Intelligence: the G-factor and Spearman’s two-factor theory

The study of intelligence is one of the most interesting subjects, and it is easy to guess the reasons why this is so. On the one hand, the ability to adapt to various situations it is something which is very appreciated in an increasingly demanding labor market and which always seeks maximum productivity on the part of the worker.

On the other hand, on a much more subjective level, intelligence has become a define the question of one’s own identity and it affects self-image and self-esteem. However, intelligence may seem too abstract and general a concept to relate to science. How to deal with this problem since psychometry?

The two factors of intelligence

In the study of intelligence, there are different paradigms, such as that of fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. However, this is the two-factor theory of the English psychologist. Charles Spearman (1863 – 1945) the one that has perhaps had the most notoriety historically.

Spearman noted that the scores that school-aged children achieved in each of the subjects showed a direct relationship, so a student who performed very well in one subject would tend to perform well in others. materials. Therefore, he designed an explanatory model on intelligence capable of being a starting point for measuring IQ (THIS). This explanatory model is called Bifactorial theory of intelligence.

According to this theory, intelligence, which is the theoretical construct measured by tests in the form of IC, has two factors:

G factor

A general intelligence factor, The so-called G-factor, which is the essential foundation of intelligent behavior in any particular situation.

S factors

A number of specific factors, which can be understood as skills and abilities that are present only in certain areas of life and the results of which cannot be generalized to other areas.

A good example to explain bifactor theory can be found in the case of Brain Training video games. These video games appear to be designed to improve our G-factor through play. In other words, a few hours of play per week should produce the result for the person playing them with greater intelligence in any situation. However, it seems that they only act on the S factors: we see an increase in their ability to play, but this improvement is not generalized in other areas, it is a specific learning the results do not go beyond the video game itself.

From the abstract to concrete data

We can agree with Spearman on this if anything characterizes intelligence it is its abstract nature. In the study of intelligence there is the paradox of trying to explain something that is set to change all the time in its adaptation to the different problems we are experiencing: our ability to successfully solve the infinitely varied series. of problems with scarce resources (among them, time). In this sense, it seems necessary to account for something similar to the G factor.

However, by including an abstract gift concept as a general factor of intelligence, this theoretical model becomes impractical if it is not based on hard data, on what is found empirically through measures of CI. . Therefore, in addition to inventing the term G-factor, Spearman in parallel devised a strategy to achieve empirically specific values ​​that would define it. This way when operate concepts for building intelligence measurement tools (the CI test), the G factor is defined as the representation of the variance common to all the cognitive tasks that are measured by the test. This internal structure of relationships between data is found through the use of factor analysis.

Speraman believed that intelligence was about knowing how to perform a series of tasks and that the smartest people were good at doing all the tasks. The different tasks he offered in the CI test could be organized into three groups (visual, numerical and verbal), but all were correlated. This last factor, resulting from the study of these correlations, would be the most significant.

Therefore, the G factor reflected by the tests is in fact a quantifiable measure of this it can only be found by statistical operations from the raw data collected in each of the test tasks. Unlike so-called observable variables, Spearman’s G factor shows us a matrix of correlations between variables that can only be found using the statistical technique. In other words, it makes visible the structure of the relationships between various variables to create a general value that was hidden, the value of the G factor.

The G factor today

Today each intelligence test can be based on different theoretical frameworks and conceptions of intelligencePrecisely because of the abstract of the latter concept. However, it is common for these measurement tools to include scores on specific skill areas (language, spatial intelligence, etc.) at different levels of abstraction, and also offer a G-factor as a value that sums up intelligence. individual. There are many ways of measuring intelligence that can be seen as direct descendants of Spearman’s theory.

CI tests are intended to measure intelligence psychometrically based on genetic variables or “g”. It is an indicator often used in academia or to detect possible developmental disorders (such as delays in maturation) and is also used to establish correlative relationships between the environment and the genetic components of the intellect. . Intelligence: the G factor it has been correlated with life expectancy, the possibility of finding work and other relevant constructions.

Reviews and discussion

The criticisms that can be addressed to it are essentially two. The first is that the general intelligence factor seems to be affected by cultural bias: Economic status, level of education, and geographic distribution of dwellings seem to affect intelligence outcomes, and this is a problem that cannot be explained by genetic variation alone. The second is that, as practical as it is, the G factor is insensitive to different forms of manifestation of intelligence, The peculiarities that push each person to develop intelligent behavior in their own way (which he tried to correct using Howard Gardner’s model of multiple intelligences, for example).

Either way, it is clear that the G factor is a very interesting concept for research in psychology and social science.

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