Tuesday 20 August 2013

ORIGINAL PAPER: Teaching intelligence


Professor Ian Deary is the UK’s leading intelligence researcher. He has written an entertaining personal account about how he teaches intelligence to various audiences. He makes a point of giving public lectures, because  “I think it is important that people outside the psychology student body learn about intelligence differences. This might be because it annoys me how much poor information is out there about my topic; and in part, it might be because I like the positive feedback I get from having a good set of intelligence research stories to tell. Good stories include Carroll's massive data collation exercise, the discovery of the Flynn effect, the re-testing of the participants in the Scottish Mental Surveys after several decades, and the work on separated twins.”

On the question as to which general introduction to intelligence is best, Deary hedges his bets: “I note the large difference between Mackintosh's (2011) good book on intelligence and Hunt's (2011) good book on intelligence: the latter has more technical psychometrics than the former though both managed to do a good job on teaching intelligence. My opinion about which is better is rather a fudge; there needs to be enough psychometrics so that the minority in the audience who would be drawn to this aspect can see that there is statistical rigour behind the data and findings, and there needs not to be so much that one alienates those who are less inclined to the multivariate statistics.”

My own view is that part of the reason some educated people reject the concept of intelligence is that they have read supposed refutations based on questionable statistics, so it is necessary to have some technical input. For that reason I personally found Hunt’s book particularly helpful.

Deary concludes:  “Lastly, I should mention the fact that intelligence is often seen as controversial. I must say that, in all my time teaching intelligence, I have not presented it in that way. I have had the fortune to teach intelligence to groups who have come with little prejudice about it, and they have mostly gone away, I hope, with similarly little prejudice. It is controversial if one wants it to be and if one approaches it in that way. However, it can be taught simply as an interesting topic with some great data and with the assurance that, if people take the time to know something about these data and think about what they mean, they will be the better off for it.”

Read the entire paper here: http://www.sciencedirect.com.libproxy.ucl.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0160289613000950

Watch him give a lecture (talking to slides) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGnCYdr7dYE&list=UUvXjmARhUOdnV5hQ1JBPjcA&index=3


  1. "the reason some educated people reject the concept of intelligence ...": oh chuck it, Thompson. You know perfectly well why "some educated people reject the concept of intelligence" - it is because it conflicts with some political doctrine they espouse, or they fear that some corollary of it will.