There’s more to intelligence than meets the I

Intelligence = IQ, or does it....

Intelligence = IQ, or does it….

I have an exam coming up in “Personality and Intelligence” and drawing upon my last post it got me thinking about the measure of intelligence. Everyone knows that if you want to know how intelligent you are when you take an IQ test. But how did this come about and is it truly a valid measure of intelligence or just an aspect of intelligence?

“the ability to use optimally limited resources – including time – to achieve goals”

Kurzweil (1999)

Most definitions capture that intelligence is an ability – but this actually asks more questions than it answers. Is there one ability beneath intelligence or is a lot that adds to the general factor. Is there a limit to the ability?

Historical (1904) = Spearman used different mental tests finding that the scores had a lot in common (under statistical testing) – a persons performance is stable from one test to another. He also performed another test in which he was able to find the factors underlying individual differences in intelligence. He suggested that although there are different aspects of cognitive processes – they have a general capability, (g) – this has not been explored thoroughly.

Today – Welschler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is used to assess intelligence currently providing a person with a score, the average of 100 of their intelligence in comparison to the rest of the population of the same age. IQ is the abbreviation of Intelligence Quotient and so only relates to tests that work out intelligence in this manner.

The intelligence test used today only combines a few aspects of what intelligence is considered to be. It is these other aspects that I feel need more acknowledgement. Spearman’s thought that there are different aspects of cognition under a general intelligence seems to be a valid assumption. Everyone is intelligent but in their own way and having a general measure to test this seems plausible. However, the debate is sparked when we think about these different underlying types of intelligence. Current intelligence tests look into cognitive abilities such as mental arithmetic but do not explore other aspects of intelligence. These have been termed “Hot Intelligences” and explore the non-cognitive abilities such as emotional intelligence. Many theories have been suggested as noted here:

  1. Thurstone – questioned the general factor of intelligence and said that there are seven types:

1.verbal comprehension

2.word fluency

3.number facility

4.spatial visualisation

5.associative memory

6.perceptual speed


What if these abilities are cognitions that underlie the general factor of intelligence as suggested by Spearman? Thurstone himself would disagree with this but it’s another take on the abilities that make up intelligence.

2.Raymond Cattell – suggests another way to differentiate between intelligence; fluid or crystalised. Fluid intelligence is the ability to learn new things to solve novel problems whereas crystalised intelligence is concerned with the previous knowledge we know to solve problems. Personally, this seems a bit of an over-explanation, it explains how the different bits of intelligence work but not what they are. It doesn’t specify different types of intelligence as Gardener does for example.

3.Gardener explores the debate behind multiple intelligences suggesting that there are 8:

  • Spatial
  • Linguistic
  • Logical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Kinaesthetic
  • Visual
  • Musical

Again I feel that this is good evidence for the aspects of intelligence that would add to an overall score adding to Spearmans idea of g. However, Gardener would not agree with this and is even against the idea of validating these aspects so they are under scrutiny. I really like this theory and feel that it is overshadowed by current IQ tests. It is one of the first theories that suggest intelligence isn’t just about numbers and how well you can remember dates. The different bits of intelligence shows that everyone is good at their own aspect and will excel in it given the right resources. Given the right research exploration into this theory may reveal better ways to educate children in subjects that they are both interested in and a part of their unique intelligence.

  1. Social intelligence = Thorndike looked into this abstract intelligence of –

“managing others and acting wisely in relationships”

  1. Goleman = Emotional intelligence
  1. Sternberg = Practical intelligence

Some theorists believe that social, emotional and practical intelligence is far too similar to other aspects already included in the IQ tests. Against views of theorists, I believe that the last three theories are all aspects of intelligence but ALL add to intelligence rather than being a separate construct.

All these 6 theories and many more that I haven’t mentioned, into HOT intelligence are fairly recent and so are not incorporated into the test for intelligence – IQ. I feel that they are overlooked causing the WAIS to be an invalid test for all aspects of intelligence. They all suggest that there are many more aspects of intelligence yet to be explored and we are all experts in one or more of them. Which aspects we are experts in and whether there is a limit to our capabilities is a much bigger question…

IQ = intelligence quotient but does this involve all aspects of intelligence? I feel that some major intelligence factors have been ignored such as Gardeners claim of 8 different bits of intelligence. Many people look at intelligence as something you either have or you don’t but I take the view that everyone is intelligent; it is made of factors rather than a scale. These factors may include spatial intelligence, emotional intelligence or interpersonal intelligence and we all are all unique in placing upon these factors.

(all references cited in Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2012). Personality and individual differences (2nd ed.). Chichester: BPS Blackwell.)

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Emma and published with kind permission. The original post can be found here. This version was originally published in 2015, and updated in 2020 by UKEd Editorial in accordance with website and policy updates.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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