Notion Of What Intelligence Is Psychology Essay

Generally people have a perceptive notion of what intelligence is, and a lot of words in the English language differentiate between different levels of intellectual skill: bright, dull, smart, unintelligent, intelligent, slow, and so on. Up till now no universally accepted definition of intelligence is present, and people carry on to debate what, exactly, it is. Fundamental questions stay on. Is intelligence one general ability or several independent systems of abilities? Is intelligence a property of the brain, a characteristic of behaviour, or a set of knowledge and skills? Kagan, J., Havemann, E. & Segal, J. 1984, 152-153

The plain definition proposed is that intelligence is anything intelligence tests measure. But this meaning does not describe the ability well, and it has several problems. First, it is circular: The tests are assumed to authenticate the existence of intelligence, which in turn is computable by the tests. Second, various different intelligence tests exist, and they do not all calculate the similar thing. In fact, the makers of the first intelligence tests did not commence with a particular idea of what they wanted to measure. Finally, the definition states very slight about the precise nature of intelligence. In my view, the definition of intelligence is best described as defined by David Wechsler as the “capacity to understand the world and is the resourcefulness to cope with its challenges.” Siefker, J.M. 1996, 29-35

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Theories of Intelligence

Scholars have tried to understand the nature of intelligence for many years, but they still do not agree on a single theory or definition. Some theorists try to understand intelligence by analyzing the results of intelligence tests and identifying clusters of abilities. Other theorists believe that intelligence encompasses many abilities not captured by tests. In recent years, some psychologists have tried to explain intelligence from a biological standpoint. The below table illustrates briefly the various theories formed in time:

General intelligence (Charles Spearman, 1904) – Intelligence is one general mental capability represented as g. The g factor underlies performance on all intellectual tasks. Berryman.J, et al, 2002, 201-206

Primary mental abilities (Louis L. Thurstone, 1938 ) – Intelligence consists of seven independent primary abilities: verbal, comprehension, verbal fluency, number or arithmetic ability, memory, perceptual speed, inductive reasoning, and spatial visualization. Davison.G. Neale.J. Kring.A. 2004, 302-309

Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence (Raymond B. Cattell and John Horn 1966) – Intelligence consists of two broad abilities. 1- Fluid intelligence is one’s biologically based capacity for reasoning and memory. 2- Crystallized intelligence is the knowledge and skills acquired through experience and learning. Berryman.J, et al, 2002, 201-206

Multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner, 1983.) – There are seven kinds of intelligence: linguistic intelligence, musical intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and interpersonal intelligence. Most activities draw on several kinds of intelligence.

Triarchic theory of intelligence (Robert Sternberg, 1985) – Intelligence consists of three major parts. 1- Analytic intelligence is skill in reasoning and in processing information. 2- Creative intelligence is skill in using past experiences to achieve insight and deal with new situations. 3- Practical intelligence is skill in everyday living and in adapting to life demands. Davison.G. Neale.J. Kring.A. 2004, 302-309

Studying briefly the various theories as stated above, Multiple Intelligences theory by Gardner drew my attention as I opine, together with Thurston’s theory, correctly describe that intelligence is not a single ability but a combination of several different abilities. Berryman.J, et al, 2002, 201-206

In 1983 American psychologist Howard Gardner proposed a theory that sought to broaden the traditional definition of intelligence. He felt that the concept of intelligence, as it had been defined by mental tests, did not capture all of the ways humans can excel. Gardner argued that we do not have underlying general intelligence but instead have multiple intelligences, each part of an independent system in the brain. Davison.G. Neale.J. Kring.A. 2004, 302-309

In formulating his theory, Gardner placed less emphasis on explaining the results of mental tests than on accounting for the range of human abilities that exist across cultures. He drew on diverse sources of evidence to determine the number of intelligences in his theory. For example, he examined studies of brain-damaged people who had lost one ability, such as spatial thinking, but retained another, such as language. The fact that two abilities could operate independently of one another suggested the existence of separate intelligences. Gardner also proposed that evidence for multiple intelligences came from prodigies and savants. Berryman.J, et al, 2002, 201-206 Prodigies are individuals who show an exceptional talent in a specific area at a young age, but who are normal in other respects. Savants are people who score low on IQ tests-and who may have only limited language or social skills-but demonstrate some remarkable ability, such as extraordinary memory or drawing ability. To Gardner, the presence of certain high-level abilities in the absence of other abilities also suggested the existence of multiple intelligences. Davison.G. Neale.J. Kring.A. 2004, 302-309

Gardner initially identified seven intelligences and proposed a person who exemplified each one. Linguistic intelligence involves aptitude with speech and language and is exemplified by poet T. S. Eliot. Logical-mathematical intelligence involves the ability to reason abstractly and solve mathematical and logical problems. Physicist Albert Einstein is a good example of this intelligence. Spatial intelligence is used to perceive visual and spatial information and to conceptualize the world in tasks like navigation and in art. Painter Pablo Picasso signifies a person of high spatial intelligence. Smith.E. et, al 2004, 402-410 Musical intelligence, the skill to carry out and appreciate music, is represented by composer Igor Stravinsky. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is the ability to use one’s body or portions of it in various activities, such as dancing, athletics, acting, surgery, and magic. Martha Graham, the famous dancer and choreographer, is a good example of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Interpersonal intelligence involves understanding others and acting on that understanding and is exemplified by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to understand one’s self and is typified by the leader Mohandas Gandhi. In the late 1990s Gardner added an eighth intelligence to his theory: naturalist intelligence, the ability to recognize and classify plants, animals, and minerals. Naturalist Charles Darwin is an example of this intelligence. According to Gardner, each person has a unique profile of these intelligences, with strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. Smith.E. et, al 2004, 402-410

There are several objections that could be stated on the multiple intelligences theory. Firstly, Gardner based his ideas more on reasoning and intuition than on empirical studies. From what I understand, there are no tests available to identify or measure the specific intelligences and that the theory largely ignores decades of research that show a tendency for different abilities to correlate evidence of a general intelligence factor. In addition, some of the intelligences Gardner identified, such as musical intelligence and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, should be regarded simply as talents because I opine that they are not usually required to adapt to life demands. Smith.E. et, al 2004, 402-410

Intelligence Tests

The first intelligence tests were short-answer exams planned to predict which students might require special attention to be successful in school. Because intelligence tests were used to make significant decisions about people’s lives, it was approximately inevitable that they would become contentious. Today, intelligence tests are widely used in education, business, government, and the military. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 99-103 However, psychologists continue to debate what the tests actually measure and how test results should be used. The most widely used modern tests of intelligence are the Stanford-Binet, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), and the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (Kaufman-ABC). The most suitable test that can adequately justify Gardner’s but also Thurston’s theory, is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) developed by David Wechsler who also believed that intelligence is an aggregate of abilities and should be measured as such. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 99-103

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R) is an individually administered instrument used as part of a cognitive assessment or general psychological or neuropsychological assessment to measure capacity for intelligent behaviour. It is commonly used to obtain IQ scores, to make diagnoses of mental retardation, to identify intellectually gifted individuals and as part of neuropsychological test batteries. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 99-103

The WAIS-R is composed of eleven tests that are referred as subtests. These sub-tests are divided into six verbal ones and five non-verbal. The verbal section can also be administered by itself to persons who are visually impaired or have impaired ability to manipulate objects. The individual sub-tests included are:

Verbal Scale Performance Scale

1. Information 7. Picture Completion

2. Digit Span 8. Picture Arrangement

3. Vocabulary 9. Block Design

4. Arithmetic 10. Object Assembly

5. Comprehension 11. Digit Symbol

6. Similarities

Test Characteristics:

Format: Oral questions are presented, there is a printed vocabulary list, pictures, blocks painted with geometric figures to be arranged according to the prescribed designs, jig-saw-like puzzles paper and pencil work. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 222-226

Administration: The test is administered individually. It cannot be given in a group. It usually requires 60 to 90 minutes to administer depending on the person tested. The verbal and non-verbal groups of subtests may be administered separately or together to yield respectively, a Verbal, Performance, and Full Scale IQ. The Performance tests may be given by themselves to individuals who are limited in their use of English (such as individuals with hearing impairments or those whose native language is not English. Some tests may be unsuitable for individuals with certain types of disabilities, especially visual, hearing and upper extremity mobility impairments. Valid results may still be obtained if not all of the tests are administered. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 222-226

Scoring: Responses from the person tested are compared to scoring keys for some tests (i.e. block design, digit symbol, object assembly, arithmetic, etc). For tests that require more open-ended responses (i.e. comprehension, similarities, vocabulary), sample responses are given. Raw scores are converted to scaled scores using conversion tables. Scaled scores on subtests are added and converted to IQs using tables. Scores are given for Verbal, Performance and Full Scale IQs. Sometimes, scaled scores from the individual tests are profiled to show differences in abilities as reflected by subtest scores. A difference of three or more scaled score points is necessary to achieve statistical significance at the 15% level of confidence. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 222-226 Kaufman,, al 2005, 179-186

Norms: The WAIS-R was formed on a population of older adolescents and adults that is demographically representative of the population of the United States and later on of the population of the United Kingdom. All age groups are represented according to their stratification in their own country according to the variables of age, gender, race, geographic region, occupation, education and urban/rural residence. In addition, certain populations (such as institutionalized persons with mental retardation, individuals diagnosed with head injuries or severe behavioural or emotional problems, or those who have physical impairments that restrict their ability to respond to test items) were not included in the standardization sample. Norms are given for nine age groups (16-17, 18-19, 20-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-69, and 70-74).

Reliability – Validity: Verbal IQ and Full Scale IQ have higher average reliability coefficients (.97) than Performance (.93). Validity studies compared the WAIS-R to earlier editions of the same test and to the Stanford-Binet. These studies again show high correlation. Kaufman,, al 2005, 179-186

Selection Criteria: The test is suitable for all ages between 16 years 0 months and 74 years 11 months. People older than 75 may be tested but no norms are available. The WAIS-R is not intended to make fine discrimination among adults of extremely high ability because it has a natural ceiling. IQs above 150 are not provided for in the IQ tables. Smith.P. Cowie.H. Blades.M. 2003, 222-226

Skills Needed: The following basic skills or abilities are needed for each of the eleven tests. Depending on the disability, additional skills may be required.

Information : Hearing and speaking

Picture Completion: Vision

Digit Span: Hearing and speaking

Picture Arrangement: Vision

Vocabulary: Hearing and speaking

Block Design: Vision

Arithmetic: Hearing and speaking

Object Assembly: Vision, ability to use hands to manipulate objects

Comprehension: Hearing and speaking

Digit Symbol: ability to use a pencil

Similarities: hearing and speaking

One criticism of intelligence tests is that they do not really measure intelligence but only a narrow set of mental capabilities. For example, intelligence tests do not measure wisdom, creativity, common sense, social skills, and practical knowledge-abilities that allow people to adapt well to their surroundings and solve daily problems. Kaufman,, al 2005, 179-186Another criticism of IQ tests is that some people may not perform well because they become anxious when taking any timed, standardized test. Their poor performance may reflect their anxiety rather than their true abilities. Furthermore, IQ tests tend to be misinterpreted and misused. Because IQ tests reduce intelligence to a single number, many people mistakenly regard IQ as if it were a fixed, real trait such as height or weight, rather than an abstract concept that was originally designed to predict performance in school. Kaufman,, al 2005, 179-186 Finally, some people might view IQ as a measurement of a person’s intrinsic worth or potential, even though many factors other than those measured by IQ tests contribute to life success.


In judging the uses of intelligence tests, one must compare how decisions would be made without using the tests. When tests are used to make a decision, there should be evidence that the decision made using the test is better with the test than without it.

You Might Also Like

I'm Alejandro!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out