Guy White recently asked why East Asians, though their average IQ is higher than European Caucasians (105 IQ to 100 IQ), are not as inventive, creative, or as historically accomplished as European Caucasians. The evidence is staggering considering Charles Murray’s book, Human Accomplishment. Responders have presented two answers: (1) East Asians exhibit as a group a smaller variance in IQ than Caucasians; (2) they exhibit a lower ceiling in IQ—i.e., they might peak at, say, a 145 IQ, while Caucasians might peak at, say, a 165 IQ.
I don’t know of any data corroborating the second statement; it seems highly unlikely, so I won’t discuss it further. There is, however, good data contradicting the first statement. Steve Hsu at InfoProc shows that East Asian IQ variance is virtually the same as the Caucasian IQ variance. Also, I noticed that Asians exhibit a slightly greater variance than Caucasians for the LSAT.
So is there a viable answer to White’s question? I think so, and it involves the difference in cognitive profiles between East Asians and Caucasians. Simply put, the answer to White’s question involves verbal IQ and its relation to creativity, inventiveness, or accomplishment.
Notice that many of the disciplines are in the humanities, which requires great verbal ability. Yet, it is also the case that great verbal ability is important for accomplishment in science and mathematics. Grady Towers explains that there is an optimum verbal IQ that contributes to creative accomplishment:
. . .Doctor Anne Roe, whose study in the 1950’s of 64 of America’s most eminent scientists and scholars remains perhaps the most important study of creativity ever made. Being the wife of Doctor Gaylord Simpson, the widely respected paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, gave her access to the kind of proven creative performer that few researchers have ever had. At least one of her sample had won the Nobel prize, and, without doubt, all of them were world-class achievers in their various fields.
Doctor Roe made a very detailed study of each of these men from a wide variety of scientific and scholarly fields. Her sample included physicists, chemists, biochemists, geneticists, psychologists, anthropologists and others. She obtained detailed personal histories, examined family backgrounds, educational records, marriages and so on. She also examined their emotional lives through Rorschach tests and other methods. Included in her mental examination were three IQ tests: a verbal, a spatial, and a mathematical test. As the intelligence of these men went through the ceilings of ordinary IQ tests, Doctor Roe had the Educational Testing Service, the developers of the SAT, construct especially difficult tests for her subjects. The IQ equivalent earned by her subjects on the verbal test—the test which is probably the closest equivalent to a conventional IQ test—was a median of 166, a score that is about the same as that earned by the average member of the Prometheus Society.
Creativity research has produced some of the most defective studies in psychometric literature. Tests were constructed that purported to measure this elusive quality, but turned out to have no correlation with real-world achievement in any field. Subjects were often school children, sometimes elementary-school children, as though the “creativity” of a ten-year-old could be compared to that of a Newton or a Goethe. Claims about the relationship between IQ and creativity were often based on mixtures of tests that measured different functions, had inadequate ceilings, and were of uneven reliability, rather than being based on the results from one good test. But the biggest flaw in these research designs was that the creativity being studied often wasn’t creativity at all, in any meaningful sense. Finding a hundred uses for a brick is in no way comparable to discovering a new scientific principle, or inventing a new experiment. Doctor Roe’s research avoided all of those pitfalls. There is absolutely no question about her subjects’ intelligence, or their creativity. And although their verbal IQs ranged from 121 to 177, only six of her 64 subjects scored below 148. There is simply no question that creativity at the very highest levels, in the most intellectually demanding fields, is heavily dependent on the same kinds of abilities as those sampled by verbal IQ tests. . . .
I found a chart with the range of IQ scores of Roe’s eminent scientists:
|Original IQ Scores:||Flynn Effect Corrected Scores:|
Roe’s eminent scientists are categorized in three groups: biologists, physical scientists, and social scientists. P. E. Vernon says the following about them:
. . .Theoretical physicists were much higher than experimental ones in verbal ability, with biologists and social scientists intermediate. All physicists were high on spatial ability, biologists and anthropologists rather low. . . .
The physical scientists were exempted from the math test. Thus, the average math IQ would be even higher if they were included. Obviously, one must be extremely good at mathematics to be accomplished in science. However, notice that spatial ability isn’t as important for eminence as verbal ability. the verbal IQ is much higher than the spatial IQ. I think this is why Ashkenazic Jews are over-represented in theoretical physics and mathematics, even though these disciplines require very good spatial ability; the Ashkenazic cognitive profile tilts towards verbal ability.
I, therefore, propose the following hypothesis. Creative accomplishment and eminence in the humanities and sciences requires good spatial ability (though less so for the humanities), but it also requires even better verbal ability. The East Asian cognitive profile tilts toward spatial ability, and they are known to be generally weak in verbal ability. However, the European Caucasian cognitive profile is evenly balanced between verbal and spatial ability—the best of both—so they are likelier to have more in their population reaching the optimal verbal IQ required for eminence.