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Harleman1
Scott Harleman
ENG 111-07W: Final Research Paper – Final Draft
18 APR 2016
Intelligence Discrimination: Why It Exists and How It Harms
Society employs a practice as oppressive as racism and sexism. Intelligence testing—
hailed as a means to improve society, education, and commerce—cannot measure intelligence. It
is flawed in concept, design, and administration. In a manner reminiscent of imperialism, data
from intelligence testing is used to classify and subjugate individuals, molding them to meet the
needs of society. As a means of social engineering, it is a work of genius; as a tool to produce
well-educated individuals, it is mostly a horror, stunting the growth of individuals and depriving
human rights. Because it produces invalid data that marginalizes individuals and groups,
intelligence testing is a manipulative form of discrimination.
Intelligence is not a quality that can be defined and tested. Rather, the word refers to
behaviors. Behaviors can be studied and categorized, but cannot be objectively measured. The
value placed on a behavior is dependent on its social context (Schlinger 29).
In an effort to create a measurable definition of intelligence, some psychologists attempt
to define intelligence as a comprehensive list of skills. One theory is that general intelligence is
best viewed as sets of skills, or “multiple intelligences”. However, psychologists do not agree on
whether some of those skill sets are actually intelligences, or simply talents (Rathus 188). Some
are too broadly defined to be useful in education. They can be measured, but the measurements
provide no clues about how to teach those intelligences (Klein). The theory of “emotional
intelligence” adds to the controversy: Some psychologists view it as a measurable subset of
general intelligence, but others believe that it is not related to intelligence at all (Rathus 190;
Harleman2
Locke).
Some psychologists define intelligence as distinct from rationality (Locke). However,
David Bartholomew, in his book Measuring Intelligence: Facts and Fallacies, points out that
David Wechsler, who developed the Wechsler intelligence scales, provides the phrase “to think
rationally” as part of his definition of intelligence (4).
Bartholomew notes that, contrary to popular perception, intelligence is not synonymous
with Intelligence Quotient (6), and that “most serious scholars, from Charles Spearman onwards,
have been wary of using the term ‘intelligence’ at all [, but that] what is equally true is that we
continually make such comparisons by speaking and behaving as though some individuals were
in fact more intelligent than others” (7).
Although skills are tested as a measure of “intelligence”, the results of those tests are
dependent on environment, not on “intelligence” as a quality. In his chapter "Intelligence and
Culture" in Handbook of Cultural Psychology, Robert Sternberg lists a number of studies that
suggest “that form of schooling primes children to excel in certain ways and not others”, and that
context—the physical and mental environments in which skills are used—can affect
performance. Thus, an individual might be very skilled in the math required to do comparison
shopping, or to operate a successful street business, but unable to do the same mathematics in a
classroom (557).
In a study in Usenge, Kenya, children who were tested for academic abstract reasoning
and formal knowledge abilities, and for tacit knowledge of herbal medicine—vital for survival in
their environment—showed a negative correlation between tacit knowledge and abstract
reasoning, and an even stronger negative correlation between tacit knowledge and formal
knowledge. In other words, children who tested higher for academic skills tended to test lower
Harleman3
for tacit knowledge of herbal medicine. The researchers concluded that the negative correlations
might exist because survival skills are deemed more important than academic skills (557-8). That
conclusion, if correct, would be significant evidence that the tests for academic abstract
reasoning and formal knowledge abilities are not good measures of general intelligence. In a
culture where tacit knowledge is necessary for survival, academic skills are a poor measure of
intelligence. That conclusion is supported by studies in other cultures. When rural and semi-
urban Yup’ik Eskimo children were tested for academic and tacit knowledge, the rural children
performed more poorly on tests for formal knowledge, but significantly higher on tacit
knowledge. A study in Russia was designed to show the effect of practical skills and two
academic intelligence skills—analytic and creative—on mental and physical health. Practical
skills were shown to be better than either of the academic skills at predicting mental and physical
health (559).
If intelligence were a measurable quality, valid intelligence testing would measure
aptitude. Research reveals the impossibility of that task. Groups of children in Tanzania were
given a series of conventional intelligence tests twice. Between the first testing and the second,
an experimental group was given less than an hour of instruction in how they might improve
their scores. The control group was not given that instruction. Those who received instruction
showed significantly greater gains in the second round of testing, compared to the control group.
The implication is that intelligence testing does not necessarily reveal aptitude. A low score
might simply indicate a lack of exposure to a cognitive skill (560-1). In his article
“Consequences of Test Interpretation and Use: The Fusion of Validity and Values in
Psychological Assessment”, Samuel Messick refers to that exposure as an “opportunity to learn”,
and points out the importance of taking it into consideration when acting on the results of
Harleman4
educational testing (14).
Culture skews the perception of intelligence in subtle ways. Sternberg points out that
even speed of response is a confounding variable when testing, since a quick response indicates
intelligence in some cultures or situations, while not rushing to judgment is considered more
intelligent in other cultures or situations (562).
Fairness is another issue that plagues intelligence testing. Messick describes conflicting
views on what is considered “fair” in educational testing, each view focusing on specific
attributes: validity of tests, absence of bias, equitable treatment, equal opportunity to learn, and
equality of testing outcomes. He maintains that two of those attributes—equal opportunity to
learn and equality of testing—are less reliable indicators of fairness, since they have more to do
with culture and experience (12-5). In other words, when the interests of society conflict with
those of the individual, Messick is biased against the individual.
Messick maintains that fairness is enhanced in either of two ways: more comprehensive
testing—an acknowledgement that current testing identifies only a subset of intelligence—or
testing only those skills most valued by society—which demands that testing be limited to a
subset of intelligence (17). The former is more fair to the individual, but more difficult to
implement. The latter simplifies testing, but benefits to society at the expense of the individual
(26). By asserting that “intelligence” is defined by society, Messick favors intelligence
discrimination.
Intelligence discrimination shifts power to benefit one group to the detriment of another.
In his book Testing Testing: Social Consequences Of The Examined Life, Allan Hanson explains
how intelligence testing is used to throttle individuality for the sake of society. He explains that
intelligence tests do not fulfill the goal of creating equal economic opportunity; rather, they
Harleman5
reinforce and deepen inequality. They do nothing to solve issues with self-esteem; instead they
perpetuate them. The lesson of the tests is an emotionally unhealthy one: that self-worth is
dependent on the ability to master an arbitrary set of skills. When tested, people tend to define
themselves in terms of the test results. High scorers are automatically granted the “right” to
overconfidence, and low scorers are demoted to low self-esteem (6). Hanson relates the
testimony of two men whose lives were dramatically altered by the perception of intelligence:
Writer Harold Brodkey claimed that, although he never mastered a subject in school, his IQ
“invented” him by causing others to view him with respect, as an authority figure. When Victor
Serebriakoff was fifteen years old, a teacher told him that he was a moron. Initially he lived
down to expectations by dropping out of school and working at manual labor. Years later he
discovered that his IQ was 161. He began inventing and writing, and became chairman of Mensa
International (3-4).
Discriminatory oppression extends beyond the individual psyche. Intelligence
discrimination has been used to justify large-scale civil rights violations. In the early twentieth
century, proponents of eugenics sought solutions to rid the United States of undesirable physical
and mental qualities that they believed were genetic. They equated low morality with low
intelligence, and used intelligence testing to identify the “feeble-minded”, who they believed
were predisposed to criminal activity. Defective genes would be kept from immigrating into the
U.S., and the spread of existing defective genes would be stopped via forced sterilization and
“colonization”—a euphemism for institutionalization. In 1913 and 1914 numerous immigrants
arriving at Ellis Island were unscientifically screened for mental deficiency, given a formal
intelligence test, and turned away as morons. Twenty-one states enacted sterilization laws, and
thousands of forced sterilizations were performed between 1907 and 1928 (256-8).
Harleman6
Although eugenics is no longer considered ethical, some of its underlying principles are
still used to justify intelligence discrimination. For example, some races score significantly
higher on intelligence tests. To a psychologist who does not believe that intelligence testing is
biased by culture, the implication is that some races are more intelligent than others. An even
greater variance is seen between socioeconomic classes. Some psychologists suggest that
“cognitive deficits” are to blame for the problems of the lower classes, and propose that abortion
is part of the solution. Other psychologists note that birth rate is inversely proportional to
socioeconomic class, and conclude that intelligent women would better serve society by staying
home and bearing more children, rather than pursuing higher education and a career (259-65).
Intelligence testing does not exist to further the interests of individuals. Rather, according
to Bartholomew, it exists because it appeals to a wide variety of institutions, not because it
measures general intelligence, but because it provides a cost-effective, one-size-fits-many
measurement of general ability of many skills (8). Hanson agrees that intelligence is not a quality
that can be tested, but he takes the next logical step: The very concept of intelligence is defined
by the tests that claim to measure it (249). Once technology developed to the point that massive
intelligence testing became practical, testing was seen as a means to create the ultimate
meritocracy. It is a lucrative business, and continues to grow by asserting its importance (253).
Intelligence testing is a manipulative form of discrimination because its data is invalid
and marginalizes individuals and groups. Tests cannot accurately measure skills, nor can they be
administered fairly. Data from intelligence testing does not empower individuals to change
society; rather, it molds individuals to meet the needs of society. Intelligence testing is
oppressive, and must be eliminated.
Harleman7
Works Cited
Bartholomew, David J.. Measuring Intelligence: Facts and Fallacies. West Nyack, NY, USA:
Cambridge University Press, 2004. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 14 March 2016
Hanson, F. Allan. Testing Testing: Social Consequences Of The Examined Life. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1994. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
Klein, Perry. "Multiplying the Problems of Intelligence by Eight: A Critique of Gardner's
Theory." Canadian Journal of Education 22.4 (1997): 377. ProQuest. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
Locke, Edwin A. "Why Emotional Intelligence is an Invalid Concept." Journal of
Organizational Behavior 26.4 (2005): 425-425+. ProQuest. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
Messick, Samuel. “Consequences of Test Interpretation and Use: The Fusion of Validity and
Values in Psychological Assessment.” ETS Research Report Series 1998:2 (1998): i–32.
Web. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2333-8504.1998.tb01797.x/epdf >
Rathus, Spencer A. PSYCH 4. Student Edition ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
This is my textbook for PSY-150-08W.
Schlinger, Henry D. "The Myth of Intelligence." The Psychological Record 53.1 (2003): 15-32.
ProQuest. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
Sternberg, Robert J. "Intelligence and Culture." Handbook of Cultural Psychology. New York,
NY: Guilford, 2007. 547-68. Print.

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Final Draft

  • 1. Harleman1 Scott Harleman ENG 111-07W: Final Research Paper – Final Draft 18 APR 2016 Intelligence Discrimination: Why It Exists and How It Harms Society employs a practice as oppressive as racism and sexism. Intelligence testing— hailed as a means to improve society, education, and commerce—cannot measure intelligence. It is flawed in concept, design, and administration. In a manner reminiscent of imperialism, data from intelligence testing is used to classify and subjugate individuals, molding them to meet the needs of society. As a means of social engineering, it is a work of genius; as a tool to produce well-educated individuals, it is mostly a horror, stunting the growth of individuals and depriving human rights. Because it produces invalid data that marginalizes individuals and groups, intelligence testing is a manipulative form of discrimination. Intelligence is not a quality that can be defined and tested. Rather, the word refers to behaviors. Behaviors can be studied and categorized, but cannot be objectively measured. The value placed on a behavior is dependent on its social context (Schlinger 29). In an effort to create a measurable definition of intelligence, some psychologists attempt to define intelligence as a comprehensive list of skills. One theory is that general intelligence is best viewed as sets of skills, or “multiple intelligences”. However, psychologists do not agree on whether some of those skill sets are actually intelligences, or simply talents (Rathus 188). Some are too broadly defined to be useful in education. They can be measured, but the measurements provide no clues about how to teach those intelligences (Klein). The theory of “emotional intelligence” adds to the controversy: Some psychologists view it as a measurable subset of general intelligence, but others believe that it is not related to intelligence at all (Rathus 190;
  • 2. Harleman2 Locke). Some psychologists define intelligence as distinct from rationality (Locke). However, David Bartholomew, in his book Measuring Intelligence: Facts and Fallacies, points out that David Wechsler, who developed the Wechsler intelligence scales, provides the phrase “to think rationally” as part of his definition of intelligence (4). Bartholomew notes that, contrary to popular perception, intelligence is not synonymous with Intelligence Quotient (6), and that “most serious scholars, from Charles Spearman onwards, have been wary of using the term ‘intelligence’ at all [, but that] what is equally true is that we continually make such comparisons by speaking and behaving as though some individuals were in fact more intelligent than others” (7). Although skills are tested as a measure of “intelligence”, the results of those tests are dependent on environment, not on “intelligence” as a quality. In his chapter "Intelligence and Culture" in Handbook of Cultural Psychology, Robert Sternberg lists a number of studies that suggest “that form of schooling primes children to excel in certain ways and not others”, and that context—the physical and mental environments in which skills are used—can affect performance. Thus, an individual might be very skilled in the math required to do comparison shopping, or to operate a successful street business, but unable to do the same mathematics in a classroom (557). In a study in Usenge, Kenya, children who were tested for academic abstract reasoning and formal knowledge abilities, and for tacit knowledge of herbal medicine—vital for survival in their environment—showed a negative correlation between tacit knowledge and abstract reasoning, and an even stronger negative correlation between tacit knowledge and formal knowledge. In other words, children who tested higher for academic skills tended to test lower
  • 3. Harleman3 for tacit knowledge of herbal medicine. The researchers concluded that the negative correlations might exist because survival skills are deemed more important than academic skills (557-8). That conclusion, if correct, would be significant evidence that the tests for academic abstract reasoning and formal knowledge abilities are not good measures of general intelligence. In a culture where tacit knowledge is necessary for survival, academic skills are a poor measure of intelligence. That conclusion is supported by studies in other cultures. When rural and semi- urban Yup’ik Eskimo children were tested for academic and tacit knowledge, the rural children performed more poorly on tests for formal knowledge, but significantly higher on tacit knowledge. A study in Russia was designed to show the effect of practical skills and two academic intelligence skills—analytic and creative—on mental and physical health. Practical skills were shown to be better than either of the academic skills at predicting mental and physical health (559). If intelligence were a measurable quality, valid intelligence testing would measure aptitude. Research reveals the impossibility of that task. Groups of children in Tanzania were given a series of conventional intelligence tests twice. Between the first testing and the second, an experimental group was given less than an hour of instruction in how they might improve their scores. The control group was not given that instruction. Those who received instruction showed significantly greater gains in the second round of testing, compared to the control group. The implication is that intelligence testing does not necessarily reveal aptitude. A low score might simply indicate a lack of exposure to a cognitive skill (560-1). In his article “Consequences of Test Interpretation and Use: The Fusion of Validity and Values in Psychological Assessment”, Samuel Messick refers to that exposure as an “opportunity to learn”, and points out the importance of taking it into consideration when acting on the results of
  • 4. Harleman4 educational testing (14). Culture skews the perception of intelligence in subtle ways. Sternberg points out that even speed of response is a confounding variable when testing, since a quick response indicates intelligence in some cultures or situations, while not rushing to judgment is considered more intelligent in other cultures or situations (562). Fairness is another issue that plagues intelligence testing. Messick describes conflicting views on what is considered “fair” in educational testing, each view focusing on specific attributes: validity of tests, absence of bias, equitable treatment, equal opportunity to learn, and equality of testing outcomes. He maintains that two of those attributes—equal opportunity to learn and equality of testing—are less reliable indicators of fairness, since they have more to do with culture and experience (12-5). In other words, when the interests of society conflict with those of the individual, Messick is biased against the individual. Messick maintains that fairness is enhanced in either of two ways: more comprehensive testing—an acknowledgement that current testing identifies only a subset of intelligence—or testing only those skills most valued by society—which demands that testing be limited to a subset of intelligence (17). The former is more fair to the individual, but more difficult to implement. The latter simplifies testing, but benefits to society at the expense of the individual (26). By asserting that “intelligence” is defined by society, Messick favors intelligence discrimination. Intelligence discrimination shifts power to benefit one group to the detriment of another. In his book Testing Testing: Social Consequences Of The Examined Life, Allan Hanson explains how intelligence testing is used to throttle individuality for the sake of society. He explains that intelligence tests do not fulfill the goal of creating equal economic opportunity; rather, they
  • 5. Harleman5 reinforce and deepen inequality. They do nothing to solve issues with self-esteem; instead they perpetuate them. The lesson of the tests is an emotionally unhealthy one: that self-worth is dependent on the ability to master an arbitrary set of skills. When tested, people tend to define themselves in terms of the test results. High scorers are automatically granted the “right” to overconfidence, and low scorers are demoted to low self-esteem (6). Hanson relates the testimony of two men whose lives were dramatically altered by the perception of intelligence: Writer Harold Brodkey claimed that, although he never mastered a subject in school, his IQ “invented” him by causing others to view him with respect, as an authority figure. When Victor Serebriakoff was fifteen years old, a teacher told him that he was a moron. Initially he lived down to expectations by dropping out of school and working at manual labor. Years later he discovered that his IQ was 161. He began inventing and writing, and became chairman of Mensa International (3-4). Discriminatory oppression extends beyond the individual psyche. Intelligence discrimination has been used to justify large-scale civil rights violations. In the early twentieth century, proponents of eugenics sought solutions to rid the United States of undesirable physical and mental qualities that they believed were genetic. They equated low morality with low intelligence, and used intelligence testing to identify the “feeble-minded”, who they believed were predisposed to criminal activity. Defective genes would be kept from immigrating into the U.S., and the spread of existing defective genes would be stopped via forced sterilization and “colonization”—a euphemism for institutionalization. In 1913 and 1914 numerous immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were unscientifically screened for mental deficiency, given a formal intelligence test, and turned away as morons. Twenty-one states enacted sterilization laws, and thousands of forced sterilizations were performed between 1907 and 1928 (256-8).
  • 6. Harleman6 Although eugenics is no longer considered ethical, some of its underlying principles are still used to justify intelligence discrimination. For example, some races score significantly higher on intelligence tests. To a psychologist who does not believe that intelligence testing is biased by culture, the implication is that some races are more intelligent than others. An even greater variance is seen between socioeconomic classes. Some psychologists suggest that “cognitive deficits” are to blame for the problems of the lower classes, and propose that abortion is part of the solution. Other psychologists note that birth rate is inversely proportional to socioeconomic class, and conclude that intelligent women would better serve society by staying home and bearing more children, rather than pursuing higher education and a career (259-65). Intelligence testing does not exist to further the interests of individuals. Rather, according to Bartholomew, it exists because it appeals to a wide variety of institutions, not because it measures general intelligence, but because it provides a cost-effective, one-size-fits-many measurement of general ability of many skills (8). Hanson agrees that intelligence is not a quality that can be tested, but he takes the next logical step: The very concept of intelligence is defined by the tests that claim to measure it (249). Once technology developed to the point that massive intelligence testing became practical, testing was seen as a means to create the ultimate meritocracy. It is a lucrative business, and continues to grow by asserting its importance (253). Intelligence testing is a manipulative form of discrimination because its data is invalid and marginalizes individuals and groups. Tests cannot accurately measure skills, nor can they be administered fairly. Data from intelligence testing does not empower individuals to change society; rather, it molds individuals to meet the needs of society. Intelligence testing is oppressive, and must be eliminated.
  • 7. Harleman7 Works Cited Bartholomew, David J.. Measuring Intelligence: Facts and Fallacies. West Nyack, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 14 March 2016 Hanson, F. Allan. Testing Testing: Social Consequences Of The Examined Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 15 Mar. 2016. Klein, Perry. "Multiplying the Problems of Intelligence by Eight: A Critique of Gardner's Theory." Canadian Journal of Education 22.4 (1997): 377. ProQuest. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. Locke, Edwin A. "Why Emotional Intelligence is an Invalid Concept." Journal of Organizational Behavior 26.4 (2005): 425-425+. ProQuest. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. Messick, Samuel. “Consequences of Test Interpretation and Use: The Fusion of Validity and Values in Psychological Assessment.” ETS Research Report Series 1998:2 (1998): i–32. Web. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2333-8504.1998.tb01797.x/epdf > Rathus, Spencer A. PSYCH 4. Student Edition ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016. Print. This is my textbook for PSY-150-08W. Schlinger, Henry D. "The Myth of Intelligence." The Psychological Record 53.1 (2003): 15-32. ProQuest. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. Sternberg, Robert J. "Intelligence and Culture." Handbook of Cultural Psychology. New York, NY: Guilford, 2007. 547-68. Print.