The AP in the Guardian:
… Race-based adjustments for neurology – known as “Heaton norms” – were designed in the early 1990s by Dr Robert Heaton to estimate how socioeconomic factors affect someone’s health. They are widely used, but in recent years, scientists in the field have begun to recognize the limitations of the normative comparison groups they have used for years.
The small sample group of Blacks Heaton chose to create his adjustment protocol came entirely from San Diego, a military town where the Black population hardly reflected the diversity of Blacks across the US.
If San Diego is like Honolulu, another Navy town, blacks in San Diego likely did above the national black average: black students score quite high in Hawaii.
The racial classifications are also binary – Black or white — even though hundreds of NFL retirees, and millions of Americans, identify as mixed race.
People always think this is some kind of Ultimate Gotcha, but, once again, it works backwards. If you dropped people like Barack Obama with one white parent as black from the ranks of blacks, the average black IQ would almost certainly go down a little.
’White and Black retired NFL players may be more similar to each other than they are to the reference populations … used to develop Heaton or (other) race-specific norms,” Manley wrote in her brief in the Davenport lawsuit.
You might think, but a 2012 study found that white NFL draft picks scored 16 IQ points higher than black draft picks on the Wonderlic cognitive test given to college players with draft potential by the NFL.
… The NFL’s dementia testing evaluates a person’s function in two dozen skills that fall under five sections: complex attention/processing speed; executive functioning; language; learning and memory; and visual perception. A player must show a marked decline in at least two of them to get an award.
In an example shared with The Associated Press, one player’s raw score of 19 for “letter-number sequencing” in the processing section was adjusted using “race-norming” and became 42 for whites and 46 for Blacks.
In other words, they are giving blacks bonus points for being black, like affirmative action.
The raw score of 15 for naming animals in the language section became a 35 for whites and 41 for Blacks. And the raw score of 51 for “block design” in the visual perception section became a 53 for whites but 60 for Blacks.
Taking the 24 scores together, either a white or Black player would have scored low enough to reach the settlement’s 1.5-level of early dementia in “processing speed.” However, in the language section, the scores would have qualified a white man for a 2.0-level, or moderate, dementia finding – but shown no impairment for Blacks.
Overall, the scores would result in a 1.5-level dementia award for whites – but nothing for Blacks. Those awards average more than $400,000 but can reach $1.5 million for men under 45, while 2.0-level dementia yields an average payout of more than $600,000 but can reach $3 million.
Breton Asken, a neuropsychology fellow at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, helped administer several assessments around 2016, when he was a student at the University of Florida. The assessments he was involved in took 4 to 6 hours, and produced a score, which would then be adjusted based on the Heaton norms.
“So the male Black athletes that we saw would be compared essentially to a group of otherwise healthy Black individuals with a similar number of years of education and of the same age,” Asken said.
The reason for that race-norming has become standard is otherwise a huge fraction of blacks would be declared neuropsychologically impaired.
Published online 2011 Jun 24.
Demographically Corrected Norms for African Americans and Caucasians on the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised, Brief Visuospatial Memory Test-Revised, Stroop Color and Word Test, and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test 64-Card Version
Marc A. Norman,1 David J. Moore,1 Michael Taylor,1,3 Donald Franklin, Jr.,1 Lucette Cysique,1,2 Chris Ake,1 Deborah Lazarretto,1 Florin Vaida,1 Robert K. Heaton,1 and the HNRC Group
Memory and executive functioning are two important components of clinical neuropsychological (NP) practice and research. Multiple demographic factors are known to affect performance differentially on most NP tests, but adequate normative corrections, inclusive of race/ethnicity, are not available for many widely used instruments. This study compared demographic contributions for widely used tests of verbal and visual learning and memory (Brief Visual Memory Test-Revised, Hopkins Verbal Memory Test-Revised), and executive functioning (Stroop Color and Word Test, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test-64) in groups of healthy Caucasians (n = 143) and African-Americans (n = 103). Demographic factors of age, education, gender, and race/ethnicity were found to be significant factors on some indices of all four tests. The magnitude of demographic contributions (especially age) was greater for African-Americans than Caucasians on most measures. New, demographically corrected T-score formulas were calculated for each race/ethnicity. The rates of NP impairment using previously published normative standards significantly overestimated NP impairment in African-Americans. Utilizing the new demographic corrections developed and presented herein, NP impairment rates were comparable between the two race/ethnicities and unrelated to the other demographic characteristics (age, education, gender) in either race/ethnicity group. Findings support the need to consider extended demographic contributions to neuropsychological test performance in clinical and research settings. …
The sample consisted of 246 healthy individuals recruited as comparison participants (HIV uninfected controls) in a longitudinal study of HIV infected participants at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center (HNRC). One hundred forty three participants self identified as Caucasian and 103 self identified as African-American.
The kind of whites and blacks who live near UCSD in La Jolla, CA are likely above national averages for their races.
In the first step, African American and Caucasian raw scores on each of the neuropsychological measures examined in this study were compared to analyze the effects of race/ethnicity. Table 5 demonstrates significant Caucasian and African American differences on all measures, such that Caucasians performed better in each instance. Table 5 also depicts medium to large effect sizes on most learning, memory and executive functioning indices; the only exceptions were small to medium effect sizes on HVLT-Delayed Recall and Stroop Color Naming and Word Reading.
The gaps on various tests ranged from 0.37 standard deviations on Cohen’s d to 0.73.
Figure 1 shows the results for the African American group. When applying previously published normative corrections to this sample, 24–49% of normal individuals were classified as NP impaired depending on the test score examined. Using our newly generated normative data the impairment rates significantly improved and ranged from 13–16%. The impairment rates for the African American sample with the previously published norms are significantly greater than what would be expected from the normal distribution with the selected 1 SD cutoff (Golden, 1978).
Under the old norms, between 21% and 49% of blacks registered as suffering neuropsychological impairment on the various tests. Heaton’s new norms reduce that figure to 15%, about the same as for whites under their separate scoring system. Here’s the old and new performance of whites under Heaton’s new set of adjustments:
Now it could be that Heaton is over-equalizing the races by making them both come out around 15% impaired. Perhaps blacks really are more impaired than whites on average, due to more knocks on the head, more drug abuse, or whatever.
But there was a lot of demand for a way to test blacks without coming up with a huge fraction of normal blacks being classified as impaired.
These findings strongly support the use of separate norms for African-American and Caucasian examinees on the tests used here and, when combined with previously published results in the same ability domains, on learning, memory and executive functioning measures more generally. Consistent with prior findings on the Wechsler Intelligence and Memory Scales (Heaton, et al., 2003) and expanded Halstead-Reitan Battery (Heaton, et al., 2004), we found, in our sample of 103 African-Americans and 143 Caucasians, that African-American participants obtained lower raw scores on visual and verbal learning and memory and executive functioning measures.
There are multiple background differences between African American and Caucasian adults within U.S. society today that may place African Americans at a disadvantage on standardized NP testing. The observed raw NP score differences may be consistent with disparities in quality of formal and informal educational experiences; however, other factors may also contribute to these discrepancies. It is considered unlikely that race has a direct causal effect on differences in adult cognition, so race/ethnicity is viewed as a proxy for other factors, much like has been discussed about education (Manly, Byrd, Touradji, & Stern, 2004). Factors potentially contributing to raw NP score differences between African American and Caucasian groups may include academic exposure, education quality, academic resources, acculturation, socioeconomic status, social exposure, “test wiseness”, societal discrimination (Byrd, Sanchez, & Manly, 2005; Manly, et al., 2004) and lifelong experiences contributing to low group and self-expectations (Steele & Aronson, 1995).
There are few opportunities in the literature to compare our raw score results with those reported by other investigators. Whereas this study found about a 2-point (raw score) difference on HVLT-R Total Recall performances between Caucasians and African-Americans, Morgan et al. (Morgan, Marsiske, & Whitfield, 2008) found a 4-point difference and less variability. The current study demonstrated moderate to large race/ethnicity effect sizes, but the raw score differences between Caucasians and African Americans do not seem to be especially large (e.g., an average of only 1.5 points on BVMT-R Delayed Recall is associated with a medium to large effect size; see Table 5). However, these differences were sufficiently robust to cause unacceptably large “impairment” classification rates in the African American sample (Figure 1).
Although concerns might be raised that the method of raced-based norming could “overcorrect” performances of neurologically impaired African Americans (making them less sensitive to disease), this could be said as well for norms that correct for older age, lower education levels, or any demographic characteristic that is associated with lower test performance in normal people. In our view, the most important function of norms is to maintain an acceptable and consistent level of diagnostic specificity (accuracy in classifying normal people as normal) for people regardless of their demographic characteristics. Our data suggest that the norms presented here result in rates of impairment that are comparable, and are within statistical expectations for a healthy population, for both our Caucasian and African American participants.
But now, for the NFL concussion payouts, this pro-black adjustment is suddenly seen as anti-black.
As I’ve been saying for months, I don’t understand why nobody is mentioning that rather than make assumptions about how high functioning the players were before they entered the NFL based on their race, they should just use each individual player’s performance on the Wonderlic IQ test during the NFL’s draft combine. Rather than assume that white players should have IQs of 100 and blacks 85, why not look up what IQ score each one got on the NFL’s IQ test when they were 22? That seems a lot fairer.
For example, a black tight end named Ben Watson scored a 154 IQ on his Wonderlic and then played 16 seasons in the NFL. If he scores a 100 today, rather than saying, “Pretty good for a black guy,” it would be more reasonable to say that he paid a big price so the NFL could put on its gladiatorial spectacles and deserves a bigger payout.
I suspect that the reasons this doesn’t come up are because journalists are terribly ignorant about IQ for career protection reasons. To be a journalist today, all you need to know is whether something is good for these particular blacks in this particular situation. Nobody cares what’s good for blacks overall.
And the scientific experts likely have connoisseur’s reasons for overemphasizing the differences between the Wonderlic IQ test and the Stroop Color-Word or whatever test.
The reality is that just about any cognitive test is not bad, while no cognitive test is extremely good. So, the Wonderlic score will tend to be in the ballpark but anybody who studies the subject could come up with 13 reasons why it’s not ideal. But still …