Saturday, June 4, 2011

Human Intelligence Models

The definition of human intelligence “depends on whom you ask, and the answer differs widely across disciplines, times, and places” (Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998). A rough description is “the ability to excel in a variety of tasks, especially related to academic success” (Davis & Palladino, 2009). Gauging human intelligence has never been easy or an exact science. In fact, no topic in psychology has stirred-up more public controversy (Gottfredson, n.d.). French psychologist, Alfred Binet, was the first to develop an intelligence test (Davis & Palladino, 2009).

It seems as though the answers that we receive from any type of intelligence testing (psychometric intelligence tests) just lead us to more questions. For instance, we know that racial and ethnic groups differ on average when scores are tallied from conventional tests of intelligence (Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998). Various questions arise from these varying scores; in terms of social, environmental, and economical. The goal of these intelligence models is to consider the mental processes that account for human intelligence.

Spearman’s Model

It was British psychologist, Charles Spearman, who introduced factor analysis, which is known as the two-factor theory. Spearman believed that there were two factors (or two types of intelligence): general intelligence (g) and the other representing a number of specific abilities (s) (Davis & Palladino, 2009). Spearman believed that testing a person’s abilities to complete tasks against expected outcomes could be measured in a mathematical formula known as the Tetrad Equation. Spearman hypothesized that if a person scored highly on an intelligence test there was a high probability that they would score well in other areas of intelligence also. Through his various experiments, Spearman concluded that through the use of "g," there was now theoretical basis for Binet's way of designing tests (Spearman, 1904). Spearman also believed that his theory was supported by Karl Lashley’s experiments with rats, because the loss of cerebral tissue would cause rats to thwart specific functions (Spearman, 1904).

Sternberg’s Model

Cognitive psychologist, Dr. Robert Sternberg, first began with intelligence testing by testing a 7th grade class for a science project. This led him to create his own test, the Sternberg Test of Mental Abilities (STOMA) ("Human Intelligence: Robert J. Sternberg," n.d.). Dr. Sternberg eventually created his own model of intelligence called the “triachich theory.” This theory asserts that human intelligence derives from a balance of three types of intelligences: analytical, creative, and practical.

• Analytical intelligence - The ability to break down a problem or situation into its components. This type is assessed by most intelligence tests
• Creative intelligence - The ability to cope with novelty and solve problems in new and unusual ways
• Practical intelligence - Also known as common sense. This type of intelligence is the one that is understood by the public but it is missing from standard intelligence tests

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Harvard graduate, Howard Gardner, believed that there was more to intelligence than what had been previously introduced, or what was being tested. Gardner believed that there were a wide range of characteristics that accounted for intelligence that needed to be considered. According to Dr. Gardner, there are nine different characteristics that make-up human intelligence:

• Verbal/linguistic intelligence
• Logical-mathematical intelligence
• Pictures/spatial intelligence
• Musical intelligence
• Self-reflection (intrapersonal intelligence)
• Kinesthetic (physical) intelligence
• Interpersonal (social) intelligence
• Naturalist (experience in the natural world) intelligence
• Existential (ability to pose and ponder questions of existence)

Compare and Contrast

Some critics argue that intelligence research is misleading, and that no general mental capacity exists--only opportunities to learn skills and information that is valued in a particular cultural context (Gottfredson, n.d.). However, there is much research that proves that the research done thus far is not only credible, but applicable to real-life situation (as well as a direct correlation to past scientific research).

Spearman’s model is an older model, created at the turn of the century. Still, it is based on the scientific method and still holds much credence in our current world. Spearman’s “positive manifold” gave the best evidence for a general type of intelligence, which supports several different areas of cognitive ability (Spearman, 1904). Moreover, there is an extremely high correlation between IQ (testing) and simple cognitive tasks, which supports the theory of general intelligence (Eysenck, 1982). Spearman ultimately believed that intelligence could be defined by a limited number of factors when he said, “cognitive events do, like those of physics, admit throughout of being reduced to a small number of definitely formulatable principles in the sense of ultimate laws” (Spearman, 1904).

Sternberg’s triachich theory is “a comprehensive theory, more encompassing. . . because it takes into account social and contextual factors apart from human abilities" (Li, 1996, p. 37). Sternberg's theory has particularly proved itself to be most valuable in real life situation, which is the reason for its credibility. For example, Brazilian children who work for street vendors can do the math that is required for running a street business, but they cannot pass a math class in school (Carraher, Carraher, & Schliemann, 1985). This evidence strongly suggests that there is a practical intelligence of math and an analytical intelligence.

Dr. Gardner believed in challenging the current educational system, which assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way—a theory that is heavily biased and based only on linguistic and mathematical models (Gardner, 1993). Gardner’s theory is clearly the most comprehensive model. Gardner believed that ignoring biology when attempting to define and understand intelligence is a mistake. In Gardner’s own words, “Now it has been found that certain brain parts do distinctively map with certain cognitive functioning, as evidenced by certain brain damage leading to loss of certain cognitive function…Conclusion: Therefore, multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1993). Gardner’s theory was truly biological, as he studied people with speech impairments, paralysis, etc. Gardner was concerned with localizing the areas in the brain which were responsible for each function. "Gardner found seven different areas of the brain, and so his theory consists of seven different intelligences, each related to a specific portion of the human brain" (Li, 1996).

Many children learn differently and their gifts, unfortunately, are not correctly burgeoned. Most of these children are simply diagnosed and labeled with ADD (attention deficit disorder) and some are simply labeled underachievers. Gardner’s theory calls for a transformation of the entire educational system. Gardner declares that our teachers need to be retrained on how to present their lessons in a more creative way, using music and other types of multimedia in order to accommodate all students (Gardner, 1993). In this way, it is Gardner’s theory that will not allow certain children to fall through the cracks of society; hence, bettering our society as a whole.

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