Why Is Intelligence Missing From Education?

Why Is Intelligence Missing From Education?

Why Is Intelligence Missing From Education?

Using history and culture to shed light on scientific and practical problems.

Intelligence is one of the most important predictors of education and life outcomes. In fact, having more intelligence is virtually never detrimental as my colleagues Matt Brown, Christopher Chabris, and I demonstrated in a recent preprint. From a scientific perspective and from the purview of intelligence researchers, then, it seems odd that intelligence research just hasn’t really been fruitfully integrated yet into US education policy and practice.

Despite this, practitioners and policymakers probably have their reasons for not integrating scientific information, including research from the field of intelligence. What other perspectives might shed light on why intelligence has not yet been integrated into American education policy and practice?

That’s what my colleague Robert Maranto and I recently attempted to do in our article titled “Why Intelligence is Missing From American Education Policy and Practice, and What Can Be Done About It." The full article is open access and here is the abstract:

“To understand why education as a field has not incorporated intelligence, we must consider the field’s history and culture. Accordingly, in this cross-disciplinary collaboration between a political scientist who studies institutions and a psychologist who studies intelligence, we outline how the roots of contemporary American Educational Leadership as a field determine its contemporary avoidance of the concept of intelligence. Rooted in early 20th century progressivism and scientific management, Educational Leadership theory envisions professionally run schools as “Taylorist” factories with teaching and leadership largely standardized, prioritizing compliance over cognitive ability among educators. Further, the roots of modern education theory do not see the intelligence of students as largely malleable. Hence, prioritizing intelligence is viewed as elitist. For more than a century, these assumptions have impacted recruitment into education as a profession. We conclude with ideas about how to bring intelligence into mainstream schooling, within the existing K-12 education institutional context. We believe that better integration of intelligence and broader individual differences research in education policy and practice would lead to more rapid advances to finding evidence based solutions to help children.”

History and culture are lenses that are useful to help explain why one established body of work in a specific area may simply not be integrated into another. However, this is just one example, and certainly, there are many other instances, especially in academia, where siloed information in one domain is useful in another, but for whatever reason has not yet been properly integrated. This highlights the importance of multidisciplinary collaborations generally and thinking beyond “disciplinary blinders.”


Maranto, R., & Wai, J. (2020). Why intelligence is missing from American education policy and practice, and what can be done about it. Journal of Intelligence, 8, 2.

This article originally appeared on Psychology Today.

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