A real hot potato, as a columnist for Fortune defends IQ tests and their unavoidable message: that not all people, nor all groups of people, are born with equal mental abilities. According to Seligman, the current distrust of IQ tests is unfounded, a result of the wishful thinking of the 1960's. In fact, he reports, almost all experts (psychologists, educators, laboratory researchers) believe that IQ tests ``do indeed measure mental abilities that might collectively be thought of as intelligence.'' Moreover, most believe that the tests are not culturally biased. The problem is, well, that some people seem to be smarter than others, which violates the cherished American belief that everyone gets an even start in life. This matters because IQ ``has enormous predictive power in real-world situations'' and correlates closely with future economic status. What's worse, different races score differently: East Asians (Chinese, Japanese) score consistently higher than whites, blacks consistently lower. What's even worse, experts agree that IQ is largely inheritable, so there's no immediate way to rectify the imbalance. The long-term solution, Seligman delicately suggests, may be eugenic planning. But first IQ must be acknowledged as a useful tool, especially for educators who need to identify students requiring remedial help. Seligman writes sympathetically of Cyril Burt and Arthur Jensen, two researchers who faced the wrath of the anti-IQ lobby. He sketches the history of intelligence testing; contrasts the high scores of Jews and Japanese (Jews excel in verbal portions of the test, Japanese in math) to demonstrate the multisided nature of intelligence; ponders the future (American kids have fewer high and low scores than in generations past; we are grouping together in mediocrity). He even takes an IQ test himself, but refuses to reveal his score. Is Seligman an unwitting racist or a hero breaking the code of silence? Either way, it doesn't take a lot of brains to guess that his levelheaded presentation will stir up a storm.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55972-131-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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