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Give a definition of intelligence that you could defend, explaining why you believe you could defend it. Give examples of ways your definition of intelligence might be measured and skills people might have who would do well on those measures. Describe how you would differentiate measures of intelligence from measures of achievement.



Suppose you were asked to give a talk to parents and educators on the topic “Can IQ scores be raised?” You are asked to discuss both the hereditarian and environmental aspects of the issue. What would your arguments be for both a strong hereditarian position AND a strong environmentalist position? Be certain to give specific suggestions from an environmental perspective on how IQ could be raised.

Developed by W. Huitt, 1999


Definitions of Intelligence

Whatever intelligence tests measure

E. G. Boring

The global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his/her environment

D. Wechsler

Psychology textbooks

The general ability to perform cognitive tasks

Weschler, D. (1939). The measurement of adult intelligence. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.


Definitions of Intelligence

Behaviorally-oriented definition

The capacity to learn from experience or the capacity to adapt to one's environment

The cognitive ability to learn from experience, to reason well, to remember important information, and to cope with the demands of daily living

R. Sternberg

Sternberg, R. (1988). The triarchic mind: A new theory of human intelligence. New York: Viking.


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

APA Task Force

APA Task Force. (1996, February). Intelligence: Knowns and unknowns. American Psychologist.

Definitions of Intelligence


Approaches to Intelligence

Focus on the measurement of intelligence


Assumes normal distribution


Multiple Forms



Approaches to Intelligence




Brain metabolism

Brain/ neurophysiology

Brain imaging


Psychometric Approach

Based on an assumption of normal distribution


Psychometric Approach

Focus is on developing measures that predict academic performance

Some researchers are critical of this approach while others believe it has proven its correctness

Major issue: What is it we want to know?

  • Predict school success as presently structured
  • Predict life success
  • Develop human potential

Stability (Reliability) of IQ Scores

IQ measures fairly stable, especially after adolescence

  • r (age 6, age 18) = .77
  • r (age 12, age 18) = .89
  • r (averages 5, 6, 7; averages 17, 18) = .86
  • r (averages 11, 12, 13; averages 17, 18) = .96

Successful school learning also depends on:

Predicting With IQ Measures (Validity)

IQ measures correlate with academic achievement about r = .5

  • Persistence
  • Interest in school
  • Learning disabilities
  • Encouragement from family, peers, teachers
  • Other factors

Predicting With IQ Measures (Validity)

IQ measures correlate about the same or lower with life success (Social status, Income)

  • r (IQ, social status) = .5
  • r (IQ, income) = .4
  • Complex relationship because of impact of education

Predicting With IQ Measures (Validity)

Factors other than IQ account for more variance when predicting life success (Goleman, 1995; Jencks, 1979)

  • Affective/Emotional Factors
  • Conative/Volitional Factors

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ for character, health and lifelong achievement. New York: Bantam.

Jencks, C. (1979). Who gets ahead? The determinants of economic success in America. New York: BasicBooks.


Issue of Nature vs. Nuture

What is the source of intelligence (as measured by IQ)

  • Nature (Biology, genetics)
  • Nuture (Environment, family, schooling, changing economic conditions)

Correlations among various group members used to test hypotheses


Issue of Nature vs. Nuture

Plomin et al. (1990) make the following estimates:


  • Nature
  • Within family


  • Between families



  • Error

Plomin, R., DeFries, J., & McClearn, S. (1990). Behavioral genetics: A primer (2nd ed.). New York: Freeman.


Nuture’s Influence

Stability of IQ measures true only if there are no radical changes in the environment

  • Gains in Appalachia in 1930s
  • Venezuelan Intelligence Project (Herrnstein and others, 1986)
  • Feuerstein’s (1980) Instrumental Enrichment

Feuerstein, R. (1980). Instrumental enrichment: An intervention program for cognitive modifiability. Baltimore: University Park Press.

Herrnstein, R., Nickerson, R., de Sanchez, M., Swets, J. (1986). Teaching thinking skills. American Psychologist, 41, 1279-1289.


Norms must be constantly revised because of continuously rising test scores (Flynn, 1987)

Flynn, J. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations. What IQ tests really measure. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 171-191.

Nuture’s Influence

  • Average gain about 3 points per decade

Norms must be constantly revised because of continuously rising test scores (Flynn, 1987)

Flynn, J. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations. What IQ tests really measure. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 171-191.

Nuture’s Influence

  • Average gain about 3 points per decade
  • 19-year-olds in Netherlands went up more than 8 points from 1972-1982

Hypotheses for rising IQ scores

Nuture’s Influence

  • Daily life and occupational experiences more “complex”
  • Better nutrition
  • Measuring “abstract problem solving ability,” not really intelligence

Issue of Nature vs. Nuture

Issue of nature vs. nuture is especially critical for educators:

  • If nature, our role is to sort and select
  • If nuture, our role is to develop

Issue of Nature vs. Nuture

Of course, the reality is that both are important


Psychometric Approach

Because IQ is a reliable and valid predictor of academic performance and academic performance is related to SES, educators should look at methods that have demonstrated an ability to impact IQ

Educators can also look to other theories of intelligence for some ideas about human potential

  • Sternberg
  • Gardner
  • Piaget