Abstract: Richard Nisbett’s intelligence and how to get it advances several interlocking claims: (1) the heritability of IQ is far lower than typically claimed by behavioral geneticists, (2) the IQ differences across social classes are largely environmental in origin, (3) the IQ differences across racial groups are entirely environmental in origin, and (4) these group differences can be narrowed substantially by interventions that social scientists have already discovered. In this review I show that Nisbett’s arguments are consistently overstated or unsound. ...
Conclusion: Continued research with the tools of genetic epidemiology, population genetics, psychometrics, and cognitive neuroscience is likely to settle many of the contentious issues raised in Nisbett’s book, even without a centralized effort toward any such narrow goal. Given that much of the critical research so clearly lies ahead, Nisbett’s certainty regarding his own premature conclusions is quite remarkable. Some of this may be owed to the disturbing possibilities raised by the alternatives. Even the prospect that current group differences might be eliminated by a combination of biological enhancement and environmental improvement will fail to put all observers at ease, since the prospect of biologically based remedies is itself frightening to many. For what it is worth, I believe that the possibilities regarding both the state of nature and our powers of control should leave us reasonably optimistic about what the future might hold. But I confess to less than total confidence in even this qualified remark, and I envy Nisbett his certitude.
November 16, 2009
Is now up in a gated version of Personality and Individual Differences. Here is the beginning and the end: