Sunday, July 19, 2009

East Asian IQ: Cavalli-Sforza hypothesized in The Great Human Diasporas that East Asians have high IQs scores because: 1) parents push their children more in academics; and 2) the children have to learn Chinese characters which boosts performance on IQ tests.

We can test the idea by comparing the IQs of East Asians in their own countries with children educated in an English-speaking country. We would expect Asian parents to encourage their kids in both kinds of countries, but we wouldn't expect Asian children to be mastering Chinese characters in English-speaking schools in Western countries.

According to the averages of several studies summarized by Richard Lynn in IQ and Global Inequality, people in China and Japan average IQs of 105; the mean is 106 in South Korea. The first study I found on Asian IQ was an Australian study (Justine Dandy and Ted Nettlebeck. Educational Psychology, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2002. The Relationship Between IQ, Homework,Aspirations and Academic Achievement for Chinese, Vietnamese and Anglo-Celtic Australian School Children.) Chinese Australians had a mean IQ between 108 and 109.

Now one would expect immigrants to have IQs higher than the average in their mother countries, but we would also expect to see regression toward the mean among their children. I don't see evidence here that failing to learn Chinese characters is hurting anyone.


  1. Pronde8:54 PM

    The Korean language has an alphabet, and the alphabet is pretty much exclusively used today, and has been for a few decades now.

    There is some Chinese character education in some middle and high schools, but it's not a requirement throughout the country, and most students are by no means proficient in reading or writing them.

    China and Japan of course use Chinese characters, and knowledge of them is necessary not only for education but for just daily life and literacy.

    The Korean alphabet can be learned in one sitting. Unless one plans on being a serious scholar in Korea, or about Korea related disciplines where knowledge of Chinese characters is necessary to study historical Korean texts/documents, one doesn't need to know Chinese characters to be fluent and literate in Korean.

    However, just like studying Latin can help one's understanding and knowledge of English vocabulary, studying Chinese characters can help one with Korean vocabulary as many Korean words are derived from Chinese.

  2. Zylonet8:49 AM

    Why wouldn't we expect Chinese immigrants to have a higher IQ than found among the native population? It seems plausible to me that the best and brightest would seek refuge from an overpopulated homeland. Don't you think a problem with comparing immigrants to native Chinese is one of selection bias?

  3. @zylonet:
    it might or might not be an issue. if there are barriers to entry (such as a restricted # of H1B visas) and immigrants must compete to enter, then we might expect higher IQ. if the immigrants are war refugees (as many vietnamese are) or economic refugees that face no entry barriers (mexicans), then maybe u wouldn't expect higher IQs.

    u would need to tease out the demographics of the different chinese diasporas to make any guess about whether the avg IQ of chinese immigrants might be higher or lower. before the 90s, many chinese immigrants really came from taiwan and hong kong. u would need to know if their IQ averaged the same as mainlanders and what barriers to entry they faced.

  4. Anonymous10:15 AM

    "Chinese Australians had a mean IQ between 108 and 109."

    Looks like their IQ's went up 3-4 points.

    Kinda makes sense when you think about it. All your senses are "on" when you are around "strangers" as you scope out the world more and are much more attentive. One gets to view the world subjectively like a Marco Polo or de Tocqueville when in another country full of different people. Thoughts might tend to be deeper, and more thought is probably happening before interaction. This introspectiveness might lead to a sharpening of the mind somewhat.

    Then again maybe the sterotyping of Asians as uber smart in Western nations makes the kids feel like they have to live up to the expectation of being a brainiac.
    I dont think its the food or climate......

  5. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Interestingly enough Chinese have a skewed IQ in favor of spatial ability which might be the result of positive selection for understanding characters. Probable but Native Americans, a different branch of Mongoloids, also favor spatial intelligence over verbal.

  6. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Environmental hypotheses falling to pieces.

  7. Anonymous5:35 PM

    While he steered carefully away from any discussion of I.Q., Malcolm Gladwell said that the great diligence which rice paddy farming requires may be a reason why people of Chinese descent have a good work ethnic and devotion to learning.

    One problem with his theory is the fact that much of China is not suitable for rice cultivation. Wheat was and is the main crop in that part of the country, and wheat farming is far less demanding than rice farming.


  8. I've long thought that absent the need to learn the Chinese character set more brain cells are available for other tasks. So I would expect higher performance from Chinese born in America than from Chinese born and raised in China.

  9. My opinion is strange. I think Asians don't have higher intelligence. I think the IQ test is incorrectly designed because it places more emphasis than it should on visuo-spatial abilities rather than verbal abilities. I would not be surprised if the reason for this is because of a level of anti-semitism prevalent during the time when early models for the IQ test were designed.

  10. Anonymous8:59 PM

    FeministX: There are verbally loaded IQ tests (Stanford-Binet) as well as visual ones (like Raven's Progressive Matrices). This subject is a lot more developed than you might think.

    Re: LaGriffe, note Asian verbal SAT scores match those of whites at family income above $70k or so. Below that income it's probably an immigrant effect.

  11. Anonymous2:27 AM

    I am familiar with the passage from the great human disporas, and I must admit, I find it utterly baffling.

    C-Sf fails to take his own idea seriously enough, to take it to its logical conclusion:

    more intelligent races have developed more complex languages, including writing, less intelligent races have simpler languages, and often lack writing.

    the broader issue is also quite straightforward, but he avoids it altogether via a series of illogical and circuitous evasions:

    it is perfectly reasonable to expect defined a correlation between the level of intelligence of a given human population and the level of civilization that it has attained.

    this principle is both commonsensical and conforms to the best scientific thinking.

    and yet it has become illegal to say it out loud, a sort of "hate fact."

    I'm afraid that all discussions of human nature, human biodiversity, genetics, and evolution are utterly futile in the current atmosphere of censorship.

    only when the censorship is lifted can we begin to discuss these issues in serious and scientific way.

  12. Anonymous8:15 AM

    more intelligent races have developed more complex languages, including writing, less intelligent races have simpler languages, and often lack writing.

    Ignoring the writing part, Chinese grammar is very simple compared to even English, as anyone who's studied both Chinese and a European language can attest. The grammar of most African languages, such as the Bantu languages which cover most of the continent, tend to be extremely complicated, as are the grammars of most Native American languages.

    Basically, grammatical complexity is not a good proxy for the intelligence of those who use it.

    (And, in case you're thinking you can use grammatical complexity as an inverse of intelligence, you run into the problem that Japanese and Korean both have rather complicated grammars)

    Back to writing--Another thing to remember is that historically, phonetic alphabets were developed more recently than ideographic scripts like Chinese--think Hieroglyphic--so it could be said that you have to be particularly clever to come up with an alphabet. Of course, alphabets have the advantage that once you have one, with a few minor adjustments you can apply it to any language, such as pinyin with Chinese.

    I'm not saying there aren't genetic differences between populations, but rather that you need to check the facts on a subject before making stuff up to support your views.


  13. Anonymous8:30 AM

    speaking of language use, there is a difference between posing questions and making things up.

    clearly, I was doing the former.

    as it happens, I made no mention at all of complex grammar, but instead of linguistic complexity generally, i.e. to the kinds of ideas that a language is used to express.

    what is the working vocabularyof the average Swahili speaker?

    (are not the vocabularies of most oral languages miniscule compared to those of written language is like English?)

    what are some of the complicated (scientific, philosophical, etc.) ideas which people discuss in Swahili?

    or is it just complicated to say:

    "let's have lunch"

    in Swahili because of the highly formalized relationship between speaker and addressee as in many languages?

    of course language should not be used as a proxy for something else.

    it is the total civilizational development of a given population that matters, and language is one part of that.

    what I find interesting vis-à-vis denials of human biodiversity is that it is no longer axiomatic that there is a natural correspondence between the natural intelligence of a different human population and the level of civilization is as it has achieved.

    the official and growing censorship of discussions of human races has lead to brain death.

  14. Anonymous4:38 PM

    "Re: LaGriffe, note Asian verbal SAT scores match those of whites at family income above $70k or so. Below that income it's probably an immigrant effect."

    Why do we not see a similar pattern with Hispanics, then? Recent immigrants but their math and verbal scores are similar. Do they have superior English skills in relation to Orientals?

    I bet alot of "Asian"-Americans with incomes above 70k are actually Indians/South Asian who do not have a verbal hanicap.

  15. Anonymous1:10 PM

    Being a 19 year old Chinese in Canada, I can say that as far as my Chinese immigrants friends circle goes, every - single - one of them have two university graduates as parents with at the very least bachelor's degrees, many with master's and PhD's are not rare either. It's just a common thing among immigrants. In any population, people with this much education tend to be the brighter ones, and their offspring can't be that dim either. Of course, comparing immigrant Orientals to the general white population is not valid.

  16. Anonymous1:11 PM

    RE: "I bet alot of "Asian"-Americans with incomes above 70k are actually Indians/South Asian who do not have a verbal hanicap."

    Interesting comment about language skills. The correct spelling would be handicap.


The Inductivist admits that culture matters

A pure naturist would claim that the culture of East Asians would not change after moving to America. Let's test this with one question ...