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08

Jun

2009

Nicholas Kristof on IQ

 

Nicholas Kristof’s latest Op-Ed reinforces one of Cambridge author James Flynn’s central theses: that IQ gaps along racial lines can be attributed to nurture, not genetics. The Flynn Effect (that IQ increases over generations) alone demonstrates that changing circumstances and increasing emphasis on analytical thinking allows test-takers to perform better.

But here Kristof looks at a study that takes three ethnic groups with genetics as variant as can be: Jews, Black Carribeans, and Asian Americans. The study’s author, Richard Nisbett, finds that these three groups take the intelligence they have, and wring more success out of it. How? Education, hard work, and a respect for scholarship. According to Kristoff:

Jews and Chinese have a particularly strong tradition of respect for scholarship, with Jews said to have achieved complete adult male literacy — the better to read the Talmud — some 1,700 years before any other group.

The parallel force in China was Confucianism and its reverence for education. You can still sometimes see in rural China the remains of a monument to a villager who triumphed in the imperial exams. In contrast, if an American town has someone who earns a Ph.D., the impulse is not to build a monument but to pass a hat.

On the components of intelligence, IQ testing, and race, James Flynn’s What is Intelligence? is now in paperback.

Read the NYT article here >>

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