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IQ tests are not culturally biased

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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12 February 2019 20:05
 

The most popular objection to any claim that groups of people vary in their IQ (because of genetics or not) is that IQ tests are culturally biased. It seems to be an almost automatic reaction because of the core belief that all races have equal intelligence. If an “intelligence test” claims otherwise, then the problem must be the test. This objection is sometimes launched not just at racial hereditarian theory but at the science of IQ in general.

This belief is at odds with all sides of the race debates among intelligence researchers. In the late 1990s, two articles were published, each purporting to represent the mainstream science of intelligence. This was not quite true, as the first article represented the “hereditarian” camp, and the second article represented the “environmentalist” camp. Nevertheless, they both agreed that standard IQ tests are not culturally biased, at least not biased in a useful sense of the word. Their reasoning is as follows. First is the hereditarian paper, titled, “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” which keeps it short:

5. Intelligence tests are not culturally biased against American blacks or other native-born, English-speaking peoples in the U.S. Rather, IQ scores predict equally accurately for all such Americans, regardless of race and social class. Individuals who do not understand English well can be given either a nonverbal test or one in their native language.

The phrase, “predict equally accurately,” is key. The environmentalist paper expands on this argument. The paper was authored by a panel of psychologists appointed by the American Psychological Association, titled, “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns,” written to respond both to Herrnstein and Murray’s book, The Bell Curve, and to the bad ideas about the science of intelligence in the popular discourse.

Test bias. It is often argued that the lower mean scores of African Americans reflect a bias in the intelligence tests themselves. This argument is right in one sense of “bias” but wrong in another. To see the first of these, consider how the term is used in probability theory. When a coin comes up heads consistently for any reason it is said to be “biased,” regardless of any consequences that the outcome may or may not have. In this sense the Black/White score differential is ipso facto evidence of what may be called “outcome bias.” African Americans are subject to outcome bias not only with respect to tests but along many dimensions of American life. They have the short end of nearly every stick: average income, representation in high-level occupations, health and health care, death rate, confrontations with the legal system, and so on. With this situation in mind, some critics regard the test score differential as just another example of a pervasive outcome bias that characterizes our society as a whole (Jackson, 1975; Mercer, 1984). Although there is a sense in which they are right, this critique ignores the particular social purpose that tests are designed to serve.

From an educational point of view, the chief function of mental tests is as predictors (Section 2). Intelligence tests predict school performance fairly well, at least in American schools as they are now constituted. Similarly, achievement tests are fairly good predictors of performance in college and postgraduate settings. Considered in this light, the relevant question is whether the tests have a “predictive bias” against Blacks. Such a bias would exist if African American performance on the criterion variables (school achievement, college GPA, etc.) were systematically higher than the same subjects’ test scores would predict. This is not the case. The actual regression lines (which show the mean criterion performance for individuals who got various scores on the predictor) for Blacks do not lie above those for Whites; there is even a slight tendency in the other direction (Jensen, 1980; Reynolds & Brown, 1984). Considered as predictors of future performance, the tests do not seem to be biased against African Americans.

To make this simpler: suppose you have a scatter plot of school performance versus IQ. The points representing white students would tend to cluster in the upper right quadrant, and the points representing black students would tend to cluster in the lower left quadrant, with overlap in the middle. And, crucially, both sets of points would have approximately the same best-fit lines (regression lines). Maybe you can claim that not only IQ but the whole educational system is biased against blacks and in favor of whites. If so, then IQ tests still serve their designed purpose: predicting school performance.

Other secondary arguments exist. Arthur Jensen’s 1980 book, “Bias in Mental Testing,” was cited positively by the APA’s paper, not because they agree with Arthur Jensen generally about race and IQ (they don’t), but because Arthur Jensen won the debate concerning racial test bias. The book contains many arguments against the popular belief in the cultural bias of IQ tests. Here is another such argument, on page 553:

Rank Order of Item Difficulty. All the items in nine of the WISC subtests were ranked for percentage passing, separately for boys and girls within each race, at each age level. (The Digit Span and Coding Tests were omitted, as they do not yield dichotomous item scores.) A total of 161 items were rank ordered within each race × sex group at each of four ages. The mean cross-racial rank order correlation for p values (within grades) is .96. For comparison, the rank correlation between the p values of boys and girls of the same race is .98 for whites and .97 for blacks.

In other words, the rank order of difficulty of test questions on a standard IQ test is almost completely the same between white students and black students. Whatever questions whites found more difficult, blacks also found more difficult. This would be relevant for the anecdotal examples you may sometimes hear, i.e. “One IQ test question was about the vocabulary of sailing, but what do you expect black children to know about sailing?”

You may hear that language is a problem for blacks. But, some IQ tests have no language of any sort, such as Raven’s Progressive Matrices, and yet the same race gaps exist.

You may sometimes hear that IQ tests are designed by whites and therefore whites score higher. This is not a likely argument given all the previous counterpoints plus the fact that Koreans, Chinese and Japanese score five points higher than whites on average.

What is your favorite argument in favor of the belief that IQ tests are biased?  The most popular argument seems to be, “Races differ on IQ tests; therefore, the tests are biased.”

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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12 February 2019 20:33
 

This is what you meant by moving on? How many of these micro-tangents have you got? Are you expecting a different response?

Some quality we call intelligence statistically correlates with what we observe as race and… stop. Why stop? Science isn’t saying stop. Why is the examination over? What other than Happy Whiteness could be saying stop and do something?

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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12 February 2019 20:52
 
Nhoj Morley - 12 February 2019 08:33 PM

This is what you meant by moving on? How many of these micro-tangents have you got? Are you expecting a different response?

Some quality we call intelligence statistically correlates with what we observe as race and… stop. Why stop? Science isn’t saying stop. Why is the examination over? What other than Happy Whiteness could be saying stop and do something?

Some discussions dive deep into the speculations about race and intelligence, and in such discussions it is best if we are not distracted by disagreements over the basics. This thread is about the basics. Who is stopping what and how? I can’t make sense of what you mean.

 
Jb8989
 
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13 February 2019 14:15
 

If western society is culturally biased against minorities then the process of the IQ test would be biased regardless of whether the subject matter of it is. Further, the distinction between learning and testing seems like something we don’t know enough about.

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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13 February 2019 14:42
 
Jb8989 - 13 February 2019 02:15 PM

If western society is culturally biased against minorities then the process of the IQ test would be biased regardless of whether the subject matter of it is. Further, the distinction between learning and testing seems like something we don’t know enough about.

Our expectations say one thing, and the numbers say another thing. The racial IQ gaps are no more and no less than we expect from from the racial gaps in educational success. If the whole society is racist and is depressing every metric and every correlate of intelligence among blacks, then the racist society is not merely depressing black scores but also black intelligence generally. If so, then it still means the scores accurately reflect racial intelligence differences. The claim that the IQ tests are racially biased would be the wrong claim to make.

 
Abel Dean
 
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13 February 2019 15:47
 

I will expand on that point. The following link is to a table that gives some of the many correlates to IQ according to meta-analyses (from Goldstein et al. (ed), 2014, Handbook of Intelligence, page 406). The strongest correlations are at the top. I don’t know the race gaps for all of the variables with a correlation above 0.2, but, for the ones I know, the average white value is greater than the average black value. We are not dealing with racial differences in IQ scores alone. We are dealing with racial differences in intelligence, caused by systemic racism or not, caused by genetics or not. The intelligence researchers on all sides of the race issue moved on from this particular debate decades ago. The claim that IQ tests are racially biased is either wrong or not even wrong. That hasn’t stopped a vast army of academic authorities everywhere outside the field from asserting the contrary with perfect confidence.

https://i.postimg.cc/YCD4n3kq/Goldstein-et-al-ed-2014-Handbook-of-Intelligence-Tarmo-Str.png

 
burt
 
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burt
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13 February 2019 15:47
 

In the nation of Zexo there is a minority class of individuals distinguished most directly by the color of their hair, which is pink, as contrasted to the other citizens whose hair is purple. Individuals belonging to the pink class were, until recently, slaves and even after being freed they have been subject to extremes of segregation and suppression. As it happens, social success in Zexo is directly correlated by the ability to jump higher than others. Early in school careers, individuals are tested as to how high the can jump and, not amazingly, these tests correlate strongly with later success in Zexo society. One result that shows up is that the pinks mean jump height is substantially less than that of the purples. This is taken by the purples a an indication that the pinks are genetically not high jumpers. The a long-time practice in Zexo of binding the feet of all pink individuals, much as women’s feet were bound in China until very recently, is dismissed as irrelevant to this result.

 
Abel Dean
 
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13 February 2019 15:54
 
burt - 13 February 2019 03:47 PM

In the nation of Zexo there is a minority class of individuals distinguished most directly by the color of their hair, which is pink, as contrasted to the other citizens whose hair is purple. Individuals belonging to the pink class were, until recently, slaves and even after being freed they have been subject to extremes of segregation and suppression. As it happens, social success in Zexo is directly correlated by the ability to jump higher than others. Early in school careers, individuals are tested as to how high the can jump and, not amazingly, these tests correlate strongly with later success in Zexo society. One result that shows up is that the pinks mean jump height is substantially less than that of the purples. This is taken by the purples a an indication that the pinks are genetically not high jumpers. The a long-time practice in Zexo of binding the feet of all pink individuals, much as women’s feet were bound in China until very recently, is dismissed as irrelevant to this result.

I could not come up with an analogy, but you could, and that seems to be a pretty good one. Imagine if someone were to claim, “The purple-haired people can jump just as high as the pink-haired people, but all of the measuring tapes are biased.” See the problem?

 
burt
 
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burt
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13 February 2019 16:33
 
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 03:54 PM
burt - 13 February 2019 03:47 PM

In the nation of Zexo there is a minority class of individuals distinguished most directly by the color of their hair, which is pink, as contrasted to the other citizens whose hair is purple. Individuals belonging to the pink class were, until recently, slaves and even after being freed they have been subject to extremes of segregation and suppression. As it happens, social success in Zexo is directly correlated by the ability to jump higher than others. Early in school careers, individuals are tested as to how high the can jump and, not amazingly, these tests correlate strongly with later success in Zexo society. One result that shows up is that the pinks mean jump height is substantially less than that of the purples. This is taken by the purples a an indication that the pinks are genetically not high jumpers. The a long-time practice in Zexo of binding the feet of all pink individuals, much as women’s feet were bound in China until very recently, is dismissed as irrelevant to this result.

I could not come up with an analogy, but you could, and that seems to be a pretty good one. Imagine if someone were to claim, “The purple-haired people can jump just as high as the pink-haired people, but all of the measuring tapes are biased.” See the problem?

You are evading the point. It’s not that the measuring tapes are biased, it is that a cultural practice introduces an automatic deficiency. That is the point that you have never, in all that you’ve written, addressed. Nothing that you say can be taken seriously until you can deal with that very specific point. May you reincarnate as a black infant in a single parent family in the Watts area of LA.

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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13 February 2019 16:40
 
burt - 13 February 2019 04:33 PM
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 03:54 PM
burt - 13 February 2019 03:47 PM

In the nation of Zexo there is a minority class of individuals distinguished most directly by the color of their hair, which is pink, as contrasted to the other citizens whose hair is purple. Individuals belonging to the pink class were, until recently, slaves and even after being freed they have been subject to extremes of segregation and suppression. As it happens, social success in Zexo is directly correlated by the ability to jump higher than others. Early in school careers, individuals are tested as to how high the can jump and, not amazingly, these tests correlate strongly with later success in Zexo society. One result that shows up is that the pinks mean jump height is substantially less than that of the purples. This is taken by the purples a an indication that the pinks are genetically not high jumpers. The a long-time practice in Zexo of binding the feet of all pink individuals, much as women’s feet were bound in China until very recently, is dismissed as irrelevant to this result.

I could not come up with an analogy, but you could, and that seems to be a pretty good one. Imagine if someone were to claim, “The purple-haired people can jump just as high as the pink-haired people, but all of the measuring tapes are biased.” See the problem?

You are evading the point. It’s not that the measuring tapes are biased, it is that a cultural practice introduces an automatic deficiency. That is the point that you have never, in all that you’ve written, addressed. Nothing that you say can be taken seriously until you can deal with that very specific point. May you reincarnate as a black infant in a single parent family in the Watts area of LA.

The point I am addressing in this thread is whether or not IQ tests are racially biased. IQ tests are merely the measuring instrument of intelligence. In this thread, I am NOT addressing the topic of whether or not the whole racist society is creating an intelligence deficiency among blacks. That is very much a different claim. It is a distinction that the intelligence researchers on every side of the race debate recognize for good reason, and you treat those two claims as though they are interchangeable. You shouldn’t.

 
icehorse
 
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13 February 2019 18:18
 

My take is slightly different. A person can be taught to learn how to think better, and more specifically, a person can be taught to score well on IQ exams.

So, if a person lives where schools are better, that person might be better trained to do well on IQ exams. That’s sort of indirectly cultural.

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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13 February 2019 18:26
 
icehorse - 13 February 2019 06:18 PM

My take is slightly different. A person can be taught to learn how to think better, and more specifically, a person can be taught to score well on IQ exams.

So, if a person lives where schools are better, that person might be better trained to do well on IQ exams. That’s sort of indirectly cultural.

Yeah, the distinction is also relevant for that theory. If intelligence can be taught, and if some groups are taught intelligence better than other groups, then it is a group difference in intelligence, not merely a group difference in IQ scores. The IQ scores would accurately reflect intelligence differences among the groups.

 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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13 February 2019 19:04
 
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 02:42 PM
Jb8989 - 13 February 2019 02:15 PM

If western society is culturally biased against minorities then the process of the IQ test would be biased regardless of whether the subject matter of it is. Further, the distinction between learning and testing seems like something we don’t know enough about.

Our expectations say one thing, and the numbers say another thing. The racial IQ gaps are no more and no less than we expect from from the racial gaps in educational success. If the whole society is racist and is depressing every metric and every correlate of intelligence among blacks, then the racist society is not merely depressing black scores but also black intelligence generally. If so, then it still means the scores accurately reflect racial intelligence differences. The claim that the IQ tests are racially biased would be the wrong claim to make.

I disagree. It means that your sample size is tainted.

I’m not talking about expectations as much as I am circumstances. Although if you’re raised expecting to go no further than high school and perform no educationally greater than mediocre, than you might be able to imagine how the psychology of expectations and how it affects intelligence and educational performances comes into play quite signicantly.

More generally I’m saying that racial intellectual inequality implies a biological predisposition. A predisposition that environment either bolsters or depresses significantly enough to reconsider whether a level playing field was ever level enough to create reliable data.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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13 February 2019 19:06
 
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 04:40 PM
burt - 13 February 2019 04:33 PM
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 03:54 PM
burt - 13 February 2019 03:47 PM

In the nation of Zexo there is a minority class of individuals distinguished most directly by the color of their hair, which is pink, as contrasted to the other citizens whose hair is purple. Individuals belonging to the pink class were, until recently, slaves and even after being freed they have been subject to extremes of segregation and suppression. As it happens, social success in Zexo is directly correlated by the ability to jump higher than others. Early in school careers, individuals are tested as to how high the can jump and, not amazingly, these tests correlate strongly with later success in Zexo society. One result that shows up is that the pinks mean jump height is substantially less than that of the purples. This is taken by the purples a an indication that the pinks are genetically not high jumpers. The a long-time practice in Zexo of binding the feet of all pink individuals, much as women’s feet were bound in China until very recently, is dismissed as irrelevant to this result.

I could not come up with an analogy, but you could, and that seems to be a pretty good one. Imagine if someone were to claim, “The purple-haired people can jump just as high as the pink-haired people, but all of the measuring tapes are biased.” See the problem?

You are evading the point. It’s not that the measuring tapes are biased, it is that a cultural practice introduces an automatic deficiency. That is the point that you have never, in all that you’ve written, addressed. Nothing that you say can be taken seriously until you can deal with that very specific point. May you reincarnate as a black infant in a single parent family in the Watts area of LA.

The point I am addressing in this thread is whether or not IQ tests are racially biased. IQ tests are merely the measuring instrument of intelligence. In this thread, I am NOT addressing the topic of whether or not the whole racist society is creating an intelligence deficiency among blacks. That is very much a different claim. It is a distinction that the intelligence researchers on every side of the race debate recognize for good reason, and you treat those two claims as though they are interchangeable. You shouldn’t.

No, I don’t. And who cares what you want to do in this thread, I’m pointing out that there is a structural bias that is not necessarily related to the validity of the tests as instruments to assess potential future success. You are offering nothing but a tautology: intelligence tests are designed to measure cognitive capacities seen to correlate with success in social life and, as a result of this design, they do correlate with success in social life. Duh. Nobody is arguing against that, the question is whether the form of intelligence tests is automatically structurally biassed against disadvantaged individuals because from birth these individuals are not offered the opportunity to develop the cognitive skills measured by intelligence tests to the same extent that elite children are (in other threads I’ve provided data in support of that). In particular, there are “windows of opportunity” for learning: http://ageofmontessori.org/your-childs-developmental-windows-of-opportunity/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3164118/ But whether or not a window is opened, and to what degree, depends not on genes but on social conditions.

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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13 February 2019 19:32
 
Jb8989 - 13 February 2019 07:04 PM
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 02:42 PM
Jb8989 - 13 February 2019 02:15 PM

If western society is culturally biased against minorities then the process of the IQ test would be biased regardless of whether the subject matter of it is. Further, the distinction between learning and testing seems like something we don’t know enough about.

Our expectations say one thing, and the numbers say another thing. The racial IQ gaps are no more and no less than we expect from from the racial gaps in educational success. If the whole society is racist and is depressing every metric and every correlate of intelligence among blacks, then the racist society is not merely depressing black scores but also black intelligence generally. If so, then it still means the scores accurately reflect racial intelligence differences. The claim that the IQ tests are racially biased would be the wrong claim to make.

I disagree. It means that your sample size is tainted.

I’m not talking about expectations as much as I am circumstances. Although if you’re raised expecting to go no further than high school and perform no educationally greater than mediocre, than you might be able to imagine how the psychology of expectations and how it affects intelligence and educational performances comes into play quite signicantly.

More generally I’m saying that racial intellectual inequality implies a biological predisposition. A predisposition that environment either bolsters or depresses significantly enough to reconsider whether a level playing field was ever level enough to create reliable data.

The distinction is relevant for that theory, too. Even if it is purely a matter of racial differences in social expectations that are causing the racial differences in every variable related to intelligence, then that still amounts to racial intelligence differences, and the IQ tests accurately reflect those differences. The problem is not unrepresentative samples or anything like that. The differences in scores emerge from representative samples. Supposing that we were to select only samples in which the social expectations were equal between whites and blacks, and suppose this produced equal IQ results between whites and blacks, then, great, maybe you just solved a big social problem, but you didn’t solve the problem of biased IQ tests. Instead, that would be imposing a bias. Supposing we were practical and we want to discover what the causes of the differences could be, whether it is differences in social expectations, genetics, or anything else, then the raw data needs to be representative. We would gather data not only on IQ but also social expectations. Then we would do a multivariate analysis. After controlling for social expectations, are IQs between the two groups equal? If so, then that would not be the end of it, but it would be a good start. The wrong approach would be to toss out the IQ data believing it is racially biased. It isn’t.

[ Edited: 13 February 2019 19:34 by Abel Dean]
 
burt
 
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burt
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13 February 2019 19:51
 
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 07:32 PM
Jb8989 - 13 February 2019 07:04 PM
Abel Dean - 13 February 2019 02:42 PM
Jb8989 - 13 February 2019 02:15 PM

If western society is culturally biased against minorities then the process of the IQ test would be biased regardless of whether the subject matter of it is. Further, the distinction between learning and testing seems like something we don’t know enough about.

Our expectations say one thing, and the numbers say another thing. The racial IQ gaps are no more and no less than we expect from from the racial gaps in educational success. If the whole society is racist and is depressing every metric and every correlate of intelligence among blacks, then the racist society is not merely depressing black scores but also black intelligence generally. If so, then it still means the scores accurately reflect racial intelligence differences. The claim that the IQ tests are racially biased would be the wrong claim to make.

I disagree. It means that your sample size is tainted.

I’m not talking about expectations as much as I am circumstances. Although if you’re raised expecting to go no further than high school and perform no educationally greater than mediocre, than you might be able to imagine how the psychology of expectations and how it affects intelligence and educational performances comes into play quite signicantly.

More generally I’m saying that racial intellectual inequality implies a biological predisposition. A predisposition that environment either bolsters or depresses significantly enough to reconsider whether a level playing field was ever level enough to create reliable data.

The distinction is relevant for that theory, too. Even if it is purely a matter of racial differences in social expectations that are causing the racial differences in every variable related to intelligence, then that still amounts to racial intelligence differences, and the IQ tests accurately reflect those differences. The problem is not unrepresentative samples or anything like that. The differences in scores emerge from representative samples. Supposing that we were to select only samples in which the social expectations were equal between whites and blacks, and suppose this produced equal IQ results between whites and blacks, then, great, maybe you just solved a big social problem, but you didn’t solve the problem of biased IQ tests. Instead, that would be imposing a bias. Supposing we were practical and we want to discover what the causes of the differences could be, whether it is differences in social expectations, genetics, or anything else, then the raw data needs to be representative. We would gather data not only on IQ but also social expectations. Then we would do a multivariate analysis. After controlling for social expectations, are IQs between the two groups equal? If so, then that would not be the end of it, but it would be a good start. The wrong approach would be to toss out the IQ data believing it is racially biased. It isn’t.

You are purposely missing the point so your comments are not relevant to the discussion. BTW, have you ever actually done a multivariate analysis? Computed statistical parameters? Worked out the confidence levels for an experimental result? You throw the words around, but I get the impression it’s all just words to you.

 
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