Most of you reading this (taking an AP class) probably consider yourselves intelligent (don’t worry, I am sure you are- even if you are not- I still like you).  But how do you really know if you are?  Well you could take an intelligent test; and the two most popular are the Stanford-Binet and the Weschler.

Albert Binet, a French dude, set out to design a test that would identify which kids in the French school system needed special attention.  He set benchmarks to where a child’s intelligence should be at; which he called mental age.  If a five year old took his test, and had the mental age of a three year old, then the school would work harder with him to raise his intelligence.  Louis Terman, a Stanford professor, brought this idea to the United States and created the Stanford-Binet IQ test.  IQ stands for intelligence quotient.  A person’s IQ score is computed by dividing a person’s mental age by their chronological age and multiplying by 100.  So if a 7 year old takes an IQ test and scores the mental age of a 7 year old; 7/7=1 times 100= an IQ of 100.  Thus an average IQ would be 100.  If a 10 year old scored the mental age of a 5 year old; 5/10= .5 times 100= an IQ of 50 (not so hot).  If a 2 year old scored the mental age of a four year old; 4/2= 2 times 100= and IQ of 200 (freakin awesome).  Now you are going to ask me, how does this test deal with adults?  If I am 50 but have the mental age of a 45 year old, am I mentally deficient?  Terman tried to deal with this by setting an arbitrary age of 20 for all adults (it did not work so well).

David Weschler came along and constructed a different type of IQ test.  Wechsler actually constructed three different tests.  One for adults called the Weschler adult intelligence scale (WAIS), one for children called the Weschler intelligence scale for children (WISC) and one for really young kids called the Weschler preschool and primary scale of intelligence (WPPSI).  It seems as though he really liked the sound of his name.  All three of these tests are widely used today.  What you should really know about the Weschler tests is that they test intelligence on many different subtests (accounting for multiple types of skills) and that your score is placed on a normal curve against the rest of the population.  One problem with these intelligence tests is that people are scoring higher on them every year and we do not know why.  We are constantly changing the tests to keep the scores in an average range (we cannot all be geniuses).  The phenomenon that we are scoring better on these tests and becoming more intelligent year after year is called the Flynn effect.

Theories of Intelligence

It is really hard to define intelligence.  There is some consensus among some key terms.  For example most psychologists recognize crystallized intelligence as accumulated knowledge over time and fluid intelligence as our ability to quickly solve abstract problems.  Crystallized intelligence goes up over time while fluid intelligence declines in old age.  Over the years many theorists have come up with their own ideas about intelligence: here are the highlights.

Charles Spearman

One of the main arguments in the filed is whether intelligence refers to a singular ability or a group of abilities.  Charles Spearman argued that intelligence can be expressed by a single factor.  He used factor analysis, a statistical technique that takes multiple items and meshes them into one number, to show that intelligence can be a single number he simply called g (generalized intelligence).  So if you think that a person is either generally smart or not so smart- then you believe in Spearman’s g.

Howard Gardner

Gardner believes that there exist multiple intelligences and if you are not good at one aspect, you may be gifted in others.  He came up with seven types of intelligences:

  • Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.

  • Logical-mathematical intelligence consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. In Howard Gardner’s words, in entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.
  • Musical intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. According to Howard Gardner musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Howard Gardner sees mental and physical activity as related.
  • Spatial intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas. 
  • Interpersonal intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counselors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations. In Howard Gardner’s view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives.

Now Gardner believed that there may be many more intelligences besides the ones listed above.  He hinted at a nature intelligence (good at seeing the relationships in the ecological systems- like Tarzan) or sexual intelligence (like Hugh Hefner).  It is interesting to note that the educational system loves Gardner’s theory- you tell me why?

Robert Sternberg

 Sternberg is the new guy on the block and he took a moderate approach when looking at intelligence that he called Sternberg’s triarchic theory.  He stated that three types of intelligence exist.  The first type, analytical intelligence, is what we commonly think of as school smarts (like the basic Binet IQ).  The next type he called experiential intelligence, which is the ability for one to use their knowledge in creative ways.  The final type Sternberg labeled practical intelligence, which is what we call street smarts or the ability to apply what you know in the real world.  It is practical intelligence that makes Sternberg so unique.  If intelligence depends on context (real world applications) than how can any type of classical intelligence test really work?

Daniel Goleman

Goleman is a big advocate of what people are today calling EQ or emotional intelligence.  EQ is kind of like a combination of Gardner’s intra and interpersonal intelligences.  EQ is the ability to understand and regulate your emotions.  Many studies suggest that a high EQ has a greater correlational with financial success than IQ, but both a high IQ and EQ probably works best.

Intelligence Tests

Ok- so we have all these theories of intelligence- but how do we test them.  All tests, from the SAT to IQ tests to personality tests have to be standardized, which means the questions have been piloted (tested) on a population of people who are similar to those who are going to take the test.  This sounds confusing.  Let’s take the SAT as an example.  When you take the SAT, there is always an experimental section that will not count towards your score.  That section is given to you to make sure those questions achieve a norm or fall on a normal distribution.  In really simple terms, the Educational Testing Service (those schmoolies who run the SAT and APs) hope that just a few of you get ALL the answers in that section right, just a few of you get most of the answers wrong and most of you get somewhere in the middle.  They hope, as in IQ scores that the range looks like this:

As you can see, the majority of scores should fall in the middle.  If you take the SAT (or any type of test) and everyone scores at the top- then the test is NOT standardized and they would throw out those questions.

So let’s say that we make an IQ test and come up with a bunch of questions that we think measure intelligence.  We give them to many people and their scores follow a normal curve (few get them all right, few all wrong, most in the middle) and we can now say that the test is standardized.  Does that mean it is a good IQ test?  Nope, the test must also have what we call reliability and validity.

Reliability refers to the consistency of a test.  Think about the last five practice SAT tests you have taken (the sad part is most of you actually can remember).  Your scores should have been within 20-70 points of each other.  That is what makes a reliable test.  If you scored 700 on math the first time, then 450, then 800 then 520- the test is NOT reliable.  The most common ways to see if a test is reliable is to use the spilt halves or the test-retest methods.  The split halves method to measure reliability just means that the fist half of the test is scored, then the second half is scored- if both halves yield (have) similar scores then the test is reliable.  In other words, on the SAT, if you score a 70% correct on the first verbal section, you should score similar on the second and third verbal sections.  The test-retest method is just when you take a test and then take a similar version of the test later.  If your scores are similar, then the test is reliable.

A test has validity when is measures what it is supposed to measure.  Sometimes validity is referred to as how accurate the test is.  For example, some say the SAT is supposed to measure how successful you will be your first year of college (this is called predictive validity).  If that is true, is the SAT a valid test?  If on the next AP Psychology quiz, I test you on Saved by the Bell trivia, that test would have no face validity/content validity, which is a superficial measure of accuracy.  The Saved by the Bell test would have face/content validity if we were testing TV knowledge.  This stuff gets kind of confusing, but if you can at least grasp that reliability measures the consistency of a test and validity measures it’s accuracy, then you on teh right track.

Types of tests

There are many different types of tests that exist that measure various things.  First, there are aptitude tests, which measure ability of potential.  Examples of aptitude tests are IQ tests (although some would argue with this) and scouting camps for professional sports are supposed to measure your potential.  The problem with aptitude tests is if you can prepare/study for them, then they are NOT true aptitude test.  Most tests are achievement tests that measure what you have learned or accomplished.  The AP test, any psychology quiz, in fact almost every test you take in school, is an achievement test because you can study for it.

Another way to divide up tests is by labeling them power or speed tests.  Speed tests consist of a large amount of questions in a finite amount of time.  The goal of a speed test is to see how quickly you can solve problems.  In power tests, people are given significant amounts of time to finish the work, but the questions become increasingly more difficult.

Finally, there are individual and group testsGroup tests are where many people are given the test at the same time and there is little interaction between the proctor and the test takers.  Most tests that you take in school, from the AP exam to the daily quiz, are group tests.  Individual tests require much interaction between the proctor and test taker.  The Rorschach inkblot test is an example of an individual test.