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Widening the Story - Artifact 7

Eugenics, Euthenics, and Intelligence in Psychology


Macdonald Institute students learned how to define and diagnose mental fitness in their psychology course in ways that also affirmed singular ideas about the body in terms of individual self-reliance and agency (in body and mind).

The course focused on the relationship between heredity and intelligence, a major feature of the eugenics movement. For example, the course discusses Mental Age Theory and the Terman Scoring Test, an early intelligence classification system for school children created by Lewis Terman, both of which espoused the idea that intelligence was inherited and fixed from birth.1(footnote)

Intelligence tests are now understood to have mostly measured a knowledge of white Euro-American culture and language and vastly underestimated the intelligence of those outside this group.

  1. For more on Terman’s role in Ontario’s education segregation, see Jason Ellis, A Class by Themselves? The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond (Toronto; Buffalo; London: University of Toronto Press, 2019).