THE INTELLIGENCE MEN: Makers of the IQ Controversy by Raymond Fancher

THE INTELLIGENCE MEN: Makers of the IQ Controversy

Email this review


The last word on IQ testing? Hardly, given a century or so of disputation. But a fair, intelligent work by an eminently reasonable man who writes very well indeed. Fancher (psychology, York University, Ontario) uses a biographical/ chronological mode to the past and present of intelligence testing. In this, the book bears a resemblance to D.J. Kevles' recent review of eugenics. Fancher's focus is sharper, however, and the biographies are solely concerned with testing's principals per se, not the social and political aftermath of their work. Here you meet Simon, Binet, Terman and Wechsler in the flesh, along with two polar opposites in the nature/nuture dichotomy, Francis Galton and John Stuart Mill. Particularly good is Fancher's portrait of Binet, whose ""pragmatic non-theory laden"" approach to testing arose from his attempt to identify retarded students for special help (Galton and his eugenic descendants wanted to single out the gifted to improve the race). Perceptively, Fancher traces the successive adaptations of Binet's test by the Americans: Goddard, Yerkes, Terman, and the use of the alpha and beta tests in World War I; this set the stage for widespread use of IQ testing in public education thereafter. Incidentally, as IQ tests have changed over time, they have apparently become more difficult so that ""it takes a better absolute level of performance to obtain any given IQ today than it did 50 years ago."" The implication: Americans have, on the whole, gotten smarter. Included are sketches of Arthur Jensen, Leon Kamin, Sir Cyril Burt, Hans Eysenck, et al. In sum, they help to flesh out the positions taken in the rancorous debates of recent vintage and how positions have shifted. Jensen now talks of perhaps only 50 percent of intelligence being heritable (down from 80), while Kamin is not dismissing genetics as a factor in intelligence. Moreover, Jensen now is against the use of any form of IQ testing as a means of school placement. From this, it appears that the interactionists are having their day, that the jury is still out on exactly what is meant by intelligence, and that psychology--and psychologists--seem to be getting a bit wiser in the bargain. All told, an estimable update on a durable controversy.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1985
Publisher: Norton