Intelligence Across the African-American and Latino Cultures

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Shiraev & Levy (2013) defines intelligence as, “The global capacity to think rationally, act purposefully, overcome obstacles, and adapt to a changing environment” (p.143). On the other hand, my personal definition of intelligence is the capacity to be curious about one’s environment and adapt to various situations. I feel that there is more to the concept of intelligence than good grades and a high G.P.A. Someone in a poverty-stricken neighborhood might not have the best education, but may be ‘street-smart’ by selling goods to ensure that they have the basic necessities. I am not saying that being educated should not play a role in the concept of intelligence, but it should not be the only factor. Otherwise, we are harming individuals’ self-esteem by labeling them as stupid because they do not fit the stereotype of what defines intelligence. My cultural frame of reference influences my definitions because I have seen many African-American students that I went to school with not succeed academically, but they went on to open their own businesses or obtain employment without a higher education.

I am comparing the African-American culture with the Latino culture when it relates to intelligence. Both cultures are similar in that they are viewed as inferior when it comes to intelligence. Paul (2012) states in her article, “Members of groups believed to be academically inferior-African American and Latino students enrolled in college, or female students in math and science courses-score much lower on tests when reminded beforehand of their race or gender” (para.4). It is no surprise that they get lower scores when you consider socioeconomic factors, and the biases that they fight against. Both cultures have to fight against adversity to achieve academic success. Latinos tend to follow a more collectivist structure, whereas the African-American culture is a more individualist structure. Latinos places more value on the family as a whole, while my culture is more into individual achievements. However, I believe both cultures are similar in that they both place a high value in education. This could be because since it is harder for them to obtain, they tend to appreciate it more.

I do not feel that the two intelligence tests are appropriate for all cultures to use. Different cultures have different cognitive abilities and different environments. The skills that one culture might be good at could be skills that another culture struggles with. When I took the Original Australian Test of Intelligence, I only knew the answers to a few of the questions. If someone that originated from Australia took the test, they are more likely to do well on it due to the cultural bias. The textbook (2013) says, “If a test were designed for a particular ethnic group, the test questions or tasks may not have similar meaning for other cultural groups” (p.122). Therefore, there would be a bias against any culture that is not familiar with the test questions, or the type of questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc...). I feel that it is difficult to design an intelligence test that is valid and fair to all cultures considering language barriers and environmental differences. Even if you put two people in the same culture to take the same culture appropriate personality test, their results will differ due to their personality and their environment. I also did not fare very well when I took the Chitling Intelligence Test. I struggled to understand most of the terminology that was used on that test. I think that it is too simplistic to make generalizations based off of the results of a biased intelligence test. When other cultures see that they did not do well on these exams, it decreases confidence and self-esteem.

The two cultural factors that I feel has the biggest influence on intelligence are environmental and biological factors. I had a difficult time only choosing two of the four listed in the prompt. Biological factors play a large role because if a family has ADHD or mental retardation that is genetic, it makes it harder for the people with the disorder in that family to succeed. They may still be very smart individuals, but still may not fit in the traditional definition of what intelligence means. They may have more struggles academically, but they also tend to have useful talents in other areas.

Environmental factors influence intelligence because they dictate the individuals’ surroundings which influence their decision making. For example, a person that was raised in a lower class neighborhood, and lives in that environment are more likely to be intelligent in mechanisms that makes them able to adapt to situations in that environment. They may be smart in the ways of the street, but be less academically inclined because that is not what is encouraged in that particular environment. Another example, education is strongly encouraged in Japan, so intelligence there may be more based on academic results. Due to differing environments, it is difficult to make standardized intelligence testing that will incorporate aspects of all cultures.

In conclusion, this week I got to learn how the concept of intelligence is not a universal concept. I had the opportunity to explore and credit my own definition of intelligence, and compare my own culture with another culture when it relates to intelligence. I also learned that the majority of intelligence tests are biased against various cultures.


Shiraev, E. B., & Levy, D. A. (2013). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (5th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Paul, A. (2012). Gray Matter. It’s not me, it’s you. The New York Times. Retrieved from:


Cite this page: Danielle Bosley, "Intelligence Across the African-American and Latino Cultures," in, July 28, 2017, (accessed September 30, 2022).