Arthur Jensen (1923-2012)

Arthur Jensen, who suggested in a now infamous 1969 article in the Harvard Educational Review that genetic differences between races were the root cause of differences in intelligence test scores between black and white students, has died. As reported in the New York Times,

In the article, Professor Jensen posited two types of learning ability. Level I, associative ability, entailed the rote retention of facts. Level II, conceptual ability, involved abstract thinking and problem-solving. This type, he argued, was roughly equivalent to general intelligence, denoted in psychology by the letter “g.”

In administering I.Q. tests to diverse groups of students, Professor Jensen found Level I ability to be fairly consistent across races. When he examined Level II ability, by contrast, he found it more prevalent among whites than blacks, and still more prevalent among Asians than whites.

Drawing on these findings, Professor Jensen argued that general intelligence is largely genetically determined, with cultural forces shaping it only to a small extent. For this reason, he wrote in 1969, compensatory education programs like Head Start are doomed to fail.

Unsurprisingly, this suggestion of a link between race and intelligence ignited intense controversy.

Jensen’s death comes on the heels of the death of Philippe Rushton, also known for his controversial views on the relationship between race and intelligence.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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