Major Theories of Intelligence
The human brain works in a constantly changing environment. No moment is identical to the other, and hence it is necessary to perceive a new situation, to adapt to it and to select stimuli and actions. Broadly speaking, intelligence can be defined as the ability to execute such tasks as effectively and efficiently as possible. The result of intelligent performance (regardless of the level of intelligence) is thus a process of selection and response, which can drive beneficial intentions and actions.
Throughout the years, more than a few theories and approaches have suggested to define and measure human intelligence. As a preface to the evaluation of the four measurements given in the next section, it is imperative to recognize their underlying theories:
- The Triarchic Theory: proposed by Sternberg and defines intelligence in three major aspects: analytical, creative, and practical thinking.
- The Multiple Intelligence Theory: suggested by Howard Gardner and agrues that intelligence is not unitary, but rather comprises eight distinct multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.
Each of these intelligences is a distinct module in the brain and operates more or less independently of the others.
- Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory: define intelligence as performance in ten groups of broad stratum abilities, such as crystallized intelligence (Gc), fluid intelligence (Gf), quantitatve reasoning (Gq) and reading & writing ability (Grw). This theory offers a wide spectrum of abilities, which can be chosen from according to individual characteristics such as culture and educational level.
Instruments of Intelligence Measurement
Bateria III Woodcock-Munoz (Bateria III)
This instrument, which is a Spanish version of the Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ III), assesses cognitive ability and academic knowledge using norm-referenced scales for individuals aged 5-90+. Its theoretical underlie is the CHC. Thus, it is highly modular in the variety of tests as well as the different rating scales, which can be used to analyze performance.
The internal consistency of the Bateria III translation was probably calculated in the split-half method and the Rasch analysis procedures (Olivarez & Boroda, n.d.). Although the age groups are too broad for some of the tests, the authors found fairly good reliability coefficients, ranging from .77 to .93.
According to confirmatory factor analyses, the Bateria III shows excellent construct validity with the CHC model of cognitive abilities (ibid.). In addition to the normative development of the WJ III, the Bateria underwent a calibration process among 1,413 Spanish-speakers from monolingual countries and the US.
The test is highly specific in terms of cultural and linguistic factors. As a result, it may occur that in the wide Spanish-speaking world some concepts and/or items will be understood differently from their original meaning.
Power and Performance Measures (PPM)
This test battery includes nine tests; four of them are power tests (i.e. measure abilities over time) and five are performance tests (measure actual performance). Similarly to the Bateria III, each test can be used separately. Its theoretical background is the multiple triarchic theory, which also puts more weight on gross performance of skill-based tasks.
The test was constructed for occupational assessment. Internal consistency and validity coefficients were not thoroughly examined, partially due to the limited scope of the norm procedure, which included British workers and managers. This battery of multiple-choice tests also ignores fine motor skills and other developmental factors, and thus can be easily replaced by tests with wider scope such as WJIII. Bias can be anticipated in the framework of nervousness among job applicants and in populations with weak grasp of British English.
Assessment of Individual Learning Style: The Perceptual Memory Task (PMT)
This 52-task, 30-40 minutes test aims “to provide measures of the individual’s perception and memory for spatial relationships; visual and auditory sequential memory; intermediate term memory; and discrimination of detail.” (Ferarra, n.d.) This instrument is limited in scope to memory skills, and thus cannot be used as a sole measurement of intelligence in accordance with modern theories. It can provide, however, an assessment to performance in many academic situations, which require rapid learning and memory skills, and correspond with several of Gardner’s “eight intelligences.”
The manufacturer reports reliability coefficients of .90 and above in test-retest total PMT score after one month. No other meaningful reliability data is provided to thoroughly assess this instrument’s reliability, in particular among populations such as people with cognitive disabilities.
The manufacturer reports positive results of validity coefficients with other memory tests. However, the manual does not break the validity tests according to the specific components of memory in each part. Hence, although gross comparisons may assert validity, more information is needed in case of research on only few elements.
Unlike the Bateria III, for example, the PMT does not rely on extensive language and communication skills. Motor dysfunction, however, can significantly influence the results.
The Brief Visuospatial Memory Test-Revised (BVMT-R)
Like the PMT, the BVMR-R focuses on memory skills, and therefore consists of recalling (after long delay), reproduction and copying tasks. The PMT and the BVMR-R also share the same theoretical background.
The normative procedures included 588 normal adults aged 18-79 years, while the sampling was based on the US consensus 2000. The normative data is given in 28 age groups (using the method of overlapping midpoint age cells). Bias may arise due to the need for subjective evolution of the reproduced images; however, Interrater reliability tests (n=282) showed that all Pearson r coefficients were over .97, suggesting a high level of interrater reliability (Hubley, n.d.). Moreover, a large number of validity studies with the BVMT-R and with the components, which remained from the original BVMT, show good coefficients in cases such as dementia, as well as other visuospatial memory tests. However, bias should be considered in cases of impairments and fine motor skills and various other dysfunctional cognitive skills. The lack of studies with dementia patients (e.g. Alzheimer’s) suggests that the BVMT-R may not properly measure individual changes in test-retest administration.
Ethical Considerations of Intelligence Tests in Education
As demonstrated several times in the review above, individual differences, though they are reflected in terms of intelligence, may bias the results and lead to wrong analysis. Such differences are cognitive (e.g. visual scanning skills), while may have nothing to do with intelligence. For example, intelligence tests that were written and trailed with North American students may not be also valid for South Americans (Banyard & Flanagan, 2006) Moreover, tests such as the Bateria III demand superior fluency in mainstream Spanish, or else the performance will be lower regardless of skills (Doll & LeClair, n.d.). Moreover, most of these tests are rather short and composed from one or very few administrations. Personal, situational and many other factors can affect the respondent, whose performance may not reflect her genuine skills.
Consequently, the idea to measure intelligence with such instruments is tempting and has psychological justification, but the results should be considered with cautious. Ethical questions in this perspective deal with cultural biases, which may unfairly portray other cultures as inferior” (Banyard & Flanagan, 2006, p. 72); neglecting gifted children on the basis of their performance in a single test; and discrimination of students with poor motor and/or communication skills, which can nonetheless perform very well in other tasks that require high intelligence skills (e.g. the known British physicist Stephen Hawking).
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Banyard, P. & Flanagan, C. (2006). Ethical Issues and
Guidelines in Psychology. New York: Routledge.
Doll, B. & LeClair, C. (n.d.). [Review of the Bateria III Woodcock-Munoz]. In The fourteenth mental measurements yearbook. Retrieved August 5, 2009 from EBSCOHost Mental Measurements Yearbook database.
Ferarra, S. (n.d.). [Review of the Assessment of Individual Learning Style: The Perceptual Memory Task]. In The eleventh mental measurements yearbook. Retrieved August 5, 2009 from EBSCOHost Mental Measurements Yearbook database.
Hubley, A. M. (n.d.). [Review of the Brief Visuospatial Memory Test-Revised]. In The fifteenth eleventh mental measurements yearbook. Retrieved August 5, 2009 from EBSCOHost Mental Measurements Yearbook database.
Olivarez, A. & Boroda, A. (n.d.), [Review of the Bateria III Woodcock-Munoz]. In The fourteenth mental measurements yearbook. Retrieved August 5, 2009 from EBSCOHost Mental Measurements Yearbook database.
Van Vagner, K. (2009). Theories of Intelligence. Retrieved August 9, 2009 from <http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/p/intelligence.htm>