October 06, 2012

Social factors affect intelligence

It’s Not Me, It’s You

By Annie Murphy PaulIn a 1995 article in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Professors Steele and Aronson found that black students performed comparably with white students when told that the test they were taking was “a laboratory problem-solving task.” Black students scored much lower, however, when they were instructed that the test was meant to measure their intellectual ability. In effect, the prospect of social evaluation suppressed these students’ intelligence.

Minorities aren’t the only ones vulnerable to stereotype threat. We all are. A group of people notably confident about their mathematical abilities—white male math and engineering majors who received high scores on the math portion of the SAT—did worse on a math test when told that the experiment was intended to investigate “why Asians appear to outperform other students on tests of math ability.”
And:If the threat of social exclusion can decrease the expression of intelligence, so can a perceived threat to physical safety. It’s common to blame disadvantaged children’s poor academic performance on their “environment.” By this we usually mean longstanding characteristics of their homes and neighborhoods. But research on the social aspects of intelligence suggests that much more immediate aspects of kids’ surroundings can also affect their I.Q.’s.

In a study conducted on the troubled South Side of Chicago, for example, students whose neighborhoods had been the site of a homicide within the previous two weeks scored half a standard deviation lower on a test of intelligence.
Comment:  This analysis offers another reason why conservatives who blame people for being poor are idiots. Rich pigs like Mitt Romney, who think 47% of Americans are government moochers, have no clue what it's like to work in low-paying jobs with no health care, to live in dismal neighborhoods rife with gangs and substance abuse.

No one wants to live like this, but a host of environmental factors helps keep people down. It has nothing to do with their desire to succeed and everything to do with the pressures and obstacles they face.

For more on blaming the victim, see Attawapiskat Triggers "Welfare" Stereotypes and Rubio:  Entitlements "Weakened" Us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can also get a difference of more than 40 points between two IQ tests, depending on content. IQ doesn't mean much anyway, unless your IQ is below 70.

More importantly, IIRC, Herrnstein and Murray didn't even cite reputable sources, instead choosing sources from the eugenic Pioneer Fund. They even picked J. Phillippe Rushton, the shark jumper. (Penis size and intelligence? Seriously?) The old IQ gap was never that much; World War I-era IQ tests showed Northern blacks outperforming Southern whites. It's only been decreasing with integration, as one would predict. But using sources from Wackyland let them predict an increase.

Also, IQ tests have the curve straightened so there is a curve. The median will always be 100 because no matter what anyone scores, the guy in the middle will be 100. The standard deviation will always be 15 or 16 (depending on test) for the same reason.