Brand in firing line

May 3, 1996

Being one of the few people unfortunate enough to have read The g Factor by Chris Brand (THES, April 19 and April 26), I am fully in favour of its withdrawal. This is simply one of the worst books on intelligence (or any topic in psychology) that I have ever read. Its failings include:

1. The quality of the arguments is poor throughout. For example, the author claims that the correlation between socioeconomic status and intelligence (given as 0.4) is so low that the two have little to do with each other. However, later he implies that the typical correlations between subscales of the Differential Aptitude Test (given as 0.35) are so high that the scales effectively all measure g (p 189). This type of contradiction suggests either a misuse of evidence or a misunderstanding of basic statistics. Often the author does not bother to argue his case at all, expecting us to accept his conclusions on trust.

2. The author misuses citations and references throughout. Several authors who appear in the references section are not mentioned in the text. Sternberg is a particularly glaring omission, especially as some of his findings go against Brand's position on the nature of intelligence. Conversely, Michael Howe is criticised, but the interested reader who wishes to know more is not given a single reference to pursue.

3. It is filled with snide comments. These serve no purpose whatsoever except to add emotion to the debate. As just one example, the author implies that today's adoption agencies are happy to send children to the homes of drug addicts. This sort of writing has no place in any scientific debate and is certainly not a style of debate that I would wish my students to indulge in.

This badly argued, badly written and badly edited book should never have been published as a serious, professional academic text in its current form. It is certainly not a balanced, well-argued text, nor is it a good polemic. It is best described as a rant. Unfortunately I am still waiting for a well-written balanced text on intelligence. This is a topic that seems to bring out the worst in psychologists. There is no doubt that clear-headed, rational debate is necessary in this field, but this book is unlikely to leave anyone in this state. As to the accusation that Brand is a racist, I disagree. On reading the book it is clear that he is a misogynist.

Maxwell J. Roberts Department of psychology, University of Essex

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