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Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 486–491

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Learning and Individual Differences


j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / l i n d i f

Intellectual competence and academic performance: A Spanish study


Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic a,⁎,1, Maria Angeles Quiroga b, Roberto Colom c
a
Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
b
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
c
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This study assessed the explanatory power of the intellectual competence (IC) model for understanding the
Received 7 October 2008 relationship among the main ability and non-ability determinants of academic performance (AP) in a sample
Received in revised form 20 March 2009 of Spanish undergraduates. Thus it attempted to replicate the preliminary evidence for this model provided
Accepted 22 May 2009
in a recent UK study and expand on it by including more comprehensive measures of intelligence and AP.
Results showed mixed support for individual paths, but good support for the overall model. The expanded IC
Keywords:
Academic performance
model showed that some individual difference factors explain AP variance that is common to high school,
Intellectual competence university entry, and university exam grades, whereas other individual differences explained AP variance
Personality specific to university. Inconsistencies, limitations, and implications are discussed.
Intelligence © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Intellectual competence and academic performance: A Spanish abilities and acquisition of knowledge, which should translate into
replication and extension higher AP, and that two other personality traits, namely Neuroticism
and Extraversion, affect individuals' perceptions of their own abilities
Although correlations between ability tests, which measure maxi- (independently of “actual” ability), which, in turn, impact on AP
mal performance, and personality inventories, which assess typical (seeChamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2004, 2005, 2006a).
performance, are at best moderate (Ackerman & Heggestad, 1997; The main applied argument for validating the IC model is that knowl-
Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2004), both intelligence (Brody, 1997; edge of the overlap among (or independence of) different constructs
Colom, Escorial, Shih, & Privado, 2007; Colom & Flores-Mendoza, 2007; linked to individual differences in AP is likely to improve the accuracy in
Deary, Whiteman, Starr, Whaley, & Fox, 2004; Gottfredson, 2004; the prediction of educational achievement, which, in turn, is a major
Jensen, 1980; Petrill & Wilkerson, 2000; Thorndike, 1985) and predictor of occupational outcomes (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham,
personality (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003a,b; Colom et al., 2009), such as job performance (Roth, Be Vier, Switzer, & Schippman,
2007; see O'Connor & Paunonen, 2007) predict academic performance 1996), salary (Roth & Clarke, 1998), and health-related outcomes (Bogg &
(AP). An explicit attempt to answer the question of how different Roberts, 2004; Der, Batty, & Deary, submitted for publication).
predictors of AP are related isChamorro-Premuzic and Furnham's The theoretical argument is that information on how different ability
(2004, 2005, 2006a) theory of intellectual competence (IC), which and non-ability traits “partner” (have independent effects) or “compete”
starts from the premise that since AP is the criterion par excellence—the (mediate each other) to explain variance in AP is likely to increase our
“raison d'etre” (Deary, Strand, Smith, & Fernandez, 2007, p.13)—for understanding of the psychological processes underlying individual
validating intelligence (see also Binet, 1905; Rinderman & Neubauer, differences in educational achievement. Thus certain constructs (e.g.,
2004, p.575; Spearman, 1904), personality traits and self-perceived Neuroticism or self-estimated IQ) may describe some of the processes
abilities that are related to AP should also be considered indicative of (e.g., anxiety or confidence) by which other variables (e.g., sex or
individuals' intellectual competence, particularly if their effects on AP intelligence) affect AP, explaining, in part, why certain individuals (e.g.,
are independent of cognitive ability (e.g., g or IQ). More specifically, IC women or those high in Openness) do better than others.
postulates that the personality traits of Conscientiousness (primarily To date, however, only one study provided empirical evidence to
through effortful and ambitious achievement-striving) and Openness validate the IC model. Chamorro-Premuzic and Arteche's (2008) found
or Intellect (primarily through intrinsic interests and intellectual that, in line with predictions derived from the IC model, Conscien-
curiosity) have motivational effects on the development of novel tiousness having the strongest single effects on AP (explaining 4% of
unique variance); that Neuroticism partly explained sex differences in
self-assessed intelligence, which, in turn, explained some of the effects
⁎ Corresponding author.
E-mail address: pss02tc@gold.ac.uk (T. Chamorro-Premuzic).
of fluid intelligence (gf) and all of the effects of Neuroticism on AP; that
1
The reported research was supported by a British Academy Small Grant ("Learning crystallized intelligence (gc) partly explained the effects of Conscien-
and Individual Differences"). tiousness and gf on AP, and that Conscientiousness partly explained

1041-6080/$ – see front matter © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2009.05.002
T. Chamorro-Premuzic et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 486–491 487

the effects of gf on AP. Chamorro-Premuzic and Arteche's (2008) paper the risk of distortion, particularly by those students who obtained
provided important evidence for the IC model, but, clearly, a single lower grades or have lower cognitive ability levels.
study may only be considered preliminary evidence. Thus the current
study attempted to replicate the findings of Chamorro-Premuzic and
2.2. Procedure
Arteche (referred, from here onwards, as the “target paper or study”).
Specifically, we aimed to assess to what degree their model—described
Participants were assessed in groups of 10 to 20. The intelligence
in the current results section and graphically depicted in Fig. 1—could
tests and personality measure were administered over two testing
successfully explain comparable Spanish data. Moreover, the current
sessions of 1 h each by experienced administrators. Cognitive ability
study also expanded on the target paper by including broader
and personality tests were administered in supervised group sessions
measures of intelligence and AP, looking not only at university exam
at the beginning of the academic year (October), whereas AP data
results, but also previous grades.
were collected from the archive between February and June, i.e., four
and eight months later.
2. Method

This study tested 248 Spanish undergraduate students (81.0% 3. Results


females) with a mean age of 20.1 years (SD = 2.4) ranging from 18 to
40 years, who participated to complete a part of their academic Descriptive statistics and inter-correlations for target measures are
curriculum (obtaining course credits). reported in Table 2.
IC model. Structural Equation Modeling through maximum-like-
2.1. Measures lihood estimation was conducted with the AMOS 4.0 software (Arbuckle
& Wothke,1999). The first model tested was an exact replica of the target
paper's final model and did not fit the data well3: χ2(14) = 43.4,
1) Intelligence: Factors of gf, gc and visual intelligence (gv) were each p b 0.01; GFI = .96; PGFI = .37; CFI = .80; RMSEA = .09 (90% CI: .06; .12);
operationalized by a set of three tests2 including Raven's Advanced RMR= .05; AIC = 87.8; CN = 69. Based on the modification indexes, and
Progressive Matrices (APM), Solid figures (Yela, 1969), three tests in line with the IC model, two additional paths, namely from Openness
from the Primary Mental Ability battery (Thurstone, 1938) and to SAI and from sex to gc, were simultaneously added in order to
four tests from the Differential Aptitude Test Battery (Bennet, improve fit and obtain a well-fitting modified model (shown in Fig. 1):
Seashore, & Wesman, 1990) (see Table 1). χ2(12) = 25.1, p = .05; GFI = .98; PGFI = .34; CFI = .95; RMSEA= .05
2) Personality traits were assessed within the framework of the Big (90% CI: .01; .09); RMR = .03; AIC= 69.4; CN= 69. As shown, two
Five using the Spanish standardization of the NEO-FFI (Costa & variables (SAI and Conscientiousness) had significant effects on
McCrae, 1992). The measurement comprises 60 items measuring university grades that are comparable to those reported in the target
Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and paper, accounting for almost 8% of the variance. Five standardized Beta
Openness to experience. The items are answered on a five point coefficients (gf → SAI, gf → AP, gf → C, C → gc, and gc → AP) were
scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. The significant in the target paper but not in the current study, though for
internal consistencies for the scales reported in the manual range the first and last paths Beta values were similar in both studies. Other
from .68 (Agreeableness) to .86 (Conscientiousness and Neuroti- differences concerned the correlations among Big Five factors, not
cism). For the current sample the reliabilities were .87 for significant in the case of O ←→C and significant but reversed in the case
Neuroticism; .88 for Extroversion; .79 for Openness; .69 for of N ←→C. In line with the target paper, sex had opposite effects on N
Agreeableness and .85 for Conscientiousness. (higher in females) and SAI (higher for males) and the highest Beta
3) Self-Assessed Intelligence (SAI) was assessed through a 14-item value was found for the gf→gc path.
inventory that requires participants to estimate their multiple Next, a variation of the model in Fig. 1 was tested, including gv and
abilities (e.g., mathematical, spatial, inter-personal, and musical) previous AP (high school and entry exam grades). In this model, we
on a standardized IQ bell curve (i.e., a normal distribution of scores specified a latent AP factor—the common variance between the three
showing appropriate labels and a Mean of 100 and SD of 15 points different AP variables—and removed all non-significant paths (dotted
for the overall population). As scores were highly inter-correlated a lines) from the model shown in Fig. 1. gv was allowed to correlate with
single underlying component was extracted via PCA (variance gf, and only Conscientiousness and SAI were hypothesized to affect the
accounted for = 52%; Eigenvalue = 6.7; Cronbach's α = .92) and latent AP factor (in line with effects shown inFig. 1). The hypothesized
the average score was computed for each participant (see model did not fit the data well [χ2(42) = 80.9, p b 0.01; GFI = .94;
Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2006a,b for studies using similar PGFI = .60; CFI = .90; RMSEA = .06 (90% CI: .04; .08); RMR = .06;
instruments and scoring procedure). AIC = 128.9; CN = 45], and, in line with the modification indices and
4) Academic Performance (AP) was operationalized in terms of the IC theory, 5 parameters were simultaneously added, namely
university grades, university entry examinations, and high school effects from gv to C, from gc to latent AP, sex to gv, and both gf and SAI
grades. University grades were collected from the archive and
derived from 2nd and 3rd courses and represented a combination 3
In the present study the model fitness was assessed by the following indexes: the
of essay-type and multiple-choice exam (50 items with a Cronbach Chi-square (Bollen, 1989; tests the hypothesis that an unconstrained model fits the
α = .80). University entry and high school grades were collected covariance/correlation matrix as well as the given model; ideally values should not be
via self-reports. Although actual records of grades may be deemed significant); the GFI (Tanaka & Huba, 1985; goodness-of-fit indicator) is a measure of
fitness and values close to 1 are acceptable; the PGFI (Mulaik et .al., 1989; parsimony
more accurate indicators of AP than students' reports, there is a
goodness-of-fit indicator) is a measure of power and is optimal around .50); the CFI
substantial correlation between both variables, ranging from .45 to (Bentler, 1990; comparison of the hypothesized model with a model in which all
.98 (seeKuncel, Crede, & Thomas, 2005 for a recent meta-analysis correlations among variables are zero), values around .90 indicate very good fit; the
of over 60,000 participants), though in some cases self-reports can RMSEA (Browne & Cudeck, 1993; root-mean-square error of approximation), values of
hardly expected to be valid (Cassady, 2001). In the current study, .08 or below indicate reasonable fit for the model; the RMR (Hu & Bentler, 1995; root
mean square residuals) is the average difference between the predicted and observed
self-reports were provided in a “low-stake” setting, which reduces
variances and covariances in the model, values closer to 0 indicates better fit; the AIC
(Akaike, 1973; Akaike's information criterion) gives the extension to which the
2
This intelligence battery was also employed by Colom, Abad, Quiroga, Shih, and parameter estimates from the original sample will cross-validate in future samples; the
Flores-Mendoza's (2008) study 3. Note that screening versions (even numbered items) CN (Hoelter, 1983; Hoelter's critical N) provides the maximum sample size for which a
were used for the APM and the DAT subtests. model with same sample size and df would be acceptable at .01 level.
488 T. Chamorro-Premuzic et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 486–491

Fig. 1. Modified version of the modified model in Chamorro-Premuzic and Arteche (2008). Notes. Parameters in brackets show the values obtained in Chamorro-Premuzic and
Arteche (2008); dotted lines represent non-significant paths in the current sample; dashed lines represent paths added to the original model. Bi-directional paths are Pearson
correlation coefficients, all other paths are standardized Beta coefficients. Percentages are total variance accounted for (multiple squared correlation). See note to Table 2 for
abbreviations.

to university grades. The modified model (shown inFig. 2) fitted the sex, gf, gc, SAI, N, O, and C were tested as predictors of exam grades in
data well [χ2(42) = 80.9, p b 0.01; GFI = .97; PGFI = .54; CFI = .97; UK undergraduates—accurately explained comparable Spanish data.
RMSEA = .03(90% CI: .01–.06; RMR = .04; AIC = 105.7; CN = 45]. Only two additional paths, namely from Openness to SAI and from sex
Finally, Sobel's tests of mediation (Sobel, 1982; see Table 3) were to gc, were needed to identify a well-fitting model. The former path
performed wherever mediation conditions were met (Baron & Kenny, has been reported in several studies (see Chamorro-Premuzic &
1986)—in order to test whether the effects of x variable on z outcome Furnham, 2006a for a review) and reflects the conceptual and
could be explained/a function of a third variable, y, x must correlate methodological overlap between Openness and SAI. In regards to
significantly with both y and z, which must be significantly inter- the path from sex to gc, Colom, Quiroga, and Juan-Espinosa (1999)
correlated. In addition, mediations were only tested if they were reported average sex differences in Spain using the PMA and DAT
relevant to the IC theory. In line with the target paper, gc mediated the batteries standardized in 1979 and 1995, with males scoring higher in
effects of gf on AP (fully), whilst Neuroticism partly mediated the effects the DAT subscales Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Ability, Spatial
of sex on SAI. In addition, gc was found to partly mediate the effects of Relations and Mechanical Reasoning, as well as in the PMA subscales
sex on latent AP. As shown other triads did not meet the necessary Numerical Ability and Mental Rotation.4
conditions for mediation analyses. Over half of the hypothesized paths yielded different values (i.e.,
not significant or different in sign) in the current than in the target
4. Discussion study. Most importantly, neither the path from gf to SAI nor that from
Openness to AP (university grades) was significant. The former
The current study examined to what degree the final model reflects a zero-order correlation between gf and SAI, which was also
reported in Chamorro-Premuzic and Arteche (2008)—a study where more modestly correlated with the other cognitive ability measures
than in previous studies. Indeed, recent reviews (Ackerman &
Table 1
Factors of cognitive ability according to Carroll's (1993) hierarchical model of intelligence.
Wolman, 2007; Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2005; Chamorro-
Premuzic, Harlaar, & Plomin, submitted for publication) suggest that
Factor name Description Tests objective and subjective measures of cognitive ability correlate in the
g General factor of A fixed amount of ‘mental energy’ that Composite score of gf, gc, region of r = .30 to .50.
intelligence underlies all intellectual activity albeit and gv scales
There are two noteworthy facts with regard to the non-significant
to different extents
gf Fluid Problem solving, abstract reasoning, Raven's matrices association between Openness and AP. First, the effect of Openness on
intelligence ability to learn new things; irrespective Abstract reasoning (DAT) AP reported in the target paper was modest (.14). Second, meta-analytic
of previous knowledge or education Reasoning (PMA) evidence indicates that, far from being a consistent predictor of AP,
gc Crystallised Knowledge, information, inductive Verbal reasoning (DAT)
intelligence reasoning based on prior learning Numerical reason (DAT)
experiences Vocabulary (PMA) 4
Given the uneven gender distribution of the current sample, we were unable to
gv Visual–spatial Ability to mentally rotate objects, Solid figures
test for invariance of structure (perform multi-group analyses for males and females).
intelligence orientation in space, visual perception Mental rotation (PMA)
It is however noteworthy that the inclusion of gender in the model makes the as-
of space Spatial Relation (DAT)
sumption of equal factor loadings, error variance, etc., across groups. Given that the
Note. PMA refers to Thurstone's (1938) Primary Mental Ability battery; DAT refers to pathway from sex to gc were not replicated in this study, there may be further sex
Bennet et al.'s (1990) Differential Ability Test battery. differences in the model, which remain unaccounted for by the current analyses.
T. Chamorro-Premuzic et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 486–491 489

Table 2
Descriptive statistics and inter-correlations for target measures.

M (SD) Bach Entry SAI gf gc gv Sex N E O C A


Uni 5.4(1.6) .29⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎ .16⁎ .17⁎⁎ .16⁎ .10 − .09 − .02 .01 − .05 .15⁎ .06
Bach 7.4(.9) .59⁎⁎ − .03 − .01 .07 − .03 − .12 .10 − .06 − .04 .25⁎⁎ − .04
Entry 6.7(.9) − .08 .09 .15⁎ − .00 − .17⁎ .12 − .10 − .02 .21⁎⁎ .01
SAI 99.1(6.8) .04 .15⁎ .14⁎ .19⁎⁎ − .17⁎⁎ − .01 .22⁎⁎ .04 − .03
gf z-scores .51⁎⁎ .59⁎⁎ − .04 − .10 − .06 − .09 .00 .02
gc z-scores .37⁎⁎ .14⁎ − .05 − .09 .05 − .04 − .14⁎
gv z-scores .11 − .12 − .08 .01 − .12 − .09
Sex 47♂;201♀ − .19⁎⁎ − .16⁎ − .01 − .14⁎ − .24⁎⁎
N 23.5(8.3) − .24⁎⁎ .05 − .18⁎⁎ − .16⁎
E 31.6(7.3) .16⁎ .14⁎ .22⁎⁎
O 31.6(6.5) − .07 .01
C 30.0(8.1) .13⁎
A 29.7(5.4)

Note. N = 248 (but N = 150 for SAI); ⁎p b .05, ⁎⁎p b .01; sex coded 0 = females, 1 = males; N = Neuroticism, E = Extraversion, O = Openness, A = Agreeableness,
C = Conscientiousness; SAI = self-assessed; Uni = university exam grades; Entry = entry exam grades; Bach = high school grades, gf = fluid intelligence; gc = crystallized
intelligence; gv = visual intelligence.

Openness is “sometimes associated with scholastic achievement” paper). Thus coefficients were very similar in both studies but the p
(O'Connor & Paunonen, 2007, p. 971; emphasis added). The relationship levels differed (other inconsistent paths were peripheral to the IC theory
between Openness and AP can be expected to vary according to how and are not discussed here for space constraints).
both Openness and AP are operationalized. For example, Openness as As in the target article, Sobel's tests showed that gc accounted for
assessed by the NEO-FFI is arguably more indicative of individual the effects of gf on AP (partially in the original paper, and fully in the
differences in creativity and aesthetic preferences than its IPIP current study), and that N partly explained the effects of sex on SAI,
equivalent construct (Intellect, more related to intellectual curiosity specifically the fact that males provided higher self-estimates of
and need for cognition) (McCrae, 1994). On the other hand when AP is intelligence than did females. Also in line with the target article,
operationalized in terms of verbal SAT, any version of Openness is Conscientiousness and SAI had significant effects on AP, explaining
significantly correlated to it (Noftle & Robins, 2007). almost 8% of the variance in university exams (in the target paper the
Another salient difference between the target and current papers' total variance explained was 13% but two additional predictors,
reported values is the path from Conscientiousness to gc. One possibility namely Openness and gf, accounted for the remaining 5%).
is that this discrepancy was caused by the different measures of In the expanded IC model, previous AP (high school and entry
personality used in both studies: The target paper operationalized C exams) was more strongly represented than university exam by the
as the latent trait underlying the “order”, “achievement”, and “self- latent AP factor, arguably because of how these variables were assessed.
discipline” primary facets of the long NEO-PI-R, which arguably The latent AP factor was affected primarily by C, though gc, which, as
represents a more motivational version of C. The remaining two discussed, had non-significant effects on university exams in Fig. 1,
discrepancies relate to the effects of gf on C and gc on AP, which can accounted for an additional 3% of the variance. Moreover, mediation
be attributed to differences in sample size (coefficients are actually tests indicated that gc partly explained the effects of sex on AP. Thus
similar in size but were significant only in the larger sample of the target males had lower overall levels of AP than did females, but if both sexes

Fig. 2. Modified model with latent AP factor and gv. Notes. Dotted lines represent non-significant paths in the current sample; dashed lines represent paths added to the hypothesised
model. Bi-directional paths are Pearson correlation coefficients, all other paths are standardized Beta coefficients. Percentages are total variance accounted for (multiple squared
correlation). See note to Table 2 for abbreviations.
490 T. Chamorro-Premuzic et al. / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 486–491

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