Theories of human intelligence

Being smart is good. This is something that everyone knows because it means that a high level of intelligence helps us to cope effectively with different events in life.

However … What exactly does it mean to be intelligent? What do we mean by intelligence? In answering these questions, a doubt arises, and the answer is not something simple or without substance.

In fact, the study of intelligence is a complex phenomenon that has been widely and frequently explored by psychology, with a large number of ways of understanding what and how intelligence is and many theories of human intelligence have been raised throughout history.

    Intelligence: a complex concept

    Generically and without going into details on the fact that in part we can consider intelligence as the capacity or the set of mainly cognitive capacities which allow us to adapt to the environment, to solve the problems that it poses us and even anticipate them successfully. . However, the different authors who have treated and studied intelligence have found different definitions of this concept, Contradictory – some while others are complementary.

    Different approaches have been used to carry out these studies, some of which have a more experimental, genetic or functional approach. One of the approaches has focused on determining the components of intelligence in order to understand it, therefore the right approach to factor theories on which this article is based.

    Two major groups of theories

    While, as we said, they exist various ways of classifying the wide variety of theories in relation to what we think of as intelligenceOne of the clearest is the one that most divides the different conceptualizations: that intelligence is one or, on the contrary, that there are several types of intelligence.

    A unitary intelligence

    The earliest studies of intelligence and intellectual ability functioned under the assumption that intelligence is a single general, unchanging and genetically determined ability. Thanks to these theories, they were developed psychometric tests that assess intelligence from its thinking in standardized tests, By measuring the IQ or CI through them. According to these theories, intelligence was therefore unifactorial

    Capability set

    There are other theories which state that intelligence it is not a single ability, but a set of skills and competences independent of each other. This explains why there are geniuses in certain aspects such as music and art who have limited logical capacity, or eminences at the intellectual level who are unable to project such knowledge or understand the reactions of others. It is this type of multifactorial theories that are used to create specific intelligence tests based on the most interesting skills to measure.. Without and, if, it should be borne in mind that at present, the scientific context is that intelligence in the singular is an entity in itself, albeit with “ramifications”.

      Main theoretical propositions

      Whether viewed as a single or multiple ability, the truth is that research in this regard has been extensive and has resulted in the construction of various theories. Some of the most regarded throughout history are as follows.

      1. First approaches: Binet

      The name of Alfred Binet is best known for being the creator of the first scale to measure intelligence. This author, who saw intelligence as a unique ability, was one of the first to explore the concept of mental age as the age at which most people are able to perform or solve a given problem. He believed that skills and faculties could be improved through education and training.

      The concept of mental age would be used by this author as a measure of intelligence. After him, William Stern would relate this mental age to the chronological age in order to be able to compare in a comparative way the level of intellectual development and finally with all that Terman would end up creating the concept of Intellectual Quotient or IC.

      2. Spearman’s bifactor theory

      One of the first theories of intelligence, Spearman proposes in his two-factor theory of intelligence that there is a general intellectual capacity o G factor, which is common to all the activities we do.

      However, depending on the type of activity we are doing, we will need to apply specific skills to complete it, specific skills called Factors. Although the g-factor is inherited and unchanging, specific skills are said to be enhanced through learning and education.

      3. Cattell’s theory of intelligence

      One of the best-known theories of intelligence is that of Raymond Cattell. In his theory, this author interprets, partly on the basis of the bifactorial theory, that intellectual capacity is formed by two types of intelligence: fluid and crystallized. If fluid intelligence corresponds to reasoning and the general ability to adapt to new situations, without learning influencing the action taken, crystallized intelligence refers to the ability to apply acquired knowledge throughout life.

      On the other hand, Cattell did not believe that the g factor was a reflection of a natural process that actually occurs in the human brain, but would simply be a statistical product caused by the fact that when measuring it did not is not possible to isolate the processes. well, really existing.

      He also explores its development throughout life, claiming that crystallized intelligence varies throughout life, increasing with the accumulation of experience, while fluid intelligence is said to be fixed after brain maturation during l ‘adolescence.

      4. Vernon’s hierarchical model

      One type of theory that has also worked in the field of intelligence is that of hierarchical models, the main representative is Philip Edward Vernon. These models are based on the idea that specific factors (those of the specific activities we perform) are the bases of higher abilities, which form hierarchies to achieve general ability or intelligence. The last two divisions before reaching the g-factor would be the verbal-educational and spatio-motor factors, which the author associates with a specific hemisphere.

      In addition to this, Vernon’s model proposes that intelligence can be understood in three parts: A, B and C. Intelligence A understands intelligence as the ability to learn and adapt, intelligence B corresponds to at the level of competence demonstrated in behavior and intelligence C refers to the score obtained in intelligence tests.

      5. Thurstone’s theory of primary skills

      As noted above, not all authors agree that intelligence is a unique ability, with the authors viewing mental ability as a composite multifactorial element. Louis Leon Thurstone did not believe in the existence of a general intelligence factor, but in different independent factors in their operation but linked to each other, they make it possible to guide the conduct in order to be able to meet the demands of the environment.

      This is why he developed the theory of primary mental skills, one of the first multifactorial theories of intelligence, in which, through factor analysis, he found several skills that allow correct adaptation to the environment. . Specifically, Thurstone refers to verbal comprehension, verbal fluency, memory, spatial ability, numerical ability, perceptual agility / speed, and logical reasoning.

      6. Guilford’s theory of the structure of the intellect

      Another of the authors who opposed the idea of ​​one intelligence was Joy Paul Guilford. This author presents a theory of intelligence based on three-dimensional model, In which intellectual operations, contents and products of the intellect to assess any intellectual factor from a cognitivist point of view.

      Intellectual content would refer to the type of information with which the intellect operates from stimuli, and can be figurative, symbolic, semantic or behavioral content.

      Mental operations are understood by the processes from which information is workedThese operations being convergent and divergent cognition, memory, evaluation and production. Finally, mental operations reflect a series of outcomes, which can occur in the form of information units, classes or concepts, relationships, systems, information transformations and association work. or implication between stimuli and information.

      In addition to this operational consideration of mental processes, the author associates intelligence with the ability to generate new strategies and solutions to problems posed beyond typical problems, however useful they may be. Thus, intelligence it is also related to creativity and divergent thinking.

      7. Sternberg’s triarchical theory

      We cannot fail to see that the theories exposed largely focus on how intelligence is structured as something internal, regardless of where it is applied. Robert J. Sternberg also took this fact into account, developing his triarchical theory from which it is considered that there are three types of intelligence.

      The first of these is analytical intelligence, which corresponds to the traditional idea of ​​intelligence as the ability to acquire, encode and store information, and can perform theoretical analysis of the situation.

      The second of Sternberg’s intelligences is practical intelligence refers to the ability to contextualize, that is, the ability to select the most adaptive and appropriate behavior or strategy according to the needs and resources derived from the medium. . Theoretically, this would be very similar to the crystallized intelligence proposed by Cattell and other authors of him.

      Finally there is for Sternberg one more intelligence, creative intelligence treated in its experiential subcategory thanks to which we have the capacity to face new situations by working and developing strategies based on information acquired throughout life.

      8. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences

      Howard Gardner was a critical figure with the idea of ​​the presence of a single intelligence and the fact that it can be measured by IQ. In fact, it should be borne in mind that in classic intelligence tests, logical and verbal skills are essentially measured, without observing the importance of other abilities when it comes to being able to adapt to the environment.

      This author considers that it is not possible to speak of a single skill that can be qualified as intelligence. He considers that intellectual capacity and performance are due to a conglomeration of mental capacities common to all to a greater or lesser degree, establishing various types of intelligence to be applied in different contexts. These “intelligences” that would hide behind what we normally think of as intelligence would in fact be mental processes parallel to each other, unrelated beyond the ability to lead to useful behaviors according to the new challenges we face. are facing.

      Specifically, while open to the possibility that there are more, Gardner does highlight new ones; logical-mathematical, linguistic, kinetic-bodily, intrapersonal, interpersonal, spatial, musical, naturalistic intelligence.

      However, in recent years Howard Gardner has pointed out that this classification would only be a proposition and that others may also be valid. On the other hand, this theory is not the most accepted by the scientific community, which still considers that intelligence can be considered as a psychological construction without radical subdivisions which dilute its existence.

      • You can read more about Gardner’s theory in this article: “Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences”

      other theories

      There are many other theoretical propositions of intelligence. For example, emotional intelligence bred by Daniel Goleman it is a concept increasingly used in the general population.

      This theory considers the ability to identify, manage, modify and manipulate one’s own emotions and those of others as a form of intelligence to be considered. Social intelligence is also discussed today, although it can be included in interpersonal intelligence.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hernangómez, L. and Fernández, C. (2012). Personality and differential psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 07. CEDE: Madrid.
      • Legg, S .; Hutter, M. (2007). Universal intelligence: a definition of artificial intelligence. Spirits and machines. 17 (4): 391-444.
      • Martin, M. (2007). Historical and conceptual analysis of the relationship between intelligence and reason. Spain: University of Malaga.
      • Trewavas, A. (2005). Green plants as intelligent organisms. Trends in plant science. 10 (9): pages 413 to 419.

      Leave a Comment