Thursday, December 13, 2007
The Flynn Effect
Having not so long ago considered an oft-ignored aspect of the question of whether intelligence and race are correlated, I was first intrigued and then very impressed with this article on the "Flynn Effect", named for James Flynn, who first noted that scores on IQ tests were rising over time and then asked why that was in a very creative and productive way.
As this article considers the Flynn Effect and the recent revival of the debate about race and IQ, it takes a look at the many pitfalls inherent in attempting to measure intelligence and raises serious questions about more than one popular myth about the genetic basis of IQ. Near the end, it also considers how such factors as the culture in which one is raised can affect one's IQ. Its conclusion was a breath of fresh air:
Flynn then talked about what we've learned from studies of adoption and mixed-race children -- and that evidence didn't fit a genetic model, either. If I.Q. is innate, it shouldn't make a difference whether it's a mixed-race child’s mother or father who is black. But it does: children with a white mother and a black father have an eight-point I.Q. advantage over those with a black mother and a white father. And it shouldn't make much of a difference where a mixed-race child is born. But, again, it does: the children fathered by black American G.I.s in postwar Germany and brought up by their German mothers have the same I.Q.s as the children of white American G.I.s and German mothers. The difference, in that case, was not the fact of the children's blackness, as a fundamentalist would say. It was the fact of their Germanness -- of their being brought up in a different culture, under different circumstances. "The mind is much more like a muscle than we've ever realized," Flynn said. "It needs to get cognitive exercise. It's not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark." The lesson to be drawn from black and white differences was the same as the lesson from the Netherlands years ago: I.Q. measures not just the quality of a person's mind but the quality of the world that person lives in. [bold added]Read the whole thing!
"It was like time stood still!"
If you've ever had a sufficiently frightening experience, you will know exactly what the above title means. Yesterday, I learned from the Houston Chronicle that scientists are attempting to study the commonly-reported feeling that time "slows down" when people are extremely frightened.
Eagleman's research team developed a wristwatch-like device that flashed numbers across a screen at a rate slightly too fast for a normal person to read. He theorized that, if people really could take in more events during times of stress, the free-falling participants should have no problem reading the flashing numbers. But none of them could. "We discovered that people are not like Neo in The Matrix, dodging bullets in slow-mo," he said.The subjects, who had to read these numbers while free-falling backwards, still reported that the fall seemed to take longer, and this study does not eliminate the possibility that the brain can function more rapidly in other modalities during times of stress.
This is an interesting and very difficult problem to attempt to study, and it is far afield of my area of specialization, but one thing immediately jumps out at me: Reading numbers has nothing to do with ending the free fall early. (This is just an observation, not necessarily a criticism of the study.)
If a remembered feeling of time dilation were an aspect of heightened focus as one attempts to quickly find a solution to a life-threatening problem, rather than some fear-induced higher temporal resolution of one's senses, this test, designed to measure the latter, could well have little or nothing to say on that matter.
For those who find this question interesting, the actual paper is available here. And yes, part of the experimental apparatus was an amusement park ride! See Figure 1.
How NOT to Lay off One's Employees
Leave them off the invitation list to a company Christmas party:
Our source tells us that "when the brain trusts sent out the holiday party email they only sent it to people who would still be here -- even though some of us hadn't been notified we were on the block yet."That is bad.
I recall hearing awhile back about another firm that laid off some of its employees via a mass memo sent to their PDAs. I never thought I'd see someone equal or exceed even that level of carelessness.
Myrhaf on Reagan's Legacy
Myrhaf considers whether we should include Reagan on Mt. Rushmore:
Reagan's pragmatism toward Iran and terrorism, with his non-response to the Beirut barracks bombing and his Iran-Contra Scandal, makes him the single man most responsible for our feckless Middle East policy. ...That same argument would go for the Reagan dime -- unless you made things interesting by taking the dime to be a commemoration of our worst president, given the welfare statist currently depicted. But then you might want a bigger field to choose from if don't already consider FDR to be our worst President....
The size of government more than doubled during the Reagan Presidency. You can blame it on Tip O'Neill's Democrat Congress, but the fact is that Reagan didn't have what it takes to stand up to the big spenders. Such weakness is the stuff of mediocrity.
Worst of all, Reagan brought the Religious Right to power, destroying the Goldwater paradigm of a party dedicated to individual rights. ...