Inventing Intelligence

How America Came to Worship IQ

by Elaine E. Castles


Measurement of intelligence has resulted in individuals being judged on the basis of IQ results rather than on merit or personal achievement. Controversy abounds over America's cultural infatuation with IQ, which has long served to perpetuate social inequalities and place limits on an individual's aspirations.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Inventing Intelligence

June 2012


Pages 197
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Psychology/General

The use and misuse of IQ tests has long been a subject of contention in the scientific and social communities, particularly because these evaluations favor intelligence at the expense of other valuable human qualities. This is the first book of its kind to examine the historical development of our modern concept of intelligence and to explore America's fascination with the controversial exams that purport to measure it.

Most of us assume that people in every period and in every region of the world have understood and valued intelligence in the same way we do today. Our modern concept of intelligence, however, is actually quite recent, emerging from the dramatic social and scientific changes that rocked the United States during the 19th century.

Inventing Intelligence: How America Came to Worship IQ discusses the historical context for understanding the development of the concept of intelligence and the tests used to measure it. The author delves into the intertwined issues of IQ, heredity, and merit to offer a provocative look at how Americans came to overvalue IQ and the personal and social problems that have resulted.


  • A detailed assessment of the century-long debate over IQ tests and their uses
  • Interdisciplinary content covering psychology, history, science, and sociology
  • A collection of popular opinions of intelligence assessment from professionals, pundits, and politicians
  • A chronological look at the concept of intelligence and at the process through which Americans have come to worship it


  • Explains the historical context of our contemporary views on intelligence
  • Discusses the unintended negative consequences of America's infatuation with IQ
  • Examines the assumption that test scores reflect individual merit
  • Reviews the heated national debates over IQ scores, heredity, and race
Author Info

Elaine E. Castles, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and the author of "We're People First": The Social and Emotional Lives of Individuals with Mental Retardation.



"Inventing Intelligence: How America Came to Worship IQ is among the best books on intelligence that I have read in a long time. . . . I never had heard of Elaine Castles before I read this book. Having read the book, I hope to hear much more of and from her."PsycCRITIQUES


"Elaine Castles has produced a stimulating overview of the history of intelligence and its tests. Ranging from the Colonial period to the present, she summarizes well a great deal of scholarship on the emergence of the IQ test and its place in American society. She also writes cogently of the dangers of over reliance on single measures such as IQ for the complicated task of assessing an individual's merit."—John Carson, Associate Professor, University of Michigan; Author of The Measure of Merit: Talents, Intelligence, and Inequality in the French and American Republics, 1750–1940

Look Inside

Other Titles of Interest

Healing from Childhood Abuse cover imageNormality Does Not Equal Mental Health cover imageThe Loveless Family cover image
The Seven Sources of Pleasure in Life cover imageAltering Consciousness cover imageWisdom for Separated Parents cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips