Social & Eco-Cultural Influences on Intelligence

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
Intelligence is influenced by a great many different factors. This lesson defines social and eco-cultural factors and details how these factors affect intelligence with regard to climate, group and stress factors.

What is Intelligence?

The class was scheduled to take a group intelligence test and their instructor had some idea as to how the students would score. If asked, the teacher would have said Jamie's score would probably coincide with those in the lower third of the class. He was surprised then when Jamie's IQ proved to be the highest in the class. How could the teacher be so wrong? His classmates scored where the teacher thought they would, but Jamie was a surprise. What influence could there be that the teacher wasn't seeing?

In this case, the cause could be cultural. Jamie's family did not value school work; they valued 'real' work. So, Jamie did not value what the school would view as intelligence. It was enough that he was a good worker and able to contribute to the family's welfare. Jamie is an example of how social and eco-cultural influences affect how intelligence as a personal gift is seen around the world.

What are Social and Eco-Cultural Influences?

Two terms that need to be defined are 'social' and 'eco-cultural.' Social refers to the entire society within which an individual lives. This could refer to the breadth of humanity, but it is generally used to include only those societal influences that are immediately apparent, such as:

  • Insular family group
  • Community
  • Close friendships
  • Educational group
  • Occupational group

All of these factors are considered to be a part of an individual's social group. Eco-cultural refers to how the individual relates to the larger culture and how that culture has been influenced by its surrounding environment. For example, a teen living in Sub-Saharan Africa will experience different cultural norms than a teen living on the streets of New York. There may be similarities, but there will also be stark differences.

Social and Eco-Cultural Factors Affecting Intelligence

In the past, researchers have looked at intelligence as a global construct. This means that some have believed intelligence is a static human characteristic regardless of culture. More recent, and targeted, research has determined that this is not the case.

Individual or Group Culture

The predominant culture within the United States is concerned more with the individual than the group. This is contrasted with many other cultures around the world, such as many cultures within Asia and Africa, that are more concerned with the group. This means that in the United States, personal achievement, intelligence and other factors are more important than group achievement or intelligence. The individual is preeminent. Study within the US has also found that when the social group prizes intelligence to a greater degree, that quality is generally more regarded.

Racial Influences

However, research finds that ethnic Jews and people of Asian heritage score slightly higher on IQ tests than do people of European heritage. Which suggests that it doesn't necessarily matter whether the cultural ethic sees the individual or the group as of primary importance. This speaks more to the racial component of intelligence that was researched heavily by Arthur Jensen. He found that intelligence is affected slightly by racial characteristics.

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