Intelligence Theory Overview

Intelligence Theory Overview

Understanding the development of intelligence testing.

The theories and definitions of intelligence vary widely amongst theorists. From a psychological standpoint, intelligence is defined as the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as the IQ test). Generally, intelligence is thought of as being derived from a combination of inherited traits, environmental, and social factors. The definition of intelligence remains a subject of heated debated, centering on the differences between genetic or environmental influences. This debate is reflected in the various theories that have been produced by psychologists and psychiatrists (Britannica, 2010).

Intelligence Theory Overview

By — Terman, L. (1916). The Measurement of Intelligence. Boston. Houghton Mifflin. p. 66 (Figure 2), Public Domain

Depending upon how intelligence is defined, under which theory also determines how it is measured. Depending on the theoretical framework, intelligence is measured using many different factors such as factual knowledge or problem- solving skills. Intelligence is a controversial area of testing.

Four Primary Measures of a Quality Intelligence Test

Verbal Reasoning
Abstract Reasoning
Quantitative Reasoning
Short-term Memory

There are four primary measures of a quality intelligence test. These measure show performance and the ability to use knowledge. They may not be the only measures but are currently most effective for intelligence. Different theories of intelligence measure it in different ways but all measure it using these factors to some degree.

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences or MI theory is classified as a biological theory since the theory often refers to brain functioning and evolutionary concepts (Hogan, 2007). Gardner posits that intelligence includes “linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalist, spiritual, existential, and moral intelligence” (Hogan, 2007, p. 275).

Intelligence Testing

Charles Spearman provided the foundation for intelligence testing by using statistical techniques based on his concept of g gactor or general intelligence used to analyze test results. Spearman’s greatest theoretical contribution was when he came up with the proposition of the g factor, which was the general intelligence from which all mental abilities developed and this could be measured statistically.

Benefits of Intelligence Testing

Benefits of Intelligence Testing

Photo by Ismail Salad Hajji dirir on Unsplash

These tests can provide individuals with a means of making career choices, education, and even lifestyle choices. These tests should be used as a guideline for decision-making since the tests are not 100% accurate.

Criticism Of Intelligence Testing

Intelligence tests and their theories contain forms of bias which are best seen in cultural linguistic differences. Simply speaking if a person does not have an understanding of a particular word because it is not part of their normal vocabulary then they might score lower than someone who has learned the word. This shows one of the many issues with intelligence testing. This is highly controversial topic.


Differences in Achievement and Intelligence Testing, Lori Garrett-Hatfield, Demand Media,2001–2015, Retrieved from:

Hogan, T. (2007). Psychological testing a practical introduction (2nd ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.

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Morgan, H. (1996). An Analysis of Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Roeper Review, 18(4), 263–69.

Narvaez, D. (2010). The emotional foundations of high moral intelligence. New Directions For Child And Adolescent Development, 2010(129), 77–94. doi:10.1002/cd.276

Zahedi, Z., & Ghabanchi, Z. (2014). The relationship between logical, naturalist intelligences and learning grammar for EFL learners at elementary level. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(2), 403–410. Retrieved from

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Fri, Feb 05, 2021. Intelligence Theory Overview Retrieved from

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