Arthur Jensen

professor of educational psychology

Arthur Robert Jensen (24 August 192322 October 2012) was a professor of educational psychology at the University of California. Jensen is known for his work in psychometrics and differential psychology, which is concerned with how and why individuals differ behaviorally from one another.

Arthur Robert Jensen, 2002


  • The fact that a reasonable hypothesis has not been rigorously proved does not mean that it should be summarily dismissed. It only means that we need more appropriate research for putting it to the test. I believe such definitive research is entirely possible but has not yet been done. So all we are left with are various lines of evidence, no one of which is definitive alone, but which, viewed all to­gether, make it a not unreasonable hypothesis that genetic factors are strongly implicated in the average Negro-white intelligence difference. The preponderance of the evidence is, in my opinion, less consistent with a strictly environmental hypothesis than with a genetic hypothesis, which, of course, does not exclude the influence of environment or its interaction with genetic factors.
  • In his references to my own work, Gould includes at least nine citations that involve more than just an expression of Gould's opinion; in these citations Gould purportedly paraphrases my views. Yet in eight of the nine cases, Gould's representation of these views is false, misleading, or grossly caricatured. Nonspecialists could have no way of knowing any of this without reading the cited sources. While an author can occasionally make an inadvertent mistake in paraphrasing another, it appears Gould's paraphrases are consistently slanted to serve his own message...
    Of all the book's references, a full 27 percent precede 1900. Another 44 percent fall between 1900 and 1950 (60 percent of those are before 1925); and only 29 percent are more recent than 1950. From the total literature spanning more than a century, the few "bad apples" have been hand-picked most aptly to serve Gould's purpose.
  • [Interview: Responding to a question about whether it was smart to publish his 1969 article at the time he did] In retrospect, however, I would hope that I would not have changed a thing in that article, even if I had been able to imagine the supposed "storm" it caused. I will be ashamed the day I feel I should knuckle under to social-political pressures about issues and research I think are important for the advance of scientific knowledge.
    • Profiles in Research Author(s): Arthur Jensen, Daniel H. Robinson and Howard Wainer, Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Autumn, 2006), pp. 327-352

Differential Psychology: Towards Consensus (1987)


Modgil, Sohan, and Celia Modgil, eds. Arthur Jensen: Consensus and Controversy. Vol. 4. Routledge, 1987. "DIFFERENTIAL PSYCHOLOGY: TOWARDS CONSENSUS"

  • I had begun by trying, for the sake of scholarly thoroughness, merely to write a short chapter for my book on the ‘culturally disadvantaged’ that I expected would succinctly review the so-called nature-nurture issue only to easily dismiss it as being of little or no importance for the subsequent study of the causes of scholastic failure and success. I delved into practically all the available literature on the genetics of intelligence, beginning with the works of the most prominent investigator in this field, Sir Cyril Burt, whom I had previously heard give a brilliant lecture entitled The Inheritance of Mental Ability’ at University College, London in 1957. The more I read in this field, the less convinced I became of the prevailing belief in the all-importance of environment and learning as the mechanisms of individual and group differences in general ability and scholastic aptitude. I felt even somewhat resentful of my prior education, that I could have gone as far as I had—already a fairly well-recognized professor of educational psychology—and yet could have remained so unaware of the crucial importance of genetic factors for the study of individual differences.
    • p. 424
  • It was little consolation that I had been ‘in good company’ in my ignorance of genetics; in fact, that aspect of the situation seemed even more alarming to me. I was overwhelmed by the realization of the almost Herculean job that would be needed to get the majority of psychologists and educators fully to recognize the importance of genetics for the understanding of variation in psychological traits. Hence, rather than attempting at first to add small increments of original empirical research to the body of knowledge on the genetics of human abilities, I thought my most useful role at that point was a primarily didactic one.
    • p. 424
  • The study of inbreeding depression seems to me especially important in the study of human abilities, because inbreeding depression indicates genetic dominance, and the presence and degree of dominance are related to natural selection for the trait in the course of its biological evolution. It was of great interest to me to discover, for example, that of the several ability factors that can be extracted from the various subtests of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, the one that shows the greatest susceptibility to inbreeding depression is the g factor (Jensen, 1983b). This finding indicates that one of our most widely used standard psychometric tests of intelligence yields scores that reflect some part of the variance in the biological intelligence that has developed in the course of human evolution.
    • p. 424
  • The key theme in Gordon’s chapter, that lends it theoretical coherence, is his clear perception that the guiding force in my own work in mental measurement arises principally from my constant search for construct validity that can embrace the widest range of phenomena in differential psychology. In my philosophy, science is an unrelenting battle against ad hoc explanation. No other field in psychology with which I have been acquainted has been so infested by ad hoc theories as the attempts to explain social class, racial, and ethnic group differences on various tests of mental ability. My pursuit of what I have called the Spearman hypothesis (Jensen, 1985a), which is nicely explicated by Gordon, represents an effort to displace various ad hoc views of the black-white differences on psychometric tests by pointing out the relationship of the differences to the g loadings of tests, thereby bringing the black-white difference into the whole nomothetic network of the g construct. It is within this framework, I believe, that the black-white difference in psychometric tests and all their correlates, will ultimately have to be understood. Understanding the black-white difference is part and parcel of understanding the nature of g itself. My thoughts about researching the nature of g have been expounded in a recent book chapter (Jensen, 1986b). Enough said. Gordon’s chapter speaks for itself, and, with his three commentaries on the chapters by Osterlind, Shepard, and Scheuneman, leaves little else for me to add to this topic.
    • pp. 430-1
  • The study of race differences in intelligence is an acid test case for psychology. Can behavioral scientists research this subject with the same freedom, objectivity, thoroughness, and scientific integrity with which they go about investigating other psychological phenomena? In short, can psychology be scientific when it confronts an issue that is steeped in social ideologies? In my attempts at self- analysis this question seems to me to be one of the most basic motivating elements in my involvement with research on the nature of the observed psychological differences among racial groups. In a recent article (Jensen, 1985b) I stated:

    I make no apology for my choice of research topics. I think that my own nominal fields of expertise (educational and differential psychology) would be remiss if they shunned efforts to describe and understand more accurately one of the most perplexing and critical of current problems. Of all the myriad subjects being investigated in the behavioral and social sciences, it seems to me that one of the most easily justified is the black- white statistical disparity in cognitive abilities, with its far reaching educational, economic, and social consequences. Should we not apply the tools of our science to such socially important issues as best we can? The success of such efforts will demonstrate that psychology can actually behave as a science in dealing with socially sensitive issues, rather than merely rationalize popular prejudice and social ideology. (p. 258)

    • pp. 438-9
  • Given the present state of our knowledge, and insufficient thought on my part, my own prescription for the time being is to deal as best we can with individual differences and let the statistical group differences fall where they may. Society’s general concern with race and other social group differences is not the product of research on these matters, but arises from chauvinist-like attitudes of racial group identity and solidarity in connection with political power and economic interest. It might be termed meta-racism. The ‘race problem’ from that viewpoint is lower in my own hierarchy of values than concern with individual justice and alleviation of individual misfortune. Though it would be blind not to acknowledge the reality of certain statistical differences among populations, I would find it difficult to be the least concerned with any given individual’s racial heritage. Perhaps I may be too insensitive on this score, never having felt much sense of racial identity myself.
    • p. 443
  • The comments on value-free psychology are so vague as to have no teeth. I wish Sternberg had delivered on whatever point he was trying to make by pointing to some actual examples of how my values (or their lack) have led me to ‘comparisons that should not be made’ or inferences predicated on untrue assumptions. The ‘value-free’ psychology I would advocate is not free of scientific values, or humanistic moral values, or the value of social responsibility, but I do decry the infestation of psychology, or any science, by political and social ideologies. Ideological contamination of psychological research can only make suspect the claim of psychology to scientific status.
    • p. 448

The g factor: The science of mental ability (1998)


A. R. Jensen (1998) The g factor: The science of mental ability.

  • The validity of g is most conspicuous in scholastic performance, not because g-loaded tests measure specifically what is taught in school, but because g is intrinsic to learning novel material, grasping concepts, distinctions, and meanings... The most critical tool for scholastic learning beyond the primary grades— reading comprehension—is probably the most highly g-loaded attainment in the course of elementary education.
    • p. 270; As cited in: Melissa A. Bray, Thomas J. Kehle (2011) The Oxford Handbook of School Psychology. p. 65

Quotes about Arthur Robert Jensen

  • Jensenism, one of the great heresies of 20th century science, is partly responsible for getting the Darwinian-Galtonian paradigm back on track in differential psychology after it had been derailed in the behavioral sciences for at least a generation following World War II. In a brilliant 40-year career that has earned him a place among the most frequently cited figures in contemporary psychology, Arthur Jensen has systematically researched and extended Charles Spearman's (1927) seminal concept of g, the general factor of intelligence. The g Factor is an awesome and monumental exposition of the case for the reality of g. It does not draw back from its most controversial conclusions - that the average differences in IQ found between Blacks and Whites has a substantial hereditary component, and that this difference has important societal consequences...
    • J. Philippe Rushton (1998) "Book review : Arthur Robert Jensen (1998) The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability." in: Politics and the Life Sciences Vol 17, p. 230
  • As his own essay (this issue) demonstrates, Art relentlessly pursues a hard-edged, hypothetic-deductive science that treads on a more emotional, humanistic psychology. Art has no sympathy for mushy thinking. For him, impressions and feelings are not data and have no place in psychology, beyond perhaps the hypothesis-formation stage. Art is ruthlessly scientific: If hypotheses derived from a theory cannot be tested by logical experimentation and data analysis, the theory does not deserve to be called psychological science.
    • Scarr, Sandra. "On Arthur Jensen's integrity." Intelligence 26.3 (1998): 227-232.
  • Art has also endured abuse from thugs with pens instead of megaphones. Personally, I have no empathy for politically driven liars, who distort scientific facts in a misguided and condescending effort to protect an impossible myth about human equality (= identity). Art believes he understands the motives of the Marcus Foldmans, Steven Jay Goulds, and Leon Kamins of the intellectual world. They seem to speak his language, albeit with forked tongues. I find them despicable, because they have the knowledge and intellect to know that they deliberately corrupt science. To deny falsely the scientific evidence that nearly all measurable human traits are moderately to highly heritable is to deny parents and policy makers essential knowledge to run their own lives and the society as a whole. Self- appointed saviors of the equality myth are far more dangerous to an honest psychological science than a hundred outraged groupies who don't know that the lecture was supposed to be about, anyway.
    • Scarr, Sandra. "On Arthur Jensen's integrity." Intelligence 26.3 (1998): 227-232.
  • The question now is how to fill the void Jensen's death leaves, particularly for scholars open to scientific inquiry who challenge some of his conclusions. There is no substitute for someone of great intellectual caliber who disagrees with you. With Jensen no longer alive, we will have to invent him. But we cannot really do that, because no one is so constructed as to put the same energy and imagination into a fictitious opponent as we put into polishing our own ideas. No one can pretend to believe what they do not believe, but I hope there is a young scholar out there with the convictions and mind of Arthur Jensen. I am sometimes asked why I spoke so well of him. The answer is that it was easy.
    • Flynn, James R. "Arthur Robert Jensen (1923–2012)." Intelligence (2012).
  • Genetics and race; one cannot write about Arthur and avoid it. I asked him once after dinner, on his way to the tube, if he was racist. I thought at the time that I was being a bit daring. When I look back on it I feel ashamed because I was not, as I thought, bearding the lion in his den, I was simply being callow and jejune. I came to understand that later from his answer. Anyway, what he said was this: ‘I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s irrelevant’. He did not mean that racism is morally irrelevant. He meant that against the importance of developing a proper scientific theory of individual differences in intelligence, the personal attributes of Arthur R. Jensen are trivially insignificant.
    • Arden, Rosalind. "An Arthurian Romance" in Nyborg, Helmuth (ed.) The Scientific Study of General Intelligence: A tribute to Arthur Jensen (2003).
  • Arthur is a renunciate. He has chosen the stony path of scientific truth over the smoother course of popularity and public acceptance. If Arthur had worked in any other field, I’m certain that honours would have fallen into his lap, for he is a great scientist. The battle between the forces of reason and ideology is frightening, even for a bystander.
    • Arden, Rosalind. "An Arthurian Romance" in Nyborg, Helmuth (ed.) The Scientific Study of General Intelligence: A tribute to Arthur Jensen (2003).
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