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  #1  
Unread April 25th, 2005, 11:50 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Harvard Crimson: Innate difference between men/women!

From http://thecrimson.com/today/article507328.html , Published on Monday, April 25, 2005, Profs Spar on ‘Innate Differences’; Psychologists Pinker and Spelke debate the data behind Summers' comments, By NATALIE I. SHERMAN, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER—
Quote:
In a showdown of the sexes on Friday, Johnstone Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker and Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Spelke debated whether innate differences lead to the underrepresentation of tenured women in math and the sciences.

In front of a packed Science Center B crowd, they analyzed the data behind University President Lawrence H. Summers’ controversial January comments on women in science.

Pinker, whom Summers recruited to Harvard last year, cited evidence arguing that male superiority in skills like mental object rotation and problem solving provides a biological basis for the argument that men are more talented at math and science.

Spelke countered, acknowledging the existence of differences between men and women, but arguing that the reason “women are as scarce as hen’s teeth” in academia is due to discrimination.

“The debate is not, ‘are there sex differences,’ it’s, ‘do they add up to an advantage for one gender over the other,’” Spelke reminded the audience.
I’m impressed that Elizabeth Spelke acknowledges the obvious, that there’re differences between men and women, saying that the debate is not about whether there are sex differences. Elizabeth, you’ve come a long way baby. And yes dear, as Professor Pinker confirms, these differences may, unfortunately, add up to an advantage for one gender over the other.
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  #2  
Unread May 2nd, 2005, 05:52 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Thumbs up Viva la difference

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these differences may, unfortunately, add up to an advantage for one gender over the other
Right ... the group average differences are perhaps subtle but still are very real ... and ... they may or they may not add up to differing performance in real life ... and ... this different performance may or may not be unfortunate.

Who could argue with that?

That same reasoning goes for most individual differences as well as group differences. People who honestly value diversity aren't just being "politically correct" as we sometimes hear Rush Limbaugh claim, they really do tend to think of people as having unique real contributions to make that are not neccessarily reflected in statistical group averages. Sometimes they may even be right. Still, being aware of possible differences can help in understanding each other.

Let's review:

1. Subtle group differences in brain structure and function between the sexes are real as far as the preponderance of current data shows.

2. Translated to performance on neurological, neuropsychological, and cognitive tests sex differences are expressed by researchers in terms of small separations of group mean values. Imagine two Gaussian ("bell") curves, one for male scores for some ability, and one for female scores on that same ability. Now imagine that the curves are placed almost but not quite on top of each other, not quite overlaping completely. That's the situation mathematically.

3. Those subtle average differences often vary at least as much with testing conditions as with sex. They also vary with several demographics and for people from one test to another.

For example, women have traditionally scored lower than men on average on the math part of the SAT test, but the difference vanishes when you take away the time limit. A real group average difference, but whether it is a disadvantage for women as a group depends on whether they are forced to perform under those conditions. It certainly seems to present a statistical disadvantage for women as a group in timed math tests. It could very well mean a different way of thinking that provides an advantage in more open ended kinds of tests, however.

You can find the same dilemma with intelligence in general. People with high IQ have a distinct advantage over those with lower IQ in solving certain kinds of problems. Yet their genius can give them a disadvantage under other conditions, and other qualities can often become more important.

In conclusion ... Viva la difference.

kind regards,

Todd

Sources

Doreen Kimura. Sex and Cognition, Bradford Books.

Halpern DF. The disappearance of cognitive gender differences: what you see depends on where you look. American Psychologist Aug., 1989

Geary DC. A model for representing gender differences in the pattern of cognitive abilities. American Psychologist,Aug.,1989

Hyde JS, Fennema E, Lamon SJ. Gender differences in mathematics performance: a meta-analysis. Psych Bulletin 107(2):139-155, 1990

Gallagher S. Predictors of SAT mathematics scores of gifted male and gifted female adolescents. Psych Women Quarterly June, 1989
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  #3  
Unread May 3rd, 2005, 09:05 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Innate difference

Todd:
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For example, women have traditionally scored lower than men on average on the math part of the SAT test, but the difference vanishes when you take away the time limit.
Yes, Todd, I see your point—likewise white guys have traditionally run slower than black guys on average on the 100-yard dash, but the difference vanishes when you ignore time!

Todd:
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You can find the same dilemma with intelligence in general. People with high IQ have a distinct advantage over those with lower IQ in solving certain kinds of problems. Yet their genius can give them a disadvantage under other conditions.
Terrific points Todd—thank God we’re neither fast nor geniuses. Viva la BS.
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  #4  
Unread May 3rd, 2005, 10:12 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Cool Re: Harvard Crimson: Innate difference between men/women!

Unfortunately, Fred, I can never tell when you are being dense deliberately to bait me or out of impatience; and when you really don't understand me. Those examples seem to miss my point rather bluntly, if I understand them.

I'm talking about engineering tradeoffs which I see as an intrinsic part of nature, and perhaps you just don't see the world that way. To me it is a part of my daily life thinking as well as a central theoretical premise, perhaps as part of having been trained originally as an engineer and being used to thinking that way in solving problems.

Time constraints are important in some situations and not others, and being able to solve a particular kind of problem quickly often comes with a tradeoff. Talents like this are often not gift that simply come free. They mean some local optimization, which usually means that something else is being reduced because of constraints in total resources.

Think of the ability to run a hundred yard dash very fast. The adaptations needed for the muscles to do that are a tradeoff that often lessens endurance. That's why you almost never see a world class marathoner who is also a world class sprinter. The proprtion of different kinds of fibers in the legs are different, as well as other supporting cells, and these differences lead to different oxygen utilization curves and different raw performance capacity as a result.

IQ or "g" factor, which is itself relatively highly heritable, turns out to have tradeoffs as well. It is not a panacea. It has tradeoffs in the kinds of cognitive processes we tend to use and in the ability to focus on and persist in solving particular kinds of problems. Robert Sternberg's many good books on intelligence often deal with this issue very well by showing why a single factor like "g" doesn't completely describe what we think of in everyday terms as intelligence or problem solving ability, even though it is a part of the picture, especially when dealing with particular kinds of problems.

I hope this helps make my point more clearly.

kind regards,

Todd
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  #5  
Unread May 3rd, 2005, 11:47 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Harvard Crimson: Innate difference between men/women!

Todd:
Quote:
IQ or "g" factor, which is itself relatively highly heritable, turns out to have tradeoffs as well. It is not a panacea. It has tradeoffs in the kinds of cognitive processes we tend to use and in the ability to focus on and persist in solving particular kinds of problems…. a single factor like "g" doesn't completely describe what we think of in everyday terms as intelligence or problem solving ability, even though it is a part of the picture, especially when dealing with particular kinds of problems.
Sure Todd, and I suppose you could also say that oxygen’s not a panacea. You tend to dilute/convolute things beyond usefulness.

Decades of intelligence research indicates that g factor has a considerable influence on a person's practical quality of life—it is the single most effective predictor known of individual performance at school and on the job, and also predicts many other aspects of well-being, including a person's chances of divorcing, dropping out of high school, being unemployed or having illegitimate children.

Linda Gottfredson, in a 1998 Scientific American article, explains things at http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/~reingold/ courses/intelligence/ cache/1198gottfred.html —here’re a few paragraphs:
The General Intelligence Factor—Despite some popular assertions, a single factor for intelligence, called g, can be measured with IQ tests and does predict success in life, by Linda S. Gottfredson

No subject in psychology has provoked more intense public controversy than the study of human intelligence. From its beginning, research on how and why people differ in overall mental ability has fallen prey to political and social agendas that obscure or distort even the most well-established scientific findings. Journalists, too, often present a view of intelligence research that is exactly the opposite of what most intelligence experts believe. For these and other reasons, public understanding of intelligence falls far short of public concern about it. The IQ experts discussing their work in the public arena can feel as though they have fallen down the rabbit hole into Alice's Wonderland.

The debate over intelligence and intelligence testing focuses on the question of whether it is useful or meaningful to evaluate people according to a single major dimension of cognitive competence. Is there indeed a general mental ability we commonly call "intelligence," and is it important in the practical affairs of life? The answer, based on decades of intelligence research, is an unequivocal yes. No matter their form or content, tests of mental skills invariably point to the existence of a global factor that permeates all aspects of cognition. And this factor seems to have considerable influence on a person's practical quality of life. Intelligence as measured by IQ tests is the single most effective predictor known of individual performance at school and on the job. It also predicts many other aspects of well-being, including a person's chances of divorcing, dropping out of high school, being unemployed or having illegitimate children [see illustration].

By now the vast majority of intelligence researchers take these findings for granted. Yet in the press and in public debate, the facts are typically dismissed, downplayed or ignored. This misrepresentation reflects a clash between a deeply felt ideal and a stubborn reality. The ideal, implicit in many popular critiques of intelligence research, is that all people are born equally able and that social inequality results only from the exercise of unjust privilege. The reality is that Mother Nature is no egalitarian. People are in fact unequal in intellectual potential--and they are born that way, just as they are born with different potentials for height, physical attractiveness, artistic flair, athletic prowess and other traits. Although subsequent experience shapes this potential, no amount of social engineering can make individuals with widely divergent mental aptitudes into intellectual equals.

Last edited by Fred H.; May 3rd, 2005 at 07:33 PM.
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  #6  
Unread May 5th, 2005, 08:49 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Red face Intelligence, exceptionality, and life

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Sure Todd, and I suppose you could also say that oxygen’s not a panacea. You tend to dilute/convolute things beyond usefulness.
Our choice of metaphors here demonstrates the problem we're having understanding each other. Oxygen is lethal in high concentrations, Fred, after causing permanent blindness. Water also is lethal if you get so much that your electrolyte balance is thrown off. This isn't diluting or convoluting, it is making a simple point that is different from the way you are thinking, and which you are resisting like a cat being dragged into a bathtub.

IQ is of course a boon in formal problem solving in well-defined situations, but doesn't help much our ability to adapt to complex social interactions or with highly unconstrained informal kinds of problems. This is well known among intelligence researchers and I believe it from experience as well. The political side of it is irrelevant to my point, the fact that people polarize over this issue because of their view of human exceptionality. You don't need to bring that up over and over again, I don't argue it.

You and I both agree on human exceptionality, I expect, in that we both think it is very real. Genius is very real. Yet notice how just using that word creates resentment in most people! It does have an effect on our lives. It isn't an entirely positive effect. That's the point. See how resentful you feel about this ... this downside is a simple fact I know from experience because I'm pretty far on the tail end of the normal curve on g factor and have always been off the scale on most standardized tests. That's something I took for granted most of my life but which has subtly alienated me from people. I think it has also shaped my interests and my social life greatly. It shaped the way I got through college using self-study, my attitude toward education, and the way I interact with people in forums like this one.

For example, I constantly have to balance my contributions with the knowledge that people will likely read me as condescending or bragging if I seem to think that I might know something that 99.9% of other people, including many experts, simply can't grasp initially. However it is true that I sometimes do, and that this is probably (at least indirectly) a result of talent rather than hard work. I've never worked very hard at research, learning, or reading, they are like breathing to me. I do it all the time in all sorts of fields. People constantly write to me about my Amazon reviews and lists and their main question is how I can possibly read all of the different specialized fields and grasp them without being a expert in any of them.

I'm not doing anything special from my perspective! I don't work at it in the least. In fact my reading and learning often captures my time inadvertendly and gets me into trouble. And I realize I often get things wrong and my wife and friends will quickly tell you that I am no genius in common sense either. When I start talking excitedly about one of my interests, friends usually hang in for about 20 seconds, and then start looking for the door or change the subject. That's why I look for forums with kindred spirits in various areas of my interest, but I rarely find ones that aren't intended for specialists, so I rarely fit in. I find that I've often alienated you as well, and I apologize for that.

I'm not always right when I have a weird opinion or an odd obsession with some seemingly trivial point, and I'm also sometimes spectacularly wrong, and I often seem to alienate myself by my exceptionality. One of the reasons I find it easy to be an atheist in a religious nation is that I already find myself different from most people, it isn't hard for me to imagine that I might know something that most people don't. Yet I also recognize that I can easily be wrong as well, and I think community is central to human life, so you don't find me being anti-religious for the most part.

It's not that I can't decide, it's that I have a difficult balance to maintain with other people in spite of being a little different in some ways. I think those ways in which I am exceptional are fairly narrow, since few problems in life come down to standardized test scores or Stanford-Binet or Wechsler style problems but I agree with you that they do affect all sorts of things at least indirectly.

I don't think we really have that much of a disagreement on any important principle here, do we? Other than that you seem any talent I might possess is limited to being "effusive" and "convoluted."

Tradeoffs.

kind regards,

Todd
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  #7  
Unread May 5th, 2005, 11:04 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Harvard Crimson: Innate difference between men/women!

Todd:
Quote:
Genius is very real. Yet notice how just using that word creates resentment in most people! It does have an effect on our lives. It isn't an entirely positive effect. That's the point. See how resentful you feel about this ... this downside is a simple fact I know from experience because I'm pretty far on the tail end of the normal curve on g factor and have always been off the scale on most standardized tests.
Well, actually, no Todd, I don’t see how “resentful” I feel; you probably shouldn’t give yourself that much credit. Admittedly, however, you may exasperate me at times—like here where you obsess on the more or less extraneous point that genius may not always be positive, while ignoring the opposite and significant fact that low g is guaranteed to always be negative.

And while I’ve occasionally suspected that you’re at the higher end of the curve, I’ve frankly, with all due respect, also thought that you tend not to use your g as completely as you could be . . . but think how worse things would be if you had been at the other end of the curve.

Todd:
Quote:
I don't think we really have that much of a disagreement on any important principle here, do we? Other than that you seem any talent I might possess is limited to being "effusive" and "convoluted."
Well, assuming you appreciate that it’s much better, on average, to be at the high end of the curve rather than the low end, and since I’ve concluded you’re not actually a real atheist, no, we probably don’t have much of a disagreement here, nor on most other issues—you probably just like to hassle me with your often insignificant and usually effusive/convoluted uncertainties.

But as I’ve said before, Todd, I’m sure you’re a nice guy, almost certainly more so than I, and in spite of you being further up on the g curve.
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  #8  
Unread May 17th, 2005, 03:31 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Cool Empirical issues vs. Social policy

Fred,

Yes, your point is perfectly sound, Fred. Just because the normal curve has two tails doesn't mean they are symmetric in value. I'd rather be 7 feet tall than 2 feet tall also, even though personally I'd rather be a little over 6 foot if I had the choice, rather than freakishly tall. I doubt that freakish intelligence comes without a price in general as well, but I'll agree it's a minor point. The original point was whether differences intelligence are something that should have social and political policy implications, not whether talent is free or has a cost or the unlikelihood that more talent is the answer to every human problem.

My point is that the empirical question of heritable group differences does not automatically resolve the question of how it relates to social policy. Read Sowell's "Conflict of Visions" for a thought-provoking example of how differently the same facts can be interpreted through different social visions and different concepts of human nature.

Quote:
Well, assuming you appreciate that it’s much better, on average, to be at the high end of the curve rather than the low end, and since I’ve concluded you’re not actually a real atheist, no, we probably don’t have much of a disagreement here, nor on most other issues—you probably just like to hassle me with your often insignificant and usually effusive/convoluted uncertainties.
If my choice is convoluted uncertainties or clear and false certainties, yes I guess I'll pick the former. A matter of temperament?
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