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Spearman UNIT 1

Group Differences in Nonverbal Intelligence:


Support for the Influence of Spearmans g

Contact Information:
Harrison Kane, Ph.D.
545Allen Hall
CEPSE
College of Education
MSU, MS 39762
(662) 325-7101
Hdk15@colled.msstate.edu

Spearman UNIT 2

Group Differences in Nonverbal Intelligence


Support for the Influence of Spearmans g
Abstract
The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT; Bracken & McCallum, 1998) is standardized,
norm referenced measure of intelligence that requires only universal hand gestures from the examiner and
examinee. The UNIT was constructed in order to measure the cognitive abilities of children who may be
disadvantaged by more traditional intelligence tests, which typically emphasize receptive and expressive
language abilities. In the present study, standardization data from the UNIT is examined to identify group
differences in performance. Despite its novel nonverbal format and response demands, group differences
are identified. Subsequent analysis confirms the substantial influence of Spearmans g in explaining these
observed group differences.
KEYWORDS: Intelligence, Nonverbal, Spearmans g

Spearman UNIT 3
Group Differences in Nonverbal Intelligence:
Support for Influence of Spearmans g
No practice in psychology has inspired or endured more criticism than mental testing. Usually, the
most strident attacks target the repeated finding that Blacks and Whites differ in varying degrees on tests of
intellectual ability (Edwards & Oakland, 2006; Jensen, 1998; Naglieri & Jensen, 1987). These average
group differences are substantial, on the order of 18 IQ points and have been observed for more than a
century, beginning with the widespread use of IQ testing (Jensen, 1980; Rushton & Jensen, 2005). While
researchers are in general consensus that these differences exist, there is considerable debate about their
origin (Devlin, Feinberg, Resnick, & Roeder, 1997; Kamin, 1974; Miele, 1995, 2002).
Generally, four explanations are offered to explain Black-White differences in measured cognitive
abilities. First, group differences are the result of psychometric bias, such differential item functioning,
reliability, or validity (Dolan, Roorda, & Wicherts, 2004; Jensen, 1980; 1981; 1998). Second, measured
group differences are not manifestations of intelligence per se, but rather they reflect the degree to which a
minority groups culture and language differs from the majority. This sentiment is captured in Cole and
Coles statement that intelligence cannot be tested independently of the culture that gives rise to the test
(1993, p. 502). Third, researchers attribute differences to broad factors or subtest specificity (e.g., spatial
abilities). Jensen (1998) and others (e.g., Rushton, 1998; Rushton & Jensen, 2003) have substantiated that
certain racial/ethnic groups differ in regard to particular broad abilities. However, the extant research
consistently finds the influence of these broad abilities is meager, with combinations of these factors
accounting for less than 10% of the between-group variance (Jensen, 2001). The fourth explanation is that
group differences are a function of the demand a subtest places on general intelligence (Spearmans g).
This last proposal has its provenance in The Abilities of Man (1927), Charles Spearmans treatise
on the nature of intelligence. In describing the Black-White differences in IQ, Spearman (p. 379) advanced
that group difference in IQ would be most marked in just those [tests] which are known to be saturated
with g.
Basically, Spearmans Hypothesis proposed that the magnitude of average Black-White
differences in intellectual performance is related to the demand a subtest places on the general factor. As an
example, one of the most common activities on various IQ tests requires the examinee to repeat a series of

Spearman UNIT 4
digits that are read aloud. Usually, the examinee is required to recall the digits as they are presented initially
(forward) or in reverse order (backward). Although the content is identical, these two cognitive activities
require different amounts of mental manipulation of the input, with the recall of digits in reverse order
clearly placing more demands on Spearmans g (Sattler, 2001). Typically for this task, Black-White
differences in performance are reliably twice as large for the backward condition as for the forward
condition (Jensen and Figueroa, 1975). Simply stated, the higher a tests loading on Spearmans g, the
larger the respective Black-White differences.
The research supporting Spearmans Hypothesis is small but formidable. Jensen (1998)
summarized 17 independent data sets totally nearly 45,000 Blacks and 245,000 Whites derived from 149
psychometric tests and found that the g loadings consistently predicted the magnitude of the mean Black
White group difference (r =.62, p < .05). In one of the largest studies of group differences in cognitive
ability, Nyborg and Jensen (2000) analyzed archival data consisting of a battery of 19 highly diverse
cognitive tests administered to 4,462 males who had served in the U.S. military. Spearmans Hypothesis
was confirmed, with an average correlation of .81 between race differences and g loadings of the respective
subtests.
Apparently, Spearmans Hypothesis is a cross-cultural phenomenon and not confined to the
particulars of race and culture in the U.S.A. Lynn and Owen (1994) tested Spearmans Hypothesis in subSaharan samples of White (N = 1,056) and Black (1,093) high school students tested with the Junior
Aptitude Test. The authors found mean Black-White IQ differences were primarily a function of g loadings,
with vector correlations on the order of .62. Moreover, Spearmans Hypothesis has been confirmed using
methods of item analysis. Rushton and Skuy (2000) studied the performance of 309 university students in
South Africa who had taken Ravens Standard Progressive Matrices (RPM; Raven, Raven, & Court, 1998).
They found that the more an individual item measured Spearmans g (estimated by its itemtotal
correlation), the better it predicted the standardized BlackWhite difference on that item.
As it turns out, without exception Spearmans g is not only a primary source of within-group
differences, but it is also a principal source of between-group-variation. The consistently supportive
evidence (across studies differing in cultural origin, age of participants, the nature of task, and statistical

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methodology) invariably draws the conclusion that Spearmans Hypothesis is more empirical fact than
conjecture.
Of course, some researchers (Gould, 1996; Gustafsson, 1992; Schonemann, 2001) have questioned
the validity of evidence favoring Spearmans Hypothesis, contending the g factor extracted from traditional
tests of intelligence is a not pure measure of task complexity. As the argument goes, the nature of the g
factor is necessarily a reflection of the tests included in its estimation (Colom & Lynn, 2004). Therefore, to
the extent that a test is embedded with culturally laden content, the g factor is similarly confounded:
Depending on the composition of the test battery, this confounding can be expected to be more
salient in culturally more entrenched tests, particularly when the groups to be tested have a
different knowledge of the linguistic and cultural background required by the tests. In empirical
studies employing common intelligence tests, the first principal component often confounds
cognitive complexity with cultural and linguistic complexity. Clearly, an adequate test of
Spearmans Hypothesis should disentangle these two components (Helms-Lorenz, Van de Vijver,
& Pooringa, 2003, p. 5).
While there is no distinct cutoff point at which a test is determined to be culture-loaded or culturefree, many practitioners optimistically view nonverbal tests as providing a more appropriate and valid
intellectual assessment for children who are not fluent in a communitys dominant language and culture
(McCallum, Bracken, & Wasserman, 2001). One of the more recent entrants into the field of nonverbal
assessment is the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT; Bracken & McCallum, 1998). The UNIT is
an individually administered, standardized, norm-referenced measure of intelligence. The salient feature of
the UNIT is that administration and response formats are entirely nonverbal, requiring only hand gestures
from the examiner and examinee. In consequence, the UNIT possesses a number of characteristics that
naturally reduce the influence of cultural experiences that may be idiosyncratic to any specific racial/ethnic
group: (a) directions and responses are pantomimed; (b) content is purely pictorial; (c) subtests demand
abstract reasoning rather than factual knowledge and scholastic skills; (d) the administration includes
practice items; (e) difficulty is based on the complexity of the task, rather than the rarity of the content.
Thus, the UNIT is an ideal vehicle to address Helms-Lorenz, Van de Vijver, and Pooringas (2003) call for

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investigations on Spearmans Hypothesis that clearly distinguishes between cognitive and cultural
complexity.
The aim of this study is twofold. First, we sought to describe and investigate Black-White
differences in measured intelligence using data from the UNIT. Second, we wanted to extend research of
Jensen and others (e.g., Lynn, 1996; Rushton, 2000b, 2001, 2002; Rushton, Skuy, & Fridjhon, 2003) by
ascertaining whether Spearmans g plays an integral role in explaining differences in comparisons of other
race/ethnic groups. Spearman (1927) speculated only about the origin of Black-White differences in
intellect. That is, he offered no opinion of other racial groups. Therefore, if Spearmans Hypothesis holds
for other race/ethnic groups as well, the phenomenon becomes one of greater universal validity and interest.
Method
Participants.
The technical manual for the UNIT reports that the normative sample was comprised of 2,100
children and adolescents ranging from 5-0 to 17-11 years of age. The standardization sample was
distributed evenly, with 175 individuals at each of the twelve age levels. The sample matched the US
population on a number of variables, including sex, race, ethnicity, geographic region, and parental
educational attainment. For the present study, the standardization sample was augmented by additional data
collected in a series of validity studies. These data were sorted according to race, primary language, and
educative setting. Participants receiving selected special education services (e.g., Sensory Impairment,
Specific Learning Disability, ADHD, Behavioral/Emotional Disorders, and Language Impairment) were
excluded from the analyses, as were individuals who indicated a primary language other than English. Hale
(2001) and others (e.g., Moore, 1987; Ogbu, 2002) frequently implicate social milieu and parental
education as culprits in observed group differences in IQ. Therefore, these individuals were matched
according to parental educational attainment. Ultimately, the immediate sample consisted of 308
examinees, with 77 participants in each sample of Whites (M=10.7, SD=3.6 years), Blacks (M=10.2,
SD=3.5 years), Asians (M=10.2, SD=3.4 years), and Hispanics (M=10.3, SD=3.3 years).
Instrumentation.
The UNIT subtests are organized according to a two-tiered hierarchical model of intelligence
consistent with Jensens (1980) conceptualization of cognitive ability. Jensen proposed that intelligence

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consists of Level I (Memory) and Level II (Reasoning) abilities. Within this two-tiered hierarchical model,
the UNIT incorporates two organizational strategies (Symbolic and NonSymbolic categories). Therefore,
the theoretical foundation of the UNIT bears some resemblance to existing hierarchical models of
intelligence. The Memory/Reasoning abilities correspond roughly to short-term memory (gsm) and fluid
reasoning (gf) factors characteristic of a gc-gf model of fluid and crystallized abilities (e.g., Woodcock,
1998), while the Symbolic/Nonsymbolic organizational strategies are akin to the verbal-performance
dichotomy often associated with the Wechsler scales (e.g., WISC-III; Wechsler, 1991). Given that the UNIT
offers a multidimensional assessment of intelligence, the authors stress that the UNIT should be
considered a nonverbal measure of intelligence, not a measure of nonverbal intelligence (McCallum &
Bracken, 2005, p. 271).
Since its publication, the UNIT has garnered considerable praise from practitioners and
researchers (Braden, & Athanasiou, 2005; Hooper & Bell, 2006; Sattler, 2001), describing it as much
needed means of obtaining reliable and valid assessments of intelligence for children with a wide array of
disabilities who cannot be tested accurately with existing instruments. It is a carefully developed instrument
with excellent reliability and impressive evidence of validity for use as a supplement to or substitute for
more traditional measures (Bandalos, 2001, p. 1298).
Brief descriptions of the UNIT subtest and scales are offered in Table 1. Across the age levels
represented in the standardization sample, average reliabilities for the various UNIT subtests range from .64
(Mazes) to .91 (Cube Design). For the UNIT Scales, reliabilities are naturally higher, all on the order of .
90. Full Scale reliability for the standardization sample is .93. Thus, the UNIT meets and exceeds
commonly accepted standards for measures of cognitive and intellectual ability (e.g., Anastasi & Urbina,
1997).
Results
Descriptive statistics for the UNIT subtests are offered in Table 2. Predictably, MANOVA reveals
significant group differences across the six UNIT subtests, F (18, 818) = 6.7, p < .05. These mean
differences are better appreciated when expressed in reference to the White sample, by dividing the
differences by the standard deviation of the White sample. The standardized differences were then
corrected for attenuation by dividing by the square root of the reliability for the respective subtest and scale

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(Table 3). The ranking of Full Scale IQs for the groups were, in order: Asians (113), Whites (106),
Hispanics (100), and Blacks (92). Among the UNIT subtests, the most pronounced differences occurred in
the Black-White comparisons, where post-hoc t-tests confirmed all comparisons were statistically
significant. Similarly, statistically significant differences were found in the Asian-White comparisons, with
Asians uniformly outperforming Whites across the various subtests and quotients. Among the subtests, the
largest differences were noted on Black-White comparisons of Cube Design and Analogic Reasoning, at.89
and .98 sigma units, respectively.
Following methodology devised by Jensen (2001), a principal factor analysis was conducted on
each group separately. Such procedures ensure that variance associated with Spearmans g remains distinct
to each group and does not contribute to any observed between-group variation. The first unrotated
principal factor, typically interpreted as Spearmans g (Jensen & Weng, 1994), accounted 40%, 43%, 28%,
and 36% of the variance in the White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic samples, respectively. Congruence
coefficients across the various groups indicated that the g factor was virtually identical across groups (r = .
95 to .99). At this point, a test of Spearmans Hypothesis is a straightforward matter. Correlations between
the vectors of g loadings estimated from the White sample and standardized group differences are .46, -.40,
and .41 for the Black, Asian, and Hispanic samples, respectively.
Discussion
In the present study, the cognitive performance of racial/ethnic groups on the UNIT was examined
in light of the influence of Spearmans g. Despite the absence of culturally relevant content and language,
statistically significant race differences were found across all of the UNIT subtests and quotients.
Generally, these findings replicated closely the pattern often observed with more traditional omnibus tests
of intelligence (Naglieri & Jensen, 1987; Lynn, 1996, Rushton, Skuy, & Fridjhon, 2002). That is, the 21
point range of average FSIQ scores is anchored by Asians (FSIQ =113) at highest extreme and Blacks
(FSIQ = 92) at the lowest. Surprisingly, matching samples according to parental education had a meager
effect on group differences. Notably, the oft-cited Black-White differences stubbornly maintained their
magnitude of approximately one standard deviation. Blacks performed about as well on the UNIT as on the
WISC-III, which demonstrated an average FSIQ of 88 for Blacks (Kush, Watkins, Ward, Ward, Canivez, &
Worrell, 2001). Hispanics have been largely ignored in studies of intelligence; therefore, their performance

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warrants special attention. Although significant different across many of the UNIT subtests, the average
intellective performance of Whites (FSIQ=106) and Hispanics (FSIQ=100).were fairly similar.
Inasmuch as there is a discernible relationship between g loadings and mean group differences, the
present study finds the Black-White comparisons adhere to the trend originally proposed by Spearman
(1927) and later affirmed by Jensen, (2001), Lynn, (1996); and Rushton, (1998; 2000b, 2001, 2002). All
correlations between g loadings and group differences demonstrated similar absolute values, on the order of
.40. The negative correlation associated with the Asian-White comparisons is easily explained. The Asian
sample outperformed Whites on every UNIT subtest. In consequence, the correlation assumes a negative
value. Importantly, the present study finds that regardless of racial or ethnic group, Spearmans g accounts
for a substantial amount of individual and between-group variation.
Assuming the UNIT actually controls for the confounds of individual differences in culture, one
might expect the correlations between the vectors of g and subtest differences to be greater than actually
obtained in this study. However, there are a number of conditions that constrain the variation among the
variables comprising each vector. Whether by accident or design, most intelligence tests are robust
measures of Spearmans g, and the UNIT is no exception (McCallum & Bracken, 2005). Therefore, there is
considerable restriction in the range of g loadings for the UNIT subtests. Moreover, with only six subtests,
the rank order of the group differences has highly constrained values. In applications of the Jensens
method of correlated vectors, sample size is not based on the number of participants, but on the number of
subtests included in the analyses. Bearing in mind that only 6 subtests are used in these analyses, it stands
to reason that one or two aberrant g loadings and/ or test differences could exaggerate or attenuate the
results in one direction or another for any particular group. Such constraints invariable impact the
reliability of the correlations and bias any test of Spearmans Hypothesis in favor of the null hypothesis.
Although the present findings are quite substantial, if these conditions were accommodated, as in a metaanalysis, the correlations between g and some of the observed group differences could easily approach .90.
While these findings contribute to the nomological network of evidence pertaining to g theory and
race differences, they offer no conclusive evidence about the origins of these observed discrepancies. With
specific reference to the notorious Black-White differences in IQ, Spearman (1927) openly suspected a
strong genetic contribution:

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On the whole, there has been found a large body of evidence that races do differ from one another,
at any rate in respect of g. And there have been some indicationsas yet hardly decisivethat
such differences persist even when the members of the respective races are living in the same
environment, educational and otherwise; to this extent, then, the course would appear fairly
traceable to inheritance. (p. 380).
As the leading researcher in this area, Jensen (1981) adopted a more circumspect stance, stating simply,
The plain fact is that at present there exists no scientifically satisfactory explanation for the differences
between the IQ distributions in the Black and White populations. The only genuine consensus among wellinformed scientists on this topic is that the cause of the difference remains an open question" (p. 213).
Even in light of this evenhanded reading of the research literature on group differences, Jensen and his ilk
(so-called Jensenists) have experienced considerable wrath at the hands of dogmatists who insisted that
only environmental explanations of race differences in IQ are acceptable (Gottfredson, 2005; Herrnstein &
Murray, 1994; Lynn, 2001; Snyderman & Rothman, 1988). Contributing to the debate, the present study
finds that controlling for parental SES diminished but failed to eradicate group differences and the
explanative power of Spearmans g. Recent in-depth literature reviews of race research offer a plausible
model that realistically attributes about 50% of Black-White differences in IQ, to genetic or biological
origins (Loehlin, 2002, 2007; Rushton & Ankney, 1996; Rushton & Jensen, 2005). Heritability estimates of
general intelligence are remarkably consistent across race groups (Lynn & Hattori, 1990; Osborne, 1980).
Thus, if group differences are viewed as accumulated individual differences, as Jensen and Rushton (2005)
propose, it stands to reason that between-group comparisons involving other races (e.g., Asians) may have
similar heritability.
This study holds important implications for the intellectual assessment of children. Many
practitioners may choose the UNIT over other IQ tests (e.g., WISC-IV), suspecting that the UNIT may
eradicate provocative race differences in IQ. Certainly, this is not the case. While group differences are
diminished, they are palpable. Most importantly, these ubiquitous race differences exist in some measure
because of the centrality of Spearmans g in accounting for individual (within) and group (between)
differences. Of course, the correlation between g loadings and group differences in cognitive performance

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is not unity (i.e., 1.00); therefore, other factors (environmental, psychometric, and genetic) beyond
Spearmans g likely contribute to the observed patterns.
In their professional practice, many psychologists mistakenly assume that observed racial
differences in IQ are de facto evidence of cultural bias and White hegemony (Gould, 1996; Hale, 2001;
Kamin, 1974, 1995; Lewontin, 1984; Ogbu, 2002; Ogbu & Stern, 2001; Schonemann, 2001; Steele, 1997).
Yet, the argument that standardized IQ tests are Eurocentric and measure only abilities valued by the
majority White society is rejected outright: Asians outperformed Whites on every measure. More likely,
when it comes to observed group differences in IQ and predicted outcomes (e.g., referral rates & academic
achievement), psychologists may simply be witness to the inevitable and expected population differences in
the distribution of Spearmans g and related cognitive abilities.

Spearman UNIT 12
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Spearman UNIT 16
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Spearman UNIT 17

Table 1. Descriptions of the UNIT Subtests and Scales.


Subtest/Quotient
Symbolic Memory

Description

The examinee is presented with universal symbolic stimuli (e.g., baby, girl,
boy, woman, and man) of selected colors. The examinee is then required to
recall and then reproduce each presented sequence.

Cube Design

The examinee must reproduce abstract, three-dimensional geometric designs


constructed of one-inch green and white cubes. One of only two timed
subtests, Cube Design is akin to the Block Design subtest common to the
familiar Wechsler Scales

Spatial Memory

The examinee must recall and recreate a pattern of black and green chips
presented on a response grid.

Analogic Reasoning

The examinee completes geometric and symbolic analogies and patterns.

Object Memory

The examinee is visually presented with an array of common objects under


timed conditions. Following a delay, the examinee must then recall and
identify the objects from a larger array.

Mazes

The examinee traces a path through each maze, beginning at the center and
ending at an exit. Mazes is one of two timed subtests.

Memory Quotient

MQ measures short-term memory functioning, according to content,


location, and sequence of visually presented stimuli.

Reasoning Quotient

RQ measures general problem solving ability, using familiar and novel


stimuli.

Symbolic Quotient

SQ measures the ability to problem solve with familiar and meaningful


stimuli.

Nonsymbolic Quotient

NSQ measures the ability to problem solve with novel and abstract stimuli.

Full Scale Quotient

FSIQ provides an index of overall intellectual functioning.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Spearman UNIT 18

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics for Matched Race/Ethnic Groups on the UNIT Subtests and Quotients
UNIT

White

Black

Asian

Hispanic

Subtest

Mean

(SD)

Mean

(SD)

Mean

(SD)

Symbolic Memory

11.13

(2.65)

8.98*

(2.89)

12.18*

(2.84)

9.71*

(3.25)

Cube Design

11.12

(3.10)

8.50*

(2.81)

11.46

(3.23)

10.00*

(3.37)

Spatial Memory

11.05

(2.92)

8.79*

(3.04)

11.88

(2.53)

10.57

(2.78)

Analogic Reasoning

11.10

(2.64)

8.81*

(3.20)

11.86

(2.81)

Object Memory

10.80

(3.22)

9.59*

(3.58)

11.94*

(2.53)

10.31

(2.98)

Mazes

10.47

(3.15)

9.20*

(2.95)

11.04

(2.95)

10.38

(2.65)

Quotient

Mean

(SD)

Mean

(SD)

Mean

(SD)

Mean

(SD)

Memory

106.00

(15.56)

94.14*

(17.16)

112.63*

(12.35)

100.92*

(15.78)

Reasoning

105.80

(15.20)

92.01*

(15.62)

109.67

(12.98)

98.53*

(15.63)

Symbolic

106.00

(14.58)

94.22*

(17.42)

113.33 * (13.09)

97.68*

(15.53)

NonSymbolic

105.40

(14.97)

91.88*

(14.49)

109.82

Full Scale

106.33

(14.92)

92.25*

(16.42)

113.22 * (11.80)

(12.02)

Mean

9.01*

101.76
99.58*

(SD)

(3.08)

(15.01)
(15.48)

______________________________________________________________________________________________
*Denotes statistically significant difference, p < .05, when compared to Whites.

Spearman UNIT 19
Table 3
Standardized Groups Differences in UNIT Subtests and Quotients, Compared to Whites
UNIT Subtest

Black

Hispanic

Asian

Symbolic Memory

.88

.58

-.43

Cube Design

.89

.38

-.11

Spatial Memory

.86

.18

-.32

Analogic Reasoning

.98

.89

-.32

Object Memory

.43

.17

-.41

Mazes

.50

.04

-.23

Memory Quotient

.80

.34

-.45

Reasoning Quotient

.98

.52

-.27

Symbolic Quotient

.86

.60

-.53

NonSymbolic Quotient

.97

.26

-.32

Full Scale Quotient

.98

.47

-.48

______________________________________________________

Spearman UNIT 20

Table 4
Loadings of the First Unrotated Principal Factor of the UNIT Subtests for Asian, Hispanic, Black, and
White Children and Adolescents
UNIT
Subtest

Asian

Hispanic

Black

White

Symbolic Memory

.69

.61

.75

.70

Cube Design

.62

.42

.63

.66

Spatial Memory

.63

.66

.75

.75

Analogic Reasoning

.82

.59

.78

.67

Object Memory

.83

.77

.78

.72

Mazes

.36

.40

.36

.27

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