Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are You Born Brainy

Intelligence and racism
Intelligence tests have been involved in the promotion of eugenics, the idea that you could control the human race by selective breeding. Francis Galton - one of the pioneers of intelligence tests - was also a founding member of the Eugenics Society in the UK. The belief that intelligence is biologically determined in the make-up of the brain, and therefore to some extent genetically determined, is widely accepted. But a number of researchers over the years have used this idea to advocate social change. Using intelligence as one of their factors, Hernstein and Murray's controversial book, The Bell Curve (1994) argued that differences in IQ scores between racial groups reflect innate biological differences.

Critics argue that the way intelligence is measured contains a high level of random variation and therefore it's impossible to generalise it all into one graph. However, belief in the Bell Curve and in the genetic, rather than social, basis for intelligence has unfortunately led to the propagation of many racist ideas.
Evidence to suggest social factors are important in 'intelligence' is strong. The US military tested recruits to assign rank and found that black applicants scored lower than whites. However, analysis of the recruits were found to be due to educational differences; black recruits scored very low until the 1950s, when an increase in score corresponded to improved educational standards for all.

Is Intelligence Genetics?
In spring 1998, Robert Plomin claimed to have discovered a gene linked with intelligence. More recently, the Human Genome Project is cautious when approaching areas implying racial differences since research actually shows greater genetic differences within races than between races.

However, not all individuals are endowed with the same intelligence and many believe this must have something to do with our genes and the way they interact with the environment. Identical twins are more likely to obtain the same score in an IQ test than twins from two separate eggs that have a different genetic make up.

It is important to remember that genes work by interacting with the environment, so social factors will also influence intelligence. Intelligence tests may be more of an assessment of social factors, such as your educational background. Black children adopted into white middle class families score significantly higher on average than those in working class families- implying a cultural slant to tests. It is impossible to devise questions without some cultural or gender bias; boys tend to do better in spatial tests whereas girls score higher on linguistic tests.

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