A human brain being measured  with a measuring tape. Human Intelligence

Human Intelligence: Historical influences, current controversies, teaching resources.

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Arthur Jensen
Arthur Jensen

(August 24, 1923 - )
American Educational Psychologist



  • University of California, Berkley, B.A. in psychology (1945)
  • San Diego State College, M.A. in psychology (1952)
  • University of Maryland, Psychiatric Institute, Baltimore, MD, clinical internship (1955-1956)
  • Columbia University, Ph.D. in clinical psychology under Symonds (1956)
  • University of London, Institute of Psychiatry, postdoctoral research fellow under Eysenck (1956-1958)


  • University of California, Berkley, assistant professor and professor (1958-1992); professor emeritus (1992-present)
  • Kistler Prize for original contributions to the understanding of the connection between the human genome and human society (2003)

Major Contributions

  • Major proponent of the hereditarian position
  • Author of more than 300 articles, book chapters and books

Definition of Intelligence

“A working definition of intelligence, then, is that it is the g factor of an indefinitely large and varied battery of mental tests….We are forced to infer that g is of considerable importance in ‘real life’ by the fact that g constitutes the largest component of total variance in all standard tests of intelligence or IQ, and the very same g is by far the largest component of variance in scholastic achievement (Jensen, 1979, pp. 249-50).”

Ideas & Interests

Arthur Jensen’s emergence as an important figure in the history of human intelligence theory occurred in February of 1969, with the publication of a controversial essay in the Harvard Educational Review.  In the article, Jensen presented evidence that racial differences in intelligence test scores may have a genetic origin. This assertion, and Jensen’s concomitant recommendation that white and African-American children might benefit from different types of education, drew strident criticism from many members of the academic community and the public at large (Ciancolo & Sternberg, 2004).

Jensen’s interest in this topic began when one of his graduate students noted that the white special education students he was working with appeared to be more genuinely “retarded” than the students from minority groups who had been placed in special education. In fact, it seemed to Jensen’s student that whereas the white children functioned at a low level both inside and outside the classroom, the minority children sometimes appeared “quite indistinguishable in every way from children of normal intelligence, except in their scholastic performance and in their performance on a variety of standard IQ tests (Jensen, 1974, p. 222).”  Jensen’s student wanted to know if there were any “culture-free” intelligence tests that might explain the differences he observed in his students. This question spurred several experiments, and the results persuaded Jensen that standard g-loaded intelligence tests are fairly good measures of intellectual ability, and that racial differences in average IQ scores are not due to any “culture unfairness” intrinsic to the tests.  Jensen articulated evidence to support these views in his 1969 article.

Jensen accepts Spearman’s idea of a general factor in human intelligence, and his own theory divides intelligence into two distinct sets of abilities:  Level I abilities account for memory functions and simple associative learning, and Level II abilities comprise abstract reasoning and conceptual thought. Jensen concluded from his research that Level I abilities are equally-distributed among the races, whereas white and Asian students demonstrate advantages in tests of Level II abilities. Since Level II abilities appear to be more important for success in school, white and Asian children are at an advantage (Fancher, 1985).

In years since the publication of the 1969 Harvard Educational Review article, Jensen has published a large body of empirical research demonstrating that genetic factors are a substantial source of the variance in individual differences in IQ (Fancher, 1985).  Despite the controversial nature of his claims, in 2003 Jensen won the prestigious Kistler Prize for original contributions to the understanding of the connection between the human genome and human society.

Selected Publications

Jensen, A. R.  (1969). How much can we boost I.Q. and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 33, 1-123.

Jensen, A. R., (1972). Genetics and education. New York: Harper and Row.

Jensen, A. R. (1973).  Educability and group differences. New York:  Harper and Row.

Jensen, A. R. (1979). Bias in mental testing. New York: Free Press.

Jensen, A. R. (1981). Straight talk about mental tests. New York: Free Press.

Jensen, A. R. (1984). Jensen oversimplified: A reply to Sternberg. Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 7, 125-130.

Jensen, A. R. (1998). The g factor: The science of mental ability. Westport, CN: Praeger.

Jensen, A. R., & Miele, F. (2002).  Intelligence, race and genetics:  Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen.  Boulder, CO:  Westview Press.


Cianciolo, A. T., & Sternberg, R. J. (2004).  Intelligence:  A brief history.  Malden, MA:  Blackwell Publishing.  

Fancher, R. (1985).  The intelligence men:  Makers of the IQ controversy.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company.

Jensen, A. R.  (1969). How much can we boost I.Q. and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 33, 1-123.

Jensen, A. R. (1974).  What is the question? What is the evidence?  In T. S. Krawiec (Ed.), The psychologists (Vol.2) (pp. 206-234). Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Jensen, A. R. (1979). Bias in mental testing. New York: Free Press.

Reynolds, C. R. (1994).  Jensen, Arthur R.  In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.). Encyclopedia of human intelligence (pp. 629-631).  New York:  Macmillan.

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