James Flynn (above), one of the world’s leading authorities on IQ, reports that he recently completed a tour of 15 American universities and asked why so few of them had courses on intelligence
. The answer, he says
, was that they were afraid. A student would be bound to ask about racial differences and they were terrified to give a sensible answer. Even if they said it was a matter of environment
, they would have to discuss whether black parents
provide as rich a cognitive
atmosphere for their children as white middle-class parents do. Inevitably, they would be crucified for stereotyping
Flynn has given his name to the Flynn Effect, the remarkable and now very widely replicated finding that IQ scores are rising. In England, for example, there was a 27-point IQ gain between 1945 and 2002 which has been replicated in 14 other nations with 5-25 point gains and an average of 15. In the USA Wechsler and Stanford-Binet scores have gained 0.3 IQ points per year since 1947, despite the fact that over the same period SAT scores fell. The paradox, as Flynn himself points out, is that, if this is so, then by comparison with ourselves our great-grandparents had average IQs in the region of 70—in other words, bordering on mental retardation as conventionally defined!
You find a similar absurdity with ethnic differences in IQ. Asians allegedly have higher non-verbal IQ but slightly lower verbal than whites, while US blacks are about 1 standard deviation (SD) lower in IQ scores than whites (which means that the average white tests higher than 84% of all blacks, while the average black tests higher than 16% of all whites). Jews are said to be 0.5-1 SD above whites, the difference mainly verbal, and so on.
The conventional reaction is usually to make these findings taboo, to refuse to think about them and crucify those who do, but previous posts in which I discuss the implications of the imprinted brain theory for cognition suggest a new and fear-free solution. The fact that the Flynn Effect has been uneven, with actual falls in arithmetic and vocabulary in England but a huge rise in Raven’s matrices suggests that we might be fundamentally misinterpreting the findings. Indeed, the fact that autistics with their so-called “extreme male brains” often do much better on Raven's than they do on comprehension, and that arithmetic and vocabulary are tests on which females averagely do better than males, suggests that, as I mentioned in earlier posts, there may in fact be two independent dimensions to intelligence: one mentalistic and one mechanistic.
If that were so, the paradoxes regarding the Flynn Effect and ethnic differences in IQ would immediately be resolved. Given that for reasons which I have already explained in previous posts, mentalistic and mechanistic cognition are likely to vary inversely with one another, it follows that what the Flynn Effect may in fact be measuring is a partly culturally-conditioned rise in mechanistic intelligence with a corresponding—but largely unmeasured—fall in mentalistic IQ. In other words, if we are about an SD above our ancestors and Africans in mechanistic IQ, this implies that we are probably about an SD below them in mentalistic intelligence. In short, as in individuals, it is a see-saw effect: and a higher score on one inevitably means a lower one on the other.
This is the answer that students on my courses get when they ask me about racial differences, and I am not afraid to give it. (But of course, I do not need to fear being accused of blaming black parents for not providing the right environment—that quintessentially mentalistic naming, blaming, and shaming game I can leave to my environmentalist colleagues, who really revel in it!) Indeed, as with its lack of prudery about the realities of sex on which I commented in a previous post, Americans in particular tell me that this is the other most refreshing thing about my teaching: unlike what they find at home, the facts about intelligence are not concealed from them by pusillanimous professors!