From genius inverts to gendered intelligence: Lewis Terman and the power of the norm

Hegarty, P. (2007). From genius inverts to gendered intelligence: Lewis Terman and the power of the norm. History of Psychology, 10(2) 132 - 155.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/1093-4510.10.2.132

Abstract

The histories of "intelligence" and "sexuality" have largely been narrated separately. In Lewis Terman's work on individual differences, they intersect. Influenced by G. Stanley Hall, Terman initially described atypically accelerated development as problematic. Borrowing from Galton, Terman later positioned gifted children as nonaverage but ideal. Attention to the gifted effeminate subjects used to exemplify giftedness and gender nonconformity in Terman's work shows the selective instantiation of nonaverageness as pathological a propos of effeminacy, and as ideal a propos of high intelligence. Throughout, high intelligence is conflated with health, masculinity, and heterosexuality. Terman's research located marital sexual problems in women's bodies, further undoing possibilities for evaluating heterosexual men's practices as different from a normative position. Terman's research modemized Galton's imperialist vision of a society lead by a male cognitive elite. Psychologists continue to traffic in his logic that values and inculcates intelligence only in the service of sexual and gender conformity.

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