IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea

IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea

by Stephen Murdoch
     
 

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IQ scores have the power to determine the chances we have in life: the people we meet, the schools we attend, the jobs we get, the lives we live. Very few of us, however, understand what IQ tests and ratings really mean. In this fascinating, provocative book, Stephen Murdoch explains the turbulent history and controversial current uses of intelligence

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Overview

IQ scores have the power to determine the chances we have in life: the people we meet, the schools we attend, the jobs we get, the lives we live. Very few of us, however, understand what IQ tests and ratings really mean. In this fascinating, provocative book, Stephen Murdoch explains the turbulent history and controversial current uses of intelligence testing.

At the turn of the previous century, so-called experts assessed people's mental abilities by measuring the strength of their hands, the size of their heads, even the swiftness of their blows. A few years later, when psychologists started measuring problem-solving with their newfangled IQ tests, the fledgling field took a radical leap forward at just the right time. American institutions thought they needed the novel intelligence tests because they had more people in new situations than they knew what to do with: immigrants were pouring into Ellis Island, public schools were overflowing, young women seemed to be promiscuous, and the U.S. Army was hopelessly unprepared for World War I. In response, psychologists persuaded everyone—including themselves—that they could actually measure intelligence and that intelligence testing could solve many of society's problems.

In IQ, Stephen Murdoch explores how and why IQ tests were created and how they have been widely used and misused over the past century. IQ is richly detailed and filled with insightful profiles of both the test takers and the intelligence experts who developed and continue to promote intelligence testing. Ultimately, Murdoch argues, intelligence testing is not anywhere near as reliable or important as we have been led to believe.

Revealing the wide-ranging and powerful impact intelligence testing has had on public policy and private lives—and showing why we need a whole new model of explaining intelligence—IQ is important reading for psychology and history buffs, parents, and anyone who has ever sweated through the SATs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* With fast-paced storytelling, freelance journalist Murdoch traces now ubiquitous but still controversial attempts to measure intelligence to its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He takes readers back to 1905 when French psychologist Alfred Binet first formulated tests to measure reasoning, language, abstract thinking and complex cognitive abilities. However, many psychologists began to use the tests as a device to separate the mentally retarded from the rest of society. As Murdoch points out, the tests were often administered unfairly to members of various races, offering proof to the test's administrators of their own theories that intelligence was linked to race. Murdoch also demonstrates that the tests were often used as eugenic devices. In the landmark case of Carrie Buck, faulty IQ testing was used as a justification for involuntary sterilization as part of a move to eliminate feeblemindedness in future generations. Murdoch concludes that IQ testing provides neither a reliable nor a helpful tool in understanding people's behavior, nor can it predict their future success or failure. While much of this material is familiar, this is a thoughtful overview and a welcome reminder of the dangers of relying on such standardized tests. (June) (Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2007)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471699774
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
06/15/2007
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

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