Jensenism is a term coined by New York Times writer Lee Edson. Named after educational psychologist Arthur Jensen, it was originally defined as "the theory that IQ is largely determined by the genes". The term was coined after Jensen published the article "How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?" in the Harvard Educational Review in 1969.[1] It has since been included in several dictionaries.[2]


The gap of the IQ between white and black students was a subject of debate in the United States, particularly around the 1970s. One view, which is referred to among behavioral geneticists as the genetic position, holds that IQ is determined by hereditary factors - about 80 percent of the variability of intelligence while 20 percent is attributed to environmental factors.[3] The gap, therefore, was associated with race. Jensenism was as one of the most notable theories to have emerged from this sector. It was based on Arthur Jensen's 1969 article that talked about the failure of compensatory education. He cited several evidence that demonstrated how IQ is inherited. For instance, he said that if one looks at studies of adopted children, "you find that their intelligence relates more closely to their natural parents."[4] He also proposed that the measured 15-point difference between American blacks and whites could never be entirely eliminated by education.[5]


Many reactions to Jensen's article and the arguments it contained quickly ensued, some highly favorable and others relentlessly negative, with some directly equating it with racism.[5] Among the latter was a paper by behavioral geneticist Jerry Hirsch, who claimed that Jensenism was an "intellectual disgrace", while also criticizing some of Jensen's earlier critics as resorting to "inarticulate and self-defeating hooliganism".[6] In a 1970 article responding to Jensen, biologist Richard Lewontin argued that Jensenism was a more recent manifestation of the 17th-century Christian heresy Jansenism, referring to the former as a "doctrine" that is "as erroneous in the twentieth century as it was in the seventeenth."[7] Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould also criticized Jensenism, arguing that it rested "on a rotten edifice."[8] Jensen's ideas reportedly received a more favorable reception in the Nixon administration; Lewontin quoted then-United States ambassador to India Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1974 as saying, "The winds of Jensenism are blowing through Washington with gale force."[9]

More recently, several favorable articles defending Jensen and his ideas have criticized the frequent negative use of the term "Jensenism".[10][11] These include the journal Intelligence, which devoted an entire issue honoring Jensen and his work.[12] Linda Gottfredson also claimed:

Arthur Jensen is a masterful scientist whose work broke a social taboo. Jensenism refers to the aspect of his work that violated the [social] taboo, specifically his conclusion that individual differences in intelligence are highly heritable and group differences may be too.[13]

Despite such defenses, however, the current scientific consensus is that genetics do not explain IQ differences between racial groups.[14][15][16][17][18]


  1. ^ Edson, Lee (1969-08-31). "jensenism, n. The theory that I.Q. is largely determined by the genes; jensenism, n. An I.Q. theory". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  2. ^ Jensen, Arthur R. (January 1998). "Jensen on "Jensenism"". Intelligence. 26 (3): 181–208. doi:10.1016/s0160-2896(99)80002-6. ISSN 0160-2896.
  3. ^ Baughman, E. Earl (2013). Black Americans: A Psychological Analysis. New York: Academic Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 9781483267432.
  4. ^ Hancock, Richard S. (2005). The Wrong Direction: An Educator Speaks Out. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing. p. 247. ISBN 141205785X.
  5. ^ a b Erickson, Paul; Murphy, Liam (2017). A History of Anthropological Theory, Fifth Edition. North York, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 121. ISBN 9781442636842.
  6. ^ Hirsch, Jerry (January 1975). "Jensenism: The Bankruptcy of "Science" Without Scholarship". Educational Theory. 25 (1): 3–27. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5446.1975.tb00663.x. ISSN 0013-2004.
  7. ^ Lewontin, Richard C. (March 1970). "Race and Intelligence". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 26 (3): 2–8. doi:10.1080/00963402.1970.11457774. ISSN 0096-3402.
  8. ^ Woo, Elaine (2012-11-02). "Arthur Jensen dies at 89; his views on race and IQ created a furor". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  9. ^ Cohen, Bennett D. (1974-07-12). "Lewontin Tells 300 at Forum Race and I.Q. Are Not Linked". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  10. ^ Deary, Ian J.; Crawford, J.R. (January 1998). "A triarchic theory of Jensenism: Persistent, conservative reductionism". Intelligence. 26 (3): 273–282. doi:10.1016/s0160-2896(99)80011-7. ISSN 0160-2896.
  11. ^ Kaufman, Alan S. (January 1998). "A new twist on Jensenism". Intelligence. 26 (3): 249–253. doi:10.1016/s0160-2896(99)80008-7. ISSN 0160-2896.
  12. ^ Miele, Frank (2018). Intelligence, Race, And Genetics: Conversations With Arthur R. Jensen. Oxon: Routledge. p. 1842. ISBN 9780429979385.
  13. ^ Gottfredson, Linda S. (January 1998). "Jensen, Jensenism, and the sociology of intelligence". Intelligence. 26 (3): 291–299. doi:10.1016/s0160-2896(99)80013-0. ISSN 0160-2896.
  14. ^ Ceci, Stephen; Williams, Wendy M. (1 February 2009). "Should scientists study race and IQ? YES: The scientific truth must be pursued". Nature. 457 (7231): 788–789. doi:10.1038/457788a. PMID 19212385. S2CID 205044224. There is an emerging consensus about racial and gender equality in genetic determinants of intelligence; most researchers, including ourselves, agree that genes do not explain between-group differences.
  15. ^ Hunt, Earl (2010). Human Intelligence. Cambridge University Press. p. 447. ISBN 978-0-521-70781-7.
  16. ^ Mackintosh, N. J. (Nicholas John), 1935- (2011). IQ and human intelligence (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 334–338, 344. ISBN 978-0-19-958559-5. OCLC 669754008.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Nisbett, Richard E.; Aronson, Joshua; Blair, Clancy; Dickens, William; Flynn, James; Halpern, Diane F.; Turkheimer, Eric (2012). "Group differences in IQ are best understood as environmental in origin" (PDF). American Psychologist. 67 (6): 503–504. doi:10.1037/a0029772. ISSN 0003-066X. PMID 22963427. Retrieved 22 July 2013. Lay summary (22 July 2013).
  18. ^ Kaplan, Jonathan Michael (January 2015). "Race, IQ, and the search for statistical signals associated with so-called "X"-factors: environments, racism, and the "hereditarian hypothesis"". Biology & Philosophy. 30 (1): 1–17. doi:10.1007/s10539-014-9428-0. ISSN 0169-3867. S2CID 85351431.