The Bell Curve

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Simon and Schuster
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15.50 €

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life is a 1994 book by American psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein (who died before the book was released) and American political scientist Charles Murray. Herrnstein and Murray's central argument is that human intelligence is substantially influenced by both inherited and environmental factors and is a better predictor of many personal dynamics, including financial income, job performance, birth out of wedlock, and involvement in crime than are an individual's parental socioeconomic status, or education level. They also argue that those with high intelligence, the "cognitive elite", are becoming separated from those of average and below-average intelligence.

The book was controversial, especially where the authors wrote about racial differences in intelligence and discussed the implications of those differences. The authors were reported throughout the popular press as arguing that these IQ differences are genetic. In fact, they wrote in chapter 13: "It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences." The introduction to the chapter more cautiously states, "The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved."

The book's title comes from the bell-shaped normal distribution of intelligence quotient (IQ) scores in a population.