Psychology 101 - What Is Intelligence?
In this Psychology 101 article, we will ask the question what is intelligence? The article will look at how our society measures intelligence, the controversies that surrounds this and the father of its birth – Alfred Binet. Before we continue, please refresh yourself on the following definition.
As this is a psychology 101 based article, as always, we will start by providing a ‘working definition’ of psychology as a term:
‘Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour of humans and animals.’ Psychologists concentrate on what is observable and measurable in a person’s behaviour. This includes the biological processes in the body, although, the mind is central to the subject.
What Is Intelligence? Simply Put...
Based on the definitions, it is:
Rational thought and reasoning
The ability to act purposefully in an environment.
The ability to deal with situations, in an effective manner, within an environment.
Cognitive – Examples of cognitive ability: memory, perception, concept formation, problem solving, mental imagery, action, association, language and attention.
The ability to learning from experience
The ability to live and cope with the demands of daily life.
What is Intelligence?
We all genius’s. We all suffer learning difficulties. That is what makes our society diverse. Everyone has their talents and no one is better or worse than anyone else. Our brains are wired differently and it is this that makes us unique and individual. We are all affected by experience and we all respond differently when exposed to those experiences. But what if intelligence was measurable? What if there was a standardised approach to this that will give an indication – a baseline assessment?
If we had an easy way of measuring intelligence, this may give us ideas and measures, not only on a human scale, but that of animals around us. But wouldn’t that suggest that we the most intelligent animals on the planet? This is an assumption and is not formulated on controlled hypothesis and research. Surely to ‘assume’ would make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’? This is a thought and worth considering when asking the question ‘what is intelligence?’
Let me, therefore, give you a working definition for us to work toward by Sternberg: ‘Intelligence is the cognitive ability of an individual to learn from experience, to reason well, to remember important information, and to cope with the demands of daily living’.
This definition seems to be the one that those in the field of psychology seem to prefer. However, it is worth keeping in mind Wechler’s definition as he has been highly influential in the field of intelligence research: ‘the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his/her environment.’
I.Q. Means Intelligence Quotient
The Term I.Q. means Intelligence Quotient. William Stern revised the Stanford-Binet test by calculating intelligence quotient (I.Q.) in relation to a ratio - mental age to chronological age. The results then indicate a measure of general intelligence.
Alfred Binet: Stanford-Binet IQ Tests
I.Q. Example: What comes next:
3 8 12 15 17 ?
Intelligence is Whatever Intelligence Tests Measure - E G Boring
As we know from our psychology definition, Psychologists concentrate on what ‘is observable and measurable in a person’s behaviour’. So how can we observe and measure intelligence? We can certainly look at the life of the individual, but how can we standardise and test intelligence in a practical way?
A psychologist in the 1920’s - E. G. Boring – defined intelligence as ‘whatever intelligence tests measure’. If we focus on this, how do we create an appropriate test?
Alfred Binet (1905) created some of the first tests that later developed at Stanford University (USA) from 1916. He used his initial tests for French schools as a way to identify and help less able school children. It was later that the ‘Stanford-Binet’ were developed and used by Governments for armed forces recruitment.
In these tests a quotient (a simple number) was developed as a way to summerize the children’s abilities. As a baseline number 100 was used to signify an average. If you look below, you will see a diagram ‘Distribution of IQ’, the Normal Curve.
IQ Range Classification - By Terman
140 and over
Genius or near genius
Very superior intelligence
Normal or average intelligence
- Below 70 Definite feeble-mindedness
Answer To What Comes Next...
IQ Applications Used Today
Today, various IQ tests and applications are used in schools, job recruitment, personal development and even console games on the Nintendo DS. Games like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy can all help increase intelligence with practice. The consoles are often carried around in handbags and pulled out for use, killing time - my mum is 71 and she uses hers when waiting at the Doctors or at the bus stop!
The use of I.Q. Tests in the modern times have gone beyond the imagination of 1916 what with further developments from the founder – Binet – we find that Wechsler and Eysenck have helped to build upon these ideas.
Streaming The Armed Forces From IQ Evidence
Top IQ Scorers – Allocated To The Airforce
Medium IQ Scorers – Allocated To The Navy
All the rest…. Allocated To The Army!
A lack of opportunity, doesn't mean a lack of intelligence!
Are I.Q. Tests a True Measure of Intelligence?
Intelligence is certainly a controversial subject, as we have discovered, but are I.Q. tests a true measure of intelligence? Society does seem to be respectful of tests and have used them as ways of separating ‘the sheep from the goats’, so to speak. Take the example above; through the results of I.Q. tests, people have been streamed into different parts of the forces as a result of them.
People develop and mature at different rates and this can affect the result when standardising an age for children to take the test. I know that when I was just 11, I failed the test, for example, but when I was 12, passed with distinction. I.Q. tests, in this instance, are not a true measure when considering maturation and standardisation. The results can change over time and are dependant on performance of the day.
This has been acknowledged within the psychology community as a criticism. Intelligence Quotient results are unfair as a selection tool. Binet’s aim originally was to develop tests to assist children in their development so as they could improve. Its useage was not as a blanket clue to intelligence.
However, even today, I.Q. tests are used to stream children in schools, giving some a more unfair advantage over others. The level, therefore, of education or allocated establishment that children are screened into, the more of an effect on the career outcome. This can have dyer outcomes for those delayed in maturation.
IQ Test Just For Frolics!
Eynsenck: ‘The error is to exaggerate the importance of intelligence. The facts and arguments can easily be abused by racists… Each person has to be treated as individual’.
Intelligence Quotient: Controversial Issues
Even more controversial, IQ tests have been quoted for racial differences. Black people ‘test about 15 IQ points below the average of the white population’ (Jensen 1969). However these results are culturally unfair (Eysenck 1981).
Intelligence quotient, therefore, is culturally bound. It is no good measuring the IQ of someone who hasn’t been exposed to a mathematical teaching environment – this would be setting people up for failure!
Intelligence, therefore, is what is deemed as valuable in a society. Problem solving in the bush outback of Australia is different to problem solving in an office!
Research shows that improving the environment can significantly improve IQ (Skeels 1966). Therefore, practicing the tests can increase the score, therefore, not a valid assumption. This is because it tests an aspect of ability and doesn’t take into account of others like practical sense, problem solving to do with everyday challenges.
Psychology 101 Conclusion
We have looked at how psychology attempts to measure intelligence. However, the question: ‘What is intelligence?’ is such a subjective one, measuring it is not enough. Intelligence is subject to many factors and it seems that methods and tests that have been developed, are culturally biased. However, these tests are helpful as a relative perspective based on aspects of intelligence.
Other parts of being intellectual are about the ability to cope with all aspects of daily living, problem solving skills and learning from experience. Good reasoning abilities, rationalisation and cognitive skills seem to enhance the intelligence package. But what, ultimately, is intelligence? Perhaps it is just being human - the ability to override base instinctual desires, empathy, creativity and imagination - but I guess we shall have to leave that to another psychology 101 article!
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Use This Psychology 101 article at your own risk. This Psychology article does not give medical or psychological advice, neither does it give legal opinions and advice. Any action or outcome that may result from this article is the sole responsibility of the reader. This article is assumes no responsibility or legal claim against it.
© 2010 shazwellyn