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Précis of Bias in Mental Testing

  • Arthur R. Jensen (a1)

Most standard tests of intelligence and scholastic aptitude measure a general factor of cognitive ability that is common to all such tests – as well as to all complex tasks involving abstraction, reasoning, and problem-solving.

The central question addressed by this inquiry is whether such tests are culturally biased in their discrimination between majority and minority groups in the United States with respect to the traditional uses of such tests in schools, college admissions, and personnel selection in industry and the armed forces.

The fact that such tests discriminate statistically between various subpopulations does not itself indicate test bias. Acceptable criteria of bias are based on (1) the test's validity for predicting the performance (in school, on the job, and so on) of individuals from majority and minority groups, and (2) the internal consistency of the test with respect to relative item difficulty, factorial composition, and internal consistency/reliability.

A review of empirical studies relevant to these two criteria reveals that the preponderance of evidence contradicts the popular belief that the standard tests most widely used at present are culturally biased against minorities. The tests have the same predictive validity for the practical uses of tests in all American-born, English-speaking racial and social groups in the United States.

Factors in the test situation, such as the subject's “test-wiseness” and the race of the tester, are found to be negligible sources of racial group differences.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
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