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Hive Mind


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Contents and AbstractsIntroduction: The Paradox of IQ chapter abstract

IQ differences across people within a country predict only modest differences in wages, but average differences in IQ-type scores across countries predict massive differences in productivity across country. This is the paradox to be explained, and the explanation propels the book forward.

1Just a Test Score? chapter abstract

The chapter offers a rapid overview of modern IQ research, drawing heavily on recent textbooks published by Oxford and Cambridge University presses. The most important fact about IQ is that skills predict skills: as a practical matter, all mental abilities that a typical person thinks about as parts of "intelligence" are at least weakly positively correlated. So people with higher math scores tend to have higher verbal scores and are usually faster at solving wooden block puzzles. IQ also predicts wages and worker skill, as labor economists and human resource professors routinely find. But social intelligence, while a subject of popular discussion, is a weaker predictor of typical job outcomes than IQ.

2A da Vinci Effect for Nations chapter abstract

Can national average IQ scores really be compared across countries the way that math and science tests routinely are? Is test bias too much of a problem to make the scores useful? Psychologists have debated the value of national average IQ estimates, but the result of the debate is a surprising consensus: outwardly fair tests appear to document lower average scores in the world's poorest regions, though scholars debate the precise magnitude. And while test bias can't be entirely ruled out, the fact that nations with lower average IQ scores also tend to perform poorly on math, science, and reading tests is additional evidence that broad-based mental skills currently differ across countries. East Asia's high average scores are also discussed.

3James Flynn and the Quest to Raise Global IQ chapter abstract

IQ scores have risen over the course of the past century in the rich countries, a finding known as the Flynn Effect, after the philosopher who documented the regularity. This is the key inarguable piece of evidence that IQ is influenced by the environment. But the Flynn Effect raises questions: Are there practical policies that can raise IQ, or are the channels for raising IQ still a mystery? Is the Flynn effect a real rise in broad mental abilities, or is it just a rise in narrow test-taking ability? The chapter surveys the empirical evidence, which ultimately is quite ambiguous. If IQ matters more for nations than for individuals, then more research into the Flynn Effect is needed.

4Will the Intelligent Inherit the Earth? chapter abstract

Psychologists and economists have both found that higher IQ predicts more patience. Economic theory predicts that nations with more patient citizens will tend to have higher savings rates, and if capital can freely move across borders, ultimately the most patient nations will own all of the world's assets, with the less patient nations holding only debts to be repaid. The chapter looks at cross-country evidence testing these claims.

5Smarter Groups Are More Cooperative chapter abstract

Psychological, management, and economics research provide strong empirical evidence that in experimental settings, smarter groups are more cooperative. The prisoner's dilemma, the trust game, public goods games, and more fluid negotiation games all provide evidence.

6Patience and Cooperation as Ingredients for Good Politics chapter abstract

The Nobel-winning Coase Theorem concept provides a link between the experimental results of the previous chapter and the world of politics. Politics is a world of negotiation. If smarter groups are more cooperative, better at finding win-win outcomes, then we can expect nations with higher test scores to, on average, have political systems that encourage people to grow the economic pie rather than fight for the biggest share. The Nobel-winning theory of "time inconsistency" shows how patience can help politicians commit to good long-run policies even when they are tempted in the short run as well. And cross-country evidence shows that even if we know a nation's level of income and a variety of other factors, a nation's average test scores predict better, less corrupt institutions.

7Informed Voters and the Question of Epistocracy chapter abstract

Toxicology researchers have found that better-educated people are more likely to agree with toxicologists that when it comes to toxic chemicals "the danger is in the dose." Bryan Caplan has found that better-educated citizens tend to think like economists, favoring modestly more-market-oriented policies. And Caplan's work with Miller finds that IQ itself helps predict pro-market attitudes. Together with some limited evidence that higher IQ individuals are more socially liberal, this suggests that nations with higher-IQ citizens may be more likely to be socially liberal and more laissez-faire in their economic views. The philosophical debate over "epistocracy"-rule by the informed-is also discussed.

8The O-Ring Theory of Teams chapter abstract

Many production processes are fragile, such that one small error along the way can destroy the product's value. Computer chip production is an obvious example, while corporate megamergers are a less obvious example. Michael Kremer's O-Ring Theory shows how in such settings, high-skilled workers will tend to wind up sorted into highly productive firms while less-skilled workers will sort together into much less productive firms. Kremer's theory shows how small skill differences can cause big differences in productivity. Empirical evidence that productive workers help to make their peers more productive is also surveyed, a reminder that small individual productivity differences can have bigger overall effects by example to others. The psychology and management literature on team IQ and team productivity is also surveyed.

9The Endless Quest for Substitutes and the Economic Benefits of Immigration chapter abstract

Drawing on the author's own economic model, the chapter begins by showing how to reconcile the O-ring prediction that small differences in group skill should cause massive changes in wages within a country with the real-world fact that small differences in group skill only predict small differences in wages within a country. From there, the literature on the large economic benefits and small, perhaps negligible economic costs of lower-skilled immigration are surveyed. The chapter closes by noting the tension between this chapter's claim that lower-skilled immigration has small economic costs and the evidence of the previous chapters that higher-scoring citizens are likely to improve government quality.

10Poem and Conclusion chapter abstract

The chapter begins with a poem summarizing the book's argument. It then briefly discusses the modestly suggestive evidence that the highest-scoring 5 percent of a nation's citizens might have a disproportionate influence on the nation's economic and institutional outcomes; this is clearly an area in which further research would have high returns. And it closes with a call to search for a global Flynn Cycle, in which better nutrition and schooling raises IQ, which raises productivity, which in turn raises health and schooling quality. With our current knowledge, a Flynn Cycle may be possible, it may be impossible, but it's important to find out which is the truth.

About the Author

Garett Jones is Associate Professor of Economics at the Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University. Garett's research and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Forbes, and Businessweek.


"For over 100 years, we've neglected the importance of national differences in our cognitive progress; this book is a welcome antidote and an eye opener." -- James R. Flynn * University of Otago *
"Those of us who live in the world's richest countries like to believe that it is our own intellect and ingenuity that accounts for our success. But what if our own intelligence matters less than the average skill of the country in which we live? Hive Mind offers a bracing account of why some countries are so rich while others are so poor, and how we might foster more cooperative and, ultimately, more prosperous societies." -- Reihan Salam * Executive Editor, National Review *
"As someone who is routinely baffled by the prolixity of economics texts, I found it hugely refreshing to read Jones's clear, engaging prose . . . [Hive Mind] is enormously more accessible and enjoyable than previous books on national IQ differences." -- Stuart J. Ritchie * Intelligence *
"Whereas individuals' IQs are less strongly related to their performance, the relationship between national averages of IQ and performance indicators such as gross domestic product is robust. But, the beneficial indicators are not limited to economic statistics; they include better public health, higher levels of education and skills, patience, prudence and a willingness to save for the futureJones concludes his book with the challenge to discover underlying factors that enhance a wide range of cognitive skills. RECOMMENDED." -- E.L. Whalen * CHOICE *
"[Hive Mind] skillfully combines research insights from many fields and disciplines....Jones's book represents the best in social science writing. It tackles an important, overlooked and underappreciated topic surrounding a clearly defined puzzle. It supports a logically sound argument with a variety of quality empirical research spanning several disciplines and decades." -- Zachary Gochenour * The Review of Austrian Economics *
"Garett Jones' Hive Mind is the very best introduction to a simple truth: The smarts of the people around you are way more important than you think. Much of our world is shaped by this fact, which no one has talked about-until now." -- Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics * George Mason University *
"On balance this is a notable text-perhaps 2016's most important economics book, both for the development specialist and the general reader." -- Fred Thompson * Governance *

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