Understanding how smart we are got a boost from two philanthropists interested in human intelligence.
The International Society for Intelligence Research based at Case Western Reserve University—a dedicated group of international researchers in the field of human intelligence—received a $350,000 gift from Arthur Jensen, the educational psychologist from University of California Berkeley who set the world astir in the 1960s with his thoughts that genetics played a role in human intelligence.
Support for the society’s activities also came from the John Templeton Foundation, which awarded ISIR a three-year $36,000 grant.
The Templeton and Jensen gifts will be used by the society to upgrade its Web site at http://www.isironline.org/ and support its annual conferences, with funds from the Templeton Foundation also defraying student travel costs to attend the ISIR conferences. Jensen’s donation will advance research in the area of how biological behavior is linked to intelligence.
With the extensive genetic data now available, psychologists have come to accept that genetics accounts for approximately 40 to 80 percent of intelligence with the other 20 to 60 percent from environmental influences, said Douglas Detterman, the director and a founding member of ISIR. He is also editor of the society’s journal Intelligence.
What pushed Jensen into the headlines in 1969 was his Harvard Educational Review article, “How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Scholastic Achievement.” He theorized that programs like Head Start had difficulty boosting achievement because of the substantial contribution of genes to intelligence. Jensen’s work was largely misunderstood because there was a predominant belief at the time that most, if not all, human behavior was environmentally determined.
“Little doubt about the genetic factor exists today,” said Detterman, a Case psychologist who is studying the cognitive variations in genetic syndromes associated with mental retardation.
Jensen’s new research focus is based on how rapidly the human brain processes information. His forthcoming book, Clocking the Mind: Mental Chronometry and Individual Differences, explores this new way of measuring intelligence.
The Templeton Foundation grant and the Jensen gift will encourage researchers to use some of the newest technology available like fMRI imaging for intelligence research.
This imaging system will help psychologists understand how the brain processes information, with fMRI’s ability to show how the brain “lights up” or responds in real time to different activities.
According to Detterman, measuring basic brain process using behavioral tasks, imaging and other physiological measures may, in the future, provide a better understanding of what intelligence tests actually measure.
“We know that how long it takes to perform a task is related to intelligence,” explained Detterman. “Eventually, we have to understand how genes, brain and behavior are all linked if we are to understand intelligence, and Jensen’s gift and the Templeton grant will help us do that.”
Founded in 2000, ISIR—along with Intelligence—are housed in the Case department of psychology.
During the ISIR’s annual meeting, a core group of researchers report on and share their latest research findings on human intelligence. Jensen regularly attends the annual meetings, said Detterman.
ISIR’s next meeting will be December 14-16 in San Francisco, Calif.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.