We aren’t the only ones discussing IQ right now. Over at Slate, William Saletan argues that the black-white IQ gap should not be a taboo subject and should be judged on the evidence. In this, he is entirely correct and I will be debating this issue with Charles Murray at the Manhattan Institute in New York City on the last Wednesday in November. However, he presents (lucidly) only the evidence for a genetic component. In my recent book, What is Intelligence? (see amazon.com), I note that blacks have cut the gap by one-third over the last 30 years. Also that black IQ (with white set at 100) declines with age from parity in infancy to a few points at age 4, to almost 17 points at age 24. In New York, I will show that we can give good environmental reasons for that decline with age.
Also from This Issue
Shattering Intelligence: Implications for Education and Interventions
by James R. Flynn
In this month’s lead essay, famed intelligence researcher James R. Flynn draws on his new book, What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect, to help answer some of the puzzles surrounding the controversial issue of IQ. Flynn, who first discovered that IQ scores were rising generation after generation, notes that this improvement has been more dramatic on some parts of IQ tests than on others, challenging ideas of a unified general intelligence or “g.” Flynn argues that the fact cognitive abilities do not develop together has important implications for education. Additionally, Flynn contends that the evidence for the co-determining reciprocal influence of brain and environment should lead us to set aside simple ideas about the primacy of nurture and nature in intelligence. Once we grasp that “the brain is much more like our muscles than we had thought,” we can do more to improve cognitive performance by doing more to exercise the brain.
Shattering Logic to Explain the Flynn Effect
by Linda S. Gottfredson
Linda Gottfredson, co-director of the Delaware-Johns Hopkins Project for the Study of Intelligence and Society, defends the unity of general intelligence, or g, against Flynn’s attempt to “unravel g into its component parts” by charging that “his core argument rests on logical fallacies that profoundly misinterpret the evidence.”
The Fundamental Intuition
by Eric Turkheimer
University of Virginia psychologist Eric Turkheimer contests even James Flynn’s modest accommodation with the construct of g, or general intelligence. Turkheimer argues that the “fundamental intuition” of g is that “universal positive relations among mental tests compels a single dominant explanatory construct,” but that “the fundamental intuition is wrong.” According to Turkheimer, g is not “discovered,” but is simply posited as a convenience, like the Prime Meridian. g may be useful for some purposes, but a multidimensional explanation of ability may still be correct. “The trick is not to get hooked on any particular way of dividing up the pie,” Turkheimer writes, “because it is a short step from there to trying to find the Greenwich Meridian at the bottom of the North Atlantic.”
The Significance of the Flynn Effect
by Stephen J. Ceci
Stephen J. Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology at Cornell University, explains why Flynn’s work has been so important. According to Ceci, the received wisdom about the nature and effects of g, or general intelligence, led “some to argue that inequality in the distribution of wealth, prestige, and educational attainment is, in part, a consequence of unequal distribution of the intellectual capacity needed for high levels of functioning.” However, Ceci says, “[Flynn] has shown beyond doubt that general intelligence fluctuates systematically over time and this cannot be due to our having better genes than our grandparents,” and he goes on to explore the puzzles raised by this discovery.
- Measuring Two Different Things: People and Trends by James R. Flynn
- The Chilling Effect of IQ Taboos by Stephen J. Ceci
- Race and IQ by Eric Turkheimer
- Rational Discussion of the Offensive is Okay by James R. Flynn
- Arthur Jensen and John Stuart Mill by James R. Flynn
- What Is the Alternative to Civil Discourse? by Stephen J. Ceci
- Flynn, Ceci, and Turkheimer on Race and Intelligence: Opening Moves by Linda S. Gottfredson
- I Reject Rousseau by James R. Flynn