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Theories of Intelligence

Critically evaluate one factor based theory of intelligence. You should use knowledge and understanding about psychometrics (including psychometric properties of measures and the development and testing of measures) to help inform the critique.

Intelligence is considered as one of the most talked subjects in Psychology. Although there have been many researches carried on the subject of ‘Psychology’ but there is no standard definition (Butcher, 1968). For instance, a person can be good at maths but not at logical ability. There are many domains such as visual and performance arts that can’t be measured by general tests of intelligence. In such case, researchers are propelled to carry out research of other domains and types of intelligence also. The study of different types of intelligences will broaden the scope and understanding of intelligence.

Some researchers believe that intelligence is just one single mental ability while others believe that intelligence encompasses wide-variety of skills and aptitudes. Different cultures define intelligence differently. For example, as per Chinese Confucian conception, intelligence is defined as value benevolence and knowing right things. However, as per Taoist conceptions, intelligence is defined as self-understanding, humility and freedom from conventional forms of judgements (Chaplin, 1974). There have been many meanings and definitions of intelligence given by researchers. The different ways used to define intelligence include one’s capacity for logic, abstract thoughts, understanding, self-awareness, communication, memory, planning and problem solving. In simpler terms, it may be defined as the ability to perceive things or retain knowledge or interpret things and apply those interpretations to other things. Although intelligence is a property observed in humans only but it might be observed in non-humans also. This paper critically evaluates the one factor based on theory of intelligence. It tends to critically examine Triarchic theory of intelligence. This theory of intelligence was proposed by Robert Stenberg in 1990s which differentiates between three key aspects of intelligence; componential intelligence, experimental intelligence and contextual intelligence.

By definition, one –factor theory or unifactor theory reduces all mental abilities into one general-ability known as common sense. Psychologists believe that intelligence has different levels so this theory generally has no ground to stand ( Ceci, 2005).  By definition, Intelligence may be defined as perception or comprehension (Chauhan, 1998). Western mainstream theories have considered intelligence as a combination of mental abilities. By definition, mental ability refers to the degree to which an individual can process and organise information in his mind (Gardner, 1983). Besides uni-factor theory, there is two-factor theory of intelligence also. By definition, two-factor theory refers to as a theory in which mental ability is reduced to two kind of general abilities. One is general ability while other is specific ability. Apart from bi-factor theory of intelligence, there are multi-factor theories of intelligence also. By definition, multi-factor theories refer to as the process in which all mental abilities are transformed into different general abilities.

There are many theories of intelligence such as General Intelligence Theory, Primary Mental Abilities, and Multiple Intelligence and Triarchic theory of intelligence. Theories of intelligence can also be implicit and explicit. Explicit theories are those that are published and defined through research. Alternatively, implicit theories are general perceptions of intelligence. In simpler words, this is referred to as what people think of when asked about what is intelligence. It is believed the explicit usually develop from implicit theories only (Goleman, 1995).

Triarchic Theory of Intelligence

There are many theories of intelligence. These are broadly classified as psychometric theories, cognitive theories, cognitive- contextual theories and biological theories. Psychometric theories are derived from the studying analysis of test performances. The Psychometric theories are usually dominated with the questions regarding human intelligence and importance of general intelligence. Alternatively, cognitive theories include questions regarding the processes involved in general intelligence. The processes can be highly simple or complex depending upon the situation. For example, inspection time is simple process while working memory is a complex process. Different theorists focus on different processes. Various types of theories of intelligence include ‘Triarchic theory of Intelligence’ and ‘Gardner theory of intelligence’ (Goleman, 1995).

Robert Stenberg proposed an intelligence theory based on the cognitive psychology. His model is named as Triarchic theory of intelligence (Guilford, 1957). The ‘tri’ word means three i.e. this theory consists of three crucial components such as memory-analytic, creative-synthetic and practical contextual. The first component is linked with the academic perspective of the intelligence (Rao, 1990). This is same as what many of the intelligence tests measure. The second component is crucial for what creative subjects such as science and maths. The third component is crucial for everyday business and life. During the first half of 20th century, the research carried in intelligence was dependant mainly on the factor analysis. By definition, factor analysis is defined as the statistical procedure which allows for systematic study of relationship within common set of variables in order to determine common aspects.

As per Robert Stenberg, intelligence is defined as the mental activity directed towards purposive adaptation to real world environment which is related to one’s life (Smith, 2000). He agreed with Gardner who proposed that intelligence is a single and general ability. However, he made his suggestions that intelligence as proposed by Gardner is better viewed as talents of individuals. The successful intelligence, as proposed by Stenberg comprises of three crucial components:

  1. Analytic Intelligence
  2. Creative Intelligence
  3. Practical Intelligence

These are described in detail in below sections.

Analytical Intelligence:  According to Robert Stenberg, this component relates to how a person should process and examine information. Analytical intelligence is sometimes also referred as componential intelligence (Smith, 1966). For example, Beth is a school boy who processes and organises information very efficiently. He is very efficient in grasping things and hence, this helps him get good grades in his school. This is a practical example of Analytical Intelligence. This type of intelligence often helps a person see beyond problems and find solutions that are not often realised. In many standardised tests, students are often tested about their analytical thinking. It deals with problem-solving abilities. As per Sternberg, the analytical intelligence is based on joint operations of three components; metacomponents, performance components and knowledge acquisition components (Dulewicz, 1999). By definition, metacomponents are executive functions controlling and organising performance and knowledge acquisition components. In other words, these control, monitor and process the cognitive processing. These are used to analyse a problem and accordingly, find a strategy to solve them. Performance components implement the strategies and solutions assembled by metacomponents. These are fundamental operations of any cognitive process helping people to control their stimuli and hold information for short period of time. Further, it also helps to make calculations, perform mental calculations and access data from long term memory. Third component is knowledge acquisition component which is used to gain and store new knowledge. These comprise of the strategies that one use to remember things and exemplify the processes of this category. Robert Sternberg felt that people with good reasoning ability might spend more time with problems but determine their solutions faster than those who are not skilled to do so.

Analytical Intelligence

Creative Intelligence: This component helps individuals to deal with new situations creatively i.e. taking reference from past experiences. Creative Intelligence is also sometimes referred as experiential intelligence. It includes applying the thought process to a new task or problem (Fletcher, 2011). This component is sub-divided into further two components; Novelty and Automatization. By definition, Novelty refers to how an individual reacts the first time they encounter some problem. Alternatively, automatization refers to how a person learns to perform different tasks effectively.  For example, Julie is a school going girl and studies in sixth grade. She like taking new challenges and enjoys solving puzzles every day. She is often seen doing new things like solving math questions. Considering her creative approach, her friends are usually come to her to find potential solutions for new situations.  This is an example of creative intelligence.

Practical Intelligence: This component refers to the ability of an individual to adapt to new environment effectively. In practical intelligence, there are generally three processes required; Adaptation, Shaping and Selection. By definition, adaptation refers to one make changes inside him to get use to a specific environment. Adaptation generally helps to adjust in a surrounding better. For example, when weather becomes cold, people adapt to the season by wearing extra clothing and keeping themselves warm. Alternatively, shaping is defined as the altering the environment in order to adjust as per the needs of the person. For example, a teacher may enforce a new rule in class that every student has to raise his hand when he wants to ask a question (Gardner, 2006). This ensures that there is less disruption in the class. Third process, selection refers to selecting an entirely new environment in order to cope with one’s needs. This is to ensure that person may be able to cope with his needs which might not be fulfilled by the previous environment. For example, immigrants usually relocate to different places in order to look for better living conditions.

It is believed that the degree with which a person fits into his/her environment demonstrates her degree of intelligence. In case of practical intelligence, Sternberg emphasises that an individual is required to apply analytic skills to daily life situations. A person with practical intelligence often remains successful in every type of setting. For example, Celia didn’t have any analytic intelligence yet she was able to handle most situations skilfully. She knew how to get her articles published and handles interviews effectively. As per Sternberg, it is not important for an individual to possess only one type of intelligence, some individuals may have an integration of all types of intelligence (Gardner, 1993) .

The sub-components of different components of Triarchic theory of Intelligence are depicted by figure below:

Fig 1: Different Components of Triarchic theory of Intelligence

Source: Gardner, 1993

Many psychologists criticise the unempirical nature of Triarchic theory of intelligence. As per them, it appears weird to put forward those traditional methods doesn’t measure practical intelligence. Traditional methods can help to show a moderate correlation with income.

Creative Intelligence

Psychometric is the field of study related to the theory and technique of psychological measurement. As per psychometric approach, intelligence is assumed as a measure and it focuses on distinct methods of measuring intelligence. The theories of intelligence are usually divided into three broad categories; one factor model, multi-factor model and hierarchical models (Gardner, 2006).

To conclude, there are different kinds of intelligences observed such as verbal intelligence, mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence etc. These types of intelligence give a brief idea about what kind of things individuals can perceive. Also, there are many theories of intelligence besides Triarchic theory of intelligence. The Triarchic theory of intelligence comprises of three key elements: Analytic intelligence, Creative intelligence and Practical intelligence. These elements are again sub-divided into three categories. Analytic intelligence comprises of metacomponents, performance components and knowledge acquisition components. Metacomponents is defined as the executive functions that control and organise performance. These generally control, monitor and process the cognitive processing. In other words, these control, monitor and process the cognitive processing. Metcomponents are used to analyse a problem and accordingly, find a strategy to solve them. Alternatively, performance components execute the strategies and solutions assembled by metacomponents. The third component is knowledge acquisition component which helps to gain and store new knowledge. These comprise of the strategies that one use to remember things and exemplify the processes of this category. Similarly, creative intelligence is sub-divided into two categories; Novelty and Automated. Novelty refers to how an individual reacts the first time they encounter some problem. The automatization refers to how a person learns to perform different tasks effectively.  Further, practical intelligence is sub-divided into Adaptation, Selection and Shaping.

Till when there is a clear cut definition of intelligence, theories will continue to define it. But the likelihood of such a definition turns out be nil as there is no single definition explaining it. Also, the options will continue to exist when theories will evolve. Hence, theories of intelligence are said to self-defeating in majority of cases.

References

1. Butcher, H. J. (1968). Human Intelligence and Its Nature & Assessment. London : Methun & Co.

2. Chaplin, K. (1974). Systems & Theories of Psychology. New York : HoltRinehart &  Winston, Inc.

3. Ceci S. J (2005). On Intelligence.... More or Less : A Bio-Ecological Treatise on Intellectual Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice Hall.

4. Chauhan, S.S.  (1998). Advanced Educational Psychology. New Delhi : Vikas Publishing House PVT, Ltd.

5. Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind : The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. New York : Basic Books.

6. Goleman, D (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York : Bantam.

7. Guilford, J. P. (1957). The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York : McGrawhill Book Co.

8. Rao, S. N. (1990). Educational Psychology. New Delhi : Wiley Estern Ltd.

9. Smith, D. (2000). Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology. London : Harcourt College Publishers, 2000.

10. Smith, W. (1966).  Conditioning and Instrumental Learning. McGraw Hill.

11. Dulewicz, V. (1999). Can emotional intelligence be measured and developed? Henley-on-Thames: Henley Management College.

12. Fletcher, R. (2011). Intelligence and intelligence testing. London: Routledge

13. Gardner, H (2006). Multiple intelligences: New Horizons New York: Basic Books.

14. Gardner, H (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences (2nd Ed) London: Basic Books.

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