More on Innate Talent and Philosophy (updated)


Alison Gopnik (Berkeley) has written a piece for the Wall Street Journal about the study by Sarah Jane Leslie et al that we discussed last month on innate or “raw intellectual talent” and academia’s gender and race gaps. In her article, she writes, “From a scientific perspective, the very idea that something as complicated as philosophical success is the result of “innate talent” makes no sense.”

I asked Professor Gopnik if she wouldn’t mind elaborating on her views about innate talent in philosophy. She provided the following:

I’ve been thinking about the new Science finding by Leslie and Cimpian and the more I’ve thought about it the odder it seems that philosophers, of all people, haven’t taken the time to see how incoherent the “innate talent” concept actually is. Maybe it’s because it’s so seductive as part of “folk psychology”. In fact, when I first read the Science piece my own first thought was “But that doesn’t apply to me because I’ve always known that  I had a strong innate talent for philosophy, much more than for psychology, and I made my major affiliation to psychology for all sorts of other intellectual reasons”. But literally as I was thinking this I was also preparing the very first standard lecture in my intro developmental psychology course which is about why the nature/nurture distinction for psychological traits doesn’t make sense. Even this philosopher/psychologist can be sucked in by the innate talent idea, but a first year developmental psychology course shows how weird it is.

What would an innate talent for philosophy actually mean? That there is some set of genetic instructions that evolved in the pleistocene which just happens to consistently lead to an “appetite for Hume” phenotype? That some newborn infants are particularly good at asking piercing questions at seminars? That by the age of twenty the vagaries of genes, motivation, environment and culture have all interacted to produce a “sit around late at night asking about the meaning of life” phenotype that is completely immutable from then on? That heritability estimates for ethical reasoning will be constant across all the possible environments in the past and future? 
Its odd, though certainly not unprecedented, that philosophers in their everyday life would endorse an idea that in their thoughtful professional  life they would surely see is about as useful as the medieval theory of elements. More, Carol Dweck’s work suggests that this folk psychological chimera may well do harm to those who think they are talented as well as those who fear they aren’t.
Comments welcome.
UPDATE (2/7/14): Professor Gopnik writes in with a response to some of the commenters:
The comments on this post are interesting, and suggest that maybe I didn’t make the empirical research clear enough (or perhaps that philosophers aren’t familiar with it). Here are two basic and uncontroversial bodies of literature in developmental science.
1) As I mentioned in the column, geneticists, developmental biologists, and behavioral geneticists have pretty unanimously concluded that extremely complex, dynamic, varied lifelong interactions between genes and environment lead to an individual phenotype, and that these interactions are so complex that the attempt to parcel them out into a concept like “innate talent” vs, one like “nurture” is unscientific and fruitless. For vivid examples and discussions readers might look at the work of Eric Turkheimer  who has shown that measures of the heritability of IQ are completely different for poor and rich children, or to Michael Meany’s epigenetic work, — mice from different genetic strains show completely reliable differences on cognitive tasks – except that if the “dumb mice” are cross fostered with the “smart mice” as mothers these differences disappear. Untangling even a small part of these gene-environment interactions for relatively straightforward traits is an extremely demanding empirical task, requiring extensive experiments in work like Meaney’s or massive twin studies with elaborate statistical analyses in work like Turkheimer’s.

2) Social and developmental psychologists have shown that nevertheless a notion of “innate traits” – a conceptual package or intuitive theory that includes ideas about innate origin, individual variation, essentialism, and immutability is very widespread in everyday folk psychology, emerging early and found quite generally, and,in adults, often impervious to data (see the literature on the basic attribution error). Carol Dweck, in particular, has shown that this conception is commonly applied to academic achievement.  Interestingly, however, this strength of this concept varies for different individuals, groups and cultures. In Dweck’s work American children are much more likely to conceive of academic talent as innate than Asian ones. She’s also shown, empirically,that the concept is “sticky” because, of course, it includes a self-fulfilling prophecy – if everyone believes that academic ability can’t be changed no-one will try to change it and it won’t change.  
OK now here’s the basic finding in Leslie and Cimpian’s study. Philosophers think that “innate talent” is much more important than any other group of academics in the study , including molecular biologists, neuroscientists and even mathematicians (incidentally L. and C. controlled for GRE scores in the various fields). Why would this be?
Here are two hypotheses
a) In spite of 1 above, philosophers, with nary an experiment or study, just through reflection and common observation, have somehow perceived a special innate/immutable talent for philosophy, in particular, unlike anything else known to science. (Maybe they used their x-ray intuition superpowers?) 
b) In keeping with 2 above, philosophers have developed a culture in which an intuitive theory of “innate philosophical talent” plays a particularly important role, an exaggerated version of what Dweck calls the American “entity” mindset, in contrast to fields like molecular biology.  There is an interesting empirical question about why this has happened and what its consequences are and also how it might be changed.
Let me end this with an, I think profoundly true, thought suggested to my by Anthony Appiah. Surely, in fact, of all the disciplines, philosophy, has benefited in the past, and is most likely to benefit in the future, from an extremely wide and varied range of intellectual styles, talents, motivations and abilities, wherever they come from.
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Anon Grad
Anon Grad
6 years ago

I mean, innate talent seems to just mean something like ‘high IQ’. Even if we think that IQ is malleable, the potential upper and lower limits of your IQ seems to plausibly depend on factors beyond your control, like genetics. The kind of thing being picked by philosophers as raw brilliance isn’t an appetite for Hume, but rather quickness in logical and probabilistic thinking, an ability to spot flaws in the arguments of others, and an ability to quickly construct good arguments. Those things seem like they would be correlated with IQ. And I imagine people think a high IQ is necessary to be a good philosopher, while an appetite for the subject is also necessary early on.

I should say that I think that philosophers probably aren’t very good at picking up brilliance (especially of the less salient ‘quick on his or her feet’ kind), and that it’s very damaging to sell the idea that you need to be brilliant to do philosophy, or that intellectual brilliance will result in a good philosopher.Report

Brian
Brian
6 years ago

I’d like to see a compare and contrast between the views above and the two Talents posts on slatestarcodex. Insofar as “appetite for Hume” is a strawman here, there certainly can be a propensity towards high-articulation, logical thought, and other common fundamentals that *do* make some people better than others. Or abstracting even further, combining traits for “curiosity,” “memory,” and “rigorous thinking” seem to prompt philosophical thought.

Still, the conclusion is useful, and is why I would like to see more philosophers engage with Dr. “Alexander”‘s thoughts on this matter.Report

Eric
Eric
6 years ago

It’s helpful to remember that when Gopnik says that “the nature/nurture distinction for psychological traits doesn’t make sense,” she is simply saying that all complex cognitive abilities arise from both nature and nurture. She’d agree that IQ is heavily related to genes, and that curiosity and memory are, too. (“Rigorous thinking” is more of a complex ability itself, the result of IQ, preparation, ability to sustain focus, etc., and so seems less plausible as a unitary construct based in genes.) Her point is just that all of these abilities are shaped through experience, so ascribing success to the innate talent side of the coin while neglecting the experience side of the coin is almost comically short-sighted.

When you boil the “innate” part down to these core abilities, you also realize that any innate talent is hardly discipline specific. I think a chemist would bristle at the argument that these core abilities are unimportant for doctoral work in chemistry. It’s interesting, then, that if these core abilities are at least roughly equally important in philosophy, chemistry, economics, etc., that philosophy would be such an outlier in emphasizing the innate side of the coin over the experience side.Report

Rob
Rob
6 years ago

I agree with this as a conceptual critique of the idea of innate talent (and of notions like innate intelligence or genius as well).

But then again consider someone like Wittgenstein. His relationship with philosophical problems, according to his biographers, began at a very young age. Maybe there is something like a certain psychological type that makes people *concerned* with philosophical questions in a very personal way. I am quite sure a disposition towards concern for such things is more important than, say, IQ.

I’m not saying that this psychological type, if we assume the idea is coherent for a moment, would be necessary for being a good philosopher. Someone could still become concerned for other reasons. For example, they could encounter an act of injustice as a teenager, and then suddenly develop a concern for the notion of justice. The point is merely that concern seems more important than “talent” to me.Report

anon faculty
anon faculty
6 years ago

In response to Eric: I’m not sure that the analogy with chemistry really holds. Suppose it’s true that innate talent exists and is not discipline specific (i.e., the core abilities are valuable in both philosophy and chemistry). Still, it might be these innate abilities do more work in certain fields than in others. Roughly, experimental fields like chemistry or archival fields like history involve a mixture of innate talent and experimentation/research, whereas philosophical results might require less of the latter. You don’t have to spend years of eighty hour weeks in the lab to generate an interesting philosophical result; you do have to do that to generate an interesting result in chemistry.Report

Eric
Eric
Reply to  anon faculty
6 years ago

anon: I think that’s fair to an extent, but as a professor in a research-based field and with an undergrad degree in philosophy (and some grad work), I feel pretty confident that there are more similarities than differences. You might need the weeks of 80 hours in the lab to generate the result in chemistry, but the ability to generate the interesting, theoretically meaningful research questions and appropriate methodologies requires the same kind of analytical problem solving that philosophy does. Again, there may be differences in the importance of quick analytical thinking or creativity in the fields, but they aren’t so great in my view that they justify the extent to which philosophers ascribe importance to innate talent. I think Gopnik’s point at the end is particularly pertinent: when you try to predict success from some set of predictor variables (like IQ, motivation, cognitive control, parenting variables, access to quality education, etc.), you never find that any one of those explains over 50% of the variance. Success in any field is always the result of a crapload of factors, and assigning too much importance on any one isn’t going to be very accurate, and when that one emphasized variable is innate talent, Dweck’s research shows pretty convincingly that children suffer. So if this emphasis on innate talent is never going to be even half of the reason for success, and we know it hurts kids, why emphasize it? We should admit that it IS an important variable, obviously. And let’s study it. But the entire discussion around innate ability seems like an exercise in trying to decide which of the pellets in the shotgun shell is the magic bullet.

Ben: I think you’re putting way, way too much stock in Dawkins’ speculation. There is much more rigorous work on the mechanisms that underlie the links between genes and cognitive abilities, and that work is pretty convincing that something as complicated as reading is unlikely to have a gene for it. There might be all sorts of core abilities that go into reading, each of which have arise through the confluence of a ton of genes, but “a” gene “for” reading is a nonstarter. A good place to start for a general introduction to this would be The Birth of the Mind, by Gary Marcus. In general, the leaps between “all sorts of cognitive *traits* have genetic bases” and a specific *preference* for philosophy (or really any specific learned *skill*) is too great. The more fundamental misunderstanding is that genes are “for” cognitive abilities at all. The underlying abilities, which do have genetic bases, are things like speed of information processing, curiosity, etc. Those might combine in specific environments to lead to an interest in Hume, but that in no way means that’s what the genes were “for.”Report

Ben
Ben
6 years ago

Gopnik wrote:

“What would an innate talent for philosophy actually mean? That there is some set of genetic instructions that evolved in the pleistocene which just happens to consistently lead to an ‘appetite for Hume’ phenotype?”

I recall a discussion in The Selfish Gene in which Dawkins argues that there must be a gene for reading. I think the argument applies here: we know that all sorts of cognitive traits have genetic bases. It is highly implausible that genotypic differences between individuals would have *no* effect on their appetites for Hume. Plausibly, then, variation in some gene leads, in a specified environment, to variation in phenotype – appetite for Hume. So there is an appetite-for-Hume gene.Report

Eric
Eric
6 years ago

(Comment fail; my response to your post is included in my response to anon.)Report

Joel
Joel
6 years ago

Would Dr. Gopnik be equally comfortable asserting that “From a scientific perspective, the very idea that something as complicated as success in sports is the result of “innate talent” makes no sense”? And if so, would this imply that, say, we should stop telling short people that they are unlikely to succeed professionally in basketball?Report

Eric
Eric
Reply to  Joel
6 years ago

I think she would. As she said and as I said, innate talent is important (leaving aside the point that talent =/= height). It’s just not everything, and to make the point I’d use Todd Marinovich, Vince Young, and Ryan Leaf as easy examples, but on just about any team you can find players with insane athletic ability who don’t apply themselves, as well as players like Steve Largent, Tim Duncan, and Ichiro who excel based on work ethic, preparation, etc. Ichiro is a great example: his athleticism is the result of his preparation. Her point never was that innate talent is irrelevant, just that when you look at the development of complex cognitive abilities there is no such thing as a genotype that codes for a prescribed adult phenotype.Report

Jack Samuel
Jack Samuel
6 years ago

I don’t have time to go check the original studies (I should be grading logic midterms right now) but the thing they purportedly test is the “Field-Specific Belief Hypothesis”. My dim recollection is that the “Field-Specific” part is supposed to do some real work; the question isn’t whether people think a field requires plain old brilliance (i.e. high IQ?), but whether they think it requires a kind of, in our case, innate *philosophical* ability. So if I’ve understood correctly, “appetite for Hume” may be a strawman but then so are “high-articulation, logical thought… curiosity, memory, and rigorous thinking,” which certainly are not field-specific abilities. If someone has the time (or already remembers, though I suspect that if someone reading this remembered already they would already have made this point) to check what the “Field-Specific Ability Hypothesis” amounts to, that would probably help move things away from tired debates concerning the existence and heritability of a trait called “IQ”.

And speaking of which, from what little I understand about genetics research over the last few years, it is almost certainly false that “variation in some gene leads, in a specified environment, to variation in phenotype – appetite for Hume. So there is an appetite-for-Hume gene.” There are probably thousands of genes that correlate with the appetite-for-Hume phenotype, not just one, and how much of the variance they can account for is the real issue. My totally uninformed guess? Probably not much. I’ll get back to you in April, when I’m done with the seminar I’m currently taking on genetics.Report

Jack Samuel
Jack Samuel
6 years ago

Sorry, that’s “Field-Specific Ability Belief Hypothesis”, I think; I got it wrong both times I quoted it. I doubt that obscures my point though.Report

Neil
Neil
6 years ago

Wow, I didn’t know that philosophers outside the speciality were so ignorant of the basics of philosophy of biology. I do now.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Even if philosophy requires relatively high-IQ or some package of special intellectual abilities that people acquire at birth or in their earliest development, this is weak evidence for the idea that philosophical success depends on innate talent and even weaker evidence for explaining gender gaps. Generally speaking, doctors have to be successful students of science and applied mathematics. Their IQs tend to be very high (more than half are above 120) relative to members of other professions, including college professors taken as a whole. Half of all medical degrees are now earned by women. Perhaps philosophers have a higher average IQ than doctors, but is the difference as great as the gender gap it’s supposed to explain? The idea that there are just fewer talented women around once we approach the 120+ or 130+ levels of IQ (or whatever other package of abilities you choose), and that this explains the gender gap in philosophy, should also predict lower numbers of women in other disciplines that demand strong innate talent. Yet once you look at the numbers, differences in requisite innate talent don’t provide a very powerful explanation. This is true if we consider degrees in other disciplines, too: women earn a greater percentage of the degrees in math than in philosophy, a greater share of math and computer science degrees than engineering degrees, and a far greater share of biology degrees than geology. Does geology require a higher level of innate ability than biology? Is engineering more difficult than math? Would female doctors be far less likely than male doctors to be successful in philosophy, based on innate talents? Possibly, but I think this is likely to be a trivial cause of any difference and that the more important causes lie elsewhere.Report

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
6 years ago

I’m a bit confused by all this. It is true that Leslie et al sometimes use the phrase “innate talent”. But they also use the phrases “field specific abilities” and “genius,” etc. I haven’t seen the actual survey questions that the research is based on, but I don’t really see any reason to suppose that the relevant beliefs here are necessarily about _genetically or congenitally_ determined talent. The relevant hypothesis seems to be that fully formed 18 year olds, or even 21 year olds, require a high degree of field specific talent. I happen to agree that we overstate or overassume this in philosophy. But its clearly not incoherent. and its much weaker than a belief in genetic determinism, which I have trouble imagining is what Leslie et al’s survey were clearly and distinctly measuring.Report

David
David
6 years ago

The field-specific ability questions from Leslie et al’s surveys are below. Responses fell on a scale of 1-7 corresponding to the strength of one’s agreement/disagreement. Philosophy scored a 5.11, which was the highest of any field. This score represents the average agreement with the first two statements and disagreement with the last two.

Being a top scholar of [discipline] requires a special aptitude that just can’t be taught.
If you want to succeed in [discipline], hard work alone just won’t cut it; you need to have an innate gift or talent.
With the right amount of effort and dedication, anyone can become a top scholar in [discipline]. (R)
When it comes to [discipline], the most important factors for success are motivation and sustained effort; raw ability is secondary. (R)

A few thoughts:

-The statements don’t really address whether you think there are field-specific abilities! There is one that refers to a “special aptitude that just can’t be taught,” but the others just refer to an “innate gift or talent” or “raw ability.” This is consistent with the relevant abilities being very general.
-Only one of the questions uses the term “innate.” A high score on the others is consistent with one’s thinking that talent/aptitude is not largely innate, but is at least well-settled before people start to specialize in one’s field (i.e., before college). (“Just can’t be taught” seems consistent with that to me.)
-Given all the hype about philosophers buying into the cult of genius, I was surprised that the degree of agreement was so mild in absolute terms. A 5.11 on a 7 point scale represents only a slight agreement with the “special talent” view–a 4 is total agnosticism.
-The first two statements say only that special/innate talent is a necessary condition for success. That’s a pretty weak claim! The third statement says that anyone can succeed with enough hard work. That’s a very strong claim! Only the final statement addresses the relative importance of hard work vs. talent. I’m very surprised to find myself further on the “innate talent” side than the average philosopher. (I strongly believe that talent and hard work are both necessary for success in all academic fields, though I’m not sure which matters more, or even whether the question is intelligible. This makes me an extremist, apparently.)
-They surveyed 58 philosophers, which is a pretty decent number. So my guess is that our apparent outlier status is a real thing.
-For all of these statements, there is an obvious “nice person” answer, and an obvious “total jerk / hard-nosed realist” answer. This is a potential confounder. (I think groups of self-styled hard-nosed realists, who others consider to be total jerks, are very often predominantly male.)Report

Joel
Joel
6 years ago

Eric: Fair enough, the “talent”-“height” link is a bit of a non sequitur. I should have replaced the “innate talent” of the original quote with “innate characteristics” for the hypothetical quote.

The point I was attempting to make was that although, as you rightly say, success in sports is a result of many factors, including hard work, factors like body type over which we have less control clearly play a large part. In basketball, for example, height is clearly very important: there are practically no NBA players who are shorter than the U.S. population average. And height is roughly 70% heritable. Moreover, different sports favor different body types — http://www.businessinsider.com/average-height-weight-nfl-nba-players-2014-8 — just as different academic fields presumably favor different sets of cognitive skills. (I make no claims to originality here; I’m largely cribbing from Scott Alexander, who others have mentioned.)

Perhaps we don’t disagree very much: I don’t think “innate” abilities (either in the sense of genetic or in the sense of fixed-by-age-20) are everything in philosophy (and I don’t know who does — this seems to me like a strawman), but I think a high IQ (both mathematical and verbal), creativity, and so on are, if not necessary conditions, very close to necessary conditions to doing well, and that these are often difficult traits to change by the time one is in college. Moreover, that “innate traits” serve as a partial explanation of philosophical success is sufficient for them to play a large role in explaining various group differences in philosophical success, and I take challenging that explanatory role to be a large part of Dr. Gopnik’s ultimate aim.Report

Nick Byrd
6 years ago

I feel sheepish doing this again, but it might be worth adding that in a sample of over 500 people (about half of whom had or were candidates for a PhD in philosophy), the greatest predictor of success on a few reasoning tasks was whether one had or was a candidate for a PhD in philosophy. The number of years one spent studying philosophy was not related to reasoning performance. Neither were other factors like whether one was employed to teach philosophy. This result by no means settles this discussion, but it does reveal that philosophy graduate programs might, knowingly or unknowingly, select for certain reasoning competences. It might also suggest that this competence plateaus some time after graduate school since further training and selection in academic philosophy does not seem to be related to increases in this competence. That being said, it might be that philosophers (the ones on grad admission committees at least) really do select for certain abilities. And while this competence might be very important for philosophy, it is not clear, however, that the competence being selected for is discipline specific or innate. But it might be the case that this competence is only somewhat teachable since the competence plateaues (below the maximum possible level), on average, and remains insensitive to continued training and selection after grad school.

(This work is under review)Report

Eric
Eric
6 years ago

A lot of great comments here, and I’m still working through the slatestarcodex article which also is a very good analysis.

But even with all of the good evidence being used to support the idea of some kind of innate/special ability is the fact that all of these indicators were taken from adults. In the slatestarcodex article, GRE is used as a proxy for innate ability, even though the author doesn’t seem to acknowledge or defend that very controversial position (but I haven’t finished it, so maybe he does later), and Nick Byrd’s data are also from adults. While those strongly point to some amount of raw talent, they gloss over Gopnik’s central point that “the nature/nurture distinction for psychological traits doesn’t make sense.” By the time someone takes a standardized test in adolescence or beyond, life experience has guided and shaped the development of natural ability so much that it’s difficult to parse out the effects of what is innate/raw/unteachable and what has been learned/honed/taught. Across the entire lifespan, innate traits and the environment interact in a continuous dynamic way that alters both gene expression and the structure of the environment.

Now, as Nick points out, perhaps ability or aptitude for philosophy is fairly immutable by the time that grad school admissions are occurring, and that may well influence the selection process. But Gopnik’s point is that the error is to assume that those skills are immutable because they are innate, because the epigenetic story is just more complex than that.

To be fair, though, Joel’s comments do suggest that “field-specific abilities” may be a strawman given what was in the questionnaire.Report

David
David
6 years ago

“But even with all of the good evidence being used to support the idea of some kind of innate/special ability is the fact that all of these indicators were taken from adults. In the slatestarcodex article, GRE is used as a proxy for innate ability, even though the author doesn’t seem to acknowledge or defend that very controversial position (but I haven’t finished it, so maybe he does later),…”

He sort of mentions at the beginning of Section II that he is using the term ‘innate’ in a very weird way, just to refer to traits that are settled before college, and pretty stable thereafter. This is the important distinction for his analysis, but it’s a strange choice of words nonetheless… I think he does hold strong nativist views, but his analysis doesn’t require one to–it just requires well-settled abilities before people start specializing in a field. I think the idea is that college is the cutoff because that’s when students start getting real exposure to different academic fields and their cultures, but I’m not sure if he’s right about that. I certainly got the message that math, physics, and music composition were fields for geniuses prior to college.Report

Eddy Nahmias
Eddy Nahmias
6 years ago
Anon
Anon
6 years ago

To my mind what’s most interesting is the psychology of the replies. Even if it’s true that there’s a meaningful sense of innate philosophical talent, why do so many philosophers *so badly want* it to be true? What is the crucial, hard to give up function that the belief plays in our field?Report

JK
JK
6 years ago

“That there is some set of genetic instructions that evolved in the pleistocene which just happens to consistently lead to an “appetite for Hume” phenotype?”

Can a good analysis follow when the starting point is a strawman like that? No, it can’t. If you have “genes for philosophy”, it obviously does not mean anything that specific, anymore than having good genes for some sport (that is, genes for a certain body type, agility, speed, stamina, whatever) means that those genes were selected so as to enable success in some 21st century sport. “Talent for philosophy” may include things like high intelligence, intellectual curiosity, and creativity, all of which are associated with considerable amounts of genetic variation in the general population.

“That heritability estimates for ethical reasoning will be constant across all the possible environments in the past and future?”

Why would that matter? Shouldn’t we concentrate on the currently existing environments? By the same token, if Dweck’s mindset theory was valid in the current environment (which certainly has not been demonstrated), it would not lessen its utility for us even if it could be shown that it was completely invalid in, say, the Babylonian empire of the 2nd millennium BC.

“geneticists, developmental biologists, and behavioral geneticists have pretty unanimously concluded that … these interactions are so complex that the attempt to parcel them out into a concept like “innate talent” vs, one like “nurture” is unscientific and fruitless”

False. Behavioral geneticists find much utility in concepts like heritability and shared environment which are analogous to nature and nurture. The basic behavior genetic (BG) approach is to partition population variance into genetic, familial-environmental, and other-environmental/noise components. Eric Turkheimer’s three laws of BG — http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/epi/turkheimer00.pdf — are explicitly based on the ability of BG methods to distinguish the contributions of nature and nurture.

Nature and nurture can be studied as distinct sources of differences between individuals. You could argue that population-level variance components are not scientifically interesting, but I find that a perverse viewpoint and one that would invalidate all of social science.

“Eric Turkheimer who has shown that measures of the heritability of IQ are completely different for poor and rich children”

Turkheimer’s study is underpowered (it’s far from “massive” by BG standards) and likely wrong because its results are so different from other studies. A recent replication attempt — http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10519-014-9698-y — had 10x the sample size. It found that the heritability of IQ was only modestly lower at the very bottom of the SES scale compared to the very top of the scale (around 55% versus 62% in adolescents), indicating that such interactions are not an important cause of IQ differences across social classes.

“mice from different genetic strains show completely reliable differences on cognitive tasks – except that if the “dumb mice” are cross fostered with the “smart mice” as mothers these differences disappear”

Human adoption studies indicate that the results of rodent research cannot be generalized to humans. By adulthood, the IQs of adoptees correlate substantially with those of their biological relatives but not with those of their adoptive parents and siblings.Report

Simon
Simon
6 years ago

Very helpful comment, David. If you look at the actual results, there are a lot of answers that approximate 7, 7, 1, 4 on those four questions in order. Those numbers mean they strongly agree that *some* innate aptitude/gift/talent (maybe only something like general cognitive ability) is a *necessary condition* of success in philosophy (a very weak claim indeed!), but are totally agnostic on whether “motivation and sustained effort” or “raw ability” is more important. These respondents did nothing more than read the first three questions very literally and state the blindingly obvious, while being agnostic on the fourth. Yet the study and ensuing media discussion misdescribes them as believing strongly in the value of innate philosophical ability!Report