Moron (psychology)

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Moron is a term once used in psychology and psychiatry to denote mild intellectual disability.[1] The term was closely tied with the American eugenics movement.[2] Once the term became popularized, it fell out of use by the psychological community, as it was used more commonly as an insult than as a psychological term. It is similar to imbecile and idiot.[3]

Origin and uses

"Moron" was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard[4] from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant "dull"[5] and used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 7 and 10 on the Binet scale.[6] It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51–70, being superior in one degree to "imbecile" (IQ of 26–50) and superior in two degrees to "idiot" (IQ of 0–25). The word moron, along with others including "idiotic", "imbecilic", "stupid", and "feeble-minded", was formerly considered a valid descriptor in the psychological community, but it is now deprecated in use by psychologists.[7]

In the obsolete medical classification (ICD-9, 1977), these people (morons and feeble-minded) were said to have "mild mental retardation", "mild mental subnormality" or "high-grade defect" with IQ 50–70.[8]

Following opposition to Goddard's attempts to popularize his ideas,[9] Goddard recanted his earlier assertions about the moron: "It may still be objected that moron parents are likely to have imbecile or idiot children. There is not much evidence that this is the case. The danger is probably negligible."[10]

See also


  1. ^ Rafter, Nicole Hahn (1998). Creating Born Criminals. University of Illinois Press, ISBN 978-0-252-06741-9
  2. ^ Black, Edwin (2004). War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race. Thunder's Mouth Press, ISBN 978-1-56858-321-1
  3. ^ "The Clinical History of 'Moron,' 'Idiot,' and 'Imbecile'".
  4. ^ Trent, James W. Jr. (2017). Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Intellectual Disability in the United States. Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199396184
  5. ^ μωρός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  6. ^ Zaretsky, Herbert H.; Richter, Edwin F.; Eisenberg, Myron G. (2005), Medical aspects of disability: a handbook for the rehabilitation professional (third edition, illustrated ed.), Springer Publishing Company, p. 346, ISBN 978-0-8261-7973-9.
  7. ^ Zenderland, Leila (2001). Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert Goddard and the Origins of American Intelligence Testing. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-00363-6
  8. ^ World Health Organization (1977). Manual of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries, and Causes of Death (PDF). Vol. 1. Jeneva. p. 212.
  9. ^ Goddard, Henry H. Who Is a Moron? The Scientific Monthly, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp. 41–46.
  10. ^ Chase, Allan (1977). The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism. Knopf/Random House, ISBN 978-0-394-48045-9