Monday, June 22, 2009

East Asian IQ variation: Over at iSteve, there is a discussion about why cultures stagnate, with quite a bit of attention devoted to Chinese stasis at the time when Europe was flowering.

One standard HBD explanation for higher Chinese IQ combined with lower cultural accomplishment is less IQ diversity. I haven't made a systematic study of it, but the IQ studies I have read do not indicate a smaller East Asian standard deviation.

Using GSS data, I combined Chinese and Japanese Americans (only those born in this country) and got a standard deviation (SD) of 2.04 across 50 respondents. For whites born in the country, the SD is 2.08--not different, basically. SD tends to increase along with higher means, so if we take that into account by using the coefficient of variation (CV), we get .30 for Asians and .33 for whites. No difference, or a trivial difference at best.

It would be better to have a sample from China, and even better to have samples from the period when Europe was surging ahead, but I take the GSS data as evidence that other kinds of theories are necessary to explain why China has not been on top. IQ, as important as it is, is far from everything.


  1. According to Hans Eysenck, genius requires both very high IQ and creativity - and IQ and creativity do not usually correlate.

    Creativity seem to be related to moderately high trait Psychoticism (which includes moderately low Big Five Agreeableness and Conscientiousness and also a more broadly associative style of thinking).

    It seems very likely that East Asians are considerably higher in the pro-social personality traits such as Agreebleness and Conscientiousness (probably due to selection for these traits over many centuries in stable and centralized agricultural societies) - and so they are lower in Psychioticsm hence lower in creativity.

  2. Steve Hsu says, based on PISA data, that the East Asian SD is the same or larger than that of whites:

  3. East Asian verbal IQ is actually lower than that of whites, if I remember correctly, but their visual-spatial IQ is so much higher that when you add it all together they still score higher than whites.

  4. maybe because they have lower testosterone levels?

  5. Anonymous8:07 PM

    East Asians do not have lower verbal IQ, especially when you adjust IQ tests for age and the fact that East Asians have longer life cycles.

    The real reason why China "stagnated" was for mainly geopolitical reasons, they had to spend too many resources fighting tons of enemies at once.

    The reason why East Asia is poorer- for now- is because of a lack of land and natural resources. It is the most resource poor region in the world, even in terms of usability for agriculture.

  6. Anonymous8:11 PM

    And no, East Asians are not lacking in individualism or creativity either. So far to date there is no one culture or religion that dominates East Asian though. Judeo-Christianity and Islam find problems penetrating into East Asia because that sort of monolithic and rigid worldview is contrary to the civilizations there as a whole.

    One thing to note is that Japan produces more patents as a whole, per capita, and per dollar of R&D than America does. And these are the ones in areas that are more commercially viable. They are also cited more often by other inventors, which is a good measure of how "innovative" the patent is.

    This is not even counting the fact that at least 15-20% of America's researchers are Indians or Chinese.

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