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Communicating intelligence research: Media misrepresentation, the Gould Effect, and unexpected forces

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... It was accused, among many other things, of being pseudoscience, because race is an arbitrary social construction (Tate and Audette, 2001) [2]. There are countless historical and also more recent examples of race critique (Gottfredson, 2010;Nyborg, 2003 [3,4]; Rushton and Jensen, 2005 [1]; Scarr, 1987;Sesardic, 2010;Woodley, Dutton, Figueredo, Carl, et al., 2018, online [5][6][7]). Fortunately, these authors have already provided insightful responses to the controversy, so this introduction can be limited to adding only a few more significant examples. ...
... A further obstruction to differential behavioral research is the widespread misrepresentation of facts on individual and group differences in intelligence, both in science, in the popular literature, and the media. So widespread and detrimental is this source of distortion that it recently got its own name-the "Gould Effect" (Woodley, Dutton, Figueredo, Carl, et al., 2018, online [7]). The effect is based on Steven Jay Gould's still widely held assumption that research on intelligence differences is deeply corrupted by its inherent racist, sexist, and elitist motivation. ...
... The UNESCO statement suggested in fact that, for historical reasons, research on race with biological connotations ought to be substituted by studies of ethnic groups in a cultural context. Many later biologists, cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and their academic organizations faithfully copied this unscientific and essentially politically motivated course, and some even began around 1950 to take an active and consequential stance against colleagues, whom they began to characterize as fraudulent race researcher (e.g., Woodley, Dutton, Figueredo, Carl, et al. 2018 [7]; for an earlier review, see Nyborg, 2003 [4]). ...
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It is often claimed that race is a social construct and that scientists studying race differences are disruptive racists. The recent April 2018 “Race Issue” of the widely distributed National Geographic Magazine (NG) provided its millions of readers with a particularly illustrative example of this position. As discussions of race issues often recur, in both scientific and lay literature, stir considerable polemics, and have political, societal and human implications, we found it of both scientific and general interest to identify and dissect the following partly overlapping key contentions of the NG race issue magazine: (1) Samuel Morton’s studies of brain size is reprehensible racism (2) Race does not relate to geographic location, (3) Races do not exist as we are all equals and Africans, (4) Admixture and displacement erase race differences as soon as they appear, and (5) Race is only skin color deep. Also examined is the claim that Race does not matter. When analyzed within syllogistic formalism, each of the claims is found theoretically and empirically unsustainable, as Morton’s continuously evolving race position is misrepresented, race relates significantly to geography, we are far from equals, races have definitely not been erased, and race, whether self-reported or defined by ancestry, lineage, ecotype, species, or genes, is much more than skin color deep. Race matters vitally for people and societies. We conclude that important research on existing population differences is hurt when widely respected institutions such as NG mobilize their full authority in a massively circulated attempt to betray its scientific and public readership by systematically misrepresenting historical sources and scientific positions, shaming past scientists, and by selectively suppressing unwanted or unacceptable results–acts included as examples of academic fraud by the National Academy of Sciences (US, 1986). Any unqualified a priori denial of the formative evolutionary aspects of individual and population differences threatens to impede the recent promising research on effects of genome wide allelic associations, which would lames us in the vital quest to develop rational solutions to associated globally pressing societal problems.
... Understanding the frequency and severity of controversies in the field of intelligence research is not only of inherent scientific interest, but may also go some way to counteracting what has been termed the 'Gould Effect' (Woodley of Menie et al., 2018). This denotes the tendency for the 'controversialisation' of intelligence research to have harmful downstream consequences, such as derailing individual careers, skewing public perceptions, and discouraging researchers from pursuing fruitful lines of inquiry. ...
... The third era, which we term the 'Watson era', covers incidents involving several individuals who made controversial comments in the mid 2000s, including James Watson, Frank Ellis and Larry Summers. The fourth era, which covers a number of incidents involving researchers who attended the London Conference on Intelligence (LCI) and subsequently came under sanctions for having done so (Woodley of Menie et al., 2018). Note that if we exclude the incidents for 2018 involving researchers who did not attend the LCI, the sum of severity-weighted incidents for that year (3) is still higher than any for any other year in our database. ...
Article
The field of intelligence research has seen more controversies than perhaps any other area of social science. Here we present a scientometric analysis of controversies involving intelligence researchers working in the democratic Western world since 1950. By consulting books and articles, conducting web searches, and contacting some of the individuals involved, we assembled a large database of controversies. Each entry in our database represents a controversy involving a particular individual in a particular year. We computed a measure of controversy by combining the number and severity of incidents, separately for each individual and each year. The individual-level distribution is highly skewed, with just a few individuals accounting for a disproportionate share of the controversy. When tracking the level of controversy over time, we find four relatively distinct ‘eras’, of which the most recent era—the ‘LCI era’—may be the most significant to date.
... The controversy surrounding these conferences might suggest that it is still a fringe activity, regarded with considerable concern in mainstream academia. However, attendees at these conferences have defended their content, arguing that many presentations involved research which had been published in mainstream academic literature (Woodley of Menie et al. 2018). ...
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Demography was heavily involved in the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century but, along with most other social science disciplines, largely rejected eugenic thinking in the decades after the Second World War. Eugenic ideology never entirely deserted academia, however, and in the twenty-first century, it is re-emerging into mainstream academic discussion. This paper aims, first, to provide a reminder of demography’s early links with eugenics and, second, to raise awareness of this academic resurgence of eugenic ideology. The final aim of the paper is to recommend ways to counter this resurgence: these include more active discussion of demography’s eugenic past, especially when training students; greater emphasis on critical approaches in demography; and greater engagement of demographers (and other social scientists) with biologists and geneticists, in order to ensure that research which combines the biological and social sciences is rigorous.
... In this respect, it is similar to The Bell Curve in being a moderate scientific summary. It will no doubt get the same treatment as The Bell Curve, namely consistently negative media treatment (see for perspective: Woodley of Menie et al., 2018;Carl & Woodley of Menie, 2019;Rindermann et al., 2020). ...
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Human Diversity is Charles Murray’s latest book. This review evaluates the claims made in the book and places both the author’s theses and their criticisms in their historical context. It concludes that this book is valuable as an updated summary of current knowledge about psychological differences (in the averages) between genders, races, and social classes. As such it is a useful introduction into the field for everyone interested in it.
... In this respect, it is similar to The Bell Curve in being a moderate scientific summary. It will no doubt get the same treatment as The Bell Curve, namely consistently negative media treatment (see for perspective: Woodley of Menie et al., 2018;Carl & Woodley of Menie, 2019;Rindermann et al., 2020). ...
Article
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Human Diversity is Charles Murray’s latest book. This review evaluates the claims made in the book and places both the author’s theses and their criticisms in their historical context. It concludes that this book is valuable as an updated summary of current knowledge about psychological differences (in the averages) between genders, races, and social classes. As such it is a useful introduction into the field for everyone interested in it.
... The means for these questions were M = 2.61 and 2.77, on a scale from 1 (low, no) to 9 (high, strong), with 82% and 78% of the sample, respectively, not seeing any intention to discriminate. These results contrast with published allegations of discriminatory intent and unfair treatment against intelligence research (e.g., Blinkhorn, 1982;Gould, 1981;Tengely-Evans, 2018;Woodley of Menie et al., 2018). Perhaps more convincing than estimates of ideological impact by experts in the field are analyses of people from outside the field, which may be less influenced by intradisciplinary viewpoint (cf. ...
Article
Experts (Nmax = 102 answering) on intelligence completed a survey about IQ research, controversies, and the media. The survey was conducted in 2013 and 2014 using the Internet-based Expert Questionnaire on Cognitive Ability (EQCA). In the current study, we examined the background of the experts (e.g., nationality, gender, religion, and political orientation) and their positions on intelligence research, controversial issues, and the media. Most experts were male (83%) and from Western countries (90%). Political affiliations ranged from the left (liberal, 54%) to the right (conservative, 24%), with more extreme responses within the left-liberal spectrum. Experts rated the media and public debates as far below adequate. Experts with a left (liberal, progressive) political orientation were more likely to have positive views of the media (around r = |.30|). In contrast, compared to female and left (liberal) experts, male and right (conservative) experts were more likely to endorse the validity of IQ testing (correlations with gender, politics: r = .55, .41), the g factor theory of intelligence (r = .18, .34), and the impact of genes on US Black-White differences (r = .50, .48). The paper compares the results to those of prior expert surveys and discusses the role of experts' backgrounds, with a focus on political orientation and gender. An underrepresentation of viewpoints associated with experts' background characteristics (i.e., political views, gender) may distort research findings and should be addressed in higher education policy.
... You are now free to send to a different publication." This series of events should probably be interpreted in the light of a recent shaming of Shackelford by a journalist, which happened in between the invitation and the submission of the entry, which has made him more wary of taking on "controversial" material (Schulson, 2018; for context, see Woodley of Menie et al., 2018). ...
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The nature of race differences, and even the mere “existence” of human races, continues to be a major source of controversy and confusion. This brief review summarizes the empirical evidence about race differences and the conceptual issues related to taxonomy, as well as practical implications for medicine and the social sciences. The review shows that human races are distinctive phenotypically and genotypically, the latter with regard to the frequencies of a very large number (millions) of alleles. Distributions of these traits are clinal rather than discrete, and human races are subject to continuous change across evolutionary time.
... Therefore, excluding intelligence research from the social contract requires destroying trust in intelligence research by targeted defamation of intelligence researchers, both living and dead. This strategy is being pursued by ideology-driven groups up to hate groups today [73], and may become public policy in the future. While destroying trust in intelligence research is the desired outcome, it is less clear whether distrust of science can or should be prevented from spreading from intelligence research to other fields of inquiry. ...
Article
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Some authors have proposed that research on cognitive differences, including differences between ethnic and racial groups, needs to be prevented because it produces true knowledge that is dangerous and socially undesirable. From a consequentialist perspective, this contribution investigates the usually unstated assumptions about harms and benefits behind these proposals. The conclusion is that intelligence differences provide powerful explanations of many important real-world phenomena, and that denying their causal role requires the promotion of alternative false beliefs. Acting on these false beliefs almost invariably prevents the effective management of societal problems while creating new ones. The proper questions to ask are not about the nature of the research and the results it is expected to produce, but about whether prevailing value systems can turn truthful knowledge about cognitive differences into benign outcomes, whatever the truth may be. These value systems are the proper focus of action. Therefore, the proposal to suppress knowledge about cognitive ability differences must be based on the argument that people in modern societies will apply such knowledge in malicious rather than beneficial ways, either because of universal limitations of human nature or because of specific features of modern societies.
... This tendency has arguably had two major adverse consequences on intelligence research. The first is the pervasive mischaracterisation of the field in psychology textbooks and the popular media, including widespread repetition of factual errors and logical fallacies, as well as claims that contested hypotheses are 'pseudoscientific' [20,[23][24][25][26][27]. The second adverse consequence is recurring witch-hunts against intelligence researchers, including protests, petitions, threats, physical attacks and institutional sanctions [28][29][30][31]. ...
Article
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There is a large amount of evidence that groups differ in average cognitive ability. The hereditarian hypothesis states that these differences are partly or substantially explained by genetics. Despite being a positive claim about the world, this hypothesis is frequently equated with racism, and scholars who defend it are frequently denounced as racists. Yet equating the hereditarian hypothesis with racism is a logical fallacy. The present article identifies ten common arguments for why the hereditarian hypothesis is racist and demonstrates that each one is fallacious. The article concludes that society will be better served if the hereditarian hypothesis is treated the same way as any other scientific claim—critically, but dispassionately.
... Indeed, the data from our replication indicate that the test may be a suitable measure of intelligence even for a modern sample, despite any prejudices or ulterior motives that may have existed among the test creators at the time. We believe that Stephen Jay Gould [1] was largely incorrect in his assessments of the Army Beta and that his approach to the Army Beta is largely representative of The Mismeasure of Man as a whole (see [55,56] for other perspectives of how Gould distorted research topics that he finds socially distasteful). The test's content, instructions, and time limits were appropriate for the examinee population at the time. ...
Article
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: In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould argued that the preconceived beliefs and biases of scientists influence their methods and conclusions. To show the potential consequences of this, Gould used examples from the early days of psychometrics and allied fields, arguing that inappropriate assumptions and an elitist desire to rank individuals and/or groups produced incorrect results. In this article, we investigate a section of The Mismeasure of Man in which Gould evaluated the Army Beta intelligence test for illiterate American draftees in World War I. We evaluated Gould’s arguments that the Army Beta (a) had inappropriate content, (b) had unsuitable administration conditions, (c) suffered from short time limits, and (d) could not have measured intelligence. By consulting the historical record and conducting a pre-registered replication of Gould’s administration of the test to a sample of college students, we show that Gould mischaracterized the Army Beta in a number of ways. Instead, the Army Beta was a well-designed test by the standards of the time, and all evidence indicates that it measured intelligence a century ago and can, to some extent, do so today.
... Since the first of the five criticisms we mentioned above has been answered extensively elsewhere (Flynn, 2017;Carl, 2018a;Woodley of Menie et al., 2018), here we focus our attention on the other four. We begin by briefly responding to each of the criticisms individually. ...
Article
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The OpenPsych journals were set up in 2014 by Emil Kirkegaard and Davide Piffer due to dissatisfaction with existing journals in differential psychology and behavioural genetics. To date, 51 papers have been published in total, encompassing a range of topics from differential psychology and behavioural genetics to socio-political science. However, the journals have come under criticism in both online articles and unpublished offline discussions. This editorial responds to the main criticisms that have been levelled at them, namely that it is unethical or illegitimate to: (1) publish research on politically controversial topics; (2) publish papers in journals of which one is an editor; (3) have papers be reviewed by individuals who do not possess satisfactory academic credentials; (4) have papers be reviewed by individuals with controversial political views; and (5) have papers be reviewed by individuals who are personally acquainted with the authors. Since the first of these criticisms has been answered extensively elsewhere, here we focus our attention on the other four.
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Recent discussions have revived old claims that hereditarian research on race differences in intelligence has been subject to a long and effective taboo. We argue that given the extensive publications, citations, and discussions of such work since 1969, claims of taboo and suppression are a myth. We critically examine claims that (self-described) hereditarians currently and exclusively experience major misrepresentation in the media, regular physical threats, denouncements, and academic job loss. We document substantial exaggeration and distortion in such claims. The repeated assertions that the negative reception of research asserting average Black inferiority is due to total ideological control over the academy by “environmentalists,” leftists, Marxists, or “thugs” are unwarranted character assassinations on those engaged in legitimate and valuable scholarly criticism.
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y desire to tilt at the windmill of Stephen Jay Gould was "inspired" by an experience I had with the Animal Behavior Reading Group in my department. Our group is composed of several faculty members and graduate students who select an article for dissection and criti- cism each week or so. Some time ago I suggested that our group read an essay entitled The Diet of Worms and the Defenestration of Prague (Gould 1996) because it was so beautifully suited for dissection and criticism. For those of you who no longer wade through Gould's Natural History essays, let me summarize The Diet. Gould begins with a lengthy discourse on European his- tory and ends with a stern lecture on why we should not apply evolutionary theory to an analysis of elements of human behavior, such as genocide and male/female mat- ing tactics. The article irritated me because it served up the very same arguments that Gould has dished out time and again in Natural History. I fully expected the graduate student members of the reading group to notice that this was vintage Gould and to pounce upon the many familiar flaws in his little lecture. To my surprise and chagrin, they did not do so, and in fact seemed to find his presentation novel and were happy to argue with me when I tried to convince them of the essay's shortcomings. Naturally, I have rationalized my failure to win over some of my graduate stu- dent colleagues. Perhaps one has to be old enough to have read Natural History for
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a b s t r a c t What is academic freedom, what guarantees it, and what would you do if your university violated yours? Few of us academics entertain these questions or ponder possible answers. This leaves us individually and collectively vulnerable to encroachments on our right to free and open inquiry. I use a case study from 1989–1994 to illustrate how violations of academic freedom develop, the typical pretexts used to justify them, and what is required to halt and reverse them. My aim is to help scholars recognize when academic freedom is at risk and how better to safeguard it in daily academic life. To this end, I describe the general social mechanisms that operate both inside and outside academe to selectively burden and suppress unpopular research. The case study provides concrete examples to illustrate six specific lessons. Like free speech in general, academic freedom (1) has maintenance costs, (2) is not self-enforcing, (3) is invoked today to stifle unwelcome speech, (4) is often violated by academic institutions, (5) is not often defended by academics themselves, and (6) yet, requires no heroic efforts for collective enjoyment if scholars consistently contribute small acts of support to prevent incursions.
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In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, one of the world's leading experts on language and the mind, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. With characteristic wit, lucidity, and insight, Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits-a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century-denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.
Toby young breeds contempt
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A troublesome inheritance: Genes, race and human history
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