Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dr. Detterman's intelligence bytes: On the history of IQ tests and theories

This is the second in the Dr. Doug Detterman's intelligence bytes. Below is a direct excerpt.

The point of view is simple to state: Intelligence tests arose because they filled a social need and still do. Through history, important decisions about peoples' lives were made by the subjective decisions of others. The history of intelligence tests is one of replacing subjective decisions of biased observers where bias was often based on family position and political influence with objective measures from more objective tests. Tests became important tools for a developing meritocracy.

This brief history will also make clear that though we know a lot about intelligence, we do not yet know exactly what it is. There are good reasons we do not know as much as we would like to about intelligence. These reasons lie in the history of the development of the intelligence test and the parallel history of the theory about intelligence. An appreciation of what we do and do not know about intelligence requires an understanding of that history.

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