Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life impacts of personality and intelligence

Here are two nice figures I came across recently.

The first, based on SMPY data, displays odds ratios for various accomplishments (doctorate degree, STEM publication, patent, high income, tenure) as a function of SAT-M score at age 13. The quartiles correspond roughly to 1 in 200 ability (Q1) to 1 in 10k ability (Q4). This data soundly refutes the "IQ above 120 doesn't matter" Malcolm Gladwell nonsense. See earlier post Horsepower matters; Psychometrics works.

In (imprecise) words: "Profoundly gifted children are 10+ times more likely than merely gifted children to, e.g., earn a patent or gain tenure at a top research university. They are at least several times more likely to earn exceptionally high incomes." (Note "merely gifted" is somewhat below the Q1 SMPY cut -- most school systems use top few percent vs top 0.5 percent.)

The second figure shows regression coefficients of income (at various ages) vs IQ and personality traits (standardized, so returns for each SD of trait). This was originally discussed in Earnings effects of personality, education and IQ for the gifted; see also this paper (Miriam Gensowski, Copenhagen). Note the IQ returns may be underestimated for average individuals since the data source is Terman and there is significant restriction of range (everyone tested at better than 1 in 200 or so on the Stanford-Binet). Nevertheless there are still positive returns to above average IQ within the Terman group (analogous to SMPY results above).

It pays to be Smart, Disciplined/Focused, Extraverted, and Mean! 8-(


Paradigmo Incognito said...

It seems big earners have the same personality profile as entrepreneurs, except for openness which may be less important, or even a source of conflict, if you're hired to do a specific job.

ben_g said...

I think that it may pay to be nicer in the more transparent (TMZ, wikileaks facebook), rate-everything (e.g. Yelp, Lyft, Lulu) world we're developing into.

But what exactly is "agreeableness" anyway? This seems like the most ill-defined of the Big FIve personality charactertistics. Is it based more on agreeing with people, or having a lot of friends, or not having a lot of enemies, or valuing the opinions/preferences of others? I know it's supposed to be a "common factor" between all those things, but I don't notice said things correlating a lot in the real world.

Also I just want to point out to Steve that looking at any one characteristic at a time will overemphasize it. What portion of the variance in income do intelligence + big five personality traits actually account for?

ben_g said...

Maybe more Open people realize there's more to life than maximizing your net worth

botti said...

***It pays to be Smart, Disciplined/Focused, Extraverted, and Mean!***

Sounds like extraversion is becoming more prevalent with younger generations:

"It seems counter-intuitive, but introverts and closet introverts populate the highest corporate offices, so much so that four in 10 top executives test out to be introverts, a proportion only a little lower than the 50-50 split among the overall population age 40 and older.

There are many ingredients to success, and one of the most obvious has always been an outgoing, gregarious personality that lets fast risers stand out in a crowd of talent. But successful introverts seem to have mastered the ability to act like extroverts. Some liken it to an out-of-body experience that lets them watch themselves be temporarily unreserved. They remain introverts to the core, and if they don't get down time alone or with family, they feel their energy being sapped....

The ratio is changing over time. CPP (formerly Consulting Psychologists Press) is the publisher of the Myers-Briggs assessment and has testing data going back 50 years. It plans to release research showing younger generations are becoming increasingly extroverted. Those born before 1964, including baby boomers, are split about 50-50 between introversion and extroversion, but 59% of Generation X (born 1965-81) are extroverted, as are 62% of Millennials (born after 1981)."


Jess Riedel said...

I'm confused about the income line on the first plot. It says that SAT-M > 390 is the cutoff for being in the top 1% of cognitive ability, and as you say Q1 is at the 1-in-200 level. Yet the chance of person in Q1 being in the 95th percentile of income is only 3-4% at around age 38? Even if we correct for the fact that people earn the most in their 40s and 50s, this makes it seem like being in the top 1% of intelligence tells means you're not much more likely than chance to have a 95th percentile income.

Can we get a link to the source of the first plot? (You should also probably make it more clear that the off-hand link in "see also this paper (Miriam Gensowski, Copenhagen)" is the actual source of the second plot.)

James Hedman said...

I'm naturally pretty introverted but during my corporate career I consciously and effectively faked extroversion to get my way and then retreated to my study, easy chair, and a good book accompanied by a glass of whiskey when I got home from work. I played with the kids on the weekends, (action sports.) I suppose that counts as psychopathic to some but it works.

James Hedman said...

I was always hired to get things done. It created great conflict but corporate America is a big slug of a thing and it takes a lot of energy to be a change agent when it is called for.

James Hedman said...

Yes, surfing comes ahead of work under all circumstances. It's best to live in a coastal community to take advantage of this.

steve hsu said...

These SMPY links might be useful: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/smpy/

I think age adjustment could be pretty significant.

Good income--IQ data is hard to find:




Jess Riedel said...

Hmm, thanks Steve. The plot below suggests that the income difference between age 38 and peak age is less than 15% for even the highest decile (and for lower decile it's a difference of less than 5%). That means that the income percentile one occupies at age 38 likely *overstates* one's income relative to the general population.


If I'm interpreting these figures correctly, I'd say that that having a top-1% IQ doesn't even double your chance of being a 95th-percentile earner, and may even be negligible. I'd have thought the effect would be a lot more dramatic than that.

brezhnevseyebrows said...

I too noticed that at age 38, the "smartest of the smart" were only twice as likely to be in the 5%, and that the very smart, but not the smartest of the smart, were less likely to be in the 5% than an ordinary person.

When educational attainment is taken into account the correlation of IQ and income in the US is near zero according to the GSS, the same survey which that Ulsterman used to estimate Jewish Americans' IQ at "only" 1/2 an SD above that of white gentiles.

brezhnevseyebrows said...

Has "oregon local" moved to Michigan?

brezhnevseyebrows said...

Did you read the Shockley interview in Playboy? He was asked by a very smart black American (he himself said so) about smart dictators, etc. It was a stupid question, but Shockley's response was, "The higher the IQ the better one is at getting things done." But, of course, the higher the IQ the better one is at doing almost everything. Or at least that what the claim of a positive manifold means. A high IQ would also make one a superior garbage man ceteris paribus.

Cornelius said...

In MBTI terms, ENTJs and INTJs tend to dominate CxO and other top executive positions. Of all the extroverted types, ENTJs tend to be the most introspective and least extroverted.

steve hsu said...

I don't think SMPY was trying to be very careful in gauging income percentile vs general population. They just wanted to demonstrate differential outcome in their group.

Have a look at the other links which regress income on IQ.

It is true that income returns to IQ are smaller than one might guess. But I think a big part of this is that really smart people are often more interested in learning, solving problems or creating new things than in maximizing their net worth. In my own case (and yours!) I am sure I could be significantly wealthier if I had focused on wealth to the exclusion of other interests.

pat said...

Stephen, for shame. Kicking a cripple!
Malcolm Gladwell can always be counted on to be wrong. That's his profession. He carefully crafts specious arguments that appeal to the vanity of the semi-literate. He tells his audience that they could have been as rich as Bill Gates or as prodigious as Mozart if they had only been allowed to practice a bit more.
I watched his TED lecture on the Norden Bombsight last week. You would think that he couldn't mangle such a topic - but you'd be wrong. He misses the point badly while he panders shamelessly to the prejudices of the fawning audience. The audience behaved like Sinatra's bobbysoxers - mindless adoration. Except Sinatra could actually sing.
Pat Boyle

Dave said...

This is all well and good. What can us introverts do to make ourselves more extroverted? Is there a pill we can take? Alcohol helps, but drinking at work is frowned upon.

Doug said...

It's a shame this study wasn't done with six-factor HEXACO. It'd be very interesting to see the effect of Honesty-Humility factor on earnings.

Seth Long said...

It would be nice if MORE smart people were interested in the same. A relevant post of yours: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2009/03/best-and-brightest.html

Pumpkinperson.com said...

The preponderance of evidence suggests that average IQ increases by 8 points for every figure of income. So people with five figure incomes (most Americans) average IQ's of 100. Six figure people average IQ 108. Seven figure people average IQ 116 etc:


KarlTiggs said...

The concept of measuring intelligence is absurd and you should just give up on your silly quest of proving racial superiority. How can you measure something that hasn't been defined nor can’t be defined? Both computer science and quantum physics fields have proven indirectly that intelligence can't be measured, but psychology still hangs on to this tired old idea.

In computer science, Alan Turing proved that a computer is incapable of computing whether a computer program will halt or not in his classic Halting Problem. It’s the main reason computer science uses the term Artificial Intelligence. The IQs measurement of pattern matching, arithmetic operations among others appear to be intelligence, but your tiny smartphone can perform the same operation and often much faster than you can. Would you say your computer is more intelligent that you are?

Likewise, in quantum physics, the whole concept of measurement requires a very careful definition. Results can change simply by measuring it, creating a tautological deadlock similar to the Halting Problem. Essentially, IQ testing requires dumbing down intelligence in order to get an "objective" measurement, which isn't intelligence at all. Garbage in garbage out.

If your goal is to prove racial inferiority of blacks, as most people who have blogs like this do, please get some counselling. They didn't drop nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, started opium wars, killed millions of Asians or spray agent orange on innocent people who just wanted to live in peace. How can you hate black people, but yet love white people? What have they done to you? If anything, blacks have historically shared their agricultural and scientific knowledge with Asia for thousands of years. If you hate blacks because they have big penises and your unhappy with your penis size then why don't you hate the Jews too? They supposedly have big cocks and big IQs (interesting how the researchers make it to the top of both categories).

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