Getting Intelligence

Monday, February 09, 2009

When people think about what causes intelligence they often point to genetics. Not so, says social-psychologist Richard Nisbett. In his book, Intelligence and How to Get It, he argues that culture plays a huge role in the development of intellect.


Richard Nisbett

Comments [19]

Patricia from New Jersey

I missed your segment on intelligence, but did hear Alexandra Pelosi. Her use of the word "retard" was shocking, especially given her discussion of the (even more offensive) n-word. As a liberal and the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, who would never ever be so mean hearted, (my child I mean) this was very disheartening. Why is discrimination OK in some areas but not others?

Feb. 09 2009 02:31 PM
miky from Rego Park, ny

My daughter, is 6 years old, she will take the G&T (OLSAT and BSRA) test from the DOE, in March. Can you please comment on this tests, and how relevant are for the development of the child, and if the child fails the test what are the lessons to be learn for parents.

Feb. 09 2009 01:52 PM
TJB from nyc

Another argument for the stimulus package to include a substantial amount of money for education, is that the children who would benefit, will be paying for it when they are adults. We're borrowing the money from them so perhaps, they should reap some of the benefit.

Feb. 09 2009 12:50 PM
HC from nyc

Why do we assuke that genetics places limitations on intelligence. I think it is a mistake to say that intelligence is something like an ability to run fast or see 20/20. I think it is much more effective to see it in a different way. Like the ability to make moral decisions or be creative or the ability to be a human being. It is a mistake I think to narrow the definition of intelligence too much. It is a subtle and insideous form of oppression.

Feb. 09 2009 12:36 PM

Is musical aptitude related to mathematical aptitude?

Feb. 09 2009 12:32 PM
Brett from NYC

When you say, "Make kids smarter," don't you mean, that you intend to bring kids up to their full potential, within the genetic limitation that exists upon any person's intelligence?

Feb. 09 2009 12:31 PM

How about the throngs of baby boomer kids who did well even though there were 50 kids to a class with undereducated nuns teaching them?

Feb. 09 2009 12:29 PM
HC from nyc

I think Che's example is very interesting. What role does confidence (and will) play in intelligence? Could it be that we all have equal potential for intelligence but we have such disperate situations that lead to a loss of confidnce and will that then convinces chldren that they just do not have the ability.

Feb. 09 2009 12:27 PM
Alan from Park Slope

Are there any intelligence tests for games, especially games with a physical component. In tennis, for example, we try to measure ability by merely observing them play tennis. But there are issues of tactics and strategy that this may not measure well. Also, are there methods to measure performance under mental stress?


Feb. 09 2009 12:26 PM
richard from NYC

According the "Bell Curve", Jews scored higher than White Americans on IQ Test. Can one conclude that people of mixed-race - since Jews are non-white (mixed with various races) - are smarter than whites?

Feb. 09 2009 12:25 PM
David from Whitestone

I have done rather well on online IQ
tests. 135-140 scores.In my real life
this has been very little help.I still feel
as if others are smarter,quicker than I am.

Feb. 09 2009 12:25 PM
Che from Soho

I am an African American male who had terrible (typical) SAT scores in High School. Shortly after, my parents had my IQ tested by a thrid party and my scores turned out to be very superior. They brought this information to my scool and i was quickly moved into special programs and other advanced classes. I don't know if it was the actual results or my newly found confidence but really helped me along college.

Feb. 09 2009 12:24 PM
Martin Walker from Brooklyn

What thoughts does your guest have on the recent study that showed that fluid intelligence can be increased with training working memory?

(Study performed by Universities of Michigan and Bern -- Jaeggi / Buschkuehl)

Feb. 09 2009 12:24 PM
Sarah Klepner from NJ


Could you comment on the relationship between intelligence and altruism (i.e. concern for others)?


Feb. 09 2009 12:23 PM
margaret from nj

I always thought IQ didn't change over time. HOwever it does seem to me that changes in life situations can affect IQ.

I grew up in a working class family and went to a parochial elementary school with no enrichment. Some of the teachers had not even graduated from college. The highest of 3 IQ tests during that time was 117. However I had a decent hIgh school and college education, and pursued many intellectual endeavors as an adult, and in recent years I've had two IQ tests. One result was 138 and the second was 140.

How to account for that change?

Feb. 09 2009 12:19 PM
HC from nyc

Does your guest believe in the idea of absolute intelligence, which is to say an intelligence that is independent of social context? Or would he agree that the IQ measures a persons ability to conform and adhere to what is determined by the dominant (University)discourse as Knowledge?
Also, isn't creative intelligence by definition unmeasurable because it cannot be anticipated? I mean some very creative people, say for example Picasso or Einstein or Nietzsche (arguably) all would not have done well on tests like these because their creativity went beyond any culturally accepted ideas.

Feb. 09 2009 12:18 PM

Is creativity a form of intelligence?

Feb. 09 2009 12:16 PM

What does the professor think of the importance of pre-K?

Feb. 09 2009 12:12 PM
Anne from Manhattan

I'm in Mensa and being brainy has certainly helped me get ahead in life. But social intelligence - learning to temper my brianiac ego, work with difficult people, and be a good listener - has helped me the most. We need ways to evaluate and recognize other kinds of intelligence: common sense, creative problem solving, cultural sensitivity, social intelligence, etc.

Feb. 09 2009 11:49 AM

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