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RACE, REALITY, AND EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY CLYDE EVERETT NOBLE, Ph.D.* In response to the editor's invitation to present and discuss evidence of biological similarities and differences among the races ofmankind [i], I shall consider the learning of psychomotor skills by white and Negro children trained under laboratory conditions. First, I shall comment on a book review ofMr. Carleton Putnam's Race andReality [2] by ProfessorRalph M. Dreger [3]. The book (written by an antidesegregation lawyer-businessman) and its review (written by a prodesegregation clergyman-psychologist) illustrate two contrasting opinions about the genetic, behavioral, and sociological correlates ofracialproblems in this country. An uncritical attitude toward some ofthe sensitive domestic issues raised by Putnam and Dreger is, although scientifically irrelevant, a powerful conditioner ofpragmatic and philosophical reaction tendencies, including impulses related to affect and credulity. Indeed, there exist in these parlous times persons who are suspicious ofnovel findings in the behavioral sciences until they have divined proper moral sentiments in the reporting scientist. To this extent, the Putnam-Dreger controversy provides an opportunity to identify and analyze a few emotional shibboleths about race. Second, I shall review briefly the salient early work on the learning capabilities ofdifferent ethnic groups, then present some new experimental data from our laboratory that permit the adumbration ofa more explicit * Professor of psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30601. Publication of this article was supportedjoindy by a contract with the U.S. Office ofEducation (sponsored by Georgia's Research and Development Center in Educational Stimulation) and by the University's Office of General Research. For critical comments I am indebted to my colleagues Professors B. N. Bunnell, C. L. Darby, M. H. Hodge, W. Isaac, W. T.James, W. A. Owens, R. B. Payne, R. H. Pollack, and C. D. Smock. In addition, Drs. H. F. Harlow and W. S. iaughlin ofthe University ofWisconsin have kindly given me the benefit oftheir advice on specialized topics in primatology and physical anthropology. Dr. J. A. Adams ofthe University ofIllinois also rendered invaluable aid during our many discussions ofpsychomotor skills over the past two decades. IO Clyde Everett Noble · Race and Experimental Psychology Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Autumn 1969 hypothesis about the comparative psychomotor skills ofyoung Negroes (Congoids) and whites (Caucasoids) than has previously been available. The average behavioral adjustments of samples of these populations to standard nonverbal learning tasks under controlled conditions ofassociation formation should be ofinterest to psychologists and other biological scientists. The majority ofpsychological investigations ofracial or ethnic groups1 have been conducted with verbal intelligence tests and have employed a correlationalapproach. Inferences in such studiesproceed from one category ofeffects, called a class ofresponses (R1), to another category ofbehavioral effects (R2), because they involve response-response relationships: R2 = f(Ri). The research summarized in the second half of this article deals primarily with experimental manipulations ofthe human learning process. Cumulative behavioral changes are induced over repeated training trials in an environmentthatiskeptphysicallyconstantforall subjectspracticing under certain conditions but which is deliberately varied for other conditions and organisms (O) in order to test specific, quantitative hypotheses. Inferences in experimental studies of behavior are said to proceed from cause (5) to effect (R), because they involve stimulus-response relationships : R = f(S). Although I do not advocate honorific distinctions between the correlational and experimental methodologies,' the latter technique offers greater power of theoretical analysis as well as a more efficacious kind of control when dealing with empirical variables. In our research we study R2 = f(S, O, Rt). I. Race andReality I begin with Dreger's review ofPutnam's book. One ofhis statements, which I believe is correct, is that "the Zeitgeist makes Putnam's position seem out ofjoint with the times" [3, p. 337]. Quite so. Without knowing 1 The adjectives are not synonymous. By racial groups I refer to infraspeáfic polymorphic human breeding populations that differ significantly in the frequency ofone or more genes, as determined by measuring samples ofrelevant phenotypic and genotypic traits; examples ofhuman races are Caucasoids and Congoids. The more familiar ethnic labels (e.g., "white" and "Negro") are based on cultural and sociological criteria. A technical report in press (Noble,/. Motor Behav.) examines their linkage and demonstrates the utility for research in psychomotor...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 10-30
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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