Michael E. Staub's The Mismeasure of Minds is a well-argued, concise account of how psychology shaped public policy and popular culture in the postwar United States. Staub focuses primarily on the forty years between Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve (1994), though he frequently brings readers into the twenty-first century. He covers a range of psychological trends and studies, devoting chapters to learned helplessness and neuroplasticity, the racialized diagnostic categories of minimal brain dysfunction and hyperkinesis, left- and right-brain asymmetry, emotional intelligence, and the reverberations of The Bell Curve's argument for genetic intellectual inequality. He shows that regardless of psychologists' ideologies and political goals, the biologizing and individualizing assumptions of their work have increasingly diverted attention from broad social, racial, and educational inequalities. It was no accident that the self-help books and neoliberal policies of the late twentieth century emphasized personal responsibility while touting their reliance on the latest psychological insights about brain development.

Staub packs this journey through postwar American psychology into 172 pages (excluding endnotes) and supports it with an impressive range of published primary sources. He explains psychological studies and concepts clearly, and successfully uses magazines, newspapers, presidential remarks, and congressional testimony to show how popular audiences and political actors absorbed, mocked, and often transformed these studies' findings.

Unintended consequences are a resounding—and often depressing—theme throughout The Mismeasure of Minds. Research undertaken without a conscious focus on race, such as early delayed gratification studies, nevertheless became "inextricably intertwined with public policy discussions of race, racial attitudes, and educational reform" (7). Time and again, egalitarian psychologists developed theories that right-wing advocates easily co-opted for their own political purposes. The 1960s, for example, witnessed Nixon wielding learned helplessness to justify cutting Head Start programs. Decades later, From Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000) used research on brain plasticity to advocate early interventions for disadvantaged children. Conservative commentators subsequently used the concept to argue for funding gifted education instead.

Psychologists also had to contend with the surprising durability of the lessons the public learned from published studies, even after those studies had been challenged and discounted. In the 1970s and 80s, for example, Joseph Bogen and Alan Kauffmann argued that racial and ethnic minorities scored poorly on IQ tests because those tests focused on "left-brain" thinking rather than the "right-brain" thinking that predominated in such groups. Even as their conclusions came into question, education reformers ran with the idea and labeled their curricular experimentation brain-based pedagogy. Bogen and Kauffman's work "provided scientific justification for sociocultural agendas" long after their claims had been upended (108). At the same time, their self-consciously anti-racist approach nevertheless reinscribed the principle of racial difference, providing ammunition to those who would adapt it in service of their own racialist agendas. As Staub puts it, "Important outcomes are sometimes based on imperfect science" (108).

Much of the literature on intelligence testing and eugenics focuses on its origins. Since 1994, such works have regularly made use of The Bell Curve in their introductions and epilogues to briefly illustrate the resonances of the stories they have told about the early twentieth century. In a brief afterword, Staub mirrors the technique, quickly reaching back to the origins of intelligence testing and discussing that era's notables in three paragraphs. This is a postwar book, and one cannot demand that it be otherwise, but the taste offered in the afterword makes clear how rich a slightly more sustained comparison might have been. It also would have helped provide a deeper context for several educational policies that Staub seems to indicate are new, rather than rooted in the rise of intelligence testing, such as ability-based tracking in schools and arguments that education initiatives for the gifted should take priority over those for the disabled.

Staub also uses the afterword to make explicit his title's reference to Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man (1981), a classic work of history that used its 1996 edition to take Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve to task. Staub offers his work as a supplement to Gould. Whereas Gould claimed that The Bell Curve reflected a mounting cultural ugliness fueled by racist resentment, Staub argues that psychological studies do not simply reflect culture but are also "purposive and productive" (172).

Staub relies primarily on the analytical categories of class and race and does not self-consciously engage with disability. Nevertheless, disability scholars will appreciate Staub's contribution to the literature on nature versus nurture debates. He convincingly argues that we remain in an "unfinished paradigmatic shift" between egalitarian environmental perspectives and racialist biological determinism. He also demonstrates that the concepts, though "divergent," were "also mutually imbricated" (6). Brain plasticity did not necessarily enable liberal policies, nor did psychologists who essentialized racial differences always do so with a racist agenda. Staub also makes a valuable contribution in his discussion of the medicalization of non-normative behaviors. The second chapter in particular, "Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Ritalin, and Racial Politics," is an excellent exploration of how psychologists medicalized and treated children's behaviors in different ways according to their race and class backgrounds. The book's brevity and clarity make it appropriate for advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in race, education, and medicine in the postwar United States. Readers will appreciate gaining a historicized perspective on psychological concepts that remain prominent in American culture today. They will never think about the marshmallow test in the same way again.

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