Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count

Date: Thursday, April 12, 2012 Place: 1230 York Avenue at 66th Street
Registration: 5:30 p.m.   Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall
Program: 6:00 p.m.   The Rockefeller University

Does DNA determine intelligence? Not nearly as much as most people believe, according to social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett, Ph.D. Citing results from his own studies and evidence from the work of others, Dr. Nisbett has shown that children’s upbringing and education have more powerful effects on IQ than the genes they inherit from their parents. He has widened the discussion to address common assumptions about ethnic groups and academic performance, making the case that shared values and other cultural influences are the strongest determinants of intellectual accomplishment within ethnic populations. He has also delved into the philosophies and traditions of East Asian and Western societies to understand how distinct modes of learning and reasoning may emerge within different cultures.

In his bestselling 2009 book, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, Dr. Nisbett uses research data to demonstrate that schools can make people smarter, and he discusses strategies that school systems can use to improve learning for all students. He also includes some simple advice—based on findings in neurobiology as well as psychology—to show parents how they can assist their children in developing such skills as reasoning, planning, problem solving, and abstract thinking.

Parents & Science and The Rockefeller University Council are delighted to feature Richard Nisbett as the speaker for this special evening event. Dr. Nisbett, the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The program will include a panel discussion with two Rockefeller University neuroscientists—both National Academy of Sciences members—whose research focuses on the brain’s development. Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D., the University’s Alfred E. Mirsky Professor and the faculty advisor to Parents & Science, studies neuroendocrine effects in the brain. He is particularly interested in the long-term outcomes of stress and low socioeconomic status in childhood. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., who became president of The Rockefeller University in March 2011, is also head of the Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair. Dr. Tessier-Lavigne investigates the formation of neural circuits in the brain that provide a foundation for all types of learning.

To RSVP or for more information, please contact Erika Layfield at (212) 327-7434 or

Richard Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Parents & Science
Faculty Advisor

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.
Alfred E. Mirsky Professor
Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch
Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology

Parents & Science Leadership


Daniella Lipper Coules
Talbott Simonds

Steering Committee

Rebecca Anikstein
John Bernstein
Charles W. Caulkins
Karen de Saint Phalle
Blair Pillsbury Enders
Wendy Ettinger
Kathy Heinzelman
Tania Neild, Ph.D.
Ilona Nemeth
Marean Pompidou
Courtney Smith Rae
Loli Echavarria Roosevelt
Kimberly Kravis Schulhof
Roxy Zajac

Scientific Advisory Council

Evelyn Attia, M.D.
BJ Casey, Ph.D.
Myron Hofer, M.D.
Ilene Sackler Lefcourt
Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D.
Richard Nisbett, Ph.D.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

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