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A bold refutation of the belief that genes determine intelligence.
Who are smarter, Asians or Westerners? Are there genetic explanations for racial differences in test scores? What makes some nationalities excel in engineering and others in music? Will math and science remain a largely male preserve. From the damning research of The Bell Curve to the more recent controversy surrounding geneticist James Watson's statements, one factor has been consistently left out of the equation: culture. In the tradition of The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould, world-class social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett takes on the idea of intelligence as something that is biologically determined and impervious to culture—with vast implications for the role of education as it relates to social and economic development. Intelligence and How to Get It asserts that intellect is not primarily genetic but is principally determined by societal influences. Nisbett's commanding argument, superb marshaling of evidence, and fearless discussions of the controversial carve out new and exciting terrain in this hotly debated field.
“A devastating and persuasive refutation of all those who believe intellectual ability is fixed at birth. Few Americans have done as much to deepen our understanding of what it means to be human. (Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink)”
“[Nisbett’s] biggest message, largely unspoken, is one of persistence and hope. If all kids are capable of learning under the right circumstances, parents and teachers should never give up on children who appear to be low performers. Everyone has the inherent ability to be smart. (Associated Press, Dinesh Ramde)”
“If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would lead to the depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty programs can accomplish much. Yet while this view of I.Q. as overwhelmingly inherited has been widely held, the evidence is growing that it is, at a practical level, profoundly wrong. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has just demolished this view in a superb new book, Intelligence and How to Get It, which also offers terrific advice for addressing poverty and inequality in America.... Offers terrific advice for addressing poverty.... [and] provides suggestions for transforming your own urchins into geniuses. (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)”
Whether intelligence is largely determined by genetics or environment has long been hotly contested. Nisbett, a University of Michigan psychology professor, weighs in forcefully and articulately, claiming that environmental conditions almost completely overwhelm the impact of genes. He comes to this conclusion through a careful statistical analysis of a large number of studies and also demonstrates how environment can influence not only IQ measures but actual achievement of both students and adults. (People often "overachieve" when appropriate incentives are in place, Nisbett argues.) Nisbett builds a very strong case that measured IQ differences across racial, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries can easily be explained without resorting to hereditary factors. The result is a very positive message: schools, parents and government programs can have a huge impact if they take the right, which are not necessarily the most expensive, steps. Without those steps, he says, the current role of socioeconomic factors is frightening, with economically disadvantaged children largely condemned to failure. Although Nisbett relies heavily on statistics to document his claims, he does so in a manner accessible to general readers and uses a thoroughly appealing style to engage them throughout. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1 Varieties of Intelligence 1
2 Heritability and Mutability 21
3 Getting Smarter 39
4 Improving the Schools 57
5 Social Class and Cognitive Culture 78
6 IQ in Black and White 93
7 Mind the Gap 119
8 Advantage Asia? 153
9 People of the Book 171
10 Raising Your Child's Intelligence ... and Your Own 182
Epilogue: What We Now Know about Intelligence and Academic Achievement 193
App. A Informal Definitions of Statistical Terms 201
App. B The Case for a Purely Environmental Basis for Black/White Differences in IQ 209
Posted January 12, 2010
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Posted February 21, 2011
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