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Carl Campbell Brigham, The Native Intelligence Hypothesis, and the Scholastic Aptitude Test SAT

Saretzky, Gary D.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Aptitude Tests, Brigham, Carl Campbell, College Admission, Intelligence, Nature Nurture Controversy, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Test Bias, Test Use


Ethnic, racial, and religious discrimination in selective college admissions was commonplace in the 1920's, but it is doubtful that the College Board's 1926 innovation, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, was developed to be used as an instrument of prejudice. By 1926, the use of quotas by elite colleges had made discrimination in admissions through the use of tests somewhat superfluous. Socially selective schools, in this early period, probably sought the SAT primarily to help evaluate "desirable" borderline candidates who could not otherwise demonstrate clearly their qualifications. The enthusiasm of at least one proponent of the SAT's precursor, the National Intelligence Test, did stem in part from a belief that such tests could be used to identify and reject presumably less intelligent college applicants from minority groups but by the time of the SAT's introduction, its primary developer, Carl Brigham, was skeptical that it measured intelligence. Although Brigham did support the "native intelligence" hypothesis early in his career, he publicly reversed his position in 1930 and thereafter stated that heredity had little to do with average performance on tests by ethnic groups.

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