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The G Factor - The Book and the Controversy

by Prof. Edward Miller

from The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, (Summer 1996)

In late March a book by Christopher Brand titled The G Factor: General Intelligence and its implications. appeared in UK bookstores. It was published by Wiley UK. On April 17, the New York office announced in an unprecedented action "After careful consideration of the statements made recently by author Christopher Brand (as reported in the British press), as well as some of the views presented in his work.. , we have decided to withdraw the book from publication. (Wiley) does not want to support these views by disseminating them or be associated with a book that makes assertions that we find repellant." (Holden, 1996). It is very unusual for a publisher to break a contract with an author and announce that the reason for the this action is to prevent the dissemination of certain views. The question naturally arises as to what are the views whose dissemination they wish to prevent, and what is the evidence for these views? While Wiley has not been specific as to just what views that were trying to prevent the dissemination of, one presumes they have to do with racial differences in intelligence and the implications for economics and educational policy. Wiley announced (McMillen 1996) that they acted because of "deep ethical beliefs", but what these were was not revealed. One suspects they were that racial differences and eugenics should not be discussed, but that is merely a guess.

Fortunately, the author of this review article had seen the Wiley prepublication publicity planned for the jacket and decided to review the book. He had obtained a copy, and started this review when the book was withdrawn. The fact that this book was withdrawn in an announced attempt to prevent the dissemination of certain ideas will modify somewhat the nature of this review. It will be longer than the usual review so that the reader will have the opportunity to know what Brand had to say. Also references will be provided so that the reader will be able to find the sources for what Brand claimed.

Incidentally, this will serve to make clear that the views that Wiley was trying to avoid disseminating were based on well established science. Brands book is not primarily about racial differences or eugenics (the major policy recommendations relate to educational policy). But since much of the controversy has dealt with these issues, and it appears that Wiley's goal was to prevent dissemination of Brand's views of these issues, a disproportionate part of this review will be devoted to these topics. This will serve both to inform the reader of Brand's views on these issues, and to frustrate Wiley's attempt to prevent dissemination of certain ideas.

There are several interesting features of Wiley's actions. In many countries there has been concern about domination of the economy by companies headquartered abroad. This concern has been especially strong with regard to national culture, and the industries that directly affect it including publishing, motion pictures, broadcasting, etc. Usually a multinational firm tries to leave the impression that key decisions affecting the culture or economy are made in the country affected.

Wiley's decision is unusual in that it was announced in New York and made in the name of the chief executive, Mr. Ellis, even though the major effect was to cause the withdrawal of a book from British bookstores and to hurt a Scottish author. The very short period of time between the start of publicity in Britain and the decision of Wiley's New York executives to withdraw the book make it very unlikely that anyone in New York had read the book in detail. An interesting aspect of the Brand case, is that the Scottish Nationalist party, which is understood to believe that Scotland should not be ruled in all details from London, might have been expected to take the lead in preventing Scotland from being ruled from America. However, their Leader, Mr Alex Salmond denounced Edinburgh and supported the decision of Wiley headquarters in New York to break their contract with Brand, and to remove his book from Scotland's booksellers That he made this decision shows the power of the taboo against discussing racial differences in intelligence. The author's royalties from books on intelligence will go not to Scotland, but to those Americans, such as Herrenstein and Murray, Jensen, Seligman, Rushton, Itzkoff (etc.) whose books say much the same as Brands, except with more emphasis on race. Nor will a UK publisher get the revenue, or UK workers get the printing jobs. That even a Scottish nationalist would support a NY decision to withdraw a book by a Scottish author from Scotlandís bookstores shows the strength of the taboo against discussing certain topics. As is well known, there is an organized effort in the US and elsewhere to suppress any discussion of racial differences in intelligence (Pearson, 1991).

In response to the furor caused by Brand, there were student protests on his campus, apparently left wing students who were opposed to the discussion of racial differences. They claimed that they were made uncomfortable by lectures in which racial and sexual differences were discussed. These complaints led to the announcement of an investigation of Mr. Brands teaching by his University. One suspects this was a result of political correctness since Brand had been lecturing at Edinburgh since 1970, apparently without significant complaints. Thus the investigation on its face appears an effort to penalize him for expressing controversial views. The withdrawal of the book by Wiley meant that debate about Brand's view had to proceed with many having actual access to the book in which his view were expressed. It is partially to remedy this problem that this summary of the book is provided.

What is really in this Controversial Book? Actually, The g Factor: General Intelligence and its implications provides a good readable discussion of what is known about intelligence that differs in most aspects little from what other authors have said (Herrenstein and Murray,1994, Jensen, 1980, 1981, Seligman, 1992, Rushton, 1995, Itzkoff ,1994, etc). The title of The g Factor arises from the psychometricians' use of the letter g to stand for the general factor which can be extracted from performance on a battery of mental performance chapters. The book is relatively short consisting of only four chapters and a postscript.

The first chapter is devoted to discussing what is intelligence, and what do psychometricians mean by g. After a brief history of concepts of intelligence and of mental testing, the remarkable fact is presented that performance on most mental tests are correlated. Someone who does well on one test tends to do well on other tests. While this is sometimes described as an unsurprising finding, it is pointed out that the normal expectation is that skills are learned, and time spent on one activity comes at the expense of time spent on other activities. Thus, it is indeed surprizing that there is a positive correlation between different skills. It is pointed out how many of the psychologists working on mental abilities have desired to make their mark by identifying a new mental ability that was uncorrelated with the already known. abilities. So far such attempts have failed. For instance, the Piagetian abilities that children master in the course of development were shown to be abilities well correlated with intelligence.

There is a good discussion of how such a variety of abilities, all of which are correlated, implies the existence of a common factor, g, which is useful for predicting school and job performance. The book deals nicely with the complaint that tests measure only "academic intelligence" pointing out that they provide the only way of predicting success in most occupations, with even noted critics admitting that lawyers, engineers, and chemists virtually never have IQs below 100. Even the military, an organization that is not usually considered to value academic aptitude, still finds tests useful. In one of many great lines in the book (p. 32), "By definition, it cannot be 'narrow academic skills' that boost efficiency ratings and remuneration across a wide range of jobs types: grasping capitalist employers and crime-busting police chiefs will surely not be taken in for long by mere scholasticism." The theory that g is merely measuring the social class of the parents is refuted by pointing out that parental social class has only a modest correlation with the education attainments of the children by their early twenties. (p.35). White (1982) reviewed 100 studies in the US and estimated the correlation at about .22. As Brand puts it "Evidently parental socioeconomic status (SES) today scarcely correlates with, so simply cannot be influencing, such a crucial variable as educational attainment in young adults." This chapter has a useful discussion of the lower performance of certain groups (notably blacks) on tests, drawing the useful distinction between the claim that the tests are a valid measure of ability but that some environmental disadvantage of the group (such as racial prejudice) has actually harmed the group, and the claim that the tests are actually biased against members of the group. Evidence is presented that measures of intelligence predict school performance equally well in both groups. (Scarr-Salapetek, 1971, 1972). Likewise, for adults IQ tests correlated just as well with job performance in all racial groups. "Actually, the tests slightly over-predict scholastic and workplace performance by blacks and are to that extent unfair to whites and Asians in competition for the same positions." (p. 37). The author of this review has provided in this journal a simple graphical exposition of why this is (Miller, 1994).

The possibility that minority children lack motivation for test taking is disproved by the fact that "black children do perfectly well at laboratory tests that are not correlated with g-such as drawing a straight line, threading beads, and recalling past events."(p. 37). It is pointed out that when particular items are identified by sociologists and educationists as appearing 'culturally unfair' to minorities, black children actually do a little better on these tests (often requiring memory and learning) than on items selected on the basis of being unbiased (and often requiring g).(p. 38). It is pointed out that at every age and every level of family income, that black children are no worse at the Weschler vocabulary than they are at block design (Roberts 1971, but yet vocabulary is probably more culturally influenced than the ability to copy block designs.

The second chapter of this short book deals with the bases for IQ differences, and in particular, the extent to which they are genetic. There is a nice simple discussion of factor analysis (with a numerical example for the centroid method). There is then a fascinating discussion of the biological correlates of intelligence. While there is a brief mention of Jensen's decision time work, the emphasis is on the inspection time work which Brand himself pioneered (Brand & Deary, 1982). In inspection time experiments the subject is shown (often with a tachiscope) for a fraction of a second two markedly different lines (2.5 inches versus three inches) and asked to say which is longer.

The minimum time the subject must see the lines to determine which is longer is determined. This task is simple, and has no obvious relationship to intelligence. However, it does correlate with intelligence (as Brand discovered), and the author argues (p. 73) that overall "results are compatible with an estimate that the true IT/IQ r in the full population (including representative proportions of the young, the elderly and the retarded) would be .-75." The minus sign here indicates that that the time required to tell which line is shorter is less for the more intelligent.

Somehow it appears that the brains of the more intelligent function differently than the brains of the less intelligent, even on simple tasks where there is no learning involved. This is of course consistent with there being a genetic basis for many differences in intelligence. The third chapter deals with issues of nature and nurture. There is now very little dispute among the experts that a substantial fraction of intelligence differences between people is for genetic reasons. Perhaps the most striking evidence comes from studies of identical twins raised apart. Their IQ's correlated .78. The other twin studies are reviewed, with mention of the study that involved the largest number of monozygotic twins (Lynn & Hattori, 1990) where the correlation for 543 pairs of monozygotic twins was .78 and for 161 pairs of dizygotic twins .49. Like other authors that have reviewed the evidence, Brand finds there is evidence for substantial heritability.

Brand does violate the taboo of drawing (even if weakly) the eugenic implications the role of genetics in intelligence. He contrasts the implications that might be drawn from a belief in "environmentalism" with those that might result from a belief that genes play a role. He points out that (p. 12) "If children of the future are to receive maximum intellectual and education levels and to be more employable, there would need to be fewer homes where parent and caretakers were un-stimulating, drug-addicted, neglectful, and themselves of low IQ-even assuming large environmental origins of g". He states, drawing on the Reed and Reed (1965) collected data on 80,000 descendants of the grandparents of 289 state colony patients having IQ's <70 (and without epilepsy), that the overall rate of retardation would have been reduced by 50% if handicapped people themselves had not had children, even though only 88 of the 289 patients were diagnosed has having retardation of definitely genetic origins. What is happening here is that those suffering from retardation of unknown origin are having children who are themselves retarded, which suggests a genetic cause for most such cases. He points out that (p. 120), "A eugenic policy focused on IQ must be attractive to any would-be improvement of human happiness-whether hereditarian or environmentalist." To those that fear that acknowledgement of genetic influence might lead to state efforts to limit reproduction of certain individuals, he points out (p. 121) that "Acceptance of others' rights is what protects everyone from state manipulation of any kind; and such acceptance follows perhaps a little more easily from a belief in biologically based individual agency than from an environmentalism that stresses the power of society to shape and even 'construct' the individual."

The final chapter of the book is titled "Intelligence in Society", and sets out the policy implications. Since this section appears to be what got the book withdrawn, it will be summarized here, even though doing so risks making the book appear more social in nature than it really is. The discussion opens with a discussion of Jensen's 1969 article on the failure of Head Start, and his controversial suggestion that the problem was with the lower genetic IQ of black children. Brand comments that (p. 131) "Most educational experts agreed with Jensen and Eysenck that black IQ levels were low (for whatever reason) and that this deficiency helped to explain poor education records and later tendencies to crime and promiscuity. To recognize this deficiency (if not to publicize it) had remained tolerable while the racial differences in IQ seemed changeable." He suggested that recognizing this became intolerable once the failure of early childhood intervention to correct the problem had become apparent, and been documented by Jensen.

Brand points out (p. 134) how three events have blocked off lines of dignified retreat for crusaders against the 'Jensenist heresy.' First evidence was produced that the tests were as fair and valid for black children as for anyone else (Jensen 1980). Secondly it had become apparent in America that low IQ's were not generally characteristic of racial and ethnic groups that had experienced discrimination, as shown by Jews and Orientals in America. In Britain, Brand reports that Pakistani immigrants suffer from prejudice and maintain a language, religion, and moral code that distance them from their British hosts yet, their children have always tested as being of normal intelligence once they have learned English, and they slightly outperform English children educationally by mid-adolescence (Brand 1987c). Brand points out that "almost the full Afro-American deficit, of some 15 IQ points, could be detected in children as young as three years, born to black mothers who were themselves college educated, married and had no pregnancy complication or health problem. (Monte & Fagan, 1988). Medically and socially matched, these young black children had a mean IQ of 91 and the white children tested at 104." As he points out, the matching for socioeconomic status and the use of college educated mothers eliminated most of the environmental theories for racial differences that are commonly proposed. At age three most children have not been in school, or been exposed to much of the world outside of their own family and community (i.e. any societal racial discrimination should not have affected them).

Brand describes the experiments with adoption of black children into the homes of white middle-class homes. This yielded (p. 135), "the usual 8 point IQ gain plus some narrowing of the gap between black and white adoptees at age 7; but by age 17, the black youngsters lagged the white by the usual 12-15 IQ points (Weinburg, Scarr & Waldman, 1992; Lynn, 1994)". He points out (p. 136) evidence against the theory that blacks suffer from being in a white society is provided by the failure of blacks to perform conspicuously better in any of the countries or North American cities run by blacks themselves--indeed, they usually performed much worse.

Having dealt with the controversial topic of black white differences (this rather mild discussion was apparently the reason that caused Wiley to withdraw the book), the discussion moves on to the practical importance of intelligence. It is pointed out that IQ at age five correlated strongly (r=.50) with educational achievements when they were 15 (Brand did not provide the reference for this in the book, but he privately supplied, Yule, Gold, & Busch, 1981). It is pointed out that many studies in which IQ is unimportant are ones where restriction of range is important. IQ has seldom correlated better than .30 with college grades, but this is because of the restriction of admission to the better students, and because students sort themselves by ability into course of different difficulties.

The mental tests that correlated best among themselves (i.e. indexing g) turned out to be the main predictors of occupational success and income (Hunter & Hunter, 1984: Schmidt, Ones & Hunter, 1992). A statement in the text that upward inter-generational mobility is strongly predicted only by IQ is expanded on in a footnote where he points out that difference scores are particularly unreliable (since they are affected by the unreliability from both of the variables that contribute to them). Waller's (1971) finding of a correlation of .29 between father-son IQ differences and father-son socioeconomic differences would imply a "true" correlation of around .50. As an illustration of the ability of IQ to explain outcomes better than socioeconomic status, several results from the Bell Cure (Herrenstein & Murray, 1994) relating to the probability of dropping out of high school, probability of white males being unemployed for a month, and probability of white out-of-wedlock mothers going on welfare) are graphed.

The discussion then moves to the implications for educational policy of individual differences in intelligence. Brand points out how many students are forced to study material in school they have already mastered. In Montreal, 45% of the children know 60% of the school curriculum (in French and math) before the years work begins (Gagne, 1986), while in a study of 160 gifted English school children, 60% were found to be doing classwork at a level more than four years below their actual attainments (Painter, 1976). He points out that the top 10% of 7 1/2 year-old-children are higher in g than the bottom 10% of 15 1/2-year-olds (Raven 1989). Brand thus pushes the apparently common sense idea that students should be grouped in accordance with ability.

Brand points out that although modern educational ideology talks about allowing children to progress at their own speed within mixed ability classes, that as a practical matter this cannot be done since the teacher cannot teach at two levels at the same time. The argument that smaller classes would permit better mixed ability teaching is countered by pointing out that classes of even six would still have virtually the full range of abilities, and that empirical studies regularly show that educational outcomes are unrelated to class size (Walsh, 1995).

He proposes that the problem of matching children's mental ages be solved by putting the brighter eight-year-olds with the nine-year-olds, and the slower eight-year-olds with the seven-year-olds. The usual objection to this is that grade advanced children would not have sufficient maturity, emotional age, or moral development to associate with older children. Brand has dug up an impressive list of studies (p. 162) that the mental age predicts these better than chronological age. On 11 out of 12 measures of social and emotional adjustment, gifted children in Grade 3 were found to be more advanced than average children in Grade 6 (Lehman & Erdwins, 1981). He claims that there is no sound evidence that grade advancement will yield either social or emotional maladjustment (Silverman, 1989, and Feldhusen, 1991).

Brand proposes that children and parents should be free to pick scholastic programs that suit their abilities. It is surprizing that a book with such a mild conclusion should have caused such a furor. How unconventional are the views expressed by Brand, and summarized above. Actually, they differ little from those of other specialists who study intelligence. A survey sent to 1020 experts (Snyderman and Rothman, 1988) showed that there were three times as many who thought the racial differences were both genetic and environmental, as thought it was solely environmental.

Amazing, there a few other fields where admitting that one believes what is the mainstream wisdom will get one so soundly condemned.


Brand, C.R. & Deary, I.J.(1982). 'Intelligence and inspection time.' In H. J. Eysenck, A Model for Intelligence. New York : Springer, pp.133-148.

Brand, C. R. (1987c) 'What can Britain's schools do to help Black children?' Personality & Individual Differences 8, 3, 453-5.

Feldhusen, J. F. (1991) 'Effects of programs for the gifted: a search for evidence.' in W. T. Southern & E. D. Jones, The Academic Acceleration of Gifted Children. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gagne, F. (1986) Douance, talent et acceleration du prescolaire a l'universite. Montreal: Centre Educatif et Culturel.

Herrenstein, R. & Murray, C. (1994) The Bell Curve. New York: The Free Press.

Holden, C. (1996). Wiley drops book after public furor. Science, 272, May 3, 644.

Hunter, J. E. & Hunter, R. F.(1984) 'Validity and utility of alternative predictors of job performance.' Psychological Bulletin 96, 1, 72-98.:

Itzkoff, S. W. (1994). The Decline of Intelligence in America. Westport: Praeger.

Jensen, A. R. (1980) Bias in Mental Testing. London: Methuen.

Jensen, A. R. (1981). Straight Talk About Mental Tests, New York: The Free Press.

Lehman, E. & Erdwins, C. (1981) 'Social and emotional adjustment of young intellectually gifted children.' Gifted Child Quarterly 25, 134-38.

Lynn, R. (1994) 'Some reinterpretations of the Minnesota transracial adoption study.' Intelligence 19, 1, 21-7.

Lynn, R. & Hattori, K. (1990) 'The heritability of intelligence in Japan.' Behavior Genetics 20, 4, 545-6.

Mackintosh, N. J. (1996). Science struck dumb. Nature, 381, 33)

Miller, E. M, (1994) "The Relevance of Group Membership for Personnel Selection: A Demonstration Using Bayes Theorem," Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies 19, 323-359.

Montie, J. E. & Fagan, J. F., III (1988) 'Racial differences in IQ: item analysis of the Stanford-Binet at 3 years.' Intelligence 12, 315-32.

Painter, F. (1976) Gifted Children: A Research Study. Hertfordshire, UK: Pullen Publication.

Pearson, R. (1991). Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe. Washington: Scott: Townsend.

Raven, J. (1989) 'The Raven Progressive Matrices: A review of national norming studies and ethnic and socio-economic variation within the U.S.' Journal of Educational Measurement 26, 1-16.

Reed, E. W. & Reed, S. C. (1965) Mental Retardation: A Family Study. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Rushton, J. P. (1995) Race, Evolution and Behavior: A Life History Perspective, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Rushton, J.P. & C.D. Ankney Scarr-Salapetek, S. (1971). "Race, social class, and IQ.' Science 174, 4016, 1285-1296.

Scarr-Salapetek, S. (1972). Some methodological questions'. Science 178, 235-40.

Schmidt, F. L., Ones, D. S. & Hunter, J. E. (1992) 'Personnel selection.' Annual Review of Psychology 43, 627-70.

Seligman, D. (1992). A Question of Intelligence. New York: Birch Lane Press.

Silverman, L. K. (1989) 'The highly gifted.' in J. F. Feldhusen, J. Van Tassel-Baska & K. Seeley, Excellence in Educating the Gifted, pp. 71-84. Denver: Love Publishing.

Snyderman, M. and Rothman, S. (1988). The IQ Controversy, the Media and Public Policy. New Brunswick, Transaction Books.

Waller, J. H. (1971) 'Achievement and social mobility: the relationship between IQ score, education and occupation in two generations.' Social Biology 18, 252-9.

Walsh, K. (1995) 'China succeeds with large class sizes.' Times Educational Supplement(Scotland), 1487, 17.

Weinberg, R. A., Scarr, S., & Waldman, I. D. (1992) 'The Minnesota transracial adoption study: a follow-up of IQ test performance at adolescence.' Intelligence 16, 117-35.

White (1982) 'The relation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement'. Psychological Bulletin 91, 3, 461-8.

Yule, W., Gold, R.D. & Busch, C. (1981) 'WISC-R correlates of academic attainment at sixteen-and-a-half years.' British Journal of Educational Psychology 51, 2, 237-240.

Edward M. Miller Department of Economics and Finance University of New Orleans 504-286-6913 (work) 504-286-6397 (fax)

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