A critic has made an important point about my recent brief comment on motivation and IQ: That “acting white” is scorned among many American blacks and that presumably means that they are poorly motivated to do well on tests. And their poor motivation could account for their low average IQ scores. There is undoubtedly some truth in that but not enough to account for the evidence.

Tests are taken in many situations and motivation varies but many situations are ones where motivations are high and blacks do poorly there too. Blacks ALWAYS do poorly, regardless of the situation. Leftist psychologists have for decades now racked their brains trying to find some way to get black average IQ up to white levels and nothing works.

In one experiment, testees were given extra time after the allowed time. The amount of extra time taken was greatest among blacks — suggesting that their motivation was high. They still did poorly of course.

Further, blacks in Africa and the Caribbean are in a very different situation from American blacks and are often very motivated to do well in any way that might help release them from their grinding poverty. Motivation is not their problem — and those who manage to get to America or Britain do notably better educationally and otherwise than do blacks born in Britain or America. And in Africa particularly, the average black IQ score is abysmal, much lower even than the scores of American blacks — presumably because there is around 20% white ancestry among American blacks overall. It is genes, not motivation that matters.

Finally, my critic was apparently unaware that his criticisms are not at all new. They are well-known and well-accounted for among psychometricians. It is in fact an old chestnut that blacks do poorly on IQ tests because of lack of motivation. Such claims have got progressively more weird, however. The latest version of the claim is what Leftist psychologists call “Stereotype threat”. The claim is that blacks try less because they fear that their poor results will reflect badly on blacks generally. One would have thought that such fears would cause them to try HARDER but all that is brushed aside. A summary of that research points to large holes in it and concludes “Lack of evidence and grave methodological defects haven’t prevented the stereotype threat industry from taking off. Distortions are now pervasive.”

NOTE: I cover the above topics more comprehensively here.

Update

I append below Chris Brand’s comment on the original study that led to the above post. Chris Brand is a longtime student of IQ and related phenomena

In a mystificatory paper, including no references to Spearman, Burt or Jensen and a totally obscure version of g, published in a journal (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science,*) with no reputation for psychological sophistication and with ‘acknowledgment’ of statistical help to a U. Texas psychologist (Elliot Tucker-Drob), ‘researchers’ Angela Duckworth (U. Pennsylvania) et al. persuaded the ever-environmentally-gullible BBC to claim that IQ was substantially affected by ‘motivation.’

In fact, the authors’ minimally mentioned data did not specify which tests or age-groups were involved; their recordings of ‘test enthusiasm’ would merely have reflected the fact that higher-IQ subjects coped better with testing; their Table 1 clearly showed IQ four times as important as ‘non-intellective traits’ in predicting academic performance; and – despite the BBC’s adulation – the authors themselves concluded:

“It is important not to overstate our conclusions. For all measured outcomes in Study 2, the predictive validity of intelligence remained statistically significant when controlling for the nonintellective traits underlying test motivation. Moreover, the predictive validity of intelligence was significantly stronger than was the predictive validity of test motivation for academic achievement. In addition, both Studies 1 and 2 indicate that test motivation is higher and less variable among participants who are above-average in measured IQ. These findings imply that earning a high IQ score requires high intelligence in addition to high motivation”.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don’t forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

Be Sociable, Share!