Thursday, December 25, 2008

Inductivist reaffirms utility of GSS Wordsum test

In a series of posts involving hunting and various personal attributes, the question of how precise a proxy for IQ the simple ten question Wordsum vocabulary test is was raised. When evaluating Wordsum conversions against other good-faith estimation attempts by US geographical region, the answer seems to be "quite precise".

Comparing a paper by Helmuth Nyborg (via Bruce G. Charlton) with a post earlier this year by Inductivist reaffirms that impressive level of precision. Nyborg finds the same surprising thing Inductivist found--Episcopalians have slightly higher average IQs than Jews do*. Of the eight denominations the two comprised estimates for, the correlation between aggregate totals is an impressive .87 (p=.005). Both estimates are for whites only.

Relatedly, Razib of GNXP has done an enormous amount of work on the interplay of religion and intelligence.

* Both survey sources have atheist and agnostic categories, so these Episcopalians and Jews are at least theistic. The Pew US Religious Landscape Survey project found that 1 in 5 Jews are not very certain of the existence of God or do not believe in God at all, while only 1 in 25 Mainline Protestants (including Episcopalians) felt this way.


ziel said...

One sticky point with wordsum is that the scores peak at middle age. So while I understand there is a sufficient correlation with actual IQ to generally use it as a proxy, wordsum could be deceptive if the dependent variable is also correlated with age. For example, there is a higher average age of non-hunters in the GSS than hunters - not sure if the difference is enough to matter (nor how to control for it, to be honest).

Audacious Epigone said...


Well, income and years of education are both lower for hunters, and if hunters are younger, they should have an advantage in the latter category. But the GSS allows for age filters, so I suppose I could look at 18-40 or some range like that. I might really be accused of beating the thing to death at that point, so I'll just run it and post it here soon.

ziel said...

I might really be accused of beating the thing to death at that point

I agree - I took a quick look and it looks like hunters have lower scores at every age.

al fin said...

As you say, you may be beating the thing to death, or you may simply be missing the point.

Sigma was attempting to use statistics about the over-broad category of "hunters" to make a point about a specific individual. Anyone with the least understanding of statistics understands that one cannot make claims about individuals based upon group statistics -- particularly overbroad groups such as "hunters".

Sigma is now off on a wild tangent over the pregnancy of an Alaska governor. That type of obsession could either win a Nobel Prize, or a trip to the rest farm, depending on the society one lives in. In the US, it is simply one way of attracting readers and commenters.

IQ is important, but by itself is not that important. Executive Function is more important in terms of life success. Personal competence has more to do with EF than with IQ.

When it comes to public officials (or any vocation), it is personal competence relating to the job which is significant. Beyond a minimal IQ threshold, of course.

Audacious Epigone said...

That population averages provide minimal insight about isolated, random individuals is a rudimentary concept, yet it needs to be repeatedly emphasized. I, of course, don't disagree with you there at all.

In HS' defense, he including hunting along with a litany of other suggestive factoids to make a circumstantial argument that Palin probably doesn't have an IQ above 115. He might be wrong. And it might not have much bearing on how beneficial a national executive she'd be. But I found it a convenient reason to look at the GSS for something I was unsure of, and figured others might similary be interested in.

Also, are you aware of any large or longitudinal studies that have tracked participants by EF measures?

Anonymous said...

Honest to God, could Palin be any worse than Biden? Or Obama?

In contrast with Obama, I'll bet Palin could at least balance a checkbook. Obama's checkbook is off by $9.3 trillion. In his personal life Obama appears to have been borrowing for years against the rising value of his home in order to finance his lifestyle.

FTR, I did not vote for McCain/Palin (nor for Obama/Biden). It was the top-half of that ticket that turned me off.