Science, Policy, and Early Intervention

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


This article examines the relation of scientific research on intelligence to issues of public policy. Early intervention research with children at risk for mild mental retardation (MR) is considered and found to have a key role in resolving debate regarding the inherent immutability or modifiability of intelligence. The logic and scientific progress of early intervention research, however, are not well understood. As a specific example, the Baumeister and Bacharach [Baumeister, A.A., Bacharach, V.R., 1996. A critical analysis of the Infant Health and Development Program. Intelligence, 23, 79-104.] critical analysis of the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP), an early intervention program for low birth weight (LBW), preterm infants, is reviewed. The critique's assessments of both the public policy relevance and scientific importance of the IHDP are found to be inaccurate. Failure to consider the IHDP as a controlled efficacy trial, as distinct from an effectiveness trial, led the authors to incorrect conclusions concerning the policy relevance of the study's findings. It also led the authors to misinterpret the meaning of individual level and group level variance estimates in their analysis of IHDP data. Early intervention research can serve an important role in shaping public policy and in furthering scientific understanding of intelligence. The need for psychobiological theorizing in the study of MR and the role of early intervention research in the empirical validation of psychobiological models is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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