The Concept and Utility of Intelligence

  • Earl Hunt


Debates over intelligence have recurred through history. The idea that some of us are simply smarter than others touches a raw nerve in a society that tries to combine an Athenian commitment to democracy with a capitalist commitment to reward according to product. What happens when we are confronted with evidence that socially important talents are not distributed equally over society, and even more frighteningly, that there are powerful biological forces working to continue the differential distribution of ability across generations? This argument was made in 1869 by Francis Galton in his work Hereditary Genius,1 and again more than one-hundred years later by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve 2 The intervening years have witnessed a great deal of point and counterpoint on the issue, battles fought with more than the normal academic bickering because they expose the conflict between our ideal of a democratic society of equals and the practice of rewarding the best individual effort. We would be more comfortable if we could keep these beliefs as separate as we keep our feelings about baby lambs and lamb chops.


Intelligence Test General Intelligence Fluid Intelligence Educational Test Service Referent Population 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

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  • Earl Hunt

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