FEBUARY 30, 2012
WILLIAM JULY Ph.D.
Many of the early intelligence tests were culturally biased, favoring people who were from urban rather than rural environments, middle-class rather than lower-class, and White rather than African American (Miller-Jones, 1989). For example, a question on an early test asked what should be done if you find a 3-year old child in the street. The correct answer was “call the police.” But children form inner-city families who perceive the police as adversaries are unlikely to choose this answer. Similarly, children form rural areas might not choose this answer if there is no police force nearby. Such questions clearly do not measure the knowledge necessary to adapt to one’s environment or to be “intelligent” in an inner-city neighborhood or in rural America (Scarr, 1989).
Cultures also vary in the way they define intelligence (Rogoff, 1990). Most European Americans, for example, think of intelligence in terms of technical skills, but people in Kenya consider responsible participation in family and social life an integral part of intelligence. Similarly, an intelligent person in Uganda is someone who knows what to do and then follows through with appropriate action. Intelligence to the latmu people of Papua New Guinea, involves the ability to remember the names of 10,000 to 20,000 clans, and the islanders in the widely dispersed Caroline Islands incorporate the talent of navigating by the stars in their definition of intelligence.
Another example of possible cultural bias in intelligence tests can be seen in the life of Gregory Ochoa. When Gregory was a high school student, he and his classmates took an IQ test. When Gregory looked at the test questions, he understood only a few words, since he did not speak English very well and spoke Spanish at home. Several weeks later Gregory was placed in a special class for mentally retarded students....