Women, men, and IQ tests
A distressed student recently asked my opinion on claims that men are more intelligent than women. I advised her to view such claims with skepticism, since definitions of intelligence are so subjective and tests are so artificial. For example, the Stanford-Binet IQ test was deliberately altered to keep girls from outscoring boys:
"On the first Stanford-Binet, girls were judged to be higher than boys in IQ by 2 to 4 percent at every age; in subsequent revisions of this and many other tests, the types of items were manipulated so as to try to bring about equal averages for females and males" [Block and Dworkin, pp. 461-462].
Many of the original proponents of IQ tests were eugenecists and racists. As recently at 1960,
"the Stanford-Binet [IQ Test] show[ed] four-year-olds three pairs of pictures, asking Which one is prettier? In all cases, the 'correct' picture has the classic Anglo-Saxon features, while the 'incorrect' one has features common to other ethnic groups, e.g., a wide, flat nose and thick lips in two cases, and a hooked nose in the last case" [Block and Dworkin, p. 461].
If one needs any more reasons to distrust IQ tests, consider that Marilyn vos Savant holds the record for highest IQ. Is this woman, who has described herself as the world's smartest person, a scientist or other leading thinker? No. Her best known accomplishment is writing a weekly column for Parade magazine.
For more on intelligence testing, see:
- The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould, W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.
- Mismeasure of Women: Why Women are not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex by Carol Tavris, Touchstone, 1993.
- The IQ Controversy, ed. by Ned Block and Gerald Dworkin, Pantheon Books, 1976. Quotes above are from the chapter "IQ, Heritability, and Inequality" by Block and Dworkin. The above pictures are from p. 353.
- None of the Above by David Owen, Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
I'll also have more to say on men, women, and intelligence in later entries.