Author: Russell T. Warne

The Mismeasurements of Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould, the famous 20th century paleontologist, published his most celebrated work, The Mismeasure of Man, in 1981. Gould’s thesis is that throughout the history of science, prejudiced scientists studying human beings allowed their social beliefs to color their data collection and analysis. Gould believed that this confirmation bias was particularly powerful when a scientists’ beliefs were socially important to them. Gould believed this bias was rampant in particular scholarly fields, and the most prominent target for his criticism in The Mismeasure of Man was the study of intelligence, especially IQ testing and the genetics of mental ability. And his analysis was not kind. Gould believed that there was a direct connection between the discredited study of skull measurements and the dawn of intelligence testing in the following generation. “But the IQ…relies upon assumptions…as unsupportable as those underpinning the old hierarchies of skull sizes proposed by nineteenth-century participants.” (Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, p. 210) It may be surprising to readers to learn that I—a psychologist who researches human intelligence—agree with Gould’s principal thesis. …