Why is intelligence such a thorny issue?

Why is intelligence such a thorny issue in the wider culture but not so much in psychology?

Human intelligence is the most controversial area of psychology to study. Controversial issues in psychology are those that initiate concern in psychology and society. Intelligence has always been a thorny issue in the wider culture, but not so much in psychology. Intelligence have been indentify as human unique feature. Intelligence plays a very important role in a human development. Intelligence is unique ability which humans need in order to function in the society. According to Jean Piaget (1952) intelligence invents a product of the relation between a human and external environment. Piaget (1952) describes how human past experiences shapes one’s intelligence. Intelligence is also controlled by a human cognitive performance. Factors which could affect intelligence test performance are: participant’s race, genetics, age, environment and culture Piaget (1952).

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There are three sections of intelligence division: intelligence measurement, intelligence definition and intelligence heritability. We can distinguish many definitions of intelligence; however there is one established agreement in it definition.

What is intelligence? Intelligence refers to the ability of how successfully we can fulfil particular task such as: think and reason, obtain information and how we deal and adapt to situation Weschler (1944). The way human intelligence is tested is also controversial and argued. IQ known as intelligence quotient can be tested and measured in many different ways. Emotional intelligence known as emotional quotient, it is often defined as social and emotional skill which influences our life succeed Goleman (1995). Emotional intelligence have been identify as one of success factor in the work sector Goleman (1995).

Why does intelligence cause thorny issue in the society and creates so many problems? Being an intelligent human in society often means higher level of education, higher economical-social status, better job, higher earning and higher level of self esteem.

Since human intelligence became one of the most wanted features of human being, people got ‘mad’ in measuring and exploring it. In the early 1800 people believed that the size of the human skull equals the size of individual’s intelligence Eysenck(1953). In the middle of 1800 Binet was the first scientist who did a research in order to measure human intelligence Wolf (1969). By 1905 Binet have created first intelligence test Wolf (1969). Nowadays is well known that IQ test only measure selected type of intelligence prospective. There is difference opinion according to aspect of intelligence. Some researchers do not believe that intelligence can be fully measured. Intelligence tests are based on measuring the brain processes such as mathematic skills, vocabulary and logic. Intelligence is not really the ability to count, speak or solve a problem, intelligence is more compound matter.

Howard Gardner (2006) proposed that human intelligence is more complex matter, taking into account a broad range of human capacities and gifted talents. According to Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences (2006) people have got nine different type of intelligence: linguistic intelligence which is used for language phonology, pragmatics and syntax, musical intelligence which is used for rhythm, logical-mathematical intelligence which is responsible for numeracy, counting and relation, spatial intelligence which is responsible for precise mental visualization and transformation of images, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence which is responsible for control over one’s own body, interpersonal intelligence which is responsible for recognition of others reactions, emotions and feelings, intrapersonal intelligence which is responsible for recognition of one’s own emotions, moods and feelings, naturalist intelligence which is responsible for identification and categorization of objects in the internal and external environment, existential intelligence which is responsible for a ability to understand the meaning of life and death.

What is intelligence, really? What is the definition of intelligence? Can measure intelligence?

With this in mind we can look at some life based examples. Did one of your friends had very poor results in school, but now leads a very successful life? Why intelligence test are unable to explain this particular situation. Is intelligence something more than just a common sense? To look at this another way, people who failed in school often turn out to be successful in adult life. Being intelligent do not means studying from day to night, reading books, or having doctorate.

A number of professionals in the field of intelligence recommended the extreme need in expanding the correct definition of intelligence. Correspondingly to Robert Sternberg Triarchic theory of intelligence (1985) a theory consists of three main types of intelligence. An analytic intelligence which is essential skill in reasoning and processing external and internal information’s. A creative intelligence is skill of make use of past knowledge and experience in dealing with new situation. A practical intelligence is a skill which we need in everyday life. It is process of adapting to new life events or all other demands that life have prepared for us Stenberg (2003). According to Bienet’s (Wolf 1969) IQ testing and Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (2006), it can be seen that both theories support the fact that we are born with intelligence, however Gardner theory (2006) looks at different aspects of intelligence such as talent. Gardner (2006) also mentioned that human is not able to learn or improve intelligence. By contrast Stenberg’s (1985) Triarchic Theory of Intelligence does not agree with view of Bienet and Gardner. Stenberg’s (1985) believed that there are three types of intelligence: the componential intelligence, the contextual intelligence, and the experiential intelligence. Stenberg (1985) believed that intelligence can be improved.

Furthermore there have been many debates and disagreement about what exactly intelligence is. Why intelligence is such a thorny issue in the wider culture? Although people in the 21st century wants to be perfect which means, being smart, intelligent, well educated, nice looking. People want to follow their life ideas. All humans would like to have the highest intelligence scores in order to have a power in a society and other different types of environment such as work, home. Having power makes self esteem higher, people feel much happier. People strive to be intelligence because they think that this feature of being intelligent will make them better from others. Moreover the high intelligence quotient does not guarantee a victory in career or even in life. In order to succeed in career aptitude to life is more important than one’s intelligence potential. They way people socialise with each other, optimism, humour contribute to success, simply more than intelligence does. As in the following examples intelligence is something what we are born with, although intelligence often increases with experience.

Resulting from this intelligence is not the score of IQ tests. One person might be particular good in school studies, another in painting and another in business. Some people might be extremely intelligence, but their abilities in taking tests and exams are very poor. They stress too much so in the effects their final score are much lower than predicted. Natural intelligence of an individual cannot be changed.

There are many controversial issues concerning the subject of intelligence. Is intelligence inherited? Does intelligence depends on the race, gender or a colour of hair?

Jenson (1969) published very controversial publication which caused so much disagreement in the society and psychology environment. Jenson (1969) showed that people from black/African backgrounds achieved on average 15 points less than mid-class white people. Jenson (1969) believed that black race scored lower because of their genetic makeup. In other words black race was ‘stupid’. In the 1994 ‘Bell Curve’ by Hermstein and Murray (1994) has been published causing a lot of disagreements in the society and the politic environment. Hernstein and Murray (1994) agreed with Jenson (1969). They believed that intelligence depend on breeding. In other words they believed that world is divided into two parts, one belongs to more intelligent people and another to less intelligent people. Moreover Hernstein and Murray (1994) believed that black race leads more difficult-dangerous life, more often black people are not good parents, they abuse children and they are more likely to drink and take drugs and be involved in different types of crime. ‘Bell Curve’ (1994) had been found very controversial. What is more Binet (1911), who was the first to test human intelligence, did not believe that IQ tests could rank people according to their educational background.

Briefly there has been a lot of criticism of IQ tests. IQ tests do not show how intelligent you are, they do not reflect ‘true’ intelligence. It is evident that before we measure intelligence, it is needed to understand the aspect of intelligence better. People want to know how intelligent they are. Not many fields of psychology have attracted so much attention and controversy as intelligence. Why don’t we study ‘stupidity’ instead? In fact not many people would like to know how stupid they are. Human begins are only interested in the attitudes, that is why culture is more interested in study intelligence than psychology does.

All years of studying intelligence tells us nothing about it. How much money has been wasted on different types of experiments which have been done to find out how intelligence can be measured. Things that researchers measure must be valid in order to be reliable. Intelligence signifies knowledge not wisdom.

Somehow intelligence tests are good if they are used correctly. The intelligence test were created by white people that’s why is make test culture bias. The results of some experiments have been very controversial. It had caused a lot of disagreement between different races across the world. Indeed intelligence tests are helpful in assessing children educational problems. At the other hand this can have a life changing effect on a child causing future labeling of special needs child. Intelligent test do not reflect everyday life intelligence. Many of scientists in the field of intelligence are very critical to the issue of intelligence tests because of its labeling effect which it has on the youngest children with educational needs. Moreover children who did not do well in their school test are labeled as less intelligent from other children. It is not surprising that intelligence is such a thorny issue in a culture. Some people might feel labeled as the effect of their intelligence test results. Black people are often disadvantaged because of their general label of being less intelligent race in the world. That is why black people find harder to get a good job because of their past intelligence labeling process which took place in a society for a long time. Parents tried to change educational system to exclude examination process which is very stressful for their children and do not help to reveal their children intelligence. Nowadays there is not an agreeable definition of intelligence. Intelligence testing methods are not satisfactory. It is widely known that term ‘intelligence’ is not used any more, is ‘out of date’; simply it is not a reliable definition to use.


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Cronbach(1984); “Essentials of psychological testing”, Harper & Row publishers

H.J.Eysenck(1953), “Uses and abuses of Psychology”, Pelican Books.

Gardner, Howard (2006)Changing Minds. The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston MA.: Harvard Business School Press.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Gross, R. (2005).Psychology, The science of mind and behaviour.London: Hodder Arnold

Herrnstein and Murry (1994), The Bell CurveThe Free Press.

Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost I.Q. and scholastic achievement?Harvard Educational Review, 33, 1-123.

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Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Giftedness According to the Theory of Successful Intelligence. In N.

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