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Critical Review on how Intelligence is Measured

"Critically review the ways in which intelligence is measured."

Intelligence has always been a major and controversial issue for psychologists. Intelligence has three major areas of debate: its definition, its measurement, and its heritability (Source: Weinberg, 1989). The title of this essay asks specifically about measurement of intelligence, but this thereby requires an investigation into the definition of intelligence used, because of its massive influence on its potential measurement. It also raises the question of whether intelligence can be measured at all.

A common criticism of I.Q. tests is that they only show how good you are at I.Q. tests and do not reflect ‘true’ intelligence. The solution therefore to understand intelligence better before we try to measure it, although this is by no means an easy task. Cicero was the first to use the term ‘intelligentia’ in an attempt to provide a Latin equivalent for a Greek philosophical term (Source: Cyril Burt, 1955 pp. 159). Today there are many different definitions of intelligence, and obviously this shows that it means different things to different people. Intelligence therefore is a term that is vague yet flexible and has many characteristics. (Source: I. Roth 1990)

Nowadays it is widely accepted that intelligence is a ‘general cognitive ability’ (i.e. capacity), but this is still far to vague a definition to be useful in measuring it. Binet and Simon (1905) raised the issue that intelligence’s generality is a problem: "Almost all the phenomena that occupy psychology are phenomena of intelligence..... Should we put all of psychology in the tests?" (Binet and Simon, 1905; Quoted in Wolf, 1973, p.178)

There are 3 major approaches to intelligence: the psychometric approach, the information processing approach and the developmental approach. The psychometric approach, as the name infers, focuses on the measurement of intelligence. Psychometrics takes a practical approach to intelligence, but the definition of intelligence it uses- "that which is measured by IQ tests" - is flawed in that it does not avoid the problem of defining intelligence, it merely predisposes the problems of definition onto the structure and type of test used. The information processing approach is more complex that the psychometric approach: it enquires into the nature of intelligence and how it works, rather than attempting to measure it, and in doing this it is a more advanced and mature approach.

Hebb (1949) divided intelligence into two categories that have proved useful in approaching intelligence: Intelligence A and Intelligence B....

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