Richard Lynn is professor emeritus of psychology of the University of Ulster. This article is based on a longer paper published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, 2002, Vol. 32, pp.273-316.
For as long as official statistics have been kept, blacks in white societies have been overrepresented in all indices of social pathology: crime, illegitimacy, poverty, school failure, and long-term unemployment. The conventional liberal explanation for this is white “racism,” past and present, which has forced blacks into self-destructive choices. More clear-headed observers, however, have sought a partial explanation in the low average IQ of blacks…
I propose that the variable that explains these differences is that blacks are more psychopathic than whites. Just as racial groups differ in average IQ, they can also differ in average levels of other psychological traits, and racial differences in the tendency towards psychopathic personality would explain virtually all the differences in black and white behavior left unexplained by differences in IQ.
Psychopathic personality is a personality disorder of which the central feature is lack of a moral sense. The condition was first identified in the early nineteenth century by the British physician John Pritchard, who proposed the term “moral imbecility” for those deficient in moral sense but of normal intelligence. The term psychopathic personality was first used in 1915 by the German psychiatrist Emile Kraepelin and has been employed as a diagnostic label throughout the twentieth century. In 1941 the condition was described by Hervey Cleckley in what has become a classic book, The Mask of Sanity. He described the condition as general poverty of emotional feelings, lack of remorse or shame, superficial charm, pathological lying, egocentricity, a lack of insight, absence of nervousness, an inability to love, impulsive antisocial acts, failure to learn from experience, reckless behavior under the influence of alcohol, and a lack of long-term goals…
There is almost complete consistency in the racial differences in outcomes that can be considered measures of psychopathic personality. In everything from child behavior to sexual precocity to adult crime rates we find Asians at one extreme, blacks at the other, and whites, Hispanics and American Indians in between. These differences are not only consistent through time but are found in countries such as France, Britain, Canada, and the United States, which have very different histories of what could be called “racism.” Indices of high psychopathic personality in blacks are likewise found in the virtually all-black societies of Africa and the Caribbean.
Racial differences in psychopathic behavior persist even when IQ is held constant, and the same racial differences are found in essentially every kind of measurable behavior that reflects psychopathic personality. The most plausible explanation for these differences is that just as there are racial differences in average IQ, there are racial differences in what could be called “average personality,” with blacks showing greater psychopathic tendencies. The argument that white “racism” is responsible for black social pathology is increasingly unconvincing.
I was wondering if you’re familiar with PSYCHOLOGY TODAY’S “Unique – Like Everybody Else” blog written by Scott McGreal. He takes on a lot of topics you’ve been addressing related to race, intelligence, and personality.
I’m trying to immerse myself in the literature on this topic, as it’s related to my field of Industrial Organizational psychology, and I haven’t reviewed it for a while. Here are some of my thoughts thus far.
Your article references a definition of sociopathy as “general poverty of emotional feelings, lack of remorse or shame, superficial charm, pathological lying, egocentricity, a lack of insight, absence of nervousness, an inability to love, impulsive antisocial acts, failure to learn from experience, reckless behavior under the influence of alcohol, and a lack of long-term goals…”
I’m wondering – how many of these characteristics could be attributed to a white Southern slaveholder before the Civil War? For that matter, how many of them could be attriubuted to the enforcers of Jim Crowe laws in the South before Civil Rights legislation was passed and enforced? I’m old enough to remember Lester Maddox brandishing an axe handle, and he seemed highly sociopathic.
What happens, Luke, when an individual’s culture is totally destroyed, and the community of nations does not step up to support the downtrodden, as it did when the state of Israel was founded? For the Native American, this meant life on a reservation, and systematized fostering of dependency by government that surrounds their “soverign nations.” For the freed slave, it meant sharecropping and Jim Crowe laws.
You’ve extrapolated from scientific research on the elusive construct of intelligence to conclude that “The argument that white “racism” is responsible for black social pathology is increasingly unconvincing.” Is this in fact the case? Exactly how long “should” it take a race to recover from kidnapping, bondage, and systematized persecution? Do we have “scientific research” to inform us about that? I can recall the 100th anniversary of the end of the Civil War in my lifetime – and only two generations have passed since the end of Jim Crowe in the South. Even today, Mark Cuban is frightened by the sight of a black kid in a hoodie.
Turning to the scientific side, here are some thoughts I’ve been having as I review the research. First, we have the construct of intelligence, or “g.” What IS it, exactly? The hard core critics point out that “intelligence is what intelligence tests measure” – no more or less. However, that’s not exactly true – the “g,” or “general” factor of intelligence is actually the overlap between what a NUMBER of tests measure at any given point in history – and, as the Flynn effect demonstrates, that “something” that is being measured is a moving target. Interpreted literally, the Flynn effect seems to indicate that we are exponentially more intelligent than individuals who lived – let’s say around 1900, when the Army started administering the first modern intelligence tests. As a devout fan of the writer Joseph Conrad, who published in the 1800s and died in 1924 – I find this pretty hard to swallow. Exactly now did this erudite novelist find a loyal group of readers in such a population of morons? And how did that group of morons pull off the Social and Industrial revolutions that gave us our modernity?
Richard Lynn says that the Flynn effect is reaching a plateau – and that the narrowing of racial differences concurrent with that plateau is a result of improved nutrition. However, if that’s the explanation, why doesn’t Flynn posit that improved nutrition could eventually eliminate these racial differences? Does his implicit assumption that differences will remain reflect a racial bias?
My understanding is that Lynn’s work is based on metanalysis, and that he has been accused of being selective about the studies that he chose to include. Readers of your article should understand that these sorts of studies are a form of “metanalysis.” The first metanalyses, designed for the field of education, were developed by a man named “Glass,” and are referred to as “Glassian” metanalysis. Later, John Hunter, a psychologist, improved upon these methods. Essentially, a meta-analysis is an “analysis of analyses” that computes an “effect size” by aggregating all the data from a number of studies and then correcting for error associated with sample sizes. Doing this holds the promise of getting closer to a “true” result that is not influenced by the handicap of small sample sizes.
This is a very tricky business, as the quality of the individual studies naturally impacts the result. There is always a judgment call on the part of the researcher, who must determine if the content and methodology of an individual study has enough commonality with the other studies to justify its inclusion in the “meta” study.
Going back to the Flynn effect, I wonder about Lynn’s explanation of its diminuation over time as a result of nutrition. If nutrition is so essential to IQ differences in populations, how does that square with the “cold climate” theory that those who had to cope with a cold climate evolved into more intellient beings? Wouldn’t warm climates naturally afford higher levels of nutritional food? For example – I subscribe to a “Container Gardening” group on Facebook that seems to have a high membership of Filipinos. The nutritional plants they are able to grow there – year-round – is astounding. I assume that the same would be true in other tropical and semi-tropical locations.
There also is an alternative interpretation of the Flynn effect – which is that intelligence measures vary over historical time because they are not really measuring what we think of as intelligence. I can send you a recent citation which points out that – logically – intelligence is not a scientific construct, because it is not empirically falsifiable. Remember – the “intelligence” test of the early 1900s had an “average” score of 100 – but if our present day population took it, their average would be significantly higher. We simply take a number of tests, administer them, and define intelligence as the overlap i.e, “general factor”) between those tests. Factors are based on the statistical technique of factor analysis, which is an exploratory technique. Some of the pioneers of the intelligence construct even argued that “content” of the tests being administered was irrelevant!
Finially, we have the question of race and genetics. A recent study of race in Mexico found that there are distinct, highly diverse and easily identifiable genetic sub-groups within that nation, Given their history of invasion, conquest, and immigration (for that last factor, consider that it’s the geographic gateway to the United States) – this is an astounding result. The same result has been found in England – some small towns have an identifiable genetic footprint associated with the national origin of the name of the town they’re associated with.
Although researchers like Lynn prefer to emphasize the “reality” of race, there is no getting around the fact that we are currently in the midst of an emerging “realty” of genetics that promises much deeper understanding (i,.e., predictive power) than more superficial characteristics of skin color, eye color, and hair. It’s coming, so we must be careful not to embarass ourselves with sweeping generalizations that will document our ignorance for the amusement of future generations,
Some of the proponents of race differences are now selling the idea of a correlation between intelligence and the trait of conscientiousness. I have not read these articles yet, but I find this idea counter-intuitive to my experience. Before I became an Industrial-Organizational psychologist, I worked as a School Psychologist. The mentally retarded people I knew through that work were some of the nicest and most conscientious people I’ve ever known. They can work in a sheltered workshop (and sometimes now at McDonalds) with a consistent level of conscientiousness that is awesome, If there is a relationship between intelligence and conscientiousness, I would posit that it’s mediated by variations in comprehension of rules and instructions. I’ve also known very intelligent people who are cunning and devious. I never found that with my mentally retarded students, or even with slow learners.
Luke, I’m confident that the average intelligence of your readers far exceeds the average of major ethnic groups in the U.S. I have no quarrel with the information you’re presenting in terms of its valdiity for discussion or the credentials of those involved. My only desire is to point out that this is a politically charged and highly contentious area, and therefore. hidden agendas do exist.
I also want people to understand that it’s a HIGHLY COMPLEX area that must be approached using systems theory thinking of the type explicated by the great Jewish founder of social psychology, Kurt Lewin. Behavior is a function of person in their environment!