Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Intelligence, Self-Control, and Success

IQ below 100 and you have poor impulse control? Good luck achieving material success in modern society. I agree with Dr, Boutwell that our "cognitive elites" should become more aware that their achievements are merely the consequence of having won a genetic lottery.

Quillette, Brian Boutwell
"Though often maligned by commentators, general intelligence (or IQ) is a trait that psychologists have studied for the better part of a century. Our understanding of it rocketed forward when Charles Spearman proposed his general theory of intelligence, which was remarkably simple. Linda Gottfredson, in fact, best summed it up when she noted:
Intelligence is a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience. It is not merely book-learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings, ‘catching on’, ‘making sense’ of things, or ‘figuring out’ what to do.
Yes, intelligence is a controversial topic. But it has also been closely scrutinized for decades now, and the results are quite impressive. Stuart Ritchie detailed many of them in a brisk, very accessible book recently. As he noted, intelligence is not some vague social construct that we (academics) conjured up. Intelligence is a trait that emerges very early in life and is linked directly to brain functioning. We measure it very well, and it predicts important life outcomes. In particular, as intelligence increases, occupational success goes up, income earned goes up, educational attainment goes up, odds of getting arrested go down, violent behavior goes down, and life expectancy increases.
We can move now to our second trait; self-control. Behavioral researchers actually use different names sometimes when studying this trait — executive functioning or gratification delay — but for the most part these denote an ability to manage impulses and to delay getting what you want right now in favor of getting a better version of it down the road. Saving for retirement, saving money period, going to college, showing up consistently to your job, all of these are indicative of having low levels of impulsivity (high self-control).
Like intelligence, we have a wealth of good research regarding self-control. People with high impulsivity are more likely to break the law, get arrested, use drugs, have poor health, and be obese. A rather incredible study, published by the psychologist Terrie Moffitt and her team, examined the effects of self-control across decades of life. Individuals with higher self-control were simply better off in the long run. They made more money and were generally healthier and more productive citizenry as adults. But what makes all of this so relevant to the current discussion is that self-control and intelligence are highly correlated. The two traits — both linked to brain functioning — often come packaged together."

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