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Intelligence is impossible to define or measure

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Introduction

Intelligence is impossible to define or measure? In this essay, I will attempt to trace the development of the concept of intelligence and the various different ways of measuring it. I will discuss, starting from the early twentieth century, how intelligence first became of so much importance and of how the knowledge and understanding of the concept of intelligence has increased throughout the century. I will briefly describe the origins of the concept of intelligence and I will also mention the most recent developments in the subject such as those of multiple intelligences and artificial intelligence (AI). Various definitions of 'intelligence' have been produced and psychologists have so far been unable to agree on a common definition. This indicates the complexity of the subject and the diverse ways of looking at it. Some of the definitions used during the twentieth century will be mentioned. The continuous controversy as to whether intelligence is influenced mainly by hereditary or environmental causes will also be discussed. As concepts such as 'intelligence' are always value laden, the political and ideological consequences of intelligence testing will also be briefly explored in relation to educational and racial issues. The issue of intelligence and intelligence testing first came about within the problems of the education system. Teachers found that some children made slower progress in their studies, and explained this in terms of 'deficient capacity'. The school administrators found this explanation too simple. ...read more.

Middle

From these results according to R. Davies and P. Houghton (1995,p.152) "...he concluded that a child's performance on any test will depend upon that child's broad level of general ability, which he referred to as 'g' (general intelligence)." Spearman also thought that test performance was also dependent upon a number of specific abilities relevant to the task, which he referred to as the 's' factors. Later on Spearman expressed the view that 'g' could be genetically determined. Later on Guilford argued, that intelligence is a collection of segregated abilities and in 1967 he identified 120 factors making up the structure of human intelligence. It may be argued that Spearman's 'g' and Guilford's factors represent two different approaches, which are influential in Britain and America respectively (ibid. p. 153). As far as definitions of intelligence are concerned Thorndike was one of the first to argue in the early twentieth century that intelligence "is the quality of mind... in respect to which Aristotle, Plato, and Thucydides.... differed most from Athenian idiots of their day" (M. Eysenk, 1998, p.408). Later on in the 1920s a different kind of definition was formulated "intelligence is what is measured by intelligence tests". Despite its obvious circularity, R. Davies and P. Houghton (1995, p.146) refer to it as a 'pragmatic definition', provided a clear explanation of what IQ tests are attempting to measure is given. ...read more.

Conclusion

Eysenk, 1998, p.423). To conclude, having traced the historical development of the concept of intelligence and the various attempts at measuring it, it is clear That consensus on the matter is difficult to achieve. However a number of worth while attempts have been made at defining intelligence. Comparing the early definitions to the more recent ones, one notices the progressively more objective, down to earth, real life approach as expressed by Gardner, compared to the more intangible "quality of mind..." proposed by Thorndike. Also approaches of intelligence testing are becoming less important, as the emphasis is shifting towards a broader spectrum of intelligences and the approach is focused on how to help people develop their intelligences rather than for discriminatory practices. Testing is of course still important when one is looking for specific abilities and aptitudes, but it is nowadays, carried out by 'profiling' the people in question. So despite the controversial nature of the subject I would conclude that it is not impossible to define intelligence - only very difficult to agree on one particular definition. Also it is not impossible to test intelligence - only very difficult for psychologist to agree on a particular method of measuring IQs. As long as there are different theoretical approaches, there will always be differences of opinions, but this does not stop psychologists and businessmen from using psychometrics to help them decide who to employ and who to let go. ...read more.

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