Theories of Intelligence in Psychology

What exactly is intelligence?

Although intelligence is one of the most talked about topics in psychology, there is no standard definition of what exactly constitutes intelligence. Some researchers suggest that intelligence is a single, general ability, while others believe that intelligence encompasses a range of abilities, skills, and abilities.

How Do Psychologists Define Intelligence?

Intelligence has been an important and controversial topic throughout the history of psychology. Despite the great interest and importance on the subject, there is still a great deal of disagreement as to which components make up intelligence. In addition to questions about fully defining intelligence, the debate about whether accurate measurements are possible continues today.

At various points throughout recent history, researchers have proposed different definitions of intelligence. While these definitions can vary significantly from one theorist to another, current conceptualizations tend to suggest that intelligence involves the ability to do the following:

  • Learning: Obtaining, preserving and using information is an important component of intelligence.
  • Recognizing the problems: To use the information, people must be able to identify potential problems in the environment that need to be addressed.
  • Solving problems: People should then be able to use what they learn to find a useful solution to a problem they realize in the world around them.

Some different mental abilities such as logic, reasoning, problem solving, and planning are areas of intelligence. Although the subject of intelligence is one of the biggest and most researched topics, it is also one of the topics that generate the greatest controversy.

Although psychologists often disagree on the definition and causes of intelligence, research on intelligence plays an important role in many areas. These areas include decisions on how much funding should be allocated to educational programs, the use of tests to screen job applications, and the use of tests to identify children who need additional academic assistance.

How the Concept of Intelligence Developed

The term “intelligence quotient” or IQ was first coined in the early 20th century by a German psychologist named William Stern. Psychologist Alfred Binet developed the first intelligence tests to help the French government identify children who need extra academic support. Binet was the first to describe the concept of mental age, or the abilities that children of a certain age possess.

Since then, intelligence tests have emerged as a widely used tool that led to the development of many skill and aptitude tests. However, the use of such tests continues to cause controversy and disagreement in the way we define cultural biases, effects on intelligence, and even intelligence that may be involved.

Theories of Intelligence

Different researchers have proposed various theories to explain the nature of intelligence. Here are some of the basic theories of intelligence that have emerged in the last 100 years:

Charles Spearman: General Intelligence

British psychologist Charles Spearman (1863–1945) proposed a concept that he called general intelligence or the g factor. After using a technique known as factor analysis to examine some mental ability tests, Spearman concluded that the scores on these tests were quite similar. People who performed well on one cognitive test tended to perform well on other tests, while those who scored bad on one test tended to score poorly on others. Thus, Spearmen concluded that intelligence is a general cognitive ability that can be measured and expressed numerically.

Louis L. Thurstone: Primary Mental Abilities

Psychologist Louis L. Thurstone (1887-1955) proposed a different theory of intelligence. Instead of seeing intelligence as a single general ability, Thurstone’s theory focused on seven different basic mental abilities. Among the talents he described are:

  • Verbal comprehension
  • Reasoning
  • Perception speed
  • Digital Capability
  • Verbal fluency
  • Associative memory
  • Spatial visualization is included.
  • Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligences

One of the new ideas that have emerged is Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Instead of focusing on the analysis of test scores, Gardner argued that quantitative expressions of human intelligence, like the IQ test, are not a complete and accurate depiction of human abilities. Its theory covers eight different types of intelligence based on skills and abilities that are valuable in different cultures.

The eight types of intelligence identified are:

  • Visual intelligence
  • Verbal intelligence
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
  • Logical mathematical intelligence
  • Interpersonal intelligence
  • Musical intelligence
  • Internal intelligence
  • Nature oriented intelligence

    Robert Sternberg: The Triad Theory of Intelligence

    Psychologist Robert Sternberg defined intelligence as “mental activity aimed at adapting, selecting, and shaping real world environments related to one’s life.” While agreeing with Gardner, recognizing that intelligence is broader than a single, general ability, he argued that certain types of intelligence are better viewed as individual abilities. Sternberg put forward what he calls “successful intelligence”, which includes three different factors:

    • Analytical intelligence: Problem solving skills.
    • Creative intelligence: the capacity to cope with new situations, using past experiences and existing skills.
    • Practical intelligence: Ability to adapt to a changing environment.