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Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
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Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  328 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Who are smarter, Asians or Westerners? Are there genetic explanations for group differences in test scores? From the damning research of The Bell Curve to the more recent controversy surrounding geneticist James Watson’s statements, one factor has been consistently left out of the equation: culture. In the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, world-class ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 8th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 8th 2009)
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Jan 05, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy a good regression analysis
Recommended to Bruce by: my trustworthy spouse
DISCLAIMER: Strap yourselves in, folks. This is going to be a long one. Please bear with me for a paragraph or two of nonrigorous noodling. This is not a peer-reviewed essay and I ain't no neuroscience expert. I won't be citing (m)any sources, so feel free to use the comments to challenge any assertion I make that you have evidence to debunk. (I've also put an extra paragraph there, to save space.) I live for guided learning. And I'll get to Nisbett in short order.

We know a lot about the brain.
Lars Guthrie
Jul 14, 2009 Lars Guthrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Important on its own, but doubly so because it has had such an impact on the cognoscenti, in large part due to Nicholas Kristof's much discussed June 6 column in The New York Times. Malcolm Gladwell also acknowledged his debt to Nisbett's work in 'Outliers.' Will all the chatter about 'Outliers' and 'Intelligence' translate into change and an educational system where the assumption is that most children have the ability to be successful? I hope so.

Gladwell bemoans society's failure to make use
The experience of reading this book in public was not pleasant. I got several poorly-crafted observation jokes of "trying to be more intelligent, eh?" from some co-workers, who met my withering glance and then scurried away. But that was harmless in comparison to the on-edge feeling that I had in the subway, holding my book open as little as possible to minimize the potential for people reading over my shoulder. Was I ashamed of the topic? Not at all, but the language used to discuss a semi-sens ...more
Aaron Haspel
My parents, who gave me this book, claimed that it dissuaded them from the strong hereditarian view of intelligence. I remain a strong hereditarian.

Nisbett's customary tactic is to admit what you might not be expected to, earning points with readers for honesty, and then proceed to argue as if you had never made the admission, hoping your readers have forgotten it. To judge by the critical reception of this book, they have.

Chapter Six, on race and IQ, in which Nesbitt says, without qualificatio
Oct 15, 2011 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was like a more meticulously researched version of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell is a better story teller but Richard Nisbett uses more scientific evidence to explain his conclusions. And he is very careful. He states several times that he believes X to be true based on these studies but there was some self-selection in this study and some other flaw in that study so there isn’t enough evidence to definitely prove X yet.

One of the chapters I found fascinating was the ch
OK book. He makes several claims that he gives no evidence for. For example, on multiple occasions he states that inner city teachers are worse than in wealthy suburban teachers. I have taught in two of the wealthiest school districts in the country, in Westchester, NY, and I have taught in two different NYC schools. I would say that the teachers in both were overall very good. However many of the suburban teachers would not make it a month in the city. As an inner city teacher you have to be a ...more
Marissa Morrison
I will definitely be reading this one again soon! Nisbett makes a strong case for emphasizing hard work over natural ability and gives some concrete advice on how parents can strengthen their kids' minds.
May 02, 2009 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little dry in the beginning, but I'm looking forward to the part where he suggests how one's intelligence can actually be improved. I was under the impression that intelligence was genetically determined and not much could be done to change it up or down. FINISHED: Well it wasn’t as exciting as I expected, but there were particularly good sections worth reading. His principal argument is that the hereditarian or genetic determination of IQ argument is only partly true. In fact, to a great exte ...more
Dec 25, 2010 Ilya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Children of middle-class and rich Americans are raised in a way that lets them reach their genetic potential (which, admittedly, is different from one child to another) to a much greater extent than children of poor Americans. Therefore, the heritability of intelligence is much greater among the rich and the middle class than among the poor. Poor people tend not to adopt children; therefore, estimates of the heritability of intelligence based on adoption studies are too high. Intelligence tests ...more
Apr 23, 2009 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book everyone must read! If at least 50% of IQ is environmental, this has profound implications on how we educate our children and close the achievement gap between poor children and middle class ones. The book presents all the research on the effects of parenting styles and other low socio-economic factors on student achievement as well as differences in cultural mores. This book examines KIPP schools, vouchers, class size, teacher quality, praising for effort over ability, Asians, Eu ...more
Apr 15, 2009 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Grace by: Psychology Magazine
Author Richard E. Nisbett gives an easily accessible account of what intelligence is, the different types of intelligence, how you get intelligence, along with what works and doesn't work in acquiring and maintaining intelligence in children and adults. Nisbett's primary focus is on schools and cultures (race, nationality, socioeconomic status) and their influence over intelligence from the womb to adulthood. He provides ample evidence for his conclusions in the form of results from psychologica ...more
Kevin Day
Jul 03, 2009 Kevin Day rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intelligence and How to Get It (Why Schools and Culture Matter) is a fascinating book about variation in intelligence and achievement, by one of the top experts in the field. I found it quite balanced and readable, with all of the techinical discussion and references in appendixes at the back of the book. Given that I was reading as a non-expert, it was easy to skip all of that.

It really wakes you up to the impact of environment (parents, schools) and attitude on both intelligence and achievemen
The author presents some thought-inspiring ideas in this book regarding how we think about intelligence among social class, economic status, race, etc. He incorporates scientific studies into his discussion whenever possible, but there is a general lack of research to draw from. Consequently, many parts of the book are antedotal and I found myself questioning if they really helped the point the author was trying to make. I did find it interesting to read some of the rebuttals/answers to age-old ...more
Sarah Porter
Dec 13, 2010 Sarah Porter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit I'm biased toward loving this book. As someone who teaches creative writing in inner-city public schools, I passionately want to believe that intelligence is mutable and that developing the intellect can be a creative act in itself. The striking gains in IQ throughout the developed world that Nisbett documents give me hope for our species. And I very much appreciate how the evidence Nisbett marshals makes it almost impossible for racist and classist garbage regarding the average IQ's of ...more
Alex Templeton
This book makes an excellent case against the argument that IQ is genetically determined. It is, in fact, often determined as much by culture as by genes. OK, some of us who went to liberal arts colleges might be saying,"yeah, duh". But apparently there are some people who believe in the bell curve. I found especially interesting references to studies that looked at particular cultures (Asians, Jews, African-Americans) and how each culture influenced the intellectual potential of its kids. Such ...more
Feb 03, 2009 edh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nisbett gives a cogent argument for reforming our understanding of intelligence. Of all the measures of someone's "smarts," their IQ is merely part of the equation. Cultural variables have serious effects on intelligence, not to mention belief patterns - if your culture tends to believe that being good at math is an innate trait rather than the result of hard work and persistence, then you are surely going to have two cultures with very different outcomes in mathematic intelligence. For Nisbett, ...more
Dec 12, 2009 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Nisbett's answer to the landmark book "Bellcurve". Essentially, he offers data to suggest that while some amount of intelligence is heritable, a vast majority of intelligence is malleable. Clearly, both schools of thought are correct.

This isn't a glossed over easy read like so many nonfiction best sellers today where the author basically talks about the headline news and leaves out the gory statistics. (Think Gladwell, Friedman). Still, it is an interesting topic as a mother and a citize
Jul 15, 2012 Pratik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
90% of the book feels like a technical report or more of a research thesis and demands concentration from a reader. There are few chapters worth reading for everyone. Four star is for the content of the book as it says a lot about intelligence and parameters affecting it. Though culture part is more or less wrapped up in couple of chapters, the book predominantly discusses the intelligence differences between Whites and Blacks. It would have been a lot better if the facts are not put up and comp ...more
The American Conservative
'The book has several strengths. It marshals an impressive amount of empirical evidence in a relatively short space. It wrestles comprehensively with the claims of the hereditarians. It acknowledges the failures of many past interventions and it urges more research before we dive into expensive government programs. But its thesis fails. The weight of the evidence shows that intelligence is a relatively rigid trait, still immune to large and permanent changes.'

Read the full review, "Failing the I
Nurture or nature? How can parents increase their child's IQ (read to your kids! talk to your babies!)? What can schools do (not as much as you'd think)? Can a really good teacher make a difference (of course!)? Should you praise children for intelligence, or hard work? When does it make sense to reward learning?
If you have kids, or are going to have kids, or have kids who have kids, or teach, or have any contact with kids, read this book!
May 14, 2012 J rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: metacognition
Thus isn't a book for popular consumption. The author gets mired in statistical references and his frame of reference is heavily dosed with measures of standard deviations used to back up the author's arguments.

My thought is that Nisbett could have said a lot more without cluttering up his message so much.
Leslie Stein
Apr 14, 2009 Leslie Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok sound geeky and undoubtedly is, but also fascinating. Very thorough review of all the information on nurture v. nature. My o.b. told me that IQ was determined by the mother....not quite. This should be good news for all those people who hope that environment can make a difference. Unfortunately our society has not done very well where it counts. Bad news for the Bell Curve set.
Bistra Ivanova
Прочетох няколко глави за курса ми по социология в Принстън ( и макар някои неща да бяха интересни (разликите във възпитателните методи между родителите от средната класа и работническата класа и оттам развитието на интелекта), по-нататък нещата отидоха в американския дискурс за черни и бели и загубих интерес да чета цялата книга.
Oct 01, 2010 Davestuartjr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was written by a University of Michigan professor, and when I heard good things about it, I got it from the library. It's a fascinating book that explores whether intelligence is in-born or acquired. Along the way, the authors look at KIPP schools and various cultures associated with being "smart."
Benjamin Sauers
Can we actually improve our intelligence? Do schools matter? Nisbett takes aim at the hereditarian view that intelligence is limited to genetics. While I don't have a strong option formed, I do find the hereditarian view to be somewhat depressing. This is a worthwhile read for any and all interested in education.
Despite stating that this book is for the average reader, the first couple chapters are bogged down with statistics and summaries of research. Checked it out because another book I read referred to this one.
May 22, 2009 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a great overview of scholarly articles on intelligence in the past 40 years, a rebuttal of the 'strong hereditarians" and why you should think intelligence is largely under your control, even if it might not be... etc. have a read.
Jan 17, 2010 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and insightful--however, I felt this was an impacted version of my grad-school career. If you are new or even new-ish to the field, this is your book. It is written for the common man without a lot of education-ese, and it is easy to read.
Jan 30, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was afraid this book would be difficult to read, but it's engaging and surprisingly uncomplicated. The data adds to understanding rather than frustrates the reader who wants to know about intelligence. We and our students CAN "get it."
Aug 23, 2012 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as a philosophy undergrad and found it very interesting and shocking. At the time, I recommended it to anyone going into the education field. Now that I am going to graduate school for teaching, I plan to re-read this book as soon as I get some free time.
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