update: answer in comments!
where would you guess this lady is from?:
(note: comments do not require an email. remember, big brother is watching you.)
- NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
- President Obama’s Dragnet
- NSA taps in to internet giants’ systems to mine user data, secret files reveal – “Top secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Facebook and Apple. Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007.”
- NSA’s Verizon Spying Order Specifically Targeted Americans, Not Foreigners
- Confirmed: The NSA is Spying on Millions of Americans
- use tor!
just a quick follow-up on my witch hunt post … a very kind reader very kindly sent me a copy of this article — Witchcraft Beliefs and Witch Hunts: An Interdisciplinary Explanation — by niek koning (thanks very kind reader! (^_^) ).
to be honest, i didn’t quite follow koning’s explanation for where belief in witches comes from as it was a little … involved. something about how our innate fear system was fine-tuned during our hunter-gatherer evolutionary history to pick up on cheats and sneaks, but that this combination of behavioral traits got a bit out of whack once we settled down in larger, agricultural-based societies. then people started suspecting strange neighbors of putting the ‘evil eye’ on them whenever crops failed or they became ill.
not sure i bought koning’s entire explanation, but he did include some interesting data on what sorts of societies tend to believe in witches and witchcraft. basically, hunter-gatherers not so much — simple agriculturalists and agriculturalists quite a bit — and pastoralists off the charts. belief in actual witches pretty much disappears with modernity (although, as i argued in my post about the jason richwine affair, the basic elements of the witch hunt, including all the irrational behaviors, are very much still around!).
here’s a neat table from koning (click on table to EMBIGGEN it):
here are the percentages of those with the strongest (4) beliefs in witchcraft for each type of society:
nomadic foraging = 28.6%
(semi-)sedentary foraging = 30.0%
shifting cultivation without metal hoes = 35.0%
other hand-tool farming systems = 44.7%
plow agriculture = 69.2%
pastoralism = 72.0%
apart from degree of complexity, i can’t see any other obvious pattern there (like iq). pastoralism doesn’t really fit the complexity pattern, though — you’d think that the plow agriculturalists would have the most complex societies (maybe i’ll have to see if i can find out exactly which societies koning was looking at). -?-
one interesting characteristic that i can think of wrt the pastoralists is that they are usually some of the most inbred, so perhaps “genes for belief in witchcraft” can pile up in those populations rather quickly? dunno.
koning also points out that in times of crisis (echoes of the anthropologists i referenced in the previous post) — in particular economic crisis — a population which doesn’t believe in witchcraft can revert to holding such a belief [pg. 10 in the pdf]:
“The conclusion that resource stress may revive witch paranoia in more-evolved agrarian societies is also confirmed by the witchhunt in Europe. In contrast to older studies that cited the role of elites or the emergence of rural capitalism (e.g., Levack 1987; Macfarlane 1970; Muchembled 1987; Trevor-Roper 1969), researchers such as Briggs (1996), Behringer (1995, 1999, 2004) and Pfister (2007) have convincingly argued that this historical event was stirred by popular fears induced by demographic pressure and socioenvironmental crisis. Quantitative analysis in Oster (2004) confirms that witch hunting was related to demographic stagnation and de-urbanization.5 Although some witch trials and a series of demonological studies occurred during the fifteenth century, the witch craze was largely between 1570 and 1630.6 In this period, the exhaustion of a cluster of medieval farm innovations (Mazoyer and Roudart 2006) and the onset of the Little Ice Age caused a steep increase in real grain prices, on top of the inflation caused by the influx of American gold and silver. The first witch hunts occurred in Alpine valleys, where population pressure became critical earlier than in other places and farming was sensitive to climatic cooling (Behringer 1999, 2004; Ostorero 2008; Pfister 2007). In more peripheral areas, where overpopulation occurred later, the outburst was delayed by several decades (Ankarloo and Henningsen 1990; Goodare et al. 2003; Karlsen 1987; Ostling 2011; Thurston 2007; Woodward 2003). The northern Netherlands, which avoided the crisis through specialization and commercial expansion, witnessed few witch trials (Gijswijt-Hofstra and Frijhoff 1991)….
“5 That economic slowdown and an increase in witch hunting were mainly caused by the Little Ice Age, as these authors assert, is less clear. Climate studies differ about the precise timing of the Little Ice Age, and in Oster’s analysis the statistical correlation of population and de-urbanization with witch hunting is much stronger than that with climate change.
“6 The decades of economic growth in the early sixteenth century saw a leveling off in the number of witch trials and an actual decline in some areas (Behringer 2004; Levack 1987).”
(note: comments do not require an email. bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.)
actually, i’m a “bobbing bobcat” according to the bbc’s “tranquilize the sheep” reaction time test. (^_^)
dr. james thompson says we should all take and post our reaction times from two online tests: the bbc’s sheep test and a red-light/green-light reaction time test from the university of washington, so here are mine (below). note that i used a pretty typical laptop, a wireless mouse, and (unfortunately) not the speediest of internet connections (although i doubt that actually affected these flash games). these are the results from my first attempts — i.e. i didn’t do any practice runs beforehand:
0.2438-0.2452 seconds. so, is that speedy then? (^_^)
(note: comments do not require an email. “swift as a deer….”)
michael woodley and co. have discovered a bit of modern research on reaction times very (but not exactly) like galton’s late nineteenth century research in london which they feel supports their claims that western iqs have gone down by 14.1 points since the victorian era.
it’s a VERY interesting study, but i’m still not 100% convinced. if the study and its findings are replicated, i might be! (^_^)
i left a comment over there @dr. james thompson’s blog, but, as of the writing of this post, it hadn’t been approved, so i reproduce below.
look forward to more research into this question! neat (and important!) stuff!
“cool study! thanks for drawing it to everyone’s attention, and … yes, i agree … the design of this study seems to be much closer to galton’s original study, so yeah … lots of little red flags should be raised! (^_^)
“personally, i’m still not 100% convinced, though, because i dislike the fact that we have to use *indirect* means to check that the samples are similar — for example, having to rely on eckstein and feist to tell us who, *in general* british museum goers are. i wish wilkinson and allison would’ve just told us *directly* who their participants were! and as for the ethnicity question — that the subjects were white is not enough. they need to be white *brits*. if, for instance, they had too many southern italians or southern spaniards or even irish folks in their study, etc., etc., that might again have dragged down (or up, rather) the scores … *somewhat*.
“(wrt to question of paying for admission, we’ve got indirect evidence for that here as well. a quick email to wilkinson or allison should be able to answer that question. keep in mind, too, that presumably only *some* of galton’s subjects paid a museum entrance fee since on three or four days a week [don't recall which it was] admission was free to the museum.)
“nevertheless, these are some very interesting results. what would be great, of course, would be to see this study *repeated* and the results *replicated*. if i were to design such a study, i’d make sure that it was in every way possible identical to galton’s, that way there’d be no questions about the sampling, etc. it’d also be cool to test the same individuals’ reaction times on *both* an old, galton-type machine AND a modern one to see exactly how the machines compare.
“in lieu of such a study (or better yet, in conjunction with it), i really think you guys should delve into that 1984-85 health & lifestyle study from the u.k., because they recorded ethnicity and, presumably, ses, so you could get at a sample like galton’s that way. of course, then you’d be left with a modern machine in that instance. i leave the reliability of the machines discussions up to other folks. (and the correlation of rts to iq discussion, too.)
“thanks again, guys!”
(note: comments do not require an email. idiocracy – von dem macher von “beavis und butt-head”!)
first of all, thanks to michael woodley, jan te nijenhuis, and raegan murphy for their response to my (here and here) and scott alexander’s comments on their recent iq paper (Were the Victorians cleverer than us?). thanks, too, to dr. james thompson for hosting their response!
just to refresh everybody’s memory, woodley et al., concluded from their recent research that 1) iqs have decreased in the western world 14.1 points since the victorian period (1889), and 2) that this decrease is due to dysgenics. scott alexander and i both questioned the sampling techniques used in various of the studies looked at by woodley and co. — both in the victorian period and in the modern (see our previous posts linked to above for details).
what is at issue here is whether or not woodley et al. have looked at the same sort of population at both ends of their research. if they’re trying to figure out whether or not iqs have decreased over time in the western world, then the subjects sampled in the past and in the present need to be representative of the two populations, and the two populations need to be of the same sort. unless i’m very much mistaken, sampling issues are considered to be of extreme importance in scientific endeavors (i.e. to get your sampling right). it also simply makes logical sense.
so, we need to know a few things: 1) were the samples taken in the victorian period representative of victorians, 2) were the samples taken in modern times representative of modern populations, and 3) are all of these samples from like populations?
1) were the samples taken in the victorian period representative of victorians?
the victorian samples came from two sources: galton and thompson. (see also here about some other victorian rts data sets.)
thompson’s samples came from university of chicago students in 1898-1900, so they’re unlikely to be representative of victorian americans on the whole. these were probably mostly pretty smart individuals primarily drawn from the elite classes. (see previous post.)
galton’s sample consisted of museum visitors who had paid to take galton’s test (and, in some amount of cases, had probably paid to enter the museum as well). scott alexander superbly analyzed this sample further by combing through the info in johnson et al.’s “Galton’s data a century later.” scott found that galton’s sample was not representative of victorian brits — in fact, it leans heavily towards the middle- and upper-classes. this is not surprising when you think about who, in those days, would’ve been able to afford the costs of taking the test and possibly the museum fee as well.
here’s what scott had to say:
“Tables 10 and 11 turn out to be a gold mine – I worried the records of exactly who took the tests would be lost, but as you might expect of someone who basically invented statistics single-handedly and then beat Darwin in a debate about evolution as an encore, Galton was *very good* at keeping careful data.
“This site tells me that about 3% of Victorians were “professionals” of one sort or another. But about 16% of Galton’s non-student visitors identified as that group. These students themselves (Galton calls them ‘students and scholars’, I don’t know what the distinction is) made up 44% of the sample – because the data was limited to those 16+, I believe these were mostly college students – aka once again the top few percent of society. Unskilled laborers, who made up 75% of Victorian society, made up less than four percent of Galton’s sample!”
a very kind person very kindly sent met the johnson et al. paper (thank you very kind person!), so i’ve cut-and-pasted tables 10 and 11 here for you to see for yourselves [click on tables for LARGER views]:
so galton’s sample is not representative of the victorian british population — it was unbalanced in that it did not include enough subjects from the lower classes.
furthermore, the subjects in galton’s study self-selected themselves. these were individuals who, first of all, chose to go to the south kensington museum (now the victoria and albert museum) to start with (except maybe for the “students and scholars”), AND then they further chose to take galton’s funny little test. this is NOT a good sampling technique. if gallup or pew were to use such a technique, they’d be laughed out of the polling business.
modern studies, of course, try to make sure that data from a representative sample of a population are gathered, otherwise your data might be skewed. which is exactly what scott found with regard to galton’s data. i mean, imagine what sort of person from the lower classes in victorian england first bothered to go to the south kensington museum AND then was interested in taking galton’s test. knowing what i know about the working classes (and i come right out of that class — more like the peasant class, in fact), those that want to go to a boring museum are the exceptions to the rule.
in woodley et al.’s response to our questions about these sampling issues, they point to a study by silverman — Simple reaction time: It is not what it used to be — which i haven’t seen, because i don’t have access to it (and i’m too cheap to pay for it (~_^) ). they say that silverman compensated for these victorian sampling errors by looking at reaction time (rt) data from similar socio-economic sub-groups from more modern eras. sounds like a good idea:
“One advantage of Silverman’s care and meticulous attention to detail is that it permits us to make like for like comparisons with specific socioeconomic and occupational groups in Galton’s data, thus we can directly test the claims of Alexander (2013). Concerning the post-Galton studies Silverman included five student samples, two of which date from the 1940s (Seashore et al. 1941), and the remaining three of which date from the 1970s to the 2000s (mean testing year = 1993; Brice & Smith, 2002; Lefcourt & Siegel, 1970; Reed et al., 2004)…. The difference between the 19th century and the ‘modern’ male students is very similar to the meta-regression-weighted increase in RT latency between 1889 and 2004, estimated on the basis of all samples included in the meta-analysis (81.41 ms). Silverman also included data from other socioeconomic groups. For example the study of Anger et al. (1993) included a combined male + female sample of 220 postal, hospital and insurance workers from three different US cities. These occupations clearly fall into the Clerical/Semiskilled and Semiprofessional groups identified in Galton’s study.”
i’m not going to look through all of these studies to check for sampling irregularities because, again, it’s not my research, so it’s not my job. but let’s take a quick look at the first one i highlighted above: seashore et al. 1941. i don’t have access to this paper either, and, no, i’m not gonna pay for it, so i’ll have to assume going by another of r.h. seashore’s papers that these rt data were drawn from american students (possibly northwestern university where seashore worked — correct me if i’m wrong), and going by the publication date (1941) that the samples were collected in the 1930s or 1940-41.
woodley et al. say that, in comparing the nineteenth century vs. 1940s-era students, there is a +16.8ms (183.2-200 ms respectively) difference between the two groups, and thus a decrease in average iq from the victorian period to the 1940s.
my question is: what makes silverman, or woodley et al., confident that the samples from an american university in the 1930s-40s are comparable to thompson’s university of chicago samples or galton’s samples from the 1800s? as shown above, both of those victorian studies were done on elite victorian groups, while, on the other hand, it is well know that already by the 1940s at least, the “college bubble” had started in the u.s. in which nearly anybody is admitted to university. when the average college grad shifts over time from having been drawn from the upper classes to the middle and even the lower, it’s not surprising that their average iqs drop!
even within galton’s self-selected group of male museum goers (see table 10 above), rts (iq) varied between the classes, with the upper classes having lower rts (indicative of higher iqs): ages 14-26: gentleman=.170, professional=.173, semiprofessional=.182, merchant/tradesperson=.190, clerical/semiskilled=.187, unskilled=.195. why, then, shouldn’t rts/iqs vary between college students of the late-1800s vs. the 1940s when more middle- and lower-class individuals attended college in the 1940s than in the late-1800s?
as for the second study i’ve highlighted above — anger et al. (1993) — which included “a combined male + female sample of 220 postal, hospital and insurance workers from three different US cities….” postal workers? seriously? comparing 1990s american postal workers to galton’s middle- and upper-class museum goers? really?
2) were the samples taken in modern times representative of modern populations?
yes and no.
some of the studies used by woodley et al. are probably better (i.e. more representative of modern populations) than others. as i pointed out in my first post on this study, i would imagine, although i haven’t actually checked it, that the sampling in the 1984–85 U.K. Health and Lifestyle Survey is probably fine, and so the rts representative of the whole of britiain. on the other hand, the 2002 study from the university of bristol may have included at least 10% minority individuals if not more in the study. since only ca. 8% of the u.k.’s population in 2001 was non-white, this bristol study may not have been representative of the nation’s population. hard to know without knowing the demographics of who was included in the study.
3) are all of these samples from like populations?
the victorian samples were drawn from mainly the middle- and upper-classes, not to mention a large group of self-selected individuals who were specifically interested in taking part in such a study, while the more modern studies have included greater numbers of middle- and lower-class individuals as well as a certain percentage of non-whites.
about that latter point, woodley et al. responded:
“Substantial changes in terms of the ethnic composition of test-takers would however be needed in order for the magnitude of change to be *solely* or even *substantially* a consequence of this process.”
i never said so. i only said that it’s not possible to compare apples to apples+oranges when looking for changes in just apples over time. apples vs. apples+oranges are likely to produce different results since two such groups are different. i never said, or even suggested, anything about the extent of those differences. (i wish people would read more closely. *sigh*)
so, again, i think that there are quite a few sampling issues in this study, and that the presence of these means that the researchers’ findings are not as reliable as they think that they are.
could there have been a decline in western iqs since the victorian period due to dysgenic factors? of course.
does the fact that there are sampling issues in the woodley et al. (and silverman, for that matter) paper prove that there hasn’t been a drop in iq since the victorian period? no. obviously not.
most importantly, though, the population geneticists say that such a severe drop in genotypic iqs could not have happened in such a relatively short space of time without some really severe selection pressures (see here, too). i believe ‘em. perhaps if all of the sampling issues were cleared away from this study, woodley et al. would be left with a decline that was more realistic/believable. if such a decline happened at all, that is. (which it could have! or maybe it didn’t…. (~_^) )
again, like i said before, this is a really neat study from woodley et al.! i hope they continue investigating along these lines, because it would obviously be important to know if average iqs are declining in the western world.
p.s. – before bruce charlton shows up and gets all inquisitional on me (repent, or be damned to hellfire for eternity!), yes, i ALWAYS get all picky about sampling (see here and here and here and here for just a few examples). if you don’t get the fundamentals right, everything else will inevitably be wrong!
(note: comments do not require an email. i never expected the spanish inquisition!)
in my post about the woodley, et al., iq paper the other day, i mentioned that one of the two studies on victorian iqs included in their research had been conducted on university of chicago students. i got to thinking afterwards that, apart from the fact that most of those students had probably been white (probably wasps, in fact), this could hardly have been a representative sample of victorian americans since the vast majority of people didn’t attend college in those days — late nineteenth century college students would’ve mostly been, you know, actual smart people.
so, then i was planning on (reluctantly) splashing out $11.95 on this article to find out the details on what sorts of people were included in galton’s study of victorian english iqs, the second set of victorian iq results used by woodley, et al. (reluctantly because, h*ck! — $11.95 is three or four tall decaf mochas!).
but scott alexander over @slate star codex is way ahead of me! scott writes:
“Galton’s Data A Century Later, published in 1985, tells us a little about how he gained his ground-breaking reaction time statistics. He set up a laboratory in the Science Galleries of the South Kensington Museum. There he charged visitors to the museum three pence ($25 in modern currency after adjusting for inflation) to be measured by his instruments, a process he advertised as ‘for the use of those who desire to be accurately measured in many ways, either to obtain timely warning of remediable faults in development, or to learn their powers.’”
ehhhh. charged a fee? uh-oh.
scott acknowledges that his $25 estimate mightn’t have been the most accurate, so i decided to use the calculator over at measuring worth to see how much three pence from 1889 would be worth today (i used their average earnings index), and i got £5.25 or $7.94 (for 2010). that’s not quite $25, but still that’s two or three tall mochas! i’m not sure that very many lower class victorians would’ve been willing or able to part with that amount of money just to take galton’s funny little test.
additionally, there may also have been an admission fee for the south kensington museum (now the victoria and albert museum) that we might have to add to that $7.94, but i’m not sure because i couldn’t find out anything about museum fees in victorian era london. (i know, for instance, that museums in places like new york generally had fees in the late 1800s, but also often had one free day a week to enable the lower classes to visit and learn. bunch o’ idealists, the victorians! (~_^) )
so again, i think we’ve got an apples and oranges problem here.
go read the whole of scott’s post, btw, because it’s excellent!
previously: we’re dumber than the victorians
(note: comments do not require an email. the south kensington museum.)