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Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  511 ratings  ·  49 reviews
For people with little or no knowledge of the science of human intelligence, this volume takes readers to a stage where they are able to make judgments for themselves about the key questions of human mental ability. Each chapter addresses a central scientific issue but does so in a way that is lively and completely accessible. Issues discussed include whether there are sev ...more
Paperback, 132 pages
Published June 7th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2001)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #39), Ian J. Deary
Deary, I. J. (2001). Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Ian John Deary (born 1954) is a Scottish psychologist known for work in the fields of intelligence, cognitive ageing, cognitive epidemiology, and personality. For people with little or no knowledge of the science of human intelligence, this volume takes readers to a stage where they are able to make judgments for the
Doc Opp
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is exactly what it promises to be in the title: a very short introduction to the study of intelligence. I went back and forth between four and five stars on this one.

On the one hand it is accessible to laypeople, very well written, engaging, and rigorous. I will be assigning some chapters from it to my students because it is such a strong treatment of the topic (albeit a bit repetitive at some times, that's to help make it broadly accessible).

The downside is that it isn't as thorough as I
Mehran Jalali
It was good, but not great.

It focused way too much on the research done on intelligence instead of the findings of the researches. It was maybe a 60-40 split between the two, with the former consuming most of the text.

The book had few insightful lessons in it. Overall, I may have learned 6 or 7 new things (which is not too bad for a 132-page book, but not too good for a book portrayed as being concise), and a few of those things were that "scientists still don't know the reason for ..."

The best
Aaron Gertler
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lovely example of how to write a certain kind of book — the non-fluff introduction to a single academic topic. Within two hours, you’ll have a solid grasp of how psychologists and geneticists think about “intelligence”, and you’ll be ready to read other books.

Deary’s tone is thoroughly encouraging, as though you’ve stopped by his office hours, and he provides hundreds of citations that will send you as deep down the rabbit hole as you wish to go. Really, that’s all he had to do, and it’s enoug
Tuncay Tekle
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, vsi
An excellent read on how cognitive abilities are measured, how they vary on different factors, and what they affect. Beautifully written by a leading researcher in the field for the non-specialist. Another gem in the 'very short introduction' series by Oxford. ...more
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good example of science writing that is useful and accessible without dumbing things down beyond reason. I learnt some things and was surprised how much Ian Deary managed to fit into the slim book.

Among the things I learnt was how terrifying age-related decline is, but also the fascinating studies on how little upbringing seems to influence intelligence.
Leon Altherr
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chapter 1: How Many Types of Intelligences Are There?
What is intelligence?
“Intelligence is a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience.” (Gottfredson, 1997)
Consensus among researchers about the important elements of intelligence:
1. Abstract thinking or reasoning – 99.3%
2. Problem-solving ability – 97.7%
3. Capacity to acquire knowledge – 96.0%
Timo Brønseth
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usefwl-books
Insight-dense, well-founded and very interesting.

Some key findings and surprises:

• Scores on all the different kinds of intelligence tests researchers have administered correlate very much with each other, such that there seems to be some factor that some people have more of and some people have less of that determines most of their scores on intelligence tests. Call this the "g factor".

• An optimal grouping based on the correlation between scores of many difference intelligence tests gives fo
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the first edition (2001) in 2018. I read the second edition (2020) in 2020 and I highly recommend it, as the first edition is getting out of date. While many unanswered questions remain in the field of human intelligence (such as how to explain and interpret the puzzling Flynn effect), Deary's second edition presents many updated findings. In particular, two new areas of research have emerged since the first edition: Cognitive epidemiology (the correlation of IQ with better health outcome ...more
Alexander Shay
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
This is my first "very short introduction" book that I've read, with many more on my to-read shelf. I'm conflicted because a) I myself did not find it at all enlightening; I knew all the information already. But I'm also majoring in psychology, so I've had more than a "short" introduction into intelligence and related areas. But b) I assume this is supposed to be written for the layman reader, as sparse and accessible as possible, and yet there were terms in there that the general reader probabl ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Did it for me.
Good enough introduction for an outsider to the academic study of intelligence.
Deary went about the explanation of all experiments and their “datasets” concisely.
It’s clear from writing that there isn’t(or wasn’t - it’s a 2001 book) that much of a consensus on matters concerning Intelligence, but it made for good reading with a number of really interesting insights: the growth in the correlation between genetics and IQ with age, the lapses with ‘IQ’, graphology (haha, this was a go
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: علوم, 2017
This is an excellently written book regarding the structure, simplicity and the approach to the content. the book discuss several questions related to intelligence by summarizing key research results. I like it when I read a book written by researchers. They know how to approach, view and discuss the questions. The only problem with this book is it is old.
Very interesting finding reported in this book, is that genetics influences intelligence more than enviroment. Another one is that successive
M. Ashraf
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vsi
A good VSI. The book starts with the types of Intelligence, how our mind work correlate and associate things, shapes, patterns... giving different types of general intelligence. Try to discuss what happens to this computing machine as it grow older. Try to solve the origin of intelligence and its different levels. And Is it increasing generation after generation ?
It is certainly true that intelligence test were used inappropriately and over-zealously at time during the 20th century, and to the e
Alexandra Cretan
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"This Very Short Introduction takes readers from no knowledge about the science of human intelligence to a stage where they are able to make judgements for themselves about some of the key questions about human mental ability differences. Each chapter deals with a central issue that is both scientifically lively and of considerable general interest, and is structured around a diagram which is explained in the course of the chapter. The issues discussed include whether there are several different ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
A really good read on what we know about this elusive concept and how it relates to life outcomes. Deary is not some rando, but a psychologist with 100,000+ citations and he writes a succinct summary of what we know and we don't know.
In short, IQ measures something like intelligence and this measure alone is useful in helping predict life outcomes. For example, it's as good as the best interviews a company can make before hiring, but administering a short test is much cheaper than that.
It's al
Harald Groven
Intelligence research is the "hardest" and most scientific of all the sub-discipline within psychology. I.e. the largest samples sizes, most solid replicated findings and best most cross culturally validated findings, using multiple methods (surveys, twin studies/adoption studies, fMRI, GWAS etc).
With so rock solid foundations, why is it still such a controversial topic?
Ian J. Deary sums up 120 years of intelligence research by answering 10 of the most common and basic questions on human intel
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I find the concept of these "Very Short Introductions" both useful and exciting. This has been a very readable but most importantly accurate and up to date account that does not compromise the complexity of the subject. It gives a clear overview of a very interesting but still underdeveloped area of research, additionally providing guidance for various kinds of further reading. Overall, a satisfying introduction that encourages the curious to look more into the subject. ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Using a cornucopia of longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, Professor Dreay explains the conception of general intelligence (the g factor), its demographics, origins, and predictive values. The methodology and the statistics of the studies are clearly described. These in themselves are fascinating. The last two chapters warn the reader against hubris as there are still many unknowns. Overall this is a very clear and objective introduction. Five stars.
Abderrazak Baddou
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book teaches many nice things. It's not just about intelligence but also tell a great deal on how research in the field is done. As it says at the end a good book is a book that makes you open new books; I want to read about how research is done in the human science. ...more
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it
It's largely genetic, it tends to decline over age, it relates to a broad range of abilities. They've broken it down into subcategories. If you're a hiring manager you should test for it. ...more
Guray Hatipoğlu
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A quick way to peek some of the most critical characteristics of our intelligence.
Nika Kapanadze
A very short and kinda unconventional introduction to the topic of human intelligence, focusing on the actual data rather than theories or history. Sometimes monotonous but overall, not a bad read.
Keffrey OG
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I did read it but unfortunately it didn't really answer any questions and it was a pretty bad introduction so if you are really interested in this field would recommend to check it out but for people who aren't really that interested don't recommend because you'll be bored. ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
An excellent introduction into the subject. Deary concentrates on statistical studies and meta-studies to delve into those questions that seem to vex people about intelligence.

Starting with 'general intelligence' and working through the types of brain activity that make it up and the mechanisms through which it can be tested (where it can be tested), Deary then explores what happens to our intelligence as we get older (view spoiler)
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This provides an excellent and accessible introduction to the topic of intelligence, which is here taken to mean the kind of abstract problem-solving ability measured by tests. The book covers, in each chapter, the general intelligence factor g and its relation to more specific intelligence measures, how intelligence changes with age, the relation between intelligence and properties of the brain, the controversial gene–environment debate, the role intelligence plays in aspects of our lives such ...more
Jurij Fedorov
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
What's the point of a book that yet again avoids the race discussion because of politics?


It's very well written. Everything is easy to understand and as an introduction it's actually quite good. I mean, if you basically only have seen a few documentaries on the subject and read the Wikipedia articles on g factor, then this is a good way to go. It also contains quite a bit of information.


As always I judge these g factor books and social science books on how apolitical they can stay and ho
Daniel Wright
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is, I surmise, somewhere in the unwritten generic guidelines for writing books in OUP's excellent Very Short Introduction series, a rule that just says, 'NO MATHS'. For someone like me - with a maths degree, no less - this can be almost unbelievably patronising, and, ironically, it can even make maths-related subjects difficult to understand. It is a great pleasure, therefore, to find an absolute gem of a book like this one which is willing to break that rule. The author gives a brief and ...more
Bojan Tunguz
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There isn't a single area of Psychology that elicits as much contention as the area of psychometrics. To a certain degree this is understandable, since no one wants to be told that she is not as bright as someone else, no matter how true or obvious it might be. However, of all brunches of Psychology, psychometrics has the greatest predictive power. Within the professional community many of the general aspects of intelligence are very well understood and appreciated. This VSI book is an excellent ...more
Darius Daruvalla-riccio
If you believe in "muh blank sl8" and "muh multipl intelligensis", this book might make you cry. It will show you that the scientific data unambiguously says you are wrong.

In summary, a single overarching intelligence measurement (G factor) exists.
G factor correlates with ALL types of intelligence.
G factor correlate with success. IQ tests can predict G-factor reliably.

The book makes all of its points in a scientific way. It provides lots of relevant studies. It's persuasive, easy to unders
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ian Dreary has written a very-well researched and generally un-biaised overview of various aspects of intelligence, from testing through to genetics and various controversies and un-answered aspects of research today. He lays it out in an easy-going, and at times slightly humorous manner, and very usefully includes references and annotations for further reading should you want to explore an area further. He is also clear on spelling out his own views, but in a manner that illustrates where he ma ...more
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