Kinds Come First

Kinds Come First

Age, Gender, Class, and Ethnicity Give Meaning to Measures

By Jerome Kagan

An argument that the meaning of a psychological or biological measure depends on the age, gender class, and ethnicity of the human subject.





An argument that the meaning of a psychological or biological measure depends on the age, gender class, and ethnicity of the human subject.

In Kinds Come First, the distinguished psychologist Jerome Kagan argues that—contrary to the common assumption—age, gender, social class, and ethnicity affect the outcomes of psychological measures, and he questions the popular practice that uses statistical procedures to remove the effects of these categories to confirm a favored predictor-outcome relation. The idea that psychological measures have meanings that transcend the kinds of subjects, Kagan writes, reflects a premature hope of discovering broadly generalizable conclusions. In Kinds Come First, Kagan hopes to persuade investigators otherwise.

Kagan examines the unique properties of the four categories, making the case that life stage, gender, class, and ethnicity affect psychological measures in complex, nontrivial ways. He discusses the relevance of a person's developmental stage to many outcomes, focusing on the interval from five to twelve months, when working memory and the ability to relate the past to the present expands. He cites evidence suggesting that a person's gender, class of rearing, and ethnicity, within a particular society, are better predictors of health, arrest record, cognitive skills, and current life satisfaction than either their genomes or answers to a personality questionnaire.

Finally, Kagan argues, the biological properties that are more common in one gender, class, or ethnic group, are not a defensible basis for restricting access to an educational program, vocation, or position of authority. A society can ignore such differences in order to honor an ethical imperative for equality without incurring serious costs.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262042932 216 pp. | 6 in x 9 in ?


  • “In Kinds Come First, Jerry Kagan uses insights from his seven decades as a developmental psychologist to masterly dissect key research approaches to behavior and mind, and offers a simple recipe for deeper understanding:  acknowledge, rather than remove, the complexity of factors that underlie experimental results. Kagan continues to be an important voice, and he should be heard.”

    Joseph LeDoux

    Professor of Neural Science, New York University and Author of Anxious and of The Deep History of Ourselves

  • “Kinds Come First provides a forceful and well-researched critique of the widespread (yet mistaken) assumption that reliable measures have the same meaning for all participants, despite wide variation in their developmental stage, gender, social class or ethnicity. This book demonstrates Kagan's mastery of a wide literature but it equally reflects his ability to write very well and his skill in drawing out the positives. This is another Kagan masterpiece, highly recommended for all those who wish to learn but also for those interested in enjoying a good read.”

    Michael Rutter

    Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, King's College London

  • “Jerome Kagan's new book Kinds Come First is an elegant treatise on epistemic meaning and measurement in the behavioral sciences. Kagan calls attention to fundamental considerations in our study of human behavior. They are the consideration of Age, Gender, Class and Ethnicity. The focus is on measurement across meaningful kinds of objects. Kagan once again orients us towards depth of understanding.”

    Jay Schulkin

    Professor of Neuroscience, Georgetown University