Intellectual disability

mental retardationintellectually disabledintellectual disabilities
Imbecile indicated an intellectual disability less extreme than idiocy and not necessarily inherited. It is now usually subdivided into two categories, known as severe intellectual disability and moderate intellectual disability. Moron was defined by the American Association for the Study of the Feeble-minded in 1910, following work by Henry H. Goddard, as the term for an adult with a mental age between eight and twelve; mild intellectual disability is now the term for this condition. Alternative definitions of these terms based on IQ were also used. This group was known in UK law from 1911 to 1959–60 as feeble-minded.

Henry H. Goddard

Henry GoddardH.H. Goddard
Goddard used the terms moron for those with an IQ of 51-70, imbecile for those with an IQ of 26-50, and idiot for those with an IQ of 0-25 for categories of increasing impairment. This nomenclature was standard for decades. A moron, by his definition, was any adult with mental age between eight and twelve. Morons, according to Goddard, were unfit for society and should be removed from society either through institutionalization, sterilization, or both. Goddard's best-known work, The Kallikak Family, was published in 1912.


Individuals with the lowest mental age level (less than three years) were identified as idiots; imbeciles had a mental age of three to seven years, and morons had a mental age of seven to ten years. The term "idiot" was used to refer to people having an IQ below 30 IQ, or intelligence quotient, was originally determined by dividing a person's mental age, as determined by standardized tests, by their actual age. The concept of mental age has fallen into disfavor, though, and IQ is now determined on the basis of statistical distributions.


Goddard put the Binet-Simon scale to work and introduced classifications of mental level such as imbecile and feebleminded. In 1916 (after Binet's death), Stanford professor Lewis M. Terman modified the Binet-Simon scale (renamed the Stanford–Binet scale) and introduced the intelligence quotient as a score report. From this test, Terman concluded that mental retardation "represents the level of intelligence which is very, very common among Spanish-Indians and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among negroes. Their dullness seems to be racial."

Intelligence quotient

IQintelligence testI.Q.
Goddard used the term "feeble-minded" to refer to people who did not perform well in the test and thus were intellectually inferior. He argued that "feeble-mindedness" is caused by heredity, thus feeble-minded people should be prevented from giving birth, either by institutional isolation or sterilization surgeries. At first sterilization targeted the disabled and was extended to poor people. Goddard's intelligence test was endorsed by the eugenicists to push for laws for forced sterilization. Different states adopted the sterilization laws at different pace. These laws forced over 64,000 people to go through sterilization in the United States.

Eugenics in the United States

American eugenics movementeugenicseugenics movement
Beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying. The first state to introduce a compulsory sterilization bill was Michigan, in 1897 but the proposed law failed to garner enough votes by legislators to be adopted. Eight years later Pennsylvania's state legislators passed a sterilization bill that was vetoed by the governor. Indiana became the first state to enact sterilization legislation in 1907, followed closely by Washington and California in 1909.

Glenwood, Iowa

GlenwoodCity of GlenwoodGlenwood (Iowa) Lake Park
By 1925, the Glenwood IIFMC was the home of 1,555 inmates classified as idiots, imbeciles, and morons, according to contemporary definitions. The IIFMC became the Glenwood State-Hospital School in 1941. By the early 1950s, the facility covered 1185 acre; it had 310 staff members for the 1,968 patients. Under the influence of eugenics theory, the state had ordered sterilization of those defined as feeble-minded or worse, and experimental treatments such as cold baths and electroshock were used to reduce symptoms of psychosis and depression. The de-institutionalization of Glenwood began in the late 1950s.

Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital

Ellis Island HospitalEllis Island hospital complex
Some of the contemporary clinical classifications for mental illness are now archaic: idiot, imbecile, moron, or feeble-minded. It is likely that many of these immigrants were not actually mentally ill, but that cultural differences and a language barrier, as well as the immigrants’ anxiety about a new country, made them appear mentally ill. More objective testing methods were developed by Dr. Howard Andrew Knox to determine with increased accuracy whether an emigrant was mentally deficient. The Knox tests were effective in that they did not require specific cultural knowledge for successful performance.

List of disability-related terms with negative connotations

Feeble-minded. Fit to refer to an epileptic seizure. Freak. Fucktard, portmanteau of 'fuck-wit' and 'retard'. Handicapped, especially when preceded by "the" or "physically". Hare lip. Hysterical, typically used in reference to women. Imbecile was the diagnostic term for people with IQ scores between 30–50 in the early 1900s. It is no longer used professionally. Before to the IQ test was developed in 1905, "imbecile" was also commonly used as a casual insult towards anyone perceived as incompetent at doing something. Incapacitated. Idiot was the diagnostic term used for people with IQ scores under 30 when the IQ test was first developed in the early 1900s.

Buck v. Bell

US Supreme Court ruling of Buck v. Bell
The sterilization law was only for the "feeble-minded" at certain state institutions and made no mention of other state institutions or those who were not in an institution. On May 2, 1927, in an 8–1 decision, the Court accepted that Buck, her mother and her daughter were "feeble-minded" and "promiscuous," and that it was in the state's interest to have her sterilized. The ruling legitimized Virginia's sterilization procedures until they were repealed in 1974. The ruling was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Compulsory sterilization

forced sterilizationsterilizationcompulsory sterilisation
At this time, there were many women that were sent to institutions under the guise of being “feeble-minded" because they were promiscuous or became pregnant while unmarried. Some sterilizations took place in prisons and other penal institutions, targeting criminality, but they were in the relative minority. In the end, over 65,000 individuals were sterilized in 33 states under state compulsory sterilization programs in the United States, in all likelihood without the perspectives of ethnic minorities. The first state to introduce a compulsory sterilization bill was Michigan, in 1897, but the proposed law failed to pass.

Rosa's Law

Words such as idiot and moron were common in court documents and diagnosis throughout the early 1900s. In the 1960s, changes in the law led to the use of such terms as mental retardation. With the loss of idiot (IQ 0-25), imbecile (IQ 26-50) and moron (IQ 51-75), specific descriptors of IQ-based intelligence were abandoned because of public sentiment. Under Rosa's law, these would be described respectively as profound, severe and moderate levels of intellectual disability. Imbecile. Developmental disability. Feeble-minded.


Eugenics (from Greek εὐγενής eugenes 'well-born' from εὖ eu, 'good, well' and γένος genos, 'race, stock, kin') is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of a human population by excluding (through a variety of morally criticized means) certain genetic groups judged to be less desirable and promoting other genetic groups judged to be superior. The exact definition of eugenics has been a matter of debate since the term was coined by Francis Galton in 1883. The concept predates this coinage, with Plato suggesting applying the principles of selective breeding to humans around 400 BCE.


Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental disorders. These include various maladaptations related to mood, behaviour, cognition, and perceptions. See glossary of psychiatry.

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems

ICD-10International Classification of DiseasesICD
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the international "standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes." Its full official name is International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Oliver Wendell HolmesHolmesJustice Holmes
It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. ... Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Although the opinion and eugenics remain controversial, the decision in the case still stands. Sterilization rates under eugenics laws in the United States climbed from 1927 until Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535 (1942). While Skinner v. Oklahoma did not specifically overturn Buck v.


A euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes to downplay. Euphemisms may be used to refer to taboo topics (such as disability, sex, excretion, or death) in a polite way, or to mask profanity.

Vineland, New Jersey

VinelandVineland, NJVineland City
Goddard, an American psychologist, coined the term "Moron" while directing the Research Laboratory at the Training School for Backward and Feeble-minded Children in Vineland. This facility was so sufficiently well known that one American Prison Association pamphlet in 1955 heralded Vineland as "famous for its contributions to our knowledge of the feebleminded". The city of Vineland celebrated its 150th birthday in 2011. Mayor Robert Romano initially ordered a custom cake from Buddy Valastro of Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken; the business is featured in the TLC reality television series Cake Boss.

Vineland Training School

Training School for Backward and Feeble-minded ChildrenVineland Training School for Feeble-Minded Girls and Boys
According to the website of the Vineland Training School, the original official name was "The New Jersey Home for the Education and Care of Feebleminded Children” (1888). This was changed to “The New Jersey Training School” in 1893. In 1911, the name was changed again to “The Training School at Vineland”. In 1965 its name was changed to American Institute for Mental Studies- The Training School Unit, or the "AIMS". Finally in 1988 the name “The Training School at Vineland” was restored. However, the literature also makes reference to the "Vineland Training School for Backward and Feeble-minded Children" and "Vineland Training School for Feeble-Minded Girls and Boys" and other variations.

Timeline of disability rights outside the United States

The Act was repealed by the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, by which time two further classifications had been introduced: "feeble-minded people" and "moral defectives". 1886 - The Lunacy (Vacating of Seats) Act 1886 (49 Vict.c.16) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Mental Deficiency Act 1913

Mental Deficiency ActMental Deficiency and Lunacy (Scotland) Act 19131913
In 1904 the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded was set up with the warrant "to consider the existing methods of dealing with idiots and epileptics, and with imbecile, feeble-minded, or defective persons not certified under the Lunacy Laws... to report as to the amendments in the law or other measures which should be adopted in the matter". The Commission returned a lengthy report in 1908 which estimated that of a population of 32,527,843 British inhabitants 149,628 people (0.46%) were considered "mentally defective".

1910 in science

May 18 – At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of the Feeble-Minded, Henry H. Goddard introduces a system for classifying individuals with mental retardation based on intelligence quotient (IQ): moron for those with an IQ of 51-70, imbecile for those with an IQ of 26-50, and idiot for those with an IQ of 0-25. July 15 – Publication of the eighth edition of Emil Kraepelin's Psychiatrie: Ein Lehrbuch für Studierende und Arzte, naming Alzheimer's disease as a variety of dementia. Late December – A form of pneumonic plague spreads through northeastern China, killing more than 40,000. Thomas Hunt Morgan discovers that genes are located on chromosomes.

History of eugenics

Beginning with Connecticut in 1896, many states enacted marriage laws with eugenic criteria, prohibiting anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying. In 1898 Charles B. Davenport, a prominent American biologist, began as director of a biological research station based in Cold Spring Harbor where he experimented with evolution in plants and animals. In 1904 Davenport received funds from the Carnegie Institution to found the Station for Experimental Evolution. The Eugenics Record Office (ERO) opened in 1910 while Davenport and Harry H. Laughlin began to promote eugenics.

Index of psychology articles

Exclusivism - Executive functions - Exhibitionism - Existential therapy - Exogeny - Exorcism - Experimental group - Experimental method - Experimental neurosis - Experimental psychology - Experimental Psychology Society - Experimenter's bias - Explanation - Explicit memory - Exposure and response prevention - Expressed emotion - Expressive language disorder - External validity - Extraversion and introversion - Eysenck Personality Questionnaire F-scale - Face-ism - Face perception - Face validity - Facial expression - Factitious disorder - Factorial ANOVA - Faculty psychology - False awakening - Family therapy - Fantasy (psychology) - Fast mapping - Fear - Fear of flying - Feature integration theory - Feeble-minded

Compulsory sterilization in Canada

compulsory sterilizationCanadacompulsory sterilization of indigenous peoples
Sterilization was the best method to decrease the number of feeble-minded being produced. Once the feeble-minded were sterilized and the "problem cured." In order to conclude who was a potential candidate for sterilization or institutionalization, intelligence tests were being overseen in schools, hospitals, and boys and girls schools. Intelligence tests were initiated in California, which also had the most active eugenic policy in the United States. Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, such as the "Honourable William Sloan", stated California was the leader in developing and carrying out a eugenics act.