Cyril Burt: Fraud or Framed?

By N. J. Mackintosh | Go to book overview

happened only if Burt's samples became ever more biased towards the poor and ill-educated. And why should they have? Moreover, if they had, how could Burt have simultaneously recorded such substantial gains in educational attainments between 1945 and 1965?

At the very least then, the possibility must surely be acknowledged that Burt either relied on new tests for his post-1945 data, and that those tests had never been properly normed against his older tests, or that at least some of his numbers were simply fabricated. There are few grounds for choosing between these two scenarios--although some reason to insist that the former can hardly apply to all the post-1945 educational data. It hardly matters: both may be partly true, and both are equally culpable. Burt knew perfectly well (even if Miss O'Connor did not!) that newly standardized tests could provide no information about changes in intellectual or educational standards unless their norms were translated into those of earlier tests. He claimed to have undertaken the necessary translation, and to have collected a good deal of fresh data to allow him to do so. Since he did not in fact change any of the norms of his own tests, and since fresh data would surely have shown that he needed to, it seems highly unlikely that he ever collected any fresh data at all. Even the first of these two scenarios, therefore, has Burt making false claims in support of data which he knew would otherwise be completely worthless.

If it is impossible to decide how far Burt was relying on new but worthless data, and how far he was simply fabricating data, so some will argue, we cannot prove that he was doing either. That may well be true. I myself should regard some combination of these two scenarios as very much more probable than any combination of the innocent explanations I have considered. I think it would be difficult to insist that such a combination provides a less plausible explanation. But I readily concede that we are dealing with what is plausible or probable, not with certainty.


References

Audley R. J. and Rawles R. E. ( 1990). On a defence of Professor Sir Cyril Burt. The Psychologist, 3, 306-61.

Banton M. P. ( 1955). The coloured quarter. Jonathan Cape, London.

Burt C. L. ( 1921). Mental and scholastic tests (1st edn). King & Son, London.

Burt C. L. ( 1939). The relations of educational abilities. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 9, 45-71.

Burt C. L. ( 1943). Ability and income. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 13, 83-98.

Burt C. L. ( 1946). Intelligence and fertility, Eugenics Society, Occasional Papers, no. 2. Hamish Hamilton, London. ( 2nd edn 1952, Cassell, London.)

Burt C. L. ( 1959). Class differences in general intelligence: III. British Journal of Statistical Psychology, 12, 15-33.

Burt C. L. ( 1969a). The mental differences between children. In Black Paper II (ed. C. B. Cox and A. E. Dyson), pp. 16-25. The Critical Quarterly Society, London.

-109-

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Cyril Burt: Fraud or Framed?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Contributors xi
  • ONE IQ and science: the mysterious Burt affair 1
  • References 11
  • TWO Burt and the early history of factor analysis 13
  • References 42
  • THREE Twins and other kinship studies 45
  • Introduction 45
  • References 69
  • FOUR Intelligence and social mobility 70
  • Introduction 70
  • Conclusions 90
  • References 94
  • FIVE Declining educational standards 95
  • References 109
  • SIX Burt as hero and anti-hero: A Greek tragedy 111
  • References 128
  • SEVEN Does it matter? The scientific and political impact of Burt's work 130
  • References 148
  • Index 153
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