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Gould Bias in IQ Testing

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Gould Bias in IQ Testing

Are we born with our intelligence? Can intelligence be measured, and if so, are these measures an accurate representation of actual intelligence? Considering how subjective this topic can be, it's important to establish a framework that considers all factors when measuring intelligence, to avoid biases and potential invalid results. These results can also have massive implications on those being tested. Therefore, it is essential to carry out those measurements carefully.

During World War I, one of the largest intelligence tests was conducted. Before we look at this mass intelligence test, let us examine the history of intelligence testing.

Gould Bias in IQ Testing intelligence innate nature StudySmarterA baby sleeping in a blanket, pixabay.com

What is the early history of intelligence testing?

We can trace the early history of intelligence testing back to Sir Francis Galton. He is often regarded as the founder of psychometrics (the quantitative measurement of qualities such as mental ability and behaviour). Galton was Charles Darwin's half-cousin and was greatly influenced by Darwin's The Origin of Species, which detailed Darwin's theory of evolution.

His interest lay in the variation and hereditary of people's traits, advocating that both physical and mental characteristics (such as intelligence) were inherited.

Galton coined the term 'eugenics' which is the belief and practice of improving the human population genetically through controlled reproduction.

He stated:

There exists a sentiment, for the most part quite unreasonable, against the gradual extinction of an inferior race.

In 1905, French psychologist Alfred Binet, with the assistance of Theodore Simon, created the first intelligence test. The French government had passed a law that all children aged 6 to 14 must attend school. As children vary in their abilities, Binet was commissioned to devise a test that would determine which children needed more help.

This resulted in an intelligence test called the Binet-Simon scale that revealed a child's mental age. However, Binet emphasised that intelligence has many components and is not solely based on genetics but also environmental factors.

Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University, adapted the scale for use in America and published it in 1916. It was called the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and used one number, the intelligence quotient (IQ) for a person's score.

Gould Bias in IQ Testing head brain IQ intelligence StudySmarterA head with cogs in and surrounding it, flaticon.com/MaximBasinskiPremium

What was the Gould (1982) study?

Gould reviewed one of the largest mass intelligence tests conducted during World War I by Yerkes (Colonel Yerkes as he liked to call himself). Gould did not conduct the experiment himself, but reviewed and critiqued previous research. Some of his remarks were directed at methodology.

Gould's study was titled 'A nation of morons', and it aimed to reveal the problems with measuring intelligence. Let us now look at the study conducted by Yerkes.

Yerkes intelligence testing

Yerkes developed three different intelligence tests.

Background

Robert Yerkes was a psychologist who wanted to establish psychology as a hard science. Hard sciences are those that use systemic observations and experiments to test hypotheses. The methods are very rigorous and exact.

Yerkes believed intelligence was hereditary and could be quantified. During World War I, he found a way to promote psychology as a hard science through intelligence testing. The United States Army permitted Yerkes to conduct mental testing on all its recruits. In total, 1.75 million army recruits were tested.

The tests

Yerkes devised three tests to give to recruits. These were the alpha, beta, and individual test. Yerkes claimed that these tests measured native intellectual ability, which is not affected by culture or education.

Alpha test: this test was for literate recruits and had eight parts. These contained questions such as filling in number sequences and unscrambling sentences. We can see these kinds of questions in IQ tests today.

Beta test: this was a pictorial test for illiterate recruits or those who had failed the Alpha test. The test had seven parts.

Individual test: this was an individual oral test for those who had failed the beta test.

Yerkes findings

The researchers graded each recruit from A to E and offered suggestions for suitable army placements. Those who scored C- were considered 'low average intelligence – ordinary private.' Those whose results were D were described as 'rarely suited for tasks requiring special skill, forethought, resourcefulness or sustained alertness.' Recruits who were graded D or E could not be expected 'to read and understand written directions.'

Yerkes discovered three 'facts' from this mass intelligence testing:

  1. White American adults had an average mental age of 13, which was just above that of a 'moron'. This is why Gould's study was titled 'A nation of morons'.

  2. European immigrants could be ranked by their country of origin. At the top were the Nordic people. Russians had an average mental age of 11.34, Italians 11.01, and Poles 10.74.

  3. At the bottom of the rank were black people who had an average mental age of 10.41.

Yerkes himself found two troubling correlations with his findings: 1) immigrants who arrived recently and had a poor grasp of English did not do well in the beta test, even though English skills were not supposed to matter here, and 2), the longer an immigrant had lived in America, the better their test scores.

This showed that familiarity with American culture influenced test scores more than innate native intelligence. However, despite this, Yerkes still clung to his belief that intelligence was hereditary.

Gould Bias in IQ Testing DNA hereditary IQ Yerkes StudySmarter

DNA strand against a yellow background, flaticon.com/freepik

The implications of Yerkes' research

Yerkes' research findings were used to support the argument that there were genetic differences in intelligence between races. The US Congress passed The Immigration Restriction Act in 1924. This meant that two percent of immigrants from each recorded country in the 1890 Consensus would be allowed into America, keeping out those of 'low intelligence' as much as possible.

As Hitler gained power, conditions worsened for southern and eastern Europe, and Jews. However, due to the Immigration Restriction Act, it is estimated that from 1924 to 1939, up to six million Jews were denied entry into America.

What did Gould's review reveal?

Gould found several problems with Yerkes tests and their administration:

  • Yerkes said that his tests measured native intelligence ability, yet the questions were geared towards the knowledge of American culture.Take a look at one of the questions from the Alpha test: 'Christy Mathewson is famous as a: writer, artist, baseball player, comedian.' Christy Mathewson was an American baseball player. Clearly, someone unfamiliar with American culture, would do poorly on such questions.

  • The beta test was pictorial, but it still required the use of pencil and paper and a knowledge of how to write numbers. One of the examiners later recalled his experience administering the tests:

    It was touching to see the intense effort… put into answering the questions, often by men who never before had held a pencil in their hands.

  • There were so many illiterate men queued to take the beta test, that the operation could not handle this amount. To reduce that number, the standards of 'literate' were lowered. As a result, more men could take the alpha. This meant that many recruits scored nearly zero or zero.They were then supposed to take the beta test, but a lot never did due to logistical difficulties. Similarly, many of those who took the beta but failed were not called back for an individual oral examination.

  • The Alpha and Beta tests were supposed to take less than an hour each to complete. However, the recruits had to finish the tests quickly and did not have enough time to complete all the parts.

Conclusion

Gould concluded that the findings obtained from Yerke's research should be viewed with scepticism. The tests used were culturally biased and did not measure native intelligence ability. In addition, they were poorly administered, and the results of the tests led to significant consequences for many immigrants.


Classic Research - Bias in IQ Testing - Key takeaways

  • The early history of intelligence testing can be traced to Sir Francis Galton, the founder of psychometrics. In 1905, French psychologist Alfred Binet, with the assistance of Theodore Simon, created the first intelligence test. Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University, adapted the scale for use in America and called it the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. It was published in 1916.
  • Gould (1982) conducted a review of one of the largest mass intelligence testings, carried out by Yerkes during World War I.
  • Yerkes gained permission from the US army to test 1.75 million army recruits. He devised three tests to give to recruits: alpha test, beta test, and individual oral examination. Based on a recruit's grade, a suitable army placement was suggested.
  • Yerkes found that white American adults had an average mental age of 13, just above that of a 'moron'. European immigrants could be ranked by their country of origin. At the top were the Nordic people. Russians had an average mental age of 11.34, Italians 11.01, and Poles 10.74. At the bottom of the rank were black people, who had an average mental age of 10.41.
  • Yerkes' research results led to restrictions on immigrants to America with great consequences for Jews trying to flee Hitler's regime.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gould Bias in IQ Testing

Gould reviewed Yerkes' work to point out the potential issues with measuring intelligence.

The aim of Gould's review was to reveal the problems with measuring intelligence, in particular how Yerkes had attempted to do so in his large testing. 

Yerkes wanted to establish psychology as a hard science and found a way to do so through intelligence testing.

Gould conducted a review, so Gould did not conduct an experiment himself, but reviewed and critiqued previous research. 

Intelligence tests can be biased by culture and education. They are also biased against groups of neurodivergent people, such as those with ADHD. 

Final Gould Bias in IQ Testing Quiz

Question

Who created the first intelligence test?

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Answer

 In 1905, the first intelligence test was created by French psychologist Alfred Binet, assisted by Theodore Simon.

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Question

What was the aim of Gould’s study?

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Answer

The aim of Gould's study was to reveal the problems with measuring intelligence, such as how Yerkes had attempted to do so in his large testing.

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Question

Was Gould's study an experiment or review?

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Answer

An experiment

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Question

How many army recruits did Yerkes give intelligence tests to?

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Answer

1.75 million

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Question

What were the three tests Yerkes devised to give to recruits?


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Answer

Alpha test, beta test, and individual oral examination.

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Question

What was the average mental age for white Americans?


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Answer

13

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Question

What two correlations did Yerkes find in his results?


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Answer

One, immigrants who arrived recently and had a poor grasp of English did not do well in the beta test. Two, the longer an immigrant had lived in America, the better his test scores.

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Question

Yerkes' research findings led to the passing of what act in 1924?


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Answer

The Immigration Restriction Act

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Question

How did this greatly affect Jewish immigrants?


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Answer

As Hitler gained power, it is estimated that from 1924 to 1939, up to six million Jews were denied entry into America. 

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Question

What problem did Gould find with the alpha tests?


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Answer

The test was supposed to measure native intelligence ability, yet the questions in it were about American culture.

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Question

What problem did Gould find with the beta tests?


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Answer

The beta test was pictorial, but it still required the use of pencil and paper and a knowledge of how to write numbers. Many of the recruits taking the test had never used a pencil before.

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Question

What did Gould conclude in his review?


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Answer

The findings obtained from Yerkes' research should be viewed with scepticism. The tests used were culturally biased and did not measure native intelligence ability. In addition, they were poorly administered, and the results of the tests led to significant consequences for many immigrants.

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