Studying Intelligence: History, Psychologists & Theories

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  • 0:04 Studying Intelligence
  • 0:43 The Bell Curve
  • 2:16 Ulric Neisser
  • 2:44 Charles Spearman
  • 3:15 Two Factor Intelligence Theory
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Bautista
We all want to be smart in one way or another, but what exactly is general intelligence? This lesson takes a look at the possible factors behind intellectual development and how this controversial topic has been examined by psychologists.

Few topics in psychology are as hotly debated or have as controversial a history as intelligence. The question of whether intelligence depends on biological or educational factors took a dark turn in the history of intelligence research. Many view intelligence as the human trait most directly related to success; so the stakes are high when psychologists set out to determine just how much control we have over our own intellectual development. Studies of intelligence have historically been used to justify discrimination, so modern researchers tackling the subject must be careful about research design and data interpretation.

In 1994, two American scholars published a best-selling, controversial book called The Bell Curve. The book proposes that intelligence is determined in part by genetics, and that African Americans and Latinos have genetically lower intelligence than Caucasians and Asian Americans. The authors also argue that since highly intelligent people tend to rise to the top of business and social circles, they're continually separating themselves as a class from less intelligent people. Their findings were rejected by many as a defense of race-based inequality, and as something that could be used to argue against programs designed to help historically underprivileged groups.

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