Sandra Scarr bigraphy, stories - American psychologist

Sandra Scarr : biography

1936 -

Sandra Wood Scarr (born August 1936) is an American psychology professor.


  • Scarr S. Understanding Development. Harcourt (1986) ISBN 0-15-592864-3
  • Scarr S. Understanding Psychology. Random House Inc (T); 5th edition (1987). ISBN 0-07-555247-7
  • Scarr S. Socialization (Merrill sociology series). C. E. Merrill Pub. Co (1973). ISBN 0-675-09039-3
  • Lande JS, Scarr S. Caring for Children: Challenge to America. Lea (1989). ISBN 0-8058-0255-X
  • Scarr S. Mother care/other care (A Pelican book). Penguin Books; 2nd ed edition (1987). ISBN 0-14-022760-1
  • Scarr S. Psychology and Children: Current Research and Practice. Amer Psychological Assn; Reprint edition (1979). ISBN 0-912704-59-4
  • Scarr S. Genetic effects on human behavior: Recent family studies (Master lectures on brain-behavior relationships). American Psychological Association (1977). ASIN: B0006Y2RV0
  • Scarr S. Genetics and the development of intelligence. University of Chicago Press (1975). ISBN 0-226-35354-0


Sandra was the child of school teacher Jane Powell Wood and of John Ruxton Wood, a US Army physician, who in 1942 was appointed director of Army Research Laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal and who in 1950 headed the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Sandra spent most of her childhood in the Chesapeake Bay area and went to the Bryn Mawr School for Girls and the National Cathedral School. After completing her undergraduate studies at Vassar College in 1958, where she was involved in undergraduate research led by Harriet Zuckerman, Sandra worked for a couple of years first at a family and child service and then at National Institute of Mental Health as a research assistant. In 1960 she enrolled at Harvard University, from where she earned her Ph.D. in psychology in 1965, specializing in developmental psychology and behavioural genetics. During graduate school, she married fellow sociology student Harry Scarr with whom she gave birth to a son Phillip in 1962.

Though she initially had a difficult time finding a job because she had a child, she eventually taught at the University of Maryland, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Minnesota, and Yale University. In 1983 she accepted a position as chair of the psychology department at the University of Virginia, where she remained until retirement.O'Connell AN (2001).Models of Achievement: Reflections of Eminent Women in Psychology, Vol.3. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 97-112 (Autobiographical Perspectives)

In the 1960s, Scarr studied identical and fraternal twins' aptitude and school achievement scores. The study revealed that intellectual development was heavily influenced by genetic ability, especially among more advantaged children. It also showed that on average, black children demonstrated less genetic and more environmental influence on their intelligence than white children. Scarr also collaborated with Margaret Williams on a clinical study which demonstrated that premature birth infants who receive stimulation gain weight faster and recover faster than babies left in isolation (the practice at that time).

In 1972 she married fellow researcher Philip Salapatek, with whom she also coauthored papers. They had a daughter, Stephanie, born in November 1973. They moved to Minnesota, where Scarr also started working with Richard A. Weinberg, on the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study. This study concluded that black and interracial children adopted early into white homes had IQ and school achievement scores similar to those of white children, and far above those of black children in the same area of the country. In the follow-up Minnesota Adolescent Adoption Study, Scarr & Weinberg showed that adolescents, adopted in the first few months of life, did not resemble their adoptive parents or other children adopted into the same family. In Scarr's words: "Rather than the home environment having a cumulative impact across development, its influence wanes from early childhood to adolescence." (emphasis in original) As of 1995, the study was among the largest of its kind in the United States, together with the Colorado Adoption Project and the Texas Adoption Project; its results had seen some replication. Both studies of Scarr are cited in debates about race and intelligence.

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