Letters

On intelligence

I found Etienne Benson's "Intelligent intelligence testing" (February Monitor ) interesting and revealing. Amazing that psychology's brightest minds have not come up yet with any theories and tests "to capture essential aspects of intelligence". However, with no psychometric tradition or theoretical and research materials, French psychologist Alfred Binet accomplished much alone--creating an intelligence scale in 1905 and paving the way for later developments.

Irrefutably, "A history of mental testing is in large part a history of the Binet tests, its antecedents and its descendents" (Cronbach, 1949, page 101). But we must be true to our historical heritage and not ignore the fact that psychiatrist Thèodore Simon collaborated with Binet in the preparation and publication of the first metric scale of intelligence and its later revisions. Therefore, scholars should mention and give credit to both Binet and Simon when talking about their invention.

Interestingly, Binet had dealt with testing situations, social context and the nature of intelligence as psychologists talk about it today. Believing in the "malleability" of intelligence, Binet suggested "mental orthopedics" to improve learning deficiencies and fought against the "brutal pessimism" of those who considered intelligence "a fixed quantity." Ahead of his time, Binet is still relevant and can help us if we just "rediscover" him!

HAGOP S. PAMBOOKIAN, PHD
Shawnee State University Portland, Ohio

CHARLES SPEARMAN, IN "THE Abilities of Man" (1927), commenting on the 1921 symposium to address the question of arriving at a consensual working definition of intelligence, said:

"But as for the essential aim, that of supplying the psychology of intelligence with a generally acceptable analysis, there appears to have been no success obtained. Each speaker had his own opinion; almost all of these turned out to differ widely; and reconciliation among them was not even attempted. Eventually, yet another symposium was called together, this time at Oxford in 1923. But the situation became even more perplexing than at the previous meeting. For then the problem had only been as to the nature of the single thing, intelligence. But now, there appeared in the field many different "intelligences," each presenting as hard a problem of its own!" (page 9).

Even without a consensus, Spearman carried on and discovered that, provided a sufficient number of cognitive tasks are administered, a substantial general factor, g, emerges regardless of the particular nature of the tasks. This is arguably one of few phenomena in psychological research to deserve the status of a "law." What would be amusing and saddening to Spearman is that, after many decades of work, a surprisingly large segment of our discipline in their search for more and more intelligences--perhaps to assure ourselves that humans are far too wonderful, too complex, too multi-intelligenced for g to be meaningful--find it necessary to discount one of the very few true scientific discoveries of our discipline.

JOSEPH A. BUCKHALT, PHD
Auburn University
 

On intelligence and culture

AS AN AVID BASKETBALL FAN I witnessed the on-court brilliance of players such as Bill Russell and Larry Bird, who were at best mediocre college students. Yao Ming, a Chinese national who came to the United States just this year, shows the same qualities of on-court basketball acumen. The basketball subculture is part of a global intellectual realm that requires a wide range of sensory motor and social cognition skills: integrating physical talent with spatial visualization, motivation and perseverance; innovative reasoning; abstract and practical problem-solving; and the ability to assess and anticipate the behavior of another person. Skills related to intellectual function--both the ability to delay gratification and to react instantly--are essential to championship performance.

Team play, without which individual talents may never yield championships, involves yet another set of complex skills involving social communication (verbal and nonverbal); the ability to subordinate personal needs to group goals; frustration tolerance; and the ability to inhibit prized skills while deliberately learning other, previously ignored or devalued skills.

I am convinced that by close study of international participants in individual and team sports we can contribute mightily to a much more sophisticated understanding of intellectual activity and capability. We would also do well to recall that David Wechsler's most unique contribution to the study of intelligence was to broaden its definition from verbal acumen to "the ability to think rationally...reason...and adapt competently to the environment."

GENE BOCKNEK, PHD
Norris, Tenn.
 

Web site questioned

IN THE FEBRUARY ISSUE OF THE Monitor, it was stated that APA's Div. 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women) "recently launched a Web site section that seeks to correct inaccurate information about reproductive health--abortion, in particular--by featuring research-based literature and scholarly opinions." The reason they apparently felt this was needed was to combat Web-based "misinformation from anti-abortion advocates."

Additionally, Div. 35 has taken a very clearly political stance by explicitly associating itself with the Pro-Choice Forum. In associating with the Pro-Choice Forum, they undermine the credibility of the research-based literature and scholarly opinions they present. In essence, anything they present will be assumed to have been viewed and interpreted through pro-abortion lenses. It is no different than a physician working for Phillip Morris "correcting" misinformation about secondhand smoke. It will convince no one other than those who already hold similar political views.

Science should be apolitical. The data should stand alone and be presented as nothing more than data. Whether that data support a pro-choice agenda or a pro-life agenda is not a decision for truly unbiased researchers. By supporting this agenda-driven Web site, Div. 35 has not only damaged the credibility of our supposedly unbiased profession, but, in some ways, has undermined the integrity of the APA itself.

ROBERT GALLAGHER, PHD
Clarksville, Md.
 

RESPONSE FROM DIV. 35 TASK FORCE ON REPRODUCTIVE ISSUES:

ROBERT GALLAGHER'S STATEMENT has three problems: disregard of APA's history on abortion issues, naïveté about the role of values in science, and misconstrual of the pro-choice position for research on postabortion emotional responses.

In 1969, APA's Council of Representatives resolved that abortion be considered a "civil right of the pregnant woman." More recently, pro-life misrepresentation of research findings led the council to resolve that APA disseminate scientific information on reproductive issues to policy-makers and the public. Our work is a direct response to that mandate.

Gallagher naïvely assumes findings with implications for women's lives can be "apolitical." Science always reflects the values of scientists--the difference here is that we state our values up front and do not pretend scientific methods make findings value-free.

More importantly, he ignores the fact that our Web site is a response to a pro-life campaign that interprets psychological data in inappropriate and destructive ways. Given that "silence is consent," psychologists have an ethical obligation to counter such misinformation.

Finally, the Phillip Morris analogy is inapt. We have no interest, economic or otherwise, in portraying abortion as a risk-free event. A pro-choice position means that we believe abortion is the woman's choice, that women should be given accurate information and informed consent in making their reproductive choices, and that they be supported in their decisions. The charge that this activity, which is congruent with APA policy and conducted in conformance with scientific standards, "undermines the integrity" of APA is without basis.

                                                                                NANCY FELIPE RUSSO, PHD
Arizona State University
LINDA J. BECKMAN, PHD
Alliant International University
Los Angeles

Women and ADHD

REGARDING NICOLE Crawford's excellent article, "ADHD: a women's issue," (February Monitor ), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a well-known disorder that is not known well. What is not known well is that gender stereotypes contribute to missed opportunities for identification and effective medication and psychological treatments for female adults with ADHD. For example, many females do not present with the classic "Dennis the Menace" triad of ADHD symptoms--restlessness, distractibility and [lack of] self-control. Rather, they suffer severe chronic and pervasive difficulties with distractibility--a difficulty filtering out external distractions that is often misdiagnosed and sometimes associated with disorders such as anxieties, substance abuse and depression.

A core problem in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is that scientists know much about how brains and minds work but have no knowledge about how brains produce minds. This wide brain-mind gap is often filled by political ideologues--both liberal and conservative--claiming they do not "believe" that ADHD exists, or at least know it is vastly over-diagnosed. Liberal ideologues tell us we mask the problems with medication. Conservative ideologues say ADHD is another myth of mental illness.

Until we have a medical test to identify ADHD, no amount of scientific knowledge, clinical experience or testimonies from those with the disorder will convince some citizens of the validity of neurophysiology disorders such as ADHD in adult females or anybody else. Your article does much to clarify the influence of stereotypes and myths about adult females with ADHD.

STEVEN J. CERESNIE, PHD
Plymouth, Mich.

WHILE WE APPRECIATE THE Monitor's focus on ADHD in women, we are concerned by the article's inaccurate and unbalanced portrayal. In showcasing Dr. Kathleen Nadeau's advocacy for women who supposedly have their own special brand of ADHD, Monitor staff writer Nicole Crawford presents hyperbole as fact. In reality, Dr. Nadeau and her colleagues have never provided convincing scientific evidence that ADHD should be parceled into specific sets of gender-determined symptoms. The extant research (which boasts many controlled studies that Dr. Nadeau ignored) strongly suggests that ADHD symptoms are not gender-specific (see a recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 159).

Nonetheless, Dr. Nadeau and her colleagues aim to create a new, gender-specific disorder out of thin air. No evidence exists that their construal of ADHD can be differentiated from other disorders, or that it meets fundamental requirements for construct validity or diagnostic reliability. It is especially critical to marshal such data because many of their descriptions of ADHD in women sound suspiciously like the consequences of anxiety and depression.

We applaud efforts to help adults with ADHD, regardless of gender. However, creating a pseudoscience is not the answer. Nor is it productive to claim that substantially greater evidence would be available if only the heartless establishment would care to produce it. Perhaps advocates for gender-specific ADHD should conduct scientific research (or at least read the literature) before engaging in "cutting edge advocacy" and appearing in the popular media to present clinical opinion as reality.

MICHAEL GORDON, PHD
SUNY Upstate Medical University
SAM GOLDSTEIN, PHD
University of Utah
RUSSELL BARKLEY, PHD
Medical University of South Carolina
KEVIN MURPHY, PHD
The Adult ADHD Clinic of Central Massachusetts

RESPONSE FROM NADEAU:

Drs. Gordon, Goldstein, Barkley and Murphy have misconstrued assertions made about gender issues in ADHD. I and my colleagues do not assert that there is "a new, gender-specific disorder." Instead, we assert that, as has been true in many other areas of medicine, gender issues have been overlooked while assumptions have been made that research based overwhelmingly on males is equally applicable to females.

There is a circular logic to the conclusion of ADHD studies that find few differences between males and females. Any females accepted into such studies must meet current male-derived diagnostic criteria. Therefore, it is no surprise when these studies find that girls who meet these criteria are found to be similar to boys. Several researchers interested in gender issues in ADHD have suggested that the girls in such studies do not represent the norm, but are at one extreme of the female ADHD continuum.

Dr. Barkley made a persuasive argument several years ago about the need for age-based criteria for ADHD--reasoning that criteria that are descriptive of children are inappropriate for adults. Dr. Barkley did not argue that adults have a "new, age- specific disorder," but rather that ADHD is manifested differently in adults. We make a similar argument for females--not that it is a separate or different disorder, but that in some important ways ADHD is manifested differently in females.

There is a widespread consensus that the under-diagnosis of females is a significant public health concern. I suggest dialogue rather than diatribe is the best approach to explore this important and misunderstood issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                  KATHLEEN NADEAU, PHD
Silver Spring, Md. 

Countering the scientific paradigm

AS A SOON-TO-BE PHD IN psychology, I would like to voice my displeasure with Dr. Kurt Salzinger's February Monitor "Science Directions" column. In the name of scientific credibility, Dr. Salzinger skewers clairvoyance, psychokinesis and other "natural" processes, [claiming] that good psychologists should reject them since evidence that would verify their existence is not available. I would counter that evidence for anomalies that violate the current scientific paradigm is strong. Witness the results of carefully controlled, double-blind experiments on distant healing, psi and remote viewing. The last 75 years have yielded more than 1,000 replicable experiments in the subjects that Dr. Salzinger derides.

According to Dr. Salzinger, showing respect for such inquiry constitutes "behaving in an irrational manner" and should be considered a psychological problem--one that might be solved by enrolling in more courses in psychology. Having completed 20 psychology courses, I can assure him that my coursework has taken me in a different direction than the one he espouses. I would hope that psychology would follow.

THOM MARKHAM
Novato, Calif.