What Status RQ?

The problem with IQ tests is that while they are effective at assessing our deliberative skills, which involve reason and the use of working memory, they are unable to assess our inclination to use them when the situation demands. … “Some people who are intellectually able do not bother to engage very much in analytical thinking and are inclined to rely on their intuitions.” …

A study published last year … found there was no correlation between intelligence and a person’s ability to avoid some common traps of intuitive-thinking. … A survey of members of Mensa (the High IQ Society) in Canada in the mid-1980s found that 44 per cent of them believed in astrology, 51 per cent believed in biorhythms and 56 per cent believed in aliens. … A study of 360 Pittsburgh residents … found that, regardless of differences in intelligence, those who displayed better rational-thinking skills suffered significantly fewer negative events in their lives, such as being in serious credit card debt, having an unplanned pregnancy or being suspended from school. … [Another study] found a similar association among adolescents. Those who scored higher on a test of decision-making competence drank less, took fewer drugs and engaged in less risky behaviour overall. …

A potent criticism … is the lack of a proven test of rational thinking skills that could be used alongside IQ tests. … Stanovich maintains that while developing a universal “rationality-quotient (RQ) test” would require a multimillion-dollar research programme, there is no technical or conceptual reason why it could not be done. … However: unlike with IQ, it would be relatively easy to train people to do well on RQ tests. “They measure the extent to which people are inclined to use what capacity they have,” says Evans. “You could train people to ignore intuition and engage reasoning for the sake of the test, even if this was not their normal inclination.”

More here.  Several million dollars spent trying to develop an RQ test seems money well spent to me.  But even though I’d more want to know someone’s RQ than their IQ, I wonder how much others care.  After all, we admire tall and muscular folks, even if they have little inclination or opportunity to reach high things others cannot, or open jars others cannot.  And we mostly choose academics who show impressive abilities, mostly ignoring how much they contribute to intellectual progress.

How much do potential mates, employers, etc. actually care about your willingness to use your intelligence to discern truth?   Yes, sometimes the truth can help your team win, but at other times speaking inconvenient truths helps your team lose.

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  • Shae

    “…56 per cent believed in aliens”

    As in, “A little green man visited me yesterday”, or as in “Life elsewhere in the universe is probable.”

    The latter doesn’t seem so irrational.

    • http://blog.efnx.com Schell

      If based off the Drake equation, I think one’s belief in aliens becomes _quite_ rational.

      • nazgulnarsil

        the drake equation is rational only if you’re innumerate WRT to how probabilities work.

      • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

        ?

  • http://www.rationalmechanism.com richard silliker

    My feeling is that you need to engage your intuition in the rational world and use your RQ abilities in the surreal world. This distinction of worlds was not made in this post, as it should have been, and as a result the question asked should itself raise the question of “in what context are we talking?”

    • rosyatrandom

      I prefer using intuition to analysis in most situations; I consider it my ‘job’ to make my intuition more rational and in keeping with my ideals.

      • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com richard silliker

        Good to see you are ambivalent. Ambivalence helps build our intuition.

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    One you get above an IQ of 120 and especially 130, intelligence seems to be subject to diminishing returns for intellectual achievement, except in areas that require heavy duty mathematics. Once you’re past 130, things like creativity, work ethic and intellectual honesty count for more.

    Take intellectual honesty. Robert Wright in The Moral Animal tells how Charles Darwin, whenever he could think of a good objection to his theory, would immediately write it down. Darwin only had an estimated IQ in the 130s, but he was hardworking and rigourous in his self criticism. How many people with IQs way above his have done almost nothing with it?

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com agnostic

    I question the examples given — astrology, biorhythms (?), and aliens are not intuitive beliefs at all. Being intuitive requires it being found close to universally, and thoughtlessly arrived at during development.

    Those things are more like intellectual fads or group membership badges. Unless you’re insecure like the MENSAns, you can’t wave around your IQ test score. But talking about biorhythms, chakras, acupuncture, or whatever, identifies you as a smartie and as belonging to a certain tribe within the smarties.

    The RQ test could be done much more easily: ask people across a range of fields (academic and practical), “What are the intuitive traps that newcomers universally fall for?” Belief in absolute rather than comparative advantage, in the sun going around the Earth, in the sheer exposure to a toxin mattering more than the dosage received, etc.

    • Mark Jeffcoat

      “in the sheer exposure to a toxin mattering more than the dosage received”

      I’m curious what you mean by this; I can’t think of a good definition of “exposure” that’s different from “dosage received”. No one thinks that a pharmacist is actually being affected by the dozens of drugs he might handle in a day, right?

  • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

    I see two problems. The first is an RQ test makes the mistake of holding that rational deliberation is normative. But see Gigerenzer’s work on ecological rationality. Intuitions, thin-slicing, and heuristics are not generally about astrology but rather lead to effective decision making. The systematic errors are the exception, not the rule. Moreover, someone who is highly intelligent may be prone to making more errors at tasks that do not involve heavy mathematics because they may rely on rational processes rather than ecological processes.

    Case in point, one of the smartest people I know is a computer geek. He knows computers and is highly paid for that knowledge. He does not know economics. But is prone to applying rational thought to what are really economic issues. So he disdains gift-giving as a waste of time because he has not read about signaling.

    • Steve

      Justin Martyr: I think you’re being a little premature in assuming the completely hypothetical RQ test will check conscious deliberation. Were such a test made, I think it’s at least as likely that at least part of it would check outcomes instead of procedure by posing questions about situations prone to common biases.

      Case in point: your computer geek friend is acting irrationally in applying problem-solving models which work in the context of computer geekery to economics. True rationality is an indispensible approach to economics, and I think Robin Hanson would agree.

      • http://www.thefaithheuristic.com Justin Martyr

        I think my friend was acting rationally even if he got the wrong answer. Consider an analogy from economics. Economists studied perfect competition before imperfect competition because the math was easier and, at the time, they didn’t truly understand how imperfect competition works. But they weren’t irrational because they didn’t think to account for economies of scale. Similarly, my friend isn’t irrational because he didn’t think to account for gifts as a signaling mechanism.

  • tony

    meta post of the year

  • Robert Koslover

    I seriously doubt that any team of psychologists and other academics could produce an unbiased test of rationality, regardless of how much money might be thrown at the problem. In fact, the more money was spent, the more biased the results would likely become! Money would actually corrupt the effort, due to increasing the perceived importance of the results. Besides, notions of rationality are far too closely tied to individual beliefs in liberty, politics, religion, family, culture, etc. Simply deciding what is “sane” and “insane” is already difficult and subjective enough. Let’s not throw questions of rationality into the mix. Rigorous mathematical logic is fine. But nebulous “rationality?” Forget about it! For example, I have no doubt one could find a large number of people who would assert that Robin Hanson’s commitment to cryonics is irrational, while others would find it completely rational. Is there any person on Earth rational enough to resolve that question, without the decision itself being controversial? I don’t think so.

  • http://pancrit.org Chris Hibbert

    @Robert Koslover

    Keith Stanovich has written a pretty good book “What Intelligence Tests Miss” that covers this pretty well. The idea of such a test wouldn’t be to check up on what you believe, but on how well you reason, and what pitfalls you fall for. Robin has talked about a number of these, and others come up frequently on lesswrong. These kinds of mistakes are obvious inconsistencies in reasoning, and much easier to reach agreement on that what particular isms someone adheres to or what signalling they do.

  • student

    Maybe Andy Warhol really had an IQ of 86. Still, he was a genius.

  • Pingback: What Status RQ? » Dig for Leadership - Stories that try to make the world a better place.

  • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

    The big problem with an RQ test is that it could be studied for, and you could even get a high score, without necessarily using rationality in the real world away from the test situation.

  • http://caveatbettor.blogspot.com caveat bettor

    I once heard it said that a prophet has no honor in his hometown.

  • Grant

    This is very interesting. I’ve noticed that I often seem to make more rational decisions than some other people who may score higher than me on SAT or IQ tests. I always thought this is because I associate status with rationality more than many others (though still not enough).

    How much do potential mates, employers, etc. actually care about your willingness to use your intelligence to discern truth? Yes, sometimes the truth can help your team win, but at other times speaking inconvenient truths helps your team lose.

    I’d think this would depend on the employee and what one is looking for in a mate.

    An engineer (or anyone who’s work is directly tested by reality) needs a high RQ. A salesman is probably better at lying if his RQ is low. Or put another way, the more an employee interacts with hard reality, the higher their RQ should be.

    Many people value support over rationality in mates, e.g. the supportive wife. But this may only hold true for public life, since mates can be irrationally supportive in public while being rational in private.

    It seems to me RQ would be more mutable than IQ. If we start to associate RQ with high status, would people’s RQ increase? How might we go about doing this?

    • magfrump

      Possible ways to raise the status of RQ:

      -Point out when high-status people use RQ
      -When successful, “tell people how you did it”; i.e. associate personal success with RQ
      -Be embarrassed when being irrational–associate low-RQ behavior with low status

      Anybody else?

  • http://FeministX.blogspot.com FeministX.blogspot.com

    The logical reasoning of the LSAT, especially the one used in the 1980s is not bad. Have you also seen the Cornell critical thinking tests? I took one as a child and recall that it was pretty effective for people who had not studied.

    The issue of tests like the LSAT is that they rely partially on the ability to complete the test as quickly as possible, which limits the test’s ability to measure pure reasoning capacity. In part it measures reading speed. The other issue is that posessing logical reasoning does not mean that one will want to apply it. I am almost sure that there can never be a test for the willingness and ability to apply rational thought to a wide range of abstract and practical matters. Standardized tests by definition measure raw ability, not the tendancy to apply raw ability.

  • http://FeministX.blogspot.com FeministX.blogspot.com

    Actually, I blogged about my experience with the IQ vs RQ issue a while back-

    http://feministx.blogspot.com/2009/05/g-ne-sais-quoi.html

    Robin, I invite you to read my blog. A while back, Eliezer let me know about LessWrong and this blog as well. I think you might like it.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      I tried to comment on your blog yesterday, but it wouldn’t take.

      • http://FeministX.blogspot.com FeministX.blogspot.com

        Ok. Please try again if you don’t mind, and tell me if it still does not work.

      • Jackson

        Feministx: had a look at your blog, rather interesting – I see gender issues are as charged as ever, the dedication… my word. I was going to reply there, but there was some hoop/hurdle thing that I can’t be ***** with.

        “The IQ test doesn’t measure curiosity, attachment to ideas, general world view, attitude towards information learned.”

        Can we suppose that it indirectly measures, or gauges, these things, or assumes willingness to conform? No brainer?

        Eric said
        …and rely on limited sources of information, often specialized and thus limited (missing out on the benefits of a wide-ranging big picture).

        the benefits, and the torment.

  • John Maxwell IV

    “How much do potential mates, employers, etc. actually care about your willingness to use your intelligence to discern truth?”

    Probably just about as much as they care about *their* willingness to use *their* intelligence to discern the truth.

    • Pwno

      There is a high chance they would say they care, but don’t do so themselves.

    • Jackson

      Which may not be anywhere near as much as their salary would suggest.

  • ravi hegde

    I am not sure what is new here. When people talk about street smart/ book smart this is exactly what they are referring to. This is why people make fun of some nerds/geeks. Many tend to respect street smarts more than book smarts although they may signal admiration for some skill like chess playing for example.

    Real world is mostly navigated through feel and experience and it really takes a whlie before one can do any particular activity with speed, accuracy and flexibility. It really also begs the question ..is rationality in the sense defined by academics all that it is cut out to be? .. are succesful people more rational simply because of their life experiences (i.e. screwing up once and having learned a lesson).

  • Jackson

    Ever since I read about working memory in Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence I’ve thought probably that (though it’s hard to be specific) more than Dyslexia, ADD, OCD etc etc (though surely related, esp multi tasking) best sheds light on my difficulties. As for nature/nurture, probably quite a lot of it is nurture especially when it comes to every day bias such as:

    “How much do potential mates, employers, etc. actually care about your willingness to use your intelligence to discern truth? Yes, sometimes the truth can help your team win, but at other times speaking inconvenient truths helps your team lose.”

    The impotence of being honest. [sigh]

  • q

    as a first approximation for RQ, you could take IQ and penalize someone twenty-five points for belonging to Mensa. that would take into account the data from the study Robin pointed to and, intuitively, is directionally correct.

  • E

    A high RQ (if known by others) could be a decided *disadvantage* in society. For example, a person with known high RQ would be unlikely to be elected president.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    Wealth over gradient seems to me to be the RQ test. Life seems to me to resemble a type of global game of poker where many of us are trying to redistribute each other’s wealth to ourselves.

  • http://michaelkeenan.blogspot.com Michael Keenan

    It looks like someone already has an RQ test which predicts some kinds of life success: “A study of 360 Pittsburgh residents … found that, regardless of differences in intelligence, those who displayed better rational-thinking skills suffered significantly fewer negative events in their lives, such as being in serious credit card debt, having an unplanned pregnancy or being suspended from school.”

    I would love more information than that, but the paper isn’t free.

  • http://michaelkeenan.blogspot.com Michael Keenan

    How much do potential mates, employers, etc. actually care about your willingness to use your intelligence to discern truth?

    I agree with the cynicism, but many (maybe not most, but many) people do pay attention to their potential mates’ money-handling ability. If, as the Pittsburgh study suggests, high-RQ people avoid mistakes like getting into unmanageable debt, then some people might be interested in RQ for its ability to predict that kind of problem.

    • nazgulnarsil

      except that it is illegal for insurance companies to actually give rational rates, since they would be racist, sexist, *insert anti-egalitarian concept here* etc.

      • http://michaelkeenan.blogspot.com Michael Keenan

        I meant mates as in “people seeking relationships”. But you refer to the Civil Rights Acts which have hindered businesses using IQ tests in recruitment. The Wikipedia article on Intelligence and public policy notes that companies can still use IQ tests if they use racial hiring quotas to ensure that there won’t be a disparate impact. It would still be useful to use an IQ test (or RQ test) to sort applicants within their racial group.

  • http://michaelkeenan.blogspot.com Michael Keenan

    > Several million dollars spent trying to develop an RQ test seems money well spent to me.

    If anyone wants to organize this, I’ll contribute $100.

  • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

    Since someone taking a test is (probably) motivated to score well, I don’t see how calling something an “RQ” test is supposed to overcome the problem of people just not trying in everyday life.

    What’s the difference between an RQ test, and an IQ test done right?

    I’d like to construct a test that measured consistency and the ability to generalize. It would consist of pairs of questions – shuffled, so that the pairing wouldn’t be obvious. Each question in a pair would involving applying the same insight. You would lose more points for answering one question in a pair correctly and the other incorrectly, than for answering both incorrectly. This design would also control well for cultural bias in the test.

  • Devient Genie

    High IQ with low RQ = Isaac Newton :)

    Discovers theory of gravity, still believes in a sky daddy :)