April 2024 (2 months ago)

Hypothetical: Foldy ears as an indicator of intelligence

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7 min read (1384 words)
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Note: This article contains my thoughts expressed in a clear way. This isn’t the story of how I ended up thinking about this.

Rationale

Brain gyrification analyzed in 440 healthy adults and 662 healthy children showed that general cognitive ability was significantly associated with increased gyrification in a variety of neocortex regions. Regional Variations in Brain Gyrification Are Associated with General Cognitive Ability in Humans (2016).

Cortical gyrification is abnormal in children with prenatal alcohol exposure. In Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), it was observed that abnormally smooth cortex was strongly associated with lower IQ.

It’s shown that there are a variety of ear abnormalities among children with prenatal alcohol exposure. But these weren’t great examples due listing only gross ear deformities such as microtia (misshapen/small ear), railroad track ears, and such. No attention was paid to the smoothness of the fork on the inside.

I was then searching up railroad track ears and stumbled upon image one and image two as great examples. Where did the inside fork in their ear go?

Smooth ear example 1
Smooth ear example 1
Smooth ear example 2
Smooth ear example 2

It’s not an ethnic thing. All ethnic groups can have the inside “fork” (aka antihelix). It’s not just the size. Sometimes people have a developed fork but big ears or a largeish gap between the fork and the helix (outer ridge). This was the best image of a ear I could find. A lot of pictures don’t include the foldy parts, which reminds me of this post about dead butterflies.

I’ve also noticed there is a style common in people with descent from Africa where rather than the top of the ear being rounded, it is more straight. There’s also a type of ear that has a defined antihelix but is sort of large, like Durov’s ear.

anatomy of an ear
anatomy of an ear

The way I see it, a certain amount of energy is needed for the growing child to develop more detailed and intricate structures in the brain. The ear, being a “foldy” organ, likely progresses in the same way as the brain. Ear smoothness is likely linked to brain smoothness, but I’m only making a transitive link. I haven’t found any studies on this.

It’d worth looking at plants to see if a lack of energy in plants leads to lack of detail in them. Are plants with more energy able to grow more detailed, fractal structures? Is there an equivalent of “smooth ears” for plants?

Nutrition

Based on anorexic patients, Nutritional Status Affects Cortical Folding: Lessons Learned From Anorexia Nervosa (2018) discovered that malnutrition in adult patients leads to decreased gyrification but full return upon cessation of anorxeia. It also seems that having twins led to 2-3 weeks delay in gyrification, but past 33 weeks both were normal.

Foldy Ears (normal ears)

It’s easier if I give examples.

mlk
mlk

macron
macron

telegram founder
telegram founder

lky son, though his ears look weird these days because of chemo treatments
lky son, though his ears look weird these days because of chemo treatments

putin's ears are a bit less defined around the edges aka smoother. he also has a jaw misalignment due to tmj
putin's ears are a bit less defined around the edges aka smoother. he also has a jaw misalignment due to tmj

Not Foldy Ears (smooth ears!!!)

I’ve seen criminals with foldy ears. But smooth ears seem to be a recurring theme in criminals (I was browsing mugshots of the side, but they weren’t separated by violent/non-violent crimes) and people into “hip-hop” style things who are dressed a certain way on the subway or maintenance workers in Atlanta.

This is the guy who attacked Salman Rushdie.

salman attacker
salman attacker

Prisoner in El Salvador.

prisoner
prisoner

These two people side by side are a good comparison. The one on the left is foldy while the one on the right is not.

comparison of foldy and not foldy ears
comparison of foldy and not foldy ears

Mozart Ear

There’s also this thing called ”Mozart Ear” which is basically a smooth ear. But it’s said that this is of his son rather than him.

alt text
alt text

Smoother brains versus foldy brains and how it’s like to talk to them

This is all speculation. I think they may feel things stronger and be less able to understand repercussions, so that is why violent criminals I’ve seen tend to have smooth ears. I think they are less able to “simulate” other worlds and people. That is, they can’t imagine things super well, how other people would perceive things, and so on. There are layers to a conversation, implications, mental models of technical topics, etc. which they are less able to intuitively grasp.

When I talk to someone who has a certain mental “level” and has done the reading and thinking about the world to use it, it becomes a conversation with so many tangents and our communication is limited by how fast we can speak. However, there are people with “foldy” ears I don’t have good conversations with probably because they haven’t developed their knowledge yet. But the potential is there. There are people who have studied lots of things but when we have conversations it isn’t the same, which I’ve found when talking to some older academics but I can’t determine whether it’s due to ear foldiness or age differences.

Someone brought up the fact that correlation isn’t causation. Could the angle be wrong? Could the antihelix exist but is covered by the helix? Do those who get into fights have cauliflower ear, which makes them seem smooth?

What to do with this knowledge?

I would be very disappointed if you used this information to call someone “smooth eared” (stupid) upon meeting them as a moral judgment of character.

One: we could rethink education. Education might be mainly downstream of nutrition. Nobody expects a child born with mental disabilities to get smarter if you teach them more. They run into limits of memory, reasoning, connections, and so on. It would give us a “root cause” to attack: increase the maternal nutritional status. (this goes into a debate about “what is healthy food”, which I am also writing my thoughts on. It is possible there is scarcity as far as “healthy food” goes.)

If you see someone with foldy ears you can start a conversation with them. You might be able to tell that they’re intelligent, and if you like intelligent conversations it’ll be a big boon to your experiences.

It’s possible that even if you don’t have foldy ears, you might want a leader who has foldy ears because they’d be a more capable leader, as long as they have good morals. Or you might want a dumber person in a position for other reasons. Putting this information out into the world doesn’t change how people are and act; it just gives more information by which people can do things. And it might be a better indicator than verbal tests that people like to give.

I am worried that this information will lead to discrimination against people with smooth ears. But people already discriminate on the basis of age, sex, ethnicity, and so on. Maybe those with smooth ears will get tired of being oppressed and massacre the foldy ears, like how there was a “two-nostril test” between the Hutus and Tutsis. I hope not. It’s not genetically transmissible.

Like I said, I’m not 100% set on this theory, but I will keep making observations and try to understand the world.

It’d be a slippery slope if we start looking at physical features to determine morality though. But people do want someone they can trust and feel is competent. Ah, problem is so hard.

Experience validates this

Was at a business pitch event in Boston and noticed the investors all had extremely foldy ears.

Also snapped a photo of participants. The one on the right is less foldy than the one in the back. During my travels at a subway in NYC, I compared the ears of a guy who looked like an Icelandic software engineer vs two “hip-hop” style guys that walked on the train. I also looked at the ears of almost all the people I meet IRL and my general impression of their intelligence.

Investors
Investors

Participants
Participants

Intelligence is not virtue

Of the guy on the right wearing black, let’s say he came off a certain way. I was also sitting behind him and his underwear was showing. Only a certain type of person would be so unaware so as to let something like that happen. Physiognomy, but based on real-world actions rather than a reductive face.

I think intelligence is much more a multiplier of whatever character traits someone already has.

A hypothetical

Imagine that you know that you aren’t so smart. It’s difficult to do well in class. Then you hear of this theory, go check your ears in the mirror, and find that your ears are not so foldy. Maybe they’d feel relief at understanding why things are the way they are. They could then endeavor to do better for their kids and the next generation armed with the knowledge of prenatal nutrition and its benefits.