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Can Intelligence Be Measured Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5504 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Even though a lot of years have pass since the first time the issue of intelligence was brought in the core of attention, still all these years werent enough to lead to an overall acceptable definition and to an agreement between the researchers, whether IQ tests could give answers underpinning intelligence or whether there are just measurement tools developed by experts in the field, based on people’s beliefs, with not much impact on intelligence itself. Therefore, the main question regarding if intelligence is measureable remains unanswered. One of the main reasons there is a weakness to conclude to a generally acceptable definition and to the measurements of intelligence is due to the cultural differences and to a number of other factors that seem to influence intelligence and the results of an IQ test. Also the theories developed for intelligence, as well as the IQ tests wider even more the disagreement in the field. The theories were divided in two, the ones who believed in a general ability and those who believed in multiple intelligences. As far as it concerns IQ tests, opinions were divided here as well since on the one hand were those who supported IQ tests and on the other the ones who questioned their significance. Furthermore, the relation between dyslexia and intelligence is another debatable issue since there are conflicting ideas whether IQ should be included or not in the definition of dyslexia. Either way, all these are considered issues that occupy until nowadays a large number of researchers who still try to reach to some answer

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For several years now, intelligence remains one of the most debatable issues since there seem to be so much unresolved questions concerning the definition and measurements of intelligence. These questions concern issues such as what really is intelligence? Can we measure it? If yes, how? If not, why? Even recent studies were unable to evaluate and measure it in a way that would be accepted by everyone. Although these questions still remain unsolved, there have been some attempts over the years by a number of ‘daring’ researchers who tried to define and measure intelligence.

McNemar (1964), reported that intelligence has been an issue for thousand years before and that any attempts made to measure intelligence were based on the observation that individuals do not share the same “intellectual abilities” (p.871). Also Weinberg (1989), claimed that the wider understanding of intelligence has been a major issue for psychologists as well, for many years. However, studies (Eysenck, 1998) showed that the controversies regarding the definition and the measures of intelligence remained sustained even when the IQ tests had their debut years before.

Even though the definition of intelligence remains controversial, there seems to be an overall acceptance for some of the characteristics some experts ‘charged’ on intelligence. Hence, researchers seem to agree that intelligence is partly “an ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, [and] to engage in various forms of reasoning to overcome obstacles by taking thought” (Neisser et al., 1996, p.77).

In addition, attention is given to how intelligence is defined in different cultures (Earley and Ang, 2003; Sternberg and Grigorenko, 2006) and also between individuals and experts in the field. Specifically Sternberg (1982,1990), mentioned that people usually have different beliefs about intelligence than most experts. Furthermore, the culture background of an individual seems defining towards their thinking about “knowledge and intelligence” (Ruisel, 1993, 1996; Wober, 1973). For example, the Western view for intelligence is totally distinguished from the Eastern point of view (Yang and Sternberg, 1997a). This different points of views are better explained by the general idea of Implicit Theories that Sternberg (1990:54) pointed out, in which individuals rely on their beliefs in order to “evaluate their own and others intelligence” (e.g. Dweck, 1999; Faria and Fontaine, 1997; Flugel, 1947; Furnham,2001; Shipstone and Burt, 1973; Sternberg, 1985).

Also, cross-cultural studies indicated that there is a discrimination between nations about intelligence (Swami et al., 2008). For example in Africa, intelligence is related with fine “practical skills for the maintenance of intra and inter group relation” (Ruzgis and Grigorenko, 1994). At the contrary, in East Asian countries intelligence is evaluated in terms of social aspects (e.g. Azuma and Kashiwagi, 1987; Gill and Keats, 1980; Lutz, 1985; Nevo and Khader, 1995; Poole, 1985; White, 1985) and specifically the abilities an individual utilises in certain occasions (Yang and Sternberg, 1997b). Furthermore, studies contacted in Kenya (Grigorenko et al., 2001) showed that individual’s beliefs about intelligence refer to four main characteristics – “knowledge and skills”, “respect”, “comprehension of how to handle life problems” and “initiative”. The important is that only one of these characteristics – knowledge and skills – is considered part of the concept of intelligence in Western nations (Sternberg, Conway, Ketron and Bernstrein, 1981). These cross-cultural studies indicate the diverse points of view countries have concerning intelligence and also the difficult part on behalf of the researchers to conclude to an overall acceptable definition and also to the appropriate measurement of intelligence since any tool used to evaluate intelligence could lead to misleading results due to these cultural differences.

The field of intelligence continues to segregate opinions since a number of contradicting theories underpinning conceptions about intelligence developed over the years. Some of these theories were overwhelmed received by many experts where others created controversy in the field. The major controversy concerns that some researchers support the existence of one general intelligence where others the existence of multiple intelligences.

Spearman’s (1904) theory about the existence of a general ability in people known as ‘G’ factor, gained the interest of a number of experts. This theory underlies the existence of an ‘S’ factor as well, which refers to the specific abilities an individual acquires. However, these two factors are discriminated by the fact that G factor it is heritable and S factor is the result of environmental impacts (Pal, Pal, Tourani, 2004). The existence of Spearman’s ‘G’ grounded mostly in “Western-European-North American cultures” (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005,p.615) indicating that Western nations mostly value intelligence on the basis of a general ability.

In addition, some theorists supported Spearman’s g factor (e.g. Jensen, 1980) as basic for intelligence although they preferred focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of a learners profile (Neisser et al. 1996). For example, Carroll (1993) presented the most detailed hierarchical model concerning the structures underpinning intelligence (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). According to Carroll’s (1993) model, a factor analysis lead to the appearance of 69 specific abilities which are resulting from 9 broader abilities which are related with a general factor equivalent with the g factor proposed by Spearman (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). This detailed model was widely accepted by most of the theorists, although arguments regarding its significance have been underlined by others (Ceci,1990).

Furthermore, the theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence proposed by Cattell, it is also based on the theories of one general intelligence although here the general factor is divided in two. The fluid intelligence is a capacity based on genetic factors where crystallized intelligence is the result of already obtained knowledge, current knowledge and environment (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004,p.183).

At the contrary, Gardner (1983,1999) argued that cognitive abilities are “independent forms of intelligence” (p.615) and suggested the existence of multiple intelligences. Also, he disputed the efficacy of psychometric tests since they usually study “language, spatial and logical problem-solving activities” (p.615) and therefore do not take into account all the human abilities (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). Hence, Gardner’s (1983) theory proposed that there seem to be 8 different types of intelligences, namely “linguistic, logical, spatial, musical, motor ability, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic intelligence” (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004, p.184) and that the brain’s structures are responsible for each one of these types (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). This 8 types resulted from the fact that Gardner believed that the ideas underpinning intelligence should be evaluated not only by “typically normal” individuals but also by gifted persons and individuals who had brain damages (Neisser et al.,1996).

Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences is based on previous theories developed by Thorndike (1926) and Thurstone (1938) years before (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). Thorndike’s theory is opposed to Spearman’s theory concerning the general ability since the former believed that every activity is resulting from a combination of abilities therefore the existence of a general mental ability would not serve any purpose (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004). At the contrary, Thurstone supported the general ability introduced by Spearman. His Group Factor Theory indicates that mental abilities are been organized in groups where each group has a primary factor which is responsible for the “psychological and functional unity” (p.182) these abilities have and also “differentiates them from all the other mental abilities” (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004,p.182). According to Thurstone, these primary factors concern the number, the space and the verbal factor, memory, the word fluency and the reasoning factor (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004).

Both of these early developed multifactor theories, are the outcome of the effort made to develop the profile of a learner concerning strengths and weaknesses and therefore to proceed to “practical interventions” (p.615) something that the performance of a learner in an IQ test could not provide (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). In general, even though some of these theories are contradicting they somehow try to serve the same purpose, to give to individuals with different culturally beliefs about intelligence a theoretical background which will express them the most whether they believe to the existence of one or the existence of multiple intelligences.

Moreover, Sternberg (1985) took a step forward and developed a theory which takes into account “conceptions about intelligence beyond the academic achievement” (p.617) as the theory proposed from Gardner, although Sternberg attempted to examine intelligence in “terms of psychological processes” (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005, p.617). Sternberg (1985) through the ‘Triarchic theory of human intelligence’ proposed the existence of 3 types of intelligence: the analytic, the creative and the practical intelligence. Primarily, the analytic intelligence refers to the procedures underpinning the academic abilities (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). It’s the ability of an individual to “solve problems and acquire new knowledge” (Pal, Pal, and Tourani, 2004, p.184). Most of the Western world countries emphasise on these abilities as important aspects of intelligence. Also, the creative intelligence points out that individuals have the ability to “cope with novel situations” (Pal, Pal, and Tourani, 2004, p.184) due to previous experiences. This ability to connect familiar with new situations (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004) enables individuals to develop automaticity due to over-learning, therefore any previous demanding “conscious control” (p.618) situations stop to exist (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). However, one might question himself, since dyslexics have severe problems with automaticity they do not posses this intelligence? The last component of Sternberg’s theory refers to the practical intelligence which is applicable to every- day situations. It emphasises on the idea of adjustment and specifically on how individuals “adjust on the demands of their environment” (Pal, Pal and Tourani, 2004, p.184).

Even though the intelligence theories created arguments between the experts in the field, the appearance of the IQ tests and in general the whole idea underpinning the psychometrics of intelligence, wider even more the disagreement between the researchers. Therefore, some experts highlighted that IQ tests are applicable in many settings and therefore should be considered significant for measuring intelligence where others disputed there utility and the validity of their results. Either way, an IQ score can influence the life of an individual tremendously since its performance in a measurement tool such as an IQ test, as being widely accepted by many as a measure of intelligence is fundamental.

However, over the years a number of researchers opposed to the general idea of IQ since they believed that it “had no useful purpose, could cause harm, and should be abandoned” (Strydom and Du Plessis, 2000, p.609). At the contrary, some others supported that IQ test can be useful since is considered a short time process which gives the tester information concerning the strengths and weakness of a learner. (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). All these diverting opinions have been the result of long-term arguments which do not seem resolved even in nowadays.

In general, the first IQ test was developed by Binet as the tool for the identification of learners who displayed learning problems in school settings. Its ability to “predict academic performance” (p.611) made IQ a successful tool for academic purposes (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). However, some researchers seemed very cautious since the score in an IQ test could lead to discrimination between those with average and those with above average performances (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005). Also, even though the IQ testing could enable the tester to evaluate the learning capacities of an individual, the actual performance of a student in the test could not be considered enough to provide any solutions concerning the remediation process (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005).

Either way, the IQ tests began to become even more wider. Someone could say that Binet’s IQ tests have been the actual reason for the development of a number of psychometric tools which are used for “selection, diagnosis and evaluation” purposes (Neisser et al. 1996, p.78). However, Nettelbeck and Wilson (2005) clearly pointed out that IQ even though it provides information about the general ability of a learner and the level of success it should not be considered as a “pure measure of intelligence” (p.610). In addition, it is worth mentioning that a great number of these psychometric instruments are not purposed to measure intelligence as a whole but only some related aspects (Neisser et al., 1996).

Therefore, even though IQ tests gained the interest since they could predict school achievement, however they were not considered good measures for predicting ‘life achievement’ neither (McClelland, 1973). Hence, this enlarged the controversies in the field since this findings are indicating of the fact that intelligence tests are limited to measure only some elements of intelligence (Weinberg, 1989). It seems that there is a number of factors which can influence a result of the test such as the cultural differences mentioned before, plus that IQ tests measure some of the components of intelligence seems enough for the IQ test opponents to disagree with their efficacy.

Thus, IQ scores seem to be the result of a number of factors, therefore the performance of a learner in an IQ test is subject to these factors. Some of these, refer to the fact that even though the psychometrics evaluate the school performance and the knowledge of the curriculum, these cannot be charged only to intelligence as it is not considered the only way to success (Neisser et al., 1996). Specifically, Neisser et al. (1996), suggested that “persistence, interest in school and willingness to study” (p.81) are also very important towards the academic achievement.

In addition, studies showed that there is a positive correlation between IQ tests and years of education. Studies, showed that learners that are more possible to reach a higher educational level are those with higher scores on these tests (Neisser et al. 1996). This is due to many reasons. As Rehberg and Rosenthal (1978) stated, these high scoring learners might find the “education rewarding” (p.82) where low scoring children don’t, hence their efforts to succeed are bigger. Also, school in general as Neisser et al. (1996) reported, seems to be related with intelligence as well, since school affects the mental abilities which are usually evaluated in IQ tests. Therefore, the fact that IQ tests are widely accepted as tools for predicting school achievement is based on that they measure these abilities which are developed or improved during the academic years of a learner (Neisser et al., 1996).

In addition, the social status and the income could be a defining factor of intelligence. However, similar scores in IQ tests by different individuals does not predict the same social and economic success (Neisser et al., 1996). Also, children raised in families with high social status seemed more possible to gain better social status than children from poor families (Neisser et al., 1996). Particularly, Siegel and Himel (1998) reported that the low socioeconomic level of some children’s families can influence them negatively, hence their poor background could lead to their exclusion from being dyslexics and therefore would lose any opportunity for remediation.

If someone consider all these factors will probably find himself facing the same initial questions regarding intelligence and IQ. Even if we accept that these factors influence intelligence and that are taken into account in most of the IQ tests, someone might disagree that these factors are important enough for evaluating the intelligence level of a learner.

Particularly Wechsler (1975), in his effort to determine the utility of this measurement he pointed out that intelligence or IQ tests were developed to examine the intellectual abilities of an individual during systematic observation in a controlled task in order to avoid any errors and to enable the comparison of individual differences (Weinberg, 1989). This statement about IQ tests, indicates that a great part of researchers avoided to distinguish Intelligence from IQ since the main reason IQ tests were developed for, was to evaluate the intellectual abilities of a learner and therefore can be considered as crossed terms.

However, efforts have been made in order to determine where IQ and intelligence are the same or if they share some equally important components which make the researchers have difficulties distinguishing them. Nettelbeck and Wilson (2005) clearly pointed out that IQ and intelligence should not be considered the same for two important reasons. Those who question the utility of IQ tests would probably agree with this statement since if intelligence and IQ have not the same meaning then how can we use IQ scores to measure and determine the level of intelligence of an individual?

Particularly Nettelbeck and Wilson (2005), concluded into two important factors which distinguish intelligence and IQ. Primarily, they reported that intelligence has a number of domains where each of them is being settled in a hierarchical order according to “the level of commonality among and the level of specificity between these domains” (p. 613) where IQ provides the general picture of the relation these domains share (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005, p.613). Secondly according to Flynn (1999), the individual IQ remains stable over the years. At the contrary, intelligence is considered the result of “inborn brain capacities” (p.613) which develop and change over the years where IQ is just ” influenced from adaptation” hence IQ and intelligence are not the same (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005, p.613).

Also, one of the most important discoveries in the field is the fact that the performance in IQ test seems to rise over the years. The “Flynn Effect” (Flynn, 1984, 1987) reports that ever since IQ tests were developed, the performance of individuals progresses over the years. Due to this progress, IQ tests are being “re-standardized” (p.89) over the years in order to be able to examine this progress and satisfy the demands of each era. Thus, since IQ tests evaluate the intellectual abilities of an individual and since a person continues to develop mental abilities through the years, its performance in an IQ test can change.

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All these debates about if we can measure intelligence through IQ tests or not, still remain in the core of attention since the controversy between the experts as far as it concerns the utility of IQ tests as measure of intelligence has not yet lead to any results. There seems to be great difficulty to conclude since on the one hand the supporters of IQ tests focus on the advantages where the opponents focus on the disadvantages of these tools towards intelligence. Therefore, one might say that in order to conclude to whether these tools actually measure or not intelligence is subject to personal opinion.

The relation between IQ and dyslexia is also an issue open to discussion which has occupied the researchers over the years since there is a debate concerning if IQ should be included in the definition of dyslexia or not. Particularly, Gustafson and Samuelson (1999) pointed out that an individual can be identified as a dyslexic if s/he has low reading abilities, s/he has normal IQ levels and if there is a discrepancy between his already obtained abilities in reading and his potential abilities.

Studies, have also showed that IQ is the one that influences reading and not the opposite (Gustafson and Samuelson ,1999). However, studies also showed that some reading impairments can influence the verbal IQ, therefore a causal relation might be underlined here as well (Stanovich, 1986; van de Bos, 1989). This leads to the assumption that even though some individuals might not have any IQ impairments the fact that they display difficulties in reading might be an important reason for their low score in an IQ test (Gustafson and Samuelson, 1999).

Therefore, even though there might be individuals with low IQ performances that are excluded from dyslexics is it hence possible for someone to be a dyslexic and still have low IQ? (Gustafson and Samuelson, 1999).

Gustafson and Samuelson (1999) also pointed out, that in order to give the proper attention to the importance of IQ in dyslexia, “different levels of intelligence should be associated with different patterns of reading difficulties” (p.130). Studies, indicated that low or high IQ does not seem to differentiate poor readers difficulties in phonological (Ellis et al., 1996; Felton and Wood, 1992; Fletcher et al., 1994; Fredman and Stevenson, 1988; Hurford et al., 1994; Siegel, 1988, 1992; Stanovich and Siegel, 1994) and orthographic processing (Fredman and Stevenson, 1988; Siegel, 1992; Stanovich and Siegel, 1994). Thus, IQ here does not seem to plays any important role, hence should it be excluded from the definition of dyslexia or as part of the evaluation of a student identified with dyslexia? This is another unresolved issue that causes great confusion and debates in the field. The authors (Gustafson and Samuelson, 1999) concluded that maybe is better to primarily focus on the causes of reading difficulties before we begin making assumptions based on the IQ scores.

One of the issues concerning dyslexia as well seems to be the general notion that dyslexia is an impairment mostly found in males than females. In addition, Neisser et al. (1996) listed a number of factors which differentiate males from females in IQ tests – factors which might be considered as important and for the discrimination made in dyslexia between the two sexes.

Even if we accept that IQ test can measure intelligence, their results are due to some factors which need to be taken into account. Specifically, studies found that males seem to have greater visual-spatial abilities (Law, Pellegrino and Hunt, 1993; Linn and Petersen, 1985) hence their performance in “movement related and visual-spatial tests” (p.91) is much better than the performance of females (Jardine and Martin, 1983). Furthermore, they also seem to have improved abilities in tasks concerning “proportional and mechanical reasoning” (Meehan, 1984; Stanley, Benbow, Brody, Dauber and Lupkowski, 1992, in Neisser et al., 1996,p.91) and better results in tasks that demand mathematical applications (Benbow, 1988; Halpem, 1992 in Neisser et al, 1996). At the contrary, females seem much better in quantitative tasks especially in early years (Hyde, Fennema and Lamon, 1990), although there ‘quantitative superiority’ does not last long as in males who keep their performance high enough through later years (Neisser et al., 1996).

In general, females have better performance on verbal tasks, especially concerning “synonym generation and verbal fluency” (Gordon and Lee, 1986; Hines, 1990, in Neisser et al., 1996, p.91). Also, a great number of females demonstrate better academic performance in higher education settings than males, especially in reading and spelling tests (Neisser et al., 1996). These reasons might be regarded as the cause of the notion that dyslexia is found mostly in males than females due to the fact that the formers seem to have lower abilities in some of the tasks that are used to evaluate and identify dyslexia.

All these factors support the general notion that IQ tests tend to examine a wide range of abilities rather than intelligence itself even though all the abilities evaluated are considered elements of the general concept of intelligence.

To sum up, IQ tests seem to have on the one hand some supporters and on the other hand some researchers questioning their efficacy. Particularly, some of the arguments found in the field concern the reasons that can influence the results of a tool like IQ. Primarily, the prior experience of the tester and s/he’s knowledge of the process is an important factor towards the final result of an individual’s performance in an IQ test, since a misapplication or not to be given the proper attention to such an important testing is unacceptable, since is consider by many as a ‘strong evidence tool’ towards intelligence.

Also, the fact that the results might be biased for reasons such as the “socioeconomic standards or the ethnic minorities” (Weinberg, 1989, p.100) is also a matter of great importance. Therefore, each IQ test has to be re-standardised in the basis of the cultures beliefs.

Furthermore, some others support that the test scores could lead to later discrimination among the society (Kaplan, 1985; Oakland and Parmelee, 1985). As mentioned before, the result in an IQ test has crucial importance to the later life of an individual since great attention is given from the society and from other contexts to the actual result. In addition, Zigler and Seitz (1982) pointed out that someone’s performance in an IQ test could be influenced by “motivational and personality” factors (Weinberg, 1989, p.100), therefore the result might not be representative.

On the other hand, the supporters of IQ tests refer to a number of advantages IQ tests have. One of the most important advantage this supporters ‘charge’ on IQ tests is that it can be used as a prior – school tool to predict the performance of a learner, especially in older ages. This underpins its important as a tool which can classify a “highly stable individual characteristic” (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005, p.612). Furthermore, IQ tests seem to rely on the one hand on “complex learned problem solving techniques” and on the other hand with “simple speeded tasks which do not demand much prior knowledge or acquired skills” (Deary, 2000 in Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005, p.612), hence one could say that they cover a wide range of abilities and thus IQ tests should be considered significant if not as measurements of intelligence, at least as measures of the general abilities an individual posses. Also, supporters emphasise on the IQ’s validity since a number of considerations have been taken over the years, such as the possibility of “misapplication or the labelling of a learner on the basis of s/he’s IQ score”(Nettelbeck and Wilson, 2005, p.610). Therefore, one might say that since IQ tests demonstrate high levels of validity and since they consider so many factors which could influence the result why not be related with intelligence?

To sum up, the debates whether intelligence can be measured or not have not lead to any conclusions. However, these arguments in the field has not stop IQ tests from being widely used by many researchers in different settings as a measure of intelligence. Also, attempts have been made over the years to identify those factors that might influence the results of an IQ test. Moreover, the theories developed over the years also show the great differences in opinions underpinning intelligence. For what is seems neither the theories nor the IQ tests were able to consume the disagreements. Therefore, the question remains – Is intelligence a measurable concept based on the results of an IQ test or is it a concept to be measured based on individual standards? The research to follow might provide us with an answer.


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