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J Intell. 2019 Feb 20;7(1). pii: E6. doi: 10.3390/jintelligence7010006.

Stephen Jay Gould's Analysis of the Army Beta Test in The Mismeasure of Man: Distortions and Misconceptions Regarding a Pioneering Mental Test.

Author information

1
Department of Behavioral Science, Utah Valley University, Orem, UT 84058, USA. rwarne@uvu.edu.
2
Department of Behavioral Science, Utah Valley University, Orem, UT 84058, USA. jburton@uvu.edu.
3
Department of Behavioral Science, Utah Valley University, Orem, UT 84058, USA. aisagibbons@gmail.com.
4
Department of Counseling Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80210, USA. daniel.melendez@du.edu.

Abstract

In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould argued that the preconceived beliefs and biases of scientists influence their methods and conclusions. To show the potential consequences of this, Gould used examples from the early days of psychometrics and allied fields, arguing that inappropriate assumptions and an elitist desire to rank individuals and/or groups produced incorrect results. In this article, we investigate a section of The Mismeasure of Man in which Gould evaluated the Army Beta intelligence test for illiterate American draftees in World War I. We evaluated Gould's arguments that the Army Beta (a) had inappropriate content, (b) had unsuitable administration conditions, (c) suffered from short time limits, and (d) could not have measured intelligence. By consulting the historical record and conducting a pre-registered replication of Gould's administration of the test to a sample of college students, we show that Gould mischaracterized the Army Beta in a number of ways. Instead, the Army Beta was a well-designed test by the standards of the time, and all evidence indicates that it measured intelligence a century ago and can, to some extent, do so today.

KEYWORDS:

Army Beta; Stephen Jay Gould; The Mismeasure of Man; history of psychology; intelligence; intelligence testing

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