Monday, June 29, 2009

Top 10 Psych blogs

Here is a list of one prominent bloggers top ten psych blogs. I
monitor many of these and would agree with most of the list.

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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double click on it to make larger-if hard to see)

Applied Psych Test Development Series: Part C--Use of Rasch scaling technology

The third in the series Art and Science of Applied Test Development is now available. The third module (Part C: Test and Item Development--Use of Rasch Scaling Technology) is now available.

This is the third in a series of PPT modules explicating the development of psychological tests in the domain of cognitive ability using contemporary methods (e.g., theory-driven test specification; IRT-Rasch scaling; etc.). The presentations are intended to be conceptual and not statistical in nature. Feedback is appreciated.

This project can be tracked on the left-side pane of the blog under the heading of Applied Test Development Test Development Series.

The first module (Part A: Planning, development frameworks & domain/test specification blueprints) was posted previously and is accessible via SlideShare.

The second module (Part B: Test and item development) was posted previously and is accessible via SlideShare.

You are STRONGLY encouraged to view them in order as concepts, graphic representation of concepts and ideas, build on each other from start to finish.

Enjoy...more to come.

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More supporting evidence IQ Brain Clock

Thank you IQ Corner readers

Thank you readers. Sometime during this past week IQ's Corner blog the unique visitor counter reached and surpassed the 1/2 million mark (250,000+). I also have noted that the total number of hits (450,000+) is approaching the 1/2 million mark.

This type of date-based feedback is one reason I continue blogging...which is largely a hobby.

Thanks to all who are regular readers. Spread the word so we can reach and exceed even loftier numbers.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Applied Psych Test Development Series: Part B-Test and Item Development

The second in the series Art and Science of Applied Test Development is now available. The second module (Part B: Test and Item Development) is now available.

This is the second in a series of PPT modules explicating the development of psychological tests in the domain of cognitive ability using contemporary methods (e.g., theory-driven test specification; IRT-Rasch scaling; etc.). The presentations are intended to be conceptual and not statistical in nature. Feedback is appreciated.

This project can be tracked on the left-side pane of the blog under the heading of Applied Test Development Test Development Series.

The first module (Part A: Planning, development frameworks & domain/test specification blueprints) was posted previously and is accessible via SlideShare.

Enjoy...more to come.

Applied Psych Test Development Series: Part A-Planning, development frameworks & domain/test specification blueprints

Announcement--the Art and Science of Applied Test Development. Let the games begin.

This is the first in a series of PPT modules explicating the development of psychological tests in the domain of cognitive ability using contemporary methods (e.g., theory-driven test specification; IRT-Rasch scaling; etc.). The presentations are intended to be conceptual and not statistical in nature. Feedback is appreciated.

This project can be tracked on the left-side pane of the blog under the heading of Applied Test Development Test Development Series.

The first module (Part A: Planning, development frameworks & domain/test specification blueprints) is now available for viewing via SlideShare.

Stay tuned.

IQs Corner Recent Literature of Interest - 6-26-09

This weeks "recent literature of interest" is now available. Click here to view and/or download to your hardrive. WARNING....this batch is long...400+ references. Yes...there is an information explosion in research of interest. Maybe I need to become more narrow and selective.

Information regarding this feature, its basis, and the reasons for type of references included in each weekly installment can be found in a prior post.

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NY Times Op Ed on Evolutionary Psychology: Overstated?

Admission-----I've never done any deep serious reading on evolutionary psychology, although it has played a prominent role in some contemporary intelligence research.  I, like most others, find the explanations interesting and fun to discuss.  I wish I had time to read and study the state-of-the art literature on intelligence and evolutionary psychology. 

Today there was an NY Times Op Ed piece suggesting that EP has been reaction to Geoffrey Millers new book "Spent:  Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior."  I've reproduced the text of the Op Ed below (courtesy of my new latest fun Kindle DX- which I LOVE).  I don't know.  I offer up this Op Ed. as FYI...and hope it generates some comments.  In particular, I'd be interested in readers who are well acquainted with the EP/IQ literature to recommend some readings.  I know David Geary's recent work would be at the top.  Any others?


Human Nature Today (Op Ed; David Brooks), The New York Times (The New York Times Company)
Friday, June 26, 2009, 09:02 AM

Has there ever been a time when there were so many different views of human nature floating around all at once? The economists have their view, in which rational people coolly chase incentives. Traditional Christians have their view, emphasizing original sin, grace and the pilgrim’s progress in a fallen world. And then there are the evolutionary psychologists, who get the most media attention. For 99 percent of human history, they observe, our species lived in small hunter-gatherer bands. The people who survived developed certain mental modules, which have been passed down to us through our genes. Some of these traits serve us well in the modern age. Children have the capacity to learn language with astonishing speed. Some of these traits don’t. Humans have an insatiable craving for fatty and sugary foods. In 2000, Geoffrey Miller, a leading evolutionary psychologist, published a book called “The Mating Mind,” in which he argued that the process of sexual selection among early human groups hardwired many of the behaviors we see in humans today. Some of the traits are physical. Men generally prefer women with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio (that’s a 24-inch waist and 36-inch hips, for those of you reading this at the gym). Women generally prefer men who are taller and slightly older. Some of these traits are more subtle. Men, Miller argues, tip better in restaurants, because they’ve been programmed to show how much surplus wealth they have. The average American adult knows 60,000 words, far more than we need. We have all those words because we like to mate with people who caress us with language. Now Miller has published another book, “Spent,” in which he takes evolutionary psychology to the mall. The basic argument is that each of us is born with our own individual level of six big traits: intelligence, openness to new things, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability and extraversion. These modules are built into humans and other animals (apparently squid can be shy). We are all narcissists, Miller asserts. We spend much of our lives trying to broadcast our excellence in these traits in order to attract mates. Even if we’re not naturally smart or outgoing, we buy products and brands that give the impression we are. According to Miller, driving an Acura, Infiniti, Subaru or Volkswagen is a sign of high intelligence. Driving a Cadillac, Chrysler, Ford or Hummer is a sign of low intelligence. Listening to Bjork is a sign of high intelligence, while listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd is a sign of low intelligence. Watching Quentin Tarantino movies is a sign of high openness. He theorizes that teenage girls may cut themselves as a way to demonstrate their ability to withstand infections. Evolutionary psychology has had a good run. But now there is growing pushback. Sharon Begley has a rollicking, if slightly overdrawn, takedown in the current Newsweek. And “Spent” is a sign that the theory is being used to try to explain more than it can bear. The first problem is that far from being preprogrammed with a series of hardwired mental modules, as the E.P. types assert, our brains are fluid and plastic. We’re learning that evolution can be a more rapid process than we thought. It doesn’t take hundreds of thousands of years to produce genetic alterations. Moreover, we’ve evolved to adapt to diverse environments. Different circumstances can selectively activate different genetic potentials. Individual behavior can vary wildly from one context to another. An arrogant bully on the playground may be meek in math class. People have kaleidoscopic thinking styles and use different cognitive strategies to solve the same sorts of problems. Evolutionary psychology leaves the impression that human nature was carved a hundred thousand years ago, and then history sort of stopped. But human nature adapts to the continual flow of information—adjusting to the ancient information contained in genes and the current information contained in today’s news in a continuous, idiosyncratic blend. The second problem is one evolutionary psychology shares with economics. It’s too individualistic: individuals are born with certain traits, which they seek to maximize in the struggle for survival. But individuals aren’t formed before they enter society. Individuals are created by social interaction. Our identities are formed by the particular rhythms of maternal attunement, by the shared webs of ideas, symbols and actions that vibrate through us second by second. Shopping isn’t merely a way to broadcast permanent, inborn traits. For some people, it’s also an activity of trying things on in the never-ending process of creating and discovering who they are. The allure of evolutionary psychology is that it organizes all behavior into one eternal theory, impervious to the serendipity of time and place. But there’s no escaping context. That’s worth remembering next time somebody tells you we are hardwired to do this or that.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Neural efficiency, executive function and intelligence (g, IQ): An embarrasment of riches

I give up. I don't have the time, or maybe the neural efficiency, to read, digest, integrate, and summarize a wave of recent research articles dealing with the concept of neural efficiency (oscillations) and intelligence. That being said, I'm simply going to post the references and abstracts. Maybe an interested IQ's Corner blog reader would be interested in reading these articles and attempting to summarize (via a guest blog post)...something I had hoped to do.

When less is more and when more is more: The mediating roles of capacity and speed in brain-behavior efficiency (Bart Rypma and Vivek Prabhakaran). Intelligence 37 (2009) 207–22.
An enduring enterprise of experimental psychology has been to account for individual differences in human performance. Recent advances in neuroimaging have permitted testing of hypotheses regarding the neural bases of individual differences but this burgeoning literature has been characterized by inconsistent results. We argue that careful design and analysis of neuroimaging studies is required to separate individual differences in processing capacity from individual differences in processing speed to account for these differences in the literature. We utilized task designs which permitted separation of processing capacity influences on brainbehavior relationships from those related to processing speed. In one set of studies, participants performed verbal delayed-recognition tasks during blocked and event-related fMRI scanning. The results indicated that those participants with greater working memory (WM) capacity showed greater prefrontal cortical activity, strategically capitalized on the additional processing time available in the delay period, and evinced faster WM-retrieval rates than low-capacity participants. In another study, participants performed a digit-symbol substitution task (DSST) designed to minimize WM storage capacity requirements and maximize processing speed requirements during fMRI scanning. In some prefrontal cortical (PFC) brain regions, participants with faster processing speed showed less PFC activity than slower

Neuroanatomical correlates of intelligence (Eileen Luders, Katherine L. Narr, Paul M. Thompson and Arthur W. Toga). Intelligence 37 (2009) 156–163.
With the advancement of image acquisition and analysis methods in recent decades, unique opportunities have emerged to study the neuroanatomical correlates of intelligence. Traditional approaches examining global measures have been complemented by insights from more regional analyses based on pre-defined areas. Newer state-of-the-art approaches have further enhanced our ability to localize the presence of correlations between cerebral characteristics and intelligence with high anatomic precision. These in vivo assessments have confirmed mainly positive correlations, suggesting that optimally increased brain regions are associated with better cognitive performance. Findings further suggest that the models proposed to explain the anatomical substrates of intelligence should address contributions from not only (pre)frontal regions, but also widely distributed networks throughout the whole brain.
Exploring possible neural mechanisms of intelligence differences using processing speed and working memory tasks: An fMRI study (Gordon D. Waiter, Ian J. Deary, Roger T. Staff, Alison D. Murray, Helen C. Fox, John M. Starr and Lawrence J. Whalley). Intelligence 37 (2009) 199–206
To explore the possible neural foundations of individual differences in intelligence test scores, we examined the associations between Raven's Matrices scores and two tasks that were administered in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) setting. The two tasks were an n-back working memory (N = 37) task and inspection time (N = 47). The subjects were members of the Aberdeen Birth Cohort 1936, aged in their mid–late 60s when tested for this study. Performance on both tasks was correlated significantly with scores on Raven's Matrices. In the inspection time task there were regions with significant correlations between the neural activity (BOLD response) and performance but not between BOLD response and scores on Raven's Matrices. In the working memory task there were no significant correlations between BOLD response and either performance or scores on Raven's Matrices. Moreover, there was almost no mediation of the Raven's Matrices versus n-back and inspection time scores correlations by the respective BOLD response. These findings partially replicate important aspects of a prominent report in this field [Gray, J.R., Chabris, C.F., & Braver, T.S. (2003). Neural mechanisms of general fluid intelligence. Nature Neuroscience, 6, 316–322.], but have also extended the those finding into both a unique population and a novel functional task.
Intelligence and neural efficiency: Measures of brain activation versus measures of functional connectivity in the brain (Aljoscha C. Neubauer and Andreas Fink). Intelligence 37 (2009) 223–229
The neural efficiency hypothesis of intelligence suggests a more efficient use of the cortex (or even the brain) in brighter as compared to less intelligent individuals. This has been shown in a series of studies employing different neurophysiological measurement methods and a broad range of different cognitive task demands. However, most of the studies dealing with the brain–IQ relationship used parameters of absolute or relative brain activation such as the eventrelated (de-)synchronization of EEG alpha activity, allowing for interpretations in terms of more or less brain activation when individuals are confronted with cognitively demanding tasks. In order to investigate the neural efficiency hypothesis more thoroughly, we also used measures that inform us about functional connectivity between different brain areas (or functional coupling, respectively) when engaged in cognitive task performance. Analyses reveal evidence that higher intelligence is associated with a lower brain activation (or a lower ERD, respectively) and a stronger phase locking between short-distant regions of the frontal cortex.
Gray matter and intelligence factors: Is there a neuro-g? (Richard J. Haier, Roberto Colom, David H. Schroeder, Christopher A. Condon, Cheuk Tang, Emily Eaves and Kevin Head). Intelligence 37 (2009) 136–144
Heterogeneous results among neuro-imaging studies using psychometric intelligence measures may result from the variety of tests used. The g-factor may provide a common metric across studies. Here we derived a g-factor from a battery of eight cognitive tests completed by 6929 young adults, 40 of whom also completed structural MRI scans. Regional gray matter (GM) was determined using voxel-based-morphometry (VBM) and correlated to g-scores. Results showed correlations distributed throughout the brain, but there was limited overlap with brain areas identified in a similar study that used a different battery of tests to derive g-scores. Comparable spatial scores (with g variance removed) also were derived from both batteries, and there was considerable overlap in brain areas where GM was correlated to the respective spatial scores. The results indicate that g-scores derived from different test batteries do not necessarily have equivalent neuro-anatomical substrates, suggesting that identifying a “neurog” will be difficult. The neuro-anatomical substrate of a spatial factor, however, appears more consistent and implicates a distributed network of brain areas that may be involved with spatial ability. Future imaging studies directed at identifying the neural basis of intelligence may benefit from usinga psychometric test battery chosen with specific criteria.

Intergenerational transmission of neuropsychological executive functioning ("Jennifer M. Jester, Joel T. Nigg, Leon I. Puttler, Jeffrey C. Long, Hiram E. Fitzgerald and Robert A. Zucker"). Brain and Cognition 70 (2009) 145–153
Relationships between parent and child executive functioning were examined, controlling for the critical potential confound of IQ, in a family study involving 434 children (130 girls and 304 boys) and 376 parents from 204 community recruited families at high risk for the development of substance use disorder. Structural equation modeling found evidence of separate executive functioning and intelligence (IQ) latent variables. Mother’s and father’s executive functioning were associated with child’s executive functioning (beta = 0.34 for father–child and 0.51 for mother–child), independently of parental IQ, which as expected was associated with child’s IQ (beta = 0.52 for father–child and 0.54 for mother–child). Familial correlations also showed a significant relationship of executive functioning between parents and offspring. These findings clarify that key elements of the executive functioning construct are reliably differentiable from IQ, and are transmitted in families. This work supports the utility of the construct of executive function in further study of the mechanisms and etiology of externalizing psychopathologies.

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Math disabilities: JPA special issue

The current issue of the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment focuses on math disabilities (often referred to as dyscalculia), an area less investigated than reading disabilities (aka, dyslexia).

Highlights from the issue are summarized in the guest editors introductory article:

  • Grégoire, J. & Desoete, A. (2009). Mathematical Disabilities:  An Underestimated Topic?  Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment 27, 171-174

According to the special issue editors, and well understood by most people, is the fact that math literacy is becoming increasing important in our technological and information-based society. Furthermore, "differences in mathematics skills and abilities between and within individuals are normal. Teachers are expected to cope with learning differences and to adjust their teaching style to the needs of all students. However, in some cases, these differences appear to be so severe or resistant that they can be considered as characteristics of “problems” or even “disabilities” (Desoete, 2008; Geary, 2004)."  The editors cite statistics that the prevalence of mathematical disabilities as been reported between 3% and 14% of children.  Despite a prevalance rate similar to reading disabilities, the research focusing on math disabilities is much less than that for reading disabilities.  According to the editors, "from 2000 to 2008, only 202 articles on mathematics disabilities and 211 articles on dyscalculia were cited in Web of Knowledge, whereas 302 articles on reading disabilities and 2,918 articles on dyslexia could be found, although the prevalence of both learning disabilities is about the same."

This JPA special issue "is devoted to the assessment of mathematical disabilities, the comorbidity with reading disability, the risk of underestimating potentials because of math anxiety, potential markers for mathematical learning disabilities, and the sensitivity and specificity of tests."

Below are a few highlights from the guest editors intro:
  • One of the unresolved questions is the comorbidity rate with other disabilities.
  • The comorbidity rate varies from 17% to 43%
  • There can be little dispute that the presence of comorbidity poses a serious challenge to existing assessment and comprehension of mathematical disabilities.
  • Mathematical learning disabilities are often associated with math anxiety. Moreover, math anxiety might lead to an underestimation of true ability. Ashcraft and Moore (2009) focus on risk factors for math anxiety and some factors that should be kept in mind when assessing math anxious students. Krinzinger, Kaufmann, and Willmes (2009) add to this body of knowledge by investigating the relationship between calculation ability, self reported evaluation of mathematics, and math anxiety in primary school children.
  • The last decade, increased attention has been given to the assessment of early numeracy (e.g., Grégoire, 2005). The current interest in early predictors is stimulated by the fact that if predictors and core deficits can be assessed and addressed as key components in remediation programs, children might not fall farther behind. Moreover, during the past few years, a large body of empirical evidence suggested that the earlier we recognise vulnerable young children, the more likely we will be to support their subsequent development (Coleman, Buysse, & Neitzel, 2006). Therefore, this special issue is also focused on the assessment of individual differences in early numeracy and on the role of executive functions and subitizing (Kroesbergen, Van Luit, Van Lieshout, Van Loosbroek, & Van de Rijt, 2009), as well as on the role of preparatory arithmetic markers and intelligence (Stock, Desoete, & Roeyers, 2009) to add to our psychological understanding of initial development arithmetic skills and to help respond to young children who may be at risk for mathematical learning disabilities as early as possible.

Genetics and high cognitive ability: Behavior Genetics special issue

The most recent issue of Behavior Genetics is devoted to exploring the relations between genetics and high cognitive abilities.  The guest editors are Plomin and Haworth

  • R. Plomin & C Haworth, (2009). INTRODUCTION: Genetics of High Cognitive Abilities.  INTRODUCTION: Genetics of High Cognitive AbilitiesBehavior Genetics, 39, 347–349

In their introduction to the special issue, the editors state that this is the "first-ever collection of papers focused on the genetics of high cognitive abilities."  The focus of the issue is to explore the hypothesis that the  etiology of high cognitive ability differs from the etiology of the normal distribution of cognitive ability (aka., Discontinuity Hypothesis; Petrill et al. 2009).

As stated in the intro, "three of the papers focus on general cognitive ability (g), two on reading, one on mathematics, one on a diverse set of intellectual, creative and sports abilities, and one is a multivariate genetic analysis of g, reading, mathematics and language."

Of particular interest is the article by Haworth et al. (2009b) as it "presents a mega-analysis of high g for 11,000 twin pairs across six studies from these four countries. This first adequately powered study of high g (top 15%) finds substantial genetic influence (heritability of 0.50 with a 95% confidence interval of 0.41–0.60) and moderate shared environmental influence (0.28, 0.19–0.37). These estimates are not significantly different from parameter estimates for the entire distribution."  The article by Petrill et al., 2009) presents similar findings from their study that investigated high math performance.   According to the editors reading of Petrill et al., "genetic and shared environmental estimates for high (top 15%) math ability were not significantly different from those obtained across the normal range of ability."   Further support for the Continuity Hypothesis were similar findings  by Vinkhuyzen et al. (2009) in their article "Heritability estimates for Music, Arts, Writing, Language, Chess, Mathematics, Sports, Memory and Knowledge."  Collectively these different studies are consistent with the Continuity Hypothesis (and not the Discontinuity Hypothesis), which is the view that "high cognitive ability is the quantitative extreme of the same genetic and environmental influences responsible for variation throughout the normal distribution."

Other papers in this special issue report on investigations re: how genes and environment interact developmentally.  As summarized by the guest editors:

  • Brant et al. (2009) show that shared environment decreases from infancy to adolescence, heritability increases, and genes largely account for age-to-age stability.
  • Kirkpatrick et al. ( 2009) confirm in a study of adolescent twins that high cognitive ability shows significant shared environmental influence and then use the power of the adoption design to ask the extent to which parental education and occupation and disruptive life events can account for this shared environmental influence.
  • Friend et al. ( 2009) report an interesting genotype– environment interaction between high reading ability and parental education: The heritability of high reading ability was higher for twins when parents were less well educated, which the authors interpret as indicating a genetic effect on resilience in the face of environmental disadvantage.
  • Finally, a paper by Haworth et al. ( 2009a) for the first time tests the generalist genes hypothesis for high ability. A multivariate genetic analysis of general cognitive ability, reading, mathematics and language performance for the top 15% of the distribution yields genetic correlations just as high among these diverse cognitive abilities as has been found in unselected samples.

Brain Fitness Webinar with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and Alvaro Fernandez. Kindle Book. Twitter Discussion.

Interesting activities at SHARP BRAINS. 

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych. 

Sent from KMcGrew iPhone (IQMobile). (If message includes an image-double click on it to make larger-if hard to see) 

SharpBrains Logo
Brain Fitness Webinar
with Elkhonon Goldberg & Alvaro Fernandez.
Kindle Book. Twitter Discussion.

June 2009
Book Cover
SharpBrains' new book continues to get excellent endorsements:

"Kudos for an excellent resource! This SharpBrains Guide is full of top notch information, provides practical tips and helps separate hype from hope in the brain health arena."
-- Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Program Officer, Alzheimer's Association

"The SharpBrains' Guide to Brain Fitness helped answer many of my questions on the importance of both physical and mental exercise to stay sharp as we age. This is an important book for anyone in the fitness industry, and, for that matter, for anyone with a brain."
-- Robin Klaus, Chairman, Club One Fitness Centers

"We're talking a short, sweet, entertaining read on a complex topic, with timely reviews of 21 top technology products, as well as informed and expert predictions of where this burgeoning brain-fitness field is headed. More importantly, after you read it, you'll have a good, detailed sense of where you, personally, can act to improve your own couch-potato brain - and how to keep it fit and flexible your whole life. The SharpBrains Guide To Brain Fitness reminds of us all why books (and not just googling a topic) can be well worth your time and money. Two Stethoscopes Up - check it out."
-- Doc Gurley, Internist Physician and Robert Wood Johnson Fellow, full book review Here
FREE Brain Fitness Webinar
Alvaro Fernandez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, co-authors of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, will cover the main highlights from this new book and address the questions submitted by readers.

When: Tuesday July 21st, 10am Pacific Time; 1pm Eastern Time
How to Register: Click HERE for more information and to Register
  Related Announcements
- A Kindle edition is now available HERE.

- The print edition of the book is available HERE.

- Alvaro Fernandez will facilitate a twitter-based book club over the summer. If you have a twitter account, please follow alvarof for more instructions.

- If your organization is interested in ordering the book in bulk at 40-60% discount depending on volume, please contact us HERE.
Have a stimulating summer!,

- The SharpBrains Team

SharpBrains | 660 4th Street | Suite 205 | San Francisco | CA | 94107

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

IQs Corner Recent Literature of Interest - 6-23-09

This weeks "recent literature of interest" is now available. Click here to view and/or download to your hardrive

Information regarding this feature, its basis, and the reasons for type of references included in each weekly installment can be found in a prior post.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Flynn Effect book review

Review of Flynn's latest book on the Flynn Effect in AMERICAN SCIENTIST.

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WMF Press: Dean-Woodcock Neuropsych Report Software

The Woodcock-Munoz Foundation (WMF) Press has just made its first publication--- a piece of neuropsychological assessment report software.

The Dean-Woodcock Neuropsychological Report is a scoring and interpretive program that assists qualified evaluators and service providers in creating neuropsychological reports based on test results from the Dean-Woodcock Neuropsychological Battery, the Woodcock-Johnson® III, and the Batería III NU Woodcock-Muñoz®. Click here to be taken to the page, which also lists requirements necessary to download the software for free.

[Conflict of interest - I'm the Research Director for WMF and am also a coauthor of the Woodcock-Johnson III.

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IQs Corner Recent Literature of Interest - 6-17-09

This weeks "recent literature of interest" is now available. Click here to view and/or download to your hardrive

Information regarding this feature, its basis, and the reasons for type of references included in each weekly installment can be found in a prior post.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WCST: Does it really measure frontal lobe executive functions?

Does the WCST measure executive functioning? There is little doubt that the WCST is one of the predominant tests used in neuropsychological assessment to assess executive functions. However, studies have recently questioned the validity of drawing inferences about the site of executive functions (the frontal lobes of the brain) from performance on the WCST. The following "in press" article, which presents a nice review of the literature, suggests that in it's current administration formats the WCST is not the sensitive measure of frontal lobe executive functioning as is often thought. Below I present the abstract, a few select passages, and the primary conclusion from this excellent review article.

Nyhus, E., & Barceló, F. (in press). The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the cognitive assessment of prefrontal executive functions: A critical update. Brain and Cogntion.


For over four decades the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) has been one of the most distinctive tests of prefrontal function. Clinical research and recent brain imaging have brought into question the validity and specificity of this test as a marker of frontal dysfunction. Clinical studies with neurological patients have confirmed that, in its traditional form, the WCST fails to discriminate between frontal and non-frontal lesions. In addition, functional brain imaging studies show rapid and widespread activation across frontal and non-frontal brain regions during WCST performance. These studies suggest that the concept of an anatomically pure test of prefrontal function is not only empirically unattainable, but also theoretically inaccurate. The aim of the present review is to examine the causes of these criticisms and to resolve them by incorporating new methodological and conceptual advances in order to improve the construct validity of WCST scores and their relationship to prefrontal executive functions. We conclude that these objectives can be achieved by drawing on theory-guided experimental design, and on precise spatial and temporal sampling of brain activity, and then exemplify this using an integrative model of prefrontal function [i.e., Miller, E. K. (2000). The prefrontal cortex and cognitive control. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 1, 59–65.] combined with the formal information theoretical approach to cognitive control [Koechlin, E., & Summerfield, C. (2007). An information theoretical approach to prefrontal executive function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 229–235.].

According to the authors, there are at least two different systems of administration and scoring of the WCST. There is the "standard version by Grant and Berg (1948) with Milner´s (1963) correction criteria and the shortened version by Heaton (Heaton, 1981; Heaton, Chelune, Talley, Kay, & Curtis, 1993 ). Furthermore, the test has been administered in modified versions by Nelson (1976), Delis, Squire, Bihrle, and Massman (1992), and Barceló (1999, 2003)."

In the conventional administration:
the WCST consists of four key cards and 128 response cards with geometric figures that vary according to three perceptual dimensions (color, form, or number). The task requires subjects to find the correct classification principle by trial and error and examiner feedback. Once the subject chooses the correct rule they must maintain this sorting principle (or set) across changing stimulus conditions while ignoring the other – now irrelevant – stimulus dimensions. After ten consecutive correct matches, the classification principle changes without warning, demanding a flexible shift in set. The WCST is not timed and sorting continues until all cards are sorted or a maximum of six correct sorting criteria have been reached.
The present interest in prefrontal cortex function has renewed the use of the WCST in clinical and experimental settings. However, much criticism has questioned the utility of this test as a marker of prefrontal function. A critical review of clinical studies suggests that the original WCST does not distinguish between frontal and non-frontal lesions. Likewise, functional neuroimaging studies confirm that delivery of negative feedback during WCST rule transitions activates a widespread network of frontal and non-frontal regions within a split-second time scale. New methodological and conceptual advances from theory-guided experimental designs, precise spatial and temporal sampling of brain activity, and modern integrative models of prefrontal function (Miller, 2000) combined with a formal information theoretical approach to cognitive control (Koechlin & Summerfield, 2007) can improve our understanding of the WCST and its relationship to prefrontal executive functions. These advances suggest that simple modifications of the original version of the WCST may offer more valid and reliable measures of key component operations, such as the maintenance, shifting, and updating of task-set information over trials. Fast brain imaging techniques help us put into perspective the specificity of the test as a marker of prefrontal function as a key node within the widely distributed and tightly interconnected neural networks subserving human cognition.

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Test linking

Interesting story regarding comparisons of international and US tests
via statistical linking---possible due to IRT psychometric methods[LWFqkY8sAPA58V0To4t0Vv3UAToLF2VOeUC

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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IQ, MR and death penalty: Special issue of Applied Neuropsychology

The journal Applied Neuropsychology just published a special issue that focuses on the issue of intellectual disabilities (mental retardation) and the death penalty. An advanced copy of the table of contents (that I received a while back) can be viewed here.

The formal listing of articles, authors, pages, and viewable abstracts are available at the Applied Neuropsychology web page for this issue.

Dr. Stephen Greenspan is the editor for the special issue. His introductory article, Assessment and Diagnosis of Mental Retardation in Death Penalty Cases: Introduction and Overview of the Special 'Atkins’ Issue, organizes the articles around three "prongs" used in the definition of mental retardation.
  • Intellectual functioning
  • Adaptive functioning
  • Developmental onset
Most articles fall under one of these three prongs, but a few don't. According to Greenspan, "The final paper, by Olley, addresses the need for psychologists testifying in Atkins cases to have relevant training and experienceinvolving people with mild mental retardation functioning in community settings." Oiley's article articulates the need for experts, who testify or provide declarations for the court in Atkins cases, should have "an adequate understanding of mild mental retardation and, in particular, to avoid making intuitive-clinical judgments based on inappropriate stereotypes more appropriate to people with moderate or severe."

A few other tidbits gleaned from Dr. Greenspan's introductory article follow below:
  • A major problem with Atkins cases is that the diagnostic criteria often vary across different state laws and court systems. Many states use an IQ cut-off score of 70 while others allow more flexibility based on psychometric principles such as measurement error (standard error of measurement - more on this in a later post). Thus, a 75 in one state may not meet the diagnostic criteria for MR...while in another it may be considered as a valid score for an individual with MR.
  • Two issues in intellectual assessment that are very common are the Flynn Effect and the determination of intellectual or adaptive malingering during assessments.
  • Prong three (developmental criterion) is usually given the least amount of attention in Atkins proceedings.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

IQ Pipeline: Dependability of general (g)-factor loadings

The following article, which is a contemporary update (via more sophisticated statistical methodology) and extension of Thorndike's (1987) classic article on the "Stability of Factor Loadings", is now "in press" in the journal Intelligence.

Floyd, R., Shands, E., Rafaela, F., Bergeron, R & McGrew, K. (2009, in press). The dependability of general-factor loadings: The effects of factor-extraction methods, test battery composition, test battery size, and their interactions. Intelligence

To understand the extent to which the general-factor loadings of tests are inherent in their characteristics or due to the sampling of tests, the number of tests in the correlation matrix, and the factor-extraction methods used to obtain them, test scores from a large sample of young adults were inserted into independent and overlapping batteries of varying sizes. Principal factors analysis, maximum-likelihood estimation, and principal components analysis yielded general-factor loadings for each test. Generalizability theory analyses revealed that the characteristics of the tests consistently contributed the largest percentage of variance. Variance attributable to the factor-extraction method and its interactions was sizeable when principal components analysis was included in the analysis but negligible when it was excluded. Psychometric sampling error produced sizeable variance components in some analyses, and its effects were magnified when test batteries diminished in size. When results from principal components analysis were excluded and when the effects of psychometric sampling error were reduced, general-factor loadings were highly dependable across varying conditions.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

More on the Nisbett book controversy

As prior posts at this blog of the work of intelligence scholars has
raised serios issues about Nisbetts book, the author himself presents
his views, this time in an interview with SHARP BRAINS.

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

Sent from KMcGrew iPhone (IQMobile). (If message includes an image-
double click on it to make larger-if hard to see)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Art and Science of Test Development: Encyclopedia of Gv (visual-spatial) tests

Yesterday I blogged about my "Art and Science of Test Development" project.  Today I continue with another tidbit.

When trying to develop new tests to measure cognitive abilities, a test developer often looks at existing tests (whats been done before).  Many years ago I was given a Xeroxed copy of the large and out-of-print  International Directory of Spatial Tests", which is a godsend if you are thinking of developing a new measure in the domain of Gv (visual processing).  It includes images and brief descriptions of over 390 different visual-spatial tests grouped into 13 categories.  We (authors of the WJ III) used it to decide on what new Gv test we might add to the WJ III.  We ended up with WJ III Block Rotation test (in the WJ III Diagnostic Supplement).  Although dated, and thus not inclusive of Gv test innovations since 1983, it is tremndous resource.

If you are not looking to develop new Gv tests, reviewing at all the various tests (and permutations of common formats) is very interesting and you can often see the historical roots of individual tests in many contemporary intelligence batteries.

While searching the net yesterday I discovered that this publication is now available via download as a PDF file.  You can find it at the link above.  Be is a huge file (35 MB)...don't download from wifi connection is my advice.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Art and science of test development: ETS Kit

I'm in the process of developing a four-hour course presentation on the "Art and Science of Test Development:  Theories, tools, tips and troubles" that I will unveil late July at a Brazil psychological assessment conference.  I'm very excited about putting this together.  There are many books on different aspects of test development and psychometrics, but nothing that is really "applied" test development or psychometrics.  I'm excited, but also am finding it a challenge to do within a four-hour time constraint.  When done, it may serve as the outline for a manuscript and PPT slides that may be available via the WMF.  Much of it is based on Dr. Woodock's approach to test development and he has graciously provided me access to many of his notes and documents.  If we do ever get this to a manuscript, he would likely be the first author.

I may make intermediate PPT modules available for review via Slideshare as they hopes of eliciting feedback, comments, etc.

In the process of working on this presentation I refer to the ETS Kit of Factor-Referenced Cognitive Tests (1976 Edition) as a source I often review when trying to understand some old measures mentioned in studies and, more importantly, for ideas for possible new tests of narrow CHC abilities. The publication is a steal for the price....but you must be aware that the copies of the tests you will receive are very crude black-white copies of prototypes, often with free-hand drawings. 

It is a classic....and one that I think most instructors of cognitive/intellectual testing courses might consider purchasing for their a teaching aid.  The tests use the CHC code system that is currently being using today in discussions of CHC abilities.  Thus, the tests, although not of high quality, might be good as illustrations of how to measure 23 different narrow CHC abilities.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

PsycCRITIQUES - Volume 54, Issue 23 is now available online

Sent from KMcGrew iPhone (IQMobile). (If message includes an image-double click on it to make larger-if hard to see) 

A new issue of PsycCRITIQUES is available online.

June 10, 2009
Volume 54, Issue 23

Book Reviews
1. Correcting Fallacies About Educational and Psychological Testing
Author: Richard P. Phelps (Ed.)
Reviewer: Christopher A. Was

2. The Neuropsychology of Women
Author: Elaine Fletcher-Janzen (Ed.)
Reviewer: Alejandra Suarez

3. Persuasive Messages: The Process of Influence
Authors: William L. Benoit and Pamela J. Benoit
Reviewer: Isidro Maya Jariego

4. The Others Within Us: Constructing Jewish-Israeli Identity
Author: Dan Bar-On
Reviewer: Jasmin Habib

5. Psychological Aspects of Cyberspace: Theory, Research, Applications
Author: Azy Barak (Ed.)
Reviewer: Matthew G. Hile

6. How Infants Know Minds
Author: Vasudevi Reddy
Reviewer: Barbara Y. Whitman

7. The Science of Compassionate Love: Theory, Research, and Applications
Authors: Beverly Fehr, Susan Sprecher, and Lynn G. Underwood (Eds.)
Reviewer: Jean Henry

8. Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher
Author: Neil Gross
Reviewer: Richard W. Bloom

Film Review
9. Revolutionary Road
Director: Sam Mendes
Reviewer: Karen Conner

Ben017 guest comment on Nisbett's "Intelligence and how to get it"

Ben017 made a rather detailed comment on my first FYI posting of the NY Times Op-Ed piece on the controversial Nisbett book. I thought it deserved to be featured more prominently, so I've cut/pasted it here (with links embedded). Readers may also be interested in subsequent post made re: Rushton and Jensen's "work in progress" review.

-----------------------comment from Ben017--------------------------------------

Recent neurological studies show brain regions correlated with intelligence are significantly hereditary.

Personality appears to be significantly determined at birth too according to recent research.

Also, note that Nisbett omits a number of studies to avoid a Bell Curve type backlash. See this working paper review of the book.

Sandra Scarr, after conducting the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study:

"Within the range of 'humane environments,'variations in family socioeconomic characteristics and in child-rearing practices have little or no effect on IQ measured in adolescence." P. 476

"There is simply no good evidence that social environmental factors have a large effect on IQ, particularly in adolescence and beyond, except in cases of extreme environmental deprivation." P. 476

By adulthood, all of the IQ correlation between biologically related persons is genetic. P. 178 Phenotypic g closely reflects the genetic g, but bears hardly any resemblance to the (shared) environmental g. P. 187

2. From that study the black children adopted by white families matured to have IQs that are consistent with their biological peers; Asian children adopted by white families mature to have IQs that are consistent with their biological peers and which are higher than their adoptive parents.

Also, note more recent twin studies:

"Contrary to "culture" theory, the ethnic academic gaps are almost identical for transracially adopted children, and to the extent they are different they go in the opposite direction predicted by culture theory. The gap between whites and Asians fluctuated from 19 to .09 in the NAEP data while the gap in the adoption data is from 1/3 to 3 times larger. This is consistent with the Sue and Okazaki paper above which showed that contrary to popular anecdotes, the values that lead to higher academic grades are actually found more often in white homes. In other words Asian-Americans perform highly despite their Asian home cultural environment not because of it. And though the sample is meager, I find it interesting that the gap between the black and white adopted children was virtually identical (within just 4-6 points) to the gap between whites and blacks in the general population, just like in the Scarr adoption study."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Rushton and Jensen's response to Nisbett's "Intelligence and how to get it"

Yesterday I made an FYI post re: an op-ed piece in the NY Times (Rising Above IQ) regarding Richard Nisbett's book on race, culture, schooling and IQ. To say the least, Nisbett's publication has generated considerable response and criticism from intelligence scholars. Thanks to a comment posted to this blog, I was made aware of one of these scholarly responses at Philppe Rushton's web page. He, together with Aruthur Jensen, have a "working paper" in progress and welcome comments on the current draft. A copy can be found by clicking here. Below is the abstract.

Let the games begin.

Rushton, P. & Jensen, A. Race and IQ: A Theory-Based Review of the Research in Richard Nisbett’s Intelligence and How to Get It. Manuscript in preparation.


We provide a detailed review of data from psychology, genetics, and neuroscience in a point-counterpoint format to enable readers to identify the merits and demerits of each side of the debate over whether the culture-only (0% genetic-100% environmental) or hereditarian (50% genetic-50% environmental) model best explains observed mean ethnic group differences in intelligence test scores: Jewish (mean IQ = 113), East Asian (106), White (100), Hispanic (90), South Asian (87), African American (85), and sub-Saharan African (70). We juxtapose Richard Nisbett’s position, expressed in his book Intelligence and How to Get It, with our own, to examine his thesis that cultural factors alone are sufficient to explain the differences and that the hereditarian model we have presented over the last 40 years is unnecessary. We review the evidence in 14 topics of contention: (1) data to be explained; (2) malleability of IQ test scores; (3) culture-loaded versus g-loaded tests; (4) stereotype threat, caste, and “X” factors; (5) reaction-time measures; (6) within-race heritability; (7) between-race heritability; (8) sub-Saharan African IQ scores; (9) race differences in brain size; (10) sex differences in brain size; (11) trans-racial adoption studies; (12) racial admixture studies; (13) regression to the mean effects; and (14) human origins research and life-history traits. We conclude that the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that in intelligence, brain size, and other life history traits, East Asians average higher than do Europeans who average higher do South Asians, African Americans, or sub-Saharan Africans. The group differences are between 50 and 80% heritable.

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