May 23, 2006

g and Creativity

Over at GNXP, I just posted a brief review of the relationship between g and creativity. Boring short answer: it's necessary no matter the creative field, and more g always helps, though other factors are necessary as well.

May 21, 2006

Most embarrassing moment ever

So I got curious about what happened to people I went to college with and signed up with Friendster yesterday. My account had my real name and a real photo. First I just looked up my old friends & acquaintances, and then I got bored and browsed through everyone's profile. Totally harmless right?

Ha. I just now noticed the feature that says "Who's viewed my profile?" I thought, "That's odd, do these people know they're being reported to me?" Then I found out I was being reported to everyone whose profile I had viewed! Most of the people probably wouldn't have thought anything of it, but I did look at the profiles of a few of the girls I had asked out but who'd rejected me. Now they're gonna think I'm one of those clingy "my crush burns eternal" guys. It was totally harmless! But how do I reassure them of that other than write a message saying so -- which would only confirm their suspicions of my clinginess! Also, I looked up some of my co-workers -- just to see how prevalent this thing is among people my age, and now the females are gonna think I'm checking them out (not likely!).

There's a place for innocuous, quotidian voyeurism -- y'know, like when you were in high school and looked up your crush's pictures when the yearbook came out, stuff like that. Imagine if everyone whose yearbook pictures you looked at received a notification! So I just deleted my fucking account rather than suffer the public humiliation. That's what I get for taking a stroll down memory lane: some damn computer broadcasts my private wanderings to the whole world!

[For the differential psychologists out there: file under Neuroticism.]

May 12, 2006

Interracial children and Openness

Once more, I googled & pubmedded, but came up blank. The only article on interracial relations and the personality factor Openness is this article. A caveat: some of the questions used to determine your score on Openness are things like "I like to visit art museums" and "I appreciate poetry," etc. One of Eysenck's criticisms of this Big Five factor was that it seems to measure an aspect of intelligence rather than personality. Those who go to art museums and read poetry likely have higher-than-average crystallized intelligence: the facts, etc. you acquire in the course of exercising your big brain in intellectual / academic domains. But assume we refined Openness to only include things like novelty-seeking and noncomformity (some of the smaller traits that make up Eysenck's Psychoticism factor).

Even lacking data I would guess that individuals involved in interracial marriages would score higher on Openness than those in endogamous marriages, ceteris paribus. Still, there is an asymmetry in who dates who, as both Steve Sailer and Peter Frost have pointed out in article form and book form, respectively. In short, women generally prefer somewhat darker men, and men prefer lighter women. So, I would guess that the individuals involved in a dark woman / light man marriage (unconventional pattern) would score higher on Openness than those in a light woman / dark man marriage (conventional pattern). And given that personality traits are moderately heritable, the same would hold on average of their children.

No huge scientific issue at stake here -- just wondering out loud. But there'd be a practical application if true: if finding a mate who scores high on Openness is a big deal, you could locate those of mixed backgrounds, especially of the unconventional dark woman / light man type. Or let's assume, just hypothetically, that you've got a thing for more tawny Italian or Jewish girls (NSFW), but you yourself don't respond exceptionally well to tanning. No problem: just find a girl who's Irish-Italian or Jewish-whatever-northern-Euro-group-Jews-marry, and whose mother is the olive-skinned one, suggesting greater Openness on her part & her daughter's. And because inheritance is not blending, it won't be hard to find a genotypically mixed girl who phenotypically looks prototypically Mediterranean. Now of course, pre-screening who you approach doesn't guarantee success, but if you want to swim against the current of skin color preferences, you're better off choosing to conquer a Class II over a Class IV river.

Personal disclaimer: on my father's side, my grandmother is Japanese and grandfather French-American, making my father 1/2 each and me 1/4 each. My father and one of his brothers look half-to-more-than-half East Asian, and both married white women, which seems rare given that it's usually East Asian women who marry white men. Sure enough, me & my two brothers along with our cousins from our Japanese-looking uncle are the more noncomformist / wanderlustful among our first cousins. By contrast, my mother's siblings married other whites; and my father's other siblings (a white-looking uncle and Japanese-looking aunt) are in more conventional East Asian woman / white man marriages.

Are introverts more ticklish?

If you score more toward the introvert end of the introversion and extroversion spectrum, then compared to extroverts, you're more sensitive to (i.e., less tolerant of) an array of sensory stimuli: electric shocks, lemon juice in your mouth, background noise when doing tasks. Eysenck's idea was that introverts have higher coritical arousal levels, or their brains are more "excited" naturally, whereas extroverts' brains are less naturally "excited," compelling them to seek out stimulating environments to boost their excitement level to a more or less universal comfort level. Introverts, by contrast, don't require much more stimulation to reach this comfort level, and thus are fine being by themselves.

I googled around and found literally nothing on introversion / extroversion and degree of ticklishness -- as in, zip either for or against a correlation. I lack university access, so I can't do a more sophisticated search. Does anyone know of any studies bearing on this? If not, personal anecdotes are welcome of course, bearing in mind that the N will be very small on this blog. Me: very introverted, very ticklish, esp in the rib area -- it's like being electrocuted.

May 6, 2006

Following up on science posts

This isn't a peer-reviewed journal, so sometimes I forget things, or only think of them later but don't bother re-publishing the post, etc. So just some additions / revisions to 3 science posts -- on recent selection, beauty vs sublime, and genius germs.

On More recent selection:

Steve, in the comments, tossed out Jerry Pournelle's idea that domestication of the dog loosened the functional constraint on genes giving us a good sense of smell, thus freeing up brain real estate for increased general intelligence. This is akin to, say, the cortical area devoted to smell shrinking in the primate lineage, and an expansion of area devoted to vision, as we began to rely less on the former and more on the latter to survive & reproduce.

I'd been thinking about a more general relaxation of functional constraint after the dawn of civilization -- namely, the more you rely on other things (other humans, dogs, gut flora, technology, etc.), the less you have to do yourself. You outsource the tasks to other people. You're outsourced to as well, so you can't lose all sense of smell (or whatever), but you're just one cog in a big machine that doesn't demand as much of any arbitrary individual. Now that all those other things are doing just about everything for you but wiping your ass, the systems devoted to higher reasoning (for example) can expand and play a larger role in determining who will sire the most progeny. So, civilized people will get smarter.

On Psychometrics and evolutionary aesthetics:

I posited that the two component vectors of an individual's "aesthetic preference" score were an appreciation for danger and for beauty. These were assumed to reflect, respectively, our intuitive responses to things that over evolutionary time would've threatened fitness, and those that would've promoted it. I didn't have a good reason for using two components as opposed to a single axis with threatens vs promotes fitness -- just the observation that two seemed to work better than one in accounting for reality.

It later struck me that that's how the autonomic division of the nervous system works: there is the sympathetic sub-division that deals with responses to real or perceived threats or crises (fight, flight, fright, and orgasm), and the parasympathetic sub-division that deals with homeostasis or being in a relaxed state (digestion, slowing heart beat, etc.). It's transparent how the danger vector from my graph maps onto activation of the sympathetic system. While less transparent, most aesthetic theories both classical and modern intertwine the ideas of beauty with those of order, harmony, proper proportion, and so on -- that is, the state of things being calm rather than disturbed. Maybe I should re-label the axes harmony and danger.

So, our "aesthetic preference" is parasitic off of our more basic systems that prepare the body for both threats and relaxation (for lack of a better word). The broad approach & particular experiments I suggested still hold, though -- the idea is that "aesthetic value" is a general factor that holds across diverse domains, so if an individual prefers to artificially stimulate their sympathetic system in the area of sports (i.e., prefers riskier, more thrilling sports), then they would prefer to do so in listening to music (i.e., more turbulent music) and in sexual matters (i.e., kinkier preferences). Likewise for someone who preferred to stimulate their parasympathetic system, or for someone who preferred to stimulate both -- that's hard to accomplish in reality, since the systems are complementary, but we're talking about a person's preferences, whether or not they can realize them.

Last, on the Genius Germs series (graphs here)

Most importantly, there was a lot of griping in comments here & at GNXP over the idea that there might be a brain counterpart of the gut flora which could boost intelligence, just as the gut flora boost digestive power. I still believe, on (informed) faith, something like that exists, but these data don't necessarily argue in favor of that. The reason is that aside from superior intelligence, genius-level creativity is also a product of at least two other factors: some degree of psychoticism or schizotypal personality (according to Eysenck, Rushton, Simonton, among others) and perhaps Openness to experience from the Big Five personality inventory (as Simonton and Gottfredson have suggested).

Therefore, my "genius germs" may affect these personality factors rather than the intelligence factor in making someone into a Newton or a Beethoven. At least, that's the simplest interpretation, given that the parts of the brain involved in personality & motivation are less protected by the Brain-Blood Barrier, are expected to be targeted more than higher reasoning centers by microbes, and have more evidence in favor of them -- for example, the high likelihood (on epidemiological & evolutionary grounds) that schizophrenia is infectious. So, I still believe, but cannot prove, that there are brain flora that help overall function, though I'm now convinced that at the highest level of genius, those guys were nuts due to infection. [1]

And uh, like, a-duh -- a significance test would've been nice. The trend was clear, but nailing down the p-value is of course always called for. Collapsing the data from the all graphs, excluding Combined Sciences (that is, considering all science inventories, in addition to the arts, mostly to increase the N), we get the following contingency table, where WS = winter-spring birth, SF = summer-fall birth, G = genius (top 5 deciles), BG = below genius (otherwise):

---- WS -- SF -- Tot
G __41 __21 __62
BG _336 _299 _635
Tot _377 _320 _697

The expected values for the G row are both 31; for the BG row, 317.5. Using a G-test with df = 1, G = 8.73, or p less than .004. Again, most of that high G value comes from the lopsidedness in the Genius row, not the Below Genius row.

Now, for the three most abstract fields (Music in the arts, Mathematics in the sciences, Philosophy in the humanities), the expected values in the cells of the Genius row were low (7.5), so I had to do a more laborious Fisher's exact test. The labels are as above, but the data represent only the three most abstract fields now:

---- WS -- SF -- Tot
G __13 __2 ___15
BG _83 __60 __143
Tot _96 _62 ___158

There are three scenarios that are as extreme or more than the observed scenario -- the observed itself, and where the G-SF cell is either 1 or 0 (indicating even greater lopsidedness toward winter-spring geniuses). The p values for the cases where the G-SF cell = 2, 1, and 0 are, respectively: p = .02, .004, .0004. Summing those up gives overall p = .0244, which is less than .03, hence significant.

[1] I looked more into the "lack of Vitamin D" angle that several folks mentioned, but the historical trend of prevalence of rickets didn't match up w/ the historical trend of creative production as documented in Human Accomplishment. Perhaps, as one commenter suggested, the Vitamin D connection is w/ the mother's health -- i.e., if you were born in winter or spring, your mother would've received more Vitamin D while you were still a fetus. There's evidence that vitamins matter for IQ, but having more Vitamin D doesn't make someone crazy. So, combining both insights -- being born in winter-spring means that: 1) your mother got more Vitamin D when you were developing, thus fostering higher IQ; and 2) you were later exposed to more microbes during infancy, fostering a nutty & eccentric personality.

May 5, 2006

What other, um, "blogs" do you visit?

Over at GNXP, people are sharing what blogs they read frequently; most have to do w/ science, culture, econ, etc. That's hardly all there is to life, though, eh? Before I get back on track w/ science & culture posts, I thought I'd allow myself one last prurient one. So, below are some of the, erm, adult NSFW sites I tend to visit. I provide this list as a public service for those who haven't discovered such gems (but NB: they're all very NSFW, mostly feature videos rather than images, and reflect my taste for generally more voluptuous, brunette, exotic-looking girls). In the comments, feel free to share gems you've found -- I suspect most answers will be from guys, but for the minority of girls who look at this stuff, feel free to help each other out too!

Simply enter www before, and .com after, the following names. Each of those sites links to plenty of others, so these should be enough:

As for particular girls, my current crushes include (pretty NSFW*):
Ice LaFox (1/2 Mexican, 1/2 Puerto Rican; daughter of adult star Angela DeAngelo)
Olivia O'Lovely (French, Italian, Chilean, Spanish)
Madeline Marks (Cuban? looks like Lacey Chabert)
Tiffany Taylor (1/2 French, 1/2 Pakistani)
Karina Kay (1/2 Armenian, 1/2 Russian)
Sativa Rose (Mexican, I think)
Penny Flame (misc Euro)

You can search their names at the Freeones website and get a list of sites that showcase their images and/or videos. Some express dismay that guys spend a non-negligible amount of time viewing such things, but the explosion of adult material on the internet is akin to the widened distribution of Classical music after the invention of the LP (or mp3). After all, why should only a privileged elite enjoy the beautiful things of this world?

*Unfortunately, even linking to the google search for the pic I wanted to show for Penny Flame doesn't work. I wanted to showcase the 4th image on the website linked.

NYC girls: stoned or dethroned?

[Std disclaimer when talking about groups: only averages, there is variance of course.]

I can't stop thinking about Judith Rich Harris' account (in No Two Alike) of how self-image is shaped and roughly gels into place during adolescence (see here, here, and here). So many little things fall into place now. For instance, I spent last Friday & Saturday in NYC, and aside from shopping and resting, I spent my time strolling & people-watching. First thing you notice is, of course, the girls. They should re-name the city Booty York. Compared to the girls from the DC metro area, New York girls are pretty hot, not to mention stylish. But that's familiar enough to anyone who's visited any major European city where the girls are hot -- in New York, the girls had something else: a bad attitude, the opposite of nonchalance. I used to be a casual reader of the NYC craigslist and its personals section, and I used to take day-trips to New York during my senior year of college, aside from other sources of information -- so I'm not basing this on a single weekend.

I've never seen so many self-important people before. You'd think that, given that almost everyone who lives & works in Manhattan below 96th St, or the well-to-do areas in Brooklyn, is either a hot smart girl or a smart motivated guy, such people would be humbled by the experience of being nothing special anymore. But no -- most of these people are transplants, Big Fish from Small Ponds. Because they spent adolescence in Nowhere like the rest of us, they think they're the hottest ticket in town, whether the hot girl or alpha-male guy. And because self-image roughly gels into place at that time [1], it's unaffected by the move to the Big City where, by comparison, they're unremarkable.

So, what you end up with is a rather strange situation: each individual is convinced they're superior to everyone else, and yet they're daily confronted by a crowd of equals and superiors. Now, there are only so many slots at the top of the male totem pole, so merely being smart, hard-working, and having a superior education doesn't assure you squat. You are no longer the alpha-male you were back home. And given that hot smart girls are only interested in alpha-males, a great majority of such girls will be left without a partner -- she could choose a former alpha who's nothing special in New York, but that's hardly what she deserves, in her eyes.

Faced with this incongruity -- she sees herself as the hottest chick in town, yet her search for the alpha is hopeless -- she can either lower her self-image to take into account the high average looks in her surroundings, and thus feel comfortable dating a sub-alpha Ivy grad; or she can maintain her self-image and stew in resentment. Because self-image isn't under voluntary control, and because it's pretty much set in stone by the mid-20s, the latter is the most likely outcome. I've heard lots of guys remark that New York girls are crazy, high-strung, etc., but I think the best adjective is "dethroned." For some, that leads to becoming high-strung, for others jaded and withdrawn, but all boil with the same sense of injustice -- "how could I not manage to lasso that exec at my ad agency? I'm hot and smart, dammit!" You and the rest of the merciless city, babe.

What other evidence do I have to support this take? For one thing, native New Yorkers -- i.e., those who at least spent their secondary school years there -- don't seem to follow this pattern on average. I went to college with a lot of these folks, and they grew up surrounded by evidence that they were no one special: most went to super-elite public or private schools, and in a city that business-driven, there's no way for an adolescent to shine -- unlike if there were a star high school athlete in a small town. Foiling every expectation I'd had of New Yorkers, they were actually some of the most chill folks I'd met. Plus they had that dignified sense of "I'm a native New Yorker, so I don't have anything to prove," unlike an insecure upstart from Nowhere. Now, I'm not suggesting that native New Yorker girls reverse the laws of sexual attraction -- they wouldn't date guys shorter, younger, or lower-status than they -- but they don't in general belong to the psycho breed that most associate with New York girls.

Furthermore, from what I've seen in the limited European big cities I've been to, this doesn't happen. I lived in Barcelona for awhile, and nothing of the sort goes on there. I only spent a week each in Rome and Paris, but also didn't notice anything similar. In each of these countries, surely hot girls and smart motivated guys migrate from their Small Ponds to the Big Cities (esp in Spain), so what gives? My guess is that it has to do with the degree of inequality -- what fraction of the smart motivated guys will find a high-status job (by regional standards)? In New York, the bird's-eye-view is of a feudal state where a tiny aristocracy towers over a teeming mass of commoners, as in Latin America. But the less steep the pyramid, the larger the fraction of smart motivated guys who can secure enviable stations, and so the smaller the fraction of hot smart girls who are left unpaired and bitter.

The prediction, then, is that Milan would be more New York-ish than Rome, and that London or Moscow would be just as bad as New York as far as psycho girls and pride-wounded guys are concerned. In the other direction, Big Cities in Scandinavia should exhibit this phenomenon to the least extent.

So, there's another piece of applied psychology you can use -- if finding a girl who's not a high-strung whacko is a high priority, avoid living in places with high local inequality and that attract Big Fish from Small Ponds across the country.

[1] Harris cites a deeper investigation of the height-salary correlation studies. First, the researchers found that taller men earned more than shorter men, even matched for qualifications. However, the correlation is even stronger when you look at height in adolescence and salary as an adult -- the idea is that if you were tall in high school, people kissed your ass, inflating your self-confidence and sense of dominance, which are crucial in clawing your way through the business world. Late-bloomers, however, aren't paid as handsomely, presumably because this happened after a "critical period" for inflating or deflating self-confidence.