Daily Archives: November 28, 2010

High status/high IQ jobs

Some jobs by their nature require a strong IQ, for example, you will not find people with low IQs working as physicists or mathematicians. Anyone who has to master a complex technical job such as flying an airliner will have a healthy IQ.

But not all high status jobs require the mastery of a particular skill or ability that can be objectively measured and there is good circumstantial evidence that in many high status jobs an individual can get by with only a mediocre IQ. It is also true that job status is strongly class-dependent. Some jobs which are considered to have relatively low status in the context of a society as a whole because they are mostly done by those drawn from the lower social levels may require a strong IQ, for example, the skilled mechanic, the rank-and-file police detective.

Jobs also have status within their social stratum. The skilled mechanic will enjoy high status within the working class; a brain surgeon will trump a bank manager in middle class circles. A few occupations are beyond class, for example, those who exercise serious political power or, in our celebrity obsessed world, the likes of film stars.

The status of a job and of a person’s position within a work hierarchy can play an important part in disguising incompetence, as can political ideology. The Bell Curve identified an interesting trait in US society: blacks and Latinos are over represented in reputedly high status jobs such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, the over-representation plausibly being the consequence of an ideologically driven policy, namely, “positive” discrimination: —

“We have obtained SAT data on classes entering twenty-six of the nation’s top colleges and universities. In 1975, most of the nation’s elite private colleges and universities formed the Consortium on financing Higher Education (COHFHE, which amongst other things, compiles and shares information on the students at member institutions, including SAT scores. We have obtained these data for the classes entering in 1991 and 1992… In addition, the figure includes data on the University of Virginia and the University of California at Berkeley in 1988.” (The Bell Curve p451).

“The difference between black and white scores was less than 100 points at only one school, Harvard. It exceeded 200 points at nine schools, reaching its highest at Berkeley (288 points). Overall, the media difference between the black and white mean was 180 SAT points, or conservatively estimated, about 1.3 standard deviations.” (The Bell Curve p451)

For US graduate schools Murray and Herrstein found that in Law school only 7 per cent of blacks had scores above the white mean. The figures for medical schools were similar to those of the Law schools, while the arts and sciences were slightly stronger. (The Bell Curve pp455-8).

As for teachers, affirmative action in the workplace Teacher competency exams showed whites passing at twice the rate of blacks in three of the four states cited – California, New York and Georgia – with Pennsylvania the odd man out with a white/black pass rate of 93/68. (The Bell Curve P494)

It is difficult to conclude anything other than that the intellectual quality of blacks working in medicine, law and education is on average substantially less than those of whites and Asians and that this inferiority will manifest itself in a reduced ability of blacks to do the job. However, many blacks manifestly do survive in such jobs. How do they do it? The answer is a mixture of the subjective nature of the subjects (even the law allows many interpretations), status and political correctness.

Take the case of medicine. It is far from being an exact science. Consequently, many mistakes remain hidden because an error can be explained away as being a reasonable opinion which just happened to be wrong, misdiagnosis would be the classic example of this behaviour.

To this “get out of jail free card” can be added the natural respect that a doctor carries for most people, including other medical staff, the ignorance of the general public on medical matters and a very strong reluctance on the part of medical staff to make a complaint about other medical staff. All this makes people generally reluctant to question a doctor’s behaviour. Where the doctor is from a group which is protected by political correctness these natural barriers become amplified.

The power of all these traits can be seen from the frequent cases of unqualified people successfully impersonating doctors for long periods of time. There have even been a few cases of people successfully impersonating surgeons for years.

But there is another reason why those with low to mediocre IQs get away with being doctors: medicine is not the most intellectually demanding profession (it used to be known as the stupid profession). To be medically competent a doctor needs a powerful memory – to master the very large amount of information presented to him during training and ongoing post-training experience – and personality traits which allow him to both judge patients and be able to inspire trust and confidence in them. What it does not require most of the time is very high level problem solving.

Despite the limited intellectual demands of medicine it is accounted a high IQ profession nowadays, at least by implication, and the academic entry requirements for medical school grow ever more stringent. Why?  There is great competition to enter the profession because it has high status and pays well. This means that higher IQ candidates for medical school will, other things being equal, be preferred to those with lower IQs. In short, medicine today is probably burdened with higher IQ personnel than it requires.

But over-qualification applies only to those who are not beneficiaries of “positive” discrimination and lower IQ candidates disproportionately come from the groups who do benefit from such favouritism. For the reasons given above, they can survive because the job does not make intellectual demands which unambiguously reveal their inadequacy. In addition, those who benefit from “positive” discrimination will tend to generally benefit from political correctness, for this will drive those outside the protection of political correctness – in the developed world white doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators- to cover up the inadequacies of the low IQ politically correct protected doctor. Ironically, the higher than necessary IQ of those doctors outside the politically correct fold will assist in the process of covering up because they will tend to be more competent at doing so because of their higher IQ and greater competence.

What is true of medicine applies to many other high status jobs. People with low to mediocre IQs can and survive for long periods in positions which are patently beyond their competence (this of course applies to all races not merely blacks). There is far more to competence than just IQ, but often the incompetence is ascribable to a lack of IQ-related problem solving ability – the Dilbert cartoon strip deals brilliantly with both the question of incompetents in high places and the different qualities required by people in different jobs.

Even more fundamental to understanding how low IQ individuals survive in high status jobs is the fact that having an incompetent in a high status job does not automatically mean that the operation of the organisation or unit they work within is dysfunctional. If the incompetent person is a senior manager the people under him will compensate for the person’s incompetence by quietly ignoring what the manager says should be done, by using their intelligence and experience and by following standard rules and practices. Organisations of any size but the very smallest have an in-built functionality which transcends the individual.

The larger and more complex the organisation is the less important the position of a senior manager becomes, because the larger the organisation the greater the in-built functionality and the less the effect an individual can have on the organisation, try as they may. Anyone who doubts this should examine the careers of those who have risen to be chief executives of large public companies which they have not founded (entrepreneurs who create their own businesses are a different kettle of fish). Their careers are almost invariably patchy: they have success at one company then fail at another. But once they are on the corporate CEO gravy train it is the devil’s own job to get them off. Like high profile Premiership football managers, no matter how often they fail there is seemingly always another big job waiting for them.

What applies to private business applies in spades to public servants, both because there is no bottom line (the taxpayer pays regardless of outcome) and because those ultimately responsible are the politicians who misuse their power to cover up mistakes where possible, and where it is not, to pretend that a monumental piece of incompetence is nothing of the sort. They get away with it in the main because most so-called democratic systems (in reality elective oligarchies) are tightly controlled by an elite which manages to bar by one means or another (sociological inertia, control of the media and so on) any new political force from gaining power or even influence. Even where a new party does gain power, it is almost always comprised of the same class of people who held power before. The electorate is left with no meaningful choice and the politicians as a class are literally irresponsible in such circumstances.

Positions of authority generally offer the low or mediocre IQ individual a great deal of latitude, because such people are protected from an objective examination of their performance by their status and because they can call upon the ability of others to do the high IQ work. They can also take the ideas of their subordinates for their own and place the blame for failure on their subordinates. The higher the status of the job, the greater the ability of the low IQ individual to hide their inadequacies, both moral and intellectual.

Much of what those in positions of authority do is little more than the exercise of personality plus the acting out of learned positions. This is particularly obvious in the case of politicians who commonly operate simply on the recitation of learned statements rather than responding intelligently to questioning or the demands of situation. Often when politicians are forced by circumstances to make a serious attempt at explaining something they make a frightful hash of it because they do not have any proper understanding of the subject.

The case of George W Bush is an extreme example of this behaviour. When presented with a prepared speech which he has rehearsed extensively and with the use of a teleprompt, he can speak fluently, although even in these circumstances he will get some of the phrasing of his delivery comically wrong by placing stresses where there should be none. But put Bush into a situation where he has to answer questions without any prior knowledge of what is to be asked and his speech takes on a chaotic form with stretches of hesitancy followed by passages where he suddenly becomes fluent for a sentence or two, although the fluent passages often  have no direct relevance to the question he is answering – this, of course, is a common politician’s ploy, but Bush does not use the tactic as a means of avoiding the question but to fill the space with words, any words. This behaviour is easily explained: Bush cannot deal with questions on the hoof. This leads him to stutter and hesitate until he remembers something he has learned parrot fashion which he then trots out. Once this is delivered he is back to not knowing what to say and the stumbling hesitancy re-surfaces.

What applies to politicians has application to not only people in authority but in some degree to any person. For much of any person’s life, both social and working, the individual can get by without needing to exercise higher intellectual functions. For a large part of the population their lives can be lived without ever having to exercise high level intellectual functions because, contrary to popular opinion, most jobs in a modern advanced state are as they have always been: mundane.

The high status people who cannot easily hide their incompetence are those who undertake jobs which can be judged objectively, most commonly those involving a technical ability such as an engineer or scientist. Bluff there will not carry you through, well, not unless you are a cosmologist.

Tellingly, although the black middleclass has increased massively in the USA over the past 50 years, the distribution of blacks across the full gamut of middleclass occupations is uneven. For example, black academics have become much more common in the USA in the past fifty years, but there are few in the indubitably high IQ subjects such as maths, physics and chemistry. I was tempted to include philosophy but that is a subject which is difficult to define. It is indubitably a high IQ subject when done well, but it can also be done badly and still get an academic hearing in a way that work by an incompetent physicist could not. Hence, quite a few blacks have entered philosophy departments but what they produce is more social commentary and political polemic than analytical philosophy in the Western tradition. Certainly, no major black philosopher in that tradition exists. Where blacks do appear in great numbers in academia is in “black” studies, an area in which they can rule the roost with virtually no academic challenge because of political correctness.

The High IQ individual in a low IQ society

Insofar as the person’s life makes calls upon IQ related abilities the higher IQ individual will enjoy an advantage. However, such an individual could be at a considerable disadvantage simply because he will be abnormal. The society will value particular knowledge and skills and discount the value of intelligence. Indeed, intelligence may lead to behaviour which is viewed as dangerous because it is innovative.

Even if his high IQ does not result in behaviour judged to be “dangerous”, the high IQ individual will find his intelligence to be of far less use and advantage than it would be in a high IQ society because the range of problems to which the person’s intelligence can be harnessed are much more limited than they would be in a high IQ society.

The exception to this rule is where the high IQ minority is the controlling elite, either because they hold formal power (various Latin American countries) or because the country is de facto dependent upon them to maintain the proper functioning of society (South Africa).

%d bloggers like this: