The cultural malleability of intelligence and its impact on the racial/ethnic hierarchy

Article (PDF Available)inPsychology Public Policy and Law 11(2):320-327 · June 2005with535 Reads
DOI: 10.1037/1076-8971.11.2.320
Abstract
This commentary highlights previous literature (see record 2005-03637-001) focusing on cultural and environmental explanations for the racial/ethnic group hierarchy of intelligence. Assumptions underlying definitions of intelligence, heritability/genetics, culture, and race are noted. Historical, contextual, and testing issues are clarified. Specific attention is given to studies supporting stereotype threat, effects of mediated learning experiences, and relative functionalism. Current test development practices are critiqued with respect to methods of validation and item development. Implications of the genetic vs. culture-only arguments are discussed with respect to the malleability of IQ. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
    • "In most studies of mortality risk factors, cognition has been ascertained using standard, psychometric tests of intelligence which some commentators claim are not equally valid for adults from different cultural backgrounds. Compared to psychometric tests of intelligence, [30,31] simple reaction time can be regarded as a 'culture-reduced' measure of cognitive ability. It also relatively quick to measure at low cost [32]. "
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    • "Furthermore, he observed that although most IQ tests correlate with performance on educational achievement tests and, therefore, as concluded by Neisser et al. (1996; p. 93) may be said to have no “predictive bias,” achievement tests are known to be unfair to certain groups in which low SES and minority status is overrepresented. Thus, the correlation between educational achievement and IQ scores could be interpreted not in terms of predictive validity but rather as a confirmation of another sense of test bias, by some called “outcome bias” (Neisser et al., 1996; p. 93) by others related to “cultural bias” in the construction and administration of the tests (Suzuki and Valencia, 1997; Suzuki and Aronson, 2005) and yet by others differentiated as “fairness” (Helms, 2006). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The appearance of developmental cognitive neuroscience (DCN) in the socioeconomic status (SES) research arena is hugely transformative, but challenging. We review challenges rooted in the implicit and explicit assumptions informing this newborn field. We provide balanced theoretical alternatives on how hypothesized psychological processes map onto the brain (e.g., problem of localization) and how experimental phenomena at multiple levels of analysis (e.g., behavior, cognition and the brain) could be related. We therefore examine unclear issues regarding the existing perspectives on poverty and their relationships with low SES, the evidence of low-SES adaptive functioning, historical precedents of the "alternate pathways" (neuroplasticity) interpretation of learning disabilities related to low-SES and the notion of deficit, issues of "normativity" and validity in findings of neurocognitive differences between children from different SES, and finally alternative interpretations of the complex relationship between IQ and SES. Particularly, we examine the extent to which the available laboratory results may be interpreted as showing that cognitive performance in low-SES children reflects cognitive and behavioral deficits as a result of growing up in specific environmental or cultural contexts, and how the experimental findings should be interpreted for the design of different types of interventions-particularly those related to educational practices-or translated to the public-especially the media. Although a cautionary tone permeates many studies, still, a potential deficit attribution-i.e., low-SES is associated with cognitive and behavioral developmental deficits-seems almost an inevitable implicit issue with ethical implications. Finally, we sketch the agenda for an ecological DCN, suggesting recommendations to advance the field, specifically, to minimize equivocal divulgation and maximize ethically responsible translation.
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    • "Insiders object when skeptics dismiss searches for subtle prejudice as mere rationalizations of hard-core commitments—arguing that researchers have discovered new, not just reinterpreted old, phenomena (Banaji et al., 2004). Similarly, insiders insist that recent research on stereotype threat provides empirical substance to Proposition # 5 by showing how standardized tests under-estimate human capital among disadvantaged groups by failing to take into account the power of ''stereotype threat'' to depress scores (Suzuki & Aronson, 2005). And insiders argue that research on Just World theory (Hafer & Bègue, 2005; Lerner & Miller, 1978), the fundamental attribution error (Ross, 1977), and the ultimate attribution error (Pettigrew, 1979) empirically substantiates the contention that people – majority and minority groups alike – are insensitive to the impact of structural barriers on success rates, thereby protecting Proposition # 6 against the objection that it just licenses namecalling. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The positions that experts take on whether organizations do enough to ensure equal-opportunity hinge on the assumptions they make about the potency of prejudice. Prominent scholars have challenged the conventional notion that anti-discrimination norms, backed by legal sanctions, can check implicit bias. The strongest form of this argument is that it is impossible to achieve equal opportunity in any society with inequality of result—impossible because objective inequalities inevitably stamp into our minds subjective associations that inevitably contaminate personnel judgments that require the exercise of discretion. We discuss numerous problems with this argument (and the related argument that radical changes to anti-discrimination law are in order) but concede that the debate over what steps, short of quotas, can check implicit prejudice is not resolvable given the paucity of data that clashing camps jointly treat as probative. To avoid a protracted stalemate, we urge adversarial collaborations in which the debaters agree, ex ante, on research designs with the potential to induce both sides to change their minds.
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