Chapter 9

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22 Jul 2011
Chapter 9: Theories of Intelligence and the Binet Scales
Alfred Binet, one of the original authors of the test that bears his name, defined intelligence as
the tendency to take and maintain a definite direction; the capacity to make adaptations for the
purpose of attaining a desired end, and the power of autocriticism”
Spearman, defined intelligence as the ability to educe either relations or correlates
T.R. Taylor identified three independent research traditions that have been employed to study the
nature of human intelligence: the psychometric, the information-processing, and the cognitive
The psychometric approach examines the elemental structure of a test. Following the psychometric
approach, we examine the properties of a test through and evaluation of its correlates and
underlying dimensions
In the information-processing approach, we examine the processes that underlie how we learn and
solve problems
The cognitive tradition focuses on how humans adapt to real-world demands
There is a correlation between socioeconomic background and scores on all standardized
intelligence test, including Stanford-Binet. Thus, many people have charged that intelligence tests
are biased, especially against ethnic minorities and the poor
Intelligence tests were initially developed to eliminate subjectivity in the evaluation of childrens
ability and it should be noted that among standardized tests, the Stanford-Binet fifth edition is
among the best in providing appropriate cautions for test users
In 1904, the French minister officially appointed a commission, to which he gave a definite
assignment: to recommend a procedure for identifying so called subnormal (intellectually limited)
Binet defined intelligence as the capacity (1) to find and maintain a definite direction or purpose,
(2) to make necessary adaptations that is, strategy adjustments to achieve that purpose, and
(3) to engage in self-criticism so that necessary adjustments in strategy can be made
Binet believed that intelligence expressed itself through the judgmental, attentional, and
reasoning facilities of the individual, he decided to concentrate on finding tasks related to these
three facilities
In developing tasks to measure judgment, attention, and reasoning, Binet used trial and error as
well as experimentation and hypothesis-testing procedures
He was guided by two major concepts that to this day underlie not only the Binet scale but also
major modern theories of intelligence: age differentiation and general mental ability
These principles provided the foundation for subsequent generations of human ability tests
Principle 1: Age Differentiation
Age differentiation refers to the simple fact that one can differentiate older children from
younger children by the formers greater capabilities
Binet eventually assembled a set of tasks that an increasing proportion of children could complete
as a function of increases in age
Using these tasks, he could estimate the mental ability of a child in terms of his/her completion of
the tasks designed for the average child of a particular age, regardless of the childs actual or
chronological age
A particular 5-year0old child might be able to complete tasks that the average 8-year-old could
With the principle of age differentiation, one could determine the equivalent age capabilities of a
child independent of his/her chronological age
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This equivalent age capability was eventually called mental age
If a 6-year-old completed tasks that were appropriate for the average 9-year-old, then the 6-year-old
had demonstrated that he/she had capabilities equivalent to those of the average 9-year-old, or a
mental age of 9
Principle 2: General Mental Ability
Binet was guided in his selection of tasks by his decision to measure only the total product of the
various separate and distinct elements of intelligence, that is general mental ability
With this concept, Binet freed himself from the burden of identifying each element or independent
aspect of intelligence
He also was freed from finding the relation of each element to the whole
Binets decision to measure general mental ability was based on practical considerations
He could restrict the search for tasks to anything related to the total or the final product of
intelligence. He could judge the value of any particular task in terms of its correlation with the
combined result (total score) of all other tasks
Tasks with low correlations could be eliminated, and tasks with high correlations retained
According to Spearmans theory, intelligence consists of one general factor (g) plus a large number
of specific factors
Spearmans notion of general mental ability, which he referred to as psychometric g, was based on
the well-documented phenomenon that when a set of diverse ability tests are administered to large
unbiased samples of the population, almost all of the correlations are positive
This phenomenon is called positive manifold, which according to Spearman resulted from the fact
that all tests, no matter how diverse, are influenced by g
For Spearman, g could be best be conceptualized in terms of mental energy
To support the notion of g, Spearman developed a statistical technique called factor analysis.
Factor analysis is a method for reducing a set of variables or scores to a smaller number of
hypothetical variables called factors
Through factor analysis, one can determine how much variance a set of tests or scores has in
This common variance represents the g factor. The g in a factor analysis of any set of mental ability
tasks can be represented in the first unrotated factor in a principal components analysis
Spearman found that , as a general rule, approximately half of the variance in a set of diverse
mental-ability tests is represented in the g factor
Implications of General Mental Intelligence (g)
The concept of general intelligence implies that a persons intelligence can best be represented by a
single score, g, that presumably reflects the shared variance underlying performance on a diverse
set of tests
Performance on any given individual task can be attributed to g as well as to some specific or
unique variance. However, if the set of tasks is large and broad enough, the role of any given tasks
can be reduced to a minimum
Differences in unique ability stemming from the specific task tend to cancel each other, and overall
performance comes to depend most heavily on the general factor
The gf-gc Theory of Intelligence
Recent theories of intelligence have suggested that human intelligence can be best be
conceptualized in terms of multiple intelligences rather than a single score. One such theory is
called the gf-gc theory
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