The Nature of Intelligence: The IQ Controversy in Cross-Cultural Perspective
As argued in the previous chapter, radical environmentalism is the most attractive response to the variability of test scores not only from one country to another, but also in the same country and within what appears to be the same culture. The purpose of this chapter is to consider the factors that determine the intelligence test scores of individuals and groups, and to reflect on whether these variations arise because of real differences in intelligence, or if they are artifacts of the tests themselves.
The chapter begins by considering the principle argument that is marshaled against environmentalist optimism. This is the nativist view, which holds that only some 40% (perhaps as little as 20%) of each individual's intelligence is shaped by the environment, with the remaining 60% to 80% genetically determined and therefore immutable. The often raucous debate between environmentalists and nativists ( Herrnstein ∧ Murray, 1994) has become known as the IQ controversy, and it is reviewed here not in its own right, but because it brings to a sharp focus the issues that emerge from the long history of psychological assessment in culturally different settings.
The IQ controversy thus serves as an introductory frame for this long and quite complex review. Thereafter, I have organized the discussion around the two major current paradigms of cognitive assessment: the psychometric and the information-processing paradigms. Two other measurement methods, both subcategories of the information-processing paradigm, are also important to this discussion: the piagetian paradigm (used here without a capital letter to indicate a class of intellectual operation derived from Jean Piaget's genetic epistemology), and potential assessment, which has since the 1920s seemed to offer the best alternative to the psychometric