One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Story of I.Q termites

It is amusing to note that much concentration on problem-solving,
have skewed our knowledge towards negative aspects of human
psychology than on positive. Most of subjects of psychological
studies were patients. Even Sigmund Freud generalized most of his
notions out of his studies on patients. There are exact sciences on
depression, stress and retarders. On contrary we have just broad
generalization about happiness and higher mental abilities. One of
the famous psychologists who studied natural giftedness was Lewis
Terman. Lewis Terman is also known as IQ Guru. Here I try to tell a
very brief story of a positive initiative that died out because of
negative beliefs,
The story of IQ test begins with the French psychologist, Alfred
Binet who introduced an intelligent test called Binet test for
identification of dull students that were in need of extra or special
help in their curriculum. Lewis Terman modified and standardized
Binet’s intelligence test for use in American schools. It was known
as Stanford-Binet test (Stanford, because Terman was chairing its
psychology department). Terman believed in an “elite ideology”….
the concept that intelligence is inherited like height, skin colors and
so on. Early identification of intelligent kids and grooming them
would provide the elite or future leaders to the nation. Terman
actually wanted to change the concept of then Americans that
believed in “Early ripe, early rot”. He wanted Americans appreciate
“gifted children” so he tried to show the gifts of gifted with a
missionary zeal.
Every nation is in dire need of leaders in all disciplines, at all times.
If heredity (genes) was proved to determine the future leaders and
successful people then it was such a powerful tool that could
change the face of human history. Naturally governments would
take interest in optimization of genetically gifted kids.

Termite Project,
Lewis Terman started a project to find gifted kids that later become
known as “Terman Kids” or “Termites”. He asked teachers of
elementary schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the East Bay,
to introduce their intelligent students. These intelligent students
were given IQ tests. The students with higher IQ levels were selected
for highest IQ tests. He selected a core group of 643 children with
IQs of 135 or higher.
By 1928, Terman had 1,528 termites between the ages of 3 and 28.
Most of termites were white from urban and middle class of
California. There were 856 termite boys and 672 termite girls. From
1,528 termites only two were African-Americans, six Japanese-
Americans and one American-Indian. If intelligence were genetic
then termites’ ratio were suggesting big differences of intelligence
between both sexes and between races. It was a time that “Eugenic”
had a lot of supporters in US.

What Happened to Termites,

After 35 years of following his termites, Lewis Terman summarized
the accomplishments of termites as follows,
“"Nearly 2000 scientific and technical papers and articles and
some 60 books and monographs in the sciences, literature, arts,
and humanities have been published. Patents granted amount to
at least 230. Other writings include 33 novels, about 375 short
stories, novelettes, and plays; 60 or more essays, critiques, and
sketches; and 265 miscellaneous articles on a variety of subjects.
The figures on publications do not include the hundreds of
publications by journalists that classify as news stories,
editorials, or newspaper columns, nor do they include the
hundreds, if not thousands, of radio, television, or motion picture
In words of Lewis Terman, the accomplishments of his termites
were impressive but others did not agree with him. In Greatness
Who Makes History and Why, Dean Simonton replied:
"Let us give Terman the benefit of the doubt and post that all 2,000
scientific and technical publications were produced by the 70 who
made it into American Men of Science. That implies that, on
average, Terman's notable scientists produced about 29
publications by the time they had reached their mid-40s. In
contrast, American Nobel laureates in the sciences averaged about
38 publications by the time they were 39 years old, and claimed
about 59 publications by their mid-40s. THat amounts to a
twofold disparity in output. Hence, Terman's intellectual elite was
not of the same caliber as the true scientific elite of the same
nation and era."
It is not just that termite weren’t the same caliber as scientific elites but biggest blow came to termite concept by not having a single
Nobel Prize winner among them. William Shockley a Nobel Prize
winner in Physics was among elementary boys tested for termites.
He was not selected as a termite because his IQ level was not high
enough to be selected as termite.
Though the IQ termites are a forgotten story now but 80 years of
follow up in their lives are a big asset for science as it provides data
for studying human personality and effects of big events like that of
great depression and WWII on human psyche and attitudes.


Mitchell Leslie, “The vexing legacy of Lewis Terman” Stanford
magazine, 2000.

Simonton, D. (1994). Greatness: Who Makes History and Why. The
Guilford Press.

Terman, L. (1959). The Gifted Group at Mid-Life: Thirty-five Years
Follow-up of the Superior Child. Stanford University Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment