Emily Ruins Adam

Aug 27 2017

On this special episode, Emily turns the tables on Adam to reveal how IQ tests don’t determine intelligence before looking back at mistakes the show has made and explaining the backfire effect of trying to convince someone they were wrong. Here are her sources.


"Napoleon wasn't that short!"

Alessandro Lugli, Inti Zlobec, Gad Singer, Andrea Kopp Lugli, Luigi M. Terracciano and Robert M. Genta. "Napoleon Bonaparte's gastric cancer: a clinicopathologic approach to staging, pathogenesis, and etiology." Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2007.

"Bees don't have knees. Their legs have joints, but not kneecaps."

"Biology - Interesting Facts." The British Beekeeper's Association, 2017.

"But in reality, IQ tests are deeply biased and controversial tools that might not predict intelligence at all."

Steve Connor. "IQ tests are 'fundamentally flawed' and using them alone to measure intelligence is a 'fallacy', study finds." The Independent, 21 Dec 2012.

"In fact, it was invented in 1904 as a way to assess which French kids were doing well in kindergarten."

Robin L. Cautin and Scott O. Lilienfeld, eds. The Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology, Volume 1. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

"My test is for children! It is not meant to apply to everyone!"

Robert S. Siegler. "The Other Alfred Binet." Developmental Psychology, Mar 1992.

"People liked intelligence testing so much that within a few years, IQ tests had swept the nation."

Ludy T. Benjamin Jr. "The Birth of American Intelligence Testing." The American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, Jan 2009.

"Early tests focused almost entirely on concepts only rich white folks would know."

Etienne Benson. "Intelligent Intelligence Testing." The American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, Feb 2003.

"We act like these tests are objective, but the truth is they're actually biased toward people with similar life experiences to the test-makers."

Emily Young. "Intelligence Testing: Accurate or Extremely Biased?" The Neuroethics Blog, 24 Sep 2013.

"In fact, the two most popular tests, the Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler, measure different things and can give very different results."

Linda Gilmore, Melinda Garred, and Kimberley Wilson. "Can different measures of intelligence be used interchangeably? A comparison of the Wechsler and Stanford-Binet scales." 11th European Conference on Psychological Assessment, 3 Sept 2011.

"Goddard was also a member of something called the Ohio Committee on the Sterilization of the Feeble Minded."

Ludy T. Benjamin Jr. "The Birth of American Intelligence Testing." The American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, Jan 2009.

"In the 20th century, state governments used low IQ scores as an excuse to sterilize people."

Sarah Zhang. "A Long-Lost Data Trove Uncovers California's Sterilization Program." The Atlantic, 3 Jan 2017.

"But according to new research, DNA evidence can often suffer from the same problems as other forensic science, such as incomplete samples and crime scene contamination."

Melissa Hogenboom. "Kercher trial: How does DNA contamination occur?" BBC News, 30 Jan 2014.

"When German police found matching DNA on 40 different crime scenes, the concluded it was a serial killer called "the Phantom of Heilbronn."

"'DNA bungle' haunts German police." BBC News, Mar 28 2009.

"Between 2001 and 2008, air marshals didn't make one arrest related to terrorism."

Mark G. Stewart and John Mueller. "A Risk and Cost-Benefit Assessment of United States Aviation Security Measures." The Journal of Transportation Security, Sep 2008.

"Taxpayers spent 800 million dollars on air marshals in 2014 alone."

Mike M. Ahlers. "Homeland Security thins air marshal ranks." CNN, 26 Feb 2014.

"Air marshals are so ineffective, one member of Congress has even called for the program to be abolished."

"Should we end the controversial air marshal program?" Weekend Edition Saturday. NPR, 24 Oct 2015.

"In some cases buying a brand new electric car can actually increase your carbon footprint. But that doesn't mean that no one should ever buy one."

"Adam's Sources: Adam Ruins Going Green." truTV.com, 25 Dec 2016.

Adam Conover and Peter Miller. "Adam Ruins Everything Responds to The Verge." Medium, 11 Jan 2017.

"It's actually a little over 12 hundred feet tall! I guess we added a zero somehow."

"Empire State Building Fact Sheet." Empire State Realty Trust, 9 Apr 2014.

"And one time you showed snowflakes with eight sides, but they almost always have six."

Jon Hamilton. "What's Wrong With This Snowflake?" NPR, 23 Dec 2009.

"But the surprising truth is, disproving a misconception can actually strengthen a person's belief in that misconception."

Craig Silverman. "The Backfire Effect: More on the Press's Inability to Debunk Bad Information." Columbia Journalism Review, 17 Jun 2011.

"One study showed that when people concerned about the side effects of the flu shot were informed that it was safe, they actually became less willing to get it."

Cari Romm. "Vaccine Mythbusting can Backfire." The Atlantic, 12 Dec 2014.

"Being proven wrong actually activates the same areas of the brain as real physical pain."

C. Nathan DeWall, Geoff MacDonald, Gregory D. Webster, Carrie L. Masten, Roy F. Baumeister, Caitlin Powell, David Combs, David R. Schurtz, Tyler F. Stillman, Dianne M. Tice, and Naomi I. Eisenberger. "Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain." Psychological Science, 14 Jun 2010.

"Don't do it, some experts say [Soulcycle] can be bad for you."

James S. Fell. "In-Your-Face Fitness: SoulCycle's mix of cycling and upper-body workouts raises concerns." The Los Angeles Times, 28 Nov 2011.

"But when the truth threatens their identity, they push back hard."

Maria Konnikova. "I Don't Want To Be Right." The New Yorker, 16 May 2014.

"When a fact contradicts our beliefs, we often hide behind emotional arguments that can't be disproven."

Troy Campbell. "Why People Fly From Facts." Scientific American, 3 Mar 2015.

"The "Backfire Effect" happens because our emotions are faster than logical thoughts."

Chris Mooney. "The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science." Mother Jones, May/Jun 2011.

"Finding out you're wrong is the first step toward one day being right."

Henry L. Roediger and Brigid Finn. "Getting it Wrong: Surprising Tips on How To Learn." Scientific American Mind, 20 Oct 2009.

"And people actually like you more if they see you screw up. It's called the 'Pratfall Effect.'"

John Tauer. "Image is Everything: LeBron James and the Pratfall Effect." Psychology Today, 22 Jul 2009.

"Doctors who are honest about their errors are more likely to have more trusting patients, not fewer."

Kathleen M. Mazor, George W. Reed, Robert A. Yood, Melissa A. Fischer, Joann Baril and Jerry H. Gurwitz. "Disclosure of Medical Errors: What Factors Influence How Patients Respond?" The Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21 (7), Jul 2006.

For More on This Topic

The PBS blog "Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States" links out to interviews with survivors and additional resources for more information on the legacy of sterilization laws in the U.S., particularly in California, where legislation targeted Mexican immigrants, in North Carolina, and in Southern States, where unnecessary hysterectomies performed on women of color at teaching hospitals were called "Mississippi appendectomies."

You can read more about how much the disapproval and humiliation of being corrected really hurts your brain at The Guardian.

It’s free to download Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook's The Debunking Handbook.