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The Sciences

Verbal vs. mathematical aptitude in academics

By Razib KhanDecember 10, 2010 10:12 PM


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It isn't too difficult to find GRE scores by intended major online. In reviewing articles/posts for my post below on anthropology I noted the distinction made between quant & qual methods, and aversions to regressions and scatter plots (or the supposed love of biological anthropologists for these tools). That got me wondering about the average mathematical and verbal aptitudes of those who intend to pursue graduate work in anthropology. I removed some extraneous disciplines which I don't think add anything, and naturally I created three scatter plots, quantitative score vs. verbal score, writing score vs. verbal score, and writing score vs. quantitative score.

I was more interested in the spatial relationships between disciplines. But, I was a but surprised by the low correlations between quant and verbal scores at the level of disciplines. On the individual level there's naturally some correlation. People who score very high in one are unlikely to score very low in another. That's why the variance in scores of a simple 10 word vocabulary test can predict 50% of the variance in general intelligence. In any case, here are the r-squareds:

quant-verbal = 0writing-verbal = 0.81writing-quant = 0.08

So 81% of the variance in writing scores on the scale of disciplines can be explained by verbal scores. Below are the three scatter plots:


Some observations:

- Social work people have more EQ than IQ (this is not a major achievement because of the scale obviously).

- Accountants never made it into the "blue bird" reading group.

- Philosophers are the smartest humanists, physicists the smartest scientists, economists the smartest social scientists.

- Yes, anthropologists can read and write far better than they can do math.

The raw data below.


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