Monday, March 31, 2003


In 1967, Britain's witty clinical psychologist, Donald Bannister (an enthusiast for George Kelly's quasi-phenomenological Personal Construct Theory), suggested that psychology was in fact a branch of politics. This was a prescient suggestion, and one that was being articulated for psychiatry by 'anti-psychiatrists' Ronnie Laing and Thomas Szasz.

At the time, there was admittedly almost audible resistance to Bannister's proposal. Scientific psychologists in those days were still prepared to assert the objective nature of their researches and ambitions; and to maintain that any notable coincidence between their conclusions (if any) and their socio-political outlooks reflected chiefly the influence of the former on the latter. However, those were the days of innocence-preceding the victimization in the 1970's of Arthur Jensen and Hans Eysenck for their alleged racism, elitism and eugenicism (or at least for unwelcome pessimism about psychotherapy and Head Start programmes).

As the academic martyrdom of Jensen and Eysenck proceeded, many 'experimental psychologists' (as they were then called) learned to keep their heads down, to seek their funding from medical and computer-science sources, and to draw a veil over their personal recognition of the importance of intellectual difference as a prime causal variable in human affairs. Soon 'cognitive' psychologists would come to accept 'discourse analysis' as a legitimate pastime for psychology students -- not a high price to pay once truthful realism about the human condition had been abandoned.

In fact, psychologists have often had agendas that were pretty plainly influenced by ideological considerations. Like most Victorian intellectuals (including Marx and Engels), Francis Galton had decidedly politically incorrect views about women, Jews and Negroes. Though he sought equality of opportunity for the sexes in education, he easily came to believe that his observations (in his South Kensington laboratory) had demonstrated the intellectual inferiority of women.

The Frankfurt School and their many 'critical theory' descendants among social psychologists were concerned to explain what they took to be the surprising decision against Communism by German voters in the early 1930's -- a decision that they first held to require a 'depth' psychodynamic account involving undue deference to authority, and which they later found to require analysis in terms of 'social' (no longer individual) psychopathology.

The foremost behaviourist, B.F.Skinner, was an early 'Green': he liked the idea of psychologists exercising authority in a brave new world that would turn people off nuclear weapons, cigarettes, gas-guzzling and salted peanuts. The main difference in the past was that psychologists once felt the need to prove their points empirically: e.g. to prove, using adequate methodologies, that lack of mother love was bad for personality, that being brought up without professional psychological help was bad for mental health, that nurseries made children more sociable, that comprehensive schools made children happier, less snobbish and more sensible about the opposite sex, and that unemployment had nothing to do with having a low IQ.

Today, by contrast, many professional psychologists would freely acknowledge the dominating influence of political attitudes in deciding what kind of psychological work is done. The idea that twin- and adoption-studies can resolve disputes about human nature (and its modifiability) is rarely encountered outside differential psychology and the world of medicine. Political beliefs are readily agreed by correspondents of the British Psychological Society (itself an agent of 'non-sexist language' and of the form of racial discrimination known as 'affirmative action') to decide the outlooks of humanistic and 'radical' psychologists and, less properly, of their opponents.

Moreover, broadly political influences decide what psychological research achieves public funding. After the worlds of education and social science in Britain were abandoned by most politicians as unreformably egalitarian, no personological research was funded into sex differences in logical reasoning, into Britain's relatively low rate of post-War IQ-type gain, into the influence of intelligence on intergenerational social mobility, or even into the notorious failure of the British educational system to turn children out with marketable job skills at their own ability levels. The influence on British psychology of the egalitarian socio-political nostrums today's Establishment (in city bureaucracies as much as in Whitehall) is now stronger than that of elected politicians.

The profession of psychology has come to see itself as a branch of welfare endeavour that must necessarily side with the 'under-privileged' (despite 'social class of origin', at least, having had a rather slight connection with human outcomes in empirical researches over the past decade). Such continuing dedication to traditional welfarism may seem a surprise: for the wider political community of the West has tried a little in recent years to limit crudely corporatist, social-engineering, egalitarian and utopian fancifulness. Yet such constraining efforts of 'libertarians' often seem -- in sociologist Robert Nisbet's phrase -- those of 'chipmunks scurrying to bring down a giant redwood'. Certainly, such efforts have barely affected today's psychological establishment in Britain, or the minimally reconstructed expansionist aspirations for social science that are predominant in Britain's constantly expanding universities. (The Anglo-American impetus is to fund and to teach psychology degrees by rote learning if necessary, even though few of the recipients will find their 'qualifications' of distinctive use in any conceivable job-market.)

More here.


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Some history.


Sunday, March 30, 2003


As widespread Muslim hostility to America and Britain became glaringly obvious (e.g. from a top Muslim writing in the Times’ ‘Thunderer’ column, 25 iii), proposals for deporting a wide-ish range of immigrants and asylum seekers gained currency (e.g. top columnist Max Hastings in the Sunday Telegraph, 23 iii).

(Especially amazing was the revelation that an unstable Black US soldier who converted to Islam had been allowed to go with his unit to Kuwait; only there did his superiors smell a rat and tell him they would not take him on the trip to Baghdad – triggering him thus to roll grenades at his colleagues, killing one and injuring ten.)

However, I doubt there's a practical way forward to draconian solutions to the problem of ‘the enemy within’; and anyhow the risk of civil strife would be too great.

What could feasibly be done, however, would be to remove to their (or to their parents') place of origin any immigrants/asylumswindlers who are found guilty of serious crimes or have been dependent on state funds for more than a year. Further, it could become a serious crime to have given support to anyone convicted within five years of terrorist offences -- e.g. by housing them, employing them, renting them accommodation, arranging state welfare handouts for them or teaching them. (Such a move would rid us of quite a few undesirable Whites as well!) Needless to say, such new legislation would require people to be allowed once more to discriminate according to their own judgments -- it's only in the last generation that 'discrimination' became a dirty word.



A fine and fair review of Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique – anti-Semitism for intellectuals – was provided by John Derbyshire (VDare, 10 iii).

One evening early on in my career as an opinion journalist in the USA, I found myself in a roomful of mainstream conservative types standing around in groups and gossiping. Because I was new to the scene, many of the names they were tossing about were unknown to me, so I could not take much part in the conversation. Then I caught one name that I recognized. I had just recently read and admired a piece published in Chronicles under that name. I gathered from the conversation that the owner of the name had once been a regular contributor to much more widely read conservative publications, the kind that have salaried congressional correspondents and full-service LexisNexis accounts, but that he was welcome at those august portals no longer. In all innocence, I asked why this was so. “Oh,” explained one of my companions, “he got the Jew thing.” The others in our group all nodded their understanding. Apparently no further explanation was required. The Jew thing. It was said in the kind of tone you might use of an automobile with a cracked engine block, or a house with subsiding foundations. Nothing to be done with him, poor fellow. No use to anybody now. Got the Jew thing. They shoot horses, don’t they?

Plainly, getting the Jew thing was a sort of occupational hazard of conservative journalism in the United States, an exceptionally lethal one, which the career-wise writer should strive to avoid. I resolved that I would do my best, so far as personal integrity allowed, not to get the Jew thing. I had better make it clear to the reader that at the time of writing, I have not yet got the Jew thing—that I am in fact a philoSemite and a well-wisher of Israel, for reasons I have explained in various places, none of them difficult for the nimble web surfer to find.

If, however, you have got the Jew thing, or if, for reasons unfathomable to me, you would like to get it, Kevin MacDonald is your man........

More here


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Some history.


Saturday, March 29, 2003


Particular political parties seldom attract the sustained curiosity of psychologists-or of other people who deny any hunger for power. Promote themselves as they might, Conservatives, Christian Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Democrats, Social Democrats, Democratic Socialists, Socialists, Greens, Nationalists and the many warring factions of the 'National Front' and 'Class War' movements provoke ridicule-and even claims of revulsion-as much as serious study. Still, many political developments fascinate and even terrify: e.g. the sudden collapse of Soviet communism, Reagan-Thatcher conservatism, and the European exchange-rate mechanism (the intended precursor of European monetary and political union).

Likewise, the rise of nationalism (with 'ethnic cleansing') in ex-Communist Europe, of the urban cardboard-city 'underclass' in the West, of nearly-nuclear-armed dictatorships in Asia, and of genocide in central Africa provide forceful reminders that the world of political problems and nostrums offers plenty to study. Perhaps psychologists should heed the call. Aristotle assumed that, under reasonably democratic institutions, politics would be one of the higher expressions of human nature; and it is often tempting to see political differences as providing reflections, extensions or even compensatory and pretended forms of conventional personality traits. Perhaps politics can sometimes complete personality development-even if they as often substitute for it.

The central tendency for political debate in the West to have been carried on since 1789 is in terms of Left vs Right. This general dimension has proved acceptable enough to psychologists. However, psychologists have still to demonstrate that the dimension's roots and motivational bases are to be found-as many psychologists would prefer-in 'liberalism / humanitarianism vs ethnocentrism / authoritarianism'. Thus their own interest has been especially in those packages of political belief that they do find at once coherently demonizable and indicative of underlying psychological or social pathology. In particular, Western psychologists have been interested in-and critical of- 'right-wing authoritarianism' and its local corollary of (White) racism

Any psychology of politics which tries to come to terms with actual political parties is bound to be a little complicated for the following three reasons.

(1) There are often considerable differences among people who support the same political party. Politicians of the Left quite often disagree with each other about the value of traditional family life, deterrent sentencing, military alliance with other Western nations, formal economic co-operation and linkage as in the European Union, and the technique of nuclear deterrence. On the Right, disagreements occur about hanging, homosexuality, divorce, abortion, Sunday observance, free trade and, once more, the European Union.

(2) Parties change their views over time on important matters. In the nineteenth century, the British Liberal Party was a party of free trade and laissez-faire capitalism; but in the twentieth century, under its charismatic leader Lloyd George, it pioneered the 'welfare state' (beginning with free medical provision in the Highlands of Scotland) and favoured European economic union. Over the same period, British Conservatives moved from trade protectionism (especially in agriculture) to championing free trade (in particular, under Mrs Thatcher, protesting about the European Common Agricultural Policy); and, after Suez (1957), they moved from championing Britain's Empire and Commonwealth to indifference (reacting against the preference of the 'New' Commonwealth for socialism and subsidies). It is widely presumed that any British Labour Government in the near future would be unlikely to reflect many Labour Party members' emotional commitments to
(re-)nationalization of industry, technology, key services and natural resources, to de-nuclearization of Britain's armed forces and, above all, to the outlawing altogether of private education (i.e. of Britain's 'public' schools).

(3) Perhaps true 'conservatives' wish to preserve some kind of status quo, or to return to bygone and halcyon arrangements that they always preferred. Similarly, 'the Left' might wish to be conspicuously 'radical', 'reformist', 'progressive' and even revolutionary-as the Left itself invariably implies. Yet there are paradoxes for even this agreeably simple antithesis. In recent years, in British politics at least, the Left itself has been concerned precisely to preserve the Welfare State, a substantial ongoing redistribution of wealth and income by means of taxation, the legal immunities of trade unions, the Council housing schemes, existing nationalized industries, and the non-selective, largely unstreamed state-funded comprehensive schools. Each of these institutions and practices has been represented as a British inheritance from a relatively golden age of previous liberal/left reforms-though it was in fact a Conservative Prime Minister, Disraeli, who first began the process of privileging the trade unions at law.
Can such apparent incoherence be explained? One possibility is to draw attention to the distinctive types of coalition that are involved by the Left and the Right respectively. The Left, at its broadest and most successful, is perhaps concerned to provide a 'balanced ticket' of order (especially, of economic organization) and welfare (especially targeted on the less well-off, so putatively reducing 'inequalities'). Comparably, the modern Right might be understood as backing (rather nervously) a balanced mixture of liberty (especially, of economic freedom to dispose of one's own wealth and income) and justice (professing more respect for human rights, property contracts and a stable currency). The Left's package will usually be defended by reference to its conspicuous UTILITY and its promise for a country's future; while the Right's 'backward-looking' arguments, at their loftiest, will concern LEGITIMACY - i.e. how it is proper to treat people, almost regardless of actual results.

These broad hypotheses about the Left-Right difference as involving different types of coalition have the merit of indicating why psychologists have had trouble explaining party-political preferences. For the more commonly recovered dimensions of social attitudes (in studies of the general public) involve marked contrasts precisely between the values which the parties themselves quite often harness together. Individually, people tend to favour:

More here.


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Some history.


Friday, March 28, 2003


Of all the controversies in and around differential psychology, those connected with geography are the most fierce and the least resoluble. Since national statistics furnish big sample sizes for researchers, averaged scores from human groups on many social and economic variables can easily be shown to differ significantly. But are such differences substantial? And do the widely seen racial (etc.) differences in abilities, aspirations, arrangements and achievements have any deep-seated basis in genetic or culturally inherent features?

In the 1970's, the answers of psychologists Hans Eysenck and Arthur Jensen to this question led to physical attacks on them in universities; and, in the 1990's, Phil Rushton, at the University of Western Ontario, was widely denounced for his "r-K" work and theorizing both in academic and political circles (e.g. Nature, 1992, viii, ix; Personality & Individual Differences, 1995/6). A book on general intelligence that had been relatively well advertised, The g Factor (Brand, 1996), was actually withdrawn peremptorily from publication by its 'publisher', John Wiley & Sons, after the author freely admitted to being a 'race realist', or what 'anti-racists' had long called a 'scientific racist'; and student representatives demanded Brand be sacked (see ).
There are probably eight main reasons for the intractability of disputes about group differences, as follows.

(i) In the twentieth century, Germans sent millions of Jews to the gas chambers, Japanese massacred millions of Chinese, the Cambodians lost 40% of their population in two years to the murderous, anti-urban Khmer Rouge, the inhabitants of Rwanda and Burundi slaughtered millions of each other in repeated frenzies, and Soviet citizens starved and executed their own millions in the name of Communism. Hence it may seem unwise to claim a monopoly of wisdom or virtue for any one race or nation - however successful some nation-states may be in the short term. Peace and harmony themselves may only be purchased at the expense of a less than admirable neutrality.

(ii) The modern world has brought different groups of people into closer proximity across what were once great obstacles to geographical mobility. In response, the humanitarian and capitalist imperatives alike have been to decry ancient stereotypes and to urge such newly commingled groups to make the best of their new situation.

(iii) The Second World War is considered in the West to have been a 'just war' - waged for humanity against a rampant (mass-genocidal, as was finally learned) type of nationalism, racism and cultural hegemonizing. It certainly succeeded in bringing to a halt the German (and indeed the British) variety of imperialism; and it ushered in a Western world of relatively free-market capitalism in which people were to be rewarded according to their efficiency as individual producers (and not primarily according to state protection of jobs against international free trade). Similarly, in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, one-time national and ethnic rivalries were thought to have been reduced by Communism (and even by Stalin's massive population shifts). Thus the continuance and resurgence of locality-based rivalries and ethnic elitism comes as a disagreeable surprise.

(iv) Race, culture and religion-often linked-continue to provide visible forms of differentiation and identity in which many group members take pride, whatever other groups may think and however social scientists may wish to adjudicate.

(v) There is no entirely secure methodology (within ethical limits) that is capable of deciding whether presently observed racial/ethnic differences are genetically coded. (Cross-breeding between the races at present is far from random and often involves unusually well-educated participants who are more confident in challenging the relevance of classic stereotypes and parental advice.)

(vi) In any case, 'observable' racial/ethnic differences are sometimes thought to be an illusion-a reflection of unworthy subjective prejudices (including the prejudices of psychometricians). According to this view, research is pointless-except perhaps into the prejudices of would-be researchers.

(vii) To admit the existence of genetically based group differences might seem to place limits on human progress and perfectibility. (Genetic engineering might eventually change that; but such engineering, too, would be alarming to those whose own belief systems and livelihoods centre on the prospects of 'social' types of improvement)

(viii) Racial (etc.) pride and prejudice are more visibly experienced and even enjoyed by people of lower levels of education in the liberal arts and social sciences. This naturally invites the suspicion that ethnic elitism may simply be a mistake that is corrigible by provision of more education and psychological help.
Among reflections on racial/ethnic differences, it is those about IQ-type differences in general intelligence (g) that have been centre-stage for psychologists. There are three reasons, as follows.

(i) Differences in g are the only differences of any general importance that can be measured with satisfactory reliability and apparent fairness.

(ii) Since measurement was first made (around 1920) there has appeared to be an abiding one-standard-deviation Black-White ('American Negroid-Caucasoid') difference in g (e.g. Jensen and commentators, 1985, Behavioral & Brain Sciences 8). The problem has been to vindicate an environmentalist account of this difference-upsetting as it is to most psychologists (except in so far as it is taken as providing an insight into the processes of White, Western, and especially Anglo-American racism).

(iii) Since 1980, there has appeared to be a challenge to most environmentalist theorising about the Black-White difference, in that the Asian peoples of Japan and North America have demonstrably overtaken quite a few Caucasoid groups in their general levels of economic and educational attainment (e.g. P.E.Vernon, 1983, The Abilities and Achievements of Orientals in North America). Asians seem to have made this progress 'fairly': they have, since 1945, and outwith Communist China, respected a wide range of human rights; and they have maintained what appears to be-by Western standards-an impressively low crime rate. The advance of the Japanese, in particular, is sometimes argued by Western psychologists (first by R. Lynn, e.g. 1982, Nature 297) to have resulted from their higher intelligence-now liberated as it is from feudalism, militarism, imperialism, cousin marriage and the aptly named Noh theatre into the life-style of the West.

To what must be the embarrassment of most Western psychologists, the advance for Japanese people in Japan and North America has occurred despite
(a) military defeat and nuclear destruction in Japan itself;
(b) the original quasi-enslavement of the North American Japanese (as 'bonded labour'); and
(c) the breaking up of Japanese homes, families and businesses in California (after Pearl Harbour, 1941).

Most especially, there has been widespread prejudice against Japanese people and criticism of them for their systematic cannibalism while fighting Allied forces in New Guinea, for other 'war crimes' (notably the 'Rape of Nanking'), for their failure to apologize for their war record, and for their legendary 'racism' and largely unreconstructed attitudes re the emancipation of women.

The more familiar questions of the differences between Western groups (and indeed between the regions of the British Isles) are probably more congenial (e.g. Lynn, 1971, Personality and National Character; Lynn, 1979, Brit.J.Soc. & Clin.Psychology). However, the problems of explaining Oriental successes and Black African political and economic 'failures' (e.g. P.T.Bauer, 1981, Equality, the Third World and Economic Delusion) are now very pressing and are dealt with at length. To many social scientists it must be attractive to attribute the economic and educational progress of Asia to 'systemic' features. (These might include capitalism, the uniquely 'communal' capitalism of 'Japan Incorporated', or, in other countries, the budgetary disciplines for politicians insisted on by the International Monetary Fund as a condition of loans). Yet could such systemic arrangements ever be sustained in countries that were themselves low-g? Perhaps climate, religion and medical factors also play a part? -The ways in which AIDS is spread and is dealt with are likely to impact substantially on populations and their political ruling classes in the years to come.

Quotes relevant to the above questions are to be found here


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Some history.


Thursday, March 27, 2003


In recent years, social scientists have grown chary of offering 'explanations' of social phenomena. When so many social-scientific theories, prophecies and recipes failed in the past, 'explanation' has seemed too precise an aspiration . Instead, social scientists have increasingly inclined to refer merely to people's own 'understandings' of the social world; to their own 'perceptions'; to their 'communication of meaning'; to their 'symbolic interactions'; to their 'identities'-often 'self-constructed'; and to their '(false) consciousness'.

Purveyors of such mixtures of common sense and post-modern sociology therefore decry attempts to trace human psychological differences to age, gender, or race. Just as suspect as such disagreeable group differences are biologically-based dimensions of difference (such as g) that might be offered by a differential psychologist as causal stand-ins.

Yet in fact, lurking not far behind this intellectual smoke-screen is the best-known simplificatory variable of the whole lot: social class-or 'socio-economic status' (SES) for the faint-hearted. It is this 130-year-old variable, first popularized by Marx and Engels, that will still be summoned up by sociologists if it is insisted that they distinguish themselves from experts in literature, or when they wish to rouse an audience to revolutionary fervour. In particular, SES is commonly held by sociology's less-postmodernized sympathizers to be capable of most of the explanatory work to which IQ is usually assigned by the London School of differential psychology. Indeed, most labourers in sociology and allied trades would frankly hold the SES of one's parents during one's youth to be the important causal factor influencing one's measured IQ itself, as well as influencing one's finally achieved, adult levels of educational attainment, occupational status and affluence. Social class is the one real group difference that is allowed by sociologists to social science.

How to resolve arguments about the causal importance of parental SES has never been particularly obvious. For example, high-SES foster parents tend additionally to have above-average IQ's: so the 'rich' environment that they provide for their children will consist partly of intellectual stimulation and support that derive less from the father's professional occupation and income and more from the sheer intelligence of his wife and himself. Matters are further complicated for the researcher by the fact that -- just as many psychologists are edgy about g -- some sociologists will not commit themselves to any particular measure of SES. However great their faith in the existence of a hated over-class and a cheated under-class that awaits their leadership to the barricades, 'non-positivist' sociologists can be as reluctant to measure SES as those political conservatives who abjure the socially divisive 'class' concept as helpful only to revolutionaries.

Lately, important new evidence became available from a natural experiment in France -- collected by a team that was appalled to find that the English-speaking world had not itself managed to put down the abominable heresies of Hans Eysenck and Arthur Jensen. Involving separated pairs of half-siblings in homes that were very different in SES, the study found surprisingly modest effects of class-of-rearing on the children's later IQ's (and especially on fluid g as measured by non-verbal tests). Again, modern evidence from both the USA and Ireland (both North and South) is that the SES of parents quite simply shows only a slight correlation (around r = .22) with the educational attainments of children by their early twenties.

Yet it must be doubted whether the West will witness 'the end of class-ism' as quickly as some hereditarian and libertarian thinkers have envisaged (Biology & Society 4, pp. 104-109). The collapse of Eastern-European Communism in ignominy may have sounded the death-knell for the idea that human life is mainly structured by SES and that political endeavour must aim to eliminate class differences; but sociologists normally have a soft spot for Thomas Kuhn's view that discredited ideas can enjoy a long half-life within tenured bureaucracies.

(This is a preface to a wide range of quotes on the subject that can be found here).


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Some history.


Wednesday, March 26, 2003


While behaviourism held sway in psychology, sex differences were ignored-like most other biological influences that contribute to human nature and human variety. According to classical behaviourism, people's 'histories of reinforcement' were all that was needed to explain their psychological differences. Thus no special study of sex differences was required. With the publication of Eleanor Maccoby's The Development of Sex Differences in 1966, this neglect ended; but disagreement would persist as to the malleability of the differences.

The 1970s witnessed attempts to link sex differences in cognition and psychopathology to hemispheres, handedness, hormones and much else (e.g. Flor-Henry, 1983, The Cerebral Basis of Psychopathology). However, through the 1980's there was less confidence in neuropsychological stories and more development of the various competing strands of modern 'feminist' thought. Today it has still to be considered that some sex differences are of social origin, even if a 'patriarchal' social structure itself emerges as a likely development in most imaginable sociobiological circumstances.

The are five broad (but inter-linked) questions which give rise to argument in psychology and social science.

1. How do people acquire their sex-assignation as male or female?

2. How do people come by their sexual orientation of desire?

3. How do people come to differ in masculinity vs femininity of interests and personal style?

{In recent years it has been fashionable to view all such sex differences in personality and in 'what sex you feel you are' as matters of 'gender identity'. Yet this terminology would seem to beg the question of whether 'identity' is the issue. - Is an interest in flower-arranging actually an identity-assertion, or might it just be an interest tout court? Anyhow, in extending the term 'gender' to people from its natural use in linguistics classify nouns, the terminology of 'gender' is strangely coy about using the word 'sex'.}

4. How and why do people arrive at their sexual opinionation concerning such matters as 'the opposite sex', 'the battle of the sexes', and the social, political and religious arrangements that should be made if the sexes are to live and procreate harmoniously?

5. Who is right about about the sexual prospects in the modern West? For example: will the sexes live increasingly disharmoniously? - Is the nuclear family finished? Will women support themselves and their children chiefly from some mixture of their own careers and state benefits? Could male labour and reproductive capacity be suffering steadily reducing demand? And what could males be expected to do with their time if their chief involvements with children were by means of the taxation system and the requirements of the divorce courts?

The more familiar feminist package of arguments contests the importance of sex differences; and attributes such differences as really must be admitted (in 'spatial abilities', 'aggression', 'dominance', 'criminality', 'tough-mindedness', 'analyticity', attentional styles, emotionality, logical reasoning, genius, sexual perversion, promiscuity, stark insensitivity, or whatever) to the influence of the local social environment. This little-real-difference package holds out the future prospect of reductions in such differences as are found; and enthusiasts for Women's Liberation may accordingly assert that there are no inherent obstacles to women occupying positions of industrial, political and religious leadership in the same proportions as do men.

A second, equally 'liberated' point of view has proved increasingly popular with feminists. This big-real-difference package of arguments actually stresses the male's physical potency and borderline-inhumanity as a biological aggressor who is conspicuously responsible for rape, child abuse, war and ethnic cleansing. This view is that the aboriginal qualities of the male must tend to disqualify him from Western civilisation; and it might be added that the modern technologies of nuclear deterrence, women police and judges, semi-automatic weapons and in vitro fertilization have anyhow rendered largely obsolete the traditional male's special capacity for hand-to-hand combat and allied forms of coercion.

Feminist respect for biological and evolutionary factors may even go beyond postulating 'big differences'. It may taken a step further to embrace a third view, that there must be differences between the sexes-even if the male does not strictly need to be aggressive or sex-crazed. According to this package (e.g. Ruth Bleier, 1984, Science and Gender ) feminists accept what is a fairly plausible evolutionary tale to account for male over-representation in social leadership. The story begins with human bipedalism: this enabled carrying and thus hunting over considerable distances.

Once hunting for food took the human male away from the home base for longer periods, men's uncertainty about the paternity of women's children was simply bound to make them invent forms of 'patriarchy'; for patriarchy invariably serves to control female sexuality and to reduce the chance of men being cuckolded or made to support women's children by other men. Until recent times, it was only via some kind of sexual indoctrination and policing (usually provided by religion) that men could know in which children they should invest time, effort, cash and affection: female sexual fidelity was quite simply the cornerstone of male investment in children.

(If, under other social arrangements, men were to have serious uncertainty as to which children were their own, the sociobiological expectation would be that they would reduce their efforts to improve the quality and life-chances of any particular children and concentrate on having in quantity children for whom others-viz. women or the state-are left to provide the bulk of the welfare.)

An advantage of the 'innate patriarchy' package is that it seems to explain three time-honoured puzzles:

(i) why male jealousy tends particularly to concern female sexuality (whereas female anxieties about their partners seem more often to concern how the man spends his time and money-e.g. Buss, 1991, Ann.Rev.Psychology);

(ii) why so many cultures seem to operate the often-derided 'double standard' of sexual morality; and

(iii) why the world's longer-running religions and polities have been organized by men.

{Of course, the twentieth century-with the Pill, easy abortion, AIDS, the welfare state, incubator-mix-ups, genetic figerprinting and genetic engineering -poses quite new problems (and opportunities) requiring quite new responses by both sexes. Yet the male 'offer' [as it might be called] of either 'assured paternity of females' children' or 'disinvestment' seems likely to stand-at least until some 'marvel' of implant surgery makes it possible for men to bear their own children.}

The Quotations here illustrate these three psychological theses of feminism which, in their very diversity, explain some of the problems of the Women's Movement today.

Do women naturally constitute a cohesive force that could achieve political unity in support of traditional family values and in opposition to crime, warfare and sexual promiscuity? Or will women's natural affection, ready sympathy and need for security (in pregnancy and beyond) achieve fulfilment more naturally in the championing of the job-creative and benefit-providing welfare state sector of modern economies?

Are women well advised to compete with men in engineering, architecture, computing, politics and the priesthood? Or is there simply no proper objective for women but to slough off discredited stereotypes and shibboleths-as they certainly have in the West in recent years?

The psychological understanding of sex differences will bear on all these as-yet-undecided questions. To answer at least the last of them affirmatively may seem easy enough in its tolerant individualism. Yet an unvarnished approval of 'de-stereotyping' will not satisfy politically conscious feminists who urge precisely that women should indeed assert their distinct interests as a natural biosocial group. Nor will it satisfy biological realists: a young woman who plans her future life merely in response to own current stereotype-free 'gender identity' will arguably be neglecting the ennobling maternal energies and sensitivities that would come on stream for her at the birth of her first child.

More here.


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Some history.


Tuesday, March 25, 2003


Though the differences between the young and the old border on being matters of both banality and delicacy, they have a particular interest. Differences between people in sex, class and race have all proved relatively contentious even in recent times; by contrast, little is heard today of 'the generation gap.' How age differences are handled may thus provide a model of how to treat other, less obvious and still more sensitive differences between major, visible human groups.

Three considerations help keep temperatures down as age differences are discussed.

(1) Age differences are pretty clearly dimensional, and not absolute; and they are not all 'negative'. There are few 'black-and-white' differences, for all that some proportion of the problems of the elderly obviously arise from particular devastating afflictions like Alzheimer's disease. Health, vigour, looks and intelligence are admittedly at their peak (in the average person) in youth; and ageing sees a decline which, though barely perceptible at first, is marked after 55. However, compensation is normally thought to be provided by increased caution, wisdom, moral rectitude, good-naturedness and by deep and fulfilling experiences of prolonged affectionate relationships with family and friends.

(2) Equally agreeably, temptations to 'label' and criticise people of another age group are held in check by: (a) the sympathy that the elderly sometimes have for the young-through recall of their own youth and realization that grandchildren are their only way to continued genetic investment; (b) the elderly often needing the support of the young (especially in social security contributions); (c) young people recognizing that they, too, will one day be old in their turn.

(3) Modern advanced economies mediate between the young and the old: they provide funds and welfare personnel intended to cope both with the youthful problems of ignorance, crime, promiscuity and illegitimacy and with the needs of the elderly for home helps, sheltered accommodation and spare part surgery.

In these congenial circumstances, it should be relatively easy to be 'objective' about the major psychological differences that distinguish the old from the young-even about the gf level of the typical 80-year-old adult, which approximates that of a normal 8-year-old child. Yet many psychologists have been reluctant to admit such 'realities' without much qualification. Psychometricians have blamed apparent age differences on possible 'cohort effects' between generations-arguing that today's sixty-year-olds grew up without the welfare state and modern agriculture, whereas today's thirty-year-olds enjoyed, from the cradle, welfare and a good diet that will still be serving them well by the time when they, too, reach sixty.

Experimental psychologists, on the other hand are more accepting of the evidence that age-declines are indeed seen in cohort and longitudinal studies. Yet they see age differences partly as artefacts of coarse psychometric testing procedures; and partly as resulting from specific quirks and maladaptive strategies on the part of the elderly that might remain untriggered if only tasks were re-designed and the elderly re-trained by experimentalists.

Rather in contrast with such speculations, the 1980's witnessed the arrival on the scene of measures of speed-of-intake (for simple perceptual information) that make it hard to attribute age-declines to problems of decision-making, strategy-organization, lack of interest, or unfamiliarity with the psychological laboratory. Piagetian measures, too, showed the elderly to be at just as marked a disadvantage as they are on traditional mental tests.

None of this means that society should not ascribe special rights to the elderly and the middle-aged-even the right to continued employment. Yet -- as when other groups are considered for privileged treatment -- the adage should be recalled that 'Rights without duties are not worth having'. If the middle-aged and the elderly are to be shown 'positive discrimination' (perhaps starting with employers not being allowed to advertise specifically for employees from younger age groups), what are their special duties?

Human societies may perhaps have to be admitted as incapable of a realistic handling of human abilities that treats everyone-of whatever age, sex, class-of-origin or race-quite simply by exactly similar standards, as individuals. However, if rights and privileges are to be accorded to particular groups, beneficiaries themselves would probably feel more secure if the positive discrimination in their favour were premissed on something more than charitable whimsy.

Most naturally, the elderly would play a special role in the nurture and education of young children. Yet this is hardly possible on any scale when 'teachers' in state schools require a sympathy with youth 'culture' and black belts in judo; and when even progress in the English language (with which the elderly are best equipped to assist) is not used as a basis for promoting children to more advanced classes.

So far, the problem of increasingly large proportions of elderly people has been addressed by the empty rhetoric of similitarian wishful thinking. Unless there is increasing realism about the contribution that the elderly can make to the economy and society, the elderly may find the young increasingly keen to relieve them of their expensive welfare rights and benefits-at first by some kind of purchase, but eventually by robbery (already a familiar tower-block sport).

More here


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Some history.


Monday, March 24, 2003


(This is a preface to a series of quotes on the subject to be found here).

There are two main packages of attitudes with regard to altering human nature in general and individual personality features in particular.

One -- the improvement-seeking, 'Utopian' package -- involves believing that psychological change is possible and desirable and even that it should be pursued urgently with all the means at the disposal of society and its taxpayers.

The other -- the rights-maintaining, 'Legitimist' package -- involves believing that many of the changes favoured by psychological experts (in the direction of, for example, 'adjustment', 'creativity', 'equality' or 'openness') are mercifully impossible but should be firmly resisted just in case.

Until recently, psychologists (and allied members of the self-styled 'caring' professions) tended to subscribe to the Utopian package. Yet they were moderate both as to the extent of their own beneficent objectives and as to the likelihood of attaining them. The aim of most applied psychologists was limited to relieving people (or helping doctors and teachers to relieve people) of the best agreed and most conspicuous personal handicaps. (Though the early psychoanalysts and behaviourists expressed wider enthusiasms, cost-benefit analyses were never persuasive.)

Thus it was left to political figures (notably to Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot -- but also, some might say, to Jesse Jackson and Mrs Thatcher) to urge transformations of society and human nature as they found it. Meanwhile, Western psychologists contented themselves with the modest practices of 'treatment' and 'training'.

Today, however, many professional psychologists appear-like politicians-to entertain larger objectives of eliminating racism, sexism, elitism, difference and deference. These objectives are commonly held to require considerable 'social change'.

Reflection on all these four main types of 'improving' endeavour -- as perhaps on other schemes offered by dieticians (ii), sociology's 'labelling theorists' (vi), social workers (vii) and economists (ix) -- will certainly lead some to a largely unalloyed 'legitimism'. Perhaps utopian reformers should be firmly discouraged from meddling with that variety in human nature that results from genetic differences and from the further processes of niche-selection, milieu-creation and self-individuation that naturally characterise human development and family life?

Yet to others it will still occur that, if they are to earn their keep, psychologists really should discover agreeable ways of changing at least those people who themselves clearly want to change.


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Some history.


Sunday, March 23, 2003


I arrived in Nuffield College in 1968/9. This was just after the students -- politically alert, social science postgraduates -- had tried to push Prime Minister James Callaghan into the college duck pond. Mr Callaghan was a right-wing Labour man who would not allow any more 'Asian' refugees from East Africa into Britain. Along with various luminaries of national politics and the trade union movement, Mr Callaghan was a Visiting Fellow at Nuffield.

Another such Fellow was the leader of H. M. Opposition, Mr Ted Heath, who would soon present his economic plans to the the College's Senior Common Room and meet with a reception hardly more friendly than that for Mr Callaghan. Politics were in the air -- though I was somewhat cut off by a motor bike crash which had kept me in plaster, by the arrival of a son and heir, by being flooded out of a basement flat in a night of torrential rain, and of course by being just a psychologist.

My own immediate opponent at Nuffield was to be Roy Carr-Hill, a bright, energetic, stocky and hirsute expert on government statistics who didn't believe in genes a bit. As was becoming fashionable, Roy thought crime was largely the invention of job-creative minds in authoritarian police forces.

However, I had scarcely boned up on twin studies in order to confront my rival in public jousts when the Jensen affair broke in the Harvard Educational Review. From the States came the news of an academic psychologist under siege for his attempt to explain why the Head Start programmes weren't working. Psychologists and nursery nurses were failing to deliver educational gains for the inner-city children, often Black, whose pre-school skills they had been recruited by US Democrats to improve.

The full paraphernalia of modern 'anti-racism' was produced against Arthur Jensen. This ranged from hate mail, death threats, and chanted and loud-speakered comparisons of Jensen to Hitler, through demands that Jensen be fired for his "frightening" theories, to claims that Jensen's work was riddled with errors. Notably, there was conspicuous lack of public support from academic colleagues who privately agreed with Jensen. Understandably, the ultra-bright students of Nuffield, the bastion of 'social science' in Oxford, now wanted their local psychologist to declare where he stood with regard to Jensen.

I read a few things about IQ -- chiefly James Shields, John Horn and Cyril Burt. Already familiar (though very much at second hand) with twin and adoption studies of crime. What I read about IQ soon convinced me: the case for heritable IQ differences was more solid than anything I had to that time seen in psychology for any remotely interesting proposition. To me, it also looked as if any major, sustained race differences within the USA would most likely be genetic.

Jensen himself always tolerated academic quibbles that some special environmental 'Factor X' might produce the differences between yet not within the races; and 'prejudice' might indeed be such a factor. Yet prejudice against Polish, Jewish, and Irish Americans did not seem to have lowered their IQ's. I was further reassured by the fact that Jensen had worked on questionnaires with the mighty Eysenck.

Thus I was introduced to the greatest bull-fight of mid-twentieth-century psychology -- between Berkeley's Jensen and the many picadors and would-be matadors who would try to cramp his style and bring him down. I did not know Jensen personally -- though I had corresponded (a little cheekily) with Hans Eysenck at the Maudsley Hospital in London. There existed in those days neither of the intellectual 'clubs' that the journals Personality and Individual Differences and Intelligence would later provide; and my ignorance of psychogenetic formulae was almost complete.

Nor was Oxford any help: behaviourism was still dominant there, and even schizophrenia was thought to be some failure of social learning or 'social skill.' However, I knew that the issue of the heritability of crime was essentially politicized -- with leftists of the 1960's being environmentalistic (contrary to the liberal-left position of around 1930); and I could sense I might at some point have to join Jensen and Eysenck at the barricades. After all, what would be the point of me soldiering away to provide evidence linking crime to heritable personality features if social scientists could not accept what I thought the already compelling case for heritable differences in intelligence?

More here


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Some history.


Saturday, March 22, 2003


IQ-type mental tests were used -- apparently uncontroversially -- by psychologists at the University of Sunderland to refute the widely held myth that pregnant women become ‘scatty’ and less bright during pregnancy. Women tested before, during and after pregnancy showed no dip in pregnancy when compared to controls tested at the same time (BBC Health, 13 iii).



Contrary to the widespread assumption that men ‘sexually harass’ women, Oxford University researcher Kate Fox (working with Desmond Morris) found that females often initiate flirtation by exposing their necks, stroking their hair and fluttering their eyelashes (Sunday Times, 16 iii 2003, ‘Solved: flirting code that baffles the boys’). More here


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Some history.


Friday, March 21, 2003

On Aggression

As Freud used to say, life is over-determined. Anyhow, I didn't leave the Prison Service just because I became increasingly restive with the basic assumptions of professional staff that 'the environment' and even 'society' were to blame for crime (which could thus be cured by psychotherapy or counselling).

Partly, I didn't feel I was coming to grips with criminals -- who invariably seemed pretty agreeable. -- After all, they were within prison walls, did not have drink taken, and feared being sent out on the night-time 'ghost train' from cushy Grendon if they misbehaved. Partly, my Oxford friends wanted me to do one of those Ph.D.'s under which they themselves seemed to groan for years.

At first, I was easily put off by figures showing that Ph.D.'s earned less than M.A.'s, and anyhow by my wife falling pregnant -- genuinely, this time. However, my friends persisted with advice that I could make up the financial shortfall by winning for myself a junior fellowship at one of the several colleges that were now eager to take a psychologist on board. So, to shut my friends up, I put in -- and to my amazement landed the second fellowship for which I applied, a two-year position at the 'new' social science, all-postgraduate Nuffield College.

Two things are certain: I didn't squeeze back into Oxford either by my IQ or by the quality of my proposed project. I am a rather dull plodder when it comes to IQ tests. And my project was off the wall.

I had read Konrad Lorenz's On Aggression and become intrigued with the possibility that 'hostility' might after all be in part a drive that had to be harnessed or channelled, and not denied. (This idea was quite contrary to the accounts of aggression in terms of 'trigger-stimuli' alone that were popular with eminent behaviouristic social psychologists such as Len Berkowitz -- on sabbatical around that time in Oxford and said to me by friends to be some kind of 'whizz.')

My own idea was to show, as Lorenz had for greylag geese, that, in normal people, aggression was 'harnessed' usefully into social skills of assertion, entertainment, bonding, leadership etc. In turn, this would allow me to pinpoint what had gone wrong in the development of the criminal mind.... Oh well, perhaps it doesn't sound so bad today....; but it was heresy in 1968, and hard to work on.

Nor could I back it up my hunch with any personal experience: I never myself experienced the rising, blinding tension and wish to hit out, smash up or rape that were complained of by some of the Grendon prisoners. (I had seldom come to blows with anyone; and my only real 'stand for justice' had been to decline a Prefectship at school which would have required me -- contrary to my own high-minded pre-libertarianism -- to enforce the wearing of school caps, even at weekends.) Nor did I then consider linking up with Freudian ideas.

Suicide fascinated me even though I, myself, never experienced suicidal thoughts. Like hypnosis, suicide was plainly a standing refutation of most of the academic-psychological approaches to human personality in the 1960's. But I had been busy with rats, crime, sherry parties and empiricism as an undergraduate. I had never found time to learn how Freud had eventually admitted, from 1920, that he needed to go 'beyond the pleasure principle' and to talk of thanatos as well as eros.

No! Why Nuffield took me was simply because one of their senior dons, Nigel Walker (soon to be Professor of Criminology in Cambridge), had 'backed' me as an undergraduate. Nigel had always kindly tried to let me put forward my presumptuous two-penn'orth contributions to his seminars on crime and jurisprudence (attended chiefly by American postgrads); and he now saw the opportunity of making for Nuffield College one of those real-world connections which it was that college's business to forge. Just as Nuffield liked to have workaday trade unionists as temporary fellows, so it also welcomed civil servants.

Unfortunately, Nigel hadn't explained the master plan to me. As I settled in to the freedom of academic life, I had to learn to type -- for secretarial service was just about the only thing not provided by a generous College for its young dons. And what could be more natural than for my first self-typed paper to provide a personal, warts-and-all account of my time at Grendon Prison…. Within no time I had burned my boats. I proudly circulated to my fellow psychologists in the Prison Service my doubts as to Grendon's efficacy and the Governor's interest in research. The Governor's reaction (at one stage threatening a libel action) left me in no doubt that if I resumed employment in the Prison Service it would need to be at a different prison.


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Some history.


Thursday, March 20, 2003


Showing the folly of facile environmentalism about education, a gifted head teacher who left a top independent school to take over one of the UK’s worst comprehensive schools resigned early because of ill health (Times, 15 iii, ‘Head quits sink school early’). Several other such ‘superheads’ had also given up in disgust or taken poorly in the previous few years despite being paid £70,000p.a.



Two former children's home workers jailed for allegedly abusing boys in their care were freed by the Court of Appeal in London

Basil Williams-Rigby, 57, who was sentenced to 12 years at Liverpool Crown Court in August 1999 and Michael Lawson, 62, who was jailed for seven years at the same court in June 2000, had always maintained they were convicted of crimes which did not occur. During the appeal, their lawyers claimed the men were convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of complainants who only came forward after police "trawled" for alleged victims by writing to former residents asking if they had complaints.

Many of the accusers had criminal convictions; and some of them may have been motivated by possible compensation payouts, said the lawyers. Re-united with their jubilant families, the freed men said many more appeals against unsafe convictions could be expected.

(Meanwhile paedohysteria reached close to the Prime Minister as a top aide to MPs at the House of Commons was yesterday charged with having child porn on his computer (Sun, c. 13 iii). Senior clerk Phillip Lyon, who arranges the weekly Prime Minister's Question Time for Tony Blair, was arrested after vice cops raided his Commons office.)



After a nine-month police search for 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart of Salt Lake City had re-united the girl with her parents, it turned out she had never made the slightest effort to escape her captors, a street preacher and his wife who had wished to expand their family polygamously (Boston Globe, 15 iii). Elizabeth had been to supermarkets with the couple without trying to make a dash for freedom; and when the police found her, she pretended she was her captor’s daughter. Despite all this, paedohysterical ‘experts’ insisted Elizabeth must have been terrorized, traumatized and had her identity stolen.



Ann Clwyd, a UK Labour MP, told the Times of Madman Insane's human-rights violations. Her article began with this chilling anecdote:

"There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food . . . on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein's youngest son] personally supervise these murders."

Hardened Times reporter Janine di Giovanni reported after leaving Iraq that, almost every day as she went around Baghdad, she would see some new man having no fingernails, just scars from his torture at the hands of Madman.


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Some history.


Wednesday, March 19, 2003


It was only as a psychologist in the Prison Service that I came to reject environmentalism with deliberation and feeling. I had been required to debate it academically as an Oxford undergraduate -- in essays about the nature or nurture of nest-building in rodents, three-spined sticklebacks etc.; but I had never felt obliged to come to any more of a conclusion than was required for the high-pressure psychology essay of the week. (2,000 written words on the basis of three days' reading -- that was the Oxford régime, after which the rest of life is a bit of a doddle.)

Now, from July, 1965, in the pay of Her Majesty the Queen, at the UK's star psychiatric prison, for 'psychopaths', I was able to interview British criminals at length and to collect full sets of psychometric test results. I would sometimes spend three days on a single prisoner -- a real luxury compared to the more harassed experiences of many of my peers in normal prisons and hospitals. I had to write two reports each week on new prisoners; and, unlike university essays, these reports required repeated attention to the same key issue -- that of causation.

It was a tremendous learning opportunity. I learned to ride big motorbikes, to play squash, to whoop it up at 'conferences', to give 'the Wechsler' intelligence test , and to cure nail-biting by insisting on such extensive recording of every nail-biting session as to make nail-biting aversive without my needing to use electric shock in more than one of some fifteen cases.

What I chiefly learned was this: prisoners unfailingly blamed their own misfortunes on their families. -- Father was an authoritarian and sometimes violent drunk; and Mother was a pill-swallowing inadequate who could not stand up to Father. How could the (now repeatedly convicted) prisoner have survived such a non-start in life?

Yet, when my questioning turned to the siblings of the prisoner, cons would recount that, say, one brother was a bank clerk, one brother ran a launderette -- after minor juvenile convictions -- and that their sister was happy after a shotgun marriage to a salesman in Australia. What I was learning here was that the children of the prisoner-patient's family had turned out very differently from each other -- despite having nigh-on 100% of their 'between-family environment'2 in common. What could account for the siblings' differences?

What siblings do not share is twofold.

(a) They do not share around 50% of their genes.

(b) They do not share the same 'within-family environment': indeed, they are each creating different 'mini-environments' for each other daily as they compete with each other to fill niches and to create entirely new opportunities for themselves. .

Neither of these two types of difference allows 'the environment' or 'the family' to be blamed for final phenotypic differences between the siblings. True: a person might try to blame his own outcome on some sibling having been 'always brighter than me' and thus favoured by the parents. Yet such blame would actually be absurd.

* The other sibling could not help being brighter.

* The parents may have been simply quite right to invest differentially in a child who would make better use of the investment.

* In any case, we all have to learn how to deal with people brighter than ourselves -- whether by learning from them or making more use of our looks. Thus the very child in question has had a perfectly valuable learning opportunity, one that was by the same token actually denied to the brighter sibling. If he has made nothing of his special opportunity, that is his own look-out.

Such speculation may not seem much to go on; and I certainly never succeeded in persuading a single prisoner to stop blaming his family for his troubles. To me, however, it was like one of Descartes' 'clear and distinct ideas': it seemed astonishingly obvious and of enormous consequence. The only problem was that birth order research of the time had come up with nothing: there was a tendency for criminals to be later-born, but that was usually explained by them coming from larger (and poorer) families.

I did have indirect empirical support, however. Follow-up research from our model psychotherapeutic prison repeatedly showed that our men did no better on average than matched controls who had received little more than pills from their Medical Officers in ordinary prisons. Our very expensive efforts at Grendon were not changing the personalities of our prisoner-patients -- whatever the men told us politely on questionnaires before they left. The problems of these psychopathic and neurotic men were deep-seated and not attributable to the unstimulating, impoverished or misunderstanding environment provided by 'society.' At Grendon, we had provided them with a cornucopia of psychotherapeutic, vocational and educational ministrations -- to no general avail.

At the same time, I also became aware that, despite pretensions to open-mindedness, psychiatrists are no more enthusiastic than are laymen about being advised by researchers that their work does no conspicuous good. In particular, I realized that the psychiatrist who was the Governor of H. M. Prison Grendon would seldom discuss the psychologists' follow-up results with the many visitors to our showcase prison, including journalists.


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Some history.


Tuesday, March 18, 2003


The 1960's witnessed the Nobel-Prize-winning work of Roger Sperry on "split-brain" patients. (In these rare patients, the cerebral commissures had been partially severed by surgery to prevent massive epileptic attacks spreading from one cerebral hemisphere to the other). Subsequently, the study of the (putatively) distinguishable functions of the hemispheres became a growth industry in psychology. A person's 'lateralization' was commonly estimated in three main ways:

(i) by handedness; (ii) by the visual field (to the right or left of the testee's central fixation) in which a person showed the best visual recognition of briefly presented target stimuli; (iii) with which ear a person showed best recognition of sounds. Thus twentieth-century neuropsychologists hoped to realize the ambition of the Edinburgh phrenologist, George Combe, that human nature and individuality might be read off from 'God's Other Book', the human brain.

At first the notion was that individual differences in hemispheric dominance might be linked to manifest differences in psychometric abilities. But left-handers (and mixed-handers) did not prove reliably obliging in such respects; nor did alternative assessments of a person's 'hemispheredness' produce any clear picture of correlated ability-differences. Faced with this disappointment, by the mid-1970's, interest began to focus on more grand but less definite and less measurable differences -- e.g. on the 'parallel processing', 'creativity' or 'primary process thinking' that might possibly, by some criteria, be associated with relative right-hemisphere dominance (at least amongst right-handers).

Again, however, little consistent support proved forthcoming for any one theory; and, by the mid-1980's, it was clear that numerous complexities required consideration -- not least those of the interaction between the hemispheres (e.g. involving processes of mutual stimulation, compensation and suppression).

By 1990, following the arrival of brain-scanning devices (PET, CAT, MRI) it was clear that the two hemispheres are remarkable chiefly for their similarity, at least in normal, commissure-intact people. The main conjecture must therefore be that the hemispheres are rather like identical twins: they are very similar, but one tends 'dominate' the other in behavioural output.

[Evolutionarily, there is presumably an elementary need in ground-living mammals for action (movement) to alternate between left and right sides while still realizing one single plan. Perhaps, beyond that, it is simply advantageous-less accident-prone-for the brain to carry a 'back-up' system (in the non-dominant hemisphere) rather than to have all its eggs in one basket: for it would be unlikely that the same form of minor damage would disrupt the functioning of both hemispheres at the same time.]

Amidst all the sophisticated researches of neuropsychologists in the 1990's, remarkable extant problems are:

(i) the failure to achieve any interesting and agreed account even of differences in handedness and their origins;
(ii) the empirical failure to link indices of hemispheredness with well-established measures of the major six dimensions of personality that repeatedly emerge in psychometric work; and
(iii) the reluctance to explore, in particular, the likelihood that general intelligence (g) itself is positively associated with cerebral differentiation of function --- such differentiation (as expressed in consistent individual preferences in handedness) being conspicuously lacking in mentally retarded people.

Researchers can barely say more than that, at least in right handers, the left hemisphere usually houses speech (Broca's area, discovered around 1860) and the right hemisphere houses dressing skills (discovered by Brain around 1940). At present there is general belief that, for whatever reason, males show greater cerebral differentiation of function, and that psychotic disorders are associated with unusual patterns of lateralization.

As to hemisphere function, the tendency is to see the left hemisphere as more concerned with focussed attention and sequential, analytical processing of unpredictable material; while the right hemisphere seems more concerned with the holistic patterns, rhythms and expectations that provide the personal background and context to action. Despite its special association with music, song and dance, the right hemisphere is the more 'gloomy' of the two hemispheres-as if it especially housed recognition of negative and punishing features of the environment or was quite simply, the Freudian superego. {E.g. Crow, 1986, Brit. J.Psychiatry; Crow, 1993, Lancet; Cutting, 1992, Brit. J. Psychiatry; Rotenberg, 1993, Dynamische Psychiatrie.}

It is sometimes suggested that the right hemisphere especially enables obedient response to authority, both in ordinary social life and under hypnosis. According to this view, normal, modern, non-hypnotized consciousness involves a certain dominance of left hemisphere activity (see Walker, 1984, Br.J.Soc.Psychology; Jaynes, 1972/1992, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.)

Perhaps the greater cerebral differentiation of males is somehow associated with their showing more 'extreme' forms of psychosis (notably the manic form of manic-depressive disorder) and social behaviour generally (for, historically at least, men are over-represented in the organisation of both crime and religion). By contrast, perhaps because of lower cerebral differentiation, the more common female shifts (in multiple-usually dual- personality), involve neither such complete loss nor such complete tyranny of superego functions as are sometimes seen in males.

More here


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Some history.


Monday, March 17, 2003


A century ago, the romantic individualism of the Victorians furnished exotic accounts of the existence, nature and origin of genius. Theorizing was especially enlivened by the linking of genius to madness. With syphilis an irremediable scourge, with alcoholism at higher levels than today, with 'hard' and 'soft' drugs legally available, and without today's major tranquillizers, there were many well-publicized careers of artistic 'degeneration'.

That the mid-twentieth century took a more subdued and pragmatic view of high human gifts had a little to do with psychology. The 1930's discoveries that Terman's 'gifted children' (having IQ's over 140) enjoyed relatively good physical and mental health tended at first to be interpreted as falsifying the 'mad genius' story. Additionally, historians of science became aware of the importance to discovery and invention of the milieu within which several 'workers' might come up with the needed breakthroughs at around the same time-thus de-emphasizing wholly individual factors. (Naturally, some enthusiasts extrapolated wildly to draw the conclusion that genius 'does not really exist' -- except in some egalitarian sense in which 'we can all be geniuses.')

Only by way of criticism of IQ-type tests did a new hypothetical 'personality' correlate of high achievement present itself in the 1960's. The new trait involved tests on which testees had to produce many possible answers- e.g. 'words beginning with the letters sh...' Louis Thurstone had called such tests measures of fluency in the 1930's; but what they measured came to be called 'creativity' in the 1960's even though it soon proved markedly less predictive of real-life creativity than was boring old IQ.

Just as disappointing to critics of IQ, and unremarkable to the London School, explanations of the origins of child prodigy and later genius proved hard to find-except via IQ, via exceptional performers having had rather odd parents and home lives, and via mathematical genius having a very modest association with myopia and left-handedensss (e.g. Brand, 1991, Personality & Indiv.Diffs.).

Today, partly because of the availability of more penetrating -- or at least more frank and sexually explicit-biographies, opinion may be swinging back towards acknowledging the sheer libido, obsessionality, independence-of-mind, exquisite sensitivity and, above all, radical individuality that seem such astonishing features of the lives of many highly gifted and high-achieving people. Once more, the relatively frequent occurrence of mental illness, personal unhappiness, moodiness and alcoholism-at least in the lives of writers and artists-is being recognized (e.g. Kaye Jamison, 1995, Scientific American; Hans Eysenck, 1995, Genius, CUP).

It might be thought that the link between artistic excellence and emotionality (or neuroticism) would lead to over-representation of women in the ranks of artistic genius; but this is presumably prevented by the higher male standard deviation for general intelligence that produces a 1.4-to-1 male-to-female ratio in the range above IQ 140 -- as also below IQ 60 --- and by women's special involvement in child-care.

On its own, the wider range of male intelligence levels yields an especially impressive 47- to -1 male-female ratio at above IQ 175 (The Times, 7 viii 1984, A. & E.Hendrickson, interviewed by D.Spanier) -- i.e. in the range where the best-agreed geniuses of the past seem to fall.

[In addition, Lynn (1994, Person.&Indiv.Diffs.) has claimed from modern Wechsler data that adult males are actually some three or four IQ points higher than females. Lynn points out that the equality of the sexes which Burt first remarked (on Binet's tests) has always been based chiefly on data from children tested early in adolescence-when girls may be have caught up temporarily with boys because of their earlier final growth spurts. However, Lynn's claim may involve post hoc concentration on unrepresentative data and is certainly contested by Mackintosh (1996, J.Biosoc. Sci.)}

Genius probably involves experience of a wide range of moods, problems and ways of looking at problems; and the more 'negative' (dystonic or dysthymic) moods (depression, anxiety, hostility, and boredom / fatigue) are sometimes experienced by artists with terrifying profundity. Moreover, some gifted people seem to manage to combine positive traits that appear to be unattainable 'opposites' for people of lesser intelligence: for example, Tolstoy (perhaps the world's greatest novelist) combined formidable energy (including sexual energy-at age 80 he still prayed for relief) with a punishing work schedule; and ferocious determination and independence-of-mind with a touching tender-mindedness of both sensitivity and opinionation.

If only one could be more impressed by the efforts of psychologists in all this! In fairness, Sir Cyril Burt put his finger on the central phenomenon: the skewed, J-shaped distribution of high achievements-making it likely that many factors 'interact' (e.g. multiplicatively) to yield genius as a highly individual, 'idiographic' and non-transmissible quality. Yet no psychologist so far seems to have tried out even the pretty obvious idea of accounting for real-life creativity -- at least in the arts -- as a multiplicative interaction of g and n.

(Quotes relevant to the above can be found here)


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Some history.


Sunday, March 16, 2003


A new anti-big-government party was launched in the UK, called the People’s Alliance. I commented to a conservative group:

“The great advantages of citizen-initiated referenda would surely be subsidies to stable English-speaking families, no mass coloured immigration, and universities which turn out plumbers instead of sociologists. And many would also welcome the return of hanging and a continuation of bans on sexual behaviour in public toilets. The People's Alliance also plans to lower the voting age to 16, thus bringing in kids before their indoctrination into political correctness is completed; and it makes a reasonable proposal for rebuilding the House of Lords.”

(I felt some sympathy for the new party, for I had made similar proposals and distributed them to friends and and colleagues in Edinburgh ten years ago. All comments welcome.)



Top UK historian and columnist Paul Johnson came out unequivocally against ‘Old Europe’ as it tried to give Iraq’s Madman Insane another final last final final chance.


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Some history.


Saturday, March 15, 2003


Crime is a compelling subject for the social scientist. It is important, widespread, and normally on the increase. It has plainly resisted the explanatory efforts of half a century of 'criminology' and allied taxpayer-funded endeavours.

One big attraction of the subject is presumably that crime and criminals are practically unfamiliar to most tenured social scientists-at least until these intellectuals have their own homes burgled; but perhaps the key feature of crime for academics is that crime is a relatively 'objective' social fact.

Population problems of psychopathology, ignorance and political extremism are sometimes said to be 'in the eye of the beholder.' In so saying, these problems are thus envisaged to be products of 'labelling', reflecting the prejudices of other individuals (especially of 'experts' and officials wearing white coats or peaked caps). However, the vast majority of crime comes to light because of reports from the general public. What is a crime, what should be a crime, and what is proper punishment for a crime are actually all matters on which good agreement is found between the general public, the police and criminals themselves.

The objectivity of judgments as to whether person X has committed Y number of crimes meriting punishment Z is further enhanced by having such matters tried in public courts and determined by highly experienced and well-paid judges, and by alarmingly socially representative juries. To cap it all, crime and criminal justice are under constant press scrutiny - unlike the secretive operations of social work tribunals, university examination boards and many other classificatory procedures of the welfare state.

Here, then, there is little possibility of that hypothetical collusion between psychiatrists, social workers, relatives and even potential patients themselves that might indeed inflate the numbers of the 'mentally ill' or determine in some 'socially constructed' way the apparent frequency of other types of 'deviance' in particular ranks of society.

Despite such gifts to the empirical inquirer into crime, it is still far from obvious where the explanatory breakthrough for psychology and allied trades is likely to occur. The majority of crime is committed by a small percentage of males of ages 15 to 40 whose propensities are already familiar to the criminal justice system from their previous convictions. Of further assistance to investigators, drink is involved in about three-quarters of all crime. [The enormous post-1950 rise in alcohol consumption largely explains rising crime-rates-for lower taxes lead inexorably to more drinking (Spring & Buss, 1977, Nature).]

Nevertheless, agreement on the importance of underlying traits of extraversion, sensation-seeking and impulsivity, or of psychoticism, hostility and aggression, has proved hard to establish to everyone's satisfaction; and whether-deriving from such partly heritable traits-criminality is of genetic and constitutional (vs social-environmental) origins has remained even more controversial. Undoubtedly crime is attributable to multiplicative 'interaction effects' between a number of variables-for that is how causation must occur for any variable that has a highly skewed distribution in the population, as crime does; but, despite much verbal support from criminologists for what was actually an early theoretical initiative of Cyril Burt (1925, The Young Delinquent), actual identification of especially critical 'interactions' remains to be accomplished.

Perhaps because of unwillingness to think in terms of criminals and delinquents being constitutionally crime-prone (till age 40, anyhow), progress in 'treatment' and prevention has been modest. Transportation, the Victorian 'silent system' and 'preventive detention' for recidivists have all been abolished; but few seem content with the arrangements that have taken their place, and the reconviction rate-itself lower than the re-offending rate-for recidivists is around 75% within three years of discharge (for young adults with more than one conviction already behind them).

One way forward would be to visit the full costs of crime and criminal justice on offenders themselves and simultaneously to oblige everyone to insure against such costs-just as people must have motor vehicle insurance. As with other insurance, premiums would be individually tailored to different people, and this might focus attention on life-style alterations that could be made by particular individuals so as to keep their premiums low.

Yet even such practical arrangements for charging crime more largely to criminals will appear unsympathetic to those who romanticize the criminal as involved in quasi-revolutionary protest against social injustice. By and large, 'criminologists' have moved from their 1960's position of considering criminals to need psychotherapy, through their 1970's position of seeing criminals as victims of reactionary, reductionist 'labelling', to their 1990-ish position of wanting urgent police action to help Britain's remaining Council scheme tenants against the vandalism, intimidation and racism from which -- rather contrary to Class War theories -- state protégés suffer at the hands of their immediate neighbours.

However, the apparent insolubility of crime in Africa and the West (especially the USA) today will always tempt some to entertain 'conspiracy theories' that boldly make the criminal the real victim-of society.

Quotes giving suggested answers to the above questions can be found here


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Some history.


Friday, March 14, 2003


The dimension of 'neuroticism' (n) -- as self-reported 'emotionality' has been somewhat insensitively titled by psychometrician-psychologists -- was first discovered by researchers in Holland and London some eighty years ago . Ever since, individual differences in n have remained central to differential psychology. After g, n is the biggest and best-agreed factor in standard researches by psychometrician-psychologists.

Higher-n scorers report themselves as moody, nervous, easily stressed, sensitive, passionate and as having more interesting dreams; while low scorers profess stability, confidence, poise and emotional self-control (or even a frankly sluggish lack of any conspicuous motivation).

Although n-levels appear high in art students, ballet dancers, actors, novelists and first-rank philosophers, and although n correlates with intensity of romantic experience, such news seems to bring little cheer to high-n scorers themselves. Higher-n people normally dislike and think they would rather do without the 'negative' aspects of neuroticism-notably the tendency to swing easily into the four general dysphoric mood-states of depression, anxiety, fatigue/boredom, and hostility. It comes as no surprise to high-n scorers that higher n levels characterize most psychiatric patients and many other groups of unhappy and discontented people. High-n people themselves think they would prefer the lower n-levels that obtain amongst aircraft pilots and bomb disposal officers.

It would be most satisfactory if high-n could be traced to intelligible origins -e.g. to unhappy childhoods, failed relationships, or major life stresses. Many psychologists, just like laymen, think it only too likely that exam failures, jiltings, unemployment, being taken hostage or learning one was infertile would raise n levels. However, despite a half-century of environmentalistic enthusiasm in psychology, there is no conclusive evidence of such causation.

Unhappy homes have indeed been the experience of less happy children; but this correlation may arise because of genetic factors. Some studies have found little general impact of major stresses (like bankruptcy) on personality; and other researches have found that people currently suffering unhappiness (in marriage or at a 'mid-life crisis') have been high-n and unhappy for many years preceding their current problems.

Other important aspects of n-partly revealing, and partly obscuring its essential nature-are as follows.

1. n is a rather 'private' variable. It is hard to tell whether even quite familiar acquaintances are high- or low-n except by asking them. It is not just that high-n people may keep out of the way when they are feeling low. - Even husbands and wives can be quite surprised to discover 'what it feels like' to be their spouse.

2. n has few strong behavioural correlates in formal psychometric ability-testing or in the serendipitous tasks of the experimental psychologist's laboratory. High-n people often believe that they will perform poorly, but they are wrong as often as right. Rather, n has two correlations in the psychological laboratory.

One is with variability of performance over time: high-n people will perform rather well on some days and rather poorly on others. (This variability is paralleled by greater actual variability in self-reported mood-e.g. when subjects report their moods several times a day over a few weeks; and high-n's awareness of such variability may be the reason why they are apprehensive about how they will perform for the psychologist in the laboratory.)

The other is that optimal performance tends to occur at moderate levels of n-or at lower levels if a task in complex or novel, and at higher levels if a task is simple and already over-practised. (This is a variant of the classic Yerkes-Dodson Law whereby moderate levels of motivation tend to yield the best levels of learning and performance.)

3. n has shown no substantial correlations with psychophysiological indicators despite many searches over the years. This may be because at least some low-n-scorers are just 'repressing' anxieties and self-doubts that higher-n scorers are prepared to admit. (In recent years, Michael Eysenck has reported evidence for such a view.)

4. In so far as n level may reflect lack of repression, repression would then no longer be central to 'neurosis' (contrary to Freudian ideas). Indeed, repression might be an advantage (except, perhaps, for aspiring ballet dancers, etc.).

In recent years there has been much concern to explore and to emphasize the 'cognitive' nature of emotional life and neurotic phenomena. This has doubtless reflected the wish of 'cognitive psychologists' to escape the confines of previous behaviourist dogma. However, it is far from clear that this concern has done much to illuminate emotional and neurotic disorders -- for most of which the treatment of choice is still entirely non-cognitive, psychotropic medicine prescribed by a G.P. after a brief consultation that emphatically does not dwell unduly on the patient's current moral dilemmas or life tasks.

Admittedly, the superficial nature of neurotic problems has changed enormously since the days when Freud was interpreting neurosis as originating from repressed (infantile) sexuality. No longer are hysteria and neurasthenia diagnosed with any frequency. Instead, young women have anorexia nervosa, anorexia bulimia, and make attempted suicide bids after drinking several cans of lager; and other 'neurotic' patients are treated chiefly for mild sleep disturbances, panic attacks, depression, concentration problems and 'globus' (an uncomfortable sensation of having a lump in the throat).

Within psychoanalysis itself there has been increased attention to distinctively modern problems like 'narcissism' -- i.e. subtle exhibitionism (for 'appearance' and a semblance of 'identity' can now be purchased off the peg as never before); and, more generally, there has been agreement on other important new neurotic phenomena such as the bombastic irritability of the 'Type A' personality, and the naive sentimentality of 'New Age' devotees. Still, neurotic problems have remained ameliorable primarily via the chemical route; so it is perhaps worth retaining the idea that basic emotional lability (involving mood-swings that occur "with or without apparent reason", as high-n scorers themselves attest) is still central to the problem.

Quotes relevant to this topic can be found here.


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Some history.


Thursday, March 13, 2003


I presume the real point of Blair's apparently crazy confrontations is not in fact to argue but rather to appear a good listener. Having got himself the reputation of living by 'spin', he has to undo the damage and demonstrate sincerity.

We are now approaching the final acts of NuLabour, in which it steals the Conservatives' few remaining clothes (pro-Americanism, anti-Europeanism) -- and perhaps even (as Matthew Parris has suggested in the Spectator) takes over the Conservative Party itself.

After what he has been through the last few months, “The Dear Leader” surely knows that his European dream is ended and that Britain's future lies in sharing in an Americanglish imperium. So he is now ready to take his true followers into the Conservative Party (which long ago gave up the only policy Labourites viscerally deplore, saving the grammar schools).

Arguably all big and successful political parties involve 'dynamic compromises' between major values/aspirations which would normally seem opposed (and *are* usually opposed in psychological surveys of attitudes). Once the Tories brought together brewers and bishops. The Left brings together class warriors and pacifists. Today, President George W. Bush and Mr Tony Blair are both currently combining (individualistic) capitalism with the new religion of PeeCee; and 'Old Europe' may be about to re-invent some version of the dynamic compromise between nationalism and socialism which they always rather liked in the past.

Personally, I hope Bush and Blair will be able to persuade Hollywood's directors to let them drop PeeCee and instead substitute some nice ideas about the family -- yielding a bit of community spirit while also winning some eugenic effects for the rapidly self-extinguishing White race. But PeeCee provides an easy feel-good factor for minorities without actually having to do very much except sack or censor 'insensitive' realists; and few politicians like to really build up the family with any real power to rival their own.

So we may now be seeing what NuConservatism will look like -- unless Ian Duncan Cough can drive a hard bargain and persuade Blair to drop PeeCee as part of the new deal. (IDC could always toy a little with not backing the war -- e.g. because of lack of popular support -- until Rev. Tone offers something Tories really want, hopefully the ending or at least hollowing-out of PeeCee, rendering it a clapped-out but congenial latter-day Church of England.)



Top Bush-ite columnist, Mark Steyn, had some fun in the Daily Telegraph (8 iii) at the expense of naked anti-American protesters:

Many of my fellow warmongers have mocked the nude protests mounted by the women of California's Marin County, cruelly pointing out that many of the bits on show are excessively saggy. But I'll take what I can get. If we have to have an incoherent, anti-Western "peace" movement, then women showing off their hooters in support of a culture that would stone them to death for showing off their ankles is about as good as it's gonna get.

But, even by the impressive standards of risibility demonstrated by the "peace" movement, has there ever been a sadder "naked protest" than that staged this week by the students of Illinois Wesleyan University? The male "nudes for peace" stood around wearing their boxer shorts and, worse, little white ankle socks and sneakers. C'mon, guys, why so shy about letting us inspect your weapons of mass destruction? According to the UN resolution on nude protesting, it's a material breach to put material over your breech. If you don't want to take it off, maybe you should skip the naked thing entirely, stay inside and read up on what's the Saudi capital.


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Some history.