Christopher Chabris, a psychologist at Union College, and Jonathan Wei, a researcher at the Duke University Talent Identification Program and at Case Western Reserve University, wrote an op-ed refuting a central dogma of cultural Marxism, that standardized tests have no validity (“Hire like Google? For most companies, that’s a bad idea“). What the professors write is not as surprising as where it appears. In general, while academic research continues to show the value of IQ testing, the mainstream media has been hostile to IQ testing because of the touchy subject of race differences.
Their article was a response to highly publicized comments by Laszlo Bock, the head of human resources at Google, who told the NY Times that “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless…. We found that they don’t predict anything” (much to the delight of Tom Friedman, among others). Chabris and Wei:
Decades of quantitative research in the field of personnel psychology have shown that across fields of employment, measurements of “general cognitive ability” — which is another way of referring to the old-fashioned concept of intelligence or IQ — are consistently the best tools employers have to predict which new employees will wind up with the highest performance evaluations or the best career paths. We shouldn’t rush to assume that Google, with its private data, has suddenly refuted all that work. …
Researchers have long known that standardized tests — notwithstanding how they might be marketed or promoted — mainly measure general cognitive ability [i.e., Spearman’s and Jensen’s g factor that emerges from statistical analysis of a wide variety of tests of cognitive ability], and that general cognitive ability is highly predictive of educational and occupational success in the broad population. The small number of companies at the very top of their industries — like Google in technology — can afford to ignore or downplay these facts if they wish, because their candidates come preselected for high intelligence. For those companies, intelligence may not matter as much as leadership, creativity, conscientiousness, social skill and other virtues once an employee is on board.
The rest of the business world should not jump on Google’s bandwagon. All those other qualities matter, and which are most important may vary by firm and line of work. But having an idea of how well a candidate thinks abstractly, solves novel problems and learns new things is important no matter what the job or situation. Those qualities are precisely what general cognitive ability is, regardless of how you label it. If you ignore intelligence when hiring, you do so at your peril.
So 20 years after The Bell Curve, we are reminded that IQ is of vital importance to success in a highly technological society — despite the rejection of IQ in the field of education where elite opinion still blames the low achievement of some groups (especially Blacks and Latinos) on poor teachers, inadequate funding, and “White privilege” — anything to avoid talking about IQ. Research on the heritability of IQ is not really relevant to Chabris and Wei’s argument, but it’s worth concluding that the data continue to validate J. Philippe Rushton’s findings linking IQ with genetic differences related to brain size.