Sunday, February 06, 2011

Classical music and double-digit IQs

Steve Sailer recently reiterated an observation made by Linda Gottfredson that perhaps the surest way to assess a person's IQ from casual conversation without risking a false positive is by asking the person whether or not he likes classical music. If the answer is "yes", his IQ is in the triple-digits. If he doesn't enjoy it, though, his answer is less suggestive.

The brief post's comment thread is pretty heated but largely anecdotal, so let's turn to the GSS for a little quantitative cooling. As fun as the module is (see the Inductivist's famous post on it), the GSS has only directly inquired about musical preferences once, in 1993. The mean wordsum score for that year among whites was 6.24, so it's reasonable to presume those answering 7-10 of the vocab test questions correctly have triple digit IQs, while those answering 5 or fewer correctly are in double-digit territory.

The median score is consistently 6, however, so placing this middling group firmly in either the XX or XXX camp is unsatisfying. Consequently, only the 0-5 and 7-10 cohorts should be considered. Further, foreign-born respondents are excluded to avoid language fluency issues.

The percentage of XXers who say they like classical music "very much" (the strongest affirmative option) is 8.2%, compared to 23.6% of XXXers. Looks like when the person in question is a XXer, you'll get a false positive about one in twelve times.

Among XXXers, 4.2% report "disliking it very much" (the strongest negative option), and only another 9.5% say they merely "dislike" it, the rest either having mixed feelings towards or appreciating it, bringing the total among XXXers who have no use for classical music to 13.7%. By comparison, 41.2% of XXers feel this way. Gottfredson's tactic appears to be one that doesn't return too many false negatives, either.


Jon Claerbout said...

Sorry, but I don't know the definition of the "XX camp" or the "XXX camp".

Jon Claerbout said...

Oops! I just guessed XX is double digit IQ while XXX is triple digit.

Audacious Epigone said...


Jokah Macpherson said...

As I alluded to in Steve Sailer's comment thread, liking classical music will give you an income bump of $17,000 per year per the GSS (if you recode to just the 1-2 and 4-5 groups). Having a three digit IQ is nice and all but a little extra dough never hurt either.

I shall have to try out that "test," although in my personal experience it would yield a lot of false negatives among my circle of friends - I am the oddball classical music lover.

Anonymous said...

Hey AE, this is probably old news to you and you probably don't want to mix your interests too much, but this Jan 17th Mark Rosewater bit really stuck out for me (

"We return to a world we've been to before, and we learn that something we didn't pay attention to last time we were here has been festering into what looks like a major problem for Mirrodin, even if the Mirrans haven't clued into the threat yet."

"Phyrexia is just continuing on the plan that it has had in progress since last we were in Mirrodin. They're slowly infecting the plane. From a Phyrexian point of view, they are a certain percentage from being done. Each new possession takes them one step closer to their goal. The end state to them is already a foregone conclusion."

"The Mirrans, on the other hand, have just realized that they are under attack. They had no idea that an invasion had begun many, many years ago."

Pretty heavy stuff. Is this an echo of of cultural zeitgeist?

Anonymous said...

To clarify my previous comment, I can't help but wonder if this is a textbook case of art imitating life.

Audacious Epigone said...


Interesting, thanks for that. I don't keep up with the narrative, but it seems within the realm of possibility. I'm not sure where we go to get beyond mere speculation, though.