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Ah! Good point! Karma for you! Now I will think about whether there is a way to figure out the truth despite this.


While mistakes can of course go in either direction, they don't actually go in either direction.

I intuit that this is likely to be a popular view among sceptics, but I do not recall ever being presented with research that supports this by anyone. To avoid the lure of "undiscriminating scepticism", I am requesting to see the evidence of this.

I agree that, for numerous reasons, self-reported IQ scores, SAT scores, ACT scores and any other scores are likely to have some amount of error, and I think it's likely for the room for error to be pretty big. On that we agree.

An average thirty points higher than normal seems to me to be quite a lot more than "pretty big". That's the difference between an IQ in the normal range and an IQ large enough to qualify for every definition of gifted. To use your metaphor, that's like having a 6-incher and saying it's 12. I can see guys unconsciously saying it's 7 if it's 6, or maybe even 8. But I have a hard time believing that most of these people have let their imaginations run so far away with them as to accidentally believe that they're Mensa level gifted when they're average. I'd bet that there was a significant amount of error, but not an average of 30 points.

If you agree with those two, then whether we agree over all just depends on what specific belief we're each supporting.

I think these beliefs are supported:

  • The SAT, ACT, self-reported IQ and / or iqtest.dk scores found on the survey are not likely to be highly accurate.

  • Despite inaccuracies, it's very likely that the average LessWrong member has an IQ above average - in other words, I don't think that the scores reported on the survey are so inaccurate that I should believe that most LessWrongers actually have just an average IQ.

  • LessWrong is (considering a variety of pieces of evidence, not just the survey) likely to have more gifted people than you'd find by random chance.

Do we agree on those three beliefs?

If not, then please phrase the belief(s) you want to support.

Your unintentional lie explanation does not explain how the SAT scores ended up so closely synchronised to the IQ scores - as we know, one common sign of a lie is that the details do not add up. Synchronising one's SAT scores to the same level as one's IQ scores would most likely require conscious effort, making the discrepancy obvious to the LessWrong members who took the survey. If you would argue that they were likely to have chosen corresponding SAT scores in some way that did not require them to become consciously aware of discrepancies in order to synchronize the scores, how would you support the argument that they synched them on accident? If not, then would you support the argument that LessWrong members consciously lied about it?

Linda Silverman, a giftedness researcher, has observed that parents are actually pretty decent at assessing their child's intellectual abilities despite the obvious cause for bias.

"In this study, 84% of the children whose parents indicated that they fit three-fourths of the characteristics tested above 120 IQ. " (An unpublished study, unfortunately.)


This isn't exactly the same as managing knowledge of one's own intellectual abilities, but if it would seem to you that parents would most likely be hideously biased when assessing their children's intellectual abilities even though, according to a giftedness researcher, this is probably not the case, then should you probably also consider that your concern that most LessWrong members are likely to subconsciously falsify their own IQ scores by a whopping 30 points (if that is your perception) may be far less likely to be a problem than you thought?

This would be a good point in the event that we were not discussing IQ scores generated by an IQ test selected by Yvain, which many people took at the same time as filling out the survey. This method (and timing) rules out problems due to relying on estimates alone, most of the potential for mis-remembering, (neither of which should be assumed to be likely to result in an average score that's 30 points too high, as mistakes like these could go in either direction), and, assuming that the IQ test Yvain selected was pretty good, it also rules out the problem of the test being seriously skewed. If you would like to continue this line of argument, one effective method of producing doubt would be to go to the specific IQ test in question, fill out all of the answers randomly, and report the IQ that it produces. If you want to generate a full-on update regarding those particular test results, complete with Yvain being likely to refrain from recommending this source during his next survey, write a script that fills out the test randomly and reports the results so that multiple people can run it and see for themselves what average IQ the test produces after a large number of trials. You may want to check to see whether Yvain or Gwern or someone has already done this before going to the trouble.

Also, there really were people whose concern it was that people were lying on the survey. Your "lie is a strawman" perception appears to have been formed due to not having read the (admittedly massive number of) comments on this.

I did not intend to imply that you failed to back up your own data. That was intended as an amusing compliment.

Both of the citations I was given by you guys said clearly that they were uncertain about the connection between race and IQ. That is the reason I don't agree - because even your citations do not agree. I assume those are the best citations you have, so that your citations do not agree with you makes your belief look very bad indeed.

Also, by arguing that the reason I don't agree is because I am statistically innumerate and that the reason I don't agree is because I'm too inept to understand, you have made an ad hominem fallacy. Attacking the person does zilch to support your argument.

I can't believe I just saw an ad hominem attack on LessWrong. That is the the most obvious behavior that one avoids if one wants to have a rational debate.

Well, seeing an unknown man approaching you at night

Actually, it is far more prudent to avoid a stranger approaching me at night, regardless of his race - depending on the environment I am in.

If he is approaching from a dark alley, I will head away from him, whatever his race. If he approaches me at a party full of friends, I will speak to him.

The crime statistics are not so incredibly different for blacks and whites that you can simply trust all of the whites.

You can believe whatever you want to believe, it's just that such an attitude looks strange here.

That is not my attitude. I have been asking you for research. Did you see what I discovered about "The Bell Curve"? What do you say about that?


Actually, the most useful application for individual businesses in this case would be (in the event that IQ tests are good at predicting who will be a good worker) to request IQ scores as part of a job application, not to discriminate based on race - this is not to say that it would be useful for society as a whole. I am not sure what it would do to society as a whole. On the one hand, if there's a correlation between race and IQ, more people of each race with a low IQ might find themselves worse off. However, if employers become more willing to hire black people after testing their IQs, it could be a great boon to blacks and actually serve as a way to encourage people to judge each person based on individual characteristics as opposed to rejecting them for being part of a group. Simply tossing away all of the people of whatever race because the others have a low IQ would probably, in practice, not work very well - this is because they're selecting from a pool of people who are qualified in the first place, and the process of becoming qualified acts as a filter. Most of the people they're interviewing who are qualified are probably also intelligent enough to do the job - so you'd have too man false negatives this way.

I would say also that if aptitude tests are restricted because of racist connotations, it's because people tied IQ to race.

Can you think of any applications for tying IQ to race that do not have the above issues?

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