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20161112 Intelligence and how to get it




The main idea of this book is that IQ of not genetically inherited, but rather is the product of combined influence of genes and environment, with environment including education having much bigger impact than genetic endowment. This idea discussed in polemics with Bell Curve, Twin Studies, and other supporters of preponderance of genetic IQ. Correspondingly author infers that increasing one’s IQ is quite possible and education is the way to do it.


1.Varieties of Intelligence

This is discussion of IQ tests, what exactly they measure, and various types of intelligence. It provides a very nice graph describing dependency of two main types of intelligence on age with Fluid intelligence being raw, generally knowledge independent ability to solve intellectual problems and Crystallized intelligence being more knowledge/experience based ability:


2.Heritability and Mutability

Here author defines two camps as one consisting of environmentalists who believe that IQ heritability provides 50% or lower impact on achievement level, and another view, which he believes is outdated, it is 75% or more. He provides a table of metadata demonstrating correlation between IQs of variously related individuals:


Author makes a very important point that genes are not singularly defining factor in intelligence or any other human characteristics because they are expressed only via interactions with environment so complex that it is not even conceivable to break down result into specific components. The final point author makes is irrelevance of heritability to mutability.

  1. Getting Smarter

This chapter discusses improvement in general IQ over period of time (Flynn effect) and data demonstrating high dependency of IQ on schooling or lack thereof. Here is graph demonstrating this:


  1. Improving the Schools

Since author believes in direct impact of schooling on IQ, he looks at factors that define quality of schooling: Money, class sizes, teachers’ quality, instructional technics, and such. He also provides recommendation how to use schools to produce smarter people.

  1. Social class and Cognitive Culture

This is detailed review of impact of class on cognitive abilities and IQ. It include a number of factors mainly unrelated to genetic endowment such as:

  • Nutrition and other biological factors
  • Cognitive culture of environment
  • Socialization for factory for lower classes and socialization of professions in middle and upper class
  1. IQ in Black and White

Similarly to class author believes that IQ variance by race between black and white mainly caused by environmental factors. It includes economic barriers, cultural positioning as low IQ group, and parenting practices that stint intellectual development by providing for example several times less words during childhood development by parents of working class than by parents in middle class. Probably the most important here are examples of black success at the North before civil war and mass migration from South that undercut it. Also very interesting is the story of Caribbean immigration that produce as good economic outcomes as any group of whites.

  1. Mind the Gap

This is a review of multiple external interventions aiming to improve cognitive abilities of lower class black population, its many failures like Head starts and few successes as KIPP academies.

  1. Advantage Asia?

This is overview of Asian success in all things educational with interesting point that actual IQ is not higher than for other groups, but it is well compensated by higher level of effort. There is also interesting part about difference between Asian and European cognitive processing.

  1. People of the Book

This is practically unavoidable chapter for any book about IQ related to Jews and their outstanding intellectual achievements. Author reviews a number of theories, but basically gives up on explanation stating at the end that whatever is Jewish advantage in IQ, the actual achievement is higher that could be explained by this advantage and had to relate to very specific culture and values,

  1. Raising Your Child’s Intelligence…and Your Own

The final chapter provides some pedagogical advice on how to raise children so they grew up smart by promoting training for Fluid-Intelligence, Self-control, effective tutoring, and providing incentives for hard work, but avoid rewarding activities that have intrinsic value for a child.

Epilogue: What We Now Know about Intelligence and Academic Achievement

Author summarizes book by once again rejecting strong hereditarian view and stressing value of culture and education in enhancing whatever endowment one has.

In Appendix author provides some experimental data starting with a nice statistical graph:



It is an interesting book, but I think that the whole IQ issue is practically irrelevant for contemporary world and even less so for emerging world. The point of IQ at the beginning was to find way easily and cheaply identify cognitive abilities of individuals in order to achieve the most efficient match for tasks assignment in military or industrial environment. We are now moving beyond industrial environment, mass conscript armies, and such, all of which quickly becoming things of the past, so the original objectives are now practically defunct. With Internet and availability of all information including multiple education classes, testing tools, and, most important, advance of self-selection of activities, the test of IQ intelligence becomes not just outdated, but plainly meaningless, unless we intent maintain some kind of artificial “meritocratic” system when merits are defined by IQ tests. I believe that we are moving to the world without elite, maybe even without elite colleges, in which we will stop treating people as attachments to tasks. My guess is that over time IQ test will become harmless curiosity exercise like crossword puzzles, rather than live defining test.


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