Sunday, April 08, 2012

The link between intelligence and cooperativeness

In a sample of almost 4,500 men, a positive correlation (.23) was observed between general intelligence and the general factor of personality (GFP). GFP captures one's ability to work well with others. According to the authors, general intelligence evolved to generate more resources while GFP evolved to secure a larger share of group resources.

The positive correlation suggests four types of people, two of which are more common and two of which are less uncommon. The more frequent types are smart-cooperative and dull-uncooperative people. Less common are smart-uncooperative and dull-cooperative folks.   


  1. I wish I understood statistics better.

    It's hard for me to understand how all of the Big 5 traits can be positively correlated with one another (after reversing neuroticism) roughly equally, i.e. that's what the General Factor of Personality is* (it's why it is a general factor), then the General Factor of Personality can be correlated with general intelligence...

    Yet none of the individual traits can be correlated with IQ at all, except for Openness mildly positively! Surely they should all correlate positively separately...

    Of course, in this paper, the problem is that they are using this MMPI instrument - that doesn't necessarily tap much of what is going on the Big 5 model, which makes any conclusions about links between a GFP derived from that and g extremely suspect.

    * - "The Big One is characterized by high versus low Emotional Stability, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Openness, and by high versus low higher-order factors of personality, Stability, and Plasticity."

    Also - "Fast strategies are hypothesized to evolve in harsh and unpredictable environments, while the reverse holds for slow strategies. Previous research has shown that a slow strategy correlates with law abidingingness, behavioural restraint, maturational delay and longevity."

    Interesting given Rushton and Lynn's previous concept that harsh environments drive intelligence - this is almost the opposite concept, that mild environments lead to a slow strategy, which leads to an increased GFP and g.

  2. Anonymous4:42 PM

    You would think the small correlations between the GFP and g (and many have found smaller correlations then reported in the poster) would suggest interesting interactions between the GFP and g. However, these just don't pan out.

    Matt's point about unpredictable or stable environments is one that has driven me nuts. I have noticed the inconsistency in the pronouncements of the researchers as well.


  3. "Less common are smart-uncooperative and dull-cooperative folks."

    A thousand slashdot commenters wept a thousand tears.

  4. A less flattering characterization of GFP is docility or tameness - it is probably the product of strong, centralized, coercive social organization which culls those who don't fit-in.

    Also, it is very likely (from Eysenck's work) that GFP would be inversely correlated with creativity - so the positive correlation between IS and GFP explains the rarity of geniuses, because they need to be both very highly intelligent and reasonably LOW in GFP.


  5. Typo: By IS I mean IQ.

  6. A less flattering characterization of GFP is docility or tameness

    If GFP is positively correlated with Extraversion, including social surgency and dominance subfacets, I couldn't really see it having much to do with docility or tameness.

    "extraverts (also spelled extroverts) are thought to be gregarious, assertive, and interested in seeking out external stimulus"

    That's not really my picture of tame person, even if they are highly empathic and like other people.

    A dog that's wild and wants to do its own thing, won't take commands but is interested in people and tries strongly to get them to do what it wants - I have a hard time calling that animal tame exactly.

    GFP would be inversely correlated with creativity - so the positive correlation between IS and GFP explains the rarity of geniuses, because they need to be both very highly intelligent and reasonably LOW in GFP.

    That seems odd given that a positive correlation with Openness is part of the GFP.

    so the positive correlation between IS and GFP explains the rarity of geniuses, because they need to be both very highly intelligent and reasonably LOW in GFP.

    Interesting - I don't think tend to think of geniuses as introverted, neurotic, close-minded, disagreeable and lazy.


    I do find the concept of GFP tracking cooperativeness (although I'm not sure that that is how Rushton et al are constructing it) and suitedness to group behaviour all quite dubious.

    Take the Big 5 and set Agreeableness low and let the other traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Extraversion vary.

    Let's say we have Person A who is highly disagreeable and misanthropic, open-minded, emotionally stable, driven and ordered and extraverted person. Is he really suited to cooperation at all?

    Is Person A really much more suited to cooperation than Person B again highly disagreeable and misanthropic but close-minded, emotionally unstable, lazy and introverted?

    I could see Person A being even less well suited to being part of a group than - he has a misanthropic nature combined with a socially dominant personality, a need for order and achivement far beyond the interest of his peers, a personality abnormally free of distress and an open mind.

    That's a picture of the classical image of a authoritarian psychopath, not someone well suited to small group cooperation.

    A small group of hunter gatherers might tolerate Person B and accept him as a group member, since his misanthropy would not be effective, but not Person A, a highly effective psychopath.

    Personally, I think the "positive" (i.e. socially desirable) poles of personality factors are simply positively correlated because they're all desirable. Having one means that you're more likely to get a mate with one of the other, because they're all mostly orthagonal and desirable. Thus, general factor of personality.

    It's the same as with IQ - there probably is not really a single g mechanism, just that people who are good at one sort of ability can attract mates who are good at another ability, thus creating a single factor through assortative mating.

  7. Also, to use Cochran's argument, the positive poles are probably fitness enhancing and all benefit from lower mutational load.

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