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A Brief Comparison Between Theories of Intelligence

Updated on November 18, 2013

This is not a reliable means of quantifying intelligence but a rather a few fun brain teaser items.

Theories of Intelligence

Sternberg’s Cognitive Approach to Intelligence is rather elegant and parsimonious. It appears to have the added theoretical strength of testability. The intellectual triachic of metacomponents, performance components, and knowledge acquisition components harkens back to Wechsler’s definition of intelligence as the, “Aggregate or global ability of the individual to act purposefully; to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment.” Surely if there is any construct worth labeling, “intelligence,” it is the ability to assess our environment, incorporate that sensory data into a schema that makes sense, and select and effectively utilize a tactical performance that optimizes individual interest in some relation (altruistic or otherwise) to the world. More importantly perhaps is the ability to reflect on such phenomena, to learn from failure, and to plan more efficaciously for the future. These are more or less the steps outlined in metacomponent functioning. Surely varying levels in these cognitive domains become the arbiters of fitness and survival.

Ideas concerning the integration of new stimuli, as described in the performance components, into previously established constructs and the learning by which this is done as described in the knowledge acquisition construct seems a distillation of what appears the most intrinsic purpose of intelligence. Selective coding, or distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant stimuli; selective combination, or creating stimuli coherence; and selective comparison, establishing a differentiated matrix for sensory impressions to allow for ever deepening cognitive constructs are processes that theoretically explain the foundational intelligence that gave rise to the many verbal and quantitative constructs of Humanity. Sterberg’s explanation of the six primary variables that differentiate individual abilities in information processing account for the variations in cognitive performance that we observe throughout a population.

The separation he seems to draw between intelligence and education when he talks of, “real world,” content being divorced from scholastic tasks is also an important distinction that needs to be made by a good theory of intelligence.

Finally the five categories that The Sternburg Triachic Abilities Test measure; Verbal, Quantitative, Coping with Novelty, Atomization, and Practical are scales that seem to provide for high construct validity when compared to his theory.

This theory seems to suggest a kind of G, general intelligence, at least to me, that gave rise to human studies that are extrapolations of that intelligence, such as verbal and quantitative skills. And so measuring abilities in these constructed fields and also measuring abilities such as Coping with Novelty, Atomization, and Practical intelligence seems to be a more thorough means to evaluate intelligence than are provided by Thurstone or Thordike’s theories that deal mainly with verbal, quantitative, and spatial paradigms.

Vernon’s hierarchal model and Cattel’s model do seem to incorporate and measure both the bedrock features that make for survival intelligence and also the intellectual constructs of verbal and quantitative abilities and so seem valid yet also less complete than Sternburg’s model while Guilford’s model seems to miss this foundational survival intelligence component entirely.

Can intelligence be tested for?

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    • profile image

      Anastasia Rokina 2 years ago

      I really enjoy your writing style and how your thoughts flow. Love the topic too.

    • adamschwartz profile image
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      adamschwartz 2 years ago from Syracuse NY, USA

      very nice of you to say, cheers!

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