Sunday, 5 February 2012

Average IQ and the nature of leadership


Speculation time...

Suppose that the threshold IQ for effective leadership is about 105 (roughly the top one third of the population of England, when IQ is normed at 100 average and with a standard deviation of 15).

In other words, by IQ 105 I mean a level of general intelligence (as measurable by capacity for abstract and systematic thinking, ease of memorising, swiftness of calculation etc.) which is somewhat but not much above average for European natives.

(This is roughly the IQ of an effective foreman, police or Army Sergeant, or a master craftsman - somebody with potentially high technical skills, good practical reason and tactical nous.)

I am suggesting that IQ 105 is the threshold for 'intellectuals' in a global and historical context - for those who take leadership roles in social domains requiring cognitive expertise (most obviously priests, sorcerers, sacred kings, law makers and judges, in military societies those roles where 'generalship' is required and so on).



In a population with an average IQ of 70 or less, there would be (functionally) zero individuals capable of intellectual leadership. Therefore it would be intellectually egalitarian.

In a population with an average IQ of about 80, there would either be just a few percent or less of the population as an intellectual leadership - therefore at most specific individual leaders (and not an intellectual leadership class).

In a population with an IQ of about 90, there would be an intellectual elite of leaders (more than just a few percent, something around 10 percent of the population). It would probably be ruled by an upper class or caste.

In a population with an IQ of about 100 plus, there would be around a third of the population above 105 IQ, and therefore potential leaders - this would be a middle class society, tending toward some version of 'democracy' or majority (skilled class) rule (eg rule by organised skilled workers, crafts, guilds, unions etc).



Average IQ 70 or less (two and one third SD below IQ 105) - zero/ very small proportion of individuals are intellectuals, therefore no significant social role for cognitive specialists.

Average IQ around 80 (one and two thirds SD below 105) - a few percent of intellectuals, therefore individual intellectual leadership.

Average IQ around 90 (one SD below 105) - an elite of intellectuals.

Average IQ around 100 (one third of an SD below 105) - a mass-minority middle class of intellectuals.


The general point is that the proportion of 'intellectuals' in a society (when 'intellectual is defined as above) is likely to be a strong influence on the general type of society, and the diffusion and nature of power in that society.

There are things which a society with a given IQ distribution can and cannot do - higher average IQ brings new capabilities and powers, but also new pitfalls and problems - since being an abstracting and systemising intellectual is a disposition which entails that life will be framed in abstract and systematic fashion.

Hence the societies with an average IQ around 100 must expend tremendous resources on internal propaganda, to maintain cohesion of the abstract world of the large minority of intellectuals - such that much intellectual activity is merely keeping intellectuals in order, and not contributing to social well being...


This is NOT a prediction relating to monarchy, oligarchy and democracy - rather relating to whether power is individual (e.g. Big Man), minority elite (Priesthood), or minority class (a large minority of multi-specialized intellectual/ skill specialists).


This set of assumptions is consistent with my impression that the societies which have the most cohesive and obvious intellectual elites are mid-range IQ societies - despite that these intellectual elites are less intellectual than the intelligentsia of high IQ societies.

Indeed the intelligentsia of high IQ societies (those c. ten percent of the population with an IQ greater than 120) are a different thing altogether from the intellectual elites of the mid-range societies which constitute much of the current and recent world populations; and quite possibly are not a sustainable leadership class.

It is possible that things work better over the long term when there are only a handful percent of >120 IQ intelligentsia - not enough to form an elite, but enough to provide specialist expertise and advice, operating as one-off gifted individuals not as an interest group. 


The 'smart fraction' theory suggests that there is a threshold IQ around 108

The argument here and in the above paper is different' but 108 is anyway so close to 105 that the two values cannot reliably be distinguished in individuals and small groups.)



spandrell said...

Makes a lot of sense. Its hard to enforce authority in a society where 30% of the people can articulate their viewpoint.

Valkea said...

To agree is to have approximately the same emotion, i.e. the same brain function. When people think intellectually about the same thing, their brain functions differ considerably. When they feel the same emotion in conjunction with a certain topic, their brain function is almost the same. The same emotions harmonize not only visual and auditory processing, but also higher intellectual processing. (Hasson, U. et. al 2004)(Hasson, U. et. al. 2008)(Callagher and Frith, 2003)(Hasson, Malach and Heeger, 2010)(Jääskeläinen, 2009)

dearieme said...

There's a notion around that leadership is snesitive to IQ gaps. So the man of IG 105 can in turn be led by men of IQ 120 (say) who in their turn can be led by men of IQ 135.....

Bruce Charlton said...

@dearieme - this is what I am speculating about, speculating against. Maybe the more normal situation - in a mid rangel IQ society - is for the 105plus IQ to lead the society (as an elite priesthood for instance, and as the officer classs in the military), and for the tiny number of individuals of 120plus IQ to be something like specialist intellectual-servants within this class - theologians, teachers, clerks, officials, advisors...

Kristor said...

@ bgc: I think you are right about this. It accounts for the difference between non-commissioned and commissioned officers. The latter were pulled from the ranks of the college-educated - which, back when college was only for the brightest 10% of the population, meant that the officers were the ones who could be expected to be capable of truly strategic thinking, considering the many diverse interests and involvements of the whole Kingdom for the next few months in making their day-to-day decisions about the campaign and the coming patrol or skirmish. The NCO's, on the other hand, would have been the men who ranged from IQ 105 to 115 or so, who could think in terms of the campaign, the skirmish - and who also Knew the Ropes.

You need a large class of seasoned NCO types - technicians, craftsmen, businessmen, foremen, sergeants, scribes - all of whom are intelligent enough to see that the Officer types - priests, lawyers, noblemen, doctors, etc. - know what they are doing and are doing their duty in their proper sphere. When the sergeants have confidence in the officers, and vice versa, then the private soldiers - who have confidence first in their sergeants, second in their lieutenants, and so forth up the line - can go about their more circumscribed duties in confidence that Things are Being Handled Properly, so that their sufferings are not utterly bootless and stupid.

It is notable to me that all this has far, far more to do with each man's personal acquaintance with his superiors and inferiors in the hierarchy of authority, than it has to do with bureaucratic procdures or political maneuvering. A priest who is utterly convinced of his bishop's personal sanctity - who is aware that his bishop is focusing his life on sanctity - is far more likely to love and trust his bishop, even when he thinks his bishop is a terrible manager/confessor/whatever. This is part of why J2P2 and Benedict are beloved: whatever their policies, both men are clearly, obviously, profoundly engaged in their journey toward God. They are serious, and humble; and they are not fools. Whatever their errors, the sanctity pours off them.

Likewise the congregation for the priest, or the monks for their abbot. Likewise any inferior for any superior.

I now speculate that the feudal order, the order of the High Middle Ages, began to fall apart when personal authority *arising from personal acquaintance* - the sort of authority that the legions bestowed upon their commanders when they chose them by acclamation from among their officers - began to be replaced by authority bestowed by official appointment. I.e., when bureaucracy began to replace humanity.

When I was a whitewater guide, we all knew who the leaders were. No one needed to be told; no ranks needed to be conferred. It was *obvious.*

Kristor said...

One other thing about NCO types: they are critically necessary to correct the tendency of the very bright to live too much in a world of abstractions, and so lose touch with the way things really work, and so fail in their prudence, their practical wisdom. It's the NCOs who are the storehouse of most of our culture's practical wisdom. They are the ones who actually get things done.

PatrickH said...

One imagines that one of the problems of low IQ societies is not that they have no geniuses, but that they have far too small a pool of "NCO" types.

Still, even in the high-IQ range, there is a distinction to be found between Jack Aubrey alpha leaders, and Stephen Maturin contemplative intellectuals. And the Aubrey types do get things done.