know thyself

you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself.

before i elaborate on that, a small exercise. indulge me.

at the end of this sentence, when i ask you to, i want you to raise your eyes from your monitor (or smartphone or tablet or whatever device you’re using), glance around for a few seconds, and then come back here. okay: go!

back? great.

now, i don’t know exactly what you saw during your brief adventure away, but what i do know is that when you looked around your room or office or the coffee shop or your own private tropical island (d*mn you!), you experienced seeing a smooth, undisturbed, flowing picture of your surroundings — it was a video-like experience (hopefully not a shaky cam-like one! if so, get to a doctor, quick!). that experience is a false one, created by your brain to make life easier for you. what happens, in fact, is that each and every time we move our gaze from one object or scene to another, in the intervening nanoseconds, we are effectively blind. we don’t “see” anything for those split seconds. the reason we don’t experience what would presumably be a very disturbing and confusing one — the lights going off and on all day long! — is because our brains fool us. the brain interpolates the visual data captured via eyeballs, etc., and presents it all to its owner (user?) in a nice, even — but unreal — picture of what that individual “sees.”

cool, huh? yeah.

the reason i bring this up is just to illustrate how our brains are not really to be trusted. fantastic, wonderful, unfathomable organ! — but one that fools us. a lot! it deceives us so that we don’t go around bumping into things all day long (the saccadic masking mentioned above). it deceives us (deceives itself!) so that we can decieve others. it probably fools each of us into believing that we are discrete individuals — that we are or have “selves.” h*ck! it even looks like our consciousness is not a stream but more like rhythmic pulses. all for good evolutionary reasons, of course. but, still, there it is: the brain is a trickster.

once you realize this about the human brain — that it’s an indispensible but untrustworthy organ — all of the cognitive biases and dissonances that we suffer from start to make sense. humans are not rational creatures. we are capable of some amount of logic and rational thought (some more than others), but more often than not, our “reason” serves as an excuse generator for our innate drives, desires, and proclivities.

the next thing you need to know — and you really have to internalize this — is that all of those drives and desires and proclivities are innate. all behavioral traits are heritable to some degree or another, which means that genes are behind them, and which means that there’s not much any of us can do to change our natures. for instance, there prolly aren’t specific genes that will make a person a christian versus a muslim, but there are definitely genes “for” religiosity. which religion a person with “genes for” religious belief follows will obviously depend to a large degree on the culture in which he is immersed, but persons with “genes for” religious belief will tend to be religious or spiritual somehow.

all behavioral traits are heritable. and, so, you cannot change people or peoples — not fundamentally. people are what they are. you are what you are, and so most of your thoughts and conclusions and feelings about life and the world around you are expressions of your innate traits. mine, too. (don’t worry. i’ll get to that.) and let’s be honest: innate traits and a deceiving brain are no foundations for uncovering the truth. we cannot rely on our gut instincts in trying to uncover the facts about reality or to (consciously) understand how the world works. the only way around this problem of our lyin’, cheatin’, no-good brains is to rely on science and its finding. of course, since science is conducted by humans, we run into all those cognitive biases, etc., again. but with enough effort, i think we can eventually discover some truths. either that or space stations will some day start falling out of the sky, and we’ll know we’re doing it wrong.

now back to my initial point: you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself. first, learn this about yourself — that your thoughts and feeling and behaviors are heritable and largely out of your control — and then try to apply this knowledge to your understanding of other individuals and groups. examine your ideas and your feelings. your gut instincts (be especially suspicious of those!). your beliefs. you may think you have thought through the important questions rationally, but chances are you haven’t. not really. be honest with yourself. and be hard on yourself. but remember to have a laugh about it all, too — how absurd it all is really at the end of the day! (~_^)

remember my three laws of human biodiversity. and don’t ever forget that there are exceptions to the rules — and that you might be one of them — or your neighbor might. always — always! — keep in the forefront of your mind the concept of AVERAGE when you think about the human biodiversity between groups — and that not every member of a group will fit the average. do NOT pick and choose the areas of human biodiversity that suit your tastes and disregard the rest. you won’t get any dessert if you do.

most importantly — and i can’t emphasize this enough — do NOT project your innate feeling and thoughts and inclinations onto others! you might think and feel one way, but the other person sitting next to you might not. and he might really think and feel very differently from you, and have a completely different perspective on the world — different in a fundamental way — that neither he nor you can change, because he was born this way. (or maybe experienced a developmental insult that affected his biology in a similarly permanent sort of fashion.)

do not project your preferences onto other individuals or groups. just because you like to keep a super tidy house (you ocd person) doesn’t mean others do. and just because you and your people feel that living in nuclear families and having loose (or nonexistent) extended family ties is a nice way to live doesn’t mean that other peoples want that. and just because democracy happens to work well in your population — or autocracy, depending on where you’re from — doesn’t mean either of them would transfer well to other populations having different average innate characteristics from your own.

so, below are some aspects of human biodiversity you might want to run through when you’re getting to know thyself. there’s lots more. these are just some things i thought of off the top of my head. (if i were really organized, which i am not, i would’ve linked to how heritable each of these different traits is. maybe i’ll go back and fill those in one of these days. for now, you’re on your own — google ’em. or check jayman’s blog. he’s probably got a lot of the heritability figures over there! (^_^) ) try and see if identifying and recognizing any or all of your innate traits helps you to understand why you think and feel and behave in the ways that you do.

i’ll start.

– are you male or female? men and women on average think and feel differently about an awful lot of things. don’t blame me. i’m just the messenger.

– are you heterosexual or homosexual? or some other sort of sexual? heterosexual men and women on average think and feel differently about quite a lot of things compared to gay men and lesbian women et al. and i don’t just mean about preferred sexual partners. remember that there are always exceptions to these rules. and remember not to PROJECT your thinking/feelings onto other subgroups here (yes, i am looking at you butch lesbian feminists!).

– what is your racial and, to my mind more interesting and important, ethnic background? what other sort of population or subpopulation might you belong to (eg. siberian peoples or sicilians)? are you a person of mixed heritage? plenty of average differences in all sorts of directions here.

– how intelligent are you? what’s your iq? try to remember that people of much lower intelligence than you will have a very hard time understanding a lot of the things that you do, and that you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the ideas and concepts that people more intelligent than you can. be humble (if you’re able).

– what personality traits characterize you? both big 5 and hexaco. are you open to experiences? people who score low on openness are generally conservative. are you conscientious? in other words, are you efficient and organized or more easy going and (*ahem*) disorderly? are you an extravert or an introvert? if you’re an extravert, you’re probably not enjoying this exercise at all. sorry. (in my experience, extraverts are not very introspective.) are you agreeable? kind, sympathetic, warm. or are you angry all the time? are you neurotic or emotional? or are you more stable? and from the hexaco scale, where do you rank when it comes to honesty-humility?

– how old are you? if you’re under, say, 24, keep in mind that your brain hasn’t finished developing yet. your frontal lobes are incomplete, so you’ve got very little sense. (~_^) if you’re a young male, between say 16 and 24, you might be quite aggressive (although not necessarily violent) and risk tasking. be careful out there! if you’re (*ahem*) older, remember that everything slows down with age. (sorry to remind you of that!) it does get harder to teach old dogs new tricks. and everybody, remember that, in general, each of us becomes more like our true selves as we get older, because we get to choose our preferred environments once we grow up.

– are you religious or areligious — or even irreligious? remember that religiosity/spirituality is highly heritable.

– are you conservative or liberal or something in between? or something more extreme? or apolitical? remember than political orientation is also highly heritable.

– are you an optimist or a pessimist? is the glass half full or half empty? are you a depressive, emo kid or are you one of those always-chipper people? again, all highly heritable.

– are you a follower or a contrarian? i haven’t seen much research on this (i know there is some, but i wish there was more), but i’d bet a ton of $$$ that these traits are highly heritable, too. prolly tie in with all the personality traits above.

– are you on the autism spectrum somewhere? one of simon baron-cohen’s systemizers or empathizers? do you have adhd? ocd? a touch of paranoid schizophrenia? (just because you’re paranoid….) all of these conditions can — and do! — obviously strongly affect the way individuals think and feel about the world around them.

– what about your personality and the dark triad? are you a psychopath? narcissist? machiavellian in your nature? again, all of these relate back to the personality traits above. are you histrionic?

– what’s your 2d:4d ratio? no one’s sure what’s behind the differences of these, but the ratio does correlate with all sorts of traits and behaviors.

– are you from what i call a “clannish” population or not? from a population that historically was located behind the hajnal line or not? you may disagree with me on why i think “clannishness” exists as a set of behavioral traits in different populations, but there’s not much disagreement on the fact that the behaviors do exist (and are measurable): individualism/collectivism vs. familism/non-collectivism; universalism vs. particularism; civic-minded/commonweal oriented vs. not civic-minded/not commonweal oriented; low corruption vs. high corruption; etc. again, you might be an exception to your population’s rule. then again, you may not be.

– do you think like a westerner?

– and, a special shout-out to one super-group: are you eastern european? if so, you might prefer authoritarianism (especially left-wing authoritarianism). keep in mind that others of us don’t.

that’s it! that’s all i’ve got for now. (^_^)

see also: me, myself, and i

previously: what is human biodiversity (hbd)? and hbd chick’s three laws of human biodiversity and you and me and hbd

(note: comments do not require an email. know thyself.)

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38 Comments

  1. our brains are not really to be trusted

    I find it very interesting (frightening?) that we create false memories. Not only that but we add to them and change them as time goes along. Along the same lines, the facts that we take down from the shelf from time to time get shaped more to our current thinking before we put them back on the shelf until the next time we want to prove something we already know. I like the idea of defining humans as the animal that can fit square pegs into round holes.

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  2. I’m a highly authoritarian Turkish atheist with leftist sympathies (the old left that is, the one with nuclear missiles and angry, strong leaders, not wimpy LGBT people).

    Am I …….. unusual?

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  3. Brilliant! This is a key thing.

    Unfortunately, the ability to be introspective and mindful of one’s own personal biases and how this clouds one’s understanding of world, as well as the ability to recognize that other people think differently in key, fundamental ways are both themselves heritable, so I don’t expect a lot of people to “get it.”

    “for instance, there prolly aren’t specific genes that will make a person a christian versus a muslim, but there are definitely genes “for” religiosity. which religion a person with “genes for” religious belief follows will obviously depend to a large degree on the culture in which he is immersed”

    Oh I wouldn’t quite say that. In fact, I have argued otherwise. Available content is highly important, but not wholly determinant of what religion individuals embrace (at least when considered against the global background). The Amish provide a stark example. See:

    The Atheist Narrative | JayMan’s Blog

    “what’s your 2d:4d ratio? no one’s sure what’s behind the differences of these, but the ratio does correlate with all sorts of traits and behaviors.”

    In digging for my last post, I found that that digit ratio stuff is on pretty shaky ground. For one it does not represent hormone exposure in utero. In fact, it is heritable. I suspect many of the supposed personality associations are bunk.

    “what about your personality and the dark triad? are you a psychopath? narcissist? machiavellian in your nature? again, all of these relate back to the personality traits above.”

    Dark Tetrad as Staffan argues so well:

    Sadism: A New Addition to the Dark Triad? | Staffan’s Personality Blog

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  4. Excelent!! Two mythology about human mind: all of us are rationals (you explain briliantly in this text why ‘we’ are not) and all of us are empathetic.
    Well, empathy like intelligence is a quantitative and qualitative complex trait. Most people are not empathetic as most people are not smart.
    I think lack of emotive memory capacity can have a rule to affect negatively the conciousness.

    Self knowledge is the hbd-eye??

    About pessimistic thinking. I’m unusually ( weirdly) pessimistic, but i have all of rational reasons to be like that.

    I think lack of latent inibition have many possibilities to express. Lunacy to real capacity to understand the world. ”psychotic-like” people no have this natural matrix that interpret the world in a tendencious way. Every environmental stimuli affect them (affect me too). Rationality ( intelligence) and empathy are fundamental tools to make them, us wise or lunatics.
    I hope hbd improve their knowledge and their holisticity.

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  5. @kamran – “I’m a highly authoritarian Turkish atheist with leftist sympathies (the old left that is, the one with nuclear missiles and angry, strong leaders, not wimpy LGBT people).”

    heh! (^_^) no, i don’t think that you are unusual. well, you would be in western europe (and, by extension, the u.s./canada/australia), but you would very much fit in in eastern europe where tendencies toward left-wing authoritarianism have been found (although further research on this is definitely necessary! — there’ve only been a couple of studies done on this so far. see the second half of this post: our political nature and authoritarianism)

    don’t know about authoritarian sentiments in turkey or how prevalent they might be there. don’t even know if there’s been any research done on this in turkey at all (or elsewhere, for that matter).

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  6. Turks definitely lean authoritarian but in a soft, socially-conservative, Islamic radicalism lite direction. Basically Russia, but replace orthodoxy with sunni islam. How do you go about measuring this? I suppose polling of some sort is required. Pew’s Conrad Hackett should have done something on this but I think he mostly concentrates on demographics and related variables.

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    1. @Kamran:

      “Turks definitely lean authoritarian but in a soft, socially-conservative, Islamic radicalism lite direction. Basically Russia, but replace orthodoxy with sunni islam. How do you go about measuring this?”

      Here’s a strong start:

      Reply

  7. @jayman – “Unfortunately, the ability to be introspective and mindful of one’s own personal biases and how this clouds one’s understanding of world, as well as the ability to recognize that other people think differently in key, fundamental ways are both themselves heritable, so I don’t expect a lot of people to ‘get it.'”

    no. a lot probably won’t. *sigh* but at least now i’ve said it. (~_^)

    @jayman – “Available content is highly important, but not wholly determinant of what religion individuals embrace (at least when considered against the global background).”

    agreed. that’s why i said “depend to a large degree” and not determined. it’s just that, if you were someone living in ancient sumer, for example, and you had “genes for religiosity,” it’s highly unlikely — impossible, really — that you’d’ve been either a christian or a muslim, since those options simply didn’t exist at the time. you’d definitely be religious, just most likely along some local, contemporary lines. unless you were an extraordinary person and invented your own religious system! does happen sometimes.

    @jayman – “For one it does not represent hormone exposure in utero.”

    yes. i linked to that meta-analysis showing that it’s not caused by pre-natal testosterone exposure last year — in this linkfest (in case anyone wants to see the article: “No effects of androgen receptor gene CAG and GGC repeat polymorphisms on digit ratio (2D:4D): A comprehensive meta-analysis and critical evaluation of research”).

    @jayman – “I suspect many of the supposed personality associations are bunk.”

    yeah, a bunch of them prolly are. the male vs. female differences seem real, as do the autism/asperger’s ones (i.e. female aspies have more “male” ratios). beyond that, i don’t know.

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  8. @santoculto – “Two mythology about human mind: all of us are rationals (you explain briliantly in this text why ‘we’ are not) and all of us are empathetic.”

    yes! definitely two of the biggest myths we humans have about ourselves.

    @santoculto – “Self knowledge is the hbd-eye??”

    yes, i think so. (~_^) maybe not everybody, though. maybe not everybody will manage/be interested.

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  9. @cracker – “I find it very interesting (frightening?) that we create false memories.”

    i am soooo convinced that i do NOT have any false memories. but, then again, how would i know? (~_^)

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  10. Introvert. I love it when I have the house to myself for a few hours. (Or when the office is deserted). I hate things like big conferences, events, etc. with huge crowds. Definitely an inherited trait from my father’s side.

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  11. Perhaps I have been on your side of the divide, and suspicious of even my own perceptions and thinking for so long that your energy and certainty put me off. You may be just selling an excited point against an audience you expect to be unsympathetic, but I ate that banana years ago. I think this post is overstated, though not wrong.

    I did a MWBOT (May We Believe Our Thoughts) series a few years ago. I would change some things now but it generally reflects my current thinking. In its pure form, the argument is self-refuting. If we cannot know meaning with certainty, then that applies to this set of thoughts as well. Pleading that our thinking is approximately true and useful is not an escape that holds up for another five minutes of close questioning.

    Secondly, and similarly, this argument in itself appeals to certain personalities and belief systems. When they all shake hands and say “It’s true!” I remain deeply unconvinced.

    Thirdly, it doesn’t take much rational thinking, or free will, or good reflection to have a long-term impact. We have also learned a good deal about sensitive dependence on conditions, chaos, points of inflection, and a dozen other physical and mathematical ideas these last decades. Having even 1% rationality, or free will, or self-honesty are huge, given enough time and participants. People do change their minds. they do seek counsel. They do decide that they were wrong before and right now.

    So I agree with you against the world that we should be extremely suspicious of what we think we know, as the foundation for that knowledge is not what we thought. But to conclude that it’s all just obviously ridiculous, as some here are, is not justified.

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  12. Great post, but…. in your listing of Big 5, IQ et al you’ve actually entirely missed off half the human story!

    You’re missing the picture given to us by people like Lawrence Kohlberg, Particia King/Karen Kitchener, William Perry and all the others who are part of the field of Adult Development. (Plus Piaget, Kegan, Loevinger, Commons, Jaques, Baxter Magolda etc).

    Not sure why HBD people never seem to have heard of this.

    It’s a bit tragic really – and very limiting – that HBD folks totally ignore the academic field that studies how (most) people grow from being impulsive egoists towards being more autonomous and interdependent thinkers – though receive a hazy shadow of it via the weak proxies of IQ and personality.

    Basically, there are elements of adult psychology that are maturational/developmental – they track milestones of growth (not the polar variables of personality trait models). The psychological growth Piaget uncovered in children carries on (to varying extents) in adults – but is a bit harder to spot. Also, researchers only did the longitudinal studies over recent-ish decades that uncovered what was going on.

    Anyway Big 5, IQ et al entirely miss all this – though Big 5 researchers have spotted that the ‘Openness’ factor also does somewhat correlate with such psychological development (though the other four factors don’t).

    You could use the metaphor of ‘vertical’ development vs ‘horizontal’ development to describe the two lenses – if you only focus on personality, IQ etc you’re only looking at the ‘horizontal’ part of the picture.

    Predictably vertical development is these days mistaken by some for hierarchies of domination so falls foul of PC thinking and is no longer in vogue (even though it’s a field that surely leans very much towards liberals).

    HBD people lean heavily on IQ as an explanatory variable. I suspect that ‘vertical’ psychological maturation is an equally important variable.

    Next time you write a post like this, try to include at least one of the 100s of maturational/developmental variables too, if you want to offer a complete picture of a human being! ;-)

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  13. Okay, so we’re all doomed to be exactly like our parents. So, if HBD is true, then don’t you think that it should be a defense to prosecution that a person was a black 19-year-old? After all, according to you he’s simply born to be a criminal and can’t help it. Why have schools at all? if all our traits are inborn then there is absolutely no point in making any effort at all self-improvement. My ancestors were violent thugs on the border between Scotland and England, and were invited in the 1640’s to consider life in the colonies, otherwise the English government would have seen to it that they never became anyone’s ancestors. My actual family, in fact, is made up entirely of people with graduate degrees, even one of my grandmothers and both of her sisters completed graduate degrees. (That was in the 1920’s, when even Mayflower descendants didn’t typically send their daughters to college.)

    What kind of a society does the idea that learning is completely impossible for anyone who isn’t genetically blessed? Do you really want to live in a world where everyone is encouraged to be as lazy as possible, which is exactly what HBD does?

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  14. @karenjo12 – “Okay, so we’re all doomed to be exactly like our parents.”

    i didn’t say that. i said that all behavioral traits are heritable. that’s all.

    @karenjo12 – “So, if HBD is true, then don’t you think that it should be a defense to prosecution that a person was a black 19-year-old?”

    i actually do think there are important questions to be posed about crime and the law and justice in the light of human biodiversity. i’ve blogged about it before, but, to be honest, i haven’t thought through the issues, and i don’t know where i stand on them at this point.

    @karenjo12 – “Why have schools at all?”

    well, intelligence and knowledge are two different things. one isn’t born with a head full of facts and information.

    @karenjo12 – “if all our traits are inborn then there is absolutely no point in making any effort at all self-improvement.”

    i think everybody’s got room for improvement, it’s just that our biologies give us a range of what we can work with. (see what i had to say in this convo on twitter.)

    @karenjo12 – “What kind of a society does the idea that learning is completely impossible for anyone who isn’t genetically blessed?”

    that’s not what i said, nor what i think.

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  15. @assistant village idiot – “If we cannot know meaning with certainty, then that applies to this set of thoughts as well.”

    i know! i hate that feeling of going ’round in circles inside my own head. (>.<)

    @assistant village idiot – “They do decide that they were wrong before and right now.”

    maybe. but i always worry that they didn’t decide to change their minds, but that something else happened: increasing age (people often become more conservative with age); hormonal changes; infectious agents; who knows? do we know?

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  16. @karenjo12

    “My ancestors were violent thugs on the border between Scotland and England, and were invited in the 1640’s to consider life in the colonies”

    I am not sure why one would describe one’s ancestors as thugs but I guess that is your biz. Anyway, do you know if any Indians signed off on the invite?

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  17. you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the ideas and concepts that people more intelligent than you

    Depends, rather. I find aspects of the theory of relativity hard to grasp, which may be indicative of a low IQ, but then in some areas Einstein seems to have been rather ignorant too, and that is not just my view. Thus, for example, George Kennan, chief architect of America’s post WWII foreign policy, said with reference to Einstein, his colleague at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Research:

    “I knew nothing of his field and knew it. He knew nothing of my field and didn’t know it.”

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  18. @ a commenter. I used to love Kohlberg in college, Quoted him to many. Great theory. It turns out that there is no data to back it up. So it’s in the trash bin now, where it belongs. I don’t know about the others, except Piaget, who suffers from similar plausibility minus evidence.

    I wouldn’t assume we don’t know about nurture assumptions and theories. Many of us have been dragged kicking and screaming to the HBD POV.

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  19. @karenjo – I trust you are exaggerating for rhetorical effect what you believe the HBD viewpoint to be. Hoping to get a rise out of someone, maybe. It might be better to just read along for a while and see what people have to say on their own behalf. There is very little assertion of destiny. More commonly, there is dismantling of the various theories of nurture with recent research, and attempts to understand what might be done and what is probably useless about the great store of human misery.

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  20. Hi Assistant village idiot,

    Not sure where you got the idea there’s no data to back up Kohlberg. He spent years collecting longitudinal data. There have also been two big international surveys to investigate the validity of Kohlberg’s model cross-culturally – in 1985 and 2007, by Snarey. They found pretty strong support for it, I think.

    I presume when you say ‘no data’, you never looked at Snarey.

    Even one of the currently trendy anti-Kohlberg views on moral thinking (developed by Jonathan Haidt) was found to correlate reasonably well with what Kohlberg had found, once someone decided it was worth checking back to see.

    Where on earth did you get the idea that I was assuming you don’t know about nurture assumptions? I was trying to put, as strongly as possible, that no-one in HBD circles ever talks about adult psychological development – but instead talk about all the other areas (eg IQ, personality type etc).

    HBD chick’s post above seems to miss have the picture of what’s going on. And it’s a very interesting half that gets missed!

    I didn’t say anything about nurture assumptions and adult development theory isn’t a nurture assumption.

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  21. “My ancestors were violent thugs on the border between Scotland and England, and were invited in the 1640’s to consider life in the colonies”

    hey!!!!…mine to,…..with a bit of noble norman infusion for good measure..Scots/English Reivers and Marcher Lords.

    So what?….nobody said that you can’t be a bright brigand right? Perhaps you have confused heritable tendencies of behavior with intelligence…it seems bright enough to focus out outlaw behavior when leviathan governments make peaceful living impossible.

    I hope I am wrong but I methinks that those genetics are about to be well rewarded in the near future in the western world.

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  22. I took the Big 5 test. I don’t agree that disorganized and conscientious are at opposite poles the way introverted and extroverted are.

    I think of myself as somewhat disorganized and untidy as far as house keeping goes, but also quite conscientious in that I go to work, pay my bills on time, look after my kids, grandkids, and animal with great care. I also know people at work whose office is much messier than mine but who seem to be competent and conscientious in other areas of their life.

    This makes me suspicious of this classification system. However, this remark is not related to HBD. I guess I’m just butt-hurt that the test scored me as more towards being disorganized than conscientious.

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  23. “hey!!!!…mine to,…..”

    Like I told the other one, it is your business if you want to refer to your ancestors as thugs and criminals.

    However, they were pastoralists and spent most of their time herding rather than establishing universities. As many pastoralists are prone to do, they supplemented their income by raiding the people trespassing on their grazing lands. Criminality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

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  24. @cracker1

    How are you tracing your ancestors back to 1640 in Scotland? I’m on Ancestry.ca and have also spent quite a lot of money getting records from http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/

    The records seem to be quite scarce before the 1700’s for my ancestors in the far north of Scotland. Occupations in my family tree are blacksmith, fisherman, crofter,. ..that sort of thing. The most scandalous thing I have found is one child born out of wedlock.

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  25. rosenmops

    I don’t have a direct genealogical link back to Ulster or the Border Lands. I think that because of the nature of records from that long ago it is difficult to be certain about one’s actual ancestor and I am very skeptical of some of the older records. I can go back to the late 1700’s in the Carolinas, especially SC. I know from historical sources the counties and communities (Carolina Piedmont) that were settled by the Scotch-Irish and I know which of my lines were in those counties. I know which of my lines were German. The ones that were not German I assume were Scotch-Irish because the communities were overwhelmingly Scotch-Irish. (If a Smith, Johnson, Wilson or Bailey was actually English I won’t hold that against them.) From SC they moved on to the lower Appalachians. I have significant German ancestry; I feel confident that most of the rest were Scotch-Irish. Anyway, culturally I am 100% Scotch-Irish.

    Most scandalous for me is a 5th GGrandfather convicted by a jury of twelve good men for horse stealing (I offer this as additional support for my claim to Border Land ancestry). Branded with a T on his right hand and 39 lashes well laid on. I have a photo copy of the hand-written court record.

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  26. Crackers,
    OK. My grandparents came over from the UK from around 1900-1920, 3 from Scotland and one from England. Since this is relatively recent i know what villages they came from and there are good records which I can trace back to about the late 1700’s but then the records kind of die out. I guess things were pretty wild and disorganized in Scotland before that. Probably horse stealing going on in my family too :)

    Reply

  27. @lukelea wrote, “Speaking of left-wing authoritarianism in Eastern Europe, how does Sweden fit in. I’m thinking of this: http://goo.gl/A8Ch6a How do you account for it?”

    Sweden is authoritarian light. Legislation is fairly liberal but informally you can get into trouble if you don’t conform. You may not be arrested but people freeze you out, you don’t get a job, contract etc. Although the nationalist party, Sweden Democrats, have reached 15-20 percent in recent polls, and has been the only party to increase in the last decade, you can’t find any public person coming out as nationalist.

    That said, there was a striking shift in attitude when SD reached 10 percent. They were still pariahs but at this seemingly magic barrier they suddenly got some respect. Before this happened the official strategy was to ignore them completely, but afterwards they said we should criticize them openly, and some even said they may be right on certain points.

    That, I think is how conformism works. People oppress dissenters until dissenter look like they might be the new consensus, at which point they prepare for a possible transition in that direction. Perhaps 10 percent is a discontinuity at which this happens.

    In regard to immigration, this is partly a matter of the old establishment flexing its muscles, and in the case of social democrats a strategy of importing voters.

    (Of course, other Swedes may see it differently.)

    Reply

  28. @a commenter – People mature psychologically, just as they learn more about various fields (especially the ones they work in). However, some people mature psychologially more slowly as adults than others, or never mature past certain points. Some of that may be determined by circumstances, but is there any heritable component to that? I would be *very* surprised if there isn’t, and if the heritable portion of the outcomes aren’t different across ethnic groups.

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