What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought



An engaging discussion of the important cognitive characteristics missing from IQ tests

Critics of intelligence tests--writers such as Robert Sternberg, Howard Gardner, and Daniel Goleman--have argued in recent years that these tests neglect important qualities such as emotion, empathy, and interpersonal skills. However, such critiques imply that though intelligence tests may miss certain key noncognitive areas, they encompass most of what is important in the cognitive domain. In this book, Keith E. Stanovich challenges this widely held assumption.

Stanovich shows that IQ tests (or their proxies, such as the SAT) are radically incomplete as measures of cognitive functioning. They fail to assess traits that most people associate with "good thinking," skills such as judgment and decision making. Such cognitive skills are crucial to real-world behavior, affecting the way we plan, evaluate critical evidence, judge risks and probabilities, and make effective decisions. IQ tests fail to assess these skills of rational thought, even though they are measurable cognitive processes. Rational thought is just as important as intelligence, Stanovich argues, and it should be valued as highly as the abilities currently measured on intelligence tests.

Product Details

Yale University Press
Publish Date
February 23, 2010
6.1 X 0.8 X 9.1 inches | 1.05 pounds

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About the Author

Keith E. Stanovich is professor of human development and applied psychology, University of Toronto. He lives in Portland, OR.


"In this compellingly readable book Keith Stanovich explains the bold claim that the notions of rationality and intelligence must be distinguished sharply and studied separately. His proposal would deeply change both the field of intelligence testing and the study of individual decision making--and he may well succeed."--Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Nobel Laureate in Economics--Daniel Kahneman
Winner of the 2010 Grawemeyer Award in Education, given by the University of Louisville--Grawemeyer Award in Education"University of Louisville" (01/01/2009)

"A compelling argument....What Intelligence Tests Miss illuminates the actions of everyone who affects our lives."--Scientific American

--Scientific American

"An original, well-supported, and brilliantly tied together book that reveals the misunderstood relationship between IQ, intelligence, and rationality."--David Over, Durham University, Psychology Department

--David Over
"In this brilliant and entertaining book, Keith Stanovich shows that intelligence tests, though they have their uses, fail to assess the key components of rational thought and action."--P. N. Johnson-Laird, author of How We Reason

--P. N. Johnson-Laird
"Professor Stanovich has an unparalleled ability to synthesize results from diverse domains of cognitive science in a lively way that is tremendously useful to us non-specialists. This book is not about emotional or multiple intelligence; it's about intelligence in its most important practical dimensions."--E. D. Hirsch, Jr., author of The Knowledge Deficit and The Schools We Need

-- (05/01/2008)

"In this smart and rational book, Keith Stanovich explains the difference between intelligence and rationality. Stanovich, one of psychology's wisest writers about intelligence, also shows that IQ tests do not measure the full scope of mental ability because they fail to assess rational thought, which is central to happiness and fulfillment. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what makes us truly smart--and why smart people often behave irrationally."--Carol Tavris, Ph.D., coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts

--Carol Tavris, Ph.D.

"In this dazzling synthesis about how well and poorly people think and why, Keith Stanovich drives a wedge between intelligence and rationality. This book demonstrates compellingly how rationality is more than intelligence and how those who are intelligent can be dismayingly irrational."--David Perkins, author of The Eureka Effect

--David Perkins
"Written for the intelligent lay reader as well as the scholar, the book is clear and lively. Scholars will find material on the intelligence-rationality relationship particularly valuable, and research psychologists should take seriously Stanovich's case for developing a standardized rationality quotient (RQ) test. . . . Essential."--B. J. Lovett, Choice-- (06/01/2009)
Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine--Choice (01/01/2010)