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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another illustration of plasticity
Despite the reservations of the previous reviewer, this well-written book adds to a growing body of evidence that much of what we previously thought was down to 'talent' or 'giftedness' turns out to be down to a bit of innate skill or intelligence, but huge amounts of effort and practice.

He shows that cultural differences between groups with the same...
Published on 2 Mar 2012 by M. P. Bell

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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Political Correctness in action
I give this 2 stars. Good points:

Nisbett acknowledges the solid consensus among expert opinion: the existence of intelligence as a meaningful human trait; many of the population group differences in achievement now found internationally; the heritability of IQ within the White population and its relation to social class; the relation between IQ test scores and...
Published on 17 May 2009 by Viewer


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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Political Correctness in action, 17 May 2009
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This review is from: Intelligence and How to Get it: Why Schools and Cultures Count (Hardcover)
I give this 2 stars. Good points:

Nisbett acknowledges the solid consensus among expert opinion: the existence of intelligence as a meaningful human trait; many of the population group differences in achievement now found internationally; the heritability of IQ within the White population and its relation to social class; the relation between IQ test scores and MRI-brain size relations; and the neurophysiological reaction time correlates of intelligence (measured in milliseconds).

Also, discussions of brain exercises to temporarily improve working memory like n-back are interesting.

Downside - Omissions and distortions

Unfortunately, Nisbett also out to show that hereditary factors are overplayed while relying on unconvincing research. Worse, there is an avoidance of unwelcome evidence.

For instance, he relies on the work of Eric Turkheimer who studied children who were aged 7 and less. This is long before the shared environmental component vanishes.

This type of error is frequent throughout Nisbett's book: he often "proves" that environment matters more to IQ than previously thought by citing studies of young children. It is only when we reach adulthood that the full effect of our hereditary factors occurs, so estimates of the heritability of intelligence ought to be based on adult IQ scores.

Nisbett claims that the "Flynn effect," or secular gains in IQ across the industrialized world, proves that people are becoming more intelligent and that intelligence is substantially more dependent on environment than previously believed. However, the increases have been on certain parts of the tests. For instance, visuo-spatial logic has improved considerably but vocabulary and math have shown little improvement. If there was some general improvement this would show up on all aspects. Also, reaction time measures which correlate strongly with 'g' or the general intelligence factor have not improved. Furthermore, the Flynn effect has not shown that gaps between groups have reduced.

Nisbett claims most estimates of heritability have been based almost exclusively on studies of middle-class groups. What he overlooks is that group differences are larger at the highest level of SES than at the lowest.

He uses as evidence a French Adoption study, but his interpretation of it is pretty questionable. There is an excellent discussion of this on the Gene Expression site - the conclusions:

* The results of the French cross-fostering adoption study strongly support the consensus that heredity accounts for a substantial portion of the variance in mental test scores.
* It is certainly possible that substantial environmental effects can be found where the range of SES is unrestricted. It is unclear, however, that the effects demonstrated here in particular are stable over time. Longitudinal follow-up would have been informative.
* It may be that the genetic effect on mental test scores is concentrated in the g factor. This is important for many reasons, including the general agreement that g accounts for the bulk of the predictive validity of IQ with respect to practical, real-life criteria. More rigorous approaches to this question than my own may be possible.
* These results, while by no means deciding the matter, also leave entirely intact the reasonableness of the hypothesis that genetic differences account for as much of the b-w IQ gap as do environmental factors.

The following 40 page review of this book uncovers a surprising number of distortions and instances where Nisbett has overlooked contradictory evidence.

Rushton, J. P., & Jensen, A. R. (2009). A Theory-Based Review of the Research in Richard Nisbett's Intelligence and How to Get It. Working paper, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another illustration of plasticity, 2 Mar 2012
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M. P. Bell (Cambridge United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Despite the reservations of the previous reviewer, this well-written book adds to a growing body of evidence that much of what we previously thought was down to 'talent' or 'giftedness' turns out to be down to a bit of innate skill or intelligence, but huge amounts of effort and practice.

He shows that cultural differences between groups with the same ethnicity/gene-pool (eg British-white-working-class and British-white-middle-class) results in significant differences in school results and achievement.

The message is optimistic: we can all achieve more than we anticipated; we should not label out children or students. Put together with Carol Dweck's work in Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential, Matthew Syed's 'Bounce', Daniel Coyle's 'Talent Code' and a dozen other publications we can, perhaps, forgive the over-enthusiastic claims in the book.

The brain-science behind plasticity is explained in my guide:How Brains Learn
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Intelligence and How to Get it: Why Schools and Cultures Count
Intelligence and How to Get it: Why Schools and Cultures Count by Richard Nisbett (Hardcover - 24 July 2009)
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