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innate vs. learned intelligence - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2008-08-15 09:52
innate vs. learned intelligence
Public
At bab5 last week I had a long discussion with Rebecca and Greg about the plasticity of the human mind and the false essentialization of brain structure (as if it can't change). While this has many implications for various aspects of identity that come up a lot in my research (and we did discuss gender at length, particularly some alternative meanings behind the so-called differences in brain structure between men and women that tend to be over-essentialized in the news and in badly-researched books like The Female Brain, torn apart in the news [also here and here] and blogs a while ago now), we also talked around the essentialization of intelligence -- the assumption that if you do smart things, that means you're (naturally) smart, not that you've worked hard to learn how to do smart things.

I mentioned research on the Western tendency toward the fundamental attribution error, which likely affects this bias, and research on stereotype threat and other factors that affect intellectual performance. I also mentioned research on the performance effects of believing in innate vs. learned intelligence (longer article here) (which unfortunately lacks a nice buzzword ... c'mon, social science, don't fail me now!). In short, one study found that kids told that they did well on a task because they were smart were less likely to try a harder task subsequently and scored lower on the next test they did take, while kids told that they did well because they worked hard were more likely to try a harder task subsequently and do well on it. I've read a couple of other studies along these lines with similar results.

Fortuitously, another friend independently discovered several links related to this topic (embedded above) in the last week and sent them to me, so I figured it was time to actually try to put these ideas and links together into a post.
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jofish22
jofish22
2008-08-15 17:00 (UTC)
(no subject)
i've been moderately enjoying reading the situationist blog (http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/) on this kind of topic for the last few months. it's a bit heavy, and they do have one kind of hammer and find a lot of nails in the world to hit with it, but it's good for a flip through and occasionally very good.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2008-08-16 22:00 (UTC)
(no subject)
Thanks! There is something to be said for hammering an issue into the ground from every angle possible ...

Edited at 2008-08-16 10:02 pm (UTC)
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jbm
xaosenkosmos
2008-08-15 21:41 (UTC)
(no subject)
I'm goin' all slashdot and not reading your links here, but...

Spearman's g needed to be mentioned explicitly.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2008-08-16 21:54 (UTC)
(no subject)
Why? I know about g, but don't see how it's necessarily related to the finding that people perform better if they believe intelligence is learned vs. innate.

Generally, that people who are smart in one area tend to be smart in other areas is established enough, as is the correlation between kids' intelligence and their parents'; the question of why is much less well-understood. It seems like many just assume that it's genetic without even thinking how it could be otherwise (edit: see Jofish's link to The Situationist above as well as my link to the fundamental attribution error). And what about the Flynn Effect (pop-science summary and musings on implications here) and the periodic renormalization of intelligence measures to counter this consistent upward trend in IQ scores?

Edited at 2008-08-16 10:04 pm (UTC)
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Jeff
lbchewie
2008-08-15 22:53 (UTC)
(no subject)
I became very interested in these topics my last year at Berkeley, and took several developmental and social psychology classes to learn more about the answers.

I'm glad somebody discusses them casually. It's been a long time since I've had an intelligent, well-read person with whom to share their views on such issues.

Personally, I've always believed that there is some general intelligence factor, much like Spearman's g, but that the expression of intelligence is difficult to capture on standardised tests.

However, I've been out of the loop of social scientists for quite some time.
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rubrick
rubrick
2008-08-17 04:04 (UTC)
(no subject)
Western tendency toward the fundamental attribution error

I strongly suspect that much of belief that this tendency is "Western" is itself a product of a different set of fallacies. A recent series of posts in Language Log (starting here), taking off from a typically baseless and inaccurate David Brooks column in the New York Times, explores the issue in some depth.
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