Defining intelligence is difficult, for example people who are labelled as gifted are more likely to have an IQ score over 130 and yet this is not always the case and some gifted people may be highly creative, but not outstanding academically.
So what about intelligence tests, is it possible that they capture the essence of intelligence or the different types of intelligence? Or indeed the particular type of intelligence, which you may possess to an outstanding degree?
IQ tests began in the early 1900s with Alfred Binet, who sought a means to identify children with developmental disabilities so that they could receive more effective teaching. Lewis Terman of Stanford University then adapted and standardized Binet’s test and the era of IQ testing soon began.
David Wechsler of Bellevue Hospital in New York however, sought to correct what he saw was a dependence on verbal aspects in the assessment of intelligence, which resulted in verbal and nonverbal intelligence becoming separate.
In the 1930s, Charles Spearman observed that the performance of individuals on a variety of intelligence tests was highly correlated and he proposed the 'g' factor of intelligence. Modern MRI has confirmed this underlying intelligence factor to some extent, with evidence that people scoring well on intelligence tests, generally having more brain tissue (Haier et al., 2004).
In the 1960s, Raymond Cattell proposed the idea of crystallised intelligence, which is basically the knowledge possessed by a person and how easily they can access it. Fluid intelligence however was the ability to solve problems and understand complexities.
J.P Guilford however, used factor analysis to propose a complex theoretical model of intelligence, related to diverse intellectual abilities in a variety of areas such as: visual, symbolic or semantic, for example.
In more recent years, Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory proposed three types of intelligence: creative, analytical and practical. And Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, expanded intelligence beyond the scope of the mainstream IQ tests. Interestingly, Gardner was of the opinion that Western societies valued certain types of intelligence and non-Western societies valued other varieties of intelligence, which makes me wonder how Einstein or Bill Gates would have fared in the times of the hunter and gatherer? (just a thought).
Coming out of Gardner's concepts about intelligence, was the idea of emotional intelligence. This new understanding of the importance of emotions as a factor of intelligence, is seen to apply in four main ways:
- The appropriate understanding, expression and appraisal of emotion
- The ability to use emotion to aid thinking processes
- The understanding and analysis of emotion and the appropriate use of this knowledge
- Being able to regulate your own emotion appropriately
People with emotional intelligence, on the whole tend to have greater empathy and social skills, they bring out the best in others and make wonderful fair and just leaders. And the good thing is, that emotional intelligence can be improved! (where can I sign up!).
How important is intelligence in determining academic success? Asian children in mathematics achievement for example, consistently outperform their peers in the United States; however while American culture believes in the power of innate intelligence, Asian culture's stress “hard work” and “studying”. The belief exists in Asian cultures, that hard work and effort can bring you success, rather than your raw abilities.
We all probably know someone whose intelligence puzzles us, like the professor who is a genius in his particular field and clueless in practically everything else, or the person who seems academically astute, but has wacky beliefs which would crumble under the most rudimentary level of critical thinking. Also people often surprise you, someone who you may have written off as being a bit daft and confuddled, can suddenly reveal some incredible talent, or perceptive observation. And the reality is, that life and any particular individual, is bound to be much more complex than any old intelligence test, or theory.