Did you know that there was a country that would sterilize its own citizens if they scored low on an IQ test? What kind of monstrous nation would do— Oh OK. It was the United states from the 1920s until the 1970s. Yikes. Well, at least nowadays people are not trying to use IQ to rationalize policies that harm people. OK they still are, and that’s totally immoral, even if the IQ test is a completely comprehensive measurement of general intelligence, OK it’s not. Alright. While there may be some value to IQ tests, they’ve also been used to falsely justify hurting people based on, well, racism and classism. Hey guys, I’m Sana, and this Sunday we’re talking about how the IQ score came to be and how, while it can be useful in some ways, it’s been used in some pretty awful ways, including in so-called “race science,” which isn’t really a science. And if you think this is an interesting topic and want more, don’t forget to subscribe. So, the IQ—or Intelligence Quotient—was developed in the early 1900s, and since then, most folks see it as THE test to determine how smart a person is, or isn’t. And this was around the same time that Eugenics – aka controlling the population through selective breeding – was gaining popularity as a means of “protecting” the future of the country against things like quote: “indiscriminate immigration, criminal degenerates and race suicide.” And the IQ test ended up playing a pretty big part in the Eugenics movement. In 1927, the Supreme Court ruled on a landmark case—Buck vs. Bell —which legalized the forced sterilization of more than 60,000 Americans for “reasons” like developmental disabilities and low IQ scores. And that practice continued through the mid 1970s, which wasn’t that long ago. Like, when the Brady Bunch was on the air. Remember Marcia? Now, IQ still matters today in the U.S. Scores are used to set kids on education tracks that define the trajectory of their entire future. And some police departments have a maximum IQ limit, because they say they don’t want police who will get bored and quit. Okay? And one U.S. president even bragged about the IQ score that he thinks he probably has despite the grammar-mistake-laden tweet he used to brag about it. But we won’t name names. So, what is an IQ exactly and how is it measured? Neuroscientist Kevin Mitchell of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, breaks that down for us: IQ tests measure a range of different cognitive abilities or aptitudes such as quantitative reasoning, verbal abilities, processing speed, memory, language and so on. And, really what they find is that people vary on each of those, uh, different sorts of cognitive areas. But underlying that, there’s some general factor that contributes to all of those. And that’s where the IQ score comes from. But here’s the thing: IQ tests don’t measure all types of intelligence. They don’t do a great job of accounting for cultural bias in the tests. They don’t take into account the highly variable environmental factors that impact IQ scores, And on top of all that, people use IQ scores to waaay overgeneralize about individuals’ and populations’ cognitive abilities. And that last point is by far the most nefarious one, and underlies some of the most detrimental public policies. And I’ll explain why, but first, let’s talk about how IQ tests don’t exactly measure how generally smart a person is. IQ scores are a proxy. They’re an imperfect proxy for some sort of general intelligence. For example, social intelligence is not well-captured in IQ tests, and that’s something that is extremely sophisticated cognitive processing that we’re doing when we’re interacting with people, trying to understand what they feel, what they think, what they know I think, and so on. IQ tests also don’t measure things like long-term memory, kinesthetic, or creative thinking, all of which are important facets of general intelligence despite being ignored on IQ tests. In other words, IQ tests are only measuring a certain type of general intelligence that is decontextualized from actual general intelligence. But even general intelligence isn’t necessarily the best indicator of what you’re capable of. Because you can totally kick ass in one area that happens to be measured by an IQ test but your overall score would be lowered if you scored low in another area meaning you could be a genius in one thing, but a generalized number is keeping you back. And then, there’s the question of the bias in IQ testing being baked in—consciously or not— along with the values of the people who wrote the test. Not every culture has the same criteria for defining and measuring intelligence. For instance, some cultures place more value on practical or social thinking rather than the abstract thinking that IQ tests focus on. Even our comfort levels with tests—especially written tests—is a product of cultural conditioning. So the IQ test is, to a certain extent, a cultural background test. And context matters outside of culture too – like environmental factors. Factors that can be as small as not getting enough sleep and forgetting your morning coffee before taking the exam to, well, your socio-economic status and even how industrialized your country is. We’ll get to that in a second. And that’s super important for the people in the back who still think race is genetically linked to intelligence. Cc: Charles Murray and Richard J. Hernstein who are the authors of the famous book “The Bell Curve” that makes that ignorant—I mean, argument. It’s worth pointing out that Murray works for a libertarian think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, which—according to FAIR—is against multiculturalism, bilingual education, welfare and affirmative action. Murray also went on the Colbert Report where they had this exchange… COLBERT: You took a little bit of heat because in in The Bell Curve, um, you cited researchers and research that was funded by white supremacists and nazi groups. MURRAY: Oh come on. COLBERT: Uhh, no. Evident—I uh, MURRAY: No no, I know what you’re referring to, Stephen. COLBERT: Yeah, you had 17 researchers you cited, contributors to the racist journal “Mankind Quarterly” and 13 scholars cited were grant recipients from the Pioneer Fund, which was established and run by nazi sympathizers, eugenicists and white supremacists. MURRAY: Stephen, I can’t tell you how hard it is after 17 years to see this nonsense brought up again. COLBERT: Well, I think it’s refreshing that following this book, you’re writing a book that contains no black people in it whatsoever. And it’s also received funding linked to the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers. And Murray’s work has been credited as foundational for the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, that removed an economic safety net for millions of Americans til this day. And he’s the same guy who the Southern Poverty Law Center lists today as a White Nationalist and who’s said that it’s genetics that cause poverty. Yeah, he actually did say that in The National Review in 2000. Here’s the quote, scrolling over my face. Please read this.This guy helped take away welfare. You okay? But Murray has the cause and effect reversed. Studies have found that exposure to poverty leads to a significant IQ drop. And so taking away welfare creates this vicious cycle: People are pushed into poverty because of factors outside their control like the legacy of institutional racism, but then they’re kept there in part because poverty has an impact on their cognitive ability. The people who are pushed into poverty in the first place tend to be black and latino communities in this country because again, institutional racism. And then people like Charles Murray blame genetics – aka racial differences – on low IQ while ignoring the findings that IQ can be lowered by circumstances like poverty. The idea that we should expect there to be intelligence differences between these large continental racial groupings, again, is really wild speculation. For that to happen, what you would have to have is very strong, consistent and sustained directional selective pressure. And what that means is that groups in one area would, because of their environment, have to have been exposed to strong selective pressure to push intelligence one way or another. Meaning, environments across entire continents would have to be the same somehow to make the continent’s entire population evolve different intelligences from the entire population of other entire continents… which would also need to have a single environment. And maybe you’re thinking “skin color evolved differently on different continents, so why not intelligence?” Well, because brains don’t work that way. Skin color is an interesting one because it has evolved multiple times from light skin to dark skin, back to light skin, back to dark skin and so on, but it’s a much, much simpler trait genetically speaking than something like intelligence, which involves thousands and thousands of genetic variants. Basically brains can’t evolve as easily as changing a small handful of genes like with skin or hair color because brains are made of so many genes. So, saying you think different races could have different innate intelligence levels may be like saying you think different races have different amounts of fingers. And going back to environmental factors, even identical twins—who are genetic clones— have shown up to a 29 point IQ gap when raised in different social classes with different education levels. The average IQ scores have risen over the past century or so consistently in every country where IQ tests have been done, and actually at a more rapid rate in developing countries than in developed ones – and that is attributable people think to increase nutrition, to better healthcare, both maternal health care and infant health care, more education and also probably to industrialization, urbanization. Mitchell uses the example of Ireland, Scotland and England to show how much of a role environmental factors play in measuring IQ more than genetics. In the seventies and eighties, the average IQ scores in Ireland and Scotland were significantly lower than in the neighboring country of England, and that has completely shifted over the years as there’s been increasing urbanization, increased move to cities, increased industrialization, change from agricultural practices so that the populace really has become more prone to these habits of abstract thought. Education has increased and also nutrition and healthcare have increased, and so the IQ scores now in Ireland and Scotland are on a par with those in England. And that really shows that cultural factors can have a huge impact on average IQ scores. The average IQ scores between Ireland and England were not due to genetic differences. They weren’t an immutable biological fact. They were just due to cultural differences which have gone away over time. Another example are the average IQ scores among Kenyan children, which rose by over 26 points between 1984 and 1998—and not because they evolved impossibly fast in half a generation: It’s because there were massive improvements in health, nutrition, and parental literacy. IQ is in many cases more of a measure of socioeconomic class than it is a measure of innate intelligence. IQ and wealth are correlated with each other. Now that may be because more intelligent people do better in the economy and therefore have higher wealth. But it’s also probably true that people in a more wealthy areas, more wealthy families, have more access to education, more habits of valuing education. That advantage may be amplified over time because of the experiences that they have. So you get a sort of, in that case, a vicious circle which amplifies an intelligence, but at the, you know, on the flip side, in areas where education is not well-funded, then that can lead to a vicious circle that just a cements, those sort of social inequalities. So, there you have it: The measurement of IQ is sometimes more useful as a tool for some pretty heinous political goals than it is as a measurement of your actual intelligence and mental ability. So, how do you like them apples? So, one of the crazy things that I learned in the course of researching for this video was that California led the way for eugenics—sterilized 20,000 people, leading the nation in eugenics. Let us know what you guys think in the comments, and don’t forget to like, share and subscribe, and come back next Sunday when we come at you with another great video.