Intelligence - Nature vs Nurture

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This essay is going to discuss the role of intelligence in human beings examining both internal and external factors. Intelligence and whether it is innate or develops as one evolves, is one of humanity’s greatest debates. In everyday life one has to make decisions, solve problems and make sense of the world and what is happening in it. From an external point of view the intelligence of a human being develops through a constructive, cognitive process. Since the 1950s, cognitive developmental researches agree on the now nearly universal consensus that intellectual skills are the by-products of self-governed activity in relation to the world (Bruner, 1990; Gardner, 1985). Considering this, it is difficult to understand that scientists rarely consider the role of the human being in his or her own intellectual development. The ongoing nature vs. nurture debate moves back and forth regularly from claims of inherited linguistic and mental processing abilities (internal factors), to confirmation of environmentally affected behaviours and ideas (external factors). This essay will argue that intelligence is determined by both internal and external factors interacting in various ways. Today there seem to be as many definitions of intelligence as there are investigators of it (Sternberg, 1982). Bourne and Russo cite that intelligence is the capacity to think in abstract terms and to cope resourcefully with the challenges of life (1998). There are two main theories when discussing the evaluation of intelligence. These are the psychometric and cognitive approaches. The psychometric approach identifies differences between individuals through psychological testing. There were many different tests developed however in 1974 David Weschler developed adult and children’s intelligence scaling – the verbal scale and the performance scale. The cognitive approach focuses on a human being’s development in terms of information processing. Reasoning, comprehension, word fluency, perceptual ability and memory are all forms of cognitive intelligence. Internal influences come from within the brain. Anything genetic, biological, innate, inherited or pre-programmed all can have an influence on one’s intelligence. Genetic and biological factors can be understood when looking at how a brain functions (Sternberg, 1982). One way of obtaining data is to study subjects who have some brain damage where a part of the brain no longer functions. Secondly data can be obtained through electrophysiological testing, looking at patterns in the electrophysiological data and then relating the scores to measures that are believed to assess intelligence, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. Thirdly blood flow in the brain, during cognitive processing, is measured. This type of study does not fall prey to the same type of criticism as the other methods, therefore can be very useful (Sternberg, 1982). To determine whether scores such as IQs are due to genetics or environmental factors, some scientific confirmation is needed. Arthur Jensen analysed biological matter of the g factor. Combining the g factor with the size of the brain, its glucose metabolic rate during problem solving, the complexity and speed of brain waves, as well as measures of innate traits, tends to lean towards genetic influence (Jensen, 1993). Another method is to analyse twins. The cases examined fall into two main groups. Those nurtured together in the same environment and those separated in early childhood and raised separately. When reared in different environments the similarities for intelligence prove to be quite high. This implies that ‘intelligence’, when adequately assessed, is largely dependent on heredity. (Brut, 1966). Piaget was a cognitive developmental theorist and he was concerned with an individual’s, internal interactions. Piaget’s “genetic epistemological” theory has been influential however has posed problems over the years (Sternberg, 1982). His theory...
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