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Intelligences - Essay Example

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The study of intelligence has gone through a major shift since the beginning of the 1900s until today. Charles Spearman's study of the source of intelligence in the human mind was used as a model for testing and assessment since his early publications beginning in 1904…
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The Evolution of the Study of Intelligence The study of intelligence has gone through a major shift since the beginning of the 1900s until today. Charles Spearman's study of the source of intelligence in the human mind was used as a model for testing and assessment since his early publications beginning in 1904. In the 1980s Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence changed the way that thinking and learning is accomplished and ushered in new ways to perceive what we call intelligence. In many ways, Gardner's work is based on Spearman's theories. Yet, there are radical departures in their definition of intelligence and its application. An examination of both theorists' work reveals some of the underpinnings of thought while highlighting the difficulty psychology has in defining, measuring, and isolating the factors that make up intelligence.
Spearman and Gardner both believed that intelligence could be quantified. Spearman used a model that incorporated two centers of intelligence, the g (general) and the s (specific) factors (RiChard, n.d.). He contended that the g-factor was overriding and there was a correlation between general intelligence and all other areas. Gardner, however, believed that the specific factors that make up intelligence were independent and that you could be good at math while having no linguistic abilities. Gardner has identified at least 7 separate and autonomous centers of intelligence (Intelligence and personality assessment, n.d.). He grouped these factors into categories called the multiple intelligences which include musical, verbal, and personal intelligence.
Spearman believed that since the g-factor was present in every task, we could measure intelligence with a single test. His work instituted the general IQ test as a standard for measurement and assessment. However, Gardner believes that there is not one test to measure intelligence and that all areas must be tested separately. Hunts (2003) contends that Gardner's theory implies that, "Anyone that is intelligent in any area should be considered intelligent.". Spearman would have said that if a person were intelligent, as measured by the g-factor, this force would influence all intelligence centers and they would be intelligent in all areas.
One difficulty both men faced was criticism in the face of measuring intelligence in a quantitative way. Though Spearman had a statistical background, Fancher (1985) contends that unexplainable errors in Spearman's calculations, "[...] seem to suggest that he had a tendency to see what he wanted to in his data, sometimes at the expense of what was really there" (as cited in Johnston, 1997). Gardner has likewise been criticized for his lack of empirical data and Smolucha (1993) says he, "[...] simply coined a new term 'subjective' factor analysis as his excuse for lack of statistical data supporting his 'theory'" (as cited in Morris, 2002).
Both men put forth theories that supported the belief that intelligence could be measured. While Spearman believed in an all-powerful and ever-present general intelligence, Gardner advocated the theory that intelligence was held in 7 key areas that were independent of one another. Gardner's theories are more current and more in tune with today's approach to learning and intelligence. Gardner helps explain the idiot savant and highly developed specialized skills. Spearman's model can not explain the musical genius that has no ability to comprehend reading and mathematics. Though both theories have been used in the advancement of educational methods and assessment testing, Spearman has fallen out of favor in recent years. Yet, the difficulty in isolating and identifying the true source of intelligence may lie in the shortcomings of both theories. When attempting to define and measure intelligence, the lack of good statistical data is the challenge that confronts psychology today just as Spearman and Gardner have faced that obstacle in the past.
Hunts, H. (2003, April 14). Multiple intelligences in the college classroom. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from
Intelligence and personality assessment (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2006, from
Johnston, E. (1997, November 18). Lecture 18: Current views of intelligence testing. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from
Morris, C. (2002, March 19). Some critiques of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences theory. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from
RiChard, S. (n.d.). The learning thinking styles inventory. Retrieved October 25, 2006, from Read More
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