Do Standard Intelligence Tests Actually Measure Intelligence?
The concept of intelligence has been widely debated throughout time following the inception of the IQ test. Many theories have been proposed although no single definition of intelligence has been universally accepted with disagreement between researchers from biological and psychometric fields. The psychometric approach, which is the dominant field with respect to public attention and research, attempts to measure intelligence by means such as the Stanford-Binet or Wechsler tests. General intelligence is measured on these tests by including many different items which utilise various aspects of reasoning; for example the subject may be required to complete verbal and nonverbal items which assess spatial abilities, arithmetic and literacy (Neisser et al., 1996). The aim of this essay is to examine whether standard intelligence tests actually measure intelligence. The conventional psychometric definition of intelligence revolves around an individual’s generalised ability to control oneself, learn from experience and adapt to the environment (Neisser et al., 1996; Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998). Originally, psychometric tests of general intelligence were used by Alfred Binet to measure the ability of children to succeed at school. Since then, a vast amount of research has been conducted using such tests and it has been found that IQ scores correlate highly with school performance, scores on school achievement tests, total years of education and job placement (Neisser et al., 1996). It is well documented through research that IQ tests are positively correlated with predicting future outcomes, but do IQ tests really measure intelligence? Furthermore, what is intelligence and how is someone determined as being intelligent. Is it the ability to successfully complete a pen and paper test, or are there other aspects such as the ability to apply reason to real world tasks?
Possibly the earliest attempt to extend on the conventional notion and define intelligence suggested a single underlying general factor, or g, which encompassed all intellectual activity (Neisser et al., 1996). This theory is still regarded by some as the most fundamental measure of intelligence, although a number of more complex, hierarchical theories have been proposed which explain intelligence as an interaction of a number of primary factors (Neisser et al, 1996; Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998). A relatively new approach is the triarchic theory of successful intelligence (Sternberg, 1999), which was derived to extend upon the conventional notion that intelligence is one’s generalised ability to adapt to the environment. Sternberg (1999; Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998) proposed that successful intelligence be defined as the ability to achieve success in life through the accomplishment of personal, cultural and societal goals, given one’s personal standards and within one’s sociocultural context. Successful intelligence can also be defined as the ability for an individual to capatalise upon one’s strengths, whilst minimising or compensating for the effects of one’s weaknesses (Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998). Sternberg’s (1999) theory is based upon three fundamental aspects – the analytic, creative and practical components of intelligence. This is opposed to earlier theories which suggested that all intelligence can be evaluated using a single general factor. The purpose of the current essay is to argue that the current conventional notion of psychometric intelligence is incomplete as its measures are biased as they are based primarily on academic intelligence. Consequently, it will be argued that IQ tests are not valid as they do not take into account practical or creative abilities as defined by Sternberg’s successful intelligence theory. The theory of successful intelligence attempts to eradicate discrepancies in the measures of earlier theories which favour individuals of a rich academic...
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