Last week, I had a new article published by the American Psychological Association in Teaching of Psychology (Burton & Warne, in press). The article has two parts: an analysis of course catalogs, and an outline for a university-level intelligence course.

Course Catalog Analysis

My then-student, Jared Z. Burton, identified 303 of the top universities in the United States and searched their catalogs one by one for the terms “intelligence” or “IQ.” He then categorized them by whether they merely mentioned intelligence as one topic, or whether the entire course was dedicated to intelligence.

The results were disappointing–but not surprising to intelligence scholars. There were 893 courses that mentioned intelligence in their titles or course catalog descriptions. However, the vast majority (765, or 85.6%) of these were not dedicated to intelligence, and instead were part of a course on a broader topic (such as psychological testing or developmental psychology). Among the courses that were dedicated to intelligence, only 9 (1.0%) are explicitly dedicated to mainstream g theory.

Things are worse outside of psychology departments, though. When intelligence courses are offered in education, they are almost always based on multiple intelligences theory. In business or management departments, emotional intelligence reigns supreme. Classes dedicated to mainstream intelligence theories are almost completely absent in these departments. This is scary because IQ is the best predictor of academic performance, which is also true of many jobs–especially highly complex jobs. I discuss the practical importance of intelligence in detail in my upcoming book, In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths About Human Intelligence.

Example Intelligence Course

Given the importance of intelligence to psychological science and in everyday life, it is clear that there is a major gap in the psychology curriculum at many universities. To help fill this need, the latter part of the article is dedicated to offering suggestions readers who want to start their own course.

Most of the suggestions are based on my human intelligence course I teach at Utah Valley University, but not all. The tweet above includes a outline of my course, with the bolded topics being the most important in almost any intelligence course.

We also suggest textbooks and readings that would be useful to students. (No, we do not suggest my book; this manuscript was written long before my new book was finished.) For example, Table 6 in the manuscript is a list of 100 topics that students can write a final paper on. The breadth of the list shows just how interdisciplinary intelligence research is. Every branch of psychology is represented, as are biology, sociology, education, politics, and history.

Genesis of the Article

This article is the result of a question James Flynn asked me in Montreal. When the annual conference of the International Society for Intelligence Research was held there in 2017, I presented a study (later published as Warne, Astle, & Hill, 2018) about the high rates of erroneous information in introductory psychology textbooks. As part of the presentation, I mentioned that less than 10% of psychology programs offer a course on intelligence (Stoloff et al., 2010).

My presentation at the 2017 meeting of the International Society for Intelligence Research in Montreal.

Sitting on the front row was James Flynn, an impeccable scientist and the person who brought the Flynn Effect (i.e., the gradual inflation of IQ scores across the 20th century) to popular attention. He asked if I knew the exact percentage of programs that offered programs. I had to admit that I did not and that the “less than 10%” statistic was because Stoloff only listed courses that were offered in 10% or more of psychology courses.

I am glad that I can now give James Flynn an exact answer. For the record, he thought that less than 10% was realistic.

The issue clearly matters to Flynn, he published an article the next year (Flynn, 2018) that touches on the lack of courses on intelligence offered at universities. He suggests at least one reason why intelligence courses are not offered to students was to avoid controversy. In the article, we address how to best handle touchy subjects in an intelligence course. I am in my 7th semester teaching the class, and so far my strategies have been successful.

Hopefully, my article encourages people to start teaching about intelligence. If the courses are going to be taught, it is up to psychologists to teach them. The article shows that entrusting other departments (like education or business) only propagates fringe theories. It will be several years before the results are known, though. The only option I have now is to wait and see.

References

Burton, J. Z., & Warne, R. T. (in press). The neglected intelligence course: Needs and suggested solutions. Teaching of Psychologydoi:10.1177/0098628320901381 (Free pre-print version available at https://psyarxiv.com/epu2s/.)

Flynn, J. R. (2018). Academic freedom and race: You ought not to believe what you think may be true. Journal of Criminal Justice, 59, 127-131. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2017.05.010

Stoloff, M., McCarthy, M., Keller, L., Varfolomeeva, V., Lynch, J., Makara, K., . . . Smiley, W. (2010). The undergraduate psychology major: An examination of structure and sequence. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 4-15. doi:10.1080/00986280903426274

Warne, R. T., Astle, M. C., & Hill, J. C. (2018). What do undergraduates learn about human intelligence? An analysis of introductory psychology textbooks. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6, 32-50. doi:10.1037/arc0000038

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