2012 An intelligent Scotland

An intelligent Scotland: Professor Sir Godfrey Thomson and the Scottish Mental Surveys 1932 and 1947

Ian J. Deary

Professor of Differential Psychology and Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh

Wednesday 17 October 2012 
British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

A video of the lecture can be accessed on the British Academy website.

About the lecture...

Scotland assessed the intelligence of its entire 11-year-old population twice: on 1 June 1932 and 4 June 1947. These were the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947.

Godfrey Thomson was at the heart of the projects on both occasions. In its first part, this lecture describes and explains why Scotland was a world-leader in intelligence research at this time. It describes the relative obscurity into which Thomson, and those Surveys, fell, and how his life and work are now re-emerging because of discoveries of his papers. A reassessment is taking place of his contributions to statistical methods, intelligence theory and practice, and educational research.

The second part of the talk describes current follow-up studies of the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947. These are studying the contributions to people’s differences cognitive ageing by testing the health, cognitive abilities, and brain structure of people in their 8th and 9th decades on whom there are intelligence test scores from age 11. Scotland once again is making a unique contribution to cognitive research: by researching the determinants of cognitive changes from age 11 to age 90 in the same individuals.

About Ian Deary…

Ian Deary is Professor of Differential Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Medical Research Council-administered Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology. He graduated in Psychology and Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and studied there for a PhD on the psychology of intelligence. He practised psychiatry in London and Edinburgh before moving to academic psychology.

His principal research interest is human mental abilities, especially: the origins of cognitive differences; the effects of ageing and medical conditions on mental skills; and the influence of intelligence on health and wellbeing through the lifecourse. He directs the Lothian Birth Cohorts of 1921 and 1936, and the 6-Day Sample follow-up study of the Scottish Mental Survey 1947.

He is an elected Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He held a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award (2003-2007) for his work on human cognitive ageing. In 2010 he received the Distinguished European Personality Psychologist Award from the European Association for Personality Psychology.