Race, IQ and Intelligence in Debunking Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2609 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

Race, IQ and Intelligence

In debunking what can only be regarded as myths concerning a link between race, IQ and intelligence, particularly with regard to an imaginary "white-black gap," there are several places to begin. However, one must first define the terms IQ (intelligence quotient) and intelligence. Once that is done, however, it then it becomes clear that any correlation between two or three of those factors is, indeed, imaginary, or at least constructed by various philosophers and scientists to uphold their biases.

Defining IQ and intelligence

There are two requirements for defining IQ adequately for the current purposes. First, IQ does not measure racial characteristics. It does not "measure an individual phenotypic character like height or weight; it is a measure of the rank order or relative standing of test scores in a given population (Schlinger 2003 15+).

Second, IQ tests themselves "measure only cultural (i.e., white, middle-class, American) content, values, and assumptions taught through formal education" (Reeve 2002 778+).

With those two facets of IQ understood, it is relatively easy to demonstrate a lack of correlation between race and IQ on the basis of a number of factors. First, it can be debunked on the basis of the value of IQ vs. intelligence as predictive of success in life (Sternberg et al. 2001 1).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Race, IQ and Intelligence in Debunking What Assignment

Demonstrating a correlation between race and intelligence is not quite as easy; intelligence is, for the purpose of this paper, the characteristics that allow people to live their lives to their highest purpose. Under that definition, it is possible to correlate intelligence and, if not race, at least ethnicity. But it is not possible to load those correlates with any hierarchical significance; that is, if a person who displays what Andorrans think of as intelligence, then he or she is intelligent regardless of performance on the limited cognitive measure of an IQ test. If a person in Congo is equally 'intelligent' regarding his or her life, it cannot be adjudged that the Andorran or the Congolese is more or less intelligent than the other; there is no basis for asserting the 'intelligence' of one society is preferable to the intelligence required in a different culture.

How useful is the idea of the IQ?

Sternberg et al. put the entire matter of IQ into a lower status than that enjoyed by intelligence. They note:

Yet almost by definition, IQ is a culturally, socially, and ideologically rooted concept. It could scarcely be otherwise, as this index is intended to predict success (i.e., to predict outcomes that are valued as success by most people) in a given society (i.e., in a large social group carrying its own set of values). IQ has been most studied where it was invented and where it is most appreciated, that is, in the established market economies and especially in the United States. Oddly enough, the country where its testing originated -- France -- largely ignores it (2001 1).

While Sternberg et al. don't completely discount the usefulness of IQ scores, they do conclude that conventional intelligence tests can be useful, but only with very careful interpretation and only as a small part of a constellation of other measures, such as life intelligence (Sternberg et al. 2001 1), as defined above.

In fact, Sternberg et al. cite previous research that would tend not only to suggest the need for additional parameters in applying IQ scores to a population, but rather that IQ scores might be the least valuable of all measures of human capacity and potential. They reveal that in Kenya, schoolchildren who have the traditional skills most prized by their communities tend to do least well in school testing. Likewise, Brazilian children who run successful street businesses will usually fail mathematics in school.

This is not true in the developed Western nations, however, where "school-based tests show correlations with career success" (Sternberg et al. 2001 1). Even then, however, Sternberg et al. begin to suggest that there is more involved than would first meet the eye. They note that in the West, such tests are gatekeepers of the "academic and vocational routes to advancement" (Sternberg et al. 2001 1). Another way of understanding that is that the tests do nothing so much as define the parameters desired by the corporations that require individuals to do their work, often very narrowly defined in scope; so-called IQ testing is meant to test only the cognitive abilities needed to be successful in that narrowly defined arena. It would be difficult to argue successfully that a successful juvenile Brazilian street vendor is less capable -- less intelligent -- than a child who has trouble making change in San Francisco but can work a quadratic equation.

Such considerations are equally valid in the United States; the United States is one nation with a number of cultures co-existing and therefore is significantly affected by varying cultural concepts of intelligence vs. A single standardized concept of IQ. Again, however, it must be remembered that there cannot be a reliable yardstick for determining that one culture's idea of intelligence is superior to that of another.

The situation in a single community, in fact, can make this abundantly clear. In a study by Okagaki and Sternberg (1993), it was noted that parental concepts of intelligence varied widely between ethnic groups in San Jose, California. The researchers found that the Latino parents emphasized the importance of social-competence skills in intelligence more than did the Anglo or Asian parents, for example. On the other hand, the teachers' conceptions of intelligence adhered more closely to the Asian and Anglo conceptions, both of which emphasize cognitive competence, or IQ (Sternberg et al. 2001 1), the path, as noted before, to academic and corporate success in America. Both the Asian and Anglo ethnic groups could also, therefore, be seen to give more credence to the measures that suit individuals for western corporate life than to measures that suit individuals to operate successfully within their own subcultures. The teachers, Sternberg et al. noted, held values that preferred the objectively (so-called) correct response to culture-bound behaviors (2001 1). In other words, they were attuned to the IQ test world, and believed it to be the best predictor of success.

In view of test scores, and if one held the standard viewpoint that IQ predicted success, to propose that the Latino children exhibited lower IQs and were less likely to succeed. But it would be illogical to assume they were less intelligent, if one views intelligence as the ability to negotiate one's world successfully, as long as one regarded their cultural community as their world. Indeed, as in the Kenyan example, it would appear that the Latino students are more intelligent, knowing how to navigate their own ethnic culture successfully, than the child who can excel academically but can't successfully buy ice cream from a vendor in his or her own cultural milieu.

Sternberg et al. found that this same construct was replicated on the East Coast of the United States as well. They cite a study by Heath (1983) of intelligence among African-American and Anglo American groups in North Carolina. Studying groups of different socioeconomic status within each of those major groups also revealed that teacher bias in favor of the Anglo American notion of intelligence (that is, IQ test intelligence) was present, "partly resulting in better achievement on the part of the Anglo Americans" (Sternberg et al. 2001 1).

This small demonstration indicates that even attempting to propose a correlation between race and IQ is ludicrous; finding a correlation between native intelligence, as defined here, is much more logical if one must construct correlates at all. In fact, Sternberg extended the examination beyond intelligence and IQ to the basics of belief systems, arguing that cultural belief systems will also tend to create imaginary correlations between race/ethnicity and poor performance on IQ tests, but not in use of intelligence. They showed that at times, whole cultures interpret what is asked of them on western-style IQ tests as invalid. For example, "Luria (1980) found that central Asian peasants refused to accept syllogism problems as posed. When asked a question such as: 'From Shakhimardan to Vuadil it is three hours on foot, while to Fergana it is six hours. How much time does it take to go on foot from Vuadil to Fergana?'" (Sternberg et al. 2001 1), they tended to avoid the entire issue and just respond with how long it takes to get from each of those places to each of the others. The conclusion one might reach is that made-up questions with no bearing on how they live their lives don't seem worth of any attention; pragmatically, they therefore pay them no attention as doing so would interrupt their progress toward whatever life goal demanded their attention at that moment.

Similarly, adult members of the Kpelle tribe apparently could not sort objects taxonomically, regarded as a more advanced way of sorting at least to the western mind, until the researchers asked the Kpelle to sort the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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