- 20 May 2019 14:01
Does poverty really affect IQ as much as Yang says? Also, could this be one of the factors explaining disparaties in the IQs of African Americans and Whites?
Yes, your socioeconomic conditions and the environment you are born in, grow in and live in affect your psychology, including your cognitive abilities. In the beginning of the video, Yang is citing actual research. Mani and colleagues did an experiment in New Jersey and in India, and concluded that "poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks". In this reply to another thread you can read about the other effects poverty has on human psychology such as skewing their assessment of risk and benefits.
Economic conditions and your financial status are associated with many other factors that can positively and/or negatively impact your development, such as nutrition and education. It is not controversial that the environment has at least some impact on IQ.
The debate is more about to what extent (at the individual-level) and more virulently whether group-level differences are mostly if not entirely due to the environment, or mostly if not entirely due to genetics - if the question itself is valid, as there are debates regarding the conceptualization and therefore measurement of intelligence - what are we actually measuring? - and the categorization of groups by 'race'.
In example, Rushton and Jensen (the fathers of hereditarianism) argue that it is at least 50% genetics and 50% environmental, if not more for the former:
On the basis of the present evidence, perhaps the genetic component must be given greater weight and the environmental component correspondingly reduced. In fact, Jensen’s (1998b, p. 443) latest statement of the hereditarian model, termed the default hypothesis, is that genetic and cultural factors carry the exact same weight in causing the mean Black–White difference in IQ as they do in causing individual differences in IQ, about 80% genetic–20% environmental by adulthood.
Conversely, Nisbett and colleagues argue in support for the opposite position. Concerning SES specifically, they suggest that it is in the more socioeconomically advantaged families that individuals can express the full potential of their genes, which would explain at least part of the difference between social groups. Cottrell and colleagues propose a 3-step model to explain how socioeconomic conditions can affect cognition. As they argue,
In the United States, the concept of race implies a history of housing segregation, educational segregation (which is maintained due to housing segregation in regions in which school access is based upon where one lives), and occupational segregation.
The outcome of racial prejudice and discrimination is differential (dis)advantage for Black parents. In turn, economic disadvantage "has a debilitating effect on parents’ ability to provide supportive, consistent, and involved parenting" of African American parents and also determines that kind of adverse environment in which they live (e.g. dangerous neighborhoods). And finally, parenting factors relate to cognitive scores.
Authors such as Hunt argue that environment have been proven to play a role in group differences in intelligence:
With respect to racial/ethnic and national distinctions: yes, there are considerable differences between some groups in the possession of general cognitive skills, the g dimension of intelligence. These differences are related to the socioeconomic and educational achievements of group members, on both the national and international levels. While some environmental causes for group differences have been uncovered, their effects are insufficient to account for the observed differences between groups and nations.Arguments have been made assigning the causes to genetic differences, but no example of an actual genetic mechanism causing group differences has ever been found.
But Hunt also argues that,
It could be that there are genetic constraints that make inequality of cognition across groups inevitable. This hypothesis can never be ruled out, for doing so would require proving the null hypothesis and, as any good statistics instructor will tell you, that is a logical impossibility. It is worth remembering that no genes related to the difference in cognitive skills across the various racial and ethnic groups have ever been discovered. The argument for genetic differences has been carried forward largely by circumstantial evidence.
However, whether Hunt is correct regarding the hypothesis is another can of worms regarding what should be the null hypothesis: is Jensen correct in affirming that the hereditarian model represents the default hypothesis or, citing Brace, "there is no reason to expect that there should be any average difference at all between the various human populations of the world"?
Serious question: do people take Rushton, Jensen, and Lynn seriously in psychology? It sounds loaded, but I’m honestly curious?
What can be said is that both Jensenism and Hereditarianism remain controversial among behavioral scientists and, this is my own perception, minority positions among psychologists and other scholars. What can also be said is that these three authors have been or are regularly criticized.
However, the above does not automatically mean that it is possible to outright dismiss all of their ideas or all of their research with a handwave - it is necessary to engage their assumptions, interpretations and conclusions (and methodology) and make serious efforts to point out the flaws.
The issue is not with, say, fabricated data - there is at least circumstantial data, as pointed by Hunt. The issue is that for these authors, this data is strong enough to support their theory, whereas this data is arguably pushed too far, and their interpretations dismiss environmental factors where and when they should or can not.
For example, Jensen was not any quackjob. Hunt considered him among the important contributors to research on intelligence (speaking generally here). Citing the same book on Human Intelligence:
David Wechsler, the developer of the WAIS, was a student of Spearman’s, as was Raymond Cattell, whose work will be described later in this chapter. His work also heavily influenced the ideas of Philip E. Vernon, Hans Eysenck, Cyril Burt, and Arthur Jensen, all of whom have made major contributions to the field of intelligence.
But to really make my point, I cite Hunt's criticism towards Lynn and Vanhanen's book:
I am now going to give a few examples of cases where, in my opinion, academics have spoken out as if they had scientific justification for their statements, even though the data were shaky. Before doing so, I want to make two qualifications. First, I have a great deal of respect for some of the people in my examples. However in the particular cases I shall cite them for, I think they went far beyond what the evidence would support. In some cases they did so in environments where they did not think they would be challenged by equally knowledgeable colleagues, thus taking full advantage of their position. Second, I think they were sincere. They believed that what they said was correct; they just were too firm in saying what they did.
I will start with a case that I regard as a particularly egregious example of selective citation of evidence in order to support a conclusion [...]
Case Number 1. Richard Lynn and Tutu Vanhanen presented what purported to be reviews of the research on intelligence in sub-Saharan Africa (Lynn & Vanhanen, 2002, 2006) [...]
Lynn and Vanhanen appear to be committed to genetic explanations of group differences in intelligence. This, in itself, is a not unreasonable (but unproven) hypothesis. Although Lynn and Vanhanen did not present any data on genetics, they concluded that (a) the differences in intelligence between nations were genetic and (b) there is very little that can be done about it [...]
Moreover, the genetic cause is by no means proven; there are ample historic and geographical-economic reasons why sub-Saharan African cultures might have lagged in technological developments that may also have impacted intelligence test scores there.
Lynn and Vanhanen labeled the last section of their 2006 book ‘policy implications,’ As the closing quotation given above indicates, if policy makers were to listen to Lynn and Vanhanen they would take a negative mindset with respect to a serious social problem. I have no doubt that some people who want to be policy makers will do so. Lynn and Vanhanen were irresponsible.
what is the dominant paradigm in psychology right now?
You're welcome. Your second question is an even tougher question I cannot provide a straightforward answer to, especially with certainty.
What we call psychology is a vast community and there can be great differences in tradition and focus between America and Europe (but also between countries themselves) and between fields (compare how a social psychologist, a cultural psychologist and an evolutionary psychologist would approach the same topic).
Broadly speaking and for example, I would suggest that an European researcher is more likely to study 'ethnicity' and 'nationality' (i.e. nationals vs immigrants), relative to an American researcher who will more often study 'race'. I am lamp-shading the labels used, rather than whatever concept these labels are applied to (because depending on the paper, 'race' can practically be a synonym of 'ethnicity' and vice versa).
Still broadly speaking, social psychologists on both sides of the big pond will tend not to use intelligence to explain inequality and affiliated topics. Northern American psychologists developed Social dominance theory and System justification theory and European psychologists gave us the Social identity approach. Arguably, you can see how the different histories and socio-political landscapes of the USA, Canada and Western Europe have influenced the development of these theories. Cross-cultural psychologists would also arguably question the constructs of intelligence and race and the validity of intelligence tests (citing Daley and Onwuegbuzie, their content-related and construct-related validity are not necessarily strong or adequate).
The APA's consensus statement on intelligence is decades old by now. At the time, the APA Task Force concluded (among other things):
The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socioeconomic status. Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support. There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. At present, no one knows what causes this differential.
I do not think the consensus today would be too different, not all of the variation has been accounted for yet. I would say Hunt's position is not niche, as in that "[i]t could be that there are genetic constraints that make inequality of cognition across groups inevitable", but at the same time I would say that race realism is not the departing point for most psychologists and that what Mackintosh asserted in his book does not diverge too much from what most psychologists 'understand':
Blacks in the USA obtain test scores up to 15 points lower on average than whites. There is little (some would say no) good evidence to prove that this difference is genetic in origin.
A number of environmental causes of these differences have been identified, and there is some evidence that the gap has narrowed in recent years.
Is there a strong consensus, say in Nisbett's direction? I would hesitate to suggest that. However, I would hesitate even more to suggest research such as Rushton, Jensen and Lynn's as being representative of psychology. Likewise concerning their strong convictions on the topic. Between the two extremes, I would say most psychologists would be more likey Hunt and Mackintosh. Or to cite Daley and Onwuegbuzie again, whose conclusion on the topic of race and intelligence complements Hunt considerations on the topic of scholarly responsibility:
In conclusion, continued research on race and intelligence is important, particularly with regard to the etiology of differences in IQ scores. In conducting studies of this nature, however, investigators must be objective, comprehensive, and cautious given the potential for divisiveness and far-reaching sociopolitical implications. For this reason, all such explorations should be subjected to rigorous peer review, regardless of the distinction of the authors involved. It is only by holding such research to the highest standards that we can hope to make constructive and meaningful contributions to the field.
P.S. I am aware that this recent survey by Rindermann is often used to suggest that experts consider genes as "the second most relevant factor" for international differences, but there are several reasons to question how valid and representative it is. And even then, the few respondents who completed the survey considered "the genetic-evolutionary factor" as a "cause of international differences in cognitive ability" accounted for 16.99% cross-nationally, 19.72% within-country, which is far from Jensen's 'default hypothesis'.
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