Sonntag, 21. Januar 2007

Traditional egalitarian societies in transition

A new study in „Evolution and Human Behavior“ asks for the selection pressures put upon a traditional egalitarian society (in the Amazonian forest), that is in transition to become integrated into modern industrialized (Bolivian) society with its huge division of labour. They ask for the personal characteristics that make persons successful in the new economic environment. Their main concept is “patience” or: “the ability to delay gratification”.

Differences in this area, they write, “allow people to deal with disequilibrium and to use local resources better, thereby enhancing their inclusive fitness”. They have a lot of good thoughts and insights about all that but – it seems to me: the main problem is that their study is not informed by modern IQ-genetics. We know about modern societies that their social inequality and division of labour (between countries worldwide and inside of them) have a lot to do with IQ and that IQ has a lot to do with genetics. So it seems to me, that it could be also the personal IQ of a member of a traditional society that predisposes him or her to participate more or less in the new or in the traditional economic environment. For the old, traditional economic environment you do not need so much IQ as you need for the new economic environment. But alas, they have made good personal tests with their participants but no IQ-tests. They write:
“Once a society opens up to the market economy, one should see patient and impatient people sorting themselves into different groups (...) Patient people will sidle to schools, while the impatient will continue” to perform traditional ways of life, “BECAUSE people have to wait a long time to reap any returns to schooling.”
“Because”? Are young children (grades one to four) patiently in school “because” of rewards and gratifications later in life? I don’t think so at least not before puberty. I think at this point it becomes clear, that the concept of “the ability to delay gratification” cannot be the whole story. Are children successful in schools “because” of their patience or are they patient because they’re successful? I think, the latter is more plausible, but sure, personal characteristics like AHDS will have influences as well. But if you have good teachers – may be – those personal characteristics will not have so much influence - ? It would be interesting to separate IQ from other personal factors more precisely to estimate the factors that influences personal economic success instead of IQ. Surely there are more factors. But do we have about them as good and valid datas as about IQ?

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