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There is no single definition of intelligence that is generally accepted. However, different scholars have from time to time come up with theories that may be used to understand the concept of intelligence. The theories of intelligence may be broadly categorized into two; the general intelligence theories and the multiple intelligence theories.
Spearman was the first person to try and explain the concept of intelligence (Sternberg, 1985). Spearman, in his work, also known as the two factor theory, proposed that there was a positive co-relation between an individual’s academic test scores and their abilities. The two factors that he suggested made up a person’s intelligence were: the G-factor or the general factor which could be measured and quantified, and the S-factor also the specific factor.
He suggested that the G-factor mainly dealt with a person’s general knowledge while the S-factor was more specific, in that, it referred to the individual’s specific abilities. Therefore, in conclusion, he insinuated that a person’s level of intelligence could only be determined through academic tests according to Gardner (1983).
The second scholar, Thurstone who rejected spearman’s proposal came up with his own theory. He suggested seven measures of intelligence as being; numerical reasoning, verbal meaning, memory, inductive reasoning, perceptual speed, spatial ability and word fluency. Unlike Spearman, he believed intelligence could be looked at from a more diversified dimension.
Later, Cattell also came up with his own theory. To some extent, he agreed with Spearman’s theory but he added two more factors. These factors were fluid intelligence which he explained as being the capability of an individual to find solutions to problems with no earlier information. Crystallized intelligence, which he defined as being the capability to solve troubles using precedent events, was the second one.
In 1983, Gardner the pioneer of the multiple intelligence theory came up with the theory that implied that, intelligence was a diverse concept and therefore needed to be measured using multiple tools. He identified eight types of intelligence; bodily kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, musical, intrapersonal, verbal linguistic, naturalistic and visual spatial Gardner (1983).
Sternberg (1985), agreed with Gardner’s theory but he claimed that the types of intelligence included; analytical intelligence, creative intelligence and practical intelligence. Further, he claimed that a person’s intelligence depended on the surrounding environments. This simple deviation from the theory developed by Gardner was the basis of the subsequent researches that have been carried out in the recent years on the topic.
Based on these studies, the theories that best explains intelligence are the multiple intelligence theories of Gardner and Sternberg. This is because they give a broader description of what intelligence is. They not only take into account the academic perspective but also the non academic perspectives of intelligence. Gardner’s theory for example, gives importance to interpersonal and intrapersonal skills which today an individual cannot survive without. Sternberg also explains how intelligence can be shaped by one’s surroundings.
Can The Intelligence Be Tested?
Multiple intelligence theories cannot be subjected to a simple test as it would be very difficult, impossible even, to measure a person’s non-academic abilities.
Things like interpersonal skills are things that can only be measured over time and not through a simple aptitude test. Therefore, it follows that it is simply hard to measure intelligence based on the theories presented above.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames Of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.