The concept that our intelligence is fixed at birth is one of the hardest myths to abolish. This myth can also be traced back to Galton and the eugenics movement. Eugenics comes from the Greek EU + GENOS, which means “well born” or “good birth.” Galton believed (see bonus article, “A Brief and Ugly History of Intelligence Testing”) that intelligence was something you inherited, like brown eyes. He felt so strongly that intelligence was bred that he even experimented with massive blood transfusions to see if they would alter a person’s intelligence traits. The idea that your level of intelligence is based on the level of your parents’ intelligence dominates today’s “IQ way of thinking.”
During the first 30 years of the 20th century, researcher Sir Cyril Burt conducted highly respected and widely accepted research that bolstered the eugenics concept that intelligence was inherited and fixed. Burt claimed to have performed painstaking studies that conclusively proved that the lion’s share of an individual’s intelligence was inherited from his parents. But in an analysis of Burt’s work conducted in the mid 1970s, by Leon Kamin, fantastic irregularities were uncovered. Kamin found that Burt not only falsified his data but that he had made wild claims that even his own falsified research could not substantiate. It was even discovered that the associates who Burt said had collected his data did not exist. Unfortunately, Burt’s work, though wrong and falsified, continues to dominate the general “IQ way of thinking” in the world. Brain-based educators Gordan Dryden and Jeannette Vos comment, “It is impossible to say how many millions of people have had their lives ruined by this appalling myth.” Former editor of Psychology Today, Daniel Goleman, notes that “At best IQ contributes to about 20% of the factors that determine life successes, which leaves 80% to other forces” (see “What Is Intelligence?“).