From Publishers Weekly
Whether intelligence is largely determined by genetics or environment has long been hotly contested. Nisbett, a University of Michigan psychology professor, weighs in forcefully and articulately, claiming that environmental conditions almost completely overwhelm the impact of genes. He comes to this conclusion through a careful statistical analysis of a large number of studies and also demonstrates how environment can influence not only IQ measures but actual achievement of both students and adults. (People often overachieve when appropriate incentives are in place, Nisbett argues.) Nisbett builds a very strong case that measured IQ differences across racial, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries can easily be explained without resorting to hereditary factors. The result is a very positive message: schools, parents and government programs can have a huge impact if they take the right, which are not necessarily the most expensive, steps. Without those steps, he says, the current role of socioeconomic factors is frightening, with economically disadvantaged children largely condemned to failure. Although Nisbett relies heavily on statistics to document his claims, he does so in a manner accessible to general readers and uses a thoroughly appealing style to engage them throughout. (Feb.)
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A devastating and persuasive refutation of all those who believe intellectual ability is fixed at birth. Few Americans have done as much to deepen our understanding of what it means to be human. (Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point
[Nisbett’s] biggest message, largely unspoken, is one of persistence and hope. If all kids are capable of learning under the right circumstances, parents and teachers should never give up on children who appear to be low performers. Everyone has the inherent ability to be smart. (Associated Press, Dinesh Ramde)
If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would lead to the depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty programs can accomplish much. Yet while this view of I.Q. as overwhelmingly inherited has been widely held, the evidence is growing that it is, at a practical level, profoundly wrong. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has just demolished this view in a superb new book, Intelligence and How to Get It
, which also offers terrific advice for addressing poverty and inequality in America.... Offers terrific advice for addressing poverty.... [and] provides suggestions for transforming your own urchins into geniuses. (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times