Via Eve, an interesting article on whether or not literacy is leaving our culture, and what the characteristics are of a brain raised in an oral culture. Lots of interesting stuff, yes.
However, it also features some of the stupidest cognitive psychology tests ever, starring Your Soviet Scientists.
Experimenters showed peasants drawings of a hammer, a saw, an axe, and a log and then asked them to choose the three items that were similar. Illiterates resisted, saying that all the items were useful. If pressed, they considered throwing out the hammer; the situation of chopping wood seemed more cogent to them than any conceptual category. One peasant, informed that someone had grouped the three tools together, discarding the log, replied, “Whoever told you that must have been crazy,” and another suggested, “Probably he’s got a lot of firewood.” One frustrated experimenter showed a picture of three adults and a child and declared, “Now, clearly the child doesn’t belong in this group,” only to have a peasant answer:
Oh, but the boy must stay with the others! All three of them are working, you see, and if they have to keep running out to fetch things, they’ll never get the job done, but the boy can do the running for them.
If you are a “gifted child” having your IQ tested, and you point out that the test is ambiguous or wrong or stereotyped in a meaningless way, the shrinks are impressed and mark you higher. But apparently, if you are a Russian peasant being tested by a New Soviet Member of the Intelligentsia, your creative viewpoint and criticism of the test’s relevance is not appreciated.
What’s really disturbing, though, is that today’s cognitive shrinks apparently don’t appreciate it, either. There they are, sure that illiterate people aren’t objective; and they ignore evidence that the peasants can appraise pictures very objectively. So objectively, in fact, that the test is made to reveal its true lack of importance to their lives.
To any objective observer, anyway.