MIDWAY : Lying eyes
Scientists at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, have apparently found a hitherto unobserved link between eye-colour and levels of intelligence. Blue-eyed people, they claim, are more studious, more strategic, more focused, and thus out-perform brown-eyed people in exams. However, those with brown eyes can apparently get their own back - by being able to run faster.
A brown-eyed person such as myself could feel stupid for not seeing the link between a person’s eye-colour and their mental capacity - except that it seems the scientists involved can’t see it either. “It is just observed, rather than explained,” says Joanna Rowe, professor emeritus (eye colour unknown). “There’s no scientific answer yet.” This “research” calls to mind a famous exercise conducted by an Iowa schoolteacher called Jane Elliott the day after Martin Luther King was killed. She divided her class of third graders into a blue-eyed group and a brown-eyed group, and informed first one and then the other that they were inferior. Almost immediately the latter betrayed feelings of self-loathing and fear; more shockingly, they also performed worse in academic tests. When they were told they were superior, they did much better.
In effect, she had displayed to her all-white class what Claude Steele, a professor of social psychology at Stanford University, has since proved more scientifically: that the observable difference in exam scores between white and black students (about 15 points on IQ tests) is due in large part not to genetic difference, as argued, for example, by the Berkeley eugenicist Arthur Jensen, but to what he terms “stereotype threat”: people who feel stereotyped, who have been stereotyped all their lives, act according to that stereotype, often despite themselves.
It is also not unreasonable to assume that in Louisville many brown-eyed people are also dark-skinned people who have not had the educational opportunities of their white brethren. Even if they are not, perhaps Rowe and co should have thought twice before announcing their observations — or at least addressed the whiff of racism, and the great potential for self-fulfilling stereotyping, that underlies them.