Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Race and creativity

If I understand Dr. Charlton correctly from the last post (he can correct me if I'm wrong), complex agricultural societies selected against creativity, so levels should be depressed among, for example, the Chinese compared to, say, American Indians.

Allow me a weak attempt at testing this. GSS asked people how much do they agree that they have an active imagination. Here are the means by race:

Mean creativity scores (sample size = 1,500)

Whites 3.96
Blacks 3.99
NE Asians 4.10
American Indians 4.09
Jewish 4.23
All Americans 3.96

While American Indians have a mean that is a bit above average, so do Northeast Asians (Japanese and Chinese) which is not expected. Whites and blacks are also basically the same which would not be predicted. Jews, I think, should also have low scores, but theirs is the highest.

It's dangerous business comparing racial/ethnic groups on self-reported traits, so take these numbers for what they are worth (perhaps nothing).

24 comments:

sykes.1 said...

Some p and t values would be nice. Are these differences significant? Does bigger number mean more creative?

Ron Guhname said...

Bigger number means more creative. None of the differences is significant at the 95% confidence level. Unfortunately, all group sizes except whites are small.

Annie said...

I find your suggestion that Jews should be low on creativity odd. Jews have been leaders in science, the arts, and academic pursuits. In all these fields, creativity is key. This is especially so in science, where Jews excel.

Anonymous said...

I find your suggestion that Jews should be low on creativity odd.

The theoretical basis referred to is that living in an agricultural society for a long time causes lowered creative thinking and Middle Eastern societies have been under these conditions for the longest. Thus the theory predicts that the Jews should have the most decreased creativity (and I think Ron is fully aware of and is kind of subtly pointing out the contradiction with the observed evidence here).

Plus, Charlton also expresses the notion a correlated variable (to the above lowering of creativity and time under agriculture) as a moves towards a particular kind of religion of which the Jews are arguably the pioneers (Peter Frost's blog describes it here - http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2011/01/religiosity-and-origins-of-civilization.html - as "doctrinal, frequent, low religious arousal").

bgc said...

Richard Lynn used to publish a lot of research comparing national and racial personality using self-rating scales - but told me that he stopped doing this because the data made no sense, or contradicted other more reliable sources of information.

The trouble is that the self-rating is itself affected by personality. People with a really active imagination may not regard it as imagination: they may regard it as reality: for example the experience of communications with spirits are simply accepted as real in some cultures (hunter gatherers, for example) and regarded as psychotic (may indeed only occur in psychosis) in other cultures.

Of course, it may well be that communications with spirits are real, but one of the disabilities of high IQ (and high conscientiousness) is an inability to perceive spirits (except in sleep and psychosis).

Thomas Aquinas (the ultra-hyper-mega-intelligent Roman Catholic Saint) never had any religious experiences until at the very end of his life - when (accepting the reality of the experience) he entirely gave up philosophy. But until that point he probably would have self-rated as not having an active imagination.

bgc said...

w.r.t. Ashkenazim creativity - I assume that Cochran and Harpending are correct when they argue that their very high IQ is a recent, perhaps even medieval, development - due to very strong selection pressure for high IQ in Central Europe (where Jews could only work as money lenders - with a high minimum IQ), and therefore leaving the Ashkenazim with relatively high creativity.

The very strong selection pressure rapidly forced-up IQ, but at the expense of a high rate of central nervous system pathologies (Tay Sachs disease, etc) - maybe also reduced athleticism.

SFG said...

Blake heard voices, and I'd say he was pretty smart and creative.


"Thomas Aquinas (the ultra-hyper-mega-intelligent Roman Catholic Saint) never had any religious experiences until at the very end of his life - when (accepting the reality of the experience) he entirely gave up philosophy. But until that point he probably would have self-rated as not having an active imagination."

Aquinas was pretty much the archetype of the left-brained philosopher. He probably would have worked for Google or something like that if he'd been born today. Remember, the Church was pretty much the only option for intellectual life in those days--who else would preserve Greek and Roman culture from the barbarians?

Jason Malloy said...

There are two different kinds of creativity ... or rather there are two distinctive wells of creativity.

The first well is simply an extension of general intelligence. Smarter people can make more interesting and complex connections. They also have lower time preference which permits gradual elaboration of their raw creative abilities through craft.

The second (and probably more vital) well is an extension of male sexual drive, and should be thought of as "insight" or extemporaneous creativity. It is hormonally mediated which explains why men are more creatively accomplished than women, and, more importantly, why male creative accomplishment occurs primarily when men are in their 20s and then declines with age. Female creative accomplishment does not show this aging pattern because females are drawing from the former well of creativity but not the latter.

East Asians have plenty of the former kind of creativity but are deficient in the latter because they are biologically calibrated for low male mating effort. Blacks are the opposite. They have high extemporaneous creativity because they are calibrated for high mating effort.

This vital creativity has declined over time as men have become biologically pacified (e.g. the dramatic centuries-long decline in violence -- violence being another extension of male mating effort). Most recently Millennials are both less violent and less creative than previous generations.

So contrary to received concerns, I believe creative stagnation should be viewed as a symptom of civilizational progress.

Anonymous said...

I seems unlikely that conceptual creativity (a large part of creativity in the first sense, which I would think of as split into conceptual creativity and "performance" or engineering creativity) reflects g more than g plus specific subfactors (or maybe even raw performance on a subfactor).

Conceptual creativity is more likely more strongly linked performance on specific subfactors related to conceptual understanding and mapping, and obviously because of this, to language. Language is where our concepts come from.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the 'nothing' valuation of this self-reported data. Having 'an active imagination' means next to nothing to most people, and they would probably answer yes just as they would if you asked them whether they were smart.

bgc said...

@Jason - I think it more likely that your concept of creativity has to do with 'drive' than creativity - at least creativity as Eysenck conceived it: i.e. as related to 'psychoticism' - especially the aspect related to 'loose associations' seen in delirium, intoxication, dreams, psychosis.

Eysenck's is essentially a 'shamanistic' idea of creativity, almost a pathology - not something sexually selected (or, at least, not directly; although commoner in men).

This concept of creativity is not usually attractive to women - women want men to beat the rivals in standardized from of competition; creativity may even be reciprocally related to dominance and drive.

Geoffrey Miller sees creativity as essentially having to do with 'openness to experience' - or neophilia; but I think this is mistaken (indeed, I don't regard openness as a genuine trait at all).

"I believe creative stagnation should be viewed as a symptom of civilizational progress."

- well, it all depends what you mean by progress. I believe that progress - in the sense of increasing functional specialization and efficiency (modernity, post-industrial revolution) depends on creative genius to provide frequent 'breakthroughs'.

Low creativity may be more civilized in some senses, and indeed creativity might be more often evil than good - nonetheless, without it the present form of civilization is unsustainable.

Anonymous said...

This vital creativity has declined over time as men have become biologically pacified (e.g. the dramatic centuries-long decline in violence -- violence being another extension of male mating effort). Most recently Millennials are both less violent and less creative than previous generations.

This is similar to what W.D. Hamilton suggested in his paper "Innate Social Aptitudes of Man":

"The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972)."

Anonymous said...

This vital creativity has declined over time as men have become biologically pacified (e.g. the dramatic centuries-long decline in violence -- violence being another extension of male mating effort). Most recently Millennials are both less violent and less creative than previous generations.

So contrary to received concerns, I believe creative stagnation should be viewed as a symptom of civilizational progress.


Note that the technological innovation of the past century in America (like Silicon Valley, Ford, the Wright Bros., etc.) was largely the product of rural midwestern whites who were descendants of people who fled the encroachment of civilization for the frontiers.

These days, more and more young whites are moving to the cities:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-02-16-1Acensuskids16_ST_N.htm

They're becoming more "civilized" and turning into pacific hipsters, SWPLs, metrosexuals, etc.

RS said...

I believe Jason Malloy is wrong (for once). Look at the faces of male artistic giants. They aren't really more androgenized than average -- maybe a very small amount.

If androgens were a major cause of creativity, a good fraction of such giants would be above +2 SD for masculine appearance -- and plenty of 'em would be above +3 or +4. Those are the sort of numbers such geniuses have when it comes to IQ.

Jason Malloy said...

I'm not necessarily arguing that bioavailable T has a linear relationship with genius. Male hormones have a complex relationship with traits. I can point to a number of different papers consistent with a relationship with hormones, but the immense difference between men and women in creative accomplishment, and the male aging pattern are both the simplest and most important evidence.

Bruce's statement that what this pattern is probably reflecting is male drive is the popular theory for genius right now. I don't think it is true at all. Hard work matters but only a minority of hard workers are geniuses. The chasm between Mozart and Salieri isn't hunger, it's ability.

I should have noted that genes related to creative cognition are a third noteworthy well, and are associated with schizophrenia, religious/mystical experience, and mental illness. As I've argued before these genes are also sexually selected and appear to follow the familiar racial pattern.

RS said...

Oops, now I suddenly see what you are saying -- since androgens are at the root of basically all gender differences, then they must be involved in gender differences in creativity.

So if most male geniuses are not noticeably butch, then it would seem that the function plateaus, more or less, over part of the range -- creativity could be flat from the male median of androgenization (or a little above the median) all the way to max andro.

Prof. Nietzsche is very andro, on the one hand. Mr. Shelley looks about a hair's breadth different from a cute girl I'd like to lie down with. Rilke seems mildly wimpy. I find it quite hard, actually, to think of markedly hypo-andro-looking geniuses. I ran through quite a few people before getting Dirac. And maybe Dostoevsky -- but not really.

RS said...

Perhaps it will be found after a subtler comparison that, to the honor of Richard Wagner's German nature, his doings were in every respect stronger, more audacious, harder, and higher than anything a Frenchman of the nineteenth century could manage -- thanks to the fact that we Germans are still closer to barbarism than the French. [et cetera]

--Nietzsche.

Steve Sailer said...

Here are a couple of male archetypes that aren't Big Men: the Nerd and the Rock Star (think Johnny Depp for the latter, even though he's a movie star).

Anonymous said...

What about Isaac Newton?

He was a nerdy virgin who might have had Asperger's/autism.

Anonymous said...

The second (and probably more vital) well is an extension of male sexual drive, and should be thought of as "insight" or extemporaneous creativity. It is hormonally mediated which explains why men are more creatively accomplished than women, and, more importantly, why male creative accomplishment occurs primarily when men are in their 20s and then declines with age.

...

This vital creativity has declined over time as men have become biologically pacified (e.g. the dramatic centuries-long decline in violence -- violence being another extension of male mating effort). Most recently Millennials are both less violent and less creative than previous generations.


There are studies suggesting that there has been a decline in testosterone:

"A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men"

http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/92/1/196

RS said...

Jason - still around?

On the genesis of art.-- That making-perfect, seeing as perfect, which characterizes the cerebral system bursting with sexual energy (evening with the beloved, the smallest chance occurrences transfigured, life a succession of sublime things, "the misfortune of the unfortunate lover worth more than anything else"): on the other hand, everything perfect and beautiful works as an unconscious reminder of that enamored condition and its way of seeing--every perfection, all the beauty of things, revives through contiguity this aphrodisiac bliss. (Physiologically: the creative instinct of the artist and the distribution of semen in his blood--) The demand for art and beauty is an indirect demand for the ecstasies of sexuality communicated to the brain. The world become perfect, through 'love'--

You'll have to excuse Professor Nietzsche's erratic ways. This is from his private notes, published after his death, and looking at the date he's apt to have been hypomanic and/or high.

Sensuality in its disguises: (1) as idealism ("Plato"), peculiar to youth, creating the same kind of concave image that the beloved in particular assumes, imposing an encrustation, magnification, transfiguration, infinity upon everything--; (2) in the religion of love: 'a handsome young man, a beautiful woman', somehow divine, a bridegroom, a bride of the soul--; (3) in art, as the 'embellishing' power: as man sees woman and, as it were, makes her a present of everything excellent, so the sensuality of the artist puts into one object everything else that he honors and esteems--in this way he perfects an object ('idealizes' it). Woman, conscious of man's feelings concerning women, assists his efforts at idealization by adorning herself, walking beautifully, dancing, expressing delicate thoughts: in the same way, she practices modesty, reserve, distance--realizing instinctively that in this way the idealizing capacity of the man will grow. (--Given the tremendous subtlety of woman's instincts, modesty remains by no means conscious hypocrisy,: she divines that it is precisely an actual naive modesty that most seduces a man and impels him to overestimate her.

etc

RS said...

Do you desire, O bloggicists, the most astonishing proof of how far the transfiguring power of intoxication can go?-- 'Love' is this proof: that which is called love in all the languages and silences of the world. In this case, intoxication has done with reality to such a degree that in the consciousness of the lover the cause of it is extinguished and something else seems to have taken its place--a vibration and glittering of all the magic mirrors of Circe--

Here is makes no difference whether one is man or animal; even less whether one has spirit, goodness, integrity. If one is subtle, on is fooled subtly; if one is coarse one is fooled coarsely; but love, and even the love of God, the saintly love of 'redeemed souls', remains the same in its roots: a fever that has good reason to transfigure itself, an intoxication that does well to embellish upon itself-- And in any case, one deceives so well when one loves, about oneself and to oneself: one seems to oneself transfigured, stronger, richer, more perfect, more changeable -- one is more perfect-- Here we discover art as an organic function: we discover it in the most angelic instinct, 'love'; we discover it as the greatest stimulus of life and persuasion to life of the generations forever--art thus sublimely expedient even when it lies--

But we should do wrong if we stopped with its power to lie: it does more than merely imagine; it even transposes values. And it is not only that it transposes the feeling of values: the lover is more valuable, is stronger. In animals this condition produces new weapons, pigments, colors, and forms; above all, new movements, new rhythms, new amorous calls and seductions. It is no different with man--his whole economy is richer than before, more powerful, more complete than in those who do not love. The lover becomes a libation-bearer, a squanderer: he is rich enough for that. Now he dares, becomes and adventurer, becomes an ass in magnanimity and innocence; he believes in God again, he believes in virtue, because he believes in love; and on the other hand, this happy fool grows wings and new capabilities, and even the door of art is opened to him. If we subtracted all traces of this intestinal fever from lyricism in sound and word, what would be left of lyric poetry and music? L'art pour l'art perhaps: the virtuoso croaking of shivering frogs, despairing in their swamp-- All the rest was created by love--

marci said...

People were asked about their active imagination - not about their creativity. If asked the latter, there's a chance the results would be different.

People saying they have an active imagination does not mean they consider themselves creative.

Imagination may be considered one aspect creativity rather than its sum total.

Tat Haynes said...

I seems unlikely that conceptual creativity (a large part of creativity in the first sense, which I would think of as split into conceptual creativity and "performance" or engineering creativity) reflects g more than g plus specific subfactors (or maybe even raw performance on a subfactor). Conceptual creativity is more likely more strongly linked performance on specific subfactors related to conceptual understanding and mapping, and obviously because of this, to language. Language is where our concepts come from.