Two Theories on the Nature of Intelligence

Topics: Intelligence, Intelligence quotient, Theory of multiple intelligences Pages: 14 (4443 words) Published: February 11, 2013
Two Theories on the Nature of Intelligence

Desiree K.


To this day, how exactly to define intelligence is still debated. There are, however, two major schools of thought on its nature and properties. This paper examines and evaluates the two opposing theories on the nature of intelligence. The two opposing theories of intelligence are the one general intelligence school of thought and the multiple intelligences school of thought. The general intelligence proponents believe that there is one factor from which all intelligence is derived; the multiple intelligences proponents believe that there are different kinds of intelligence. Each theory has merit and evidence to support its claims. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, a French physician named Alfred Binet was commissioned by the school system to develop a way to differentiate those students who were uneducable, or severely mentally handicapped, from the other students. He developed an intelligence test to do so. The very first intelligence tests, introduced a decade earlier, emphasized sensory tasks, physical measures, and simple processes. Unlike these tests, Binet developed an intelligence test that consisted of items that required complex processes of the mind and examined the comprehensive individual. Consequently, the results from Binet's scales were successful in discriminating between the two types of students. The success of Binet's test led to a much greater question to be asked: what exactly are these tests measuring? What the tests claimed to measure was intelligence. But, if they measured intelligence, then the next question that arose was this: what exactly is intelligence? It is at this point that the great debate on the definition of intelligence began. There is a general consensus that there are different levels of intelligence, and that different individuals have different capacities of intelligence. In other words, "individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought" (Neisser et al., 1996, p. 77). But, how many and what kinds of different types of intelligences exist, and how to define intelligence, is still at debate.

Two Theories on the Nature of Intelligence

Today, there are two major schools of thought on the nature of intelligence. The first, supported by such psychologists as Eysenck, Galton, Jensen, and Spearman, believe that all intelligence comes from one general factor, known as g. The proponents of the other school of thought include Gardner, Sternberg, and Thurstone. These psychologists think that there is more than one general type of intelligence, or in other words, that there are different types of intelligences. An interesting note about this school of thought is that there is disagreement, even within that camp, on exactly how many different types of intelligences there are. One General Intelligence

There are strong arguments to support the theory of one general type of intelligence. The most convincing evidence for a single general intelligence model is the fact that there is proof of a single general factor that governs the level of intelligence of an individual. This is also known as the positive manifold (Spearman, 1904). Furthermore, there is a very high correlation between IQ and very simple cognitive tasks, which supports the theory of one general intelligence (Eysenck, 1982). Positive manifold. The first argument in support of one general intelligence is the fact that there is a high positive correlation between different tests of cognitive ability. Spearman (1904), in doing his research, administered to many people different types of tests, covering several different areas of cognitive ability. When he examined the results of these different tests, he found that there was a positive correlation between the...
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