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Yorick's Cognitive Corner

15.12.04, 15:52
Hello Everyone

I've just had an idea that there might be a stranded soul or two here who are
interested - however casually - in Cognitive Science. And by Cognitive
Science I mean everything that can be reasonably described as some form of
CogSci, save, perhaps, cognitivism as an ethical doctrine, mysticism and
quantum physics.

[just for the record, CogSci can be very loosely defined as a science of mind
and thinking, uniting the study of brain, language, perception, emotion etc
etc together with their many subdisciplines]

Everyone is invited to
* write announcemets for new books/guest lectures/conferences in the field of
* write (short) comments on current debates;;;
* contribute relevant links, though with moderation
* ask questions
* posit problems for consideration
* etc etc etc

Let us see how well this thread will fare on this Forum...
Obserwuj wątek
    • chickenshorts Re: Yorick's Cognitive Corner 16.12.04, 09:29
      That's handy!
      just round the corner had a spot of bother with the term 'idiot'('misery
      corner') and decided to 'contribute' here with a question on IQ tests and their
      validity... Is it genetic (hereditary)? Can it be improved?
      The growing number of top universities accept their academic staff on IQ score
      basis and yet, it's largely dismissed as unscientific at worst, very
      inconclusive at best...

      The brain is material and inteligence is it's function. Well, what is it? Is it
      genetic (hereditary)? Can it be improved?...

      • Gość: Yorick IQ, IQ tests - etc. IP: * 16.12.04, 18:30
        Dear Chickenshorts,

        check out my smart-ass reply :). It is based on a lecture on 'intelligence' by
        D.Robinson, series: "Great Ideas in Psychology", accessible legally from The
        Teaching Company, illegally through E-mule or Soulseek :).

        (Good) intelligence tests are very good at measuring what they are designed to
        measure. Intelligence tests, as far as I know, are designed in such a way that
        the scores form a bell curve, so they pick out SOME bona fide trait with a
        Gaussian distribution in society. [There is every reason to believe this trait
        is heritable (in both ways: the way money is, and the way money isn't, i.e.
        genetically). It is also very clearly influenced by education and other
        environmental factors. Of all examples, I can't imagine a situation where after
        taking 1000 IQ tests you would score the same or lower on the 1001th as on the
        1st (needless to say, without your general knowledge or general learning
        ability going up very much).]

        Is this trait actually 'intelligence'? That depends how you define intelligence.

        > The brain is material and inteligence is it's function.

        It's risky to say that. In my way of thinking, the function of the brain is
        survival. 'Intelligence' is a rather hazy notion, that (like most notions)
        works well in everyday language but is very elusive outside it. I don't think
        it is a good idea to make a uniform IQ test score a basis for employing staff.

        • chickenshorts Re: IQ, IQ tests - etc. 16.12.04, 22:35
          Yorick, good (Intelligence, etc.) tests are the best we have for measuring
          whatever they've been designed to measure. The notion that intelligence is
          innate and immeasurable in principle is social politics, that is to say, a way
          of avoiding often cumbersome conclusions by ignoring the data.

          intelligence (after M-W)- (1) the ability to learn and/or understand or to deal
          with new or trying situations : REASON; also : the skilled use of reason (2) :
          the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think
          abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)
          Shorter Oxford adds 'Quickness or Superiority of understanding' in its

          When somebody repeatedly fails the driving test there is every reason to deem
          that person unfit for driving. It's not the tests that seem problematic but
          the use of them in such a competitive society as ours.

          >In my way of thinking, the function of the brain is
          > survival.

          I'd say that 'survival' is a goal and that 'intelligent' brain aids its owner
          greatly in this.

          'Intelligence' is a rather hazy notion, that (like most notions)
          > works well in everyday language but is very elusive outside it. I don't think
          > it is a good idea to make a uniform IQ test score a basis for employing staff.

          Maybe they are not that uniform and used rather carefully... After all, we are
          talking 'top' academic establishments that should 'know better'. I think they
          measure what is practical to measure.

          'Grey matter in specific brain regions correlated to high IQ (MRI study):

          • Gość: Yorick Re: IQ, IQ tests - etc. IP: * 17.12.04, 00:35
            The reason why IQ tests are so problematic is precisely that we do not know
            what it is they really mesure. They do measure something. But what?
            High IQ score does not have to correlate with good social skills, with
            abilities to earn money, etc etc.
            Survival - I should have said: the success of our genes (survival AND
            reproduction), and the brain is in fact the main tool for achieving it. But are
            those really the most 'intelligent' people that have the greatest reproductive

            Whites (caucasians) score on IQ tests consistentnly better that the Blacks do
            (pardon my French), or so I am (reliably) told. We have two options. We can ban
            the tests. Or we can face the data. Maybe it isn't that the Blacks are stupid.
            Maybe they just tend to have much less previous experience with the kinds of
            tasks that appear in IQ tests.
            I think genetic differences do translate into differences in IQ scores, while
            at the same time average IQ rates can be greatly enhanced by more intensive
            schooling (at least in some societies).

            But i am NOT into any kind of social debates. :)

            I am also deeply distrustful of any kind of rash locationist statements. Some
            time ago a bunch of studies much more serious that the quoted one seemed to
            have proven that 'language' is located in 2 specific areas of the brain. Which
            we now know it isn't (or at the very least, the story is infinitely more
            complex than that).

          • axxolotl Re: IQ, IQ tests - etc. 07.01.05, 04:25
            >good (Intelligence, etc.) tests are the best we have for measuring
            > whatever they've been designed to measure

            A little off topic, but I've dug up one of my old papers (oh, boy).

            (...) Back in the 1920s and 1930s the research to identify successful and
            unsuccessful language learners focused on intelligence tests. Language
            learning was academic in nature then, and it was expected that high results on
            intelligence tests would predict high achievement scores in language courses
            (Gardner, 1985). The primary concern was to provide a basis for selecting
            which learners should be chosen to receive foreign language instruction and the
            main purpose of research was to predict which learners would succeed.

            Since then, research has progressed considerably and the theoretical
            perspectives on the effect of cognitive abilities for language learning now
            reflect the beliefs tha intelligence and language aptitude are two separate
            concepts. Researchers now propose a model consisting of three types of
            intellectual competence: analytic abilities that we use for analyzing,
            judging, comparing and contrasting; creative abilities used to create, invent
            and discover; and practical abilities that are used to apply, implement and use
            our knowledge (Robinson, 2002).

            Intelligence is no longer viewed as a general ability and high scores on
            intelligence tests do not necessarily predict that learners will be successful
            or unsuccessful in their language learning. It is argued that successful
            language learning involves more than good memory and analytic abilities
            measured by traditional intelligence tests. (...)

            Now research seeks to explain why some learners succeed more than others and
            what factors contribute to one learner being more successful than another one.
            In language learning research, the individual difference factors are now
            divided into four categories (Ellis, 2004):
            1. abilities - defined as "cognitive capabilities for language learning";
            these include intelligence, language aptitude and memory;
            2. propensities - defined as "cognitive and affective qualities involving
            preparadness or orientation to language learning"; among these are learning
            styles, motivation, anxiety, personality and willingness to learn;
            3. learner cognitions about L2 learning or "conceptions and beliefs about L2
            4. and learner actions, that is learner strategies.


            Ellis, R. (2004). Individual Differences in Second Language Learning.
            Handbook of Applied Linguistics. C. Elder and A. Davies. Oxford, Blackwell.

            Gardner, R.C. (1985). Social Psychology and Second Language Learning: the
            role of attitudes and motivation. London, Edward Arnold Ltd.

            Robinson, P. (2002). Researching individual differences and instructed
            learning. Individual Differences and Instructed Language Learning. Amsterdam
            and Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company.
            • yoric Language skills 07.01.05, 17:37
              The problem is,

              just as 'intelligence' is an heterogenous gallimaufry of many mental
              competencies, 'proficiency in a foreign language' is too. I make few
              grammatical mistakes and virtually no spelling errors in academic texts, and
              absorb vocabulary with relative ease. Still, I tend to have problems with
              listening comprehesnion, and I must admit my fluency in speaking can be
              frustratingly low at times.
              Phonetics, grammar, style and register, vocab (slang, technical, literary),
              fluency, cultural background - you can excell at one and be crap at another...
              • axxolotl Re: Language skills 09.01.05, 04:51
                yoric napisał:

                >I make few
                > grammatical mistakes and virtually no spelling errors in academic texts, and
                > absorb vocabulary with relative ease.

                That has been duly noted by yours truly. Your vocab is indeed quite
                extensive. How do you do it? I have to see a word in a context a few times
                (preferably each time in a different context) before I can be bothered to
                memorize it. I remember when I was reading my very first book (novel) in
                English. I don't remember what it was now because it was ages ago, but what I
                do remember is copying sentence after sentence with words I did not know. It
                was painful. I read fast, a 200-300 page novel a night is nothing for me, but
                that book took me weeks.

                > Still, I tend to have problems with
                > listening comprehesnion, and I must admit my fluency in speaking can be
                > frustratingly low at times.

                Hey, you can't be perfect! That'd be unfair ;)
                  • jan.kulczyk Re: Language skills 09.01.05, 13:37
                    Well that all depends on the material. Stories of crime and passion are indeed easy to swallow overnight ;) Still, there are books which take me days or weeks to finish - whatever the language. I had a friend, a Polish guy, not an exceedingly bright fellow on the whole, but boy was he a fast reader! Devouring Balzac's "Le père Goriot" or Stendhal's "Chartreuse de Parme" overnight was a breeze for that man. And this is not to say he couldn't remember a thing once he finished the book. On the contrary, he could recount every minute detail of the story and tell it in his own words. Everybody knows Stendhal is not an easy read, let alone in the French original, when one needs not only to struggle with the author's fastidious narrative full of brooding and melancholy ;) but also with his goddamn early XIXth century French!

                    Anyway, the guy was exceptional. I hear he works for some French embassy or consulate somewhere. I am inclined to think all he reads now are complaints, judicial reports and protocols. Pity.
                    • axxolotl Re: Language skills 09.01.05, 17:30
                      > I am inclined to think all he reads now are complaints, judic
                      > ial reports and protocols. Pity.

                      Maybe he's a masochist and enjoys it ;)
                      I used to read Last Wills, Divorce/Separation Agreements, Powers of Attorney,
                      etc. They were a wealth of information. The things you learn...about people,
                      especially in divorce agreements.....
                      Makes you think about human nature (or lack of thereof in some people, and it
                      goes for both, men and women)

                      As far as me reading so fast, yes, it depends on the material :) I'm still on
                      page 150 of In Search of Lost Time and I think it's been some 10 years now.
                      But no, I'm not giving up!!
          • chickenshorts Re: Yorick's Cognitive Corner 07.01.05, 22:17
            Gość portalu: guest napisał(a):

            > chickenshorts napisał:
            > > The growing number of top universities accept their academic staff on IQ
            > score
            > > basis ...
            > That doesn't seem to be true--where did you find this information and which
            top universities do you have in mind?<

            Surely, you don't expect this to be a 'standard' procedure out in the open,
            given the contentious issues attached... What do you mean by 'doesn't seem to
            be true'? That you couldn't find any info on that one? Hardly surprising...

            Be honest and tell me how many morons do you know who performed well in IQ
            tests? And how do you explain the statistical evidence for strong link between
            high IQ scores and good academic performance?

              • chickenshorts Re: Hey, easy! 09.01.05, 17:39
                Gość portalu: Yorick napisał(a):
                > Easy...

                But that's my middle name!

                > I guess that was just a question; you need not overreact.

                Have I? Apologies then...
                Sorry, but I find your 'complaint' a bit unfair. Neither have I overreacted nor
                made attempts at belligerence but merely asked a question?

                OK., I rephrase it: I'm advocating more serious approach to IQ tests precisely
                because they have better predictive value than any other 'checking tactics'. We
                know plenty idiots running variety of shows but there aren't many among them
                who'd score highly on the Quotient.
                Many serious academic establishments employ the tests in their employment
                strategy. London City University is one of those.

                In any case, we know sort of instinctively an intelligent person when we meet
                one and can easily tell apart highly intelligent man from the one not too
                intelligent. And in fact, good IQ tests in majority of cases confirm just this.
                The problem begins when we attempt to define intelligence. If it isn't
                p r e d o m i n a n t l y innate, as I suspect is the case, then there is
                plenty we can do about it. Ignoring the implications is un-intelligent. Am I
                condemning less intelligent people? But I'm probably one of them. Am I a
                fascist? Am I in favour of eugenics? Christ! Horror! On the contrary, I think
                the only alternative to a religious president or atheist moron is an
                intelligent 'ruler'! One of the reasons we need 'truly intelligent' people...

                >The general tone of
                > this Forum is combative enough; and I've never known you, Chicken, to be in
                > favour of it - so let it stay that way.

                There is time for peace and there is time for combat.

                > rgdz

                Likewise! Take it easy.
                • Gość: Yorick Innate IP: * 17.01.05, 01:18
                  We need to be very careful with what "innate" really means.
                  Any newborn baby is not any more intelligent than any other :).

                  Even if we admit that IQ is heritable to a degree (i.e. people with very
                  similar developmental histories will have different IQ scores, depending on
                  what they've inherited genetically), this does not in the least bit undermine
                  the importance of education etc.
                  For example, it has always been my very strong belief that reading a lot at a
                  very early age (starting from, say, 5) helps enormously, indeed, might be quite
                  crucial. [though I can't substantiate it scientifically]
                  But then, we need to differentiate between various types of mental capacities:
                  memory for abstract elements, association, spatial imagination, logic, etc etc
                  • Gość: olo Re: Innate IP: * 17.01.05, 03:49
                    My only comment is that I don't think IQ tests are accurate in measuring
                    intelligence. Recent studies show that there are seven kinds of intelligence -
                    so, based on these studies someone may wonder - which kind of intelligence is
                    measured by a standard IQ test ? For sure not all of them !
                  • scand Re: Innate 17.01.05, 14:49
                    > But then, we need to differentiate between various types of mental
                    > memory for abstract elements, association, spatial imagination, logic, etc
                    > etc.

                    All these competencies, maybe, take an origin from a connective power of our
                    So intelligence could be a measure of this connective power objectively
                    manifesting itself in a proper pattern recognition.
                    • Gość: Yorick Re: Innate IP: * 17.01.05, 16:44
                      Possibly. But rather unlikely.

                      Psychologists find all kinds of dissociations between them, meaning than you
                      can be very good at some and lousy at the others; and you can identify
                      particular brain areas whose damage disrupts the functioning of some and not
                      the others.
                      'General associative power' to a degree is a myth; althoug i do agree that you
                      can identify some factors responsible for "mental acuity" it is unlikely that
                      they will cover all of what we call general intelligence (e.g. spatial
                      imagination and memoery for names alike) and stop there (i.e. have no effect on
                      e.g. learning to swim or wrestle). And there will likely be some trade-offs
                      (you're better at this = worse at that).
                      • scand Re: Innate 18.01.05, 09:42
                        Very reasonable. So intelligence is a local property.
                        Some parts of a brain could have greater associative power others possibly not.
                        Trade-offs are originated from limited energy law.
                        • yoric Re: Innate 18.01.05, 21:53
                          The frontal lobes have for years been everyone's favourite candidate for the
                          home of general intelligence. They are not directly involved in 'menial' jobs
                          like motor or sensory functions, so they're kind of devoted to 'higher'
                          cognitive tasks. But that's probably a 'zeroeth approximation' - a statement so
                          general that it becomes trivial.
                          I wouldn't say a local property; I'd say - a sum of various functions, some of
                          which might be local, some more global :).
                          • chickenshorts Re: Innate 19.01.05, 19:11
                            scand napisał:

                            > I'm very suspicious about, so called, emotional intelligence.
                            > Can emotions by intelligent ?

                            IF your definition of 'intelligence' covers also all that may be
                            called 'success at continuation of the species' then, yes; considering that we,
                            humans, are basically and mostly emotional... and most 'successful'! For
                            instance, we are pretty lame in our physical abilities when compared to other
                            animals, and yet amazingly successful at finding the right partner for mating &
                            producing a healthy offspring... 'right' here should mean complementing our
                            genes for better and fuller qualities in a baby, and that has nothing to do
                            with reason and abstract thinking but plenty with... 'emotions'! Well, that's
                            the term, innit?

                            Gość: Yorick napisal

                            >We need to be very careful with what "innate" really means.<

                            Are you sure your perverted commas chipped the right word? Didn't you, by any
                            chance, really mean 'really'? Supposing you did mean 'innate' - here it
                            is:"innate /,I`neIt / adjective
                            an innate quality or ability is one that you have always had: INHERENT"

                            OK, I is another try: "innate - 1 existing in, belonging to, or
                            determined by factors present in an individual from birth : NATIVE, INBORN
                            <innate behavior>
                            2 : belonging to the essential nature of something : INHERENT
                            3 : originating in or derived from the mind or the constitution of the
                            intellect rather than from experience...

                            I've always thought you were in favour of Occam's Razor, so what are you trying
                            to say by suggesting to be prudent here? We are just talking...

                            >Any newborn baby is not any more intelligent than any other :).<

                            Any? I'm surprised... Are you a young (old) mother? And who told you this?
                            • Gość: Yorick Re: Innate IP: * 19.01.05, 23:37
                              A newborn baby can't solve mathematical tasks; can't solve tests, can't compose
                              poems - all it does all day is sleep, sometimes suck on a tit. I'm afraid that
                              permanently does for 'innateness' of intelligence in one sense :).

                              Of course we assume lots of things "all things being equal" - e.g. assuming all
                              babies get proper nutrition, proper care, proper schooling etc etc - genetical
                              differences are sure to come into play. But that's a complex mechanism of
                              interaction between the genes -
                              • scand Re: Innate 20.01.05, 14:33
                                > ..that's the
                                > job of emotions.

                                OK. That's the job..but it could be made more or less intelligently ?
                                Can we refine our emotional system in order to make it more "intelligent" ?
                                I'm afraid if one thinks so he simply is under influence of self-illusion..
                                    • yoric Re: Innate 21.01.05, 17:37
                                      We won't get very far on that level of generality...

                                      Emotions are not unstructured or random. They have very important functions.
                                      They won't plan your next ten years of life, but will save you from attacking a
                                      band of skin-heads (fear in this case).
                                      It's so crucially important that you look after your children (=genes) that
                                      it's got to be hardwired. If you did not get emotional about being cheated on,
                                      everyone would ... your wife and your genes would be lost. etc etc. some things
                                      are simply too vital trust "Reason" to handle them - they must be operated by

                                      And besides, 'emotional intelligence' is not really about emotions, but about
                                      social skills.

                                      • scand Re: Innate 25.01.05, 16:27
                                        You have noticed important thing i.e. emotions are valid mainly in a social
                                        environment. They tell nothing about a structure of, lets say, the sky. Why
                                        is it a case ? Maybe we are using emotions only in the domain where there is a
                                        high degree of unxpected, social environment is an example. Emotions are
                                        general strategies but more innate than learned.

                                        > And besides, 'emotional intelligence' is not really about emotions, but about
                                        > social skills.

                                        The skills are not emotions so if you are right some kind of methological chaos
                                        was introduced by Goleman :)
                                        • yoric Re: Innate 25.01.05, 17:09
                                          No, no!

                                          I stick to my opinion - they're safeguards. They may get in the way at times
                                          (apprehension can ruin your official speech, and fear can paralyze you), but
                                          they take control over you to rule out your doing *really* stupid things, like
                                          jumping out of the window, or not running at full speed (and above) while
                                          attacked by a leopard. In the realm of the social we use Machiavellian
                                          intellignce, which is only partly related to emotions.
                                          The reason our emotions show mostly in social contexts is, in my opinion, that
                                          social relations are generally so much more important for primates, and
                                          especially humans than for other animals. Our environment is at least as much
                                          social, as physical - some even say, a lot more...


                                          PS: Paying more attention to articles could help get your point across :) - no
                                          offence :).
                                          • scand Re: Innate 26.01.05, 12:01
                                            All right. It was over-interpretation but I can't agree that emotions are only
                                            safeguards - as you have written. I once again would call them general
                                            strategies. They could be inhibitors .. or exhibitors. They operate on more
                                            primitive level where a fast reaction is of great importance but also where o
                                            power of intellectual classification can not be applied.
                                            Social context is generally extremely hard to interpret for a man due to
                                            general unpredictabilty particular human behaviour ( we can only say about it's
            • yoric Mary the Colour Scientist - Knowledge Arguement 06.02.05, 02:35
              It works!

              You made me refresh my knowledge on this issue + my reply might turn out
              helpful for someone - that's two notches for this thread - maybe it's not
              completely useless, as I feared.

              All right:
              3 relevant entries from the celebrated Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


              Mary the Colour Scientist - Mary is a scientist who has ALL info on colour
              perception in humans, but she herself experiences the world in black and white
              (she's imprisoned in a room). On her release, she sees red flowers etc and FEEL
              what it is LIKE (the QUALITATIVE dimension) to experience colours.
              This famous argument by Jackson is usually quoted in the context of qualia, to
              defend the irreducibly qualitative nature of our cognition.
              Let me quote a Stanford page:

              (1) Mary has all the physical information concerning human color vision before
              her release.
              (2) But there is some information about human color vision that she does not
              have before her release.
              (3) Not all information is physical information.

              There are a number of objection as to the experiment itself - 1. it is doubtful
              whether you could construe a black'n'white environment (she'd see at least her
              own skin); 2. without visual input, her colour receptors in the eye and/or the
              brain would very soon atrophy - she could not be able to regain sight in

              I do not feel quite competent to engage in a discussion of the philosophical
              implications of this example (please follow the link above), but my personal
              opinion is, it's not as important as many would like it to be. It is yet
              another powerful argument for nonpropositional knowledge (roughly, "knowledge
              that can't be stated in words and sentences", like e.g. knowing how to swim).

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