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August 12, 2005

What's wrong among the elites?

An examination of Linda Gottfredson's "why g matters" and of its references, leaves several important questions unanswered. The most striking, in my mind, is "why are all these semi-literate people getting through graduate school"? The average person with a graduate degree is appearently closer to the average BA than the BA is to the average person with an associates degree. Average graduate degree holders just barely make the cut-off for NALS level 4, and are much (as in, by more points than the difference between themselves and holders of associates degrees) closer to the average high school graduate than they are to the people who can complete the most difficult listed tasks, yet none of the listed tasks are very difficult. They are all simply every-day instances of the sort of analysis that middle school students are supposedly taught to do.

This actually leaves me very confused. We all hear how difficult it is to get in to medical school. How is it that with such strong selection the medical schools are unable to attract students with elementary reasoning ability? No wonder medicine appears not to effect health. http://hanson.gmu.edu/showcare.pdf No wonder Buffet seems to be able to do what he does in spite of solid theories predicting efficient markets.

Might the problem be that an IQ in the low 120s combined with high conscientiousness is sufficient to identify the easy classes and get A's in them?
Might admissions committees be offended by high MCAT scores, discouraging them from giving additional consideration to students with a few B's and with MCATs better than the committee's members? I don't know. Further data indicating higher average wages for college dropouts with level 3 NALS literacy than for high school graduates with level 4 NALS literacy strongly suggests that credentialism dominated the determination of socio-economic status. At any rate, this data suggests to me that and IQ of 120-125 is basically a threshold for the highest levels of socio-economic success (remember the two recent presidential candidates, for instance) but is actually too low to make high level reasoning possible. It may be that IQ tests are not inaccurate when they place the average executive half way between the average Ivy League student (who generally can't reason very well either, can't complete a Wason selection task, and doesn't know what causes the seasons) and the average cashier.

I am left with one important question. What is Le Griffe's "Smart Fraction" actually doing? Relatedly, if the average engineer or chemist only has an IQ of 116, how does anything work? This question seriously confuses me. How is it possible to get a technical degree, using sciences that require calculus etc, and not be able to summarize a newspaper article, read a bus schedule, or calculate the gas milage a car is getting? Finally, how much weight should I give to the results of large government surveys which were carried out by such people?

Posted by michaelv at 11:38 AM