How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?

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Arthur Jensen

"How Much Can We Boost IQ and Achievement?" is a 1969 article by Arthur Jensen published in the Harvard Educational Review.[1] It is among the most controversial[2][3] in American psychology, and was largely responsible for initiating the current debate over race and intelligence.[4][5]


Jensen's argument consisted of a series of related claims.[6] IQ tests are valid measurements of a real human ability—what people generally describe as "intelligence"—that is important to many parts of contemporary life. Intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, is about 80 percent heritable. Intelligent parents are much more likely to have intelligent children than other parents. Remedial educational programs have failed to raise the measured intelligence of individuals or groups. Indeed, one of the most inflammatory sentences is the opener: "Compensatory education has been tried and apparently has failed." The article generated extensive discussion and controversy both in the popular press[7] and in the academic literature.[8][9][10] The article prompted 29 academic rebuttals published in the same journal, which eventually decided to refuse reprints or allow Jensen to respond to critical letters.[11] Some college students also responded to the publication of the paper by burning effigies of Jensen and sending him death threats.[12] In 1982, Schiff et al. conducted an adoption study that aimed to provide a direct answer to the question Jensen had posted in his 1969 paper. They reported that children who were adopted into families of a higher social class experienced, on average, "an increase of 14 IQ points in the mean IQ score estimated with 2 tests and a reduction by a factor of 4 in the probability of repeating a grade."[13]

Jensen's critics argue that most aspects of his analysis were flawed: IQ tests do not provide a stable or meaningful measure of intelligence; IQ is affected by the environment and not solely or mainly a function of genetics; there is no evidence for genetic differences in racial intelligence; and that the entire topic was too controversial to be productively discussed.[14]

Controversy over the article led to the coining of the term "Jensenism"[15] defined as the theory that IQ is largely determined by genes, including racial heritage.[16] The article generated significant attention to,[17] and protests against, Jensen's work.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jensen (1969)
  2. ^ Richard E. Nisbett (9 December 2007). "All Brains Are the Same Color". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  3. ^ Tucker 1996, p. 201
  4. ^ Hunt & Carlson 2007
  5. ^ David Kirp (16 April 2009). "Getting Smarter About IQ". The American Prospect.
  6. ^ Loehlin, Lindzey and Spuhler (1975)
  7. ^ Tucker 1996, p. 204
  8. ^ Jencks and Phillips (1998)
  9. ^ Susan Whitely, ed. (July 1980). "Book Review: Bias in Mental Testing". Applied Psychological Measurement. 4 (3): 403–406. doi:10.1177/014662168000400311. S2CID 119406346.
  10. ^ Johnson, Wendy (2012). "How Much Can We Boost IQ? An Updated Look at Jensen's (1969) Question and Answer". In Slater, Alan M.; Quinn, Paul C. (eds.). Developmental Psychology: Revisiting the Classic Studies. Psychology: Revisiting the Classic Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. ISBN 978-0-85702-757-3.
  11. ^ Evans, Gavin (2015-03-01). "Race science rears its ugly head". New Internationalist. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  12. ^ Fox, Margalit (2012-11-01). "Arthur R. Jensen, Who Set Off Debate on I.Q., Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  13. ^ Schiff, Michel; Duyme, Michel; Dumaret, Annick; Tomkiewicz, Stanislaw (September 1982). "How much could we boost scholastic achievement and IQ scores? A direct answer from a French adoption study". Cognition. 12 (2): 165–196. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(82)90011-7. ISSN 0010-0277. PMID 6890431. S2CID 40741672.
  14. ^ Lee Edson (31 August 1969). "Jensenism". The New York Times. p. SM10.
  15. ^ Miele, Frank (2002). "Jensenism: A New Word in the Dictionary". Intelligence, Race, and Genetics: Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen. Westview Press. kindle loc. 418-23. ISBN 0-8133-4274-0.
  16. ^ "Jensenism". Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. Barnes and Noble. 1996. p. 1026. ISBN 0-7607-0288-8.
  17. ^ Austin Wehrwein (4 March 1970). "Genetics, IQ Study Proposed". The Washington Post. p. A3.
  18. ^ Lawrence E. Davies (19 May 1969). "Harassment Charged by Author Of Article About Negroes' I.Q.'s". The New York Times. p. 33.