What is intelligence? Is intelligence, fundamentally, 1 import thing (Spearman, 1904), 3 things (Sternberg 1988), 7 things (Gardner, 1983), 10 things (Gardner 1999), 120 things (Guildford, 1967), or even 150 or more things (Guilford, 1982)?
Thorndike, Hagen & Sattler (1986) point out the extent to which the history of intelligence is in part a battle over names.
“Perhaps the best way to achieve coherence in the field of intelligence is to recognize that no single correct “model” or “approach” is evident and that different ones elucidate different aspects of a very complex phenomenon (Sternberg et. al 2003).”
Wagner (1978) had Moroccan and North American individuals remember patterns of Oriental rugs and others remember pictures of everyday objects, such as a rooster and a fish. Moroccans who have long experience in the rug trade seemed to remember rug patterns better than the North American individuals.
Serpell (1979) had Zambian and English children perform a number of tasks. He found that English children did better on a drawing task, but that Zambian children did better on a wire-shaping task
Lave (1988) Showed that housewives in Berkeley California who could successfully do the mathematics needed for comparison shopping were unable to do the same mathematics when they were placed inside a classroom environment.
Carraher, Carraher, and Schliemann (1985) studied a group of Brazilian street children. The investigation found that the same children who are able to do the mathematics needed to run their street businesses were often unable to do mathematics in a formal setting.
Cole, Gay, Glick and Sharp (1971:233) made the following insightful observation: “ Cultural differences in cognition reside more in the situations to which particular cognitive processes are applied than in the existence of a process in one cultural group, and its absence in another.” A similar position is held by Berry (1974).
Sarason and Doris (1979) view intelligence as a cultural invention that does not hold true across cultures.
(Serpell, 1974; Super, 1983; Wober, 1974) Even within a given society, different cognitive characteristics are emphasized from one situation to another and from one subculture to another. These differences extend not just to conceptions of intelligence but to what is considered adaptive or appropriate in a broader sense.
Views of intelligence vary from culture to culture; and the majority of these views do not reflect Western ideas (See, Berry & Bennett, 1992; Greenfield, 1997; Okagaki & Sternberg, 1991; Serpell, 1993; Yang & Sternberg, 1997)
We need to reduce the bias toward measuring intelligence through logical/mathematical and linguistic abilities and move toward looking more directly at a specific intelligence in operation (Gardner, 1993).
Howard Gardner is vocal about his disdain for a singularly psychometric approach to measuring intelligence based on paper and pencil tests. Secondly, he responds to the belief that an intelligence is the same as a domain or a discipline. Gardner reiterates his definition of an intelligence and distinguishes it from a domain which he describes as a culturally relevant, organized set of activities characterized by a symbol system and a set of operations (See Gardner; Phi Delta Kappan, 1995).
“Often intelligence tests measure skills that children are expected to acquire a few years before the taking the test (Sternberg, Presidential addresses; Culture and Intelligence, 2004).”
“Vernon (1971) points out the axes of a factor analysis do not necessarily reveal a latent structure of the mind but rather represent a convenient way of characterizing the organization of metal abilites. Vernon believed that there is no one ‘right’ orientation of axes. Indeed, mathematically an infinite number of orientations of axes can be fit to any solution in an explanatory factor analysis (See Sternberg, 2004).”
The two most widely used standardized tests of intelligence are the Wechsler scales and the Stanford-Binet. Both instruments are psychometrically sound, but Gardner believes that these tests measure only linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences, with a narrow focus within content in those domains. According to Gardner, the current psychometric approach for measuring intelligence is not sufficient (Gardner, 1993).
Robert Sternberg and his colleagues ask the experts to define “intelligence” according to their beliefs. Each of the roughly two dozen definitions produced in each symposium was different. There were some common threads, such as the importance of adaptation to the environment and the ability to learn, but these constructs were not well specified. According to Sternberg, very few tests measure adaptation to environment and ability to learn; nor do any tests except dynamic tests involving learning at the time of the test measure ability to learn. Traditional tests focus much more on measuring past learning which can be the result of many factors, including motivation and available opportunities to learn (Sternberg, Grigorenko, and Kidd, American Psychologist, 2005).
In Kenya, those schoolchildren whose traditional skills are most prized by the community tend to do least well in school tests (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1997; Sternberg, Nokes, et al., in press). In Brazil, street children who run a successful street business typically fail mathematics in the school setting (Ceci & Roazzi, 1994). In the West, school-based tests show correlations with career success, but they are also major gatekeepers of academic and vocational routes to advancement (Sternberg, 1997).
IQ test items are largely measures of achievement at various levels of competency (Sternberg, 1998,1999, 2003). Items requiring knowledge of the fundamentals of vocabulary, information, comprehension, and arithmetic problem solving (Cattell, 1971;Horn, 1994).
IQ scores do change over time. The average change between age 12 and age 17 was 7.1 IQ points; some individuals change as much as 18 points (Jones & Bayley, 1941).
“Individuals do not necessarily exhibit their "intelligence" in its raw state. Rather, they prepare to use their intelligence by passing through a developmental process. Thus, people who want to be mathematicians or physicists, spend years studying and honing their logical/mathematical abilities in a distinctive and socially relevant way (Gardner, 1999).”
Instruments developed to quantify smartness are culturally based and cannot simply be "transplanted" to a culture with different values (Greenfield, 1997).
In addition to learned reasoning abilities, IQ measures little more than a person's ability to take an IQ test, as scores increase dramatically as a person is trained or familiarized with the tests (See Kamin, 1974).
"Intelligence is a biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture (Gardner, 1999a), "
Scientists Richard Lewontin, Ruth Hubbard, and Howard Taylor have conclusively demonstrated that there is no scientific basis for any claims of a genetic, hereditary component of variations in "intelligence."
Research has shown that IQ type tests account for about 10% of the variation in how successful people are in various aspects of their adult lives. 10% isn't much and, maybe it's a coincidence, but when I ask people what it takes to be successful on the job or in a personal relationship and what it takes to be successful on one of these tests, or in an introductory classroom, the overlap is probably about 10% (Robert Sternberg, interview with Frontline).
IQ is a culturally, socially, and ideologically rooted concept. It could scarcely be otherwise, as this index is intended to predict success (i.e., to predict outcomes that are valued as success by most people) in a given society (i.e., in a large social group carrying its own set of values). IQ has been most studied where it was invented and where it is most appreciated, that is, in the established market economies and especially in the United States. Oddly enough, the country where its testing originated--France--largely ignores it. (The Predictive value of IQ- Sternberg et al; Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, Vol. 47, 2001)
The situation of testing itself (e.g., communicating with strangers regarding things and issues that lack context and that might appear to be meaningless) often results in the collection of unreliable data (e.g., Glick, 1968).
Intelligence is not a characteristic of people, but rather a potential for intelligence performance that is embedded in specific situations (Barab & Plucker, 2002).
views on smartness vary in different cultures; the majority of these views do not match Western views (Berry & Bennett, 1992; Greenfield, 1997; Okagaki & Sternberg, 1991; Serpell, 1993; Yang & Sternberg, 1997).
Gardner (1993) emphasizes two additional points about assessment that are critical. The first is that the assessment of intelligence should encompass multiple measures. Relying on a single IQ score from a WISC-III (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) without substantiating the findings through other data sources does the individual examinee a disservice and produces insufficient information for those who provide interventions.
IQ tests are convenient partial operationalizations of the construct of intelligence, and nothing more. They do not provide the kind of measurement of intelligence that tape measures provide of height (See Sternberg et al, 2005).
At this point in history, the study of intelligence has moved well beyond the realm of psychometrics.