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The Intelligence Equation – Stephen Pincock ***

This book presents the reader with a rather nice concept slightly strangled by a format. The idea is to look at factors that can add or subtract to your brainpower. This could make for an interesting book if presented the right way, perhaps looking at the pros and cons (and there certainly are some cons in this business) of intelligence enhancement – but the format requires it to be in the format of 100 snippets each of which is given + or – points as a score in the way it influences your intelligence.
This makes for a rather bumpy ride of a read. The book doesn’t really flow, and there is little connection between the individual mini-articles. It can’t really decide if it’s a self-help book (eat more fish to be more brainy) or an analysis of the status quo which you can’t do anything about (if you are born this way, you will be more or less intelligent).
To be fair to the author, Stephen Pincock does do his best to take a good, analytical approach to the various factors, as this is area (anyone care to drink lots of water and rub their chests in a certain way?) where there is a lot of snake oil salesmanship. However occasionally he does let standards slip a little. So, for instance, on the Mozart effect business, where thousands of poor babies have been subjected to that tedious composer because listening to his music is supposed to increase their intelligence. Pincock tells us that those who have reviewed a wide range of studies found that the effect of listening to Mozart ‘was not significant.’ Nevertheless, he goes on to tell us, ‘many researchers believe there is an effect.’ So what? Many people believe in all sorts of untrue things. Pincock should take his own advice. When talking about critical thinking, he says to be wary of group think – yet this is exactly what he is falling for here.
Overall, then, most of the content is good despite the occasional leaning towards unsupported conclusions, but it’s not totally clear what you would do with it as a book.

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Review by Jo Reed

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