instead channelled down the usual lying pathways...


Thus, in modern intellectual life, honesty is punished and dishonesty is rewarded; honest brain pathways decay, dishonest brain pathways enlarge.

After years and years of conditioning in dishonesty, the typical modern intellectual (whether journalist, scientist, lawyer, teacher, doctor or whatever) becomes physically unable to think straight.

Thus the lack of common sense of the 'Clever Sillies' who rule modern societies, and who are driving them into suicide and self-destruction; may, in practice, be intractable - short of mass repentance and long-term rehabilitation and retraining of neural pathways and connections.


Reference: Clever Sillies - http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/clever-sillies-why-high-iq-lack-common.html

Is intelligence also personality?


In contrast to yesterday's posting, which attempts to differentiate qualitatively between intelligence and personality - with personality being something like the basic nature of the brain/ mind, and intelligence a measure of its efficiency - I am also drawn to the apparently contrary idea that intelligence is (or, at least, can be) personality.

For example, it seems very obvious to me that children of very high intelligence may have a distinctive personality, so tat even from an early age (maybe five?) they are recognizable as 'intelligent' children.

Yet, of course, their actual intelligence is well below the average for an adult in other words their performance of even a top one percent six year old on an IQ test normed for adults (or a measurement of their 'reading age', which is much the same) would place them well below an average 18 year old.


What, then, are we detecting in the highly intelligent child?

The usual answer is that we are implicitly comparing the highly intelligent six year old with other six year olds, and are noticing how much more able they are - but I think this is false. I believe that high intelligence can be recognized in a child even when you do not know their age, or even if you believed they were older than their true chronological age - in other words, I think there is a qualitative difference between the personality of the highly intelligent child and average children, which can be detected almost regardless of their actual level of performance.

It is not so much what they can do, cognitively; but the way that they do it - a matter of the mode of thinking rather than the efficiency of the thinking.

Indeed, I believe this is a very strong effect, which is underestimated by the fact that many/ most IQ tests are done against the clock - which underestimates the intelligence of that significant proportion of children with exceptionally high underlying intelligence, but who have sensory, motor, attentional (etc) impairments that reduce their speed/ accuracy of answering.


(Contra the received wisdom, I think that very high g has a cost, there is a developmental trade-off between intelligence and - for example, sprinting/jumping/throwing-type athleticism/ dancing/ personal combat ability; thus at the highest levels 'g' is not a reliable fitness marker - probably because of the necessary element of group selection in the occurrence of creative genius.)


In a sense, intelligence must, at least at extremes, affect personality; since at a certain point quantitative difference becomes qualitative. Someone with much more rapid processing will perform more processes in the finite available length of time in real world situations - such that the same sensory stimulus will typically lead to a different behavioural response.


This kind of difference is seldom measured in the usual psychological studies due to the problem of range restriction in samples - for example the use of college students restricts the range of intelligence to about two standard deviations, towards the upper end of the distribution - while the population as a whole requires four standard deviations to include 96 percent of the range.

Indeed, it is logistically very difficult/ in practice impossible, for most intelligence and personality researchers to sample the bottom of the intelligence range - since they lack access to special institutions and hospitals.

And, further, an institution/ hospital sample will include many with neurological and mental illness, and physical handicaps such that the usual tests will not be possible. In practice it is extremely difficult to sample people of low intelligence who are not also pathological - so the very obvious and characteristic differences in personality between those of very low and very high intelligence may not show up in the usual run of studies.

Thursday 18 July 2013

What is "personality"?


This is a tricky question - and one to which I do not have a settled answer. 

But in the classic research programme into interpersonal differences (which was pioneered by HJ Eysenck), personality is regarded as distinct from intelligence. 

This means that ideally there should be no significant correlation between personality and intelligence, but when there is there should be possible significant dissociations - such that high levels of a specific personality trait should be found with both low and high intelligence, with the same applying to low levels of that specific personality trait.


How this works can be seen in a draft, in press book chapter on the evolution of Simon Baron-Cohen's concepts of Systemizing and Empathizing (my co-author is Patrick Rosenkranz):


Empathizing and Systemizing conceptualized as personality traits

Empathizing and Systemizing are conceptualized as personality traits, dispositions or preferences to behave in certain ways; therefore not as cognitive abilities.

E-S variations are thus not-necessarily correlated with cognitive abilities – and indeed in some studies there is no significant measurable correlation with cognitive abilities. For example, there is neither a strong nor consistent association between the ‘reading the mind in the eyes’ test (a test of a cognitive ability), and scores on a self-evaluation Empathizing scale (a measure of disposition or personality): so that an individual may score highly at reading the mind in the eyes but score low on an Empathizing scale, or vice versa (Lawrence, Shaw, Baker, Baron-Cohen, & David, 2004; Voracek & Dressler, 2006).
A disposition is a personality trait: understandable as a sustained tendency, an individual’s characteristic of habitually deploying a mode of cognition. A disposition can also be seen as an individual’s preference for using an ability. (In the sense that preferences can only select between a certain set of abilities; one cannot characteristically be disposed to act in any way that one is incapable of acting.). 

And preference to behave in certain ways is (presumably) based on a motivation, and motivation is associated with a psychological reward (or gratification) from doing something – or else a psychological punishment (or aversive consequence) of not doing something. Ultimately, therefore, a disposition reflects that certain types of behaviour lead to increased gratification (increased pleasure or diminution of suffering). Individuals differ in the types of behaviour which lead to gratification, and in the degree of gratification associated with a specific type of behaviour. 

In sum, individual and groups variations in Systemizing and Empathizing can be understood as variations in the type of behaviour that (on average) lead to gratification. Put simply, Empathizers gain enhanced gratification from Empathizing behaviour, while Systemizers gain enhanced gratification from Systemizing behaviour. For example, a High-Systemizer may have the ability to understand and empathize with other people, but prefers to spend most of his time doing crosswords; while a High-Empathizer may be able to do crosswords to a high standard, but she would prefer to converse with a group of friends. 

Naturally, the disposition to be Empathizing or Systemizing requires that there be the cognitive ability to do these; to empathize requires the ability to empathize and to systemize requires that ability. And at extremes of disposition there may be a deficit in such abilities, so that the extreme Empathizer may be defective in systematizing ability and the extreme Systemizer may be defective in theory of mind ability. 

However, deficiencies in either E or S ability are not necessary to the finding of variations in E-S, and it seems that there may be a wide range of E-S dispositions even when both abilities are fully intact. Therefore, these abilities must have evolved in order that there be a disposition to use them.


If intelligence and personality are regarded as autonomous; then this could be because personality is reducible to something like cognitive structure (maybe even to the formal properties of brain circuitry - the broad systematic principles upon which the brain is 'built')...

While intelligence could be reduced to something like processing speed - the efficiency (including rapidity) of cognitive processing - for instance as (crudely but objectively) measured by reaction times. 


On this basis, how might personality be measurable, objectively?

It would ultimately be a matter of how the brain is setup - the principles on which it is organized. 

The idea would be that different personalities would process information differently, according to different principles - and we are talking about qualitative differences, and specifically not about the rapidity of processing. 

So, the same informational input would lead to different behavioural outputs, according to different personalities. 


If this analysis is broadly correct, it can be seen why it has proved so much more difficult to measure and in particular to classify personality, than intelligence; since it does not seem obvious why there should be a fixed number of personality types except perhaps at broad categories of gene pools and in response to natural selection.

Much of personality difference would then be random variation, the results of many types of pathology, and the variation due to ongoing, unfinished 'selective sweeps' of natural selection - when past natural selection has produced personality change in a proportion of the population, but either this process is incomplete or else the direction of selection has changed.

Monday 1 July 2013

What does dog intelligence tell us about possible causes of the decline of human intelligence?


The causes of the significant decline in intelligence in the past 150 or so years include

1. Differential reproduction such that the less intelligent have higher reproductive success than the more intelligent.

2. Relaxation of natural selection on those of lowest intelligence, due to the massive decline in child mortality rates - leading to an accumulation of deleterious mutations



Can the estimated intelligence of dogs tell us anything about the plausibility of the second of these mechanisms?

I made a blind hypothesis that (English) bulldogs would be among the least intelligent of dogs, due to my knowledge of the fact that most bulldogs have been, for several generations, born by Caesarian section, and that this would be consistent with a relaxation of natural selection


I also hypothesized that dogs selected for the functional abilities (working dogs) - thus subjected to natural selection for ability; would be of higher intelligence than dogs selected for their appearance (show dogs - which would include bulldogs) - since these dogs would selectively be kept alive and bred from, even when subject to what would, in natural conditions, be fitness-impairing problems.


On consulting the Wikipedia page on The Intelligence of Dogs


I found my hypotheses both to be broadly consistent with the data:

Brightest Dogs

  • Understanding of New Commands: Fewer than 5 repetitions.
  • Obey First Command: 95% of the time or better.
  1. Border Collie
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever
  8. Papillon
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Australian Cattle Dog

Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence
  1. Shih Tzu
  2. Basset Hound
  3. Mastiff
  4. Pekingese
  5. Bloodhound
  6. Borzoi
  7. Chow Chow
  8. Bulldog
  9. Basenji
  10. Afghan Hound

There are apparent inconsistencies - such that Poodles and Papillons seem like show dogs, despite their intelligence; while Beagles used to be hunting dogs and bloodhounds used to be tracker dogs which would suggest they ought to have higher intelligence.

However, perhaps some of these data (Papillons?) are wrong; or the big Poodles are still used as working (gun) dogs; and perhaps pedigree Beagles and Bloodhounds have not been working dogs for many generations, and are now show dogs?


Anyway - I present the data for what its worth.

As I say, it seems broadly consistent with my hypotheses based on the idea that relaxation of natural selection could rapidly lead to a decline in intelligence, due to accumulated deleterious mutations.