Friday, December 21, 2012

IQ tests are 'meaningless and too simplistic' claim researchers

This appears to have been based on an internet survey and such surveys  are notorious for giving non-representative results.  A large sample size is no substitute for representativeness

The underlying controversy, however, is as old as the hills:  Should IQ be measured as a set of subscores or as one overall score?  Among psychometricians it is known as the Spearman/Thurstone controvery and dates back to the beginning of the last century.

The accepted answer is to present results both ways:  As one overall score plus a set of sub-scores.  Results can reasonably be represented both ways because the subscores are correlated.  Knowing a person's subscore on (say) verbal ability will give you a useful (but not of course perfect) prediction of his mathematical ability.  That has repeatedly been demonstrated.

The novelty in the report below is that the various sub-abilities were said to be NOT correlated  -- which runs contrary to 100 years of findings by others.  I note however that the authors are more cautious in the underlying journal article.  They say:  
Using simulations based on neuroimaging data, we show that the higher-order factor “g” is accounted for by cognitive tasks corecruiting multiple networks. Finally, we confirm the independence of these components of intelligence by dissociating them using questionnaire variables. We propose that intelligence is an emergent property of anatomically distinct cognitive systems, each of which has its own capacity.

That sounds to me as if they admit the existence of a general factor but find that the subfactors don't all use exactly  the same parts of the brain -- which should be no surprise to anyone.

There is also a question about how comprehensive were the test items used.  Without seeing all the questions, I get the impression  that a deliberate attempt was made to find questions that would not produce correlated results.  One can ask plenty of questions not conceptually related to intelligence and in that case intercorrelations are not be be expected.  In psychometrican's terms, the test would lack construct validity.

The journal article is "Fractionating Human Intelligence" by Hampshire et al.  I look forward to seeing a more detailed examination of the article by those who specialize in IQ studies

After conducting the largest ever study of intelligence, researchers have found that far from indicating how clever you are, IQ testing is actually rather ‘meaningless’.

In a bid to investigate the value of IQ, scientists asked more than 100,000 participants to complete 12 tests that required planning, reasoning, memory and attention.  They also filled in a survey on their background.

They discovered that far from being down to one single factor, what is commonly regarded as intelligence is influenced by three different elements - short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal ability.  But being good at one of these factors does not mean you are going to be equally gifted at the other two.

Scientists from Canada’s Western University in Ontario, also scanned some of the participants’ brains while they undertook the tests.

They found that different parts of the brain were activated when they were tested on each of the three factors.

Traditional IQ tests are ‘too simplistic’, according to the research, which found that what makes someone intelligent is too complex to boil down to a single exam.

IQ, which stands for Intelligence Quotient, is an attempt to measure how smart an individual is.  The average IQ is 100. Mensa, the high IQ society, only accepts individuals who score more than 148, putting them in the top two per cent of the population.

The new study, published in the journal Neuron, suggests that intelligence is too complex to be represented by a single number.

Study leader Dr Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientists based at Western University in Canada, said an ‘astonishing’ number of people had contributed to the research.

‘We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds and from every corner of the world,’ he said.

‘When you take 100,000 people and tested their brain function, we couldn’t find any evidence for a single uniform concept of intelligence.

‘The best we could manage is get it down to three elements that contribute to intelligence. But they are completely different factors, unrelated to one another, and you could be brilliant at one and awful at another.  For example, the absent-minded professor.

‘IQ tests are pretty meaningless - if you are not good at them, all it proves is that you are not good at IQ tests.

'It does not say anything about your general intelligence.’ The majority of IQ tests were developed in the 50s and 60s when the way we thought and interacted with the world was different, said Dr Owen.



Gun Owners are racists -- of course

When Leftist hate takes the place of thought we get the sort of intellectual garbage below ...

Jim Sleeper, a “lecturer in political science” at Yale, wrote the following in today’s Huffington Post:
    The astonishing “new normal” of heavy gunfire that took hold in Newtown long before last week’s massacre only reinforces the parallel I drew here last week between today’s gun enthusiasts and yesterday’s racial segregationists.....

    To understand what we’re up against here, understand that many other gun enthusiasts think of themselves this way, too — and that they see their critics as moralists addled by silly delusions about human nature. They alone uphold honor against depravity: Southern segregationists thought their way of life necessary to channel the violence at the bottom of all society toward a safer, more stable order, refined by codes of honor and masterful stewardship of Negroes wise enough to accept their place in it.

    Many white Americans outside the South accepted this reasoning’s death-grip on the Congress, where long-serving Southern senators chaired many committees. They dismissed as regrettable but necessary, and, someday perhaps surmountable, the ranters and ravers at the fringes of White Citizens Councils and among unruly poor whites at the fringes of town or in the hollows beyond, and among egregious and sometimes-embarrassing Klansmen at night and sheriffs at noon.

    The apologists considered themselves as innocent of all this hatred as today’s gun enthusiasts think themselves innocent of the gun lobby’s death-grip on the Congress and innocent of the depredations and confusions of Jared Loughner, George Zimmerman, Adam Lanza and the rest, not to mention of militias camping out in the hills.
This is what passes for thought among Yale lecturers today, is it? At least Sleeper’s disregard for constitutional originalism is comprehensive:
As we try to free the Second Amendment of interpretations and statutory encrustations as destructive as the Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson decisions, we’ll also have to free First Amendment of jurisprudence that equates the speech of citizens with disembodied corporate marketing’s algorithmically driven desperation to glue our kids’ eyeballs and rewire their guts as it inundates them not with artists’ art, political actors’ appeals, or real reporters’ findings but with endless, empty titillation and intimidation for profit.

It’s something of a tactical mistake for Sleeper to include these Supreme Court cases in his article, because anybody who bothers to look up 1857′s Dred Scott v. Sandford decision will notice right away the court’s awful observation that if slaves were permitted to enjoy full citizenship rights, then they would — shock horror! — enjoy the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” This, the court thought, would be disastrous.

The fear of blacks with guns is not, of course, new. The very first gun-control measures in American history were designed to keep arms out of the hands of blacks and Indians: The Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies both prohibited the sale of guns to Indians in the early seventeenth century, and the “Black Codes” of the mid-eighteenth century required French colonists in Louisiana to disarm and beat “any black carrying any potential weapon.” Many pre-Civil War state constitutions went further, reserving the right to bear arms — which was not, as Sleeper claims, understood as anything other than an individual right — to “freemen,” which, naturally, meant whites. After their damnable cause was lost, the KKK picked up and ran with disarmament as a way of keeping blacks down. As Adam Winkler hasobserved, “gun control” was “at the very top of its agenda.” The Democratic party’s “Black Codes,” which barred former slaves from owning guns in the (segregated) post-bellum South, were passed for the same purpose.

It is no accident that the first draft of the 1871 Anti-Klan Act contained a provision that made it a federal crime to “deprive any citizen of the United States of any arms or weapons he may have in his house or possession for the defense of his person, family, or property,” for that was exactly what segregationists set out to do. Robert Franklin Williams’s classic work, Negroes with Guns, tells a tale of the KKK’s systematic attempt to disarm black Americans — and of the National Rifle Association’s work in forming a counter-group called the “Black Armed Guard” — as late as the as the 1950s. As Williams points out, it was guns in the hands of his family that saved their lives and allowed them — literally — to fight the KKK and their allies.

Sleeper’s thinking is arse over elbow. It is gun controllers who have historically been analogous to segregationists, and gun owners and defenders of the Second Amendment that have been the enemy of institutionalized racism and segregation — not the other way about. The very purpose of slaveowners and segregationists was to deprive a whole class of people of their unalienable liberties; the very purpose of the NRA is to ensure that all maintain their access to them. Even as recently as 1968, as the anti-gun Robert Sherrill admitted in his book, The Saturday Night Special, gun control measures were a thinly veiled attempt to disarm black people: “The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed not to control guns to but control blacks, and inasmuch as a majority of Congress did not want to do the former but were ashamed to show that their goal was the latter, the result was that they did neither. Indeed, this law, the first gun-control law passed by Congress in thirty years, was one of the grand jokes of our time.” Jim Sleeper’s profoundly illiterate essay shares the same honor.



Good laws will never abolish all evil

by Jeff Jacoby

IT IS REMARKABLE how confident so many people are that they know what causes – and just how to prevent – horrific massacres like Friday's bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

In a TV interview over the weekend, one observer insisted that the mass-murder in Newtown was all too predictable, given America's failure to implement an obvious and desperately overdue reform. "Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?" this individual demanded, showing no hint of uncertainty about exactly what needs to be fixed.

Who was that?

Was it Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, amplifying his call for Congress to take a "vote of conscience" and enact a nationwide assault-weapons ban? Or the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, who excoriates "the National Rifle Association and other apologists for murder" for resisting more aggressive gun control?

Was it Connecticut's departing senator, Joe Lieberman, resurrecting his longtime warning that the brutality that pervades American entertainment "does cause vulnerable young men to be more violent"? Or presidential adviser David Axelrod, enlarging on a plea he posted on Twitter: "All for curbing weapons of war. But shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?"

Was it Liza Long, whose blog post about her son's psychiatric problems -- "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother" -- went viral, leading to an appearance on NBC in which she argued that the way to deal with mass shootings is to deal with madness of potential perpetrators: "It's easy to talk about guns but it's time to talk about mental illness."

Was it former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, who contended on Sunday that the most effective means to prevent Newtown-style bloodbaths might be to ensure that school employees are armed? Was it Larry Pratt, head of the 300,000-member Gun Owners of America, decrying gun-free zones as a "lethal insanity" that gives homicidal gunmen an unconscionable advantage over their victims?

In reality, it was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who asserted within hours of the atrocity in Newtown that 26 innocent souls perished because "we've systematically removed God from our schools." If only Americans would let God in "on the front end," said Huckabee, schools ravaged by murder wouldn't need Him so often "on the back end."

It was a graceless thing to say, and Huckabee was rightly criticized for rushing to exploit a ghastly horror in order to promote his particular agenda. But Huckabee was far from the only offender. In the wake of Newtown there was no end of sanctimony from politicians and pundits who declared not just that America must do something to avert such terrible killings, but that they know precisely what that something is: More gun control. Less gun control. Better screening for mental illness. Restoration of school prayer. No media publicity for mass killers. A crackdown on hyperviolent video games. Armed guards at schools.

How can such terrible evil be thwarted? The desperate need for answers – better yet, for an answer – is always palpable after a Newtown, an Aurora, a Columbine. That urge to turn back cruelty, to find effective responses to anguish and pain, is so intensely human. The yearning for an end to suffering runs deep in our species, and at its best has been a powerful force for justice and progress. "We can't tolerate this anymore," President Obama said in Connecticut on Sunday. "These tragedies must end." At the level of heart and gut, who doesn't share that feeling?

But tragedy will always be part of the human condition. Some evils we can never hope to eliminate – not even with the best will in the world. No regulation or reform can undo all homicidal insanity. Still less can legislation guarantee universal integrity and decent character. It will always take more than law and politics to make men and women kind, honest, and moral.

None of the nostrums prescribed after this year's shooting rampages in Connecticut and Colorado would guarantee that nothing like them will ever recur. Stringent gun laws haven't prevented frightful massacres of students in Norway, Germany, and the United Kingdom. There were mass killings in America long before there were video games – and long before the Supreme Court ruled prayer in public school unconstitutional.

Nightmares like the one in Newtown are rare. Yet a free society cannot make them absolutely impossible and still remain free. Good laws can do a lot, but they will never abolish all human evil.



Your Cellphone Is Spying on You

How the surveillance state co-opted personal technology

Big Brother has been outsourced. The police can find out where you are, where you’ve been, even where you’re going. All thanks to that handy little human tracking device in your pocket: your cellphone.

There are 331 million cellphone subscriptions—about 20 million more than there are residents—in the United States. Nearly 90 percent of adult Americans carry at least one phone. The phones communicate via a nationwide network of nearly 300,000 cell towers and 600,000 micro sites, which perform the same function as towers. When they are turned on, they ping these nodes once every seven seconds or so, registering their locations, usually within a radius of 150 feet. By 2018 new Federal Communications Commission regulations will require that cellphone location information be even more precise: within 50 feet. Newer cellphones also are equipped with GPS technology, which uses satellites to locate the user more precisely than tower signals can. Cellphone companies retain location data for at least a year. AT&T has information going all the way back to 2008.

Police have not been shy about taking advantage of these data. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), U.S. law enforcement agencies made 1.5 million requests for user data from cellphone companies in 2011. And under current interpretations of the law, you will never find out if they were targeting you.

In fact, police no longer even have to go to the trouble of seeking information from your cell carrier. Law enforcement is more and more deploying International Mobile Subscriber Identity locators that masquerade as cell towers and enable government agents to suck down data from thousands of subscribers as they hunt for an individual’s cell signal. This “Stingray” technology can detect and precisely triangulate cellphone signals with an accuracy of up to 6 feet—even inside your house or office where warrants have been traditionally required for a legal police search.

Law enforcement agencies prefer not to talk about cellphone tracking. “Never disclose to the media these techniques—especially cell tower tracking,” advises a guide for the Irvine, California, police department unearthed by the ACLU in 2012.




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