Re: Genius and Y chromosomes.

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Wed, 8 Jan 1997 15:25:54 -0800 (PST)

> To anyone who denigrates any kind of evaluation, be it IQ, SAT, or
> Football touchdowns, what have you, I say: Those who say it isn't worth
> diddly do so because they didn't do diddly in that field of competition.
> Helps with the old self esteem. Don't want morons not to feel good about
> themselves.
> Michael Lorrey

Such non-argument hardly deserves refutation. "Psychologizing" is
creating supposed motivations or developmental explanations for why
a person might think or believe a certain way in order to imply that
such thoughts are not the result of cognitive process. So rather
than offering mere anecdotal counterexamples, I will attempt to
explain why I think they are flawed.

Evaluations and measurements are important, indeed fundamental, to
cognitive science. But that does not imply that every measurement
actually reflects what it is intended to reflect. The score of a
football game is a useful measurement, but it does not represent a
single inherent quality of the team--it is affected by many things:
the physical skill of the players, the competence of the coaches,
the conditions of the field on gameday, the financial acumen of the
owner, the interpersonal relationships of the players, blind luck,
and a dozen others. It serves a purpose (entertainment, gambling,
business) but it is not nearly so fundamental as something like,
say, 40-yard dash time (which is itself a combination of factors
like muscle fiber mix, nutrition, body aerodynamics, etc.)

Yes, SATs measure something. That something is real, whatever it is.
But to assume that (a) something like "inherent cognitive ability"
exists and (b) SAT measures that, is so far detached from reality
that the idea deserves ridicule. Ms. Aegis's wonderful demonstration
that one can "prepare" for it clearly shows that it does not measure
an inherent ability. Correlation studies can show what specific
abilities it can and cannot predict (most show that it predicts little
besides success at similar tests).

It doesn't even predict what it is intended to predict: college
success. Students admitted to college on non-academic scholarships
have about the same success rate as those admitted due to SATs.
One anecdote I will indulge in: my own SAT's are on the level of
Eliezer's (though I took them the year he was born!), and I was a
complete failure at college, both initially and 10 and 15 years
later on subsequent attempts. Just not my environment, I guess,
and I make too much as a computer nerd to devote all my time to it.