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The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 BlogviewJames Thompson Archive

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Cognitive power leads to monetary accumulation.
  It is just a coincidence, but the initials NNT are best known to me as Numbers Needed to Treat. This is a measure of the numbers of patients you need to give a drug to in order to get one cure. For example, an NNT of 5 means that you have to treat five... Read More
When dull meet bright, tough love rules
What happens when above average and below average ability people have to deal with each other? Specifically, how will they interact when potentially both are able to gain from the exchange? It seems obvious that they should cooperate, and extract the greatest amount of mutual gain, but does this really happen in situations where there... Read More
As every conference attendee knows, a few minutes with a researcher is worth many hours of reading their work. What researchers say in person will be up to date, generally unvarnished and to the point. Compared to writing, conversation is speedy, interactive, and tends towards confession: the spoken word accompanied by the revealed emotion, a... Read More
The full conference began yesterday. In the midst of listening to all the papers I can't post anything much, but will keep live tweeting some of the presentations. As ever, the best thing is meeting participants and finding out first hand about their work, stuff which will be published a year from now. Great fun... Read More
Psychological test.  1990.0034.173.
When I started work in September 1968 one of the first things I was taught was that intelligence testing had a long history, and that many of the subtests in the Wechsler assessments I had been taken from previous research. Kohs’ blocks (1920), I used to mutter, when people talked about Block Design. I was... Read More
I have good memories of San Antonio, host city of the ISIR 2012 conference. We visited the Alamo, and where throngs of tourists looked respectfully at an ancient wall of the building which was being restored with lime mortar. It was regarded as a restoration of national importance, and the wall was cordoned off, with... Read More
Teachers loom large in most children’s lives, and are long remembered. Class reunions often talk of the most charismatic teacher, the one whose words and helpfulness made a difference. Who could doubt that they can have an influence on children’s learning and future achievements? Doug Detterman is one such doubter: Education and Intelligence: Pity the... Read More
For some years I have been organizing the London Conference on Intelligence, which brings together about 25 invited researchers to present papers and debate issues in a critical but friendly setting. (“The London School” was the name give to those who argued that intelligence had a general component, and was heritable). Speakers are chosen for... Read More
As an undergraduate, my psychology tutor dryly commented to me that the best way to get a paper widely read was to give it a memorable title, like “the magic number 7, plus or minus 2”. Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing... Read More
Early in any psychology course, students are taught to be very cautious about accepting people’s reports. A simple trick is to stage some sort of interruption to the lecture by confederates, and later ask the students to write down what they witnessed. Typically, they will misremember the events, sequences and even the number of people... Read More
Superior: the return of race science. Angela Saini. 4th Estate. London. 2019. Excitedly promoted in national newspapers, glowingly reviewed in Sunday magazines, the author interviewed on national radio, this book is part of a mainstream narrative which promotes the ascendant public stance, which is that race does not exist as a useful category, and that... Read More
You can detect a lot about a person using simple tasks which take less than 2 minutes. Here is a test which did the job in 90 seconds, but then got lengthened to 120 seconds to make it even more reliable. Of this test, one of those Edinburgh researchers said to me in a conference... Read More
The Great Retrodiction: English speakers only
Science marches on. A researcher writes in to chide me that I have forgotten the fastest intelligence test of all, which masquerades as a simple reading test, but which can reach back 50 years, and in 90 seconds deliver a precise verdict on the best level of ability you had in your prime. Indeed, I... Read More
How much could you learn about a person in two minutes, just getting them to answer written questions? I suppose you could ask them their favourite colour or song, or quiz them about their other preferences, occupations, and sundry other demographic matters. Getting them to reveal marital status, religion, politics, earnings and savings might be... Read More
I am in favour of schools in principle, with some reservations about what schooling can achieve. Schools cannot compensate for individual differences. From time to time, children have to be excluded from school because their behaviour makes it very difficult to teach other children. Under the current rules, a pattern of disruption has to be... Read More
Replies to a reviewer and to blog commentators
Before posting up Piffer’s paper, I sent it to a reviewer, someone who works in intelligence research. I explained that many geneticists were dismissive about Piffer’s work on group intelligence, and asked for a critical opinion. Here is that opinion, and Piffer’s replies. Piffer also includes responses to the main themes which came out of... Read More
Predicting group intelligence averages by polygenic risk scores alone.
The figure shows standardized polygenic scores by population for Education GWAS, in descending order (1000 Genomes Populations, EA MTAG, N= 3,257 SNPs). One function of a blog is to let people shoot down ideas. Conjectures have a short half-life. Refutations always snap at their heels. David Becker, whose latest version of country IQs received trenchant... Read More
Becker update V1.3.2
David Becker has released a new version of the World’s IQ. Each country has a score showing the cognitive abilities of their citizens, this being a blend of genetics and the environment of each country, particularly as regards education and health. The world’s global score is 82. This is 12th percentile rank on the Greenwich... Read More
At the end of the Second World War, food was scarce in many European countries. By the Spring of 1946 Germans in the British zone were getting only 700 to 1000 calories per day. At the same time, Greece was experiencing shortages, so the British government decided to send food to Greece. After all, Germany... Read More
Although I claim not to be interested in milometer events, I can’t help but note that I have just completed 900 posts, something which has involved me in writing 771,844 words which have been blessed with 818,301 page-views and 2,391,692 comment words. Thanks for reading, and for commenting. In the spirit of any investment prospectus,... Read More
Pitch up, pitch up. Looks like MCAS can be a liability, as already speculated. It is a bit late to attempt to "enhance understanding" of how the system works. Boeing prides itself on giving pilots control, but seems to have designed something which denies them authority. Yes, it depends on a chain of mishaps and... Read More
Of course you’re bright, darling
Although I did not entirely ignore the subject. I should have paid more attention to people’s estimates of their own intelligence. Self-estimates are error prone, and may have negative consequences in real life, as well as making discussions about intelligence remarkable error-prone. Adrian Furnham did several papers on this topic, and Sophie Von Stumm made... Read More
I may be too trusting, but I generally accept upgrades. Several months ago, I willingly accepted an iPhone operating system upgrade, and lost all the Notes I had stored on my phone. These notes contained bank and credit card details, passport details, and other useful things which I have to consult from time to time,... Read More
Conventional wisdom is that it is too early to speculate why in the past six months two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have gone down shortly after take off, so if all that follows is wrong you will know it very quickly. Last night I predicted that the first withdrawals of the plane would happen... Read More
Would you sincerely like to be famous?
Donald Trump was the real star, and everyone wanted selfies with him. Last night, in a break with usual stay-at-home custom, I went from my monastic cell out into the glittering evening parade of London’s West End. All the world is there, plus food and entertainment. Leicester Square Theatre is not, as the name proudly... Read More
It is very unlikely that even if I continue my blog for decades, it will ever have the impact of Stephen Jay Gould’s (1981) “The mis-measure of Man”. It was a best seller, cited in the academic literature over 10,000 times, and even 445 times in 2017 alone. It continues to meet an audience need.... Read More
50 years on
Philanthropy is a fine thing. A good sum of money put in the right place can benefit many people. Commerce is also a fine thing. A small sum of money put in the right place can create goods and services which people want, which can lead to profit which leads to more money being available... Read More
Newspapers have very warmly received an international project which, in the author’s views, strongly suggests that healthy babies are all alike in their developmental milestones, at least as determined by a study of particular centres in different parts of the world. The study has the following general features: Find healthy pregnant women in several different... Read More
If the brightness of European Jews is primarily due to their culture, then we should all seek to be adopted by a Jewish mother. If, on the other hand, it is necessary to be actually born from Jewish parents, then any cultural tips we may get from them may be a bonus, but it is... Read More
Four years ago I claimed that it was more important to have educated parents than rich ones. Parents who are educated were very likely bright to begin with, and judged worth educating as much as possible. They may even have gained in ability by virtue of further education. Brighter parents usually earn more than less... Read More
I do not have a dog in the fight about dogs. My dad said that there was a dog in every boy’s life, and so we had some dogs when I was young, and then in my own life, no dogs. I was living a town life, and working, and had neither need nor wish... Read More
Some things are associated with others. Some things you eat make you ill. Some animals attack you. Some places are dangerous, some people likewise. On a brighter note, some foods are tasty and healthy. Some animals can be domesticated, or at least are easy to hunt or trap. Some places are safe, and some people... Read More
Thank you to all those who commented on the “Swanning About: Fooled by Algebra” blog and associated tweets. A number of themes came up, so here are individual responses I made to some comments, and also some general points. Since Taleb thought he could dismiss a century of psychometry, there are rather a lot of... Read More
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has tweeted a set of remarks about intelligence research. He has now gathered those together into one format, with links and explanations. There is no lack of confidence in his essay. There is much to discuss here, and what follows covers what I see as the main points. I have added some... Read More
To the 12th Century Church of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, as is my custom, to celebrate the habits of my tribe. This time the service of the Nine Carols was in the evening under a full moon veiled in winter’s hazy clouds, though enough to light the road past the carp pond. The church... Read More
The early months of 2018 were taken up with dealing with hostile press coverage of the London Conference on Intelligence, attacks which intended to prevent evidence-based discussion of group differences in intelligence, and sought to grossly misrepresent any discussion of genetic components in behaviour, lest new readers think for themselves. Stain the source: obscure the... Read More
In the great cultural war which surrounds race and intelligence, James Flynn is on the side of the angels. I know this because he told me so. Happily, I know him well enough to know he was joking: he was admitting that he was well aware that his mostly environmentalist perspective was far more acceptable... Read More
I think there is a rule in the application of science in medical settings: the first big step is taken by the person least suitable to take it. Consider, for example, the first heart transplant. It was carried out by a showman surgeon who jumped the gun and did the operation before the problem of... Read More
ggose: generalist genes of small effect
Robert Plomin. Blueprint. Allen Lane, London. 2018 Plomin has written the book that summarizes his career, the one that he previously avoided writing because of what he describes as his own cowardice. Harsh judgement, but investigators into the genetics of intelligence are given a rough ride in contemporary academia, where genetics generates a hostility not... Read More
"Scientific Racism" is an oxymoron. The truth cannot be racist, and lies cannot be science. If you say something truthful about a racial difference then that is true, not a lie, and not racism. If you say something about racial groups which is untrue, then that is not science, it is false, and science has... Read More
No conferring
A bit of back history: I started learning about intelligence and intelligence tests when I was an undergraduate in 1964-1968. This included taking group intelligence tests at the beginning of my psychology course, and giving face to face Wechsler tests in my final year. I then started my first research project leading to my PhD:... Read More
Disinviting is an awkward word for a disagreeable act: inviting someone, and then once they have accepted, withdrawing the invitation. Naturally, this is more hurtful than not being invited at all. I have not been invited to many things, and ignorance is bliss. To have been invited, and gone through the process of preparing for... Read More
After the furore, farrago and stramash of Prof Alessandro Strumia talking about sex differences, I went back to the BBC last night to read about other news. Of course, my eye was caught by a story entitled: The Women standing up for Science There were 3 interviews with women university researchers, apparently selected because they... Read More
The closest I have ever been to Big Physics was the Stanford Linear Accelerator, in the company of Prof Theodore Postol, who felt it would be a good antidote to my jet lag, as we discussed anti-ballistic missile defence strategy. Postol also went down the corridor to see if I could meet Amos Tversky, but... Read More
Linda Gottfredson, author of the most supported and cited statement on intelligence, and the researcher who has done most to explain what intelligence means in everyday life, in terms of specific tasks, training needs, and occupational choices and achievements (https://www1.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997whygmatters.pdf) has just been dis-invited from an occupational conference in Sweden where she had been invited... Read More
I want to explain, once again, my arguments on the question of weight, obesity, diet and dieting. I’d like to make some suggestions as well, if only to counter the impression some readers got that I did not realize how difficult many find it to change their diet, and also the impression that I would... Read More
Prof Zhang, Economist, Peking University says, regarding the results in his paper about the effects of pollution: We are also puzzled by the difference in math and verbal tests as well as the gender difference. Prof. Chew of National University of Singapore found similar results for college students, greater impact on male than on female... Read More
News has come in from China that air pollution has a large and cumulatively damaging effect on intelligence, particularly on older people with less education. Perplexingly, the effect is on Vocabulary, but not Maths. Even more specifically, the verbal decrement hits men harder than women. What is going on? How could bad air have such... Read More
I intended to tell you about this paper some days ago, but for some reason didn’t get around to it. It was not procrastination on my part. Nothing so energetic as that. Why is procrastination so prevalent? Why is it that I, of course not you, tend to postpone tasks, even on matters which are... Read More
You may remember my dictum: If you are fatter than you want to be, eat less. That post led to an outpouring of deeply lived personal experience, of almost French complexity, extolling the virtues of eating particular food types in particular combinations at particular times, and not paying too much attention to calories. Fine. If... Read More
James Thompson
About James Thompson

James Thompson has lectured in Psychology at the University of London all his working life. His first publication and conference presentation was a critique of Jensen’s 1969 paper, with Arthur Jensen in the audience. He also taught Arthur how to use an English public telephone. Many topics have taken up his attention since then, but mostly he comments on intelligence research.