Psychology

What does it mean to be intelligent? Is it just confined to getting straight As at school and filling up an entire wall with trophies and medals for exemplary performance in various competitive activities? How does one become intelligent? Truly, the concept of intelligence is one of the most debated topics in the history of psychology and it persists to be so until today. The definition of the very term itself is very elusive since any potential meaning to be attributed to intelligence may reflect the person’s conception and accepted theory relative to intelligence. As to be discussed in the succeeding paragraphs, intelligence cannot be contained in a unilinear perspective. Rather, there are infinite number of ideas that had developed over time in attempt to provide an explanation and sufficient conceptualization for intelligence. Earlier theories on the nature of intelligence manifest that intelligence is something that is innate to the human being. This proposition implies that intelligence is but a function of genetics and is therefore determined at the time of conception. The most prominent theoretician subscribing to this school of thought is Francis Galton, who propagated the idea the intelligence runs in the family. Incidentally enough, Galton is blood relative to the world-renowned scientist Charles Darwin who himself is credited for the theory of evolution. Galton’s theory primarily turned on the concept of heredity as the ultimate source of intelligence and thus it cannot be changed or modified by nurture. He went as far as advocating what eventually came to be known as the eugenics movement which heralded the idea that improvement of the human race may only be realized if individuals with inferior mental capabilities should not be allowed to sire offspring and perpetuate their kind . This school of thought is antithesis to the revolutionary conception of intelligence espoused by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. The two collaborated to develop a test devised to attain a rough estimate of intelligence for children. The prototype intelligence test was premised on the idea that intelligence is a “set of well-developed judgment skills that children must apply in order to benefit from education” . Contrary to Galton’s hard and fast rule that intelligence is immutable, the test developed by Binet and Simon revealed significant improvement in the test scores and learning aptitude of mentally retarded subjects who were made to go through what they called “mental orthopedics” . In the words of Binet himself, these mental orthopedics are directed to “straighten, cultivate and fortify” cognitive functions of the individual. This breakthrough jumpstarted the surge of studies trending towards the nurture aspect of intelligence as well as the beginning of IQ test era. Another divergent aspect between the theories of Galton and Binet relates to the characterization of the intelligence. In Galton’s study, he concluded that people with higher intelligence tend to be more sensitive to the stimuli from the environment. They are more keen and have sharper senses. On the other hand, Binet looks at intelligent as a cognate of higher and more complex mental processes such as attention, memory, perception, judgment and will. In response to Binet’s idea of the unitary concept of the mind, R. L. Thorndike and Psyche Cattell formulated their respective theories which both operate on the notion that “intelligences” are comprised of various relatively independent traits . Cattell, for instance hark on the distinction between crystallized and fluid intelligence. The former refers to the skill of solving new problems while the former relates to the application and retrieval of previously acquired information. For Thorndike, on the other hand, intelligence is the totality of a person’s ability to integrate his skills and function in such a manner as the situation necessitates. His idea of intelligence, therefore, is broad enough to encompass the exposure of a person to opportunities to connect with other people in social situations and the very capability to foster interpersonal bonds as well. References Cianciolo, A. T., & Sternberg, R. J. (2004). Intelligence: a brief history. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2008). Life-Span Human Development. Belmont: Cengage Learning. Sternberg, R. J. (1982). Handbook of human intelligence. New York: CUP Archive. Sternberg, R. J., & Kaufman, J. C. (2002). The evolution of intelligence. Mahwah: Routledge.

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