Arthur Jensen: biography of this psychologist and researcher.
A review of the life of Arthur Jensen, researcher known for his work on intelligence.
Arthur Jensen's life is characterized by a marked defense of the findings he made during his research. This has been of great interest for the psychology of individual differences and, above all, in the study of intelligence.
However, it must be said that just as he was a prolific scientist, he was also a controversial character, especially when he tried to show the world his findings on racial differences in the cognitive area. Let's see the controversy generated by his work through this biography of Arthur Jensen.
Short biography of Arthur Jensen
Arthur Robert Jensen was born on August 24, 1923, in San Diego, California, United States. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and also at San Diego State College and Columbia University.
He wrote his doctoral thesis with Percival Symonds on the Thematic Apperception Test, a projective test which is based on the idea that the unconscious takes shape and projects itself onto sheets, revealing aspects of personality, vital needs and desires to be fulfilled, as well as problem-solving skills. Between 1956 and 1958 he conducted postdoctoral research at the University of London, at its institute of psychiatry together with Hans Eysenck.
Upon returning to the U.S., he became a professor and researcher at the University of he became a professor and researcher at the University of California, where he focused on individual differences and learning.. Within his studies on how children learn, he focused especially on the differences in the degree of difficulty in learning between different ethnic groups, especially if the ethnic group under study has cultural characteristics that put them at a disadvantage.
During his years of training and research he was influenced by Charles Spearman and Hans Eysenck. In his work he touched on various fields of psychology, especially educational psychology, behavioral genetics, intelligence and cognition..
Apart from his professional career, little is known of Arthur Jensen's intimate life. He was married to his wife Barbara and always had a great interest in music. In his childhood he wanted to be a conductor and, at the age of fourteen, he participated in a national competition in the city of San Francisco conducting a band, winning it.
Arthur Jensen passed away on October 22, 2012 in Kelseyville, California, aged 89.
Intelligence study and IQ controversies
Interest in differences in learning ability led Jensen to administer IQ questionnaires in schools throughout the United States. His results led him to hypothesize about the existence of two different types of learning abilities.
- Level I: associative learning, stimulus retention, memory.
- Level II: conceptual learning, more related to problem solving.
With the passage of time, Jensen recognized that his level II proposal his level II proposal resembled Charles Spearman's idea of the g-factor..
According to Jensen, general cognitive ability is essentially an inherited trait, determined primarily by genetic factors rather than environmental influences. He also initially understood that the ability to memorize was a trait that was similarly distributed among races, while the ability to synthesize, or conceptual learning, was something that seemed to be more developed in white people than in non-whites. It would be this idea that would set him on the path to controversy.
But the real controversy would come in February 1969, when he published his paper in the Harvard Educational Review, titled How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?. In it, he he concluded that programs aimed at increasing IQ in the African-American population had failed and that it was presumably impossible to and that such a goal was presumably impossible, since, according to Jensen, 80% of the variance in IQ in the population studied was due to genetic factors rather than environmental influences.
Basically, it was clear from this work that black citizens of the United States would never have the same IQ as their white fellow citizens. In a society in which the rights of African-Americans were being achieved through struggle and which, since the time of Martin Luther King, was something that was a great source of social tension, this type of statement was a finger in the wound.
The paper became one of the most cited papers in the history of psychology and intelligence research, although it must be said that most of the citations were intended to refute what Jensen was arguing.
As a result of the controversy, Jensen's own life was affected. Crowds protested calling for Arthur Jensen to be fired.. Protesters even went so far as to slash Jensen's car tires and threaten his family. The police considered that such threats were real and it was necessary for Jensen and his loved ones to leave their home for a while.
It should be said that it is not that Jensen was a racist. He was merely stating what he had found in his investigations and that, if given the opportunity, he would have investigated again to see if he could disprove himself.
He was aware of the traditional educational differences between whites and blacks in the U.S.He was aware of the traditional educational differences between whites and blacks in the United States, an environmental factor whose weight was not to be underestimated. What Jensen wanted to indicate with his study was that, while educational programs could mean the improvement of the African-American standard of living and culture, he noted the possibility of differences associated with race.
In fact, and according to Thomas Sowell, who was critical of many of Jensen's theses but still wished to defend him, he indicated that Jensen, in 1969, when he was studying African-American children by administering IQ questionnaires to them, obtained scores that seemed to him to be very low. Seeing this, he set out to repeat the test, once he got the children used to his presence and calmer. He was willing to replicate any experiment as many times as necessary.
It must be understood that, from a biologistic perspective, the g-factor was seen as something that was supported by multiple Biological variables and that, based on the apparent differences found between blacks and whites on various cognitive tests, it was understood that race, as a biological factor, might be related to intellectual performance.
It should be noted that races should not be seen as discrete and defined categories (actually, the concept of race in humans is something very strongly criticized), but rather as sets of human characteristics that have been shown more in certain populations by processes of natural selection and that are the result of possessing certain genes that have survived to the next generation.
Despite his controversy with the differences in IQ between blacks and whites, Arthur Jensen received the Kistler Prize in 2003 for his original contributions, understanding the connections between the human genome and the functioning of society. His insight into how genetics influences the functioning of society, related to behavioral genetics, is a key element of the Kistler Prize.has been considered one of the great findings of the twentieth century in terms of individual differences and their social implications.
In 2006 the American Society for Research in Intelligence rewarded and recognized Jensen with an award for his professional and vital trajectory, not without controversy, for the psychology of individual differences.
Below are four books by Arthur Jensen which, although they have not been translated into Spanish, are a good sample of this psychologist's vision of individual differences with respect to the construct of intelligence, in addition to showing in some of them concepts related to psychometrics and the obtaining of data by means of questionnaires.
1. Bias in Mental Testing (1980)
Bias in Mental TestingBias in mental testing research, is a book in which the following is presented: "Bias in Mental Testing".xamines the bias when applying questionnaires that measure IQ, even if they are supposedly standardized.even though they are presumably standardized.
It is a fairly exhaustive book, about 800 pages long, in which Jensen exposes in detail the possible evidence of bias when administering intelligence questionnaires in a large number of North American populations.
The message that can be extracted from the book is that the tests that were being administered did not show any type of bias if they were administered to people who were native or fluent in English.
However, this is an indication that it is necessary to linguistically adapt these it is necessary to linguistically adapt these questionnaires to groups whose native language is other than English, even if they were raised in the United States.even if they grew up in the United States. This will avoid any cultural bias.
2. Straight Talk about Mental Tests (1981)
The title of this book could be translated as "Straight talk on mental testing". It is a book a book in which psychometrics is discussed but adapted to a more general audience, not necessarily statisticians or research psychologists.It is a book that discusses psychometrics but adapted to a more general audience, not necessarily statisticians or research psychologists.
3. The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability (1998)
In this book Arthur Jensen exposes the concept of the general intelligence factor.. It also presents the historical trajectory of the concept and the different models that have dealt with it and tried to conceptualize it.
He also defends the heritability of intelligence, in addition to exposing its biological correlates and its predictability.
4. Clocking the Mind: Mental Chronometry and Individual Differences (2006)
In this book he explains how the brain processes information and different ways in which these processes can be measured..
For Jensen, speed of thought seemed to him to be a more important phenomenon than the concept of IQ itself.
While one is an indication of how fast one is able to solve problems of any kind, the other conceptualized it more as a kind of score that allows you to be considered above or below in a ranking.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)