Race and IQ: The Facts Behind the Myth - ITS PSYCHOLOGY (2023)

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Last Updated on January 26, 2023 by Mike Robinson

On average, African American children in the US scored 15 points lower than European American kids on standardized IQ tests in the past. Children of Japanese Americans as a whole had IQs that were above average. Could these variations be inherited? A common misconception is that African Americans have lower IQs than the general population due to their “genetic heritage” and the fact that they are genetically unable to escape poverty. Does this prove there is a connection between race and IQ? Psychologists have offered numerous counterarguments in response to such claims.

First, psychologists point out again what the Dove Test showed. Because of its assumptions, biases, and content, a standard IQ test doesn’t always make it possible to compare ethnic, cultural, or racial groups in a meaningful way. Leon Kamin says, “The important fact is that we have no way of measuring intelligence, so we can’t say which sex or race is more intelligent.” Only IQ tests are available.

Kamin’s point is that the people who make IQ tests choose ahead of time to use questions that give men and women identical IQ scores. It would be just as easy to make an IQ test that gives the same score to both African Americans and European Americans.

What Causes Lower IQ Scores in Certain Groups

Differences in IQ scores are not a fact of nature but a decision by the test makers. So, European Americans do better on IQ tests made by European Americans, and African Americans do better on IQ tests made by African Americans.

(Video) The truth about Race and IQ never taught in school | Thomas Sowell

An intelligence test made up of 100 words from the Dictionary of Afro-American Slang is another example of this.Williams gave the test to 100 African American and 100 European American high school students in Saint Louis. On average, the African American group scored 36 points higher than the European American group. Therefore, if there were a connection between race and IQ, this test would show that African Americans were more intelligent than European Americans. But that is not true either.

Second, it’s not a secret that, as a group, African Americans are more likely than European Americans to live in places that are poor in terms of health and education. When there are differences in education, IQs may not tell us much about how genes affect intelligence.

In fact, one study found that giving poor African American children to white families to adopt raised their IQs by an average of 13 points, bringing them up to the same level as the white children. That is, giving African American kids the same experiences in the environment as European American kids. This study is another example that proves IQ and race are not connected.

Race and IQ: The Barack Obama Effect

Race and IQ: The Facts Behind the Myth - ITS PSYCHOLOGY (1)

Ray Friedman and his colleagues at Vanderbilt University administered a 20-item test to African American and European American students. The results provided undeniable evidence that lower African American IQ scores are not genetic.

Before the election of Barack Obama, African American students performed worse than European American students. During the election, African American students performed just as well as their European American counterparts. Apparently, President Obama is providing a role model, inspiring better academic performance in African American students.

What do IQ Tests Predict?

Further, although IQ predicts school performance, it does not predict later career success. In this regard, “street smarts,” or what symbologist Robert Sternberg calls practical intelligence, are often seen by minority cultures as more important than “book learning,” or what Sternberg calls analytical intelligence.

What Scientists Say About IQ and Race.

Most psychologists have concluded that there is no scientific proof that genes cause differences in average IQs between groups. In other words, decades of research show no connection between race and IQ exists.

The most significant scientific studies that used real blood group testing to find a link between ethnic background and IQ scores didn’t find one. This is because, from a genetic point of view, it doesn’t even make sense to talk about “races.”

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Things like skin color have little to do with underlying genetic differences. Group differences and IQ scores are caused by both genes and cultural and environmental differences. If you think otherwise, it’s because of your political beliefs and biases, not because of science.

The Pros and Cons of Intelligence Testing

Race and IQ: The Facts Behind the Myth - ITS PSYCHOLOGY (2)

The race and IQ controversy has generated much discussion. Some have pointed out that IQ testing places children into stereotyped categories, thereby limiting their freedom to choose fields of study. Others say Intelligence testing is the primary cause that prevents classes from becoming more flexible.

Others have expressed concern that intelligence tests are culturally biased. In addition, others have argued that IQ tests are misused as measures of abilities that individuals are born with. It has also been argued that Intelligence tests assess individual differences and provide a useful reflection of cultural and biological differences among individuals.

These existing positions in regard to the IQ controversy reflect polarized views and show the importance of the debate.

Concerns about accuracy

Intelligence is a well-studied topic in psychology. Yet intelligence tests to describe individuals and groups has been a topic debated in public academic, legislative, and judicial settings. Test bias and fairness are the primary concerns. Arguments in this area are about whether or not intelligence tests measure the same thing in the same way.

Questions exist about levels of consistency and accuracy for people of different cultures, races, and genders. For example, in one culture, a quick mind might signify intelligence. While careful reflection might be a sign of intelligence in another.

IQ Tests provide limited benefits in education.

There are many questions on how well testing helps with treatment (called “treatment utility”). Concerns also exist about what role intelligence tests play in diagnosing certain disorders (e.g., learning disabilities).

Some say that intelligence tests don’t give you enough information to determine the connection between race and IQ. They don’t help teachers make good teaching plans or determine why a student needs help learning. For example, in the past, a person had a learning disability if there was a big difference between how smart they were and how well they did in school. Now, we pay more attention to how well a person responds to specific changes in how we teach them.

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The controversy and ongoing debate show how hard it is to measure intent and the many different aspects of intelligence in people. Modern intelligence tests and assessment methods are more sophisticated than they used to be. This lets us better measure the cognitive factors and processes that cause a wide range of differences between people.

Recent improvements in test-making procedures

Recent advances in psychometrics and statistical technology have led to better test-making methods. This also provides a higher level of psychometric integrity in cognitive measures. Intelligence tests are one of the best ways for psychologists to determine how different people are.

Studies show that psychological tests are at least as good as medical tests regarding the information they give to help with clinical tasks. These tasks include diagnosing emotional, behavioral, and cognitive disorders. They also assist in figuring out what treatment is needed and predicting how someone will do in the future (Meyer et al., 2001).

Additionally, research is advancing in areas of psychology like neuropsychology and pediatric psychology. Also, findings from neuroimaging and cross-cultural studies have provided a strong case for the importance of intelligence in describing and understanding differences between people.

However, it is also critical to recognize that several additional intellectual capacities and competencies still need to be measured by current intelligence tests. Two examples are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition, and Colin Elliot’s Differential Ability Scales, Second Edition. Neither of these measures the emotional intelligence of Mayer and Salovey, the practical intelligence of Robert Sternberg, or the kinesthetic intelligence of Howard Gardner.

Court cases involving IQ testing.

In the often-mentioned Larry P vs. Riles and PASE vs. Hannon cases, there were questions about using intelligence tests as the only way to put minority children in special education classes for the mentally disabled. These cases show how this debate has been challenged in court.

The Larry P case and the PASE case were similar in many areas. However, using standard intelligence tests and school placement decisions for minority children was stopped in the Larry P case and supported in the PASE case.


We reviewed past research that examines the data to determine if hereditary factors largely or entirely cause the IQ gap between Blacks and Whites. Two main categories of evidence speak to the heredity of the IQ gap between Blacks and Whites. The first group consists of research that explicitly measures heredity and links African Americans’ IQ scores to the proportion of “European” genes in their genomes.

(Video) The Truth About Race and IQ

Studies examining the effects of the familial situations in which Black children are reared provide the second sort of evidence. Despite claims made by certain academics, the most pertinent research offers no proof that one race is genetically better than the other. Still, they do offer compelling evidence that the environment significantly influences the IQ disparity between Blacks and Whites. Rigorous treatments impact IQ and cognitive abilities at every stage of life, which is almost as essential.


Hensein & Murray, 1994;

Rushton, J. P., & Jensen, A. R. (2005). Thirty years of research on race differences in cognitive ability.Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(2), 235–294;

Leon Kamin, 1981;The Intelligence Controversy, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1981. 192 p.

Sternberg, R. J., Grigorenko, E. L., & Kidd, K. K. (2005). Intelligence, race, and genetics.American Psychologist, 60(1), 46–59

Suzuki & Aronson, 2005; Suzuki, L., & Aronson, J. (2005). The cultural malleability of intelligence and its impact on the racial/ethnic hierarchy.

Nisbett, 2005; Nisbett, R. E., & Miyamoto, Y. (2005). The influence of culture: holistic versus analytic perception.Trends in cognitive sciences,9(10), 467-473.

Mccelland, 1994, Journal of European Industrial Training

(Video) Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo

Stemler & Sternberg, (2006).Situational Judgment Tests: Theory, Measurement, and Application

Sankofa, B. M., Hurley, E. A., Allen, B. A., & Boykin, A. W. (2005). Cultural expression and Black students’ attitudes toward high achievers.The Journal of Psychology,139(3), 247-260.

Bonham, V. L., Warshauer-Baker, E., & Collins, F. S. (2005). Race and ethnicity in the genome era: The complexity of the constructs.American Psychologist, 60(1), 9–15.


1. Controversy of Intelligence: Crash Course Psychology #23
2. The Consequences of the Race & IQ Discourse with Charles Murray
(Coleman Hughes)
3. Race, Evolution and Behaviour (1/2)
(Knowland Knows)
4. Racial Differences in IQ (Intro Psych Tutorial #123)
5. Race and IQ - Vol ii
(We're In Hell)
6. The dark history of IQ tests - Stefan C. Dombrowski
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