The g Factor is a Universal Construct

New paper: Warne, Russell T., and Cassidy Burningham. 2019. “Spearman’s G Found in 31 Non-Western Nations: Strong Evidence That G Is a Universal Phenomenon.Psychological Bulletin. US: American Psychological Association.

Across 97 samples from 31 countries totaling 52,340 individuals, we found that a single factor emerged unambiguously from 71 samples (73.2%) and that 23 of the remaining 26 samples (88.5%) produced a single second-order factor. The first factor in the initial EFA explained an average of 45.9% of observed variable variance (SD = 12.9%), which is similar to what is seen in Western samples… Factor extraction in a higher-order EFA was not possible in 2 samples. These results show that g appears in many cultures and is likely a universal phenomenon in humans.

Map of countries included in this study.

Although we did not preregister any exact predictions for our study, we are astonished at the uniformity of these results. We expected before this study began that many samples would produce g, but that there would have been enough samples for us to conduct a post hoc exploratory analysis to investigate why some samples were more likely to produce g than others. With only three samples that did not produce g, we were unable to undertake our plans for exploratory results because g appeared too consistently in the data.

Thus, Spearman’s g appeared in at least 94 of the 97 data sets (97.0%) from 31 countries that we investigated, and the remaining three samples produced ambiguous results. Because these data sets originated in cultures and countries where g would be least likely to appear if it were a cultural artifact, we conclude that general cognitive ability is likely a universal human trait.

For those who wish to equate g with a Western view of “intelligence,” this study presents several problems for the argument that Western views of intelligence are too narrow. First, in our search, we discovered many examples of non-Western psychologists using Western intelligence tests with little adaptation and without expressing concern about the tests’ overly narrow measurement techniques. Theorists who argue that the Western perspective of intelligence is too culturally narrow must explain why these authors use Western (or Western-style) intelligence tests and why these tests have found widespread acceptance in the countries we investigated (Oakland, Douglas, & Kane, 2016). Another difficulty for the argument that Western views of intelligence are too narrow is the fact that tests developed in these nonindustrialized, non-Western cultures positively correlate with Western intelligence tests (Mahmood, 2013; van den Briel et al., 2000). This implies that these indigenous instruments are also g-loaded to some extent, which would support Spearman’s (1927) belief in the indifference of the indicator.

I don’t know what is so surprising about this given that a g factor for intelligence has been found in chimps, monkeys, dogs, and even rodents.

If it even works for animals then it would seem very strange (and dare I say extremely racist?) that it would not work for some human subpopulations.

However, this is useful in yet another nail in SJW/blank slatist arguments to the effect that the g factor is a Western/white/modern/etc. social construct.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. prime noticer says

    scientists confirm sky is blue.

  2. What next form the Psychology Department of Utah Valley University? What about verifying if the lowest common denominator can be found for fractions in non-Western, non-industrialized nations?

    Obviously you will find something what you can call g in any battery of tests. It is mathematically inevitable necessity. A covariance matrix is always semi-definite positive. This implies that its eigenvalues are positive. The eigenvector associated with the maximum eigenvalue explains more variance than any other vector in the same space (see wiki on Rayleigh Quotient).

    (recycled comment form Sailer’s thread on the same paper)

  3. Whatever g is, it appears to be important in developing infrastructure and a quality society. The countries with low g aren’t the places you would want live in most instances. Also, you may need a certain g score to be a certain profession. That doesn’t mean you are guaranteed that profession if you have that level. I don’t think there are too many engineers, scientists and mathematicians with IQs in 90’s contrary to the Bolshevik ideology.

    It also appears to be true if you have a section of people in an area with low gs you have more violence and more problems. Today in the MIT review the Chinese Scientist who did the CRISPR on the Twins may have increase their cognitive ability:

    Now what are they going to say about this? Are we still all alike? They will soon ban Genetics and related disciplines because they are getting too close to the truth!

  4. Why don’t insects have g?

  5. prime noticer says

    why doesn’t utu go do something useful like be an engineer or whatever. he clearly got thru undergraduate math, so why the act. it was entertaining for a while. now he’s annoying.

    reminds me of that guy from 20 years ago, godless capitalist. if you have to bring eigenvalues into a discussion, you already lost. the mental gymnastics to avoid the obvious are as impressive as they are pathetic. these topics don’t require linear algebra or differential equations to get to the bottom of things. serious, rigorous experimental design in research psychology using the statistical tools of the day are more than enough to discover and explain what’s going on.

    this guy acts like we don’t know there are extremely obvious intelligence differences in animals and that we’d need a PHD in mathematics to even begin to understand what’s going on. guys smarter than utu have been working on intelligence research for over 100 years – for the non-math inclined, that’s longer than utu has been alive. they have developed tests that have experimental reliability, validity, and most important, they are predictive.

    the only thing you can predict about utu is that he will hand wave whatever the latest serious psychological research result is.

  6. Two minor comments:
    “This implies that its eigenvalues are positive.”
    “The eigenvector associated with the maximum eigenvalue explains more variance than any other vector in the same space ”
    there can be several eigenvectors with the same eigenvalue, in that case each of them explains the same amount, which is larger than for smaller eigenvalues.

    However, the eigenvalues can be quite close to each other and if so each explain almost the same amount, so the paper has some result in finding that g explains a large part of variance. Nevertheless, these kind of studies have the fault that very low IQ is a result of a different mechanism than very high IQ (i.e., very low IQ is usually a result of recessive genes causing retardation), so treating IQ in the way it is treated is a simplification and not much should be derived from a simplification. g most probably is a simplification of something, not anything physically real.

  7. anonymous coward says

    Eigenvalues and linear algebra aren’t mystical PhD magic, you idiot. They’re like adding two and two together, except in 3-D.

    Utu’s point was that you don’t need “serious, rigorous experimental design” or “research psychology” to know that some people are dumb and some people are smart. (In other news: sky is blue, water is wet, etc.)

  8. It’s quite ironic. ‘g’ is built into the test by way of test construction, making it a ‘social construct.’ Furthermore, there is class stratification around the world. No surprise that this “exists” elsewhere. ‘g’ is not a property in the brain.