Theories on intelligence

Intelligence as a concept has been a largely elusive one; with countless prepositions on what it entails and how best it can be measured. Over a long history of discussion and debate, major theories on intelligence have emerged as more acknowledged and reliable than others.

Such theories include that of General Intelligence by Charles Spearman; that of Primary Mental Abilities by Louis L. Thurstone; that of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner; and the Triarchic Theory of Intelligence by Robert Sternberg.

Theory of General Intelligence

Charles Spearman’s Theory of General Intelligence builds upon its predecessor—that by Raymond Cattell, previously discussed in The Raven IQ Test.

Spearman supports the overall conceptualization proposed by Cattel, but posits that there are five components rather than the two initially proposed (fluid and crystalized intelligence)

The five are:

Fluid reasoning

This refers to one’s adeptness in thinking flexibly and solving problems.

Knowledge

This can be equated with crystalized intelligence; in that it refers to one’s general understanding of a range of topics.

Quantitative reasoning

This refers to one’s adeptness in solving problems involving numbers.

Visual-spatial processin

This refers to one’s adeptness in interpreting and manipulating visual information.

Working memory

This refers to one’s adeptness in short-term memory recall.

Theory of Primary Mental Abilities

Likewise, Louis L. Thurstone posits a different set of components that make up intelligence. The seven factors he puts forth are:

Associative memory

This refers to one’s adeptness in memorization and memory recall.

Numerical ability

This refers to one’s adeptness in solving arithmetic problems.

Perceptual speed

This refers to one’s adeptness in spotting patterns.

Reasoning

This refers to one’s adeptness in finding overarching rules.

Spatial visualization

This refers to one’s adeptness in visualizing relationships.

Verbal comprehension

This refers to one’s adeptness in defining and understanding words.

Word fluency

This refers to one’s adeptness in producing words rapidly and efficiently.

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner argued that there are, instead, eight factors that have to be considered due to they’re valuation in different cultures. The eight factors posited by Gardner are:

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in skillful control of body movement.

Interpersonal intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in adequately responding to the moods, motivations, and desires of others.

Intrapersonal intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in self-awareness and the management of self (feelings, values, beliefs, thinking processes, etc.)

Logical-mathematical intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in conceptualization, abstraction, and discernment of logical or numerical patterns.

Musical intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in producing and appreciating rhythm, pitch, and timbre.

Naturalistic intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in recognizing and categorizing flora, fauna, and geography.

Verbal-linguistic intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in verbal skills and the sounds, meanings, and rhythm of words.

Visual-spatial intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in interpreting and manipulating visual information.

Theory of Triarchic Intelligence

Also known as the Theory of Successful Intelligence, Robert J. Sternberg’s Theory of Triarchic Intelligence argues against the aforementioned Theory of Multiple Intelligence on the front that some of the eight factors mentioned should be better categorized as individual talent than aspects of intelligence.

Sternberg argues that there are only three components of intelligence that collectively function to allow individuals to achieve success in the contemporary world. These three components are:

Analytical intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in evaluating information and solving problems.

Creative intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in coming up with new ideas.

Practical intelligence

This refers to one’s adeptness in adapting to changing environments.

As evidenced by this article, the definition of intelligence is one that is highly debated, and there’s no real, nuanced answer as to what intelligence really is—though certain overlaps and commonalities of theories are clearly evident.

If you’re interested in looking at said overlaps and commonalities, do take a look (if you haven’t already), at one of our other articles: What is Intelligence? And What About IQ?. Alternatively, you can also click here for a full list of related topics.