Tuesday, September 02, 2003


The Washington Post today ran a front page article by Rick Weiss based on a paper published in the November issue of the journal Psychological Science. The lead researcher on the article was Eric Turkheimer, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.

The reported research challenges the old idea that environment has little effect on measured intelligence, and that heredity is very important for IQ. This research, done in a sample of several hundred twins in the United States suggests that among the poor, environment is predictive.

The analysis suggests that previous studies were done primarily in middle class families, and that makes all the difference. The suggestion is that above a certain level of family welfare, all children develop to their intellectual potential, but children below that level are often limited by their poverty from reaching their potential. Seems reasonable enough to me.

It was further suggested that studies in England do not show the same effect, perhaps because the English “social safety net” is better than that in the United States.

One assumes that the poverty of the people studied in the U.S. would be considered affluence by the billion people trying to live on a dollar a day. The kids in such poverty would seem far less likely to achieve their full intellectual potential than even the poor in the United States.

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