I would certainly agree that Americans have a healthy built-in skepticism. [/quote]

If that’s what you’re agreeing to, then you didn’t understand my post. I’m not saying they have a skepticism… actually, I’m claiming they’re incredibly gullible. Or, more precisely, they believe all the wrong people based on specious reasons.

They have the same suspicion that medieval peasants had… anything unfamiliar to them, anything they can’t touch, taste, or feel, is highly suspect. “Who cares what the foreign policy “experts” think… my pastor (or friend, or co-worker, or any other irrelevant authority) said the Iraq War is a good idea!”

I think we are talking about the same thing and labelling it differently. I’m going to lay the semantics issue aside (gullible vs skeptical) and try to tackle this from a different angle. Let me lay this out by the numbers for maximum clarity.

I believe human beings allow themselves to be most influenced by people or groups they trust.

I believe Americans do not trust people who present themselves as “experts” because of superior education/intelligence.

I believe 2 is because too much false expertise has been used to manipulate the public over time. Somewhat in politics but mostly in product marketing.

Because of 2, people tend to be influenced by the trustworthy figures Anax mentioned, pastors and family and close friends.

There is a much lower level of education in the red states compared to the blue states. Here’s the 2000 Census report on educational attainment. (pdf file) The percentage of people over 25 with college degrees is clearly higher in the West and Northeast than in the South and Midwest (22.7 & 22.8 versus 18.7 & 18.4). I assume that lower education level means lower critical thinking skills in the populace.

Anecdotally, I still have lots of relatives and a few friends in the red states, and when I visit I’m always struck by the difference in thinking. I seem to encounter a much larger number of people who lack critical thinking skills, but they also don’t seem able or willing to acquire them. I know people that are just dumb as a sack of hammers, and I know one that turned down a four-year academic scholarship to stay in the small religious community where she was raised. There’s an additional reason for this disparity. Here in California, there are a huge number of very intelligent, very educated people that fled the red states. I’d guess that no more than 25% of the educated people I know are native Californians.

This is borne out by research. We tend to believe things told to them by people they a) are similar to, and b) they encounter frequently and are familiar with. Furthermore, they tend to ignore information that doesn’t confirm what they already believe.

File all this under “puny humans are generally irrational decision-makers.”

We could probably debate all week whether the red states have the most dummies or not. They may have if Supertanker’s numbers are used as a guide, but I see one of the problems with the Blue party is that the red state people feel that the Blue state people and their party are either talking down to them or throwing it in their face that they are less intelligent.

If you are less educated and feel the world is holding that against you on a daily basis you may be a little defensive when a party, that normally attempts to appeal to it’s “more intelligent” base, then pretends to be just like you red state people when passing through on the election trail.

The Blue people are going to have to find a dumber candidate or one who can better communicate his/her ideals to the morons in the red states who so many think need to have things spelled out to them or at least spoken to them more slowly.

I think you’re being facetious, but it’s not circular any more than saying “The average height of males is 5 feet 10 inches.” It would be circular to say “The average person is of average intelligence.”

Well no, it is circular, in that the population defines what having a 100 IQ means. An average person has an IQ of 100 because the average of the populations IQs is defines as being 100. If we found the population to have an average height of 5 foot 10, and then defined this as being 100 HQ, and then recalibrated the HQ every so often, then to say that the average person has a 100 HQ would be circular. Saying the average male is 5ft 10, is not the same thing.

I’m asking about intelligence in general, or how capable is the average person will using their brain to deal with the various aspects of life thrown at them.

Apparently it’s a decent level, seeing how society does just fine, mostly.

On a larger point: I’d be leary of using eductional-induced abilities to measure intelligence. Aboriginals couldn’t read, but it’s rather implausible they were really all total morons.

I have no idea what you’re talking about. The 100 average was arrived at by standardizing the scores of large samples of people on IQ tests (the Standford-Bennet, initially). It’s defined by measuring very large samples of the population, not arbitrarily set.

Also, I have not seen the evidence myself, but I am getting the impression that believing in God, going to church, and then deriving and adhering to a belief system based on that starts to erode your intelligence. It may even counteract higher education if not closed up and put in a box for 6 days out of 7 each week.

I have no idea what you’re talking about. The 100 average was arrived at by standardizing the scores of large samples of people on IQ tests (the Standford-Bennet, initially). It’s defined by measuring very large samples of the population, not arbitrarily set.

This sounds like what I am saying, but I don’t understand how you can’t see that the original statement was circular given this.

We have a subset of the population take the test.

The average person got 213 questions right.

Therefore anyone who takes the test and gets 213 questions right has an IQ of 100.

This is a probably a gross simplification, but it is close enough to make the point. It is not arbitrarily set, but it is defined such that 100 is the average of the population. Though, I suppose if your point was that you believe the American population does not deviate from a random population, you would have a point that it is not circular (and if that was your original point, then I apoligize). But, to say that a random population has a 100 IQ is a circular statement.

I have no idea what you’re talking about. The 100 average was arrived at by standardizing the scores of large samples of people on IQ tests (the Standford-Bennet, initially). It’s defined by measuring very large samples of the population, not arbitrarily set.[/quote]

That’s his point. 100 just means “average” – it’s normalized to mean exactly that. 5’10" is a raw measure, not a normalized one.

That third point doesn’t make any sense to me. You’ve gone from talking about averages to talking about any one person. Not everyone is going to get the average score. But when you average all the test-takers’ scores, you get 213 (in your example).

We’re straying into statistics, but there’s no meaningful difference between an average raw score and an average standardized score. Its’ the same principle as adding a constant to both sides of an equation. Well, not entirely, as some math jockey will probably tell me, but close enough to make the point.

IQ tests like the Stanford-Binnet were standardized solely for marketing purpose. Having an average of 100 with a standard deviation of 15 was catchy. MANY other intelligence tests (like the ones measuring the general mental ability construct I mentioned) don’t use the IQ measure and have their own averages, standard deviations, etc.

That third point doesn’t make any sense to me. You’ve gone from talking about averages to talking about any one person. Not everyone is going to get the average score. But when you average all the test-takers’ scores, you get 213 (in your example).

You see, 100 is not the score that everyone gets on the test. Once you finish the test we put your score through a function. In this example:
fIQ(213) = 100
This function is defined such that score 213 yields 100. Your IQ is not your test score, it tells you how well you did on the test relative to the average population.

It’s a little known fact that fully half of Americans are of below average intelligence. Compare this with Europe, where an estimated half of the population is of above average intelligence and draw your own conclusions.

Ah, I see what you’re saying now. Thanks for the example.

Short response: That’s not how test score standardization works. Not in this case.

Long answer: See below.

Let’s take an example of calculating a Z-score, which is one of the more common standardizations. In it, you take a distribution of scores (say test scores from 1,000 people) and standardize them so that the distribution has an average of 0.

To change a Bob’s raw score to a z score, run it through this formula:

(raws core - the group’s average raw score) / the groups’ standard deviation.

(Standard deviation is the average difference between the group’s raw scores and the groups’ average raw score. It’s got its own formula that we won’t bother with here.)

That’s it. Now some people may have a standardized score of 1.37, while others may have -0.75. But when you average them all, you get a mean of zero (and a standard deviation of 1, if you care to know).

Converting all those raw scores so that they have an average of 100 (and a standard deviation of 15) requires just one more step: take the z-score for each person, multiply it by 15, and add 100.

Sorry for the technical explanation, but you asked for it. :P

Ah, I see what you’re saying now. Thanks for the example.

Short response: That’s not how test score standardization works. Not in this case.

Long answer: See below.

Let’s take an example of calculating a Z-score, which is one of the more common standardizations. In it, you take a distribution of scores (say test scores from 1,000 people) and standardize them so that the distribution has an average of 0.

To change a Bob’s raw score to a z score, run it through this formula:

(raws core - the group’s average raw score) / the groups’ standard deviation.

(Standard deviation is the average difference between the group’s raw scores and the groups’ average raw score. It’s got its own formula that we won’t bother with here.)

That’s it. Now some people may have a standardized score of 1.37, while others may have -0.75. But when you average them all, you get a mean of zero (and a standard deviation of 1, if you care to know).

Converting all those raw scores so that they have an average of 100 (and a standard deviation of 15) requires just one more step: take the z-score for each person, multiply it by 15, and add 100.

Sorry for the technical explanation, but you asked for it.

Its alright, I fear no technical explanation! :wink:

My example was an extreme simplification. Anyways, I think we are not far from agreeing for the most part. Your equation:

( score - mean ) / stddev

In this case if we took all of America and averaged their raw scores, we should expect that their average would be equal to the average of the sample test takers, so:

( mean - mean ) / stdev

which reduces to zero. You defined the function in such a way that zero will be the score of the average person, thus to say that the average score of the American population is 0, is circular. Again, unless the point of the statement is to say that the American population does not deviate from the sample.

Also, I have not seen the evidence myself, but I am getting the impression that believing in God, going to church, and then deriving and adhering to a belief system based on that starts to erode your intelligence. It may even counteract higher education if not closed up and put in a box for 6 days out of 7 each week.[/quote]

I think that ties in with the lazy factor. It is far easier for someone to just follow a set beliefs system and what people like their pastor tell them than it is to critically think about issues on their own.

I don’t know why you keep going back to this concept. That’s not score standardization in this context. That’s just …I don’t know what that is, but it’s not what I’m talking about.

You defined the function in such a way that zero will be the score of the average person, thus to say that the average score of the American population is 0, is circular. Again, unless the point of the statement is to say that the American population does not deviate from the sample.

I think you’re just not grasping the concept of a distribution of scores. Either that or you’re just fucking with me. :) If a group’s average is X, that does not mean (pardon the pun) that everyone’s score is X.