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July 22, 2003

Girl Genius?

12-Year-Old Who Scored Perfect SAT Score Wants To Remain A `Regular' Kid. Excerpt:

When Vinodhini (Vino) Vasudevan says she wants to keep away from the media, many people are surprised

How can the first 12-year-old to score a perfect 1,600 on the SAT want to keep away from the media, many wonder. The test is conducted for gifted children by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Of the 600,000 gifted seventh- and eighth-graders the program has tracked through two decades, Vino is the first to earn perfect scores on both the math and verbal portions of the college-admissions test, said Claudia Burns, program coordinator.

I bold-faced the name because it looks to be non-Brahmin to me. Anyone got a clue? This guy has the same surname, and he is a Nair from Kerala (a high status Sudra, #2 in the pecking order in Kerala after the Namboothiri Brahmins).

Godless: thread on Indian names here.

Posted by razib at 12:16 AM

Vasudevan is a South Indian Brahmin name - most probably a Tamil Brahmin though it could be someone from Kerala or Karnataka.

Posted by: king kong at July 22, 2003 03:34 AM

in the girl's case, vasudevan was a surname.. not a first name..

Posted by: marinara at July 22, 2003 03:55 AM

Her father was the only child in his villiage to get an education and He wants Her to live a normal childhood? What hypocracy, and what a waste of potential. It's a shame that she has been wasting her time on spelling bees and vocabulary contests too. Pure memorization.
Only 2 books per week too.
She's afraid of skipping a grade because it would be socially awkward. SCHOOL IS SOCIALLY AWKWARD FOR SMART KIDS. She should get OUT ASAP and DO SOMETHING USEFUL with her abilities.

Posted by: michael vassar at July 22, 2003 09:10 AM

why is her father a hypocrite? BTW, that's 'hypocrisy', not 'hypocracy' - maybe a few more spelling bees would have helped you? Anyway, I don't agree with you at all. Why should she get out and do something useful? Maybe she just wants to be happy; I certainly don't think she has an obligation to maximize her contribution to society ('from each according to their abilities',- bleah!).
For what it's worth, I'm not as smart as Vino, but I also skipped a grade (6th) and did well on the Hopkins early SAT (1280 when I was 12, and that was before they made the test easier). I think her choice is a good one. To be fair, being younger than your peers *may* be a little less problematic for long-term socialization if you're a girl, since girls often date guys a few years older anyway; but that's pure speculation. I just know it didn't work out all that well for me.

Posted by: bbartlog at July 22, 2003 09:37 AM

And Razib, since when did the ability to memorize become the hallmark of a "genius" ? Too many people use the term too loosely.

Posted by: king kong at July 22, 2003 10:16 AM

i use the term genius for the 1600 on the SAT at 12, memorization doesn't impress me....

Posted by: razib at July 22, 2003 10:58 AM

My two cents on the name analysis: The article says she's Tamil. "Vinodhini" is usually Brahmin. Her surname "Vasudevan" (Vishnu) and mother's name "Pushpa" indicate she's almost certainly an Iyengar (like Ramanujan).

Posted by: s at July 22, 2003 12:30 PM

While we're talking about SAT's, I've read that SATs are good at discriminating at the hight end of intelligence, ie both 600 and 700 math are in the top 1%, but 700 is alot better. SAT scores also correlate well with IQ (until they shred the test in a couple of years). But IQ tests aren't very accurate, or precise, I can't remember which, after 130 or so. How can SAT scores distinguish the top one percent so well, but IQ tests can't?

Posted by: rob at July 22, 2003 02:00 PM

She reminds me of me when I was 12, only I wasn't nearly so smart. She never was normal and probably never will be, but I doubt any 12 year old has the wisdom to understand that.
Eventually she might cease to fetishize normality, but I suspect that being extremely atypical is harder on girls than boys. This is partly because, relative to boys, few girls are extremely atypical but also because group approval is usually much more important to females than to males, even in adulthood.

Posted by: duende at July 22, 2003 02:16 PM

Rob -
I think you must mean 700 and 800 (for SAT scores) - I don't think that 600 would be in the top 1%, though I could be wrong. Anyway, I think you are confused - IQ tests arguably have problems past some point, but I have usually seen that point pegged a lot higher, like 140 or 150 or 160. I think 140 is within the top 1%. And the SAT is arguably something that can be trained or prepped for more effectively than a good IQ test.
The one thing I would say in favor of the SATs is that they top out, so that you don't end up lending excessive credence to some score that is 4-5 standard deviations out.

Posted by: bbartlog at July 22, 2003 03:10 PM

the % for a given score are also a little confusing since they recentered SATs circa 1996, so that the mean verbal+math shot up from 930 to 1000, mostly having to do with the verbal part increasing i think....

Posted by: razib at July 22, 2003 04:43 PM

The SAT is the best IQ test we have. Too many cognitive psyhchologists look down upon it because its perceived as being not culturally biased. I say that for comparing people raised in the U.S. who attended U.S. schools and had the opportunity to prep for it, it's a fabulously pure test of ability. (The abilities it tests are g, and then to a lesser extent math ability and then verbal ability).

If people prepped for IQ tests like Wechsler or whatever, it's likely they would increase their scores by an even greater amount than prepping for the SAT.

A test like Raven's Progressive Matrices is obviously a bad test because Flynn says that based on this test IQ is rising, and that's obviously bogus, because if IQ were rising then SAT scores would also be rising. Obviously Raven's is testing g + something else unknown.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at July 22, 2003 06:07 PM

In my last post, I meant that the SAT is looked down on because it allegedly IS culturally biased. I accidentally said the opposite :)

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at July 22, 2003 06:08 PM

I saw in Greg Cochran's letter on pournelle's site about a particular ethnic groups' high verbal IQ and lower visualspatial IQ. What do results like that do to a unary g factor. Cochran stated that he thought that in that group selection for high verbal/math ability caused a change in gene frequency, but that in that particular group the correlation between verbal and visual IQ was much lower than in another ethnic group.
Wouldn't very different correlations between subtests (what g is measured from, right? Or at least wha inspired early psychometricians to look for g) in different populations tend to argue against a unary g factor?

Posted by: rob at July 22, 2003 09:30 PM

To clarify, if g underlies two mental abilities, selecting for one should result in an increase in both, but that doesn't seemed to have happened.

Posted by: rob at July 22, 2003 09:31 PM


Someone (maybe Jensen?) suggested that society has undergone a shift in which people are more likely to choose test answers faster in order to finish more questions. Working faster, but less accurately, is a better strategy for doing well on Raven's.

SAT scores have been falling. That's why they had to re-norm the test.

Raymond B Cattell (author of the book Beyondism, Religion from Science) argued in favor of fluid g and crystallized g. But it seems to me that fluid g isn't a very practical ability because it's impossible to measure. Raven's is supposed to be measuring fluid g, but the Flynn effect proves, at least to me, that it's not such a great test as some have made it out to be.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at July 23, 2003 03:52 AM

The reason SAT scores have been falling is almost certainly due to the fact that an ever-increasing portion of the population has been taking the test. GC- I think you may have trouble finding raw SAT score data that doesn't have this problem. But one place to look would be the average scores for applicants at top universities, which I predict should have gone up over the past 30 years.

Posted by: bbartlog at July 23, 2003 05:55 AM

"The reason SAT scores have been falling is almost certainly due to the fact that an ever-increasing portion of the population has been taking the test."

In "Decline of Intelligence in America," Seymour Itzkoff writes that the absolute number of high SAT scores declined, in spite of the fact that the number of test takers increased.

This link is from AmRen. If I recall correctly, they are quoting the book accurately.

Posted by: s at July 23, 2003 08:51 AM

Sorry, the link again: Decline...

Posted by: s at July 23, 2003 08:57 AM

s, just by itself, the name vinodhini is absolutely noindicator of the girl's caste. I could point out a bunch of non-brahmins with similar names - my mom is named Sarojini and is so light-skinned, everybody thinks she is a Brahmin. I would rely on the last name to make a determination of caste.

Posted by: Shanti at July 23, 2003 10:47 AM

Wow, thanks for the info! Looks like I was wrong. That is an alarming decline. Some of it could be accounted for by a decline in school quality or other factors, but still - verbal scores above 700 cut in half? Bad news.

Posted by: bbartlog at July 23, 2003 12:26 PM

Thanks for the SAT data. That proves my point that the Flynn Effect is bogus.

The decline in top SAT scores is consistent with two trends. (1) The smartest women have less than two children; and (2) liberals have taken over our educational systems and they are only concerned with helping the the children on the left side of the bell curve; education for the brightest 10% of children is dismal; the brighest 1% of children have special needs just like the bottom 1% and their needs are ignored; school systems are too worried about being perceived as "racist" to separate students into classes of different levels of ability (because the classes at the bottom are always disproportionately black); the whole culture has turned against learning.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at July 23, 2003 01:39 PM

Where I'm at, the "gifted system" in public schools is actually being run pretty well. Racial inequality isn't really an issue even with "whites" (incl. Jews) only taking up half the class in most of the cases, with guess-who taking up the other half.

While there is "special ed" for the lower grades, it doesn't appear to exist in high school. There's just one level of "regular classes", and all the non-gifted students take it - there's nothing wrong with the education level in those, being sufficient for university preparation.

Although in the gifted classes, you generally get a value-add such as organic chem in grade 10 science or int'l math competition preparation as part of math class, etc. Well, that's all I can remember, it's been a while.

Posted by: Sex Pistol at July 24, 2003 12:04 PM

Shanti, what's your opinion on the bastardization of Indian last names? After all, it must be hard to determine someone's caste from the last name if, upon immigration to a western country, the family "last name" is chosen to be the given name of the father... the system they have in India, wouldn't exactly work in a Christian-name-based society, i.e.

Father: S. Sathish
Son: S. Ramanan
Son of son: R. Kumar

Posted by: Sex Pistol at July 24, 2003 12:10 PM

Sex Pistol,

That is a pretty interesting question - so far, I have seen this phenomenon only amongst Hindus from Tamilnadu - We Andhraiites (Telugu people) usually have a fixed last name, that is passed on by the dad to kids. Of course, then there are the Dalits, who sometimes assume the lastname of higher castes, God knows why.

I can usually tell the caste in the Telugu people by their last names, I am completely ignorant when it comes to other regions, even though some times it is easier to make a guess.

Posted by: Shanti at July 24, 2003 05:03 PM

"After all, it must be hard to determine someone's caste from the last name if, upon immigration to a western country, the family "last name" is chosen to be the given name of the father..."

It's now difficult to determine ethinic group and caste from a person's name because South Indians usually assume North Indian names.

Posted by: s at July 24, 2003 06:16 PM

Abort from speaking of the orgin of the girl"s name and focus on her intellect. There very much is a correlation between iq and SAt scores. Iq tests were designed for the purpose of measuring distinct areas of the human mind, and the SAT has a similar focus in its purpose. Yes iq tests do measure the "g" factor, and the SAT lacks the components to do that with equity or to even do it at all. We cannot annex the fact that the SAT is culturally biased because i think it's manifest that creators of the test would have seen that, and a child that is not up to the level that the norm is at would not be able to take the test. I feel that there is not much specualtion in saying that the girl is a genius because the SAT is not a test that can only examine someone on memorization. At the age of twelve, u can all agree that it is atypical for somebody at that age to score that high. I have not yet taken the SAT yet( though i was given the chance to take it in grade 7 for Johns Hopkins), but because my iq has been measured from 130- 180, i'm pretty sure that I may get an exceptional score on the SAT, greatly considering that the iq tests taken were not complete flukes.

Posted by: trim, at August 8, 2003 06:40 PM

I never realized that there would be an entire discussion related to my name and the SATs...how interesting. It's somewhat disconcerting, actually...one usually doesn't see oneself as this big a deal. That would be why I was avoiding media attention, you see. I actually am a kid, believe it or not.

Posted by: Vinodhini at September 26, 2003 01:17 PM