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Theories of intelligence
- [Instructor] There are a number of different theories about what intelligence is and how to define it. But before I get into that, I want to talk about a debate that pervades all of these different theories. And that's the question of whether or not there's one general intelligence, or whether intelligence has multiple aspects, or whether there are multiple intelligences. And so, as we go through all of these different theories, I want you to keep that debate in mind and really think about where each theorist stands on this debate. The first theory I want to talk about is the theory of general intelligence which was put forth by a man named Charles Spearman. He used factor analysis, which is a statistical procedure to identify clusters of related abilities. He predicted the idea of a general intelligence, which is sometimes referred to as the G Factor, or sometimes just G. And he predicted that this general intelligence could predict our outcomes in varied academic areas. There is actually a lot of evidence to support this. Studies have shown that those who score high in one area, like verbal intelligence, also tend to score highly in other areas, like spacial reasoning. However, this idea was controversial then and it's still controversial now. When you really think about it, human abilities are incredibly diverse. Do we really think that one single factor could account for all of them? Well another psychologist, L.L. Thurnston, didn't think so. So he proposed a theory that focused on primary mental abilities. Thurnston came up with seven factors of intelligence instead of Spearman's single one. I'm not going to write them all down, but they include word fluency, verbal comprehension, spacial reasoning, perceptual speed, numerical ability, inductive reasoning, and memory. For me, one of the main strengths of this theory is that it seems more accurate to have a break down. After all, we can imagine that someone might have good inductive reasoning skills while maybe not having high verbal comprehension. But the problem with Thurnston's theory is the very thing that was a strength for Spearman's, which is that those who do well on one of these factors also tend to do well on the others, which suggests an underlying single intelligence factor. But both of these theories actually have another limitation, and that's that they seem really limited in what they consider to be intelligence. Even Thurnston's theory, which has seven factors, tends to focus primarily on what we would consider to be book smarts. And so in order to try and expand on this, in order to try to be more inclusive, Howard Gardner created the theory of multiple intelligence, which expanded our ideas of what kind of things might be included as intelligence. And Gardner divided our intelligence into seven, and then nine independent intelligences. And they're independent in that they don't rely on each other, or they don't depend on each other, meaning that your intelligence in one area doesn't predict your intelligence in another area. And again, I'm not going to write these all down, 'cause that would take up a lot of time, but he predicted a logical-mathematical intelligence, a linguistic intelligence, a musical intelligence, a spatial intelligence, a body-kinesthetic intelligence, an intrapersonal intelligence and an interpersonal intelligence. Later on, he added the idea of a naturalist intelligence, as well as an existential intelligence. The strength of this theory is, of course, is that it includes more than just book smarts. It takes lots of other human abilities into account. But are all of these intelligences? Why do we need to use that word? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to refer to these as abilities or talents? And it kind of depends on whether or not we think that there's any repercussion to labeling them in intelligence versus a talent. To me it seems like it only makes a difference if you're giving this term intelligence a certain weight, that somehow, by labeling this in intelligence, you're making it more important or more serious than it was before when it was just a talent, and I really don't know if I agree with that. It seems to me like it's important and worthwhile either way. Another problem with this theory is that there simply isn't a lot of evidence to support it, and this partially has to do with the fact that there's no real way to test it. I know that might come as a surprise to people who have heard of this theory before, or heard of things like different learning styles which stems from this theory. To me, it really sounds like a nice idea, but as of right now, it just isn't supported by the research. The last theory I want to talk about was put forth by Robert Sternberg, and that's the triarchic theory of intelligence. Sternberg agreed with Gardner about the existence of multiple intelligences, but he said that there were three of them not seven, eight, or nine. Sternberg restricted his definition of intelligence to things that he thought would lead to real world success. He's included analytical intelligence or problem solving ability, creative intelligence, and practical intelligence. He specifically picked things out that he thought led to success in the real world. Another benefit was that we can reliably measure things along these lines because it's fairly easy to define, so it's easy to test. As for problems, we kind of fall back on the initial one, which is that research has shown that individuals who score highly on one of these three intelligences tend to score highly on the others as well. So are these three intelligences really just three sides of the same coin? And now that I've written it down, this sentence kind of looks a bit funny to me, but I think that you get the idea, which is that maybe these three intelligences vary together, because we're still talking about general intelligence, or G. I want to take a moment to step away from these different theories of intelligence to talk about the problem that I first brought up, which was whether or not there's one general intelligence versus multiple intelligences. Because taken together, a lot of the research seems to point in the direction of there being one general intelligence. And on a personal note, I will admit that I sometimes have trouble with the idea of general intelligence. After all, there's so many different traits that we can measure a person on. And so, for a long time I was pretty skeptical of this idea. But there were two things that really helped me. The first one I brought up when I was talking about some of the problems with the theory of multiple intelligences. And that's that why does everything need to be an intelligence? Does that word really matter? Does that word actually hold any meaning? And maybe it does, but maybe it doesn't, because when I go and I listen to an orchestra, it doesn't really matter whether or not I say that the musicians have a high musical intelligence or a very high musical ability. It's still wonderful to listen to. And another thing that helped me better understand and appreciate it was when a teacher that I had compared general intelligence to athleticism. Because, on the one hand, there are many, many things that would enable someone to do well in sports: eye-hand coordination, speed, quick reflexes, muscle mass. And just because someone does well in one sport, doesn't mean that they're going to do well in another. There's no reason to assume that someone who has a gold medal in figure skating is going to be a good volleyball player. But that said, there does seem to be some kind of general athletic ability. And so it helped me a lot to think about intelligence like athleticism, that while you can split it up into things like mathematical ability and spatial awareness, maybe there is some kind of general underlying intelligence, just as there might be some general underlying athleticism.