Intelligence of the Pygmies

Article excerpt

The intelligence of the Biaka and Babinga Pygmies and of Negroids living in the same region of the Central African Republic is examined with four tests of cognitive abilities. The Pygmies scored lower than the Negroids on all tests by an average of 14 IQ points. In relation to a European IQ of 100, the IQ of the Pygmies is estimated at approximately 53.

Key Words: Pygmies; Intelligence.

Little is known of the intelligence of the Pygmies. In a compilation of over 500 studies of the intelligence of different peoples and races worldwide, it was only possible to find one study of the intelligence of the Pygmies (Lynn, 2006). This was an early study carried out by Woodworth (1910) using the Sequin Form Board test, which consists of a set of blocks of various shapes that have to be fitted into the appropriate holes. Woodworth found that Pygmies performed much worse than other peoples including Eskimos, Native Americans, and Filipinos, but he did not have a comparison group of Negroids, and he did not quantify the abilities of any of these peoples. The objective of this paper is to present better data on the intelligence of the Pygmies.

There are two populations of Pygmies. These are the Mbuti who live as hunter-gatherers in the forests of eastern Zaire, and the Biaka and Babinga who live approximately 1,000 miles to the west in the south of the Central African Republic, the eastern part of Cameroon, and the northern part of the People's Republic of the Congo. The two populations are genetically isolated. The Mbuti Pygmies are the purest and are thought to number somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000. They average around 4' 7" (140 cm) in height. Pygmy children up to the age of puberty have normal height, but when they become adolescents they do not have the growth spurt of other peoples.

The Biaka and Babinga Pygmies are more interbred with Negroids. Most of them are hunter-gatherers. Typically they live in small groups of around 30 and move from place to place. Some of them have adopted a settled existence and work as farmers. They have made little progress in the domestication of either animals or plants. At the close of the twentieth century they were thought to number around 100,000 to 200,000.

Method and Results

The results of cognitive tests from which the intelligence of the Pygmies can be calculated are given by Berry et al. (1986). They report the results of cognitive tests administered to Biaka and Babinga Pygmies and to Negroids living in the same region of the Central African Republic. Some of the Pygmies were hunter-gatherers, while others were settled in villages and worked as laborers for Negroid farmers.

The Pygmies and Negroids were given four cognitive tests that can be regarded as tests of intelligence. These are (1) Verbal Fluency: naming the largest number of plants, parts of the body, and people known. One minute was allowed for each task, and the score was the number of items named. Verbal fluency is a well established measure of intelligence and was part of the first intelligence test constructed by Binet and is represented in the American Stanford-Binet. It was one of the six major factors of intelligence in Thurstone's (1938) model. (2) Block Design: assembling a number of colored blocks (cubes) to match designs. This is a well known measure of intelligence and is one of the subtests in the Wechsler tests. (3) Draw-a-Person: Originally devised as the Draw-a-Man test by Goodenough (1926), this test has been used in many studies throughout the world. The test usually involves drawing a man and woman with pencil and paper and is scored for the richness of the detail, but in this study the task was to draw these in sand with a stick. (4) African Embedded Figures Test (AEFT): consisting of identifying simple figures embedded in more complex figures. This test is identified by Carroll (1993, p.339) in his taxonomy of intelligence as a measure of the Closure Flexibility factor. …