23 Useful facts about Intelligence


1. Intelligence is a complex capacity to profit from experiences and training, to adapt successfully to new situations, and to think abstractly using symbols and concepts the operational definition of intelligence is that intelligence is what intelligence tests test.

2. Intelligence is not directly observable; it is assessed through tests. In order to be useful, a test must be reliable, valid, and standardized.

3. Alfred Binet began objective intelligence testing in France in the 1900s. He proposed the concept of Mental Age. Stern proposed the concept of IQ. One’s intelligence is indicated by IQ, which is determined by child’s mental age divided by the chronological age multiplied by 100.


4. The important tests of intelligence are Stanford-Binet, and the Wechsler Scales (WISC-R, WAIS-R, and WPPSI). IQ is normally distributed in the population with a mean of 100.

5. Three major approaches to the study of intelligence are: (a) psychomet­ric approach, (b) information-processing approach, and (c) cognitive- developmental approach.

6. The psychometric approach studies intelligence as an ability measured by standard tests. The theories of Spearman, Cattell, Thurstone, Jensen, Guildford, and Gardner exemplify psychometric approach to the study of intelligence.

Spearman viewed intelligence as consisting of a gen­eral factor or ‘g’ factor, and several specific factors or ‘s’ factors. Thurstone proposed that human intelligence is an integration of seven primary mental abilities (PMA). Cattell broke down intelligence into two relatively independent components: fluid intelligence (reasoning) and crystallized intelligence (knowledge).


7. Jensen thought of intelligence as consisting of two levels of abilities: Level I ability (associative learning), and Level II ability (cognitive learn­ing). The Structure of Intellect model by Guilford holds the view that in­telligence has three dimensions: content (type of information), product (form of representation), and operation (type of mental activity). Accord­ing to Guilford, there are 150 separate activities involved in intelligence.

8. Gardner developed a theory of multiple intelligences. On the basis of his observation, he concluded that there are seven types of intelligence such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.

9. The information processing approach focuses on the processes under­lying intelligent behavior. Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory postulates that in­telligence has three major components: componential intelligence (analy­sis of information), experiential intelligence (using previous knowledge), and contextual intelligence (adapting to practical life situation).

10. The PASS model, another information-processing approach developed by Das, understands intelligence in terms of planning, attention, and si­multaneous and successive processes. The intellectual activity begins with attention, and passes through stages of coding to the process of planning. Planning defines the essence of intelligence. Das’s theory has resulted in the Cognitive Assessment System, now used for measuring the PASS processes.


11. Piaget’s cognitive-developmental approach focuses more on the quali­tative rather than quantitative aspects of development, and specifies that children’s thought processes change with age. Children’s cognitive structure (scheme) changes with age through processes of adaptation and organization. Adaptation involves two complementary processes such as assimilation and accommodation.

12. According to Piaget, children proceed through four successive stages of development to think like adults. In the sensorimotor stage, infants acquire the basic concepts of cause and effect. In the preoperational stage, children engage in symbolic thinking, but their thought processes are limited by egocentric and animistic thinking.

In the stage of concrete operations children are capable of logical thought and show un­derstanding of conservation and reversibility. But their logical thinking is confined only to concrete physical reality. Finally, in the formal opera­tional stage, older children can show formal logical thinking, manipulate abstract concepts, and engage in propositional thinking.

13. Piaget’s theory has been challenged on several grounds. Piaget ^as seriously underestimated the intellectual competence of infants and young children. Cognitive development does not take place in a stage like manner as Piaget had postulated. He has overlooked not only other important dimensions of development, but also the significant influence of language and social interaction on cognitive development.


14. The wide variety of individual differences in intelligence is brought about by hereditary and environmental factors. The genetic heritage is called genotype, and its expression in behavioral terms is called phenotype.

15. Those favoring a hereditary position draw their evidence from studies of twins and adopted children. Jensen believes that genetic influence ac­counts for 80 percent of variations in intelligence leaving only 20 per­cent to be manipulated by the environment.

16. Both prenatal and postnatal environmental variations contribute to intel­lectual development. The major prenatal influences are mother’s nutri­tion, emotional state, illness, and use of drugs, and birth complications.

17. The postnatal environment includes factors related to home environ­ment, parent-child interaction, social and environmental deprivation, SES, race and culture, sex, personality dispositions, and physiological conditions of the child.


18. The IQ testing should be done by trained experts with the help of estab­lished tests. In spite of their usefulness, IQ tests have several limita­tions. They provide an index of intellectual product, not the underlying processes. Unless used properly, IQ tests may encourage labeling and discrimination. The stigma attached to a low-IQ child may lower his self- concept, inhibiting further developmental processes. IQ tests at best predict school-related success but fail to measure creative insight and life success. They produce a fixed and static measure of behavior.

19. Though it is difficult to fully eliminate cultural bias in intelligence tests, it is possible to make it culture-fair. Some culture-fair intelligence tests are Raven’s Progressive Matrices, SOMPA, and Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children. The IQ score should be used along with observa­tion of individual’s daily life activities to make better predictions about his future achievement.

20. Mohsin is one of the pioneers of intelligence testing in India. Several Indian researchers have laid down theoretical views on intelligence, but most of the Indian intelligence tests do not confirm to the standard pro­cedures of test preparation.

21. The intellectually gifted children have an IQ score of more than 130. They show superior performance on a variety of intellectual tasks, and are emotionally more mature. They occupy the top end of the intelli­gence continuum.

22. Mental retardation refers to sub-average intellectual functioning and poor social adaptive behavior. There are four categories of mentally retarded children: mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

23. The field of intelligence has recently expanded to include concepts such as emotional intelligence, practical intelligence, and spiritual intelligence. These new dimensions point to different areas of individual’s compe­tence and when judged along with traditional IQ measures would pro­vide a composite picture of individual’s overall life competence.

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