Reassessment of Jewish Cognitive Ability: Within Group Analyses Based on Parental Fluency in Hebrew or Yiddish

Open Differential Psychology, 2014

Abstract

The most influential study on the differences in intellectual ability between Jews and gentiles may be Backman’s (1972) analysis of group differences in intellectual ability using the Project Talent data. However, inspection of the study, and the Project Talent data file on which the study is based, suggested that further analyses could be conducted that may be useful in shedding light on Jewish intellectual achievement. The most significant change from the original analysis was the use of parental fluency in Hebrew or Yiddish as a variable allowing for within group analyses. Analyses using this variable showed that as fluency increased so did general intelligence and scores on individual tests, with the exception of tests of spatial visualization and mechanical reasoning. For other European languages parental fluency was inversely associated with general intelligence. Results also showed that rates of myopia were positively associated with parental fluency in Hebrew or Yiddish, yet negatively associated with parental fluency in other European languages. General intelligence and individual test scores, with the exceptions of tests of spatial visualization and mechanical reasoning, were higher in individuals with myopia; for both Jews and gentiles. The results suggest that parental fluency in Hebrew or Yiddish is a valid measure Jewish within group differences and further research using the measure and the Project Talent data file is prescribed.

Keywords
Hebrew, Intelligence, Jewish, myopia, Yiddish

Reviewed by
Emil O. W. Kirkegaard, Davide Piffer, Elijah Q Armstrong

Review time 12 days.