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Sex differences and IQ

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2008

N. J. Mackintosh
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge


Of all the controversial issues surrounding IQ tests, few have generated more heat and less light than the question whether different groups in our society differ in average IQ. Those who study, and find evidence of, such differences believe that they are addressing a legitimate scientific issue and one whose implications, however unpalatable they may be, society ignores at its peril. Their critics insist that the question has no intrinsic scientific interest whatsoever, and conclude that those who study it are either naive, deceiving themselves or only too happy to find justification for their own comfortable position within an unjust and unequal society. In the case of sex differences in IQ scores, at least, one could argue that both sides have got it largely wrong. With one exception, there is relatively little social or political implication in such differences as there are. More importantly, however, arguments will be presented against the critics' view that such research is of no intrinsic scientific interest. On the contrary, it has already helped to answer some important scientific questions about the nature of IQ, and has the potential to answer more. Unfortunately, those who engage in such research have usually failed to see this.

Session 4: Social and Group Differences
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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