Sie sind auf Seite 1von 3

The Meaning of Intelligence

CHAPTER I ATTRIBUTES AND CONCEPTS A definition of intelligence may be expressed independently of the way in which abilities are developed in the organism. It is all right if certain elements and factors lying in heredity, organic constitution, or environmental forces are recognized as crucial to mental ability. But to define intelligence as a composite of inherited factors, or as a derivative of environmental pressures, would beg the question. Some persons think it irrelevant or misleading to define intelligence; they say, "Intelligence is whatever the tests measure." This may be a good clich now, but how could it be helpful to persons starting out to build tests? At that time a test measures nothing. What does the test constructor put into his tests and why? The need for a conceptual basis is clear when we ask ourselves, Why is it generally held that an individual test is preferable to a group test? Is the difference in validity? If so, exactly how was the validity of the modern mental test determined? Did Binet, for example, having defined intelligence in terms of the capacity to think along a definite direction, to make adaptations to a given end, and to criticize solutions, really select his tests in conformity to this trinitarian concept? While Spearman says No, most workers feel that Binet worked toward this general goal. Similarly for the Stanford revisions of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale: if intelligence is defined as the ability to do absract thinking, is every test item to be judged by this criterion alone? If not, what are the points of departure from the criterion and what are the valid reasons for such disjunction? requires that they gain in test score (and presumably in mental power) in a precise equivalence to advancing chronological age. Bright children, while maintaining a similar relationship between mental and chronological age, are placed on an accelerating mental scale, and dull children on a decelerating mental scale. To the extent that IQ's are maintained at about the same levels, we have evidence for these phenomena. This leaves us with the question as to whether any definition of intelligence may include, either explicitly or implicitly, any such concept of constancy. A sound procedure concerning the intelligence quotient, as for the concept of mental ability, again calls for a careful separation of its meaning from the way in which any degree of brightness may develop in a child. A mental test is devoted to how much of what -- not to the further questions from what source, and for how long? In this chapter, intelligence is treated as a theoretical composite whose elements may be operationally tested. But they have not been included, save accidentally, in any existing test or testing program. Later, we shall discuss intelligence-as-measured in relation to various factors, dichotomies, and implications, attempting to make clear at each point what kind of intelligence is under consideration, in the belief that it is better to lay this burden upon the reader than blithely to assume, to the mounting horror of good semanticists, that intelligence is now and always will be -- word without end! A definition follows: Intelligence is the ability to undertake activities that are characterized by (1) dif iculty, (2) complexity, (3) abstractness, (4) economy, (5) adaptiveness to a

goal, (6) social value, and (7) the emergence of originals, and to maintain such activities under conditions that demand a concentration of energy and a resistance to emotional forces.' THE FIRST ATTRIBUTE Dif iculty is a function of the percentage passing. Throughout any series of mental measurements, it must increase with chronological age, so long as we postulate mental growth. This first attribute of intelligence does not depend for its validation upon a sequence of events within the individual; it is a in a severe penalty. Hence the tendency has been to drop all such weighting. As we examine this impasse, what turns out to be the nature of dif iculty? just what is its place in a concept of intelligence? The measurement of vocabulary will afford an example. In our culture the words orange and envelope are fairly general experiences. (Still there may be whole communities in which the physical presence of an orange is a rare event, and for all I know, envelopes are rarely seen in dilapidated shacks.) These two words are the simplest ones in the vocabulary test of the Stanford Revision. The assumption is that by the age of six years the average child will have had sufficient practical or ideational contact to produce on request a simple definition. Later, he is asked to respond to such stimulations as shagreen and homunculus. This range in words from easy to hard is obviously a product of organic readiness and social experience. Is there any mental process which, in its flowering at the higher levels, leads systematically from a simple word like scorch to an uncommon word like shagreen? Probably not. The latter word and others like it constitute an arbitrary and steeply ascending scale for vocabulary testing rather than a higher order of abstraction and conceptualization. Shagreen is a simple concept for those who have hut experience with this material; one can think of herders and fishermen who would have no trouble with it. Children and adults fail on it because they lack this acquaintance. The question is, Does the person who has somehow extended his experience, or his vocabulary, to include such items show greater intelligence than the one who has not? The case can scarcely be proved for a single item like shagreen, but it is held that the test has validity if the periphery of language is thoroughly explored, such exploration to depend not on the curious believe-it-or-not type of item but on concepts of genuine utility. Thus we arrive at two concepts of difficulty, one of which is a necessary attribute of intelligence, the other irrelevant or even contrary. Ability to muster increasingly rare knowkledge and to solve increasingly dif icult problems of any type is a mark of growing intelligence only when the behavior along all points of the continuum of dif iculty fits into the total definition of intelligence. Other things equal, it is more difficult to repeat five digits than three digits; the measurement of this difference is accepted in intelligence testing as a legitimate indicator of growing intelligence. Since a child is asked to repeat seven digits backwards, the question follows immediately, if seven digits backwards, why not fourteen? This is still harder, but some persons could do it. (In illustrating a mnemonic device, I have repeated 108 nonrecurrent digits -the value of pi -- both forwards and backwards.) It has long been known that the ability to repeat accurately long strings of boxcar numbers may occur among the feeble-minded, although it is not confined to them. Evidently the

case for ascribing further increments of intelligence to this particular skill soon falls to the ground! In practical testing, such items are cut off at a point where a steady increment in the percentage passing in a population can no longer be expected. While the relation between the ability to undertake repetitions and the ability to succeed in schoolwork approaches zero, this limitation does not help much in answering the question, Is it not a mark of superior ability to accomplish fourteen digits backwards instead of only seven? Recourse must be had to the complete definition of intelligence. Only if repeaters of fourteen digits behave more intelligently than repeaters of seven digits are we justified in saying that we are still within the mental-growth continuum. Where this is not the case, the assumption is that we have gone off the track in pursuit of some tonal, visual, verbal, or associational skill that is intellectually nonfunctional. It may have the relation to growth in mentality that big ears or long fingernails have to physical ability. At the extremes such abilities tend to get in the way; they become ends in themselves, aggregations of facts, rather than useful patterns or structures. The test for the repeater of fourteen reversed digits is a concomitant or subsequent ability to move up through arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and calculus, or within any one of these branches to move from the lower to the higher levels of abstraction. This test can be applied by any teacher of mathematics, or by any test maker, who is able to discern hierarchical levels of comprehension and to prepare test items accordingly. The true mathematician is not the memory wizard, even if their abilities overlap. He may in fact have an ordinary memory. He can be definitely inaccurate in adding the items on his grocery bill. Dif iculty in relation to general information is not easily abstracted from the composite of attributes. We discover that it is truly difficult to achieve knowledge or understanding in almost any intellectual area. The first mental step upward from verbatim repetition to a meaningful relation of these items to other items, such that system and generalization emerge, is an indicator of high intelligence. We may admit that the step frequently taken, namely not to relate these items to other items in a meaningful whole, but simply to accumulate another basketful, is a mark of low-order intelligence. At the lowest levels there will be trouble in accumulating even one basket of information, with increasing frustration as more baskets are presented. Nevertheless the distinction can be made clear. To be meaningful, dif iculty must be truly hierarchical and not simply a broadening of the base. To the extent that the broadening of the base, as in mathematics or other systematized structures, can be accomplished only by an increase in abstraction, we have a two-way relationship between dif iculty and complexity. Complexity increases difficulty, and the phenomenon is not strictly additive. While a little information about a few things is a simpler achievement than much information about many things, the two shade into one another if a level of abstraction is maintained. Anybody who can learn the names of ten American states can learn the names of all forty-eight, and of all the counties in the states, without drawing upon new or different mental processes. His failure at such an arduous task is not likely to be more conspicuous than the failure of a more intelligent person who would shun the assignment. But this is not characteristic of the fund of information for normal persons, as Herbert Spencer once pointed out. The person with a large fund of general knowledge