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Measuring Intelligence Compare and Contrast Essay


“Goddard and the Kallikak family” and “The Cyril Burt Affair” are two articles that dwell on intelligence research. The report will compare the validity of their research with current knowledge on the subject matter in order to determine whether their work is plausible.


“Goddard and the Kallikak family” focuses on psychologist Henry Goddard’s research on intelligence in the 1900s. Goddard studied feeblemindedness, which was a condition that made an individual appear normal even though they possessed low intelligence. Such people had learning difficulties and were manipulated easily. Goddard thought that the condition was inheritable, and sought to prove it by studying the Kallikak family.

The psychologist affirmed that Martin Kallikak’s marriage to a feeble minded woman called Deborah resulted in a line of feebleminded descendants, but the same was not true for his Quaker wife. Deborah’s side was susceptible to instances of prostitution and crime because people manipulated her descendants easily.

Kallikak recommended that such people ought to be segregated from society since they would multiply and cause social problems. He even tested incoming immigrants like the Russians and Jews, and found that they tested poorly in his intelligence tests for feeble-mindedness. More than 75% of them were feebleminded.

His results led to their deportation. However, years later, the psychologist reneged on his recommendations after realizing that there were problems with his intelligence tests. He also realized that feeble minded people can learn and improve (Esping and Jonathan par. 12).

The second article (“The Cyril Burt Affair”) dwells on Cyril Burt’s work in intelligence testing. Burt was a proponent of genetic intelligence. He believed that people inherited intelligence, and sought to prove it by studying monozygotic twins who grew up in different households. The scientist did a series of tests on 15 twins, then 21 and eventually 53 pairs of twins.

He found questionable correlation coefficients in the studies because they did not change as the sets of twins increased (Plucker par. 4). Later, scholars questioned Burt’s findings by stating that there was no proof for the existence of his research assistants. Scholars concluded that he might have fabricated the results to support his theory on intelligence, which is, intelligence is inherited.

Sigelman and Rider (276) explain that intelligence tests are highly complex, and scholars have misused them in many instances. In analysing Burt’s work, one can question the way he applied it to immigrants and the feebleminded, as their demographic traits biased the tests. One can also question whether he considered all facets of his subjects’ intelligence.

When Goddard carried out his investigations, he did not acknowledge the importance of multiple intelligences as described by Sigelman and Rider (279).

These authors explain that a person may have linguistic intelligences (language capabilities), mathematical (numerical abilities), musical (skills in understanding musical patterns), spatial (visual information processing skills) interpersonal (social aptitude), bodily-kinesthetic (physical movement and form), intrapersonal (knowledge of self) or naturalistic intelligence (knowledge of the natural world).

Since traditional intelligence tests focus mostly on mathematical, linguistic and spatial tests, they cannot be relied on to make sweeping statements about a person’s intelligence. A person’s intelligence could lie in the other areas, and they could function successfully in life with these other intelligences.

When psychologist Goddard carried out his research on Deborah, who was the source of feeble-mindedness in his class, he only focused on standard forms of intelligence – mathematical, linguistic and spatial. He did not consider the fact that Deborah had a high level of interpersonal intelligence.

In fact, some school visitors often mistook her for a member of staff. Additionally, she might have had a high level of bodily – kinesthetic intelligence as demonstrated by her woodwork and seaming capabilities.

Sigelman and Rider (280) also introduce another crucial aspect into the intelligence testing debate. They affirm that one’s culture defines intelligence. Items that are intelligible in one culture may be illogical in another. Consequently, one may question Burt’s work with the monozygotic twins on this basis.

He used sets of twins who were from different parts of the country and these areas may have had different definitions of intelligence. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to compare intelligence scores for persons from different cultural context. The same thing can be said about Goddard’s work.

He tested newly arrived immigrants from Russia and Italy, and found that they scored poorly. People in the US were more likely to be exposed to the test items in Goddard’s tests than the immigrants who had just entered the country. Cultural bias is a strong basis for rejecting Goddard’s work.

People misused Goddard’s intelligence tests in order to deport immigrants and support the passing of some state laws to forcefully sterilize feeble-minded citizens. Goddard later accepted that feeblemindedness was not a permanent trait when he observed changes in people’s intelligence after education.

Modern psychologists now know that intelligence is dynamic and can be improved. If a child gets the support he requires for improvement, then chances are that those undesirable traits will disappear.

In Burt’s research concerning the monozygotic twins, his strong correlation coefficients indicate that genetics is the primary source of intelligence. They do not take into account the effect of one’s environment. Sigelman and Rider (285) explain that intelligence in children can either decrease or increase depending on the environment, so one may question Burt’s work on this basis.


If Burt and Goddard incorporated all the complexities in intelligence testing, which modern psychologists know, then their work would have been indisputable. Nonetheless, modern day psychologists still consider Burt’s contribution in IQ testing through acknowledgement of the heritability of intelligence.

They, however, acknowledge that other factors come into play, such as age and environment. Goddard’s work on IQ testing has been improved on to include multiple intelligences.

Works Cited

Esping, Amber and Jonathan Plucker. Goddard and the Kallikak Family. 2002. Web.

Plucker, Jonathan. The Cyril Burt Affair. 2012. Web. ‹

Sigelman, Carol & Elizabeth Rider. Lifespan Human Development. Chicago: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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