Cyrill Burt’s model of intelligence

In differential psychology, intelligence models can be divided into two: factorial (hierarchical) or multifactorial (they view intelligence as a set of mutually independent skills).

In this article, we will analyze in detail a hierarchical model, Burt’s intelligence model. Cyrill Burt was based on Charles Spearman’s theory and added some changes. To explain intelligence, Burt establishes four main factors and a general intelligence that encompasses them (G factor).

    Burt’s intelligence model: characteristics

    Hierarchical theories of intelligence divide their components into (from the most specific to the most general): specific factors (specific tests), factors of smaller groups, factors of large groups and finally, at the top of the “pyramid” we find the well-known factor G.

    Cyrill Burt (1883-1971) was an English psychologist who contributed to educational psychology and statistics. He was one of the most prominent disciples or successors of Charles Spearman (1863 – 1945). His intelligence model is a synthesis of the work done by his predecessors and has influenced the work of Cattell and Vernon.

    He developed the so-called Burt Model of Intelligence, a hierarchical model of intelligence, where he established different levels, “links” or hierarchically organized factors. Focused on the existence of a structure made up of four primary factors and a general intelligence that subsumes them.

    The Burt Intelligence model is a structural model that starts from a hierarchical order of intelligence factors. He defends the supremacy of genetic variables to explain differences in intelligence.

    Burt’s theory

    Burt developed his theory through a hypothesis he established in 1945, where he postulated certain differences in intellectual development. According to him, at the intellectual level, the hierarchical structure of intelligence is realized gradually, where all the aptitudes occupy a specific place. These skills are distributed from an undifferentiated level (g) to a detailed level of specialization (s)..

    So, in 1949, the developed Burt Intelligence model appeared. He recognizes the existence of 18 group factors located under the general intelligence factor “g”, at different hierarchical levels.

    Burt establishes that there is an indisputable “g” factor, Since the correlations between cognitive tests are positive but not hierarchical because there are factors common to some types of tests but not to all.

    Intelligence structure

    In Burt’s model of intelligence, the author organizes the structure of intelligence into 5 increasingly complex levels, which range from from the capture of stimuli to their processing and link with other cognitive elements (As we will see in the next point).

    According to C. Burt, intelligence is general capacity, structure is a hierarchical system of mental levels. As we have seen, Burt is Spearman’s successor and complements Spearman’s model with two factors: group factors and accident factors.

    Differences and similarities with Charles Spearman

    As we have seen, Burt accepts from Spearman the idea of ​​the existence of a universal capacity (which he calls general intelligence). Its G factor or General Intelligence, on the other hand, it is practical and not intellectual in nature.

    Additionally, Burt’s intelligence model differs from Spearman’s in that it gives importance to a number of group factors that would fall between the “g” factor and Spearman’s “es” factors. .

    The existence of these group factors coincides with data provided by evolutionary studies which have shown that from a formless intelligence, a more specific skill set has been generated with the development of very specific abilities or skills for certain tasks.

    hierarchical levels

    The hierarchical levels which are established in the Burt model of Intelligence, are the own levels of mental processes.

    these levels they differ in their degree of specificity, their content and the operations they understand. They are as follows (classified from the most complex, general or hierarchical at least):

    1. General factor

    Let’s start with the most general level (the fifth level). This is Spearman’s G-factor, i.e. general intelligence. This factor enables, includes and encompasses the other four levels. Moreover, it influences and affects them.

      2. Relationship

      These are the relational processes that we put into practice in our reasoning. They include the different processes that allow us coordinate and manage the different mental processes.

      3. Association

      These are the associative processes related to memory and habit formation. In other words, they include the abilities of association and allow us to relate elements, recognize them, memorize them and form habits with them.

      4. Perception

      These are complex cognitive processes related to the perception and coordination of movements. These processes allow the passage to knowledge of the captured information.

      5. Sensation

      This is the most basic and the easiest level. It includes the different basic sensory and motor skills or abilities that we have.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Andrés Pueyo, A. (1997). Manual of differential psychology. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
      • Carbajo, MC (2011). History of intelligence in relation to the elderly. Educational Journal, 24, 225–242.
      • Sánchez Elvira Paniagua, A. (2005). Introduction to the study of individual differences. Madrid: Ed. Sanz and Torres. 2nd edition.

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