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Chapter: Psychology: Intelligence

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Intelligence Beyond the IQ Test

Practical Intelligence • Emotional Intelligence • The Theory of Multiple Intelligences • The Cultural Context of Intelligence

INTELLIGENCE BEYOND THE IQ TEST

 

We’ve now made good progress in filling in our portrait of intelligence. We know that we can speak of intelligence in general; the psychometric data tell us that. We also know how to distinguish some more specific forms of intelligence (linguistic, quantitative, spatial; fluid, crystallized). And, finally, we know some of the elements that give someone a higher or lower g—namely, mental speed, working memory capacity, and executive control.

 

We might still ask, though, whether there are aspects of intelligence not included in this portrait—aspects that are somehow separate from the capacities we measure with our conventional intelligence tests. For example, you probably know people who are “street-smart” or “savvy,” but not “school-smart.” Such people may lack the sort of ana-lytic skill required for strong performance in the classroom, but they’re sophisticated and astute in dealing with the practical world. Likewise, what about social competence—the ability to persuade others and to judge their moods and desires? Shrewd salespeople have this ability, as do successful politicians, quite independent of whether they have high or low IQ scores.

 

A number of studies have explored these other nonacademic forms of intelligence. For example, one study focused on gamblers who had enormous experience in betting on horse races and asked them to predict the outcomes and payoffs in several upcom-ing races. This is a tricky mental task that involves highly complex reasoning. Factors like track records, jockeys, and track conditions all have to be remembered and weighed against one another. On the face of it, the ability to perform such mental calculations seems to be part of what intelligence tests should measure. But the results proved otherwise; the gamblers’ success turned out to be completely unrelated to their IQs (Ceci & Liker, 1986). These findings and others have persuaded researchers that we need to broaden our conception of intelligence and consider forms of intelligence that aren’t measured by the IQ test.

 

 

Practical Intelligence

 

One prominent investigator, Robert Sternberg, has argued that we need to distinguish several types of intelligence. One type, analytic intelligence, is measured by standard intelligence tests. A different type is practical intelligence, needed for skilled reasoning in the day-to-day world (Sternberg, 1985; also see Henry, Sternberg, & Grigorenko, 2005; Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998; Sternberg, R. Wagner, Williams, & Horvath, 1995; R. Wagner, 2000; Figure 11.9).

 

In one of Sternberg’s studies, business executives read descriptions of scenarios involving problems similar to those they faced in their professional work. The


 

executives also considered various solutions for each problem and rated them on a scale from 1 (poor solution) to 7 (excellent solution). These ratings were then used to assess how much tacit knowledge each of the executives had—that is, practical know-how gleaned from their everyday experience. The data showed that this measure of tacit knowledge was predictive of job performance (and so was correlated with on-the-job performance ratings as well as salary). Crucially, though, measures of tacit knowledge weren’t correlated with IQ—and so are plainly assessing something separate from the sorts of “intelligence” relevant to the IQ test (Sternberg & Wagner, 1993; R. Wagner, 1987; R. Wagner & Sternberg, 1987).

 

Other research, however, has challenged the claim that practical intelligence is independent of analytic intelligence. In one study, for example, measures of practical intel-ligence were correlated with measures of g (Cianciolo et al., 2006; also see N. Brody, 2003; Gottfredson, 2003a, 2003b; Sternberg, 2003). Even so, many researchers believe that prac-tical intelligence is different enough from analytic intelligence to justify separating them in our overall theorizing about people’s different levels and types of intellectual ability.

Emotional Intelligence

 

A different effort toward broadening the concept of intelligence involves claims about emotional intelligence—the ability to understand one’s own emotions and others’,and also the ability to control one’s emotions when appropriate. The term emotionalintelligence might seem an oxymoron, based on the widely held view that emotions often undermine our ability to think clearly and so work against our ability to reason intelli-gently. Many psychologists, however, reject this claim. They argue that emotion plays an important role in guiding our problem solving and decision making (see, for example, Bechara, H. Damasio, & A. Damasio, 2000; A. Damasio, 1994); emotion also plays a role in guiding our attention and shaping what we remember (Reisberg & Hertel, 2004). In these ways, emotion and cognition interact and enrich each other in impor-tant ways.

 

One theory suggests that emotional intelligence actually has four parts. First, there’s an ability to perceive emotions accurately—so that, for example, you can tell when a friend is tense or when someone is becoming angry. Second, there’s an ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking and reasoning, including a capacity to rely on your “gut feelings” in guiding your own decisions. Third, there’s an ability to understand emo-tions, including the use of language to describe emotions, so that you’re alert to how a friend will act when she’s sad or to how fear can alter someone’s perspective; also included here is the ability to talk about emotions—to convey to others how you’re feel-ing and to understand what they tell you about their feelings. Finally, there’s an ability to manage emotions in oneself and others; this includes the ability to abide by your cul-ture’s rules for “displaying” emotions as well as the ability to regulate your own emo-tions.

 

Researchers have developed various measures of emotional intelligence, including the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT; Bracket & Mayer, 2003; Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2003; Figure 11.10). This measure appears to have predictive validity so that, for example, people who score higher on the MSCEIT seem to be more successful in social settings. They have fewer conflicts with their peers, are judged to create a more positive atmosphere in the workplace, are more tolerant of stress, and are judged to have more leadership potential (Lopes, Salovey, Côté, & Beers, 2005; Grewal & Salovey, 2005). Likewise, college students with higher


MSCEIT scores are rated by their friends as more caring and more supportive. They are also less likely to experience conflict with their peers (Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Mayer et al., 2008a).

 

The idea of emotional intelligence has received much attention in the media and popular literature; as a result, various claims have been offered in the media that are not supported by evidence. (For a glimpse of the relationship between the science and the mythology here, and some concerns about the idea of emotional intelligence, see Matthews, Zeidner, & Roberts, 2003, 2005.) Still, emotional intelligence does seem to matter for many aspects of everyday functioning, it can be measured, and it is one more way that people differ from one another in their broad intellectual competence.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

 

It seems that our measures of g—so-called general intelligence—may not provide as complete a measurement as we thought. The capacities measured by g are surely important, but so are other aspects of intelligence—including practical intelligence, emotional intelligence, and, according to some authors, social intelligence (see, for exam-ple, Kihlstrom & Cantor, 2000). Other authors would make this list even longer: In his theory of multiple intelligences, Howard Gardner argued for several further types of intelligence (Gardner, 1983, 1998): Three of these are incorporated in most standard intelligence tests: linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, and spatialintelligence. But Gardner also argued that we should acknowledge musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (the ability to learn and create complex patterns of move-ment), interpersonal intelligence (the ability to understand other people), intrapersonalintelligence (the ability to understand ourselves), and naturalistic intelligence (the abilityto understand patterns in nature).

 

Gardner based his argument on several lines of evidence, including studies of patients with brain lesions that devastate some abilities while sparing others. Thus, certain lesions will make a person unable to recognize drawings (a disruption of spatial intelligence), while others will make him unable to perform a sequence of movements (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence) or will devastate musical ability (musical intelligence). Gardner concluded from these cases that each of these capacities is served by a separate part of the brain (and so is disrupted when that part of the brain is damaged), and therefore each is distinct from the others.

 

Another argument for Gardner’s theory comes from the study of people with so-called savant syndrome. These individuals have a single extraordinary talent, even though they’re otherwise developmentally disabled (either autistic or mentally retarded) to a profound degree. Some display unusual artistic talent. Others are “cal-endar calculators,” able to answer immediately (and correctly!) when asked questions such as “What day of the week was March 17 in the year 1682?”. Still oth-ers have unusual mechanical talents or remarkable musical skills—for example, they can effortlessly memorize lengthy and complex musical works (A. Hill, 1978; L .K .Miller, 1999).

 

Gardner’s claims have been controversial, partly because some of the data he cites are open to other interpretations (see, for example, Cowan & Carney, 2006; L. K. Miller, 1999; Nettelbeck & Young, 1996; Thioux, Stark, Klaiman, & Schultz, 2006). In addition, evidence indicates that several of the forms of “intelligence” Gardner describes are inter-correlated—and so if someone has what Gardner calls linguistic intelligence, they’re also likely to have logical-mathematical, spatial, interpersonal, and naturalistic intelligence. This obviously challenges Gardner’s assertion that these are separate and independent capacities (Visser, Ashton & Vernon, 2006).


There’s also room for disagreement about Gardner’s basic conceptualization. Without question, some individuals—whether savants or otherwise—have special talents; and these talents are impressive (Figure 11.11). But is it appropriate to think of these talents as forms of intelligence? Or might we be better served by a distinction between intelligence and talent? It does seem peculiar to use the same term, intelligence, to describe both the capacity that Albert Einstein displayed in developing his theories and the capacity that Peyton Manning displays on the football field. Similarly, we might celebrate the vocal tal-ent of Beyoncé Knowles; but is hers the same type of talent—and therefore sensibly described by the same term, intelligence—that a skilled debater relies on in rapidly think-ing through the implications of an argument?

 

Whatever the ultimate verdict on Gardner’s theory, he has undoubtedly done us a valu-able service by drawing our attention to a set of abilities that are often ignored and under-valued. Gardner is surely correct in noting that we tend to focus too much on the skills and capacities that help people succeed in school, and do too little to celebrate the talents dis-played by an artist at her canvas, a skilled dancer in the ballet, or an empathetic clergyman in a hospital room. Whether these other abilities should be counted as forms of intelli-gence or not, they’re surely talents to be highly esteemed and, as much as possible, nur-tured and developed.

 

The Cultural Context of Intelligence

 

Yet another—and perhaps deeper—challenge to our intelligence tests, and a powerful reason to think beyond the IQ scores, comes from a different source: the question of whether our tests truly measure intelligence, or whether they merely measure what’s called intelligence in our culture.

 

Different cultures certainly have different ideas about what intelligence is. For exam-ple, some parts of the intelligence test put a premium on quick and decisive responses, but not all cultures share our Western preoccupation with speed. Indians (of southern Asia) and Native Americans, for example, place a higher value on being deliberate; in effect, they’d rather be right than quick. They also prefer to qualify, or to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure,” unless they’re absolutely certain of their answer. Such delib-eration and hedging would hurt their test scores on many intelligence tests because it’s often a good idea to guess whenever you’re not sure about the answer (Sinha, 1983; Triandis, 1989). Similarly, Taiwanese Chinese place a high priority on how they relate to others; this will, in some circumstances, lead them not to show their intelligence, thus undermining our standardized assessment (Yang & Sternberg, 1997; also Nisbett, 2003; for other cultural differences in how intelligence is defined, see Serpell, 2000; Sternberg, 2004).

 

These cultural differences guarantee that an intelligence test that seems appropriate in one cultural setting may be inappropriate in other cultural settings (Figure 11.12). Moreover, the specific procedure we need for measuring intelligence also depends on the cultural setting. This is because people in many countries fail to solve problems that are presented abstractly or that lack a familiar context, but they do perfectly well with identical problems presented in more meaningful ways. For example, consider the response of an unschooled Russian peasant who was asked, “From Shakhimardan to Vuadil it takes three hours on foot, while to Fergana it is six hours. How much time does it take to go on foot from Vuadil to Fergana?” The reply was “No, it’s six hours from Vuadil to Shakhimardan. You’re wrong. . . . It’s far and you wouldn’t get there in three hours” (Luria, 1976). If this had been a question on a standard intelligence test, the peasant would have scored poorly—not because he was unintelligent, but because he did not regard the question as a test of arithmetical reasoning. It turned out that he was quite able to perform the relevant calculation but could not accept the form in which the question was presented.

 

In light of these concerns, we might well ask whether it’s possible to measure intel-ligence in a way that’s fair to all cultures and biased against none. The Raven’s Progressive Matrices (Figure 11.4) are often claimed to be fair to all groups because the test is nonverbal and doesn’t rely on any sort of specific prior knowledge. But the very idea of organizing items in rows and columns—an idea that’s essential for this test—is unfamiliar in some settings, and this puts test takers in those settings at a disadvantage with this form of testing.

 

To put this worry somewhat differently, we could (if we wished) use a standard intel-ligence test to assess people living in, say, rural Zambia, and the test results probably would allow us to predict whether the Zambians will do well in Western schools or in a Western-style workplace. But this form of testing would tell us nothing about whether these Zambians have the intellectual skills they need to flourish in their own cultural setting. Just as bad, our test would probably give us an absurd understatement of the Zambians’ intellectual competence because our test is simply in the wrong form to reveal that competence.

 

Against this backdrop, it’s important to emphasize that some mental capacities can be found in all cultures—including (as just one example) the core knowledge needed to understand some aspects of mathematics (see, for example, Dehaene, Izard, Pica, & Spelke, 2006). But it’s also clear that cultures differ not only in the skills they need and value but also in how they respond to our Westernized test procedures. As a result, we need to be extremely careful in how we interpret or use our measures of intelligence. Intelligence tests do capture important aspects of intellectual functioning, but they don’t capture all aspects or all abilities, and the meaning and utility of the tests has to be understood in the appropriate cultural context. (For further discussion, see Greenfield, 1997; Serpell, 2000; Sternberg, 2004.)

 

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