Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
What Intelligence Tests Miss

What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    What Intelligence Tests Miss
    Book Description:

    Critics of intelligence tests-writers such as Robert Sternberg, Howard Gardner, and Daniel Goleman-have argued in recent years that these tests neglect important qualities such as emotion, empathy, and interpersonal skills. However, such critiques imply that though intelligence tests may miss certain key noncognitive areas, they encompass most of what is important in the cognitive domain. In this book, Keith E. Stanovich challenges this widely held assumption.

    Stanovich shows that IQ tests (or their proxies, such as the SAT) are radically incomplete as measures of cognitive functioning. They fail to assess traits that most people associate with "good thinking," skills such as judgment and decision making. Such cognitive skills are crucial to real-world behavior, affecting the way we plan, evaluate critical evidence, judge risks and probabilities, and make effective decisions. IQ tests fail to assess these skills of rational thought, even though they are measurable cognitive processes. Rational thought is just as important as intelligence, Stanovich argues, and it should be valued as highly as the abilities currently measured on intelligence tests.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14253-2
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. ONE Inside George W. Bush’s Mind: Hints at What IQ Tests Miss
    (pp. 1-7)

    For years, there have been debates about George W. Bush’s intelligence. His many opponents never seem to tire of pointing out his mental shortcomings. The president’s strangled syntax, goofy phrasing (“Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.”—Sept. 6, 2004), and lack of familiarity with many issues have been used as evidence by his opponents to argue that this is a man of truly inferior intelligence. Even Bush’s supporters often implicitly concede the point by arguing that although he lacks “school smarts”...

  6. TWO Dysrationalia: Separating Rationality and Intelligence
    (pp. 8-19)

    John Allen Paulos is a smart man. He is a professor of mathematics at Temple University and the author of several popular books, including the best-sellingInnumeracy.On any existing intelligence test, Professor Paulos would score extremely high. Nevertheless, Paulos did a very stupid thing—in fact, a whole sequence of stupid things. The sequence began with a single action that, itself, may or may not have been stupid: Professor Paulos bought the stock of WorldCom at $47 per share in early 2000.

    Whether or not that act was wise, the act of buying even more of the stock when...

  7. THREE The Reflective Mind, the Algorithmic Mind, and the Autonomous Mind
    (pp. 20-44)

    As a concept in our cultural discourse, intelligence will not be disappearing anytime soon. Nor should it. At the same time, many of the long-standing debates surrounding intelligence will, in fact, gradually disappear. This is already happening. Over a decade ago Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray published their book titledThe Bell Curve,and it caused a sensation. That will not happen again. No book on intelligence will cause such a sensation again because, although the public is as yet unaware of it, the seemingly interminable IQ debate is over. All of the major questions about intelligence have been...

  8. FOUR Cutting Intelligence Down to Size
    (pp. 45-58)

    I totally agree with the epigraph from Robert Sternberg that leads this chapter. We are missing something important by treating intelligence as if it encompassed all cognitive abilities. I coined the termdysrationaliaover a decade ago in order to draw attention to a large domain of cognitive life (rational thinking) that intelligence tests fail to assess. The idea that IQ tests do not measure all of the important human faculties is not new. This is precisely what broad theorists of intelligence¹ have been emphasizing all these years, so in one sense I align myself with the critics who wish...

  9. FIVE Why Intelligent People Doing Foolish Things Is No Surprise
    (pp. 59-69)

    You do not need to look far for examples of dysrationalia. In the domain of personal finance, the cases of John Paulos and David Denby discussed in Chapter 2 are not atypical. We now know why intelligent people like Paulos and Denby tend to lose a lot in the market during bad times, and why even during good markets many intelligent people do not make much money. Consider for a moment a very volatile period of the stock market, from the beginning of 1998 to the end of 2001. During that period, the Firsthand Technology Value mutual fund did very...

  10. SIX The Cognitive Miser: Ways to Avoid Thinking
    (pp. 70-85)

    Consider the following problem, taken from the work of Hector Levesque and studied by my research group. Try to answer before reading on: Jack is looking at Anne but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

    A) Yes B) No C) Cannot be determined

    Answer A, B, or C before you look ahead.

    Over 80 percent of the people who respond to this problem answer incorrectly. The vast majority of people answer C (cannot be determined) when in fact the correct answer is A (yes). The...

  11. SEVEN Framing and the Cognitive Miser
    (pp. 86-100)

    Edward McCaffery, a professor of law and economics, and Jonathan Baron, a cognitive psychologist, have collaborated on extensive studies of people’s attitudes toward aspects of the tax system.¹ They have found, to put it bluntly, that people’s thinking about taxes is incoherent. I am going to focus on one particular type of incoherence that they have studied, because it illustrates a critical pitfall of the cognitive miser.

    Focus for a moment on how you would set up an idealized tax system in a hypothetical country. Imagine that in this country a family with no children and an income of $35,000...

  12. EIGHT Myside Processing: Heads I Win—Tails I Win Too!
    (pp. 101-114)

    In a recent study my colleague Richard West and I presented one group of subjects with the following thought problem:

    According to a comprehensive study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, a particular German car is 8 times more likely than a typical family car to kill occupants of another car in a crash. The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering recommending a ban on the sale of this German car.

    Subjects then answered the following two questions on a scale indicating their level of agreement or disagreement: (1) Do you think that the United States should ban the sale...

  13. NINE A Different Pitfall of the Cognitive Miser: Thinking a Lot, but Losing
    (pp. 115-128)

    One evening, in July 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr. set off for Martha’s Vineyard in a small aircraft with his wife and sister-in-law and, just miles from his destination, piloted the aircraft into the ocean after he became disoriented in the dark and haze. Journalist Malcolm Gladwell describes Kennedy’s errors as an instance of override failure.¹ Kennedy could not trump Type 1 tendencies with Type 2 thinking. He could not trump normal thinking defaults with the rules he had learned about instrument flying. Specifically, he could not keep his wings level when he could not find lights marking the horizon,...

  14. TEN Mindware Gaps
    (pp. 129-151)

    In the past several chapters, I have sketched some of the characteristics of the cognitive miser. But being a cognitive miser is not the only cause of poor thinking. People also fail to reach their goals because of mindware problems. Mindware is a generic label for the rules, knowledge, procedures, and strategies that a person can retrieve from memory in order to aid decision making and problem solving. Good thinking may be impossible because people have failed to acquire important mindware—they might lack the rules, strategies, and knowledge that support rational thinking. A second mindware problem arises because some...

  15. ELEVEN Contaminated Mindware
    (pp. 152-171)

    The country of Albania was a communist dictatorship for many decades. It was also one of the poorest countries in Europe, but by 1991–1992 it had started to turn itself around, granting more personal and economic freedoms. Economic strides were made from 1992 to 1997. The International Monetary Fund lauded the country’s progress during this period as markets opened, GDP increased, inflation eased, the budget moved closer to balancing, and foreign investment went up. This economic and social improvement came to an end in early 1997 when the economy collapsed, lawlessness broke out, army depots were plundered by irregular...

  16. TWELVE How Many Ways Can Thinking Go Wrong? A Taxonomy of Irrational Thinking Tendencies and Their Relation to Intelligence
    (pp. 172-194)

    For decades now, researchers have been searching for the small set of mental attributes that underlie intelligence. Over one hundred years ago, Charles Spearman proposed that a single underlying mental quality, so-called psychometricg,was the factor that accounted for the tendency of mental tests to correlate with each other.¹ Few now think that this is the best model of intelligence. Proponents of the Cattell/Horn/Carroll theory of intelligence, Gf/Gc theory, posit that tests of mental ability tap a small number of broad factors, of which two are dominant. Some theorists like to emphasize the two broad factors, fluid intelligence (Gf)...

  17. THIRTEEN The Social Benefits of Increasing Human Rationality—and Meliorating Irrationality
    (pp. 195-212)

    The tendency for our society to focus on intelligence and undervalue rational thinking is ironic and exasperating to a cognitive scientist like myself. Throughout this book, I have illustrated how several different rational thinking strategies and knowledge bases affect people’s lives. Yet we fail to teach these tools in schools and refuse to focus our attention on them as a society. Instead, we keep using intelligence proxies as selection devices in a range of educational institutions from exclusive preschools to graduate schools. Corporations and the military are likewise excessively focused on IQ measures.¹

    Consider the example of Ivy League universities...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 213-242)
    (pp. 243-302)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 303-308)