Saturday, December 04, 2010

Book Nook: Uses and Abuses of Intelligence: Studies Advancing Spearman and Raven's Quest for Non-Arbitrary Metrics

John and Jean Raven asked me to post the following update regarding their book. The following information is reproduced as received from the Raven's.

Uses and Abuses of Intelligence: Studies Advancing Spearman and Raven’s Quest for Non-Arbitrary Metrics. Edited by John and Jean Raven

Now Available from*
ISBN 978-0-9557195-0-9

The opening chapter summarises the theoretical basis of Raven’s Progressive Matrices tests and the measurement model that lies behind them. Despite their widespread us, neither their foundation on the work of Charles Spearman nor their grounding in what has become known as “Item Response Theory” is widely understood. Both are extremely interesting and important issues and the chapter will therefore be of interest to a wide audience.

Part II: Practical Measurement Issues: Lessons from 75 Years’ Work with Item Response Theory discusses fundamental measurement issues in psychology. Particular attention is paid to the problems involved in the differential measurement of change, e,g, when trying to assess the relative effects of alternative treatments. These are particularly serious when attempts are made to measure change using tests which do not yield interval scales. The discussion in the book is easily understood and very illuminating. As one of the psychometricians involved in these studies commented “At last I have understood what I have been doing all my life … and my students will too!”.

Part III deals with the stability and change in Progressive Matrices scores over time and culture. Although the intergenerational increases are now well known, their significance from the point of re-interpreting the results of many studies which had previously been thought to show a decline in abilities with increasing age has been less widely appreciated. Other findings reported in this Section – such as the trifling effect of such things as access to television and education on Progressive Matrices scores – are still often surprising.

Part IV amounts to a clarion call for psychologists to find ways of thinking about, and assessing, a much wider range of human abilities together with aspects of the environment which determine behaviour. It would seem that, compared with other unidentified and unmeasured factors, “intelligence” makes a rather small contribution to the variance in life performance. On the other hand, notions of “intelligence” or “ability” play a major role in the legitimisation and cementation of hierarchy and thus to the network of factors advancing our plunge toward extinction as a species.

Part V continues this discussion of abuses of the concept of “intelligence”, particularly via an outstanding chapter on “bias” in mental testing contributed by Jim Flynn.

*In the US the book is still only available (direct or via booksellers) from Royal Fireworks Press. ISBN 978-0-89824-356-7.

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