Intelligence is most commonly though of as quickness of understanding or mental power and ability. The testing of these capabilities can be limited according to the race and culture of the individual under assessment, consequently controversy regarding the viability of IQ tests has raged incessantly. Do culture fair tests exist? Or are they merely speculative? Culture fair tests were first developed prior to the First World War in order to assess ability levels of immigrants and other individuals who did not speak English, over the last two decades “culture-fair” tests of mental ability have gained in visibility and also popularity. In 1968 Taylor argued that “there are culture free tests which measure intelligence without putting a premium on education or other cultural factors”. Is this statement true? Aspects that should be analysed carefully In consideration of a thorough answer to the question posed, include; the workings of current IQ tests and the regional as well as cultural problems which arise, past research looking at cultural differences, methods posed to overcome these cultural biases and the validity of various current culture fair tests.
Whilst deciding whether an intelligence test can be described as culture fair, we must also decide whether we agree or disagree with Taylor. The aforementioned problems with intelligence tests relate to regional as well as cultural (race differences) endeavours and both these factors should be scrutinised carefully to come to a conclusion regarding the culture fair validity of any intelligence test. Initially however, in order to distinguish whether any current commercially available IQ tests are culture fair, it is imperative to understand how they work. IQ tests were first derived by Galton (1869), who used an existing theory of intelligence to develop a test that was deigned to measure “intelligent behaviour” Galtons tests were found erroneous though as they failed to agree with independent speculations that we might rightly make about intelligence. Consequently a different approach was developed by Binet (1905-1911), an American psychologist.
A relevant milestone during this time was the United States Armys intelligence testing team exposing a very large number of American males to standardized testing for the first time. This served as a training ground for many psychologists, including Binet. His approach assesses relative intelligence by testing the subject using a set of questions, of differing difficulty. Binet argued that the content of the questions was irrelevant as long as their results correlated with another measure of cognitive capacity, i.e. one that increases with age.
Hence, IQ is the ratio of mental age to the childs physical age. The problem apparent from this approach is that these tests should not be regarded as direct measures of cognitive capacity, as the variables under study can all be affected independently by other factors, such as early education and physical environment. Thus arises the problem under consideration. This problem was realized when researchers attempted to interpret behavioural differences between racial groups. Complication occurred as such groups also differed in culture. The recent interest in culture fair tests stems from various sources, including: research indicating racial differences in test performance on cognitive tests and research showing test differences as a function of socio-economic levels.
Therefore before looking in deeper detail at culture fair tests, firstly some of the principal ways in which cultural differences between racial groups may be reflected in psychological test results should be examined. These causes include: general cultural milieu, culture conflicts, socio-economic level, and education. It is clearly palpable that the particular culture in which the individual is reared may influence his/her behavioural development. The experiences of people living in different cultures may lead to different perceptual responses, lead to a different meaning of their actions, and stimulate different standards of behaviour. Porteus recorded a particularly interesting illustration of this in 1979. He was studying Australian aborigines and had great trouble attempting to convince his participants that they were supposed to solve the problems individually and without assistance.
He stated that “the subject of a test was evidently extremely puzzled by the fact that I would render him no assistance . . .” Culture convicts have been analysed through studies of immigrant groups and the problems that they experience adjusting to a new culture. This maladjustment is greatest in the case of second-generation immigrants, as the two frames of referance offered them can serve to be extremely confusing Socio-economic level is also an important cultural factor. Generally, minority groups are associated with low socio-economic status, because the latter is usually related to intellectual development this factor must be taken into account when testing their IQ.
Lastly, it is rather self-explanatory that differences in the amount and nature of education are reflected in intelligence test performance. A lesser side of this problem is apparent though regional factors. For instance, it is assumed that an intelligent person is more likely to recall factual knowledge about their own region, and their own language. An illustration of this is exemplified through a question from WAIS, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. The question, “What is the distance between New York and London?” was reasoned to be easier for the average American population than for the British, because this information is included in the American equivalent of the National Curriculum. Whilst, “what is the distance between Edinburgh and London?” i.e.
the regionalised version of this question is unlikely to be known unless you have actually made that journey. A possible solution to this problem could be to internalise the question in a multiple-choice form. However this modification does not test what it originally set out to, i.e. the ability to recall random pieces of information. Another way of avoiding this regional bias (which isnt possible in cultural bias) is to put in a mixture of questions, however the assessment of difficulty problem is then still unsolved.
Ideally, a test should be used which isnt regionally biased, i.e. involves abstract shapes unseen by the participants and bases all its information on that given on the question paper. The Davis Ells Games was an early attempt to construct a test, which would eliminate the differences between social classes. This was composed of a number of items, which did not require an reading or attention to instructions on the test. Several other tests have also been developed which are culture fair.
Ravens Matrices is another example of a culture fair test, although experiments demonstrate that there is a correlation between amount of time resident in the UK and the test scores. Japanese children do much better on this test but the reason appears to be due to a significant proportion of schooling time been devoted to the abstract problem-solving tasks that it tests. This was missing from the UK Curriculum, which explains the lower scores. Interestingly, WAIS results show that American blacks, which attend the same school and come from similar backgrounds to the whites from the same area, appear to have significantly lower WAIS scores in some studies. These findings relate the regional to the cultural and make the development of culture fair tests much more imperative. As the regional differences had been standardised, these results must relate to an innate difference, which may be generalised across the entire racial group. Dreger and Miller (1960) concluded similarly that the average IQ of Negroes is approximately 15 points lower than that of whites; Negroes consequently generally do less well on selection tests for employment.
Perhaps these results are due to the nature of the test and other tests may be less biased. Raven Progressive Matrices and the Cattell Culture Free Test of Intelligence are examples of “culture-fair Tests” which may prevent bias according to culture. Higgins and Sivers (1958) reported a study using both the Stanford-Binet and the Raven Progressive Matrices. Negro and white children were used in this study and they achieved similar scores on the Stanford-Binet. However, the Negro group scored more than ten IQ points lower on the Progressive Matrices clearly the latter test would have penalised the Negro group had it been a screening devi …