Are we getting smarter?
April 20, 1998
This forum's introduction
Questions answered in this forum:
Why do we still look at IQ scores? Is technology the cause of rising IQ scores? Has environmental or health factors increased IQ scores? Do current IQ tests reflect the idea of multiple intelligences? How does a person's race or socioeconomic background affect his or her IQ score? Should student testing be changed to reflect the times? Viewer Comments
March 18, 1998
New findings unscramble the mystery of dyslexia.
August 27, 1997
A Gergen Dialogue with Howard Gardner, author of "Extraordinary Minds."
June 13, 1997
Does science prove the existence of woman's intuition?
November 26, 1996
Stephen Jay Gould talks about evolution.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of law.
American Psychological Association
An online IQ test.
Kurt Bouman of Moscow, ID, asks:
Do current standardized tests accurately account for differences in socioeconomic, racial, and gender status? That is, do they typically judge one group to be more "intelligent" than another, when test score differences could reflect differences in background rather than in innate intelligence or aptitude?
Prof. Alice Honig of Syracuse University responds:
We generally find that in groups which have been economically or sociologically disadvantaged in various populations, that there is a 15 point IQ difference (roughly) between the favored groups in the population and those who have not had similar advantages, whether through poverty, racism, or perhaps cultural de-emphasis on a passion for book learning and strong emphasis on a culture of bodily strength and force. So for example, there has been found in earlier decades a 15 point gap between IQ of children from African Americans and from European- descended Americans. The same gap has been found in Israel between children of Jews who emigrated from countries in North Africa, where they often were subject to highly restrictive and prejudicial laws and had little educational opportunity, in comparison with Israeli immigrants from European countries into Israel. These gaps narrow as families take up the ethos of committing their time, patience, resources and admiration for children's intellectual learning in schools in addition to nurturing their children's abilities in other areas such as sports. Note that family support of early learning and modeling admiration for book learning is the most powerful predictor, in most research studies,of academic achievement among children.. Where parents nurture the early learning careers of their children with rich turn-taking talk, very little TV ( Mr. Rogers is one TV program that experiments show promotes patience, positive peer interactions etc. in poor preschoolers) lots of book reading in pleasureful ways with the very young, and provision of outside experiences, such as trips to zoo, groceries, parks, etc. then those children do very well in school learning and in intellectual tasks, regardless of poverty or racism or ethnicity. Thus, impoverished Asian families coming to the USA often produced children deeply imbued with the ethic of learning from their ancient culture as transmitted through the parents' values and articulated goals for their children.
Prof. Ulric Neisser of Cornell University responds:
In practical situations the purpose of testing is to assess individual differences as they exist, not to determine how those differences came to be. The latter question is important, but - where group differences are concerned - it has not yet been resolved. That is, no one knows why the mean IQ score of African Americans is lower than that of White Americans. There are indeed theorists who believe that genetic factors contribute to the Black/White difference, but I find their evidence unconvincing. There are also a number of social and cultural hypotheses about the difference, but they are not clearly supported by evidence either. One can suggest hypotheses based on nutrition, prenatal care, and similar factors, but they are no more convincing than the others. Right now nobody knows, so you are quite right to say that "test score differences could reflect differences in background rather than in innate intelligence or aptitude." They could indeed.
Next: Should student testing be changed to reflect changes in intelligence?