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BRIEF PROPOSAL ON BEING INTELLIGENT ABOUT INTELLIGENCE ROBERT PERLOFF* The editor of this journal, Dwight J. Ingle, and 49 fellow signatories [1] say it is scientifically irresponsible and probably not in the interest of advancing human welfare to ignore or to discourage scientific inquiries into the nature and extent of hereditary influences upon behavior. Although they do not explicitly specify race, it is clear that this is the key genetic endowment to which reference is made, given today's social climate and the fact that, as Page reminds us, scientists have been exposed to "extreme personal and professional abuse" at places like Berkeley (read Arthur Jensen), Harvard (read Richard Herrnstein), and Stanford (read William Shockley). Apropos their document and resolution two further thoughts are offered, one old and the other perhaps new. First, although it has been said before, it cannot be stressed enough, apparently, that studies examining the comparative test performance of various racial groups generally if not invariably show that while one race may have a higher mean than another, die test distributions show considerable overlap, signifying that even on behaviorally and otherwise restrictive paper-and-pencil tests there are many blacks, for example, scoring creditably beyond the population mean and a substantial number of whites inhabiting the lower regions of the test distribution. Many behaviorally meaningful and statistically significant inferences can be drawn from this observation, not the least of which is the oft-remarked truism that the variance comprising test (and other behavioral) performance is accountable in some combination to heredity to environment, and to their interaction. Intelligence Is But One of Several Behavioral Characteristics Next, it puzzles me why—even were it incontrovertibly demonstrated that there are irrevocable group differences in intelligence test scores between blacks and whites—it has been overlooked or at least not overtly recognized that the variance of success, of acclaim, of personal adjustment or happiness, and of performance * Professor of business administration and of psychology, Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213. 650 I Robert Perloff · Brief Proposal in school and beyond is only partially, and sometimes pitifully little at that, attributable to cognitive (read intelligence test score) factors. Even given, and this we assume only hypothetically preparatory to the argument which follows, that, genetically speaking, blacks may in fact score lower than whites on intelligence tests, I would ask this question: Why are we so "hung up" about this possibility? Why is it—how is it—that we have so learned to revere "intelligence" that this factor has obscured the other phenomena comprising the totality of man's performance? Surely "intelligence" is not the end-all or the be-all or the do-all of human performance, of human dignity, of human worth. Surely there are other sources of variance which are as important, and probably more important—certainly in the aggregate—than "intelligence" alone. Such factors, for example, as esthetic, affective, athletic skills; spiritual, artistic, psychomotor abilities; the capacity to love, to experience joy, to show compassion and understanding. Why did we go wrong? Where did we go wrong? How has it happened that in our society we have been brainwashed to worship at the altar of "intelligence" to the point that this single source of behavioral variance has so dominated our thinking as to obscure—nay, to derogate—other sources of behavioral variance? It is because of the existence of these other sources of behavioral variance that it would not, at least for me, be a cause of alarm if blacks did not score as highly on intelligence tests, or conversely of elation if whites did score higher than blacks. Put differently, if group A excels over group B in performing task X and if task X is not such "hot potatoes," why jump for joy over the fact that A is better than B in X? The totality of the individual's abilities—cognitive, affective, and otherwise—is too vast and too complex and too beautiful for me to attribute excessive weight to the essentially trivial thing we now call "intelligence," which is, at that, measured fallibly and (perhaps necessarily) narrowly. An Ethical Dilemma Resolved Several years ago I was involved in a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 650-652
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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