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What is Intelligence?

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Kevin Silber

on 28 October 2016

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Transcript of What is Intelligence?

What Is Intelligence?
What is intelligence as a concept?

The history of intelligence as a concept

How many types of intelligence?
What Might It Be?

What is intelligence used for?

social influence

cultural influence

Why Do We Want To Know?
What Use Would Knowing Be?
Intelligence is fascinating to us as humans as it seems to dominate our identity

It seems to elude any sensible definition

Some have tried to measure it but it is hard to measure something that is ill-defined

Some have tried to use it to investigate ways to improve life for themselves and others

Others have used it simply to oppress those they fear

We may never truly know what intelligence is but, as psychologists, we study it and can see how much it impacts on life in the real world
Some Conclusions
What is intelligence as a concept?

The history of intelligence as a concept
What Might It Be?
What is intelligence as a concept?

is it the ability to do intelligence tests?
What Might It Be?
Who wants to know?

For what purpose?

In the days when Galton was alive, scientists seldom focused on just one area. Galton was an African explorer and started out as more of a geographer than anything else. However, as he went around African villages, he liked to take measurements of everything around him. That, coupled with his reading of his cousin, Charles Darwin’s, Origin of Species, led Galton to start theorising about the hereditary nature of genius. Using obituaries of eminent people and data from the Cambridge tripos examinations, he constructed an argument that genius was inherited.
Sir Francis Galton 1822-1911
James McKeen Cattell 1860-1944
Cattell, who worked with Galton, collected a large amount of psychophysical data and used this to suggest that intelligence was a unitary concept. In other words, Cattell argued that there is a general intellectual ability and that this can be measured. Cattell proposed a series of tests that might start this systematic and scientific exploration of mental abilities. As well as their scientific value, Cattell argued that people would want to know their own test scores as they would be “useful in regard to training, mode of life, or indication of disease” (Cattell, 1890).
Alfred Binet 1857-1911
In 1904, Binet was part of a group called upon by the French government to devise a way of identifying ‘retarded children’ in need of special education. The French had decided to make education compulsory for all children but this posed problems for those with special needs. Together with his collaborator, Theodore Simon, they created a series of tasks that were achievable by children of different abilities. The Binet-Simon Scale that they created was tested on 50 children and this formed the basis upon which they could decide whether or not a child was performing at an average ability for their age.
The idea that if you are clever at one thing then you tend to be clever at everything
The idea that you can be clever at one thing without being clever at everything
A form of general intelligence that refers to the intelligence you have built up over your lifetime. It consists of all of your skills, experience and knowledge
Another element of general intelligence but this time the ability to apply reasoning to a novel situation
And there are new contenders like emotional intelligence (EI)

What is intelligence used for?

social influence

cultural influence

Why Do We Want To Know?

What is intelligence used for?

social influence

cultural influence

Why Do We Want To Know?
Intelligence cannot fully or even meaningfully be understood outside its cultural context. Behaviour that is considered intelligent in one culture may be considered unintelligent in another culture, and vice versa. (Sternberg and Grigorenko, 2004)
or cultural intelligence
Here are some quotes about intelligence:

“I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.”
Oscar Wilde

“It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” Albert Einstein

“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Bertrand Russell

“Intelligence is composed mostly of imagination, insight, things that have nothing to do with reason.”
Vivienne Westwood
Just about everyone
We are curious about what intelligence is and whether it is important.

This is somewhat ironic as there is also a curiosity quotient as a mark of intelligence.

This was possibly developed as a response to this quote
"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein
Does the Psychology of Intelligence matter?

or the ability to do high level academic research?
or the possession of a skill?
Full transcript