Twin truths about IQ theory

September 22, 1995

Your report by Olga Wojtas (THES, September 15) on scientific fraud is illustrated with a photograph of the late Sir Cyril Burt, who is said to have "fabricated much of his data on twins". It is true that in 1976, five years after Burt's death at 88, these allegations received much publicity, and were taken up by many politically correct educational psychologists and progressive teachers who were opposed to selective education, and the 11 plus examination for which Burt had been responsible.

But, although much of what Burt had published in old age may have been muddled and badly presented, the allegations of deliberate dishonesty have been conclusively shown to be unfounded. In 1992 The British Psychological Society rather grudgingly concluded: "Council considers that . . . in the light of greater experience, The British Psychological Society no longer has a corporate view on the truth of allegations against Burt". Since then no further evidence of fraud has been produced and Burt's estimate, from his twins studies, that about 70 per cent of whatever it is that is measured by IQ tests is inherited genetically, has now been independently confirmed (Bouchard et al., 1990, Science 250: 223-8).It is unfortunate that the BPsS 1992 statement received so much less publicity than the original rather disgraceful posthumous attacks on Sir Cyril Burt, and his reputation as the first and probably the greatest of educational psychologists, still seems not to be fully restored.

C B GOODHART Gonville and Caius College Cambridge.

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