Mental Health

What is Intelligence?

There is a lot of discussion about individual differences in cognition and information processing without at least making use of the concept of intelligence. The concept is defined in many different ways and there are many different types of intelligence to name.

A first definition of intelligence is associated with training, how much knowledge a person has provided compared to others in his or her age range. This is a view of the concept of intelligence from the perspective of performance. Other definitions see intelligence as a product of training and more as an opportunity to be trained / learned. This form of intelligence is seen more as a predisposition to intelligence. Traditional measurements of intelligence (or IQ tests) are often seen as this second form of intelligence.

Intelligence as a broad factor

Early on in the study of intelligence, psychologists identified intelligence as a characteristic of a person. It was said that individuals differ in the degree of possessing this intelligence. Intelligence was conceived as a broad factor. However, as several tests were developed, researchers began to discover different forms of intelligence such as the splitting of intelligence into verbal possibilities, memory possibilities, perceptual possibilities and arithmetic possibilities.

Accepted definition intelligence

A globally accepted definition of intelligence proposed by Gardner in 1983 is the following: intelligence is the application of cognitive skills and knowledge to solve problems, to learn and to achieve goals that are appreciated by the individual and the culture. When intelligence is so broadly defined, it is not surprising that there are different forms of intelligence, perhaps more than just the distinction between arithmetic, verbal and performance intelligence. Thus, Gardner has compiled a theory of multiple intelligences such as interpersonal intelligence (social skills, the ability to communicate and to be able to shoot with others) and intrapersonal intelligence (insight into yourself, one’s emotions and one’s motives). Gardner also says that there is a movement intelligence in for example athletes, dancers and acrobats and that there is a musical intelligence. Other researchers also add emotional intelligence to the list.

Controversial assumption

The assumption of Gardner about the existence of multiple intelligences is controversial. Some intelligence researchers say that these different forms of intelligence are related to each other and assume a general intelligence factor. Other experts recognize that intelligence consists of a few forms, namely verbal and mathematical intelligence.

Cultural Context

It is very important to take into account the cultural context of the concept of intelligence. For example, behavior in a particular culture can be seen as very intelligent, but this is totally not the case in a different culture. For example, it is very useful for eskimos to make a cognitive map of the coastline of Alaska and it is much more important in Western society that people have mastered verbal skills. For these reasons, it is important that we see intelligence as skills that are valued in a particular culture. The question then of course is whether there is a generally appreciated form of intelligence or whether cultures continue to differ in the definition of intelligence.

Inspection time

A fairly new variable in research into intelligence in inspection time. She refers to the time a person takes to make a simple distinction between two depicted objects. For example, a person must indicate which of the two depicted lines is longer than the other. The time the person needs to see the distinction between the two lines is then called the inspection time. This variable relates to a large extent to the standard measurements of general intelligence. Another similar measurement of intelligence is the ability to distinguish between hearing intervals that only differ in a few milliseconds. Findings like these assume that brain mechanisms that are specifically involved in distinguishing extremely short time intervals are a sensitive indicator of general intelligence. All in all, there are discussions about the concept of intelligence.

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